29 October 2023

Going to Bouchercon

I assume that others will write about the Bouchercon held in San Diego long before this article gets published, therefore I will report mainly on our encounters at the conference.

The first step toward attending the conference was writing a story ("Shanghaied") for their anthology and submitting it before the deadline. Unfortunately, it didn't make the cut. Oh well, can't win them all. "Shanghaied" is the third story in a new series set during the California Gold Rush. It now rests in the AHMM e-slush pile for future determination. First in the series, "Sydney Ducks," was published in the West Coast Crime Wave e-anthology and the sequel, "Sydney Coves," was published in AHMM's July/Aug 2023 issue. Two out of three ain't bad and gives me hope for this third one to find a home.

Upon registering for the conference, I discovered two other writers with the last name of Lawton, Rob & Robin, on the List of Attendees. To my knowledge, we are not related, but I could see the possibility for some confusion. Sure enough, several months after registration and we still hadn't made the List of Attendees. I sent an e-mail mentioning this oversight, plus the difference between the two groups, just in case the conference planners thought we were already listed. Kim e-mailed back that she would take care of it. More months passed before our names were finally listed.

On the first of July, I was placed on a short story panel, but when the schedule came out in print, it said Rob Lawton, who is a novelist. I e-mailed Kim to explain the problem. In a return e-mail, she said she would fix it. I checked the schedule later and it said R,T, Lawton. I don't think I've ever seen anyone use commas with their initials. E-mails ensued. Kim explained she hadn't had her morning coffee yet.

We had learned in earlier travels to always build in an extra day when flying somewhere. It seems the weather and/or the airlines seldom co-operate anymore in getting the passenger to his destination on time. Therefore, we arrived on Tuesday. Many of those flying in on Wednesday found themselves stacked up over the San Diego airport due to thick fog. Some flights were even diverted to other airports to refuel. Our MWA Chapter President ended up at the nearby Ontario airport and was left behind along with some other passengers in the airport restaurant when the aircraft resumed its flight. They rented a car to finish the trip. She missed the panel she was supposed to be on.

Kiti and I had an excellent cab driver from the airport to the conference hotel. He spoke perfect American English which he learned in a school in Somalia. We had a great conversation in which I learned about his culture, to include food on their menu. I have eaten some exotic food, but never camel meat, a staple in Somalia. Arriving at the hotel, we over-tipped our driver, but he was worth it.

Our room on the 16th floor of the South Tower had a tremendous view of the marina, the bay and the naval harbor. It was worth the extra $20 a night, especially when the large Navy ships were gliding past our window on their way out to sea.

Wednesday morning, we had breakfast at Richard Walker's House of Pancakes with Rob & Teri Lopresti and Michael & Temple Bracken. Good company, good conversation and good food. My bacon and Havarti cheese omelet was so good that Kiti and I returned to the restaurant the next morning for a rerun on another omelet.

Wednesday evening was supper at Roy's with the Brackens, James & Dawn Hearrn, and Hugh Lessig & his partner Shana. Once again, good company, good conversation, good food. Roy's is one of those first class restaurants where the online menu shows no prices, however our macadamia nut encrusted Mahi-Mahi turned out to be quite tasty.

The panels were entertaining, the conference rooms convenient, the hospitality room well stocked with coffee, muffins and pastries. The Marina Bar inside the hotel was handy for appetizers, drinks and a good place to find old writer friends, which is one of the best reasons for attending a B'con.

So there I was leaning against a wall in the hotel while Kiti made a shopping foray into a store when this guy walked by. He stopped, looked at me and said, "I know you." If I was working undercover in the old days when I heard those words, then it became a tense time until we figured out whether or not he really knew me.

Most of the time the speaker of those words did NOT know who I actually was, It appears I have a common face, or resemble someone they knew. Whew. This guy and I talked for a while, but couldn't place each other. We exchanged business cards. It was only much later that I realized Frank Zafiro, a retired police captain, and I had met at the Left Coast Crime Conference in Vancouver. I was with several authors celebrating the publication of Brian Thornton's Die Behind the Wheel anthology and signing copies, while Frank knew and conversed with several of the writers.

L to R: Walker, Taylor, Hearn, Steinbock, Loomis, Lawton
(don't know the white-hat guy down in front)

And then, there was Steve Steinbock who had the misfortune to fumble his cell phone while in the elevator on the 8th floor. Yep, it slipped through that narrow opening between the floor and the elevator. The hotel was going to charge him for the cost of the elevator company making a service call to retrieve the phone, but fortunately Steve had insurance on the phone, in which case replacement was considerably less expensive than the elevator service call would have been.

One morning in the hospitality room, I saw a lady arranging the muffins. When I noticed she was wearing a purple t-shirt from the New Orleans B'con anthology from a few years back, I approached her and mentioned that I too had a t-shirt from that B'con anthology. Turned out she was a current volunteer at the San Diego conference. She told me that other volunteers were also wearing B'con anthology shirts. I thanked her for her service. Writers conferences need lots of volunteers in order for events to go smoothly.

There were many new and old writer friends that came to the San Diego Bouchercon. Too many to name individually. Just know that we enjoyed conversing with you all, and hope to see you at another conference in the future.


  1. It was a fun time and Terri and I hadn't heard about Steve's phone mishap. Yikes! Glad the phone didn't break the elevator. Wouldn't THAT have been fun. Glad to see you and Kiti.

  2. Sounds fun, RT, with or without commas. And poor Steve. I'm glad insurance helped him out.

    Good luck with AHMM, RT!

  3. Leigh, thanks for the well wishes. My next blog is about my luck with AHMM.


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