Bouchercon Memories

In some ways it doesn’t seem that long. In some ways it feels longer. But it was a mere week ago that I was sitting on my hotel bed with my husband, exhausted after touring the French Quarter, watching the latest Star Trek movie and eating potato chips for dinner. Yes, potato chips.

All week I’ve wanted to write down my recap of those four days. I read oodles of recaps from people I know. What did I do? On the one hand, it felt like I didn’t do much of anything. But I have the pictures that say otherwise. Well, at least I did a lot outside the conference.

But what about while I was at the conference? Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

img_2897The Hubby and I left at 0-dark-thirty Wednesday morning. Unlike last year, where it took three freaking hours to get to the airport, traffic was light and we breezed through. At the airport, we met up with friend and critique buddy, Annette Dashofy. I intended to get some critique pages read on the plane. Silly me. Annette and I gabbed away the entire trip, talking about everything from writing to author platform/persona. If it sounds boring, it wasn’t.

img_2919Arriving in New Orleans, we registered and hit the Book Bazarre. I have to say, I really liked how it was set up this year. Instead of getting a random selection of books, we received tickets and could browse for the books we wanted. This eliminated the need for a swap table. The Hubby and I stocked up.

img_2906Then off to the hotel bar/lounge for food. Which was my first encounter with a po’ boy. (Okay, let’s get something out of the way right here. Yes, I photographed a lot of food. It’s touristy. So what?) Defeated by the concept of picking it up and eating it as a sandwich, I merely speared off the seafood and dunked it in the accompanying sauce. Believe me, it didn’t lose anything in flavor. Then we ventured out into the French Quarter, where we had some delicious gelato before heading back to the hotel. I was supposed to attend a party hosted by friend and BOLO Books blogger Kristopher Zgorski, but by then I was exhausted.img_2913

I kicked off Thursday by time-keeping for a panel called…and there goes my memory, but it was about things all authors face. And yes, once again, I related to a lot of what was said. We are all creatures plagued with the same insecurities and foibles, whether we’re on our first book or our fiftieth. Then I worked the Anthony Awards voting table. For the first time, voting was all electronic and it mostly went pretty smoothly. I did, however, have my major gaffe of the conference. A woman came up – not wearing a lanyard – and handed me her paper ballot. “We’re doing the voting online this year,” I said. “You can enter it yourself, or I can enter it for you.” She said she’d enter it herself and I said all I needed was her name so I could look up her voting number. Her name? Sara Paretsky. Yes, the founder of Sisters in Crime. I thought I was going to have my membership revoked.

Edit: Somewhere in here I went to the bloggers’ panel with Kristopher Zgorski, Dru Ann Love, Lesa Holstine, and Kaye Barley. It was very bad for my TBR list.

img_2921That night our group (now expanded to include many more people) headed next door to the Creole House. I ordered a daiquiri. When the waitress let us know they couldn’t make them (I forget the reason), she suggested something called a Voodoo Doll. The name should have warned me off. It was beautiful, but oh boy. I haven’t had something like that in ages. The Hubby tasted it and asked, “Do you want me to hit you over the head now?”

Friday, I worked the registration table. A lot smiling faces, and lot of chit-chat. Then I went to a panel on Strong Lead Characters with Kristi Belcamino (who I’d met last year at Bouchercon Raleigh) and Rachel Howzell Hall, who I missed when she came through Pittsburgh.

img_2911And then it was tourist time. The Hubby had mapped out the plan the previous day. We walked to Jackson Square and had lunch at Cafe Pontalba, where I had a smoked ham po’ boy that was absolutely delicious. The Hubby had barbecue shrimp, which wasn’t really barbecue, but a shrimp in a spicy butter sauce. The shrimp had to be peeled and deveined, so while it tasted delicious, I’m glad I didn’t get it because — messy. No, no pictures of that meal. img_2931There was a street performer just outside, though, who not only posed for a picture, but took a shot with The Hubby and I, selfie style.

We took a horse-drawn carriage through
the French Quarter, where the driver gave us a lot of facts about the city. (Did you know Americans were not allowed to live in the French Quarter? They were considered too uncivilized.) I got to feed the mule a carrot. We popped into St. Louisimg_2932 Cathedral, very pretty, and very French (as the name might suggest). Then we took a trolley car ride through the Garden District. I sat next to a very nice woman who pointed out all kinds of things, including the Mardi Gras beads festooning the trees and power lines – left overs from that year’s celebration.

Then we went back to the hotel and collapsed, having the aforementioned meal of potato chips. We’d eaten enough.

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Saturday was the big day. I started it off with the Sisters in Crime breakfast, where I was able to chat with Frankie Bailey, who gave me some tips for the latest project. Then the signing for the anthology. I showed up early, met G.J. Brown who has a Scottish accent so thick I could cut it with a knife (but I happen to love Scottish/Irish accents, so I loved hearing him talk). Since

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we were early arrivals, we signed pre-orders. Then people started arriving. Okay, I’ve been part of a signing before. This was different. One minute I was jumping out of my skin with nerves, the next I was so humbled to be there. Annette took my picture. I’m not sure if I look manic or excited. I followed it up by time-keeping the “Even in the Quiet Moments” panel that included Annette. As I’m sure there were with most of the panels, there were a lot of laughs.

img_2942We opted for Saturday night Mass, returning to St. Louis Cathedral. Then The Hubby and I went for dinner at The Courtyard of the Two Sisters, a 117 -year-old restaurant where the canopy was made by the branches of a 100-year-old wisteria. The food was…sublime. Our waiter was New Orleans through and through. It was the perfect Last Big Meal in New Orleans. And I had my first real Mint Julep.img_2943

Sunday we were off. I saw Sherry Harris in the airport and chatted with her for a bit. The trip home was just as smooth as the trip down. We got home late, but man it felt good. (Parent tip: Want your teenagers to miss you? Go away for four days and leave them with a bachelor uncle for meals.)

So what did I do in New Orleans? Other recaps have included scads of panels. I didn’t do that. I didn’t spend nearly as much time in the bar as I could have (or maybe even should have). I was on the lookout of agent Paula Munier to buy her a drink, but I never saw her. But I rubbed elbows with readers. With other volunteers, with the people running Bouchercon. I’d like to think I made some contacts and new friends.

Next year is Toronto. Will I go? Maybe. Maybe not. It’ll all depend on what happens, just like it did this year. But if I do go, I know I’ll have fun and make friends. Just like I did this year.

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