Showing posts with label e-friends. Show all posts
Showing posts with label e-friends. Show all posts

17 October 2015

Boucherconnections 2015



by John M. Floyd



A week ago today, at Bouchercon, something happened that I'd been looking forward to for several years: I met fellow SleuthSayer Rob Lopresti for the first time. Rob was one of half a dozen writers at the former Criminal Brief mystery blog (Leigh Lundin was another) who invited me in 2007 to join their ranks, and since then Rob and I have swapped so many emails and read so many (hundreds) of each other's blog posts, it seemed as if I knew him already. But we'd never met face-to-face until last Saturday, when I caught him hurrying down a hallway in the conference hotel, carrying a sheaf of papers and looking appropriately librariany.

That, to me, is the most appealing thing about Bouchercon. It's a rare opportunity to not only make new friends in the literary world, but to put faces to familiar names that I've corresponded with or seen many times in bylines or on bookcovers. That's also the way I met Leigh (at the Baltimore B'con in 2008), and, over the years, most of the other Criminal Briefers and SleuthSayers as well.

At this year's conference in Raleigh, I was able to shake hands for the first time with e-friends Bonnie (B.K.) Stevens, Art Taylor, R.T. Lawton, Brendan DuBois, Paula Benson, Su Kopil, and others. And meeting a person in the flesh does make a difference. I doubt I'll exchange emails or Facebook messages with these folks any more often now than I used to, but when I do, it will somehow feel even more comfortable. I'll finally be able to picture them in my mind.

Other highlights of my trip to Raleigh included a delightful group lunch with members of the Short Mystery Fiction Society; an afternoon meeting with EQMM editor Janet Hutchings and Canadian writer Rob Brunet (who turned out to know my fellow SleuthSayer Melodie Campbell); a long and high-decibel bar conversation with Joe D'Agnese, his wife Denise Kiernan, Reavis Wortham, Tom Pluck, and John Gilstrap; pecan pie and ice cream with Strand editor Andrew Gulli and screenwriter David Rich (who will always be my hero for having written several episodes of MacGyver); and dinner with author and friend Josh Pachter. Josh, if you're reading this, I bought your book the following day and I still need you to autograph it for me.

I was also able to reconnect with several other editors and old buddies I'd met at previous conferences--Linda Landrigan, Terrie Moran, Cathy Pickens, Steve Hamilton, Bill Crider, Austin Camacho, Barb Goffman, and others (in that sense B'con always feels like old home week)--and to meet a number of writers and readers I'd never even spoken with before. And I should mention that the panels were, as usual, interesting and informative. My favorite was the panel of contributors to this year's Bouchercon anthology, Murder Under the Oaks. Several SleuthSayers and other friends were among the 21 authors, and Art Taylor did a great job of moderating.
All in all, my wife and I enjoyed our four days in Raleigh and our stay at the Marriott, and I even managed to sell some books via the conference bookstore and the great folks at Ontario's Scene of the Crime Books (thanks as always, Don and Jennifer Longmuir!). The only disconcerting thing about the whole trip was that the waitress who served the aforementioned pecan pie at the Mecca Restaurant one afternoon informed me and my two companions that we were eating pee-can pie. Pee can? My childhood home had fourteen pecan trees in the back yard, and I've been cracking and eating pecans since I was old enough to walk, and until last week I was convinced that all southerners called them pa-CONs (sort of like B'cons). For me, pee can has a whole different meaning, but our waitress insisted that that's the way Raleighites pronounce it. Live and learn.

One more thing about Bouchercons, in general. Unlike many mystery conferences, B'con is for fans as well as for writers. It's easy to lose sight of the fact that none of what we authors create would ever be published without readers to read it, and I'm always able to meet (and learn from) some of the huge number of mystery fans in attendance. They're quick to tell me what they like and what they don't and why they like it or not, and as writers we'd be crazy not to listen to those opinions.

In closing, let me say that I'm already planning to go to Bouchercon 2016, in New Orleans. Otto Penzler told me he expects the attendance to be the largest in years--the location itself will be a big draw, and many attendees will probably bring their spouses. Besides, it's a no-brainer for me, since New Orleans is less than three hours from where I live. The only problem is that it might be hard to corral audiences for the panels. Let's see . . . on the one hand you have a hotel meeting-room full of writers and readers, and on the other hand you have a French Quarter bar, also full of writers and readers. Where would you rather be?

By the way, Otto also said that next year will be his 41st Bouchercon. I've been to four, he's been to forty. But I'll tell you this: I have enjoyed each one more than the last.

I hope to see you in N.O.



06 September 2014

Everybody's E-Talkin'





by John M. Floyd


A song that I liked the first time I heard it, back in college, accompanying the opening credits of Midnight Cowboy, started out with "Everybody's talkin' at me, I don't hear a word they're sayin' . . ." Those lyrics are as appropriate now as they were then; only the circumstances are different. These days we seem to do most of our talking via e-mails, smartphones, Facebook notes, Instant Messaging, etc., and although I take part in all that as much as anyone else, I'm not sure it's always a good thing. Sometimes, like Harry Nilsson, I'm not sure I hear a word they're sayin'.

There is, of course, a reason for all those news reports about people wandering in front of cars or falling into manholes while looking down at their phones. And it's not just because folks who do that are as dumb as the trees and walls they're running into. They are simply addicted to being in nonstop touch with other people, or to being constantly entertained by some online program or service. God forbid they should be forced to nod a greeting to those they pass on the street, or to think about something on their own.

Hold the phone

How often have you been in meetings, or at lunch, or even at family gatherings, and realized that some of the people around you have never once made eye contact wth you or anybody else there? Instead they're texting or surfing or staring in slack-jawed catatonia at their phones or tablets. Madonna could climb onto the table wearing nothing but cowboy boots and an Easter bonnet and play "Over the Rainbow" on a ukulele, and they'd never notice.


Even worse--and I realize this is nothing new--is when strangers in crowded restaurants or stores or waiting roooms carry on loud phone converstions as if others aren't within an arm's length and hearing every word. I truly hate that. I was in Kroger last week and watched the lady ahead of me check out a couple hundred bucks' worth of groceries, pay the cashier, and leave the store without once pausing her full-volume conversation or taking her phone from her ear or even looking at anyone. When I moved up to get my own items checked out, the cashier just gave me a tired look and tipped her head in the direction of the departing woman and rolled her eyes. I nodded my agreement. I'm convinced that the main reason cell phones don't have cords is so bystanders can't use them to strangle the callers.

Once again, I am not guiltless here. I try not to be rude, but I do love my gadgets, and I admit that no matter where I am, I can't resist occasionally pulling out my iPhone to check e-mail or the weather radar or the Dow Jones. I do, however, try to maintain at least some level of dignity in my life: I don't pump my arms back and forth like an idiot when I speed-walk in the neighborhood, I don't wear too-short neckties, I don't confuse "it's" with "its," and I don't use my cell phone to discuss my sore back or my crabgrass problem or my cousin's gambling debts while I'm in a crowd of people.

E-friends and neighbors

I confess I have strayed a bit from the topic. Phone calls, unless you're FaceTiming or Skyping or video-conferencing, are not e-talking. But e-mail and Facebook and texting are, and I'm not sure I could live without them. As for Facebook, I don't post a lot there, and I generally ignore others' posts about what they had for breakfast today or what TV show they watched last night (I don't care about that any more than they would care about hearing that from me), but I do use Facebook to announce upcoming classes or booksignings, and I like using it to stay aware of what other writers are doing and to keep in touch with otherwise inaccessible friends and classmates. And e-mail? I love it. As a writer, I think e-submissions and e-correspondence with editors/publishers makes life less difficult in a multitude of ways. I also use e-mail and text messages to stay in touch with our three children, and I fell in love with Skype and FaceTime long ago, for the same reason.

As for e-friends, I have quite a few I've never even met in real life, and some of them I feel I know pretty
well. Many include some of my colleagues at SleuthSayers and at the now-retired Criminal Brief mystery blog. When I have had a chance to eventually meet and visit with people I'd been in e-touch with--Leigh Lundin, Herschel Cozine, Liz Zelvin, Linda Landrigan, Steve Steinbock, Melodie Johnson-Howe, Barb Goffman, James Lincoln Warren, Bill Crider, Andrew Gulli, BJ Bourg, Janet Hutchings, Angela Zeman, Jim Doherty, Jeff Baker, and others--I'm usually surprised (and relieved) to find that in person they are exactly what I had expected. And I'm always amazed at how generous e-friends can be, with advice, critiques, blurbs, recommendations, etc.

OMG--Who R U?

One thing that does bother me (more than it probably should) is that statistics confirm that the average person now has far more e-friends than "actual" friends, and spends far more of his/her time in e-contact than in face-to-face relationships. The problem there is that I find myself wondering whether younger people are learning the interpersonal social skills that they'll need later in life. (Observe the teenagers at your next family reunion; I predict that they'll spend most of that time alone and fiddling with their phones.) But, hell, what do I know? Maybe what they'll do later in life won't require interpersonal social skills.

One thing that doesn't bother me a lot (and it probably should) is the security risk of e-friendships. Unless your new e-acquaintance is Tiffani from Bora Bora and she says it's like totally awesome to meet such an amazing guy, I think you can safely assume that most e-friends are legitimate and are who they say they are. Yes, there's always the chance that 25-year-old schoolteacher Mary Jane Tucker might turn out to be 55-year-old Darth Voldemort, currently serving eight to ten for grand larceny--but the truth is, if you're openly looking for relationships, there'll always be some risks anyway, even if the encounters are face-to-face.

E-questions

What are your thoughts, about all this? Are any of you fellow e-mail devotees? (If you're writers, I suspect that you are, almost by necessity.) Do your e-friends outnumber your real-life friends? How much time do you figure you spend on your smartphone? How much would be too much? Do you share my concerns about the lessening of face-to-face social interaction? Do you check Facebook daily and use it for messaging? Do you use Twitter? (I've not yet taken that plunge.) Have you ever blundered into a tree or a lamppost while you were texting? (I've come close, but no cigar.) And my final question:

Do you always, no matter what, read the SleuthSayers blog?

This e-friend is hoping you do.