Friday, October 31, 2014
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
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
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
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
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?
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 Robin Spano:
From Robin Spano:
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 glenerikhamilton.com, and follow him on Twitter @GlenErikH.