From the Booking Desk:
Another year and another Bouchercon gone. This year’s event in Albany NY was another successful convention, albeit, with a few hiccups (which are always expected). Below I will outline where I have been, what I have done, and who I have seen over the last five days.
After a lovely drive from Baltimore to Albany, we were able to check-in at the Hilton Albany and check-in at the registration desk for Bouchercon. This was our first trip from the Hilton Albany to the Empire State Plaza (where the main convention was located). While it was only a short 2 block walk, it was mostly up-hill. At this point, I realized that this would be a mystery/thriller convention AND an exercise regime all rolled into one. Dinner that night was in the Executive Lounge area on the 13th floor of the Hilton Albany. They offered Potato Bacon Soup and Pulled Pork Sandwiches that proved to be more appealing that venturing out to find a local restaurant.
Thursday morning started slowly, again with a lovely meal in the Executive Lounge. Since my first volunteer assignment was for the opening round of panels at noon, we then headed off to the Empire State Plaza again – this time carrying way more books that I would have liked, but what can you do?
Panels on Thursday were:
12:00 River of Dreams: The Road to being a debut author
Erin Mitchell (moderator) with Sean Chercover, Elizabeth Haynes, Gilbert King, Lisa Lutz and Alex Marwood
This was a wonderful panel skillfully moderated by Erin Mitchell. I couldn’t have asked for a better panel to start my 2013 Bouchercon. Alex Marwood and I had already connected via Twitter, so it was great to be able to give her a hug and welcome her to the states.
A highlight of the panel for me was the revelation that Elizabeth Haynes (who wrote her first novel, In the Darkest Corner, during NoNoWriMo) always writes her first drafts during the month of November. She then spends the rest of the year on revision and publication, starting the process over again in November.
Also, even though I do not gravitate to non-fiction, Erin and the panelists convinced me to give Gilbert King’s new book a chance.
2:40 Leave a Tender Moment: Love and sex: levels of intimacy
Lauren Henderson (moderator) with David Corbett, Heather Graham, Julie Kramer, William Kent Kruger, Jess McConkey
This panel was a spur of the moment decision. Since I hadn’t yet run into Lauren Henderson (a must at every Bouchercon), I thought it would be a good time to meet and confirm out dinner plans. It was a fun panel mainly focusing on how difficult it is to do sex scenes in mystery novels. During the Q&A, I was able to bring up that I felt that JD Robb had mastered this “skill” and that it really was possible, but that perhaps more romance readers would pick up the book, rather than crime readers.
Dinner that evening was with Lauren Henderson and Oline Cogdill (along with a few of our friends) in the Hilton Albany restaurant. Service was less than stellar, but everyone seemed to enjoy their meals once they finally arrived. After a brief stop at the packed and wonderful Crimespree party at a local bar/pub, we then moved things up to the 13th floor Executive Lounge again and talked way too long into the night.
After breakfast, Friday started with the journey to the Empire State Plaza. Again, with too many books in my bag.
9:00 Fan Guest of Honor Interview
Louise Penny (interviewer) with Chris Aldrich. Lynn Kaczmarek was unfortunately unable to get a flight out of her hometown to make it.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that I went to this panel mainly to hear Louise Penny, but I came away from the panel with the utmost respect for Chris Aldrich and Lynn Kaczmarek (who was not in attendance). Their love of the mystery community and their contribution via reviews was a revelation and reaffirmed for me my decision to start BOLO Books after last year’s Bouchercon. We all just want to be able to be part of this community and as Chris talked about “the family of her heart,” I completely understood. This phrase would become a sort of mantra for the conference as I heard it repeated several other times, always credited back to Chris.
12:30 Somewhere Along the Line: Guess the true first line
Rhys Bowen (wrangler) with Lucy Burdette, Deborah Crombie, Hallie Ephron, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Julia Spencer-Fleming
As many of you know, I frequently comment over on the Jungle Red Writers blog, so it was again not a hard choice to attend this panel. Every writer involved is a favorite of mine and this panel was run as a game-show. The authors were previously given famous books to write the first line for. Then along with the real first line, they were read back and the audience had to guess the correct first line. Needless to say, because the JRW are so skilled, we got far too many of the answers incorrect. Full of laughs, this was so much fun and I hope that at least one of those authors finds a way to use the first lines they created in a book of their own.
3:10 A Matter of Trust: Is all fair when it comes to keeping the reader guessing?
Clair Lamb (moderator) with Megan Abbott, Laura Lippman, Jennifer McMahon
This panel was probably my favorite of the conference. Clair Lamb did an amazing job of moderating this fabulous group of ladies. Much discussion of unreliable narrators followed. I particularly liked the idea what when a book has a child narrator, it is important to remember that the reader brings to the book their own world-view which often allows them to see the mistakes that the child is making, even though the child narrator may be less than honest with their information.
Dinner this night was at an Italian restaurant around the corner from the Hilton. The ambiance was perfect and the food was great. Unfortunately, we didn’t have room for dessert, since they had a cannoli cake that looked heavenly. Then it was off to hear a few songs at Heather Graham’s jam session. I have always wanted to attend this event and this year I did. It was nice, but I am not sure I will make it a priority at future conventions. It could have been the fault of the bar though. Just too dark and too loud for me, but clearly these authors’ talents go beyond the written page.
The first panel on Saturday was one that I was looking forward to and again, volunteered to time-keep for.
9:00 Root Beer Rag: Writing YA
Joelle Charbonneau (moderator) with Charles Benoit, Cara Brookins, Harlan Coben, Chris Grabenstein, Beth Kanell, Lea Wait
Since BOLO Books also covers YA titles that fit into the crime writing genre, I was excited to hear all of these authors. Other than Harlan, who seemed a bit grumpy, they all seemed honored to be there and happy to have a large audience at the early hour. As a fan of Charles Benoit’s You, I was thrilled to hear him speak. He even gave me a copy of his second novel. Chris Grabenstein is always good for laughs and his new novel Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library should be a huge success. I also left this panel with an ARC of Joelle’s second in The Testing trilogy (Independent Study), so blog readers have several reviews of those to look forward to.
10:20 Shameless: Dead cats and Bad girls: Taboos in crime fiction
Laura Lippman (moderator) with Megan Abbott, Alison Gaylin, Lauren Henderson, Greg Herren, Alex Marwood
I made the awful decision to act as time-keeper for this panel as well. I can’t say that I wasn’t warned by several of the panelists, however. It was made more difficult by the fact that the microphones in Room 6 were spotty all weekend, often not working. I did send someone out to get a tech so that this panel (which involved some acting and thus really needed all mics working) could have full use of them and thankfully, they did arrive shortly after Laura Lippman finished her opening remarks. After all, when I agreed to help out, I wasn’t given a course in electrical engineering. The panelists (who had to drink vodka every time one of them said “in my book”) were all good sports and did cover many of the topics that seem taboo in crime fiction. None of them were willing to write about rape, disliked torture, and agreed that bad mother’s were still a tough topic. Laura stated that she is going to do her best to confront the latter taboo in her new novel next year (and ARC of which is waiting on my Kindle) ;) In the end, I am not sure the overall conceit of this panel as “The Real Housewives of Bouchercon” was really necessary, but I understand the desire to try to shake things up a bit. But this group of women (and Greg) can be just as entertaining without the gimmick.
12:30 Famous Last Words: Writing multiple series/ending a series
Oline Cogdill (moderator) with Reed Farrel Coleman, Max Allan Collins, Laurie King, Anne Perry. Charlaine Harris had to cancel due to the eminent birth of her grandchild.
Oline was the perfect moderator for this panel and while I am sure there were some disappointed folks who wanted to see Charlaine Harris, no one could complain about the information that came out of the discussion. Each author talked about their multiple series and why they might choose to end one (most agreed that it ended when the publisher called and said they didn’t want another). The number of books written by this panel alone is staggering and shows what a powerful draw Bouchercon is – both for authors and fans.
3:10 A Room of Our Own: The “what are we reading” panel
Dave Magnaya (moderator) with Lynn Farris, Jordan Foster, Joe Meyers, Gerald So, and myself (Kristopher Zgorski)
This was my panel debut and to say that I was extremely nervous wouldn’t at all be a stretch. But in the end, the panel went great. I was completely honored to be included among this incredible group of reviewers and I hope that our audience came away with many books to add to their “To Be Read” mountains. In a separate post, I will list as many of the titles and authors I can remember. Thankfully, I also have the notes my friend took during the panel.
This was followed by dinner at a local pub where my gang was joined by Joe Meyers. We had a great discussion on topics as wide-spread as books, theater, civil rights, opera, movies, newspapers and publishing.
Then it was off to the Egg Theater (in the Empire State Plaza) for the final events of the day.
7:00 Lifetime Achievement Interview with Sue Grafton
S. J. Rozan (interview) with Sue Grafton (legend)
Sue was delightful and S.J. asked all the questions one would expect. S.J. did a great job of also asking fan questions that she solicited before the conference. No news on what Sue might do after the alphabet books, but we certainly know it won’t be a return to Hollywood – she made it clear how she felt about those folks.
This was followed by the Anthony Award ceremonies and reception. Details of that are on the blog in a separate post. Then back to the Executive Lounge for some champagne and conversation with some members of the Sisters in Crime Chesapeake Chapter.
9:00 Pressure: Trials and tribulations of a modern author
Russel McLean (moderator) with Frankie Y. Bailey, John Burley, Aric Davis, Barb Goffman, Koethi Zan
Much like the first panel of Bouchercon 2013, this final panel I attended was a perfect fit. It was great to hear how these authors came to their careers (some easier than others) and how they deal with the burdens of social media and promotion. It was well attended for a Sunday morning panel and I think everyone enjoyed it.
And now it was time to check-out and begin the journey back to Baltimore. I want to thank everyone involved in organizing this year’s Bouchercon. While having the convention scattered about rather than in one central hotel had its challenges, I think a wonderful time was had by all.