My Bouchercon

I’ve been dithering about doing a blog about Bouchercon 2011, the mystery conference which ended last Sunday, because I had such a great time that every moment felt like a highlight. My post threatened to be 10K words, and I was feeling intimidated by all that territory. So I’m working hard to limit myself, here…

(Events are in no particular order)

Did you know that writers often make the goofiest fans of all? I don’t usually get all excited about meeting celebrities. Really, it’s their work or accomplishments I admire. Often they can be very unpleasant human beings, so I don’t bother. But the intimacy of Bouchercon brings out the stars-in-eyes girl in me, and I spend more time than I probably should engaging in hero(ine) worship.

Saturday afternoon, I made a complete ass of myself going fan-girl all over the brilliant Val McDermid after she was interviewed by Jen Forbus. But she did stand still for a picture, bless her heart, even though I blurted out something stupid like, “I just loved hearing about your family!”( Read: I am obviously a stalker with no social skills whatsoever.) And when I told her what a Robson Green fan I am, she told me that she is, too, and that he waxes his shoulders. Cool!

Later, bestie Maggie Daniel Caldwell and I spotted Ridley Pearson signing in the same area, right after he was interviewed by the witty and debonair Jeff Abbott. Neither of us had any of his books with us. There were only a couple of people ahead of us–book dealers with big bags, mostly. I must have been very, very loud that day, and Mr. Pearson must have needed a break from signing, because just after I said, “Oh, we don’t have books, but we would love to get a picture,” to no one in particular, he popped right over for photos. What a sweet guy.

I wish I’d been able to get a picture with Charlaine Harris. A couple of years ago, I had lunch with her and several other women, and found her to be charming and funny. But when I finally reached her in her post-Librarian’s Breakfast, informal signing line on Saturday morning, she looked exhausted and ready to get out of there. She obviously had no recollection of me at all, so I just asked her to sign, and said nice things I don’t remember, and let her go. She gave a wonderful keynote speech at the breakfast, and answered a lot of questions. Sounds like her life has changed in a lot of good ways since True Blood became a hit. It couldn’t happen to a nicer writer.

The panel I moderated was on Thursday, quite early in the conference. That worked out nicely since I only had to be truly nervous for the few hours preceding it. The title of the panel was TIMEBOMB, which I took to indicate that we should talk about the tension in thrillers. It was at once a very broad and very narrow topic that gave us a few fits at the start. But the panel was made up of seasoned pros, and they took up the ball and ran with it. They were wonderful to work with, and, best of all, the audience all stayed until the end!

Left to right: Adrian Magson, Meg Gardiner, Daniel Palmer, J.T. Ellison, Simon Toyne, me.

At every conference I leave a little something of myself behind–accidentally. This time it was my the adorable Vera Bradley pen I’d bought for myself a few months ago. I left it on the podium or table, I’m sure. I hope that whoever found it enjoys using it. I liked it so much I bought another when I got home.

One of the best surprises of the conference was getting to know people I’d previously met only online. Have you been in that situation very often? Since I hadn’t done a conference in a couple of years, it was a fairly new experience. And, you know what? The people I’d met online and liked, I liked even more. I read comments and blog posts all the time about how writers need to carefully craft their online presences to fit their “brand.” Really? It seems to me that if you keep your brand thisclose to the social aspects of your actual personality, your brand is going to be just fine, thank you. This doesn’t mean we need to overshare–dignity is always required. Conclusion: Most people are quite like their online selves. And I know a lot of nice people.

Here are a few:

Elyse Dinh-McCrillis (PopCultureNerd)

Sabrina Odgen

Jaden Terrell (Killer Nashville)–Cheating here, a little. I met her in Nashville, but it was great to see her, again.

I was able to see quite a few panels and interviews, given that mine was over with on Thursday. There was EVIL GOING ON: Does evil truly exist or is it just human failing? with John Connolly, Thomas H. Cook, Peter James, Laura Lippman, and Daniel Woodrell. The moderator was Reed Farrel Coleman. If there was a conclusion, it seemed to favor the human failing side. Laura Lippman told some chilling stories from her journalism days, and Daniel Woodrell talked about his neighbors, who scared me even though they’re a couple hundred miles away. Much of the discussion centered on their opinions on the death penalty, which was interesting.

Hilary Davidson (who won the Best First Novel Anthony!) moderated a panel on crime, technology and social networking. Panelists were J.T. Ellison, Chris Knopf, P.J. Parrish, Sam Reaves, and Mark Russinovich. It’s a real challenge for writers to peg the correct technology to the settings of their novels.

I started out the 2:30 hour on Saturday at the YOU SMELL LIKE DINNER panel, which dealt with food-themed cozies. But I confess I drifted next door to Jen Forbus’s fun interview with Val McDermid.

I also caught EVERYTHING IS BROKEN: Authors, Publishers & Bookstores in the eMarketplace: Friends or Foes? I had wanted to stay away from the epub vs. legacy pub subject during the conference because things tend to get very shrill (online, anyway) when it comes to that subject. But the panel, moderated by Eric Stone, was made up of real pros Kate Grant, Neil Nyren, Abigail Padgett, and Gary Shulze. It was all very civilized, though everyone was a little hard on thriller writer Barry Eisler–he of the awesome hair. You can Google Barry to follow his publishing/self-publishing adventures.

Of course, most of the real fun and business happens in the bar at these things. I confess I didn’t spend too much time there as I don’t drink much, and need my beauty sleep. BUT I did have an amazing time at Wednesday night’s NOIR AT THE BAR event!

The tireless and talented Jed Ayres and St. Louis’s most self-effacing-but-hysterically-funny writer, Scott Phillips, welcomed an enormous crew of Noir-ish writers to U-City’s Meshuggah Cafe. Who was there? Who read? My list is in no way exhaustive because I’m getting a little exhausted…Let’s see: Greg Bardsley, DH Dublin, Bryon Quertermous, Cameron Ashley, me, Matthew J.  Matthew Funk, Sophie Littlefield, Mike Wiecek, Matthew McBride, Josh Stallings, Holly O’Neill West, John McGoran, Hilary Davidson, Janet Rudolph, and Alison Gaylin. I got to sit right next to my friend, noir-chick extraordinaire, Kelli Stanley. In all, it was a terribly naughty evening as far as the prose went.

Here’s the adorable Hilary Davidson. All of my iTouch photos from that evening were appropriately fuzzy and mysterious.

And Scott Phillips with the original Noir at the Bar guy, Peter Rozovsky.

One last fun photo. I booked my hotel room at the Renaissance Grand, which was the conference hotel. But then I needed a room for Wednesday night so I wouldn’t miss Noir at the Bar. So I stayed nearby at the Hilton Ballpark on Wednesday. Here’s the view:

Too bad the Cardinals were out of town!

In all, it was the best Bouchercon ever. I heard that from a lot of people. So glad I went. 

7 thoughts on “My Bouchercon”

  1. carmar76 says:

    looks like a good time was had! btw – idk if it’s what was published or if it’s my computer, but there are several pictures in this post that seem a bit off/repeating. if it’s just my computer, sorry i brought it up! lol

    oh! and that view would be AWESOME on a game night!! : )

  2. Thanks for letting me know, sweetie. I hope it’s fixed–definitely a problem on my end. Our interwebs have been soggy and slow.
    It was a fabulous time!

  3. Keith Rawson says:

    I was too scared to approach Val, but I did manage to make an ass out of myself in front of Woodrell, John Connolly, and Laura Lippman several times, so I feel you. Great post!

  4. Jeff Abbott says:

    I am also horribly fanboyish and unclever around Val McDermid, which is silly, as she is so lovely. (I think what you said sounded fine.) But I am. Thank you for calling me debonair and witty. The check is in the mail. It was a delight to get to have dinner with you and our mutual friends while in St Louis.

  5. Ketih– I bet you charmed them all. Too bad we didn’t get a chance to embarrass each other. Next time. : )

    Jeff–Just think how many people must feel that way about approaching you! It’s fun to be a fan, though, isn’t it?
    Dinner was a blast. The delight was all mine. xo

  6. Who’s the fat guy with Scott Phillips? He’s no better than the second-most attractive Canadian in your gallery!
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    “Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”

  7. Oh, you have our photo up! I was worried, after passing you several times around the hotel, that I wouldn’t get a chance to have a conversation or get a photo with you. I’m so glad we got to spend a little time together.

    I love your pic with Val and how big your smile is. That was pretty much my expression the whole time I was there.

Join the conversation!