Tag Archives: Bouchercon

Delta Blues Sings

I’m in Vegas, baby!  And it’s a crazy time in Vegas, full of dentists, business and revelry of one kind or another.  I’m also trying to finish an edit of my first Paula book in time to get it in for the Malice Domestic competition (publication and cash money from St. Martin’s Press to the winner).  But I still found time to finish an anthology, Delta Blues, edited by Carolyn Haines.

The book has 19 stories by authors you know and love, including Charlaine Harris, John Grisham, and James Lee Burke.  What they have in common is the feeling of the deep south, the riff of R&B, a pinch of evil, and the bone-deep awareness that what is gonna be, is gonna be.

There’s a lot to like in the book, and my two favorite stories are the last two.  John Grisham’s story, Fetching Raymond,  is an affecting and realistic look at the last hours of a man awaiting execution, as seen by his family.  He’s an empty shell of a braggadocio.  And they love him.

Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly team up with What His Hands Have Been Waiting For, a nice story of redemption.  Three souls bound for ruin come together – and save each other. 

I got Delta Blues for free by going to Bouchercon – part of my Bouchercon booty, but I’ve got to say, I love short stories and this is an anthology I’m happy to own and would cheerfully paid for.

Wow. Reposted on Sisters in Crime.

Since coming back from Bouchercon, I have been overwhelmed with real life – mostly work, but also laundry, grocery-shopping (almost $300 last night, since we didn’t shop at all last weekend and were out of EVERYTHING, including toilet paper), etc.  Plus I had 5 Chicago Tribunes and New York Times to read.  As I said, overwhelming.

So I haven’t posted (guilt, shame).  But I did have good news – the Sisters in Crime blog asked to repost my post about the pre-Bouchercon SINC writers’ workshop.  This led to 1) my feeling validated about my position in the world (I am reposted, therefore I am), and 2) me joining the Guppies – for writers who haven’t had a book published yet.  I feel a little old to be a guppy but figure I can always learn something more, and the dues are only $12/year.

But I was embarrassed to see that they lifted the photo from my “About” page – not that I don’t look awesome, but I don’t generally run about looking as if I have just triumphed in some bizarre writerly athletic event.  So here are some potential new profile pictures.  Feel free to vote.

Most recent pic. New glasses?

After I got my hair back.

Cam & Me in Central Park

With pal Mark Rubin, pretty recent.

Just Kidding. But super-cute, right?

With my brother. Insanity is genetic.

Evil lives at Bouchercon

Two of my three Friday Bouchercon panels featured evil, and I couldn’t have been happier.  Keeping to my commitment of three panels a day, evil was supplemented  with writing, a blog post, and even a visit to the fitness center (yay, me!).

First panel up, Evil Going On, was a hit.  Does evil truly exist?  Panelists were divided and the conversation was hot.  The moderator was the very erudite Reed Farrel Coleman, with panelists including John Connolly, Thomas H. Cook, Peter James, Laura Lippman, and Daniel Woodrell.  I was jazzed for the topic and also for hearing so many of my favorites.  Some key thoughts:

  1. There are two schools of thought about evil: nature (person is born irretrievably flawed and does evil things) vs. nurture (bad things done to child twist him, now he does evil things).
  2. The motivation for evil is often selfishness.  Rationalization plays its part.
  3. There is a trend today toward complicated protagonists, who may do wrong in order to achieve justice.
  4. Addressing the evil of man in a book is one thing – addressing it in real life, when there is risk and danger, is another.

The “evil” trend continued with the Dark Angel panel, where Chris Holm, Bill Cameron, Blake Crouch, Leighton Gage, Theresa Schwegel and Michael Wiley discussed morally challenged heroes.   Ideas generated:

  1. Noir heroes tend to be morally challenged.
  2. A corrupt setting leads to a hero who has to bend the rules but still seeks justice.
  3. Heroes can be moral in one way – the good cop – and immoral in another way – having an affair.
  4. Immoral?  Amoral?  Or moral ambiguity?  Discuss.

The final panel of the day was perhaps the least directly instructive – no notes on ideas of things to do – but the most fun.  It was moderated by the witty and endearing Joseph Finder with a panel of articulate and passionate women, including Laurie R. King, Laura Lippman, Val McDermid and S.J. Rozan.

Absolutely the most fun hour I’ve spent at Bouchercon, and included anecdotes related to a smack-down between Val and Ian Rankin, Laura Lippman’s husband’s work on the TV show Treme, S.J. Rozan’s dream basketball team, and Laurie King’s endeavor to let Holmes age, but never die.  Photo here is Val McDermid, who is fun and witty, and everything she says sounds even better because of her rich Scottish accent.  I looked for a photo of her wearing devil/angel garb.  No go.

I got to ask the question “What new authors are you reading now that you would recommend?”  Here’s the list.  Go buy some books.

  1. Gillian Flynn
  2. Megan Abbott
  3. Lisa Lutz
  4. Sarah Grand
  5. Lindsay Faye
  6. M.J. McGrath
  7. Stuart Neville
  8. Taylor Stevens
  9. Nathan Larson

Greetings from Bouchercon!

I’m on a four-day literary extravaganza! Bouchercon is the annual fest for fans and writers of mystery, crime, thriller, suspense, and related subgenres (graphic novels, anyone?).  Mostly a fan event, numbers are not in for this year, but attendance in 2010 topped 1,600.

Although I know more writers than I did in the past, I’m still bowled over to be in the room with luminaries such as Val McDermid, Jan Burke, Parnell Hall, Jeremiah Healy, Charlaine Harris… the list goes on.  And on.

Yesterday began with a six a.m. pickup from my friend Addy, chauffeur and roommate extraordinaire.  (For which I am eternally grateful – she had to get up at 4:30 to make this happen!)  We drove to St. Louis, checked in to the super-lovely Renaissance Grand Hotel, and then walked over to the ever-so-opposite Holiday Inn Select, where Sisters in Crime was holding its pre-conference workshop for writers.  It’s the only event specifically for writers… so I was pumped to go.

The event was an incredible value for the $50 reg fee.  Speakers included:

  • David Wilk, CEO, Booktrix, on the state of publishing
  • Libby Fischer Hellmann, author (most recently, Set the Night on Fire, a standalone thriller), on comparing traditional and e-publishing
  • Cathy Pickens and Jim Huang (author and bookseller respectively) on getting your book into print
  • Marcia Talley and Ellen Hart, popular mystery authors with long backlists, on do-it-yourself publishing on Kindle

Most useful session for me?  Do-it-yourself publishing on Kindle.  Marcia and Ellen talked very knowledgeably about what to do, step by step.  For published authors with a backlist of out of print books, this means new life – and new money- with this new channel for introducing your fiction to new audiences.  (Get your rights back!)

Personally, I have a super-fun book that I have given up on pitching – it’s not a mystery.  I came away convinced that I can freshen this up (wrote it so many years ago that my popular references are sure to be dated), format it myself, get an ISBN number, get my ever-so-talented graphic designer husband to do me a cover, price it at $2.99 or $3.99, upload it to Amazon and let my employer know I’m about to retire. (Just kidding on that last one.)

The Sisters in Crime Event included a banquet with a very amusing after-dinner speech by author Meg Gardiner. Meg writes the Evan Delaney series about a Santa Barbara attorney and the Jo Beckett series about a forensic psychiatrist which were published worldwide, but not in the U.S., until Stephen King wrote an article about her books in Entertainment Weekly. Fourteen publishers called the next day.  I was drinking coffee and paper-and-penless during her speech, but I sent myself a series of emails so I could remember some key points.

Email #1:  Meg’s blog is called Lying for a Living.   She’s also on WordPress. Sister!

Email #2:  First published book was China Lake.  I bought it – and several others she authored – today in the Bouchercon book room because when she talked about China Lake, she commented that “a big, big story will expand your readership.”  Now I want to see a big, big story… I fear mine are tiny, itsy-bitsy stories…

Email #3:  “Left Behind in the E-book Rapture.”  Or at least that’s what my email was supposed to say, iPhone corrected it to “Left Behind in the Snook Rapture.” I love the phrase and the point she’s making – e-books are not going away. Not there?  It’s not too late.  And if you can focus on a big career, this is going to all come naturally.

So that’s it.  I have a giant list of cool blogs, websites, resources, and more… a bulging book bag full of new purchases and a Bouchercon tote bag full of books that I got FOR FREE repeat FOR FREE… several new friends and a few days to go.  More later.