Friday, November 14, my game plan was to attend as many panels and workshops as I could fit in. The difficult part was deciding which sessions to attend, when there were so many terrific offerings.
The first event of Day Two at Bouchercon 2014 was the New Author Breakfast. I attended for two reasons. 1) Fellow Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America member and Five Star author Mike Befeler was the host, and 2) there is no better way to hone your own elevator pitch than to hear dozens of emerging authors selling their novels. Mike did a great job keeping the event on track and on time.
Next up on my schedule was the Walk Through a Crime Scene workshop presented by George Fong, former special agent with the FBI. A mock crime scene had been arranged at the front of the room, and two audience members - an author and a reader - were selected to walk through the scene identifying evidence with markers.
The FBI Evidence Response Team guided the audience and the two participants through the legal and scientific aspects of crime scene investigations, while debunking some of what we see on television crime shows. As a mystery writer, I have attended plenty of talks on crime scene investigation, as well as my county DA's Citizen's Academy. I thought I was well versed, but I learned four new things at this workshop.
2) DNA evidence is packaged in paper because plastic may cause it to mold. (Yuk!)
3) A small police department may reuse body bags to save money. Even if they are washed between uses (another yuk!) this can ruin evidence.
4) The main investigative goal is to Stop the Clock in order to set the timeline of the crime.
Moderator Deborah Lacy hosted authors John Connolly, Tammy Kaehler, William Kent Kruger, Mark Pryor, and Julia Spencer-Fleming (not pictured). Here are my favorite quotes from this panel on how stories wouldn't be the same in a different setting:
"By their natures writers tend to be outsiders." - John Connolly
"Being an outsider in some way can often give you an insight into a region that locals don't have." Julia Spencer-Fleming
Mark Pryor described doing research in Old Town Barcelona. He had to be there to see the shutters of shops open to reveal a pub or a bakery. "You can't Google Earth that."
William Kent Kruger said that setting is not just the place the story takes place. "I always think of setting as one of the characters."
Tammy Kaehler described her female race car driver protagonist as a "fish out of water." There is value in the writer being an outsider, but there is also value in a character being an outsider.
After swooping through the dealer's room for the umpteenth time, I saw Charlene Dietz in the hotel cafe area. She waved me over to her table and introduced me to her friend author Patricia Smith Wood and another author she had just met, Rhys Bowen.
I was amazed at how many people I knew in the crowd of over 1600 people. I talked to Chris Goff in the hallway. She has a new bird-watchers book coming out, and recently signed a two book thriller deal.
The next session I attended was The Long and the Short of It, featuring authors of both short and novel-length fiction. I know, it is getting old, but this was yet another fangirl moment.
I have read short stories and/or novels by almost everyone on the panel. The authors discussed how they decide whether an idea is best suited for long or short fiction. Jeffery Deaver defined it best.
"Short stories are not a springboard to novels." Both involve entirely different sets of skills. "The point of a short story is a twist" whereas a novel is multi-plotted.
Simon Wood described his approach to writing short by telling the audience he considers "is that word worth $1." Brendan DuBois said time and space are your enemy in short fiction. You have limited space, and must choose your words carefully.
Dana Cameron, Bouchercon anthology editor, likes to throw scraps of ideas into a basket until the idea finds its place in either a short story or a novel. Toni Kelner enjoys writing to a theme, such as for an anthology. "Two authors never see the same thing the same way."
Jeffery Deaver ended the panel with these words: whether writing long or short, "We have a real responsibility to give our best."
Later I went to the dessert reception and charity auction with my other roomie Maria Kelson. The walk along the promenade at night was bright with light. We reveled in the sensation of not needing jackets, much less winter coats, hats, gloves, and boots.
On our trip down the escalator to the reception, I claimed that if I made enough money off my writing, I would buy an island and write poetry all day. Maria commented that she could say she wrote poetry before she had an island.
The desserts were beyond description, so I'll just include photos below. Maria and I were commiserating that there was too much dessert, and we had too little room to stow it, when a gentleman sat down next to us. He looked somehow familiar, but I couldn't place the face. Then he introduced himself.
Mark Baker is the blogger behind Carstairs Considers. He reviews cozy mysteries, among other things. Mark's blog was the first to review my novel Stone Cold Dead. A handshake was not enough. I gave him a hug.
And that was Day Two of my Bouchercon adventure.
Join me next week for Day Three, and my author spotlight that didn't go quite as planned.
More photos in the slideshow below.