The Con to End All Cons: Bouchercon

Bouchercon 2015 was held in Raleigh last week.  Since that’s sort-of my home town – only 20 miles away – I volunteered to help out, about a year ago when the organizers started to get serious about planning.  Bouchercon is huge – 1400 people – and goes to a different city every year. It was exciting that it was coming to Raleigh, and a lot of people volunteered.

mug Bouchercon donationI signed up to be auction chair. Sounds doable, I thought. Put stuff on a table with bid sheets. Well, any idiot should have known it’s more complicated than that. After convention attendees were emailed with a request to contribute, with help from Christina Wall of the Triangle Literacy Society (one of the charities to get the proceeds), we received, logged, thanked, and prepared bid sheets for almost 90 donations from authors. I went around to thrift shops and bought lots of baskets which my family spray-painted black. Bought tissue paper, pens, card stock. Printed certificates. Had four dozen mugs made with the convention logo that we gave away for a $10 donation. I think it was a success: $13,000 was raised for TLC and Read & Feed.

I also volunteered to find items to give to the guests of honor and Anthony Award winners, and put the word out to Chatham County artists. Michael Thompson, a wonderful woodworker, proposed to make beautiful oak bowls and bases. Nineteen of them. A printer in Durham made 39 metal plates engraved with the award title and names of the nominees.

Bowls made by Michael Thompson, Chatham County woodworker extraordinaire.

Bowls made by Michael Thompson, Chatham County woodworker extraordinaire

Then the internet chapter of Sisters in Crime, the Guppies, wanted to get together and I volunteered, along with Toni Goodyear, to organize a lunch. She and I made a couple of trips to downtown Raleigh to check out restaurants. We both liked the Twisted Mango, right next to the convention hotels. (Their shrimp tacos introduced me to boom boom sauce*, oh yes.) Forty people came to the lunch.

The previous year’s Bouchercon. in Long Beach CA, featured a short story anthology, Murder on the Beach, edited by Dana Cameron.  The stories were so good. We need an anthology for Raleigh, so I asked the wonderful short-story writer Art Taylor if he’d edit one. A mind-boggling 150 stories were received and an anonymous panel of judges chose 26 to send to Art. Happy to say my story, “#grenadegranny” made it into the final publication, Murder Under the Oaks, published by Down & Out Books. Available now!

The Bouchercon 2015 anthology

The Bouchercon 2015 anthology

I went to a meeting of the National Board of Sisters in Crime and was elected Liaison to SinC’s 52 chapters. Afterward I met with chapter presidents. I love Sisters in Crime; they are generous, smart, professional writers who only want to help each other. I’m looking forward to this job.

What else? Free food! A dinner for the volunteers was held at a great Lebanese restaurant, Sitti. My kind of food – hummus, stuffed grape leaves, labneh, falafel and vegetables, baclava. My, what a memory.

I was part of a panel with Ruth Moose, Al Orloff and Leslie Budewitz, moderated by Chris Roerden, and a signing afterward. Ostensibly the subject was the teaching of writing but of course we each squeezed in a mention of our books! A panel of  Murder Under the Oaks authors was my favorite. We each read a bit from our story then signed 300 copies. (I hope it sells a lot – the beneficiary is Wake County Public Libraries.)

At a Librarian’s Tea I shared a table with Cara Brookins and 8 reader-fans, where we ate goodies and listed to a humorous panel comprised of Margaret Maron, Karen Slaughter, Dr. Kathy Reichs, Hank Phillipi Ryan, and John Hart.

The anthology I edited, Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Lust, Love, and Longing, was an Anthony Award nominee but the award went to Laurie King and Leslie Klinger who edited In the Company of Sherlock Holmes – Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon.  Shucks, I had such a great speech planned! <kidding>

In the moments between all this, I met a lot of people, lost and found my purse, chased down winning auction bidders, ate for breakfast what I thought was bread but turned out to be chocolate cake, and drank too much coffee. At times I felt, if you can believe it, spread thin, pleasantly exhausted.

Next year’s Bouchercon is in New Orleans, and believe me, I’m happy to let Louisiana mystery writers take over the volunteer jobs.

Bouchercon is a fabulous, fun, well-run, exciting, exhausting con.

See you in New Orleans at Blood on the Bayou!!

*Delicious. There are many different recipes online. I’ve sort of duplicated it with mayonnaise, Sriracha chili sauce and  garlic powder.