From The Booking Desk:
Just a word of warning – This one is going to run long folks. Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans was an event like no other. Read on to reflect back on those wonderful times or to see what you might have missed.
If we have heard it once, we have heard it a thousand times – Bouchercon is a family reunion – and this year’s celebration in New Orleans was no different (except in those moments when it was different).
Our adventure started with a two-day driving commute from Baltimore to NOLA. All in all, it was not a bad trip if you exclude a few traffic accidents, which drastically slowed us down. We rented a home in the quarter – one with the largest privately-owned courtyard in the city – so there were no complaints with the accommodations. Monday started slowly but ended with a bang when we took the cocktail tour of New Orleans (presented by Gray Line Tours). Our tour guide was fabulous. She introduced us to each bar’s signature drink(s) – which we could purchase or not, at will (we purchased many). She also had so many great stories about the city including the man who locked his wife in the closet for extended periods so that he could have an affair with his maid; once tired of the maid, he threw her down the well and let his wife out, thinking they would resume their “loving” marriage. Needless to say, he was discovered at the bottom of an open window and she disappeared.
Tuesday saw the start of my many volunteering assignments. Dru Ann Love and I elected to help set up the book bazaar room. The idea of letting folks pick the books they want for their conference book bag was brilliant – even if the execution of the set-up was a bit rocky. After a few false starts, things got under control and the end result was a beautifully run book give-away location.
We registered early on Wednesday, picked out books from the book bazaar (see above), and then it was time to get things ready for the BOLO Books Soiree. My husband and I rented this home and courtyard knowing that we were going to have this event, but I had no idea the response and interest would be as massive as it was. I actually had to cutoff attendance requests even before leaving for NOLA. Needless to say, the turn-out was fantastic and I hope that everyone had a wonderful time celebrating the blog with me. This was the official launch of the BOLO Books lapel pin – which also surprisingly became a much coveted item during the convention. I really can’t thank those who attended the soiree enough – you certainly know how to make a guy feel special. Ok, I know many of you came for the free home-made lemoncello, but I know you love me as well. 😉 I won’t go through a list of who was there, as I will undoubtedly forget someone, but I will thank everyone for their enthusiasm (and thank Kristi Belcamino for the home-made biscotti she made for everyone to enjoy with the lemoncello). My good friend Ann from Oz also brought Australian macadamia nuts and American M&M’s (in Mardi Gras colors) to add to the sustenance of the gathered crowd. As these things tend to do, the soiree ran long, but we did manage to get out to dinner afterwards.
Thursday saw the official start of Bouchercon. At 12:30, the All the Critics Love New York panel took place with myself, Dru Ann Love, Kaye Wilkinson Barley, Erica Neubauer, and Lesa Holstine moderated by Penny Halle. This was the critics panel and we had a blast. We had a fantastic turnout and I heard later that copies of the CD recording were selling well. I know my fellow panelists and I hope that readers came away with some new books for their to-be-read piles (mountains). In talking with those on the panel, I know that even *we* came away with some new titles to explore.
Later on Thursday afternoon, I was the time-keeper for the LGBTQ panel moderating by Catriona McPherson and featuring Stephanie Gayle, Jessie Chandler, Joel Gomez-Dossi, Christa Faust, and Jean Redmann. I have now been to eight Bouchercons and I can honestly say that this was the best panel I have ever attended. Each panelist was hilarious, touching, informative, and “real.” I am not ashamed to admit that I went from laughter to tears in this one folks. The mystery people have always been my peeps and to have a topic near and dear to my heart covered in such a fashion was good for my soul.
Thank you to all involved in making this panel happen – including Judy Bobalik and Jon Jordan for scheduling it, those above for their participation, and Terri Bischoff for the idea. You all rock my world!!
The first day of Bouchercon 2016 ended with the Opening Ceremonies. From the fabulous food of New Orleans provide at each table to the Guests of Honor entering on Mardi Gras floats while throwing beads to the audience, this was an Opening Ceremony for the record books. After eating, when “House of the Rising Sun” began to blare from the speakers it was clear that this was going to be unlike any previous Bouchercon Opening Ceremony. Congratulations to Heather Graham and Connie Perry for pulling this off. It was spectacular! Footage can be found online for those who were unable to be present. The evening wrapped up with a now traditional book-signing extravaganza sponsored by the good folks at HarperCollins.
Friday morning was an early start for me with my moderating gig taking place at 9:30AM. Surprisingly, this was probably the hour with the highest volume of stellar panels, so we were happy that we ended up with a full room for the panel. Kristi Belcamino, Karin Salvalaggio, Rachel Howzell Hall, and Yrsa Sigurdardottir and I discussed strong lead characters in both series and stand-alone mysteries. Again, I hope that the audience enjoyed the conversation. I had many questions I didn’t even get to cover, so I know these ladies and I could spend at least another hour talking about the topic. As I said at the start of the panel, I felt like Charlie up on the stage with my Angels – with the Angels doing all the heavy lifting (not unlike on the TV show).
The next panel I attended was the Thunderdome panel. This was a game show style panel in which the panelists were systematically removed from the panel until there was one final winner – in this case the one and only Lori Radar-Day. I love to see originality in the panel listings and I give this one huge credit for trying something different. It wasn’t completely successful, but the good far outweighed any deficits. There was much laughter and things took a much needed R-rated turn very early. I think this can become a classic panel with just a bit of tweaking (ie. remembering that the audience is pretty far away, so any type of competition that involves working in front of the panelists on the table is unlikely to be seen from afar). But where else can you see authors compete to build paper airplane to see which flies the furthest or compete to see who can give the most compelling “Stella” scream. Loads of fun!!
The next event was another once in a lifetime experience. Despite the rain, a whole bunch of us participated in the Second Line Parade to the Orpheum Theater. Accompanied by a band, people on stilts, and others in costume, we marched down the center of Canal Street – convenient blocked off for our enjoyment – as the citizens of New Orleans watched and cheered us on. This is something one does not soon forget. Once at the theater, Lee Child conducted the best Lifetime Achievement interview with David Morrell. Mr. Morrell (who created Rambo for those that do not know) gave such an inspiring talk that I think everyone in the room was ready to rush out to buy all his books – most of us for the second time. The Anthony Awards followed this interview and all of the winners were incredibly worthy. Many of those who took home awards were not in attendance for various reasons, so the event went very quickly. I will just give a short out to Chris Holm who won Best Novel for The Killing Kind. This was a novel I have been saying was my favorite read of 2015 since the moment I consumed it, so I was very happy to see that the Bouchercon constituency agreed with me.
After all this, Michael and I got to have a quick dinner in the hotel bar with Judy Bobalik and John Purcell before I had to head to a meeting with the Deadly Pleasures Magazine bunch. Sadly I was so exhausted after this that I had to miss the Crimespree/Soho Press Party and of all the regrets from Bouchercon 2016 this is the one that cuts the deepest. So many of my friends and colleagues were there and I know from talking with them how much fun they all had. Thankfully, I got to see most of them at other times during the weekend’s events, but that doesn’t make up for missing this shindig.
Saturday started slow with my missing of the Golden Age panel I had really wanted to attend. I was able to meet up again with Ragnar Jonasson afterwards to get all my Dark Iceland books signed. Rest assured, I have ordered the CD for this panel as I want to hear what all these smart folks (including Ragnar, Charlaine Harris, Cathy Ace, Clarie Booth, G.M. Malliet, and Martin Edwards) had to say about Agatha Christie and her contemporaries.
Fortunately, I signed up to time-keep for the Soap Opera panel so there was no way I was missing that. This was another inspired panel in which Laura Benedict did her best to control Reed Farrel Coleman, Holly West, Joe Clifford, Toni McGee Causey, and Charles Saltzberg as they discussed how watching television soaps influenced their writing. Many secrets where reveals – among them Joe’s man-crush on the original Phillip Spaulding from Guiding Light – along with some raucous talk about things best left not mentioned here. (Hint: order the CD recording, you won’t regret it)
My next event of this Bouchercon was the Blood on the Bayou anthology signing. So many of my friends are included in this collection of short stories and it was a joy to celebrate with them. Look for a review on this collection here on the blog soon.
Finally, I ended Saturday by time-keeping at the International Rising Star Guest of Honor interview with Craig Robertson. As a huge fan of both their books it was wonderful to hear fellow native Scotlander Catriona McPherson grill Craig with some difficult questions. Despite the fact that they were not supplied with microphones, these two remained professional and entertaining throughout.
You will no doubt have noticed that the number of panels I attended this year was far less than is typical for me. This is a sign that BOLO Books has risen to a new level. I was constantly stopped in the hallways on my way to panels by fans and authors from around the World who wanted to thank me for the reviews I post. For me, this was so much more important than attending panels. Blogging – like other writing – is a very solitary experience and it was beyond gratifying to hear that my suggestions are reaching people and influencing their reading choices. Thank you to everyone who stopped me to chat or for whatever reason – most especially for the hugs. It really did mean so much to me.
Somewhere in there I also had a lovely intimate lunch with Kristi Belcamino, Claire Booth, Ben McPherson, and Karin Salvalaggio at the Palace Café. And I also recorded a short interview conducted by Oline Cogdill for the Bouchercon Recorded History Project. Plus lots of shopping and book signings in the book room.
We ended our New Orleans experience with dinner at Broussard’s with Ann from Oz and Naomi Kappel. No one can ever fault the food and drink in New Orleans. Nothing can top the Beignets at Café Du Monde, but this dinner was delicious; as was the near-perfect steak I had at Muriel’s earlier in the week. Other than having a Bellini spilled on me at The Ruby Slipper (which they then wanted me to still pay for), all our experiences in the local restaurants were wonderful.
Bouchercon is a family reunion! Many of these folks only get to see each other once a year and I am humbled to call them my friends. A huge shout-out to Heather Graham and Connie Perry for putting this event together and to Judy Bobalik and Jon Jordan for taking on the task of scheduling panels one last time. If you have never been to Bouchercon, next year is in Toronto and it promises to be another fine time. I hope to see you there!