Panels are the mainstay of fan conferences. They’re typically five authors, one moderator, and a topic. Bouchercon has almost 100 panels, but the most you could go to is about 20 since there are five going on at any one time.
I’m not getting to 20, that’s for sure – my goal is three good ones a day. What makes a panel good? If it sounds like it would apply to my own writing, it goes to the top of my list. If I particularly want to hear one of the authors on the panel, it goes in the middle. Never heard of the authors and don’t get the topic? Never mind.
So Comedy in Crime Fiction with Jerry Healy, Gary Alexander, Allan Ansorge, Jack Frederickson, Alan Orloff and (the lone female) Robin Spano was a winner for me – my Paula books are ostensibly funny and it would help to get some tips and ideas. Needless to say these were funny people. Key findings:
- How do you know something is funny? You laugh. It’s nice if other people laugh, too.
- Got something that’s hilarious but somewhat distasteful? Don’t give it to your protagonist, give it to another character. Is it really terrible? Your main character may disapprove. This falls into the eating your cake and having it, too, category.
- Mean humor? Sparingly. Self-deprecating humor? Good but don’t overdo this either.
The Mermaids are Singing (a Taste of Magna Cum Murder, the Muncie conference that happens annually around Halloween) was on the list because it featured Val McDermid, Caroline and Charles Todd, and Parnell Hall. Also on the panel was John Gilstrap, Stuart Neville, and moderator Kathryn Kennison. Did I learn anything? Yes, that Magna Cum Murder would be a ton of fun to attend and that Parnell Hall is a big ham. See the proof here.
A Clear Cut Case of Murder was back to the “I will learn something good here” mode. It featured moderator Leslie Budewitz, Jan Burke, Jonathan Hayes, Stefanie Pintoff, Doug Starr, and former O.J. prosecutor Marcia Clark. Highlights:
- The history of forensic science is long and Europe was way ahead of us. The late 1800’s, early 1900’s was when it all began.
- Jan Burke is involved with The Crime Lab Project, raising awareness of the lack of funding for forensic science – huge backlogs of rape kits, DNA testing, etc., caused entirely by a lack of resources. Now I want to work this my work. Perhaps a short story.
- Marcia Clark shared that you have to push detectives into requesting forensic analysis. OJ’s socks had his blood on them. And Ron and Nicole’s. And she had to nag a storm to get the analysis done. Side note – when forensics isn’t enough. If you don’t believe the chain of custody and you think the whole thing is faked, then you don’t care what the tests show.