13 October 2012


by John M. Floyd

Last weekend I had a rare opportunity to combine business and pleasure.  Actually I suppose you could call it pleasure and pleasure: (1) my wife and I visited our oldest son and his family in West Virginia and (2) while there I drove to Cleveland, Ohio, to attend Bouchercon 2012.

As most of you know, Bouchercon is an annual conference for writers and fans of mystery fiction.  This year's event was held at the Cleveland Marriott Renaissance Hotel from Thursday, October 4, to Sunday, October 7.  I arrived a day late (and yes, a dollar short) but I at least arrived in time to serve on the panel I'd been assigned--ours was called "Nuggets of Mystery"--on Friday afternoon.  I'm not sure the six of us offered any profound insights, but we had a lot of fun, and I hope our audience did too.

I was outclassed and outnumbered by my all-female fellow panelists: Barb Goffman, Shelley Costa, Laura K. Curtis, Terrie Farley Moran, and EQMM editor Janet Hutchings.  Janet in particular managed to educate all of us, and the crowd also, about recent trends in short stories, and it was interesting to me to hear everyone's take on the influence of short fiction on the mystery/crime genre.  I was honored to see in the audience my old buddy Jim Doherty, Short Mystery Fiction Society president Tom Sweeney, SleuthSayers friend Jeff Baker, and AHMM editor Linda Landrigan.

In fact I was able to spend quite a bit of time this year with Janet and Linda, and with Strand Magazine editor Andrew Gulli.  These three Head Honchos are not only effective at their jobs, they're good folks--interesting and smart and incredibly supportive of their authors.  I learn something new about mystery writing every time I talk with them.

I think it was Terrie Moran who said, in a SleuthSayers comment awhile back, that the best thing about conferences is not the time you spend in panels--it's the time you spend visiting with fans and other writers.  She's right.  This time I was able to catch up with old acquaintances like Terrie, Doherty, Steve Hamilton, Jane Lee, James Lincoln Warren, Jan Burke, and others--folks who have helped me a great deal over the years.  Other friends I somehow missed seeing, even though I heard they were in attendance, were Melodie Johnson Howe, Bill Fitzhugh, Cathy Pickens, and Kathryn Wall (although there is always the possibility that they spotted me from a distance and were avoiding me).

I did manage to meet in person several fellow writers I've often swapped emails and Facebook messages with--e-friends like Robin Burcell, Beth Groundwater, and the aforementioned Tom Sweeney, Barb Goffman, and Jeff Baker.  It's always fun to be able to finally put faces with names, and to see how accurate (or how far off the mark) you were in imagining what they look like.

I also met folks I'd not known before--too many to mention here.  Again, these were both writers and readers, which I think is one of the great advantages of a fan convention like B'con.  Writers' conferences are okay, and I've been to a few, but it's a lot better when fans are included.  Without them, after all, we writers would be forced to take up a different job/hobby/pastime.  Those of us who forget or neglect our readers, and cease to care what they like or want, probably won't be writers for very long.

Last but not least, I was fortunate enough to meet one of my favorite authors, Lee Child.  I'm an avid Jack Reacher fan--I've read all seventeen novels--and I admire the talent that can create and sustain such an entertaining series.  As I had suspected, Child turned out to be both friendly and charming.  When I babbled my thanks to him for his having designated one of my AHMM stories as a "Distinguished Mystery" in the Best Mystery Stories anthology he edited in 2010, he smiled and assured me that he remembered that story.  I'm not naive enough to believe that he actually did remember my story--he was almost certainly just being kind--but I was pleased anyway, and impressed that he would bother to offer praise and encouragement to someone so far below him on the literary ladder.  (I was already planning to do a column on Child and his novels soon, and my having talked with him, if only for a moment, will make that piece more fun to write.)

NOTE: A few quick questions for our readers.  Have you ever attended a Bouchercon?  Do you plan to go next year?  Are you a regular attendee of B'con, or of any other conference?  Do you consider them worthwhile?  What are some conferences that you've found to be particularly interesting, or helpful?  I've been thinking about Killer Nashville next summer--are any of you headed that way? 

As for this year's Bouchercon, I had a great time, and it was over all too quickly.  At noon this past Sunday, hopefully wiser and certainly poorer, I checked out of the hotel and drove the two hundred miles back to our son's home, and after a couple more days in WV my wife and I headed back south.  (Mixed emotions, there: it's always hard to leave your kiddos and grandchildren, but I was extremely pleased with the way the temperature rose steadily during the 900 miles back to Mississippi.  I don't do well in cold weather.)

Now I've got to figure out some way to combine a family trip with Boucherco next year.  I understand the Planning Committee isn't making it easy for me, since they've chosen Albany, New York, for the host city.

Maybe one of our kids will move up there between now and then.


  1. Bouchercon is where I met John, who advised and chatted for ages as attendees swirled around us.

    I regretted missing the B'con in Indy and others, but one day I'll make another.

  2. I've never been to Bouchercon nor Killer Nashville though I met Leigh at MWA. I was scheduled for a panel at Sleuthfest in Orlando in March but cancelled due to Mom's illness.

    Liz has been to Killer Nashville and even performed her music there. How about an evaluation, Liz? If you could only go to one conference in 2013, where would you go?

    I've considered Killer Nashville because I used to go there all the time pitching songs and have friends in and around Nashville.

    Probably, I'll only go to one conference very far from SC next year. Since I'd love to meet more of the SS'ers face-to-face, how about a little survey? Are you planning to attend a conference in 2013? If so, which one?

    John, you saw two of my favorites at Bouchercon. Both Cathy Pickens and Kathryn Wall were most gracious and helpful to me at my first SC Book Festival panels.

  3. Your trip sounded great, John. I envy you.

    I have not been to any but MWA. If time and finances permit, I will be attending the MWA again, and hopefully, the Bouchercon in Albany.

    What are everyone else's plans?

  4. Left Coast Crime was here in Santa Fe the year before last, and I plan to go to Colorado Springs next year. I was actually intending to go to Cleveland, but real world intruded.

  5. I was at the Baltimore Bouchercon, commuting each day from D.C. with Leigh (our houseguest) riding shotgun. Last year I made it to St. Louis Bouchercon, staying with my brother who still lives in my old hometown. Albany is tempting - my problem each year is timing. I teach an annual graduate class at the University of Denver the first week of October and I always have to watch the calendar!

  6. Leigh, I still have great memories of the time we spent together at the Baltimore Bcon, with Melodie, Steve, JLW, etc.

    At this point I'm planning on attending the Albany conference next year, so I do hope to see some fellow SleuthSayers and readers there--and I really am considering Killer Nashville. We'll see what happens.

    The ideal situation is the one you had a few years ago, Dale, when you lived nearby and could drive in each day. But somehow I doubt Jackson, Mississippi, is on Bcon's list of host cities . . .

  7. I have only been to one B'Con--Indianapolis, and am ashamed to say I missed the one in SF, sixty miles down the road.

    I had the pleasure of meeting John in Indy. It is much too soon to say whether Albany is possible, but I haven't written it off.

    Thanks for the article, John. I enjoyed it.

  8. Thanks, Herschel! We had a good time in Indianapolis, didn't we? I too wanted to go to SF (one of my favorite places ever--I think you and I talked about that) but, as David said, the real world intruded.

  9. Let's lobby for Jackson, Mississippi. John, I can stay with John, right?

  10. Come on down, Velma--we got plenty of room. You'd be a big hit, down here.

  11. Thanks for your good piece - I've only been once to a Bouchercon - in Toronto - and loved the experience! These conventions and conferences make the writing life a lot lighter! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  12. Have signed up for Left Coast Crime in Colorado Springs and will try to make Bouchercon in Albany, plus the AHMM/EQMM cocktail reception in NYC during April, all in 2013. All assuming life doesn't intrude too hard. Just holler at me if you see me.

  13. Thanks for the wonderful article! I had a serious blast! I almost drove out to St. Louis from Wichita last year but I got way too busy! It was great to meet and speak with so many of you that I've been corresponding with for years and John, I thought the short-story panel was great! All of you brought your passion for the craft to the discussion! And Cleveland was fun to visit!

  14. Jeff, it was great to meet you as well. I too almost made the drive to St. Louis, but had too much going on.

    Maybe there will be a bunch of us in Albany next year, R.T. That'd be fun.

    Thelma, good to hear from you--thanks for the kind words.

  15. John, I so enjoyed meeting you in person, finally, at Bouchercon. I'm going to Albany next year and am looking forward to it.

    In 2015 Bcon will be closer to your neck of the woods: Raleigh, N.C. And - it's nor a done deal - but I hear some folks are considering putting together a proposal to have Bcon in 2016 in New Orleans, which would be practically in your own backyard.

    Oh, and which other convention should you consider? As the program chair of Malice Domestic, I must make a pitch for our convention. We celebrate the traditional mystery. Our toastmaster next spring will be Laura Lippman. Our guest of honor will be Laurie King. Our lifetime achievement honoree will be Aaron Elkins. Our international guest of honor will be Peter Robinson. We'll be presenting our second Amelia Award to Carolyn Hart. And we will be honoring/remembering the work of Dick Francis.

    Malice has about 500 attendees each year, so it's not too big, not too small, just the right size to get to meet other authors and fans. It will be the first weekend in May. Who doesn't like DC in the spring? You can learn more at www.MaliceDomestic.org. And you get a discount if you register before the end of the year.

    Pitch over!

  16. Thanks, Barb! You're right, Malice is a great event--congrats on being Program Chair.

    Already looking forward to New Orleans--hope that comes to pass. We go down there all the time anyhow.

  17. I had a great time in Cleveland, (waving to Jeff) which was my third B'con, following Baltimore and San Francisco. I expect to see everyone in Albany and have already marked 2016 if B'con is confirmed for the Big Easy.

    I have always enjoyed the companionship of writers and fans. Hanging out is the best fun ever.

  18. Just found this post, but I hope many of you will come to Raleigh for Bouchercon 2015. North Carolina is a beautiful state, and our capital city, Raleigh, is a prime example of the gracious Old South. It's nickname is "City of Oaks. Hurricane Fran did a number on many of the old trees, but there are plenty amidst the pines so you won't wonder about the title.

    Ya'll come now, ya hear?


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