23 October 2018

To Speak or Not to Speak

I have several speaking gigs of one type or another coming up. And I’m looking forward to them. That said, it’s said that one of the greatest fears Americans have is speaking in public. I don’t really get nervous or uptight about speaking. But if I have to read a selection from my works then the palpitations begin. I don’t know why reading causes me so much anxiety, when just speaking doesn’t. I could speak to a group of 500 people and not be nervous, but if I read to a group of ten I would be. You’d think it would be just the opposite since when you’re reading you don’t have to come with answers on the fly. As the saying goes, go figure.
Newhall Library panel: Ellison Cooper, Carlene O'Neill (moderator, standing),
Patty Smiley, Connie di Marco, Paul D. Marks, Paddy Hirsch

I recently did a well-attended panel at the Old Town Newhall Library, that even included a dinner, with a moderator and four author-panelists. The moderator kept things moving, asking questions and everyone on the panel was fun and interesting and didn’t hog time, which sometimes happens. I sold more books than I usually do at these types of things. I was also recently on two panels at Bouchercon. I always feel lucky to get on panels at conventions since everyone is vying for those spots.

Coming up are several different kinds of gigs: One is another library event at the Studio City Library, a trivia night (https://www.lapl.org/whats-on/events/trivia-night-mystery-lovers-0) where a group of eight authors rotate tables with library patrons and try to answer trivia questions. I did this event last year and it was a lot of fun. Then another library event at the Agua Dulce Library (https://www.friendsacton-aguadulcelibrary.org/ )where I’ll be with one other writer, Connie di Marco. And instead of each of us just getting up and talking about ourselves, giving our this is the “wonder of me” speeches, we’ve decided to talk about each other, ask each other questions, and liven it up a little.

After that is Men of Mystery (https://www.menofmystery.org/ ), which is as their brochure proclaims, “the grandest gathering of gentlemen in the genre,” and which usually gets a huge crowd. Everyone has to stand up and tell a little about themselves. Last time I told about the time I pulled a gun on the LAPD and lived to tell about it. Afterwards a couple of law enforcement officers came up to talk to me about that... I wonder what I can do to top that?

Next up is The Palos Verdes Woman’s Club (http://pvwomansclub.org/home/fundraising-and-events/ ), which usually gets a few hundred people. I’ll be one of five authors there. I’ll have to speak about myself a little, which is always awkward. Fun, but awk.

And rounding out this bunch of events is a speaking gig at the Southern California Writers Association (http://ocwriter.com/ ). I’ll be talking about incorporating screenwriting techniques into the writing of short stories and novels.

I’ve also done a bunch of radio interviews lately to help promote the release of Broken Windows. It’s always fun doing these, whether in-studio or on the phone.

Each event is a little different, so the question is, how do I prepare for these events? For some, there really is no preparing, you just have to wing it. But sometimes, since I tend to even forget the names of my characters, I might give a quick glance to some cheat sheets I’ve made up over the years. It’s always embarrassing when someone asks you a question about this or that character or story and you have that deer in the headlights look, trying to figure out who the hell that is and what story they were in—and what it was about. For events where I’m actually giving a talk, I prepare notes on the subject of the talk. I can wing much of it, of course, but it always helps to have a plan and something to help keep you on track.

I always enjoy these events and it’s part of being a writer. A good part in that you get to interact with readers instead of hiding away in our writing caves. And I’m looking forward to all of these upcoming events. Hope to see some of you there.

What are your thoughts on preparing for events?


And now for the usual BSP:

I’m honored and thrilled – more than I can say – that my story Windward appears in The Best American Mystery Stories of 2018, edited by Louise Penny and Otto Penzler, which just came out this week. I wrote a blog on that on SleuthSayers if you want to check it out: https://www.sleuthsayers.org/2018/10/the-impossible-dream.html .

I’m doubly thrilled to say that Windward won the Macavity Award at Bouchercon a few weeks ago. Wow! And thank you to everyone who voted for it.

And I’m even more thrilled by the great reviews that Broken Windows has been receiving. Here’s a small sampling:

Kristin Centorcelli, Criminal Element

"Although it’s set in 1994, it’s eerie how timely this story is. There’s an undeniable feeling of unease that threads through the narrative, which virtually oozes with the grit, glitz, and attitude of L.A. in the ‘90s. I’m an ecstatic new fan of Duke’s."

"Duke and company practically beg for their own TV show."

John Dwaine McKenna, Mysterious Book Report:

"This electrifying novel will jolt your sensibilities, stir your conscience and give every reader plenty of ammunition for the next mixed group where the I [immigration] -word is spoken!"

Betty Webb, Mystery Scene Magazine:

"Broken Windows is extraordinary."

Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website www.PaulDMarks.com


  1. Sometimes I envy those of you who live in large metropolitan areas where there are numerous opportunities to speak about writing. On the flip side, I wonder how much actual writing I would get done if I spent so much time talking about it.

    So, because I'll likely never have to try to balance one against the other, how do you? How do you balance speaking time and butt-in-chair time?

  2. Have a great time and entertain the troops!

  3. It sounds like you will have great fun. Hope it results in more book sales.

  4. I actually give a workshop on this! Yes, I am a massive preparer. Marketing director for many years, and marketing is all about planning ahead. I think, at the same time, it's important to read your audience, and vary from your script/plan if it appears smart.

  5. Years ago I took acting lessons from Rudy Solari and Guy Stockwell. I wanted to learn how to write dialogue and I thought acting lessons would be a good idea. Doing improv in class really helped when writing dialogue in my books, but it also made me far more comfortable getting up before a crowd. And since acting is basically reading written work (with gestures, inflections, and emotion) I managed to learn a lot of the basics for reading out loud. All the books I read now (whether my own or others)are basically "cold readings" with inflections and emotions and sometimes gestures. Go for it, Paul. You know the movie business from being a script doctor and you can probably incorporate what you leaned in that business into reading your own words. Be sure to have fun doing it.

  6. Thanks for your comment, Michael. The speaking comes in spurts, at least for me. There’s often long periods where I do little to none. But even with all these coming up it’s only a day here and there, so still a lot of time left for writing. I have taught classes in the past and they can take a lot of time, so mostly I just did two one-night seminars every semester. And the times I actually had 6 or 8 week classes, that really was a hassle, at least for me.

  7. Thanks, Jacqueline. I hope you’re right about the book sales :-) .

  8. Melodie, I think you’re right about reading your audience. Sometimes they don’t seem like they’re with you and you have to wing it. But I don’t really ever give what I would call a regular speech. It’s more off the cuff, though I might have some notes to remind me of certain points I want to get across. Would love to talk to yo uabout preparing and marketing some time.

  9. Gayle, I think taking an acting class is a great idea. I never did, but I hung around with enough actors in one capacity or another to pick up some things. And I definitely incorporate things I learned in “the biz” into what I write and hopefully the speaking aspect too. Love your way of reading as cold readings.


  10. Paul, you sure have some impressive events lined up. I especially like the dinner one. Always looking for food!

    I don't mind speaking and I've been on countless panels. Usually, the moderator gives us questions ahead of time so we can prepare. I haven't spoken to many large groups, except for my launches, and I have notes in front of me.

    I visited a book group and a woman asked me about one of my characters named Hal. "Who's Hal?" I thought with a touch of panic. Thankfully this woman's question was lengthy, so by the time she finished I'd worked out Hal's identity (he was a minor character). Another problem I have with my characters is that I frequently change their names, sometimes at the last minute.

  11. Food is always good, Maggie :-) , and thanks for your comment. And love your story about Hal -- yeah, who's Hal? And I change names too, but even if I don't or get used to a name I don't remember everything once a story is put to bed.

  12. If you haven't already told this story here:
    "Last time I told about the time I pulled a gun on the LAPD and lived to tell about it."
    I think there'd be a bunch of us willing to read it...


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>