Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Criminal Element Guest Post: Laura Kramarsky

If you want up to-date-news, reviews and information about mysteries, you'll want to check out Criminal Element. It's one of my favorites, so I asked Laura Curtis aka Laura Kramarsky, Community Manager (great title) at Criminal Element to write a guest post.

Laura Kramarsky aka on Twitter: @laurakcurtis: 
On Crime Fandom and Managing a Crime Fan Blog

I’ve been reading mysteries of one kind or another most of my life. Everything from Nancy Martin’s Blackbirds Sisters Mysteries to John Sandford’s brutal Prey series can be found on my TBR, everything from Castle to Criminal Minds on my DVR, but until I started working as the Community Manager at Criminal Element, I never really considered myself a “crime fiction fan.” I never even stopped to think about what that meant.

I also never realized just how vast the world of crime fiction actually is. Being Community Manager for a site like Criminal Element is a bit like running a city desk at a newspaper. We have about 80 bloggers at the moment who write on…well, just about anything crime-related, so long as it’s from a fan’s point of view. (And we’re always looking for more and yes, we pay, though only a tiny amount.) Sometimes, I have to assign topics—either they’re things we’d like to see that we haven’t, or some bloggers say they feel blocked and need help coming up with a topic—but most of the time people write about whatever it is they love.

I get to read everything and schedule when it goes in. I also edit and produce a lot of it (we just ask bloggers to write the text—we add the pictures, etc, in-house unless they want to send some themselves). I cannot tell you how many times I’ve run over to one of my floor-mates’ cubes going “look at this fab article so-and-so sent.”

The most amazing thing to me is how much I’ve learned about the world of crime and crime fiction from our bloggers. Recently, for example, one of our bloggers wrote about the similarities between the movie Drive and the classic western Shane. Although I’ve seen both of those movies, such a yoking would never have occurred to me. But once he explained the connection I couldn’t imagine how I had missed it.

We have a large number of Sherlock fans who write for us and who visit us, and though I’ve read some of the original work and some of the pastiches, I’m constantly impressed with what the true fans find that I would never have discovered. (Pretty much anything Lyndsay Faye writes for us makes me sit with my mouth hanging open in awe as I read it.) And then there are the things I know absolutely nothing about, like crime comics, that I get to read, bug-eyed, and…er…marvel at.

Plus, I get to read awesome books. CE is sponsored by Macmillan, but the site is publisher-agnostic and we get books from everywhere to farm out to our bloggers to write about and to give away for contests. I’ve found some stuff I had no idea even existed. For example, we’re hosting an “Undead April” theme month and Angry Robot Books has given us a four-pack of amazing books to give away in a sweepstakes, one of which (Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis) I went and bought the minute I saw the cover copy:

“Like the rest of America, Scranton's got an uneasy 'live and let unlive' relationship with the supernatural. But when a vamp puts the bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that's when they call me.
“My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge.
“Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets…”

Now, really, where else could I read about a book like that in the same spot as I found out that Jessica Fletcher solved 286 murders, or that Enid Blyton wrote 753 books?

And what other job would allow me to pass all that kind of information on to others? To promote authors and spread the word about crime stories in every possible permutation? (And I do mean every…check out the categories in the pull down menu on the front page!) As a writer, I get to hang out with writers, which is interesting in that we can discuss things that most people just stare blankly and make excuses to get away when I start in on. But as a fan…well…talking to other fans is a whole ’nother kettle of fish. With fans, I can squeal over the Sherlock and Watson crocheted dolls on Etsy, or giggle over the iPhone app that encourages you to run by filling the space between songs on your playlist with admonishments that zombies are coming. I can ooh and aah over the new Longmire trailer, or celebrate the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe.

Yes, I love my job. And I love being a crime fan.


Gerald So said...

Thank you, Laura, for maintaining a great site.

Laura K. Curtis said...

Gerald -

If you couldn't tell, I think it's pretty much the best job in the world. (And for anyone who doesn't know, Gerald has an awesome project going next month...30 days of crime poetry-related posts!)