The People You’ll Meet by Grace Topping
When I think about my journey to publication, Dr. Seuss’s words often come to mind, “Oh the places you’ll go!” A terrific line, but to me, a more important thought was “the people you’ll meet.”
As a budding mystery writer, I traveled to Orlando to attend Sleuthfest, Boston to attend Crime Bake, Bethesda to attend Malice Domestic. As nice as it was visiting those places and attending the conferences, it was the people I met that made the biggest difference.
I attended my first Malice Domestic, a conference for fans of traditional mysteries, as a fan. I enjoyed hearing authors talk about some of the books I’d loved, but I went home after a pleasant weekend and didn’t think much about it. Little did I realize that I would attend Malice again one day with the goal of becoming a mystery writer, and that many of the attendees would become dear friends.
Years later, when I again attended Malice Domestic, I actually got to spend time with some authors. I had met author Janet Bolin online through the Sisters in Crime (SINC) chapter, the Guppies. That weekend at Malice, Janet showed me the ropes and took me to lunch with other cozy authors, including Avery Ames and Krista Davis, who made me feel at home. If it hadn’t been for Janet, I probably would have wandered around feeling a bit lost.
It was the generosity of authors like Susan Froetschel, who at a Chesapeake SINC meeting told me to send her my manuscript and gave me encouraging feedback that kept me going. Another chapter member, Elaine Douts, invited me to join her group blog, Writers Who Kill, conducting interviews with mystery writers. Through WWK, I met more writers.
I continued “meeting” writers online through the Guppies, but it was when I attended Sleuthfest, a writers’ conference in Orlando, that I met more Guppies in person—writers like Debra H. Goldstein, Marilyn Levinson, Karen Duxbury, and Betsy Bitner. Little did I know at the time how instrumental Debra and Marilyn would be in my career.
Over the next few years, I exchanged manuscripts with fellow Guppies Diane Vallere and Kendal Flaum, who gave me valuable feedback. I eventually obtained an agent, but kept rewriting, getting input from writers like Debra, Marilyn, Connie Berry, Linda Reilly, Shari Randall, Kait Carson, and Barbara Ross, who I met at Crime Bake. Each helped me make my manuscript better and they bolstered me up when I got discouraged.
Finally, when I realized that my current agent had done all she could, it was Debra and Marilyn who encouraged me to query their agent. I did, and she was able to sell my manuscript in two months. Thank you, Debra and Marilyn.
On April 30, my cozy mystery, Staging is Murder, was released. I’m thankful every day that as I traveled the road to publication that all the wonderful writers I mentioned and many more walked along with me, pulled me out of holes, and pointed me in the right direction. I can’t thank them enough. The “people you’ll meet” was definitely the best part of the journey.
Staging is Murder
Laura Bishop just nabbed her first decorating commission—staging for sale a 19th century mansion that hasn’t been updated for decades. But when a body falls from a laundry chute and lands at Laura’s feet, removing flowered wallpaper becomes the least of her duties. To clear her young assistant of the murder and save her fledgling business, Laura’s determined to find the killer. Turns out it’s not as easy as renovating a manor home, especially with two handsome men complicating her mission: the police detective assigned to the case and the real estate agent trying to save the manse from foreclosure. Worse still, the meddling of a horoscope-guided friend, a determined grandmother, and the local funeral director could get them all killed before Laura props the first pillow.
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Grace Topping is a recovering technical writer and IT project manager, accustomed to writing lean, boring documents. Let loose to write fiction, she is now creating murder mysteries and killing off characters who remind her of some of the people she dealt with during her career. Fictional revenge is sweet. She’s using her experience helping friends stage their homes as inspiration for her Laura Bishop mystery series. The first book in the series, Staging is Murder, is about a woman starting a new career midlife as a home stager. Grace is the current vice president of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and a member of the SINC Guppies and Mystery Writers of America. She lives with her husband in Northern Virginia.