Bouchercon 2014

I'm home after four days at Bouchercon, the world mystery convention, which was held in Long Beach this year. On my way home on Sunday I was on a flight with several other Bay Area authors, and our conversation as we waited to board sums up the whole convention experience: even though we attended the fan convention as authors, we were most excited when talking about the new mystery books and authors we discovered over the long weekend.

I roomed with a pal who was attending the convention for the first time. This wasn't my first Bouchercon, but it was my first time with multiple books out and multiple events scheduled. In other words, it was the first time I felt like I was attending professionally. But since I was a huge mystery fan long before I became a writer, I had to set alarms on my phone so I'd remember to stop browsing in the book room, chatting with old and new friends, or attending cool panels -- so I could be sure to attend my own events!

Roomie Mariah Klein in front of the hotel.

My gorgeous book cover for The Accidental Alchemist was on display at the Midnight Ink table. The publisher gave away Accidental Alchemist mugs and I signed Advance Reader Copies of the book for readers. And it was great having a chance to get to know my editor, publicist, and fellow Midnight Ink authors better over the weekend.

The Midnight Ink booth at Bouchercon, with The Accidental Alchemist on display!
Here I am with my fabulous editor Terri Bischoff. 

At the "Author Speed Dating" breakfast event on the first day, writers table-hopped to tell readers about their books. I handed out goodies from a magician's hat, because stage magic is one of the overlapping subjects in the two books I've got coming out in early 2015: The Accidental Alchemist coming from Midnight Ink in January, and Quicksand, the third Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery, coming from Henery Press in March. I paired up with fellow Henery Press author Susan Boyer, who writes the Liz Talbot mysteries, the first of which won an Agatha Award. We had fun until we started to lose our voices!

With Susan Boyer at "Author Speed Dating."

The Macavity Awards, given out by Mystery Readers International, were presented at the opening ceremonies. My locked room mystery "The Hindi Houdini" was up for Best Short Story. Up against fabulous short stories including Art Taylor's "The Care and Feeding of Houseplants" and John Connolly's "The Caxton Lending Library and Book Depository," I knew I wouldn't win, but it was such an honor to be nominated alongside those authors and stories. The Macavity went to to Art Taylor's story from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. You can see the full list of Macavity nominees here.

The opening ceremonies. Fancy!

It was only a little over a year ago that I participated in the New Author breakfasts at mystery conventions. I got up early to support the authors I knew with new books out. Plus, I had my own selfish reason for attending: I learned about several new authors I hadn't previously heard of but who are now on my reading list. (I've already downloaded Andrew Mayne's Angel Killer.) 

New Author Breakfast. Top row: Lisa Alber, Kathy Aarons, Annette Dashofy.
Bottom row: Tracy Weber, Ray Daniel, Sybil Johnson.

Appearing on the Locked Room Mysteries panel was a treat both because of the line-up (Jeffery Deaver's The Vanished Man is absolutely brilliant, and Marv Lachman's Heirs of Anthony Boucher makes him the resident Bouchercon historian) and because the subject is dear to my heart. I've always thought I was rather old-fashioned because I love locked room "impossible crime" stories that were most popular during the Golden Age of detective fiction between the two world wars, but I learned that I'm not alone! The audience was packed with well over 100 people of all ages. (I'll do a separate post on what we talked about, because otherwise I'd go on forever.)

On the Locked Room Mysteries panel with Marv Lachman, Janet Dawson,
Bill Gottfried (our moderator), Jeffery Deaver, and Laurie King.

With Jeffery Deaver, who in addition to writing brilliant books is the nicest guy.

Mystery conventions often raise money for local literacy charities through a silent auction and a live auction. Dozens of authors contributed to the auctions that raised money for the Long Beach Public Library Foundation and WriteGirl. Camille Minichino donated this hand-made miniature (check out all the miniature mystery novels!). I donated a Pirate Vishnu-themed treasure chest filled with San Francisco chocolates and a signed hardcover edition of the book.

Top: Camille Minichino's mystery miniature.
Bottom: my Pirate Vishnu treasure chest.

Conventions are always a combination of meeting new friends and catching up with old ones I don't see often enough. Diane Vallere and Kendel Lynn have been two of my stalwart writer pals since early in this journey. Sadly they don't live locally, but happily we all love attending mystery cons.

With Diane Vallere and Kendel Lynn. 

And then there are some people who feel like old friends as soon as you meet them. Steve Steinbock, who writes a regular column for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, is one of those people.

With Steve Steinbock.

Since there are far too many great books and far too little time, of the ways I decide which classic mysteries to read is by listening to Les Blatt's Classic Mysteries Podcasts, so it was nice to catch up with him in person.

With Les Blatt, who runs the excellent Classic Mysteries website. 

The Sisters in Crime breakfast was extra special this year because it included the presentation of the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award to Maria Kelson. I served on the committee that read through many outstanding applications. Maria's rose to the top, and I can't wait to see her book in print.

Eleanor Taylor Bland grant-winner Maria Kelson.

With Frankie Bailey and grant-winner Maria Kelson.

Laura DiSilverio handing over the Sisters in Crime presidency to Catriona McPherson.

I didn't remember to take photos at the Bouchercon Anthology signing, but here's the book. My locked room mystery story "The Haunted Room" appears in the anthology. (If you subscribe to my email newsletter, you may recognize the story from its original incarnation as a Halloween 2013 exclusive gift to newsletter subscribers. The new story is even better thanks to Dana Cameron's editorial guidance.)

The Bouchercon anthology, Murder at the Beach.

UPDATE: Thanks to Tanis Mallow and Rob Brunet, I have these photos from the anthology signing!

The Anthony Awards, named for Anthony Boucher, were given out at Bouchercon at a celebratory event on the last evening of the convention. The lovely Catriona McPherson won an Anthony for As She Left It.

Catriona McPherson with her Anthony Award
and our shared editor Terri Bischoff.

On the last morning of the convention, while not attending panels I camped out in the lobby in hopes of catching up with people I hadn't yet seen over the long weekend. It worked! Though I didn't manage to see everyone on my list (with over 1,600 people in attendance that would have been tough), in addition to two scheduled meetings I ran into several more people I hadn't seen all weekend. I'm glad I kept my own Bouchercon tips in mind, even if it was on the last day! Thanks to chair Ingrid Willis and all the volunteers for a great convention.

View from the Long Beach Hyatt.

Now that I'm home, I'm incredibly inspired to finish writing my latest mystery. If only I could pull myself away from all of these great new books.... Wish me luck. I'm going to need it.