From the Booking Desk:
Boucerchon 2014 Long Beach has come and gone, but the memories will linger for a lifetime. In addition to the wonderful panels and events, it was a great joy to collect hugs from friends, discover new authors, and congratulate the worthy award winners. This was my sixth Bouchercon and it was just as special as the first.
Many people will be posting their thoughts about the conference and so I must do the same. For those that were not able to attend, it will give a sense of what Bouchercon is like; and for those that were there, this will help to extended the enjoyment just a bit longer.
I’m going to divide this into two posts, since this will be a lengthy discussion.
Tuesday and Wednesday –
I spent most of these days volunteering to help the organizers in any way I could. They were assigning folks 2-hour shifts, but I was there for about 6 hours on Tuesday and 4 hours on Wednesday. I can honestly say these were some of the best hours spent. There is nothing like being around other book-loving volunteers to help pass the time while doing routine work.
First I spent some time with Jeffery Siger and Ovidia Yu. We were tearing apart the bookbag certificates and Beach Patrol badges (that is what they called the volunteers this year). Once that was done, we proceeded to stuff some envelopes with the necessary papers.
After a few hours of this, I was pulled to help set up the magazines and paperwork for book bag stuffing. We have an assembly line of workers who went down the line placing one of each item into the plastic bag provided. Among the many volunteers helping with this were authors Judy Clemens and Deborah Atkinson. Once a large number of them were complete, we began the actual book bag stuffing. This involved walking the length of some tables, choosing one book from each designated section (these tables were divided by publisher), and placing them into the book bag. Each bag got 7 books, including one hardback book. One of the many joys of this process was pointing out book to Catriona McPherson, forever adding to her To Be Read pile. This continued on for the rest of the day, until we wrapped it up around 4pm. I would estimate that we completed about 1000 of the 1600 needed bags on this first day. Wednesday morning was spent completing the final bags before an afternoon of fun was had.
In the early evening, we picked up our registration packets and Bouchercon began.
I started the first day of the conference with the Speed Dating event. This was designed to be a way for many authors to meet many readers. Readers sat at a table and the authors moved around to each and had 2 minutes to pitch their books. The beginning of this event went fine, but as late-comers started to arrive, it turned into a bit of a mess. I skipped out when it was decided that the readers should move from table to table and the authors would stay put. Malice Domestic does this event and they have it down pat; but they are also half the size of Bouchercon. I’m not sure if B’con will continue this event, but if they do, some serious thought to the organization of the whole thing will be necessary.
This may sound like a dubious start to the conference, but when I made it to my first panel –Crime Goes Visual –all of that was quickly forgotten. This panel, moderated by Alex Segura, would go on to be one of my favorites of the entire weekend. The panelists – Dale Berry, Gregg Hurwitz, Gary Phillips, and Duane Swierczynski (see photo above) – discussed crime fiction in graphic novels. They covered how graphic novels bridge the gap between novels and screenplays, limitations/benefits to the format, and some historical context. I came away from the panel and quickly ordered two graphic novels, one called Saga (illustrated by one of the few African-American females in the genre) and Watson and Holmes (an innovative look at the crime solving duo as seen through the lens of race). The Watson and Holmes graphic novel was actually brought up by Lyndsay Faye, who was in the audience. It seems that contributed to the comic in later storylines. Count me in next year for any panel that deals with the visual side of crime fiction.
My next panel of the day was It’s a Dark and Twisty Book, at which I served as panel time-keeper. This was another stellar panel, in which Clair Lamb guided a discussion of the darker side of the crime fiction genre. I went to this panel mainly to hear Alex Marwood and Ivy Pochoda talk, but I came away a fan of all the authors on the panel (including Gregg Hurwitz, who didn’t yet claim me as a stalker; Christopher Farnsworth, who has a vampire series that sounds very good; and Glen Erik Hamilton). I had interacted with Glen briefly on social media, but this was the first time meeting him in person. If anyone was going to claim I was stalking them, it would be Glen. We seemed to always be in the same places at the same time. I am not complaining, as I was able to obtain a copy of his yet-to-be-released debut, Past Crimes. Hopefully, Glen didn’t mind either (waving hi Glen!).
My next panel was Cops Around the World. Led my Ali Karim, I knew this was going to be a very strong panel and indeed it was. Much of my crime fiction reading is of an international flavor, so I love to hear how other counties handle situations. On the panel were: Mark Billingham (he writes great books and is the funniest panelist you will ever find); Sara Blaedel (her books are amazing); Ragnar Jonasson (his newly translated novels will start to appear next year and I think he will become a more familiar name); Kwei Quartey (his books sound great and have been added to my TBR pile); and Stav Sherez. One of my goals at this Bouchercon was to meet Stav and I am happy to say that the meeting was all that could be expected and more. He’s a great guy and I was able to get both of his series novels signed for the collection.
This ended up being my last panel of the day. I had planned to attend a few others, but this year more than any other, I kept running into people in hotel halls who wanted to chat. Not only did I love to have these conversations, but it also confirmed my suspicions that the reach of BOLO Books has really expanded by leaps and bounds over the last year. I was beyond humbled every time someone told me that they read and enjoyed the blog. Thank you all!
The evening was spent at the Opening Ceremonies. This event was held in a circular building painted on the outside with a mural of whales. More than a few people thought that this was the Aquarium of the Pacific, but in fact, it was the location of a wonderful opening event. The speeches were great, some awards were given, and they had a book signing afterwards sponsored by HarperCollins.
Needless to say, I didn’t get up early enough to make it to the New Author Breakfast, so my first panel of the day ended up being Walk Through a Crime Scene. On this panel, George Fong set up a mock crime scene and he and some active-duty FBI agents discussed the process of collecting evidence and clearing a crime scene. They had two volunteers (on author/one fan) enter the crime scene and tag anything they believed was evidence. Then they spent the rest of the hour discussing those tagged items. Two of this year’s funniest B’con quotes came from this panel: When George said that because of the toys on the floor, the “investigators” should be saying “Where is the baby at?”, the author, Rachel Howzell Hall said they would never end a sentence with a preposition, so George said “Where’s the baby at, asshole.” Big laughs. Then later the FBI agent said “We are the FBI, we will cut up your house” when discussing how they will get evidence back to the lab for testing. This was a nice break from the usual Q&A panel format and I hope that future Bouchercons will continue to expand their panel formats.
Next up was A Place by Any Other Name. On this panel, John Connolly, Tammy Kaehler, William Kent Krueger, Mark Pryor and Julia Spencer-Fleming discussed the importance of setting in crime fiction. There were no major revelations from this panel, but the panelist played well off of each other and in the end, I was glad that I chose to attend.
After lunch, I attended another of my favorite panels of the weekend: Dystopian YA. Jess Lourey lead a great conversation between F.T. Bradley, Joelle Charbonneau, Michelle Gagnon, Sophie Littlefield, and Alexandra Monir. Many of these authors are favorites of mine and Alexandra’s new release gets the honor of being “the book I most anticipate, which I was not able to obtain at B’con.” Except for a few wonky questions from the audience, this panel rocked. So much fun! When Joelle talked about how because YA is not subdivided like adult fiction, the books are able to include more elements of various genres, I realized why I enjoy YA so much. Sometimes book marketing places unfair limitations on creativity. It shouldn’t all be about where the book will get filed in the bookstore.
This was followed directly by Keep Them In Their Places or Let Them Steal the Scenes (aka the side-kick panel). Two of my most favorite people were on this panel – Erin Mitchell (moderating) and Marcia Clark (teasing). Along with Don Bruns, Sharon Fiffer, Kent Harrington, and Tina Whittle the discussion was a delight. I say that Marcia was teasing us, because she discussed a possible change to her series books, but wouldn’t elaborate because if she can’t pull it off, she doesn’t want anyone to know she tried. I’ll forgive her.
This lead into the Cute and Sweet, but With a Twist panel. Since I was the moderator on this panel, I won’t go into too much detail except to say that I loved the experience. I hope that audience members were inspired to try the books of my panelists – Judy Clemens, Vicki Doudera, Bharti Kirchner, and Wendy Tyson. Both the panelists and I heard great feedback on the panel over the weekend and many told us it was one of their favorite panel of the conference. All I can say is Thank You – to them and to my panelists.
Friday night ended with a dessert reception and the live auction. I will say that it was very hard to hear the actual auction, but that may just have been my location. Given the money raised, clearly others could hear what was going on.
From the Booking Desk:
In Part Two, I will discuss the Saturday and Sunday panels, including another highlight of the conference – the Bloody Murder panel.