I was the teeniest bit concerned that this year’s Bouchercon might prove to be a bit of a disappointment. After last year’s event in Baltimore, I guess I thought it would just have to be a bit of a let down. That little worry coupled with the fact that some of my favorite writers weren’t going to be attending niggled at me a bit.
I was frettin’ over nothing.
The organizers and volunteers did a fantastic job. It was a terrific event! Well and lovingly planned with the exacting care to detail that this convention has become known for. And an event Jim, Mike, and all the other people involved can be quite proud of.
And I'd like to thank each of them.
and I send them each a huge virtual hug.
It was wonderful.
Donald and Harley dropped me off at the Greensboro Airport with a hug (Donald) and a lick (Harley) on Wednesday morning and I met up with B’Con Traveling Buddy Extraordinaire – BG Ritts. I really don’t enjoy flying any more, so it was nice to have someone to chat and giggle with from Greensboro to Atlanta and then Atlanta on to Indianapolis.
As I said, I'm not a fan of flying, and not a big fan of most airports - but the Indianapolis Airport was a surprise. Not overly congested and in possession, apparently, of a sense of whimsy and humor as shown by some of their furniture art, which made me smile.
Meeting up with Molly Weston, Karen Kiley and Vicki Lane (who I am so very proud of for her Anthony nomination!!) we hopped into a limo and arrived at our hotels in style, I must say.
And the Welcome Wagon was in fine form as soon as we arrived at the Hyatt. We were collecting hugs from Judy Bobalik and Emily Bronstein before we even got checked in, and were immediately whisked off to the second floor B’Con Registration table. And so it began.
Roomie Mary Jane Maffini arrived just as I was collecting extra coffee and extra hangars. I explained to our housekeeper that we’d be living on a lot of coffee and we’d need a lot of hangars ‘cause – well, ‘cause we’re women. Women who would be living in the hotel for the next four and a half days and would be changing clothes (and shoes!) at least once a day. Sometimes twice a day. Actually, I told her we needed them ‘cause Mary Jane always travels with a lot of prom gowns, but she acted as though she didn’t quite believe my tale. (imagine that). But. It made me and Mary Jane giggle and that giggle seemed to continue until the minute we got on different airplanes to return home. One long giggle broken up only by an occasional snort. Very lady-like snorts, mind you.
We met Liz and Sandy and Caryn and Vicki and Molly and Karen for
dinner at Buca di Beppo for a fun family style Italian dinner, topped off with some more hugs and giggles in the hotel bar. This was a bar which opened into the hotel lobby which had a lot of little conversation areas with comfy chairs and sofas, so there seemed to be plenty of room for everyone. You didn’t have to get into the crush of the actual bar if you didn’t want, but could still feel a part of the crowd. And, once again – a few attendees learned that you don’t have to have a drink to enjoy the camaraderie of the B’con bar.
My Thursday started off with a 6:30 a.m. breakfast with my friend Judy, who turned into my Fairy Godmother. I can thank Judy for some truly magical B’Con moments. And darn if she didn’t conjure one up before we even stepped into the restaurant for breakfast.
I walked into the hotel lobby at 6:35 Thursday morning all ready to apologize for being late only to spy Judy, Charlaine Harris and Reed Farrel Coleman sitting on a sofa looking about as relaxed as any three people could be. Y’all. Getting to spend a few minutes chatting and sharing a hug with Charlaine Harris and Reed Farrel Coleman at 6:30 in the morning the first morning of the convention was a bit mind boggling. Mind boggling, and oh so lovely. They were both just delightful. I did, however, feel as though my name might just be Alice and I had perhaps tumbled down the rabbit hole. Seeing a white rabbit dash by muttering words about being late would not have been any more astounding. Little did I know it was just setting the tone for what turned into a few days of pure and lovely magic.
After breakfast, at which BG joined us, I dashed off to find Hank Phillippi Ryan’s “Bouchercon 101” room. This was a perfect introduction to this particular convention and to the lovely city of Indianapolis. Hank, in addition to being gorgeous, sweet, kind and funny, is intelligent, articulate and one very smart cookie. She let everyone know that if this was their first Bouchercon they could rest assured that they would experience at least one magical B’Con moment. I must say I’d have to agree whole heartedly with Hank’s promise. I cannot imagine anyone finishing up the convention and going home without having experienced some magic. Bouchercon Magic is a phrase firmly planted in my lexicon, and in my heart.
My magic moments seemed never ending and I’ll be reliving them all for a long time to come.
While I was standing in the hotel corridor after Hank's presentation, pondering all my choices - panels, the hospitality room (which was so much more than just a room), the book room or just a seat to do some people watching, Ms. Fairy Godmother Bobalik appeared in a “poof” and whisked me into a room to share in the experience of S. J. Rozan.
I’m not going to try to explain what happened to me in this room other than to say it was the beginning of some embarrassing emotional puddles that seemed to hit at the damndest times. Just out of nowhere I’d have a flash of “I cannot believe I’m a part of this.” And up would pop the tears. The first happened while I sat in that room with a small handful of people and listened to one of the mystery community’s finest members share thoughts about her work and the process she goes through to give us beautiful stories. I fell in love with S. J. Rozan and came to understand what many people have known for years – that she is a treasure and to be cherished.
AND she’s funny as hell.
There’s no artifice when it comes to Ms. Rozan, I don’t believe. What you see is always what you’re going to get. A refreshingly honest, shoot straight from the hip woman in possession of a huge talent.
While still floating from all this, I scampered to meet up with a couple of my family members. WendySis and Jonathan; on-line friends for enough years for us to have experienced many ups and downs, happy times and sad times, and become family. We’ve experienced the same kinds of times that we all experience with our friends - even though we happen to be three friends who had never met face to face before this get together. After some loud squeals, some hops about, and yes, yes – of course, a few more tears, we settled in and had a lovely lunch, and actually very quickly it felt as though we’d been doing this all our lives. And along the way we snatched up Shelley Costa Bloomfield. I just adore Shelley Costa Bloomfield. I seem to have the wonderful luck of being able to make friends with smart people who love to laugh. Shelley loves to laugh and what on earth is more fun than spending time with people who can laugh from their very souls? Life is too short to not be able to spend a good bit of it engaged in laughter.
O.K. – here’s another magic moment.
After lunch we all toodled off in different directions. There were panels to sit in on. Hospitality rooms to visit. Book rooms to browse. People to meet. Pictures to snap.
I happened to be crossing a fairly deserted lobby and who did I see but Lee Child at the Registration Desk. By now, it’s no secret to most of you that I happen to be one of the 42 beezillion people who has a crush on Lee Child.
Luckily, none of them were around right then.
Heh heh heh.
I’m going to stick to my story that he remembered my name (I’m absolutely sure it had nothing to do with the B’con name tag hanging around my neck). We shook hands and he gave me a little bitty peck on the cheek and we chatted for just a minute. I then floated off to a corner to grin and gloat. It wasn’t until sometime later that I casually reached up to brush my face that I realized I had a little piece of pizza stuck to my cheek. Not the cheek Mr. Child had given me a little peck on, thank GOD, but the other one which he surely must have noticed and just blithely ignored. So – do you love the man for being a gentleman and not mentioning the fact that you’re walking around the hotel with food on your face, or run find him and kick him in the shin?! Pfft. You laugh about it and just don’t worry about it. It surely could always be worse. Right?! So, okay – maybe it doesn’t belong in the “Magic Moments” column, but in the “O.K. – so you’re also gonna have some embarrassing moments at B’con column.” Whatever. We’re all about stories here, right?
Although I had intended to attend a couple of panel sessions on Thursday afternoon, the simple truth of the matter is that I just sorta walked around, collected a lot of hugs from people I hadn’t seen since Baltimore, had some lovely visits, enjoyed the hospitality at the pretty spectacular Hospitality Room, which – like the bar, extended well out onto the balcony surrounding the atrium of the hotel, and browsed the book room. And snapped a few more pictures.
Then I did attend the “O,Canada” panel and laughed till my sides hurt. I also ate well. They brought wonderful goodies – NOT just their fun headgear; but some yummies, snackies and baked goods that are representative of their Canadian culture. This was a fun group which included R. J. Harlick, Anthony Bidulka, Vicki Delany, Barbara Fradkin and Mary Jane Maffini . I got to sit with Neil Plakcy and have a bit of a visit. And I got to take some fun pictures. And I learned some stuff. If there are any American publishers reading this I have a little something I’d like to share. Please don’t assume that American readers aren’t interested in mysteries which are set in Canada. Au Contraire and shame on you. You’re underestimating your reading (and buying) public. You’re missing out on a group of very talented writers.
Then another fun dinner with yet another fun group of folks – Mary Jane, Shelley, Wendy, Jonathan and my friend and fellow North Carolinian – Linda Gerber. We had a lovely dinner at McCormick and Schmick’s, but it ran a little longer than we anticipated and we missed getting to the Extravaganza. But I didn’t miss having my evening cup of coffee in the bar with good friends.
Friday morning I meant to attend the Bouchercon 101 sponsored by William Morrow and Avon Books so I could get a few ARCs from a few of my favorite writers. But. I slept right through it. Sooner or later you just have to catch up a little bit on your sleep, I guess. I had not intended that to happen, but it did. Not exactly a magic moment, but certainly not one to pitch a hissy over.
But then – guess what.
Magic moments over breakfast.
How lovely it was to enjoy the view I had while having my breakfast in the hotel restaurant.
Mystery writer Mary Jane Maffini across the table from me.
Mystery writer Craig Johnson at the table to my right.
Mystery writer Laurie King at the table directly in front of me.
Mystery writer Louise Penny at the table to my left (is there anyone here who isn't aware of how much i love Louise Penny?! Adore her books, and adore her. I think she's one of the best writers writing right now, and she is one of the nicest, most sincere people you'll ever hope to meet. Being able to spend a few minutes with her and getting a hug was a Mega Magic Moment.).
All heroes of mine.
I ask you – how much better can a breakfast get than that?!
Then it was time to get myself to the lobby in time to greet my friend Jen Forbus who would be attending her very first Bouchercon. Understandably, she was a tad nervous. I know exactly how she was feeling, and know that it can be very intimidating to walk into a convention of this size where you know you’re going to be bumping into people you admire and look up to and who, frankly, are legendary. I knew something Jen had not learned yet. That all these people would embrace her. Most of them already knew her through her terrific blog, where so many of them have been reviewed and or interviewed, and where so many have participated in her Six Word Memoir project which has been a HUGE hit.
After hugs and squeals, we rode up the escalator to the 2nd floor and up again to the 3rd floor so she could get a feel for the lay of the land and before she knew it she was officially a member of the tribe. And she’s had more hugs and pictures and magic moments than any young woman could possibly imagine. I was over the moon tickled to have been the first person to welcome our Jen to B’Con 2009.
This seemed to be my “too pooped to pop” day and I just stuck close to home. Drifted up to my room fairly often for little R&R breaks and quiet time. And it turned out to be a good day for little quiet sit downs or stand- arounds with friends over coffee in the Hospitality Room, and the book room.
It was also a day of magic moments. You just never know who you might bump into in the corridors, or who might be having an unannounced signing in the book room. Like maybe S.J. Rozan and Louise Penny. Now how very lovely is that?!
Those wonderful little opportunities just pop up unbidden at B’con and there you are – walking through the best of times sprinkled in fairy dust with a gentle quiet nod at whatever good things you’ve done in your life that allows such bounty.
And Friday evening was truly one of the most memorable magic moments ever.
Last year at my first Bouchercon I did not attend the Shamus Awards Banquet. This is a banquet which isn’t an official part of Bouchercon, but is held as a concurrent event with Bouchercon every year. Pretty special event, and one I don’t ever intend to miss whenever I’m attending a B’Con.
Fairy Godmother Bobalik invited me as her date. Donald allows me this sort of date with smiles and good will and blessings. Donald Barley is a dream husband. Truly. Every day, twice a day, he listened with the greatest possible patience as I told him detail by minute detail what I was doing and what had made me laugh out loud, or puddle up. He did laugh a little louder and longer than necessary, I thought, about the pizza on my cheek . . . . . .
This year’s Shamus Awards Banquet was held at The Slippery Noodle. What a terrific place this is! Love it, love it, love it. From the website: "The Slippery Noodle Inn was originally founded in 1850 as the Tremont House. It is Indiana's oldest, continually operated bar in the original building. The Noodle is listed in the National Register of Historic Places." It was the perfect spot for this dinner. Randy Randisi and Christine Matthews know how to throw one heck of a party. I can’t imagine it being any more perfect.
Judy and I sat with her friends Reed Farrel Coleman, Michael Wiley and Jason Pinter. I must say – this little group managed to make me feel like I was THE most special person on God’s green earth. Seriously – this could have, with a different group of people, easily turned into a situation of me becoming totally invisible, or feeling as though I had intruded into a group where I was just not accepted, and not a good fit. Instead, I was included with grace and great charm.
There wasn’t a person who entered the restaurant that this lovely group didn’t make sure I was introduced to and able to have a photo snapped with. Including Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky.
Star Struck? Me? Pfft. You better believe it.
S. J. Rozan joined our table for awhile and when Judy and I shared with her how goofy emotional I’d been she had the perfect line and the perfect solution. Looking me dead in the eye with a smile on her face she simply said.
It was exactly right. Exactly the right tone. Exactly the right thing to say to a woman who could not, for love nor money, get a grip.
This entire group was simply graciousness personified and I will be forever smitten with the whole bunch of them.
Can I tell you how awesome it was to be sitting next to the man who was awarded the Shamus for best hardcover novel of the year? That would be our Mr. Coleman. He’s a writer whose work I only discovered this year after meeting him briefly last year in Baltimore. I quickly became a Moe Praeger fan and hope there are many more Moe’s to come. However. Whatever Mr. Coleman writes, it will be quickly swooped up as an “auto-buy” and brought home with my mind totally free of doubt that it might be a book that won’t be my cup of tea. He’s a master of words with the perfect touch of poetry beautifully blended into the mix. If you haven’t read the recent collaboration between Mr. Coleman and Mr. Ken Bruen – I urge you to run run run to your nearest bookstore and grab TOWER. 'Tis a thing of beauty, is TOWER. Not one which will be an easy read for some, but I loved it boundlessly, and I just know many of you will also.
What on earth could possibly be left that might be considered a magic moment?!
You would think they’ve about run themselves out by now, wouldn’t you? But – nooooo – not so. We have many more to come.
I walked back to the hotel from The Slippery Noodle with Judy, Gary Phillips (‘cause he was scared and needed us to protect him), Libby Fischer Hellmann, William Kent Krueger, Carl Brookins, Karen Olson, and Sara Paretsky. As we got closer to the hotel there was someone standing on the corner playing saxophone and it seemed to be the perfect touch to a perfect evening. It reminded Kent Krueger of a short story which he told me about and which I intend to track down. I adore short stories and this one sounds like the perfect little gem that short stories are, in my mind, supposed to be. Then when we got into the hotel I got to watch Sara Paretsky whisk Libby into a brisk little dance across the lobby. Magic moments.
On Saturday, I started my day with having books signed by Lee Child and by Deborah Crombie. Having another of my literary heroes remember my name and stand up for a hug and make a joke about a picture we had taken in Baltimore like Deborah Crombie did just made my head spin and my heart swell. I adore these people, and this community. I wish I knew the words to express how much.
I shared a giggle with Lee Child and didn’t even try to resist the urge to give him a kiss on the top of his head. Aside from being dishy and sexy, he’s just nice. Nice. And I like him. I think he’s kind, and generous to the newer writers coming up, and decent and funny and smart. And I just like him loads.
I was lucky enough to be one of the winners of the essay contest which the Midwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America sponsored for The Bouchercon Hot Ticket event for Mr. Child. Magic Moment.
I joined a few other people in the same room I had enjoyed the S. J. Rozan Hot Ticket event, and I sat in the very same chair. Except this time, sitting in the chair immediately to my right was Lee Child. While we enjoyed prime rib, little new potatoes, asparagus, carrots, a salad and a cup of soup, followed by a yummy piece of chocolate cake (calories be damned this day), we listened to Mr. Child talk to us about his writing, about Reacher, and a wealth of other topics. He asked questions and we asked questions. He was warm and welcoming and gently humorous and put everyone immediately at ease.
I have already said lots and lots about our Mr. Child. He, like S.J. Rozan, is another of the mystery community’s treasures. To be cherished. And I must say – it was during this conversation that my crush turned from crush to a deep abiding respect for a man I do indeed like lots. Not to say he’s not still dishy and sexy – but there’s lots more to Mr. Child that that pretty face.
There was one little unexpected happening at our Hot Ticket Event. Mr. Child was aware that it was going to happen, and I was sorta aware – but not fully. My buddy BG Ritts (Queen of the Imps!) worked up a little Wanted Poster and a note of warning for Mr. Child to beware of sweet faced, white haired ladies. He seemed to enjoy it thoroughly and had a good chuckle about it. As the event was coming to a close, he showed it to me and asked me to sign it. Now, that was a kick!
(aren't these a HOOT?!)
By this time in the convention, I think I had pretty much just given up on panels. I kept meaning to get to them, and never quite making it, so my routine by now was to find out who was on which panels at what time, so that I could scamper into the book room and be early in line to have them sign their books for me. Last year in my B’Con blog I mentioned a fellow fan I kept ending up in the same lines with. William. Well, wouldn’t you know it. William and I met up yet again and had time for a nice chat. And here’s a small world story for you. William lives in California. I live in Boone, NC – which William noticed from my name tag. He asked if I worked at the University and then asked if I just might, just maybe, perhaps might know a man he knows. Pfft. Yep. Sure did.
Our mutual friend happens to be one of my faculty members and I see him at work every day.
Saturday evening was Anthony Awards Ceremony time. The ceremony was held in the beautiful and historic Hilbert Circle Theater, with a reception afterwards. It was a lovely venue and it was a well done affair which I thoroughly enjoyed. Michael Connelly was gracious and mentioned that it felt wonderful to be back with family. I thought the ceremony was just right. And truthfully -the other winners, people I know a little better than I'll ever know Mr. Connelly, of course, were exactly what you'd expect - humbled, gracious and well deserving; every one of them. But Julie Hyzy. Oh my. If you weren't moved by Julie's joy then you're just not human. She is a lovely, sweet woman and I join everyone else in this community with nothing but good wishes for a continuing bright and shiney future. I was quite moved and gladdened to see Sean Chercover step up to the podium also. He's a very special person and remains "himself" with all the accolades he continues to receive - and he deserves them each and every one.
Then a group of us including Wendy, Shelley, Mary Jane, R.J. and Barbara had a nice dinner and then attended the B’Con Charity Auction in the Artsgarden.
Mercy Mercy Mercy.
If you EVER have an opportunity to watch Chris Grabenstein and Donna Andrews handle the B’Con Charity Auction, please don’t miss it. I thought I had already laughed as much as one person could possibly laugh at one convention.. Wrong. A charity auction just should not be this much fun. As many of you already know - Chris Grabenstein used to do stand-up comedy before his very successful writing career. Well, I am here to tell you. He hasn’t lost his talent for stand up comedy. Not one whit. This is the funniest man I have EVER known. He’s also one of the nicest. Another one of the mystery community’s treasures.
It is, indeed, a community full of treasures.
Then after the auction it was back to the bar, kids! With my cup of coffee. The last night most of us would have together till the next convention. This was also the night of the Reacher Creature party and once again – I missed it. I just seem to be entirely too tuckered out by the end of this convention to be able to do the whole party thing. But who knows – one of these days I’m going to attend that “do,” and I know I’ll be over the moon that I did.
Sunday morning was the Book Bazaar and then lunch, checking out of the hotel, some last minute hugs and goodbyes and then catch the limo to the airport time. And this was the day I ran into some people who I had not had the pleasure of seeing the entire convention. Sandra Ruttan made a comment last year which stuck with me - that there must be two parallel conventions going on. Otherwise, how on earth do you explain going all those days without ever once laying eyes on some people you know are there? And at the same time bumping into some of the same people at every turn. 'Tis a mystery.
There were some people I most especially hoped to see and it did indeed make my heart sing with it happened.
And I’ll bet you thought the magic moments had come to an end by now .
Oh no. Not yet.
After the con a bunch of us rented a limo to get to the airport, and it was a fun thing.
After hanging around with these crazy adorable women for awhile at the airport, the time came to make our way to separate gates. Well. Glory be. Guess who I spotted on my way to my gate.
But of course.
Who else could it possibly have been other than Mr. Lee Child, along with his wonderful assistant Maggie and some other people I did not know sitting at a table in a restaurant just off the concourse. Mr. Child asked where I was headed and we had just the shortest of conversations, but quite pleasant, and it made me smile to know I didn't all of a sudden become invisible to one very famous writer after the convention ended.
Then, lo and behold, when I arrived at my gate there sat Charlaine Harris and Dana Cameron and a gentleman I believe was Dana's husband, and again – everyone shared a pleasant hello. Then comes S. J. Rozan, who once again proved herself to be the epitome of grace - hugs all around, nice conversation, and big smiles. She & BG had interesting things to share with one another and S.J. said BG was the woman she herself would go to to double check things from her own books. Graciousness. Personified.
I would very much encourage new, young writers - and heck - even some of the old guard who have been around for awhile - to follow a page out of the books of two of our legends - Mr. Child and Ms. Rozan. It means worlds to your readers to be treated just as nicely outside the confines of a conference hotel as it does inside that hotel. Most of you will always be that nice, which is exactly what I think makes the mystery community the lovely and special place it is.
The trip home was long, and it was tiring. I think BG and I were in full agreement that being in our own beds sounded OH so lovely.
It was beyond lovely to see my Donald and be welcomed home with a big loving and comforting hug. Equally lovely was getting to the car and seeing Harley. Having Harley welcome me with sloppy kisses let me know I was truly home. Dorothy had it just right - there's no place like home.
Looking back, I do have one regret.
Looking at these pictures as I'm loading them I'm struck by how goofy I look in some of them. big sigh. The goofiness can't be helped I'm afraid, so that's not my regret - I've learned to live with that (kinda). But I could have at least tried to remember to put on a little bit of lipstick from time to time!!!