What I Learned from Bouchercon 2015

On May 5, 2015 I found myself on the corner of Blind Faith Boulevard of Hope and Dreams Avenue. There I was, staring at the Bouchercon registration page. My information filled out, the only thing left was to hit the send button.

Flash forward five months and a few days. I found myself on the corner of Salisbury and Lenoir Streets in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was really happening. Not only had I drowned my social anxieties in enough Starbucks to float a pontoon boat, but I was also ready to mosey up to the Sheraton hotel to check in at the Bouchercon registration table.

The moment the volunteer handed me a swag bag filled with a wide range of mystery books, I was sold. Within a few minutes I found myself in the company of a couple of other Bouchercon newbies. Over the next few days I’d happily run into them again, making me feel more welcomed and included than I could have imagined.

If you’re planning to attend Bouchercon 2016, here are some things you should consider:

Arrive and check in a day early, if you can. There was no line on that first morning, but I skipped anything scheduled before about 10 o’clock in the morning. I’m pretty sure I checked in smack dab in the middle of the Welcome to Bouchercon event, which would explain the lack of a crowd. Arriving a day early not only gives you a head start on checking in, but it also allows you to locate other essential locations, like the bathrooms and Starbucks.

Attend the Bouchercon 101 panel. Even though I won’t be a newbie next year, I still hope to attend this panel as it’s full of tips and advice specific to that particular venue, which is the Marriott on Canal Street in New Orleans.

Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. The dress ranged from very casual to business casual. Wear what is comfortable for you. I saw someone wearing a business suit and sneakers, and another person wearing a t-shirt, yoga pants and flip-flops. The fashion statements covered a wide range.

Take a refillable travel mug or sports bottle. The convention hosts do a great job of providing refreshments. During Bouchercon 2015, a few times during each day, hotel staff would bring snacks into the hospitality area. Coffee, water, and sometimes lemonade would remain available throughout the day. Take a travel mug or sports bottle that you can keep with you during panels.

Silence your phone. I can’t stress this enough. Some of the rooms where panels were held had horrible acoustics. Sometimes the microphones didn’t adequately amplify the speakers’ voices. And in one case, the speaker’s voice was naturally soft. A ringing cellphone is annoying under the best of circumstances. When other conditions apply, it’s worse.

Take your business cards – especially if you’re a writer or aspire to get published. I didn’t take my cards the first day because I didn’t want to look presumptuous. This was a huge mistake. Three people asked for my card – and I am pretty sure my path never crossed with two of them again. I met so many people, there’s no way I could remember their names.

Brush up your knowledge of Who’s Who at Bouchercon. I asked one person, “Are you a writer?” I mean, his name tag didn’t say otherwise. Turns out he was nominated for an Anthony Award. Smooth! He was humble enough not to mention it, and fortunately I figured it out later that day. You don’t have to know every author there, but you should at least know the Anthony Award nominees so you can wish them luck. (Next year I’m putting an alphabetized cheat sheet in my phone.)

I’d love to hear your tips for attending a writing event like Bouchercon. Let’s chat about it in the comments below!

Eavesdropping as Inspiration

We are a society in love with technology. Age no longer matters when it comes to having a cell phone on hand. Or more accurately, glued to the hand. I’m guilty of it, but I try to be discreet when having an actual voice conversation.

Other people act like discretion is a foreign concept. While this is sometimes an annoyance, other times it makes great inspiration for books. This is especially true if a second party shows up and you can hear both parties speaking.

Recently I had the good fortune of finding myself in this exact situation several weeks ago. Parked at a coffee shop with my laptop for a few hours, the gentleman next to me seemed rather surprised when an attractive female showed up. Here’s their conversation*, per my live-share with some friends on Skype.

Jack: What are you doing here?
Diane: I just wanted to surprise you.
Jack: But what…are you doing…HERE?
Diane: I told you (kisses him) I wanted to surprise you.
Jack: (still in his seat) Um…
Diane: Are you surprised?
Jack: You could call it that.
Diane: (shoves forward and kisses him on the mouth) Be right back, I need coffee!
Jack: (furiously texting someone)
Diane: Are you available?
Jack: Not really, no (furiously packing up laptop)
Diane: (sits down)
Jack: Did you park by me?
Diane: YEP! (very happily) I knew by the dry cleaning in the back.
Jack: Oh.
Diane: It was a dead giveaway.
Jack: I miss ironing. I should iron my shirts more.
Diane: How’s Marybeth?
Jack: She’s good, showing. Everyone’s asking when she’s due.
He just got up. She got up. She’s following him outside.

You don’t have to be a writer to speculate where this might lead. My group of friends on Skype enjoyed speculating – was she an ex-girlfriend? A former co-worker? A kissing cousin? A current lover? A super friendly person with no respect for personal space or social cues?

How might you spin this story? I’d love to hear about it in the comments, along with anything else you’d like to discuss. And in the meantime, here’s a video where someone finds another fun use for eavesdropping.

Until next week, happy writing!

*Names changed to protect identities, should they ever read this blog article.

My Dirty Little Secret

Everyone has a dirty little secret. Mine is that I play D&D. That’s right — Dungeons and Dragons. I first started playing during my freshman year of college when an old boyfriend said, “But girls don’t play D&D.” Well of course I had to try after that.

What I initially took to be a game of nerds sitting around a card table for an excuse to swill noxious green soda and nosh on orange-dusted tortilla chips turned out to be one of the best things in my life. It’s led me to solid friendships with some great people.

Even better, playing D&D helped kick start my writing career. Playing D&D with a group around my dining room table led to playing text-based roleplaying games (RPGs) online. Because the games are text-based, there is a lot of reading, and even more writing.

One game even has a quarterly writing contest where fanfiction can win you big prizes, like ginormous amounts of in-game credits worth several hundred USDs which you can use to buy exclusive items for your character.

Writing fanfiction about a game led to writing blog articles for the game’s website. It’s what I was doing when I made the decision to sign up for Elance.

Every morning while waiting for coffee to seep its way into my veins I check out Facebook. This quiz recently caught my eye and, being a gamer from way back, I could not help but check it out. Typically I play a halfling bard so I was pretty pleased at the results (listed below).

What’s your dirty little secret when it comes to things that inspire you? I showed you mine. Now I’d love it if you showed me yours in the comments section. Your secret’s safe with me!

MY RESULTS:

I Am A: Neutral Good Elf Cleric (6th Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength-6
Dexterity-12
Constitution-10
Intelligence-12
Wisdom-15
Charisma-17

Alignment:
Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Race:
Elves are known for their poetry, song, and magical arts, but when danger threatens they show great skill with weapons and strategy. Elves can live to be over 700 years old and, by human standards, are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them. Elves are slim and stand 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall. They have no facial or body hair, prefer comfortable clothes, and possess unearthly grace. Many others races find them hauntingly beautiful.

Class:
Clerics act as intermediaries between the earthly and the divine (or infernal) worlds. A good cleric helps those in need, while an evil cleric seeks to spread his patron’s vision of evil across the world. All clerics can heal wounds and bring people back from the brink of death, and powerful clerics can even raise the dead. Likewise, all clerics have authority over undead creatures, and they can turn away or even destroy these creatures. Clerics are trained in the use of simple weapons, and can use all forms of armor and shields without penalty, since armor does not interfere with the casting of divine spells. In addition to his normal complement of spells, every cleric chooses to focus on two of his deity’s domains. These domains grants the cleric special powers, and give him access to spells that he might otherwise never learn. A cleric’s Wisdom score should be high, since this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus.