Bouchercon Review

The four-day marathon that is the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention has ended. Now the Hyatt Regency on the Embarcadero in San Francisco can return to normal, its halls emptied of the wonderful panoply of people that is Bouchercon. From top hats to cowboy boots, all subsets of author and reader seemed to be represented.

The Guest of Honor at the event was Laurie R. King, author of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes  and Kate Martinelli series.  Dana Stabenow’s interview with Laurie provided a fun insight into the mind of LRK, as is typically the case when the person conducting the interview knows and appreciates the person being interviewed. Despite her great success, LRK is down to earth and humble. A wonderful, and not surprising, fact.

The four days of Bouchercon were filled with panels of authors speaking about their work, the genesis of their ideas, their trials and tribulations, and answering questions from the audience. The latter is my least favorite part, since some people take the opportunity to claim their remaining minutes of fame by pontificating rather than asking a question. Ah well, the authors handled such people with patience and tact.

I was a bit surprised to find that Bouchercon is a readers’ convention, rather than a writers’ convention…so there were fewer editors, agents, and publishers than I had anticipated. Apparently, there were 400 authors in attendance and some 1,000+ readers. I left my calling card on tables, to discover that they disappeared as soon as I placed them. I hope that’s a good sign for future contacts.

Several lines resounded with me during a panel on Villains:

“Evil will always have a fan base.”

“Tonguing the darkness.” (Marcus Sakey)

“Evil is like a virus. Their actions spread to others.” (Henry Perez)

“The villain is hero of his own story.” (Ken Mercer)

Unfortunately, the panel on “Plotting” could have been titled “Plodding,” but other than that, the panels were entertaining and informative. And the setting couldn’t have been more perfect.

Bouchercon 2010

I’m heading to San Francisco later this week for Bouchercon by the Bay, the World Mystery Convention, where, every year, readers, writers, publishers, editors, agents, booksellers, and other lovers of crime fiction gather for a long weekend of both education and entertainment.

I love writer conventions. The cast of characters who attend these events are enough to keep a writer scribbling in her notebook for hours without pause, and the cast includes writers as well as aficionados of the genre. All are welcome, and the majority of people are outgoing, well informed, well read, and just so happy to be there.

Days are filled with selections of panels, featuring top writers such as Lee Child and Laurie R. King, to new authors, such as Rachel Brady and CJ West. The panels are typically entertaining, generally informative, and rarely a waste of time. The one-on-one with authors are always delightful.

I go this year not as an author, but wearing my EDITOR cap, and laying down lots of business cards. There are hoards of want-to-be writers roaming the halls, and I can help them prepare their manuscripts before they make their assaults on agents and publishers.

A huge plus to this year’s convention is the presence of Meg Gardiner, friend and award-winning thriller writer. I would gladly skip all the panels and activities for time with her, especially if it includes a cocktail with Laurie R. King!

The piece de resistance, however, is that on Sunday my daughter runs the half-marathon in San Francisco, on Saturday we get to see our son at Santa Clara University, and my husband is joining us for all the activities. A mini-vacation with a focus on writing. It just doesn’t get any better than that!

Excellence in Writing

I just finished two books over the weekend: Greg Hurwitz’s Crimewriter and Brett Battles’ The Cleaner. Both were gripping and, most importantly, well written. Too often, I find good stories that are poorly written. This seems to be especially common now that publish-on-demand (POD) is so easily available.

I won’t name names, but there are books being sold today that would likely not have seen the light of day had it not been for POD. One of the first giveaways to bad writing for me can be found in most of these books….the self-description by the narrator. These are typically so bad, so “I’ve got to tell them what this character looks like,” that I want to throw the book across the room. Of course, POD authors are not the only ones who are lame at this. Take Dan Brown’s description of Robert Langdon in Angels and Demons. That almost got me to throw the book, but I was laughing so hard I simply dropped it. Pathetic. The guy tells a fun story but he is not a good writer!

That’s the difference with Hurwitz and Battles. Both write extremely well. I was a bit put off by the beginning of Hurwitz’s book. In fact, I put it down for a couple of months before getting back to it. It was a case of “look how well I write,” for me at least. I was too aware of him patting himself on his own back, admiring his description of Los Angeles. I’m glad I worked past that though, because it was an excellent book once I read further. Great story idea and well plotted.

I was hooked on Battles’ book from the first moment: the Cleaner, who goes and cleans up crime scenes for “the Office.” Unique idea and tightly plotted and written.

Both of these authors represent excellence in writing as far as I am concerned. I devoured both books and looked up for more, sateless. Next, however, must be Laurie R. King’s latest book, God of the Hives, and Meg Gardiner’s latest, Liar’s Lullaby. Held off reading King’s book, making myself savor the wait. Now is the time. And as soon as Gardiner’s book arrives, all else must wait.