Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bouchercon Book Bag - Sneak Peek

One of the best parts of Bouchercon is the book bags. Here is a stunning sneak peek at the wonderfulness that's starting to arrive for convention attendees. 

California Love: Six Awesome Reasons Why Southern California is Bouchercon-Perfect

By Rachel Howzell Hall

Yeah, yeah, traffic and smog and organic-vegan-gluten-free-blahblahblahs.  You’re not coming to Southern California for that. As an L.A. native, and a three-year former resident of Long Beach, I know why the good folks in the Bouchercon offices are bringing us Los Angeles County for this year’s conference. 

1. Weather. Haven’t you heard? We’re in a drought. Ain’t seen rain since… since…. So paint your toenails! Pack your cargo shorts and that vintage be-dazzled ‘I Love L.A.’ tank top you bought off Etsy two summers ago. It’s cool. You’re cute. You’re in L.A. now.
2. Food. A writer’s gotta eat. So, leave the hotel and venture out. In Long Beach, Hof’s Hut makes these delicious cinnamon- roll pancake things, and the meat on Johnny Reb’s barbecue ribs just fall off the bone. Head north and… what’s that? In N Out? A national treasure. Pink’s Hot Dogs, Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles…? Chicken and waffles? Eaten together? Bonus: you can eat all of this glorious food while wearing sandals and sunglasses. (True story: L.L. Cool J sat in the booth behind me at Roscoe’s. He ordered chicken.)
3. The Pacific. Nothing like our ocean. The Atlantic’s nice but our waves are bigger and badder. And we have sea lions! And sharks! And the Queen Mary! And our beaches range from ‘Aah, Paradise’ to ‘OMG, Did You See What Just Happened to That Guy Over There, Is He Okay?!’ Our beaches alone are three Moleskins worth of story ideas.
4. People. So diverse. Everybody’s here. Every color, every body type, every mental capacity. Just… sit somewhere and populate your novel by people-watching. Don’t worry—we’ll ignore you. Cuz we ignore everybody… unless you’re driving too slow on the 405 and then we’ll ride your bumper until you move to the right. Ha ha. Just kidding. Seriously, though. Move to your right.
5. Mysteries. Real-life head-scratchers abound in Southern California. How did that tourist wind up in the hotel’s water tank? Why did that successful movie director jump from the Vincent Thomas Bridge? Who killed the Black Dahlia? What will happen to me if that cop pulls me over? Writers gon’ write, so might as well find inspiration in the real, right?

6. Big. This place is HUGE. With 527 miles of freeway and 382 miles of regular highway, you can drive and drive… and STILL be in Los Angeles County. Live here forever—and never visit 60 percent of it (our unofficial, provincial motto)! Mystery writing is about discovery—and Southern California boasts enough towns and burgs with their own rules and their own cultures for you to never be bored or see the same thing five times.
So. Enjoy the weather. Wiggle your painted toes. Find inspiration on the 405—you’ll be sitting there long enough. Move to the right. Oh, and welcome to the LBC.

RACHEL HOWZELL HALL is a writer/assistant development director at City of Hope, a national leader in cancer research and treatment. She lives in Los Angeles.

Meet Rachel and many other great Forge authors at the hospitality suite on Friday afternoon, where there will be coffee, author signings, and fun giveaways!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Wide World of Mystery

By Mary Vesel White

I didn’t know what to expect from my first mystery convention. I often tell people, after all, that my first novel is a mystery that’s not really a mystery. When I wrote The Qualities of Wood, my idea was to play around with the genre a little, by writing a story with a mystery in it that would end up being about discoveries of another nature. Some called it a literary mystery, so I took the opportunity to dip my toes in the mystery pond by signing up for that first convention. I wondered if I’d feel like a fish out of water, whether I’d be accepted amongst the writers of “true” mysteries. This was a couple of years ago, a gathering much smaller than Bouchercon. But to me, it still felt like a pretty big crowd. It was also the first fan get-together I’d attended. I’d been to several conferences—some of them geared towards aspiring writers, almost all of them inclusive of all types of books. I’d never seen a group of readers gathered to celebrate a certain type of story. Because mystery readers love them some mystery, don’t they? Everywhere I went at that convention, I met readers who were so enthusiastic, so welcoming and curious, I couldn’t help but feel at ease. And most of them read A LOT and not just mystery, but all sorts of things. 

I discovered that mystery didn’t just mean one thing, not at all. In fact, there are so many subgenres, it’s hard to imagine you can ever know all of them. From cozy to historical, from romantic suspense to police procedural, from crime to noir to legal to amateur sleuth, and the endless variations if you decide to mix these sub genres—I discovered the world of mystery is a wide and deep one, and pretty inviting even to someone like me, who had written a literary novel with a mystery in it. I learned so much at that first conference, made new friends and discovered new writers, and I can’t wait to test of the waters of this larger pond, Bouchercon. It’s another first time, but I know there will be room for me, room for all of us. Aside from the panel and signings I’ll be participating in as an author, I imagine it’ll be difficult to plan the rest of my time as a reader, because of the variety of presentations, interviews and panels, and the many, many types of mystery books to learn about. But this is one mystery I’m glad to solve. Counting down to next month, can’t wait!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Our Third Bouchercon – But Renee Patrick’s First

by Rosemarie and Vince Keenan

In 2010, we finally decided to take the Bouchercon plunge. Why that year? The convention was held in San Francisco, a city we’ll visit at any opportunity. Even better, serving as toastmaster was our friend Eddie Muller, novelist and founder of the Film Noir Foundation.

Within minutes of checking into the hotel – as seen in the movies Freebie and the Bean and High Anxiety! – we ran into people we’d only met online and fell in with them as if we’d been close for years. It turns out knowing the toastmaster is like having a backstage pass. Eddie was in the thick of the proceedings and pulled us along in his wake, introducing us to everyone. Two longtime mystery fans couldn’t have asked for a better first Bouchercon experience. We would definitely be back.

We didn’t have the same exclusive entrĂ©e in 2011 St. Louis – and we quickly discovered it didn’t matter. Stepping into the hotel bar it was as if the Bay Area party hadn’t ended, with many of the same friends eager to welcome us back and plenty of new friends to meet.

With great reluctance, we chose to sit out the next two Bouchercons, although thanks to Twitter we could follow the action in Cleveland and Albany. (Pro tip: sipping a cocktail at the same time helps to conjure the appropriate atmosphere.) The decision was a difficult but necessary one. We had work to do. We’d come up with a novel idea of our own.

It’s not just a love of mysteries that we share. We’re also both obsessed with classic movies (and Rosemarie has a thing for fashion). We combined these interests in Design for Dying. In 1937 Hollywood, an aspiring actress turned department store salesgirl must team up with legendary costume designer Edith Head to solve a murder. All the ladies have going for them are assists from various silver screen luminaries and a killer sense of style. 

With a pair of Bouchercons under our belts, we had picked up plenty of pointers from expert panels, made connections within the publishing industry, and assembled an army of friends to turn to for support and advice. That history made writing our first novel much easier.

Long Beach marks our return to Bouchercon, only this time will be different for us. We’re thrilled to announce that Tor/Forge Books will publish Design for Dying under our pen name Renee Patrick in April 2016, with a sequel to follow in 2017.

Perhaps at a future Bouchercon Renee Patrick will sit on a panel and sign some books. In Long Beach, it will be enough for Rosemarie and Vince to catch up with friends, share the good news, and take care of some business. We’ll be meeting our agent and our editor in person for the first time. Bouchercon is the perfect place to move relationships out of the virtual world and into the real one. Trust us, we’ve done it before.

Meet Vince and Rosemarie Keenan and many other great Forge authors at the hospitality suite on Friday afternoon, where there will be coffee, author signings, and fun giveaways!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


By Jon McGoran

Writing can be a lonely endeavor, but it brings with it many perks. The greatest is probably that you get to write. But almost as great is that you get to hang out with other writers, especially writers  of your own ilk. I realized this at my first Bouchercon, where I experienced a dynamic I’ve seen played out at every Bouchercon since.

I didn’t know a soul, and every room I walked into, I would see old friends talking and laughing and carrying on the way old friends do. It was intimidating at first, because I didn't know anybody. But over the course of the conference, I met some of those same people, and I discovered that, while some of them had indeed been old friends, most had met minutes before I walked into the room. They were just that kind of people — open, welcoming and warm. And hilarious.

The next year, when I came back, the new friends from the previous year were my new old friends. And it’s been like that ever since — every year I make new friends, and have a blast hanging out with more and more old ones. 

It’s easy to be star-struck at Bouchercon, but part of what makes it so special is that this warmth and friendliness extends to the big names, as well. Unless you are one of them — and truthfully, even if you are, because the big names are fans as well — one of the favorite activities at Bouchercon is trading stories about how “I met [INSERT NAME OF GENRE LITERARY ICON HERE] and he or she was incredibly gracious/friendly/hilarious/supportive.”

Because the big names are great people, too. So when you see them, say hi or buy them a beer. And when the conference is over, go to their homes and wait in the shadows to surprise them when they walk the dog at night. They’ll think it's hilarious! (Tell them Dennis Tafoya sent you.) Because there’s other types of stories that get told at Bouchercon as well, and you can be in one! Before you know it you’ll be driving them to the airport and helping them hide bodies (I'm looking at you, Brad Parks!).

And when the conference is over, when you get home and you get back to writing, sitting alone in your office or just in your head (crowded with fictitious characters though it may be), you can remember that even though you’re engaged in a lonely endeavor, you’re part of an amazing community of writers. And you’ll see them all again next year. 

Oh, and there’s great panels, too.

Meet Jon McGoran and many other great Forge authors at the hospitality suite on Friday afternoon, where there will be coffee, author signings, and fun giveaways!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Alison Gaylin - Hitting Bouchercon

Writing can be a very lonely profession, so when the time comes to convene with readers and fellow writers, we all welcome the chance. 

     I have attended Bouchercon (most) every year since 2005 (I couldn’t make it to Anchorage). And I have to say, it has afforded me experiences I will never forget – whether it was hitting a gay sports bar in Madison, Wisconsin with Megan Abbott, Ken Bruen and Jason Starr, shopping for cowboy shirts in Cleveland, OH with Michele Gagnon Martyn Waites and Mark Billingham (the latter two giddy after visiting Johnny Cash’s trailer at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) or sitting on a truly fabulous panel in Albany, NY, in which moderator Laura Lippman dressed (to perfection) as Andy Cohen. As mystery writers, the stuff we put on the page is full of surprises – and thankfully, so is our biggest conference. I can hardly wait to see what’s in store for us in Long Beach!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Oh the People You'll Meet!

So you want to make new friends, but you’ve heard Bouchercon is too big. Or maybe you’re the shy type, or worried you might do something to embarrass yourself. Just to put you at ease, I’m going to tell you about my most embarrassing moment at a mystery con ever—if you don’t count the time I accidentally threw a bagel smothered in cream cheese into an editor’s purse. Actually, now that I think about it, the bagel incident was more embarrassing, especially considering that I was trying to appear so professional. But since it took place years earlier at a romance writer’s conference, I feel as though it shouldn’t count. (Note to readers who attend these gatherings in the hopes of meeting an editor and maybe getting published: I don’t recommend the bagel method for introductions.) 

But I digress. It was 1997, my first-ever Bouchercon in Monterey. Like anyone walking into Bouchercon as a newby—and perhaps also because I was an aspiring mystery writer—I was intimidated by the vast number of people attending, worried that I’d say something wrong, perhaps commit some grand faux pas. Even so, I wanted to immerse myself into this world and so I stepped out of my comfort zone, stuck out my hand, and introduced myself to the first person I met in line at registration. She in turn introduced me to several more people in her group.  Mission accomplished. I now knew someone in the room.

That first night, this same group invited me to dinner at the pub behind the hotel, and being on a budget, as many of us are at these cons, I ordered an appetizer-sized spinach and feta pizza for my meal.  Undoubtedly the more cynical readers (especially those who know me) are probably wondering how I could possibly remember what I ate seventeen years ago, when I can’t even recall what I ate yesterday. Well, I’m getting to it. A few of us from dinner stopped at the bar afterward, and I was having the time of my life meeting so many people. After an hour or two, I reluctantly bid goodnight, and went up to my room. The moment I looked into the mirror, I thought I’d stepped onto the set of a zombie movie. Every single one of my upper teeth appeared decayed and rotting. On closer inspection, I realized each was covered in green and white globs of various shapes and sizes.

Just. Plain. Ew.

Horrified, I wondered why no one had told me? Did anyone notice? How could anyone not notice? Perhaps the combination of alcohol and the dim lighting of the bar kept the majority from seeing the condition of my teeth—and if they did see them, from remembering anything about it the next day. 

Being that this traumatic (at the time) event occurred almost two decades ago, you’re probably wondering why would I bring it up now, when everyone has surely forgotten? I do so, because embarrassing things happen. To some of us (me), more than we care to recall. (I think I’ll save the Bouchercon/DorothyL handcuff story for another time…) My point is that you shouldn’t let the fear of being in large crowds stop you from meeting new people. Sure, Bouchercon is a big conference and it can seem intimidating. But mystery people are the nicest people. They don’t hold those moments against you. So step out of your comfort zone, introduce yourself to someone new. Just maybe don’t do it after you’ve eaten spinach and feta pizza.