This morning I am off for a long and I'm certain fun filled weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A trip to New Mexico is always great for research purposes, since I have set several books there and I am working on several others, including one that is set back in the 1870s. Some people dread the long stretches of road. They consider them empty and boring. But those wide open spaces make me think of the pioneers crossing the grasslands looking for a better place to live. I always keep an eye out for deer, antelope and sometimes buffalo. (Yes, real buffalo!)
But the real draw is the Tony Hillerman Conference and all that it has to offer for a writer. I attended for the first time last year and what a great experience it was. From meeting with one of my former students to spending time listening to such greats as Craig Johnson discuss characters in his Longmire series to a personal conversation with the great David Morrell about short stories, I enjoyed the conference immensely. What an outstanding experience! Talking with others about writing methods, hearing from Margaret Coel about her experiences in writing about Native Americans, I felt like every minute was worth the time.
I also enjoyed the fact that the conference was not overwhelming. It's designed as a smaller conference, and I've always been an advocate for smaller gatherings. Look around for those types of opportunities in your area. They often don't cost as much as the big conventions and are well worth the effort. There were only 200 or so people attending the Hillerman Conference last year. The sessions were all held in one big room so we all got an opportunity to hear from every one of the guest speakers. It also gave us the chance to pick each other’s brains at breaks, during lunch, and in the social hours. And what a great bookstore! I went out laden with two big bags of books and there were more I wanted to get. At the time the cashier said I set the record for the biggest sale of the day. But it was early. I'm certain others beat it later.This year should be every bit as great. Mystery author John Sandford is one of the guests and he has two new novels out in the past couple of months with two of his greatest characters, Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers. I’ve been hooked on both series since each started and I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say about the latest books. (I've been holding off getting them so I can buy them at the conference and ask him to sign them.) He’s presenting a keynote address with David Morrell and is part of a panel discussion on outlining.
When I come back from the conference, I’ll be digging in as I have been for the past week on my writing. This year I am again participating in NaNoWriMo, the quest to write 50,000 words in one month. I’ve managed to do it for the past few years. This year I will be focusing on a cozy mystery, a follow up to my novella, Shadows from the Past, set in the mysterious Redfern Manor which was the setting of that story. I'll have more on my NaNoWriMo writing journey later this month.So in essence, while this is a vacation, it is also a great time to work on my writing through learning and to get more of those words onto the computer for NaNoWriMo. In the meantime, happy writing!