Bouchercon 2018 from a First-timer

Long before I wrote my first story I was a reader. My favorite genres are suspense, thrillers, and mysteries. So imagine my joy at attending Bouchercon in St. Petersburg, Florida this month. Bouchercon is the World Mystery Convention, the premier annual event for readers, authors, and all lovers of crime fiction. As a local, I volunteered to stuff books into book bags for attendees ahead of the conference. The organizers were expecting 1500, so it was a long day.

Bouchercon book bags pile

After we filled all the carts, we stacked the book bags on the floor.

Bouchercon book bags in carts

Bouchercon book bagsAmong the volunteers were fans and authors. We were giddy with the selection of FREE BOOKS. Among the volunteers was Author J.D. Allen. Her latest book 19 Souls was among the giveaways we were adding to bags. I remember the beautiful cover.

Bouchercon

19 Souls by J.D. Allen

After the 1500 bags were stuffed, super fan, Judy Bobalik invited all the volunteers to the upstairs bar for drinks. I had long drive home on I-4, so I had a soda. My hands were so sore from stuffing bags I drove home and stuck my hands in ice water.

Bouchercon at the Vinoy Renaissance ResortThe next day, Wednesday, September 5, I drove back to the Vinoy Renaissance Resort with my friend Author Donna Kelly. We checked in to the resort and then we picked up our registration packets and goodie bags (free books!). Going over the schedule, we found even more book giveaways at author signings. At registration, Donna and I met another first-time Bouchercon author named Frank Zafiro. A retired detective, he writes the River City Series, the Stefan Kopriva novels, and more.

We wandered around the resort to find the ballrooms where panel discussions would be held. We encountered gators.

Bouchercon gators

Bouchercon lineup

Donna in the author’s lineup.

And Donna stood in an author lineup. Donna wanted books signed by Lee Child and Michael Connelly. I said I’d be hunting down Diana Capri, Sara Paretsky, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Laura Lippman.

Bouchercon authors

Hank Phillippi Ryan autographed a book for me!

Bouchercon

Donna Kelly meets Lee Child.

Bouchercon

Michael Connelly signs a book or two for Donna.

Bouchercon

Sara Paretsky, founder of Sisters in Crime, signed a book for me!

Laura Lippman taught a workshop at Eckerd College years ago that taught me significant lessons in story craft. I was long overdue in thanking her.

Bouchercon

Laura Lippman autographed a book for me.

I ran into Kerry Lonsdale, whom I’d met at a Women’s Fiction Writers Conference in Albuquerque, NM.

Bouchercon

Author Kerry Lonsdale put a selfie of us on her blog a few years ago, so…

The authors and fans blended into a giant excited crowd. When asked if we were authors or fans, we’d answer, “Yes.” How can you be a writer without being an avid reader? The 4-day event featured panel discussions on various topics, book signings, lunches, award banquets, and of course, what is known as barcon–gatherings in the bar until the staff scoots us out. The main bar at the Vinoy is in the main lobby. There people clustered on sofas and ottomans and balanced drinks on tiny tables while debating crime stories and favorite authors. Donna and I, as new members of Sisters in Crime, met other members at their breakfast gathering.

Bouchercon meeting room

Bouchercon

Authors Christine King and Diane Capri shared writing stories.

I enjoyed chatting with Diana Capri and Christine King about boating, adventures, and writing. Diane juggles a number of series, one of which ties in with Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. Diana served on a panel discussion titled “Familiar but New–Writing Established Characters.” Christine and Diane are also members of Sisters in Crime. They welcomed me as a new member.

Ah, fun. The 2019 Bouchercon will be in Dallas. I hope I can go. Back to work.

Boca Raton Book Signing

authors at book signing in Boca Raton

Boca Raton event with Author Donna Kelly

Book signings can be hit or miss events. The I Heart Books Event sponsored by the Florida Writers Association took place in Boca Raton on Sunday, May 21. Fifty authors of various genres set up tables of books and giveaway items at the Lakeside Terrace. Nestled between the Hilton and a lovely pond, the venue was gorgeous. The weather was perfect. Author Donna Kelly came along for moral support and to act as cashier. She gamely learned how to operate the credit card reader attached to my iPad.

During the lull between setup and the VIP lunch with readers, I received an email. North of the Killing Hand was a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards in the suspense category. Yeah! Happy dance.

authors at Boca Raton book signing

Authors and VIP Readers luncheon in Boca Raton

I’m calling the Boca Raton book signing a hit. No, I didn’t sell out the box of trade paperbacks of either book. I probably didn’t recoup the expenses of hotel, travel, food, or time. What made this event a hit was the professionalism, camaraderie, and advice shared by the more experienced authors. From Author Mary Lois Sanders–bring book awards to display with the books. *Banging head on table* My book awards sit at home in a drawer. From Author Susan Thatcher: display your books and their themes with color, props, and whatever else will attract readers to pause at the table. Her table invited people to stop. From Author Jim Meyer: buy clear plastic book stands to display the proof copies of each book. My books sat in plain ugly stacks like they were second-hand offerings. Jim said that by using the proof copies, readers can handle them, and page through them instead of new copies. From Author Suzan Johnson: be friendly and engage readers when they pause at the table. As a children’s book author, she greeted the children first, then the parents who paused at her table. She answered questions from children

Boca Raton book signing table

with warmth and grace. This lady understands her readers!

Like Author John Hope, who brought his son Luke along, I brought along someone whose companionship made the time fly. Like many others, I had giveaway items. Window-shopping readers could pick up a key chain (whistle, compass, light) labeled with my website and a paper listing information on my books. Perhaps there will be an uptick in eBook sales from this event. Time will tell. Many authors set up banners to mark their table space. About ten had freestanding, taller-than-me banners. I had two tabletop banners showing cover art.

authors at book signing in Boca Raton

Author Suzan Johnson at the I Heart Book Event in Boca Raton

Authors adorned their tables with lights, electric candles, stuffed animals, baskets of candy, glitter, logo-emblazoned tablecloths, pens, stickers, sign-up lists, and books to suit their genres and themes. From pre-school reading to paranormal erotica, the variety of reading material staggered the mind. If I had not already purchased books from some of the authors at the FWA conference last October, I probably would have brought more books home than my own leftovers. My to-be-read pile already threatens to topple a bookshelf…ah, well.

Thank you, Boca Raton readers, for your support! Happy reading!