Bouchercon and the Big Names

I’ve always been a bit of a star-gazer.  When I was little, I was sure Shirley Temple and I could be best friends (had no concept of what “re-runs” meant).  When I hit my teen years, I knew that Robert Redford and Paul Newman were a year or two “too old” for me, but what the heck, I was dreaming big on my way to the political aspirations I had, right?

And now, my daughter lives and works in Los Angeles.  There are stars on every corner there, to be sure. Well, almost.  I’ve visited several times and never met one yet.

Picture of Bouchercon BooksYou can imagine the feast I had at Bouchercon, then, when I actually had a word with William Kent Krueger, this year’s writer of the year.  Mr. Krueger seems to have won just about every writing award possible with his Ordinary Grace, and there I was, standing behind the registration desk, saying “hello” to the great man. His hallmark grin was pasted firmly in place as he replied to my question about how Doyle never seemed to get his comeuppance, and he said, “not in this book.” Ooh! Mr. Kruger has more up his sleeve?  I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Jeffery Deaver, one of the guests of honor, and author of such well-respected mysteries as The Kill Room, XO, and The October List, came up and I was lucky enough to be the volunteer helping to get his friends registered. He was quick-witted, generous, and real. No fancy entourage, no extraordinary looks.  Just a man who happens to be a New York Times best-selling author and one of Bouchercon’s guests of honor.

Silent Auction Quilt from Bouchercon 2014

Silent Auction Quilt – wouldn’t it be lover-ly!

The whole weekend was like this–meeting people, ordinary people, with extraordinary talent, wit, and kindness.  Christine Goff, of the Birdwatcher Mysteries took me in hand and introduced me to more great writers.  Deni Dietz, my editor and Anthony Award nominee, shared lunch and advice at a quaint Irish pub nearby.

In short, if I were an author autograph seeker, this would have been a gold mine place to be.

But I don’t actively seek out autographs. I look for people and their stories.  And here I was richly rewarded as well . . .

Teresa pretty much oversaw all of my work at the registration counter.  She was there through just about every shift, helping drop-ins with last minute registrations, talking up Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh (where she’ll be in charge of registrations), and smiling, smiling, smiling.  I listened to her story of reading so many books my head spins just thinking about it.  On the last day of the conference I offered her a copy of my book in thanks, thinking it was a paltry thing after all of her work and kindness.  She looked at me as if I’d given her the best present ever, and when she asked me to sign it (and I misspelled her name!) she generously said, “I like it that way.”

Picture of author Robert Kresge

Author Robert Kresge – talk about great branding!

Another Theresa (this one with the “TH” clearly pronounced), told me about her life as a paralegal and how she lives for her reading.  She is someone who can read a book a day if the books are there.  How cool that each Bouchercon attendee received a bag full of books, as Theresa is one of several readers at the conference with this voracious appetite for a good tale.

I am in awe of the strength of those who read.  Even though literacy seems in trouble in the US (only 20% of adults read more than one book a year for pleasure), those who do read seem to do so abundantly.  It constantly took me aback when they would say “I’m just a reader,” like guest of honor, Al Abramson, who I bumped into during one of the many days worth of panel discussions.  Mr. Abramson was witty and kind to this newbie of Bouchercon, even though he has been a leader this organization since about 2000.

Book Carnival  with Faith on the Rocks

Carnival Books or Orange, CA, was kind enough to sell copies of Faith on the Rocks for me. Anne Saller (not pictured) is a terrific book store owner!

And then there was Lucinda and Stan. Lucinda was in charge of all of the volunteers and ran from place to place helping people find their way, filling in for missing volunteers, and generally smiling away with her lovely long grey hair flying by, a blue streak letting us know she was the person we sought.  And Stan, the volunteer in charge of balloting for the Anthony Awards, helped anchor the volunteer desk, and helped me find some friends of a woman who’d misplaced them.  He knew everybody by sight.

I have been in several communities in my life, but no where was I more comfortable than in this place where people come to talk, read, and find new mysteries, thrillers, and crime stories. Talk about a great reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season with a cozy little thriller or crime book on top.  Next week I’ll announce my Bouchercon contest.  Hope you win!

Bouchercon and the Queen Mary

Hi Reading Friends,

I have to write this like a letter today, because I’m still so wrapped up in last week’s trip to Long Beach, CA and the Bouchercon experience.  But, just so that this doesn’t become too blah, blah, blah . . .

Contest Coming!

I ended up with some great stuff from the event, and I’d like to share it with you.  Please read my next few posts on Bouchercon, and you may win some of the SWAG (Stuff We All Get) from my adventure.

My Ghostly Adventure

Picture of My room on the Queen Mary

My room on the Queen Mary

At the conference I was lucky enough to stay on board the Queen Mary cruise ship. I only brought my phone for photos this time and didn’t do a great job of snaps, but my friend, Catherine Dilts, has some terrific shots on her blog this week.

The Queen Mary is permanently docked in Long Beach and acts as a hotel now.  The atmosphere has been restored to that of its glory years from 1936 to 1939, when she carried such luminaries as Bob Hope, Clark Gable, Winston Churchill, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The promenade decks have the original wood floors, there are life sized posters of photos from the grand era, and the main ballroom is an exquisite art-deco period room (yes, I got to see it on the tour). In short, if you have a chance to visit and don’t, you need to turn in  your historian of the year badge. This place is great!

View of the Queen Mary Grand Ballroom

In the day, you could track the two great Cunard liners with this map in the Grand Ballroom.

Anyway, the first evening on board I went on the Queen’s ghost tour.  Oh my goodness!  Our guide, Thomas, took us to places you can’t go to normally.  He told us wonderfully creepy stories of people being woken in the night by strangers holding wrenches and lights who shake them awake then disappear in the shaking of sheets. Then we went to a room that the hotel stopped renting out because people reported such frightening experiences they wouldn’t (or couldn’t) stay in it another night.  The room had been stripped bare even of the beautiful wood veneer that lined the walls of the ship. It was cold, dark and creepy. I was thrilled.

Needless to say, by the end of the  tour, I was whispering in the dark that the ghosts could skip visiting my room if they’d like.

Picture of Thomas, our Queen Mary ghost tour guide

Thomas, our Queen Mary ghost tour guide

The next morning, I started recording “ghosties,” my personal experiences with the “not-quite-normal.”  Here are a couple of them:

“6:15am – Just a moment ago, my alarm went off–for the second time this morning.  It is set for 5:15 and I had woken to the alarm an hour ago, turned the thing off completely, even acknowledging the “if you turn this off, it won’t ring again” warning. I rechecked and the alarm is indeed off.”  Ghostie!

“7:04 am – Well, not really, but odd.  I’m at the Passport Bus Stop waiting for the free bus to take me over to the convention.  A taxi pulls up and the driver asks if I called for a cab. I said no, and he says to me, “So your name’s not Lisa?” I replied, “Yes, I’m Lisa, but I didn’t call a cab.”  He rephrased his question saying that the front desk had called for me, but again I said no.  The cab drove off into the parking lot.  I looked down at my reading and thirty seconds later there’s no sign of him or the cab.” Ghostie!

Picture of Hallway on the Queen Mary

Would you walk this hallway late at night?

Whether or not these are true ghostly experiences, I had the thrill of a chill, and they may just make story sparks sometime.

And the locals seem to believe that the Queen Mary is truly haunted.  A couple of the bus drivers mentioned it and a special needs man was absolutely certain the ship is haunted. He said “everybody knows it’s haunted. It’s haunted all right.”

Do  you believe in ghosts?

Even though science has yet to prove the existence of ghosts and form after death, almost 50% of Americans believe in them. A CBS poll in 2005 had 48% of Americans believing and a 2013 Huffington Post survey confirmed 45% hold on to this thought.  Where do you stand?  Are ghosts a part of your life?  Do you like ghost stories?

Have a creep-free, but perhaps chilling week, my friend.

Pre-Travel Notes

Keeping things short today.  I’m off to California and need to finish packing.

First, thank you to everyone who posted remembrances of their special veterans yesterday.  I  hope the hard lessons of Viet Nam veterans’ treatment always stay in our minds as we learn to thank those who put their lives on the line for the rest of us in every situation–from peace keeping at our embassies, to sacrifices in the fields of war, to building hospitals and distributing food to areas hit hard by disease and natural disasters. All of our armed service personnel deserve our respect.  Thank you Sam and Uncle Jack–peace be with you.

Second, I have a few friends with book launches coming up.  Please keep these folks in your thoughts:

  • Donnell Ann Bell – Buried Agenda – November 7th.  This is Donnell’s fourth book, and is bound to be a success: “Diana Reid is an investigative reporter skilled at uncovering other people’s secrets. It’s her own that she works to keep buried. . .”
  • Bruce Most – Rope Burn — Book signing. “For those of you in the Denver area, I will be signing copies of ROPE BURN this coming weekend at the Colorado Authors’ League booth at the Junior League’s Holiday Mart.”
  • Mark Stevens – Trapline – Book Launch Party November 21, 7:00 at the Tattered Cover, LoDo — This is Mark’s third in the Allison Coil mystery series. “Allison’s third adventure (Buried by the Roan, 2011, etc.) combines a loving portrait of a beautiful area with an ugly, all-too-believable conspiracy that could have been ripped from today’s headlines.
    – Kirkus Reviews

Wishing you a happy, safe week.