I’ll be appearing on a panel with 4 other authors who write cat cozies and other books featuring felines. If you are a cat lover, are owned by a cat, or are just interested in cats or cat writing, you will enjoy this online event hosted by the Broward County Library. Read more about this event and register for free at http://broward.libnet.info/event/5099468
I just returned from the Cat Writers’ Association’s 25th anniversary conference and thought some of you might want to hear about it. While it’s impossible to cover all the presentations, events, exhibits, and other happenings, here’s a brief recap of the programs I attended and my sightseeing experience in St. Louis.
The trip didn’t get off to the best start when I realized my iPhone was missing after passing through security. I went back, but it hadn’t been handed in to their lost and found. Luckily, the phone turned up when it was pinged. However, after all the confusion and rushing around, I ended up waiting at the wrong gate and nearly missed the flight. The only reason I didn’t was because the plane was delayed. After that, it was smooth sailing or should I say smooth flying.
I landed in St. Louis around noon and grabbed a taxi to the Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch where I was booked for the next 3 nights. I was impressed by the lobby and the friendliness of the front-desk staff. Even though the rooms aren’t usually ready until 3 pm, they arranged for me to get in earlier because I wanted to attend the session given by Robbi Hess on “The Myth of Busyness: How to Claim Time for your Business” and needed to freshen up before it.
While waiting for a room to open, I took the opportunity to grab some lunch at Angelo’s Taverna, the Italian restaurant located in but not a part of the hotel. The food was delicious. I even came back later that night for dessert after the swag stuffing party and had spumoni which really hit the spot after taking a stroll around The Arch park in the close to 90-degree temperature.
We were also treated to an appearance by Summer the Therapy Cat with her human, Janiss Garza. After the bags were stuffed, there was a raffle and then all the helpers were given a pretty gift bag that included a few snacks and a CWA 25th anniversary cookie.
On Friday morning, I attended a session presented by Dr. Kurt Venator and Dr. Janet Jackson of Purina on “The Science of Cats: Feline Nutritiion and Hydration.” This was very informative and made me feel more at ease about feeding my cats both wet and dry food, and I learned that the average cat needs to drink 20 teaspoons of water per day. I’m looking forward to viewing the flash drive in Purina’s swag cup for more information on feline nutrition and Purina’s role in providing it.
During the break after the session, I visited the exhibits, picked up some giveaways and won a prize.
The following session was conducted by Robyn Conley, a book doctor. Robyn presented “Cross marketing and Self-Editing to Broaden Markets and Multiply Sales. This was another interesting seminar that covered two important topics for writers. I also met with Robyn privately for an editor appointment the following day for her to review the first five pages of my unpublished manuscript. She wanted to spend more time to look it over, so we arranged for her to send me back the pages with her feedback.
Before lunch I attended Lisa Miller’s presentation “Practical Guide to Social Media for Selling Books.” Lisa, Business and Marketing Manager from Amphorae Publishing, discussed goal setting for book selling on social media and strategies to reach those goals. An interesting fact I learned from her talk was that a 3,000 copies is considered a good number for hard copy books to sell. She emphasized the importance of knowing yourself and your audience and to pick one primary platform to use for the majority of your postings and sharings. She also explained that social media is just one of the tools an author needs to use to reach an audience. I also met with Lisa for an editor appointment, and she answered some questions I had about publishing.
Later that day, I did some sightseeing and visited The Gateway Arch where I waited in a huge line despite my ticketed time but finally was able to take a tram up to the top where I was treated to a clear view of the city and was able to purchase a commemorative photo. I also picked up a few souvenirs in the gift shop and viewed the museum attractions.
On Saturday morning, I attended the CWA member business meeting and then took some time off to sightsee where I visited the St. Louis Central Library and donated some copies of my books. As a librarian, I enjoyed touring the lovely building and it’s interesting collections including it’s rare book room overseen by librarian Renee Jones.
Back at the Drury, I was one of the four panel members for the “Communicating, Capitalizing, and Connecting in a Fictional World.” My fellow panelists included Mollie Hunt, known for her Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series; Patricia Fry, prolific author of the Klepto Cat series; and Sandra Murphy, short story author. During the presentation, a slide show created by Mollie was shown featuring the cats and books of the four panelists. After we each gave a brief bio, we opened up the session to Q & A and were glad to answer a variety of questions about fiction writing and cozy mysteries in particular.
Since many CWA members are non-fiction writers, some weren’t familiar with genre classifications and needed a definition for a cozy mystery. I provided one that described a story usually set in a small town with quirky characters and a murder that takes place behind the scenes and isn’t gory or grizzly. I also mentioned that foul language isn’t used and that romances are sweet with any sex scenes behind closed doors. Patricia added that the cats in these books are never harmed. At the end of the discussion, we raffled off some of our books. Maggie Marton won a copy of my latest Cobble Cove mystery, Love on the Rocks. I autographed it for her, and we took a photo together.
After the panel, I attended a session on “Instagram for Authors.” I have to admit that, although I have an account, I don’t use this social media platform often. Janiss Garza (JaniceGoddess), Jessica Spawn, (catmom), and Summer the Therapy cat, Janiss’ cat who has his own Instagram account (summerstravels), have now convinced me I should consider using it more. Their presentation included instructions on how to set up an Instagram business account and profile page and the best practices for Instagram (photos vs. videos vs. live video, stories vs. posts, and IGTV). They also had suggestions on how to reach your audience by following the big accounts in your niche and the smaller active ones as well as using 20-30 hashtags on posts.
The final presentation before the awards banquet was conducted by Bob Baker who is devoted to helping creative people make a living from their endeavors. His books include The Guerilla Music Marketing Handbook that appeared in the movie “The School of Rock,” The Empowered Artist, The Guerilla Guide to Book Marketing, and The Passion Principles, 55 ways to promote and Sell Your Book on the Internet, Unleash the Artist Within, and more. Bob’s presentation was called “Hypnotic Marketing: How to Create Descriptions and Sales Offers That Mesmerize Readers and Sell More Books, Products and Services.” It was a very interactive session where members of the audience read three different versions of the same paragraph and showed how the use of using “You” more often than “I,” can make a difference in capturing people’s attention. He also gave 3 steps to effective marketing and focused on the revenue-generating step. He gave the audience a laugh and a good example when he shared an email headline that produced a high open rate when he advertised his new release by writing, “I’m giving birth to my 8th baby–take a look.”
The highlight of the conference was the awards banquet the final evening. This was a chance for cat writers to strut their stuff, donning cat ears and fancy feline wear. The event started with former president and co-founder of CWA, Amy Shojai, accompanied by Marci Kladnik and Paula Gregg singing the tune”Muse” from Strays, a musical written and created by Amy. After the wonderful entertainment, the guests were invited to a delicious buffet dinner with a special 25th anniversary cake.
The winners of the special awards and the muse medallions, the equivalent of what Arden Moore called the Acatemy Awards, were then announced. Pet Safety Cat, Casey who teaches pet first-aid with Arden, assisted her in hosting. A complete list of the winners is posted on the Cat Writers’ Association website and can be found here.
It was wonderful to meet and mingle with my fellow authors, cat writers and lovers, at the conference. As a long-time member who hasn’t been able to attend many previous conferences, I was glad to be able to make the 25th anniversary and also see some of the sights of St. Louis. It was also fun to have a few photos of my cats included in the conference and award banquet programs that were beautifully illustrated and designed by member Wendy Christensen.
This week, I’ll be flying to St. Louis to join fellow members of the Cat Writers’ Association for their annual conference. This year, CWA will be celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary. I’ve been a member for twenty of those years.
Back when I decided to join, I was an unpublished author. I’d been writing for many years but; besides the articles I’d written for my college newspaper and the stories and books I’d composed in dozens of notebooks, I hadn’t submitted anything to be published professionally. Learning of this group that represented authors of all types who wrote about cats, I felt it would be suitable for me since I’d always been a cat lover and enjoyed reading cat mysteries by such authors as Carole Nelson Douglas famous for her feline sleuth Midnight Louie and Shirley Rousseau Murphy, who writes about Joe Grey, both of whom were members.
The only thing that stood in the way of my becoming a professional member of CWA was that I needed to have two published pieces. To fulfill this requirement, I began sending articles about my cats, Floppy and Holly, to pet magazines and newsletters. I wrote one about how I introduced Holly to Floppy that was published in the 1998 issue of Cat Fancy Magazine. I published another article on how to care for a cat with diabetes when Floppy became diabetic.
When my membership was accepted, I attended the 1999 conference in Kansas City and met Shirley Rousseau Murphy in person. I also met Amy Shojai, the then CWA president and founder. I felt right at home with these cat-loving authors and enjoyed the conference sessions, awards banquet, and meeting people with whom I had so much in common.
I regret that I wasn’t able to attend any conferences after that first one that was so enjoyable. Although I continued to write and kept up my membership, I didn’t have much time or opportunity to travel. I was working full-time as a librarian and had a young daughter. I continued, however, to write cat-related articles in pet magazines and, in 2001, published my first cat mystery, “Stitches in Time,” a short story that appeared in the anthology, Cat Crimes Through Time.
In 2008, I published my first novel, Cloudy Rainbow, that featured Floppy, who passed away the year before. I self-published the book and didn’t sell many copies, so I stopped writing for a time until a patron at my library encouraged me to write another book. In 2015, I published A Stone’s Throw, that became the first of my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series featuring Sneaky the Library Cat. The series now consists of four books. This first edition was published by Limitless Publishing and was later reprinted by Solstice Publishing with whom I now have six books including the reprint of Cloudy Rainbow, as well as several short stories and a novella. I also recently published a standalone mystery, Sea Scope, with Creativia.
All my books feature cats who don’t play major roles or talk but usually help uncover clues to the mysteries. The 4th book of my Cobble Cove series, Love on the Rocks, recently won a Certificate of Excellence from the Cat Writers’ Association and is one of several up for consideration for the coveted Muse Medallion that will be awarded in St. Louis this Saturday night.
I’m looking forward to attending another CWA conference and appearing on a panel of cat fiction authors. I’ll also be signing books at the Missouri Humane Society’s fundraiser with other CWA authors.
My bags are almost packed, and I’ve managed to gather all my cat tops, cat ears, and other cat items to bring to the event in, what else, a cat suitcase. It should be fun as well as educational with speakers, editors, sessions on a variety of topics, and networking opportunities. My only regret is having to leave my three cats at home, but I know they’ll be happy when I return with my swag bag of feline goodies from all the wonderful pet company sponsors. The 25th anniversary will definitely be something to meow about!
Although I consider myself a romantic suspense author and fan, I also used to be an avid reader of cozy mysteries especially those featuring cats. For those of you who also share that interest, I will be featuring Cozy Chats with cozy mystery authors on this blog. If you are an author who writes a cozy series and would like to participate in a future Cozy Chat, please contact me.
Hi, Patricia. Thanks for joining us on Cozy Chat. Have a seat and help yourself to some tea while we talk.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Klepto Cat Mysteries? What gave you the idea for it?
I’ve been writing for publication for over 40 years. I started out writing articles for magazines and have had hundreds of articles published in around 300 different publications. I have also produced 41 nonfiction books—most of them books for authors on topics such as publishing and book promotion. My latest book for authors is “Propose Your Book, How to Craft Persuasive Proposals for Nonfiction, Fiction, and Children’s Books.” (Allworth Press, 2015)
In June of 2012, I decided to give myself a birthday gift—the time and space to try writing fiction. I knew my stories would be light (cozy) mysteries and they would involve cats. I have a cat who takes my things—lingerie out of my drawers, small stuffed bears off the shelves, etc. She has a whole collection of stuffed toys that she carries around. So I decided to create a cat character who can’t keep his paws off other people’s things and who seems to have a knack for discovering clues to the various mysteries occurring locally. Hence the series title, The Klepto Cat Mysteries.
Rags, the klepto cat, is also patterned after my mother’s cat who is quite confident, strong-willed, creative, and has a sense of humor. Rags (Ragsdale) belongs to Michael and Savannah Ivey, who are veterinarians in Northern California. He has many human and cat friends who help keep the stories interesting and lively. By the way, there are no talking cats. Rags, for example, is an ordinary cat with some extraordinary habits.
CWA member and artist, Bernadette Kazmarski designs the beautiful covers for the Klepto Cat Mysteries.
That’s awesome. I’m a member of the Cat Writer’s Association, as well. Do you have any advice to other authors about writing cozies or writing in general?
I’ve been offering advice through workshops and presentations at writer’s conferences, etc. for years. Probably the most important thing a writer must understand, if he or she wants to publish and sell their work, is the marketing concept. Know who your audience is, where they are, and how to approach them. Write for that audience and plan your marketing strategy far in advance. A book is not like a baseball field where if you build it they will come. It takes an enormous amount of thought, planning, time, and effort to write the right book for a particular audience, then to promote it successfully to that audience.
Excellent advice. What are you currently working on?
“A Picture-Purrfect Christmas,” number 13 in the Klepto Cat Mystery series is already available. I have number 14 proofed/edited and almost ready to go and I’m starting the process of fleshing out book number 15. I keep thinking I’ll run out of ideas, but once I sit down at the computer, a new story just seems to flow from me. I must say, I’m addicted to the process.
I know the feeling. I’m working on the sequel to “A Stone’s Throw” right now. I don’t know if it’s going to end up a series, but I have lots of other ideas for other books, as well. Authors like you with so many titles under your belts inspire me to keep at it.
Do you write any other genres than cozies?
As I said, I have written nonfiction for years—the how-to, informational, self-help, historical, profile piece, and so forth. From the very beginning of my career, I was fascinated by article-writing. I spent several years prior to writing my first article, studying the industry and the type of material I wanted to write. I started my article-writing career writing for horse magazines. My first book was on horse care. I’ve also written for Cats Magazine, Cat Fancy, ASPCA Animal Watch, Woman’s World, Health, Entrepreneur, Writer’s Digest, and many others. I had no interest in writing fiction, until three years ago and now I’m hooked. It’s all I want to do.
I’ve written for cat magazines as well and am still doing some work for Catster.com and my local paper, but I do prefer fiction.
Patricia, can you also tell me how you got started in writing?
I married young and soon had three little girls. My husband and I didn’t have much money and couldn’t afford greeting cards and gifts, so I’d make cards to send for family birthdays, Christmas, and other occasions. People loved the verses I wrote inside. When my grandmother was injured in a car accident in another state, I was unable to visit her, so I wrote to her several times a week. She praised my letters—said they were so well-written. I enjoyed the compliments and I enjoyed the process. I decided that when my daughters were older, I would become a writer. And writing has been my passion and my livelihood over the past 40 years.
What an interesting story. What are your hobbies besides writing?
I enjoy gardening, but things have changed here in CA with the drought. Instead of nurturing sweet flowering plants, I’m becoming addicted to growing succulents, making succulent wreaths and so forth. I walk every day and have for many years. I can sew and do needlework, but have put those hobbies on the backburner. I’m still available to mend or alter clothing items for my grandchildren and great grandchildren. I do love our cats. We currently have three—all rescues. There’s Lily, one of 15 kittens born to 3 feral mother cats one spring. Sophie lived on the streets in a colony until she was rescued at 10 weeks old. We found Max in our woodpile and worked endless hours to socialize him. He’s 17 and a half now and loves lap-sitting.
I’ve begun walking myself. It definitely helps clear your mind and is great exercise. Some of the other authors I’ve spoken with on Cozy Chat have rescue cats, too.
All 13 of the Klepto Cat Mysteries are formatted for Kindle and to date, 9 of them are in print. We brought out the Christmas story this year in print and for Kindle. All available at Amazon. You can also order them along with note cards featuring some of the beautiful covers from my publishing website: http://www.matilijapress.com/Klepto-Cat-Mysteries
That sounds great. I have a Kindle, although I still read print books. I also order mysteries for our library and will definitely check to see if we carry your series. The note cards sound nice, too. You can never have enough cat decorated items – lol.
Thank you so much for joining us on Cozy Chat today, good luck with all your writing projects, and Happy Holidays.