Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity–Oh My!

In the past 12 years, I think I’ve gone to enough writing conferences to be credible when I say there is a certain sameness to them. The topics for workshops or panels are repetitive, the same pushes to meet with an agent or a “big-6” editor. Even the keynote speakers seem to alternate among the conferences.

Now, that’s not to say I haven’t learned anything from them. I have, most definitely. Rather, that sameness reaches the point where I grow bored with them.

In a way, all the cancellations in 2020 were somewhat of a blessing. I not only missed the in-person engagement with readers but I missed browsing the schedule to select which panels/workshops I would attend. I missed the interaction with other writers, doable via ZOOM but not the same as sitting in the hotel bar and talking writing over a decent bourbon.

I was looking forward to a regular schedule of writing conferences in 2021, but we’ve not only still got COVID, we’ve also got COVID variants. All except one of the conferences I’ve attended in 2021 have remained virtual.

Now, let’s talk about the one that wasn’t.


The Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity Con–aka C3–is the brainchild of crime author Austin Camacho and his staff at Intrigue Publishing. This year was the ninth year of existence and the eighth con. The 2020 C3 was canceled by COVID. And this year–my third time attending–C3 was an in-person event. Yay!

NOTE: Don’t get me wrong. I think we still should be limiting large indoor events. There was a vaccination requirement at the hotel, and the state C3 was held in has a good vaccination rate and attitude toward vaccination. If it had been in a state currently in a COVID surge, I wouldn’t have gone. Masks weren’t mandatory at C3’s events, which was a disappointment. I was definitely in the minority with my constant mask-wearing.

Now, you’ll find panels on creatures (sci-fi and fantasy fiction), crimes (police procedurals, PIs, mysteries, and espionage fiction), and creativity (craft), but it’s also designed to be a “fan con,” a place for fans of the attending authors to come interact with the authors, get books signed, etc. This year, there weren’t many fans, but the number of authors in attendance gave it that “con” feel.

And there’s very little repetition, thanks in part to the attention to detail by Camacho and his staff.

In the three times I’ve gone, there have always been fresh takes on topics of interest to the authors of the above genres.

I mean, where else do you have “Noir at the Bar?” No where. Only C3. Where else could you meet the author of one of the most famous thrillers, who was also a keynote speaker? Only at the 2021 C3 could I meet James Grady, who wrote one of my favorite espionage books, Six Days of the Condor.

And it’s refreshing to be at a writing con where genre and indie authors are not only welcome but celebrated.

I remained pretty much on a high after my writer’s retreat at the end of August, but the weekend of September 10-12 extended that inspiration. It was great to experience what I loved the most about C3–the atmosphere, the panels, the people.

I’m looking forward to next year.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Creatures, Crime, and Creativity (C3) con, go to its website.

How Do I Do It?

In a recent virtual writing workshop, the participants were chatting on ZOOM before the session started, and a writer who knows my work asked me, “How do you keep it all straight?” Meaning, all the tasks and activities associated with being my own publisher and publicist.

Sometimes I wonder myself.

First, I have planning experience. The last 10 years or so of my federal career, we were actively into planning, setting goals, figuring out the steps to meet those goals, etc. And meeting those goals was critical, but the outcome of that seemed illogical to me, i.e., you didn’t meet a goal, your budget got reduced; meet the goal and your budget got increased. I argued that not meeting a goal was a result of lack of resources and that I should get more money to address that. Logic is sometimes not Uncle Sam’s forte.

But I digress.

Planning appeals to me on two levels. One, I’m a bit obsessive compulsive. I like things all planned out with permutations and potential obstacles. Second, that corresponds with having been a pilot who had to use a checklist for everything.

For my authorship I have, you might say, a massive checklist, the 2021 Author’s Planner by Audrey Ann Hughey, who happens to be my marketing consultant. Regardless, this planner appeals to me because of that step-by-step checklist-like approach to planning and goal-setting. I start each year with an annual plan, break that down into monthly plans, then weekly plans, and finally daily plans–all in one, comprehensive, and flexible planner.

I honestly think without this planner, I’d lose track of half the stuff I’m supposed to do.

As Col. John “Hannibal” Smith used to say in The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Thanks to my Author Planner, my plans do come together.

P.S. Look for the 2022 Author Planner coming soon. Oh, and you can also get an undated one to start at any point in the year. PAD