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 entrée 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.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Magic of Conventions

My dad dropped his newspaper on the table and whisked me into the car. Driving down the highway, he explained that today was the last day of a magic convention in Fort Lauderdale and there was just enough time to make it to the closing Sunday breakfast. We got there right as the final lecture started. Brief as it was, it was a great first conference. 

I’d go on to visit, and eventually lecture at, several other magic conventions. Although they were certainly influential for me, my first really transformative experience—the kind of event I walked out of a different person—was a literary conference in South Florida. I was invited to tag along by a friend of the family, writer Jeff Wallman, who knew I was an avid reader; there I met a future girlfriend, spoke to some living breathing legends, and realized that maybe I, too, could be a writer one day.

What was special about that conference was the blurriness of it all. While at a magic conference there’s a sharp divide between the pros and the fans (you’re either there to teach or to learn), but that wasn’t the case at the literary conference. The woman headlining a session could be sitting next to you an hour later listening to a panel.

It was there I realized that to be a good writer, you need to be an even bigger fan. While I didn’t think much of my writing at that point, I had no doubt about my passion for well-told stories. I was about as big of a fan as you could find. (My mother was constantly worried my shelves of books were going to collapse, suffocating me in an avalanche of Asimov, Leonard, Crichton and Harris.)

I saw people like me there. We loved books. We loved storytelling. The professional writers I talked to were fans that got so consumed with their fandom they had to devote their life to it.

Because of them, I knew I could be a writer. All I had to do was not die in a book avalanche and nourish the fan inside of me. Eventually, when I was ready, I’d find myself sitting in front of a blank page, ready to unleash that inner fan and share all the things I love about storytelling.

I’m excited about going to Bouchercon because it reminds me of where it started for me twenty years ago, when I realized something about myself that changed me for the better. Ever the fan, I can’t wait to find out where this new experience, and sharing with others like me, will take me.

Monday, October 6, 2014

First Shot at a Moving Target

I'm not a complete greenhorn to mystery conferences.  I attended ThrillerFest in 2013 to get some practice in pitching my first book to agents.  (Practice made Providence: I found one -- or she found me -- and my debut novel will be published by William Morrow and Faber & Faber next March.)  Since then I've visited Left Coast Crime in Monterey and returned in New York for T-Fest this year.  Surely I can handle Bouchercon, right?

Maybe not...

Bouchercon is the big boss, the black diamond run of mystery conventions.  The one convention I had heard of even before I'd started writing.  Just scanning the number of attendees was daunting.  Not to mention the names.  I've read his work, and hers, and his, and Good-Lord-I-wonder-if-I'll-meet-So-and-So.   

One glance at the packed advance schedule was enough to send me hunting for my most comfortable pair of shoes.  It's a marathon, not a sprint.  Or maybe it will be a whole bunch of sprints, one after the other, depending on how quickly seats disappear at the panel sessions.  

Bouchercon is so darn big that I suspect they have to change cities every year, just to let the poor communities recover.  Like Tokyo after Godzilla.  I envision a horde of excited fans, writers, booksellers, editors, agents, publishers, and librarians storming through the Long Beach Hyatt, leaving stunned hotel staffers, exhausted baristas, and empty vending machines in their wake.  And one trampled debut author.  In the sudden quiet, a few bookmarks flutter gently to the carpet.

So clearly I need help, psychiatric and otherwise.  What does a first-timer do when he needs advice?  Turn to the community, of course!  Bouchercon has loads of faithful attendees, and some of them have been kind enough to provide helpful tips and recap past visits.  It's a trove of good advice.  Here's a few of the best, from friends-in-sleuthing:

From Gigi Pandian:
From Jen Forbus:

If we should happen to meet at Bouchercon, ask me for an advance copy of my book.  And if I look dazed, please point me towards a barista. 

Glen Erik Hamilton's debut novel PAST CRIMES will be published by WIlliam Morrow in the U.S. and Faber & Faber in the U.K.  Find his blog Larceny is Grand at, and follow him on Twitter @GlenErikH. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Charles & Caroline Todd Remember Their First Bcon

CHARLES:  I remember my first Bouchercon clearly.  We’d just published our very first Rutledge, A TEST OF WILLS, and it was up for an Anthony for Best First.  I was the new kid on the block in Monterrey, excited and amazed to find myself elbow to elbow with authors whose names were already legends. Many of these authors have become close friends. But what was really impressive was the warm welcome I was given by the mystery community.  We didn’t win, but it didn’t matter.  We were accepted by fans and writers alike.  Bouchercon is big, but it isn’t overwhelming, and I guess I got hooked by that feeling of community. That’s why I’ve been to so many more since then.

CAROLINE:  I didn’t make it to Monterrey with Charles, but I’ve been to many Bouchercons since then.  And Charles is right, there’s a strong sense of community among mystery fans and mystery authors. Each year you enjoy different programs, different cities, but all those familiar faces make it a homecoming.  I planned one of the panel arcs in Las Vegas, and I found out just how hard the committees work to get the best combinations of talent possible. Ever since then, I’ve had a great respect for what goes on behind the scenes!  Which is my favorite Bouchercon? Each one has had so much to offer that I can’t possibly decide. But interviewing Anne Perry in Albany last year was an absolutely marvelous experience!

Monday, September 22, 2014

My First Bouchercon: Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland

By Andrew Kaplan

Music is memory. That was the take-away from my first Bouchercon in Cleveland. (Cleveland, really? Yes, Cleveland.) Starting with ceremonies at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’d never been to either Cleveland or the museum and thought it might be hokey, but instead found myself walking through the exhibits and reliving my life in the music. And at the venue, meeting people like Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter, Carol, with whom I once did a Connie Martinson TV show (Connie still does the best book interviews in the business). For an author, there were unexpected experiences, like walking down a hall and having someone I had never seen before suddenly thrust mint first edition copies of some of my out of print books at me and ask me to sign as if he’d been waiting for me. I did a regular book signing for Mystery Mike, a panel with some fascinating fellow authors and a packed room who asked really perceptive questions (trust me, that doesn’t always happen), and went to a HarperCollins cocktail party (the one common denominator in all literature is alcohol), because the best thing about these events is getting together with other writers. My agent invited us to a private party at a Slovenian restaurant (pierogies, sausages, kielbasa, and not a vegetable or anything remotely green in sight) complete with a polka band in lederhosen. Many toasts and laughs there with great writers like Bob Randisi and Mister Cleveland himself, Les Roberts. I wound up sitting next to one of my idols, Sara Paretsky, with whom I also danced a brief polka (brief only because I couldn’t keep up with her). My wife and I went to panels, but we got outside too. It was cool and grey in Cleveland, cold at night. We went for a walk by Lake Erie and ate at a great restaurant on East Fourth Street. Cleveland will surprise you. Most American cities will.

So what will happen at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach? I have no idea, except that it will be unexpected. And this time, I plan to dance a flamenco with Sara Paretsky.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Nero Wolfe Banquet

Do you know there is a special limited ticketed event to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the creation of Nero Wolfe? Join the Wolfe Pack and members of Rex Stout's family at this gala event filled with song parodies, toasts, themed quizzes, and general hilarity as they celebrate Stout's magnificent legacy. The event takes place on Friday at the Skyroom and requires a separate ticket. All are welcome! Learn more.

Monday, September 15, 2014


By Nancy Allen, Author of The Code of the Hills: An Ozarks Mystery (HarperCollins/Witness Impulse, 2014)

It hardly seems possible that almost a year has passed since I arrived in Albany for my first writers’ conference, as a new HarperCollins/Witness Impulse author with my debut novel still in edits. I was a Bouchercon virgin, and like all virgins, I was pretty nervous.

What a glorious initiation it was! Crowds of talented authors, throngs of their enthusiastic fans; laughs at the panels all day, parties every night. And books. Books everywhere, by all of my favorite authors.

Award for best panel? For my money, there’s no contest: it was the legendary ladies of the Jungle Red. The dynamic of the group was a marvel, and the way in which they interacted with their devoted readers was an education in itself. I’ll never forget the gracious courtesy demonstrated by Hank Phillippi Ryan to all of the fans who clamored for a word with her, and I took note: if I ever had any fans, I would certainly follow the example that Hank Phillippi Ryan set.

I was already over the moon, but then I really scored: I was invited to a HarperCollins party that evening and got to hang with Elizabeth Haynes and Lou Berney. And Hallie Ephron was there, in the flesh! I followed her around like a stalker on crack. It’s a wonder she didn’t dial 911. Maybe she didn’t have her phone on her; I dunno.

So I’m counting the days until Bouchercon 2014, which features another stellar list of attendees: my Jungle Reds will be back, as well as Lee Child, Karin Slaughter and J.A. Jance. It’s time to mingle with the stars. And though I’m dead certain that Lee & Karin & J.A. will be begging for a spot on my dance card, when the hour comes for the Jungle Red panel, they need to move out of the way, because I want a front row seat. Baby, I’m baaaaack!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Y.A. FanFest Aboard the Queen Mary

There is a special limited-ticket event aboard the legendary Queen Mary with Eoin Colfer and more than 20 additional Y.A. authors on Sunday, November 16th at 1:00pm. All proceeds will go to the LB Public Library Foundation for their Family Learning Centers programs, designed to promote literacy, and academic success. Price includes luncheon and transportation to and from the Hyatt Regency. You can find out more here

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Memories of Long Beach

A few of the most important moments in my life took place in Long Beach, California, home to this year’s Bouchercon.

When I first moved to Long Beach in 1989 to attend college, I was still exploring who and what I wanted to become. I was both excited and a little bit afraid. The whole world lay before me, but was I ready for it? 

Well, it was ready for me.

My visit to Long Beach will be haunted by ghostly memories of my college life — the day I had to flee a restaurant on Second Street when police told the owners to close up shop because the rioters were only a few blocks away burning buildings; afternoons spent in the CSU Long Beach school cafeteria listening to local band Sublime play a set; moments spent meeting two of the most important people in my life …

Twenty-three years ago, I met my husband in Long Beach.

Me and my European friends — chic Spanish and Greek women — headed to a local coffee shop, Midnight Espresso, to attend a poetry reading.

The café was packed and the crowd overflowed onto the sidewalk. We parked ourselves on a bus stop bench and sipped our lattes. A guy we knew, Dumas, came over to say hello. He was carrying a Baudelaire book and was with a guy I barely noticed. Boys who wore baseball hats were not my type.

But then this boy began to entertain us, standing in the middle of the street like it was a stage and reciting poetry, acting out the words, twisting his body and twirling. Who was this guy?

My girlfriends said they were going across the street to check out the cute waiter at the other café, The French Riviera. Was I coming?

At this point, the baseball cap boy was sitting on the bench beside me, speaking poetry into my ear. 

I stayed behind, not even aware that my friends had left.

Twenty-four years ago, I met my best friend in Long Beach.

I went to a college party with a German exchange student and was introduced to Manisha. She was exotic and glamorous with with her proper British accent and her giant, kohl-rimmed black eyes and gobs of luxurious black hair.

Although on the surface we were nothing alike — she had been raised in a traditional East Indian family in Zimbabwe where she had a crocodile for a pet — we both instantly recognized one another as kindred spirits and have been best friends ever since.

Twenty-five years ago, I debated whether to change my major at Cal State Long Beach from business to creative writing. I had dreamed of being a writer my whole life. I tossed and turned with the decision and ultimately was afraid that the degree would be meaningless. As a compromise, I decided to study journalism. I became an editor at The Union student-run newspaper and fell in love with journalism, discarding my dreams of being a fiction writer.

It took a long time for me to become brave enough to try my hand at fiction. In reality, it took letting go of my fear of failure — something that could have only come with age and maturity.

So, now, when I go to Bouchercon, I will take a day to walk the same streets that a young, idealistic college girl did so many years ago. I will remember the moments and places where I met my husband and best friend. I will recall the excitement of being in my 20s with the whole world before me. 

A quarter of a century later, I will return to Long Beach, this time as a published fiction writer. I will embrace the girl I once was — with all her fears and hopes for the future — with the woman I have become.

Monday, September 8, 2014

My First Bouchercon by Ovidia Yu

I had no idea what to expect—just coming to America from Singapore for the launch of my book was already a dream come true and then some. On the train to Albany I remember feeling sorry to leave NYC even for a moment, then tempted not to get off when I saw the train line terminated at ‘Niagara Falls’ and was amazed when the young man in the next seat casually said he was en route ‘to photograph Marina Abramović’s latest project’. Could anything at Bouchercon match that? 

Oh Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes.

My top favourite event of Bouchercon was the panel where Rhys Bowen, Deborah Crombie and Louise Penny chatted together as though they were just regular old friends with common interests meeting up—and as they chatted about their writing lives and each other’s books (and swopped name tags!) these wise, wonderfully witty writers made all of us in the audience part of their magic circle of book loving friendship too. In person as on the page, they made us feel special and valued as readers.
Then there was seeing Sue Grafton (life long literary crush) accepting the Lifetime Award and telling us to remember never to let the gratitude fade. And Anne Perry talking about her writing and psychic connections with her late grandfather. And Tess Gerritsen on how her emphasis on accuracy only let her down once—on a matter of parking space availability… 

But Bouchercon was more than just seeing literary lumineries on stage speaking. 
I got to help pack book bags and glimpse the immense ‘backstage’ work going on. I saw SJ Rozan whizz by. She walks faster through crowds than I can sprint so I didn’t get an autograph but I saw she really isn’t Chinese though before that I was swearing she had to be because in her books Lydia Chin’s family is totally like families I know all too well here. I got to meet writers of books I hadn’t heard of then but which I bought and enjoyed and I would like to put it on record here that I got a cup of sake from Barry Lancet’s own hands before Japantown and Tokyo Kill made him world famous!
It was even good that there were hardly any eateries open on Sunday because that’s how I met Dru Ann Love who directed me to the food truck. I’ve discovered so many new books and authors from her Dru Ann’s Musings book blog but that Sunday she introduced me to pulled pork sandwiches and Malteses.

I also learned there were new Nero Wolfe books written by Robert Goldsborough (I love Nero Wolfe—how could I not have known that?) I met the Laurie King book club members and got treated to drinks and supper and wonderful book chat.  

Yes, a big part of the Bouchercon magic was in the book chat and finding people willing to talk books everywhere. Waiting for the shuttle bus from my hotel we started talking about Louise Penny’s (then) latest book and who we would want to be if we lived in Three Pines and whether Clara Morrow would ever leave Peter. One woman who hadn’t read it yet stuck her fingers in her ears and sang la-la-la every time she thought a spoiler was coming up and we called her ‘Ruth’. Over evening drinks at a pub people were discussing where in the convention centre we would hide bodies or body parts and ladies in the loo were worrying about what Sue Grafton would do when she reached the end of the alphabet.

It felt like I had found a tribe of people speaking my language. 
Of course I really enjoyed buying books and picking up free books too. And I collect bookmarks so I was totally thrilled to get advertisement bookmarks. Fortunately there were arrangements for us to ship book buys home so all my book loot arrived safely. And Joanne and Danielle from Harper Collins were there and looked after me and my book signings beautifully, (only laughing at me a little).

The hardest part of Bouchercon was having to make decisions about which panels to attend—but either I made great decisions or they were all good. And the easiest part was signing up for Bouchercon 2015. 

I still haven’t seen the Niagara Falls but I’m glad I got off the train at Albany.