Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bouchercon 2015 - Raleigh, NC

Home from Raleigh.

Home from what I feel sure will be called one of the best Bouchercons ever.

The organizers and all the volunteers are to be applauded and thanked for showing us all such a great time.

Harley and Don Barley stayed in Boone while I was gone.  Somebody had to keep the homefires burning, and truth be told, this type of convention is just not Donald's cup of tea.

Bouchercon - World Mystery Convention has been a major happening in the world of crime fiction since 1970.

There was, as usual, much hugging and a whole lot of laughter - and a few happy tears as well.

A lot of us only get to see one another at these conventions and look forward to them from one year to the next.  I don't get to nearly as many as a lot of my friends, so it had been way too long since I'd seen a lot of these folks.

The first Bouchercon I attended was in Baltimore in 2008.  

I remember asking Don if he wanted to go, and if I remember correctly his response was, "Please don't make me."  But.  He's perfectly happy that this is one of those things I do and he understands how very much it means to me.

I love these people

And as I've said in past Bouchercon posts, I feel as though I found my "tribe."

I wrote about that first Bouchercon experience here - http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com/2008/10/bouchercon-2008-my-first-bcon.html .  

It's one I will never forget.

A funny little thing happened after that post.  Someone from DorothyL wrote me a personal note.  She was somewhat scandalized by the fact that I had hugged some people.  The fact that I had hugged some of my women friends didn't seem to bother her, but the fact that I had hugged some of my men friends bothered her greatly. And LordAMercy - she had quite a bit to say about the kisses on the cheek too.  That really seemed to upset her.  Way more than it bothered my Donald.  Let me just say - I'm still going to cons, I'm still hugging - and yes, kissing - my friends (male and female), with absolutely no intention of stopping.  Donald is still around, still loves me and knows exactly where my boundaries are and doesn't worry about it.  But.  I haven't heard from this other person in a very long time.  Imagine that.

My next one was the following year in Indianapolis.  (http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com/2009/10/bouchercon-2009.html)

This was another wonderful event and my friend Judy Bobalik served as my Fairy Godmother - making it all that much more memorable and fun.

But then, for one reason or another, I missed several.  

For one thing, the Bouchercon convention travels to different parts of the country which is wonderful and gives a lot of people the opportunity to attend who might not otherwise.  

But it sometimes puts it out of my price range.  That plus the fact that I do dearly hate to fly.  No, I'm not scared to fly, but I have grown to hate it.  I worked in the airline industry a long time ago.  Back when flying and airports were fun.  And now I'm just a bit curmudgeonly about the fact that it's no longer that way.  Frankly, it's so far removed from what it was that it just makes me sad and kinda pisses me off.


Anyway . . . 

Because the convention was held in Raleigh this year, and because a woman I dearly love, Margaret Maron, was chosen as Lifetime Achievement Guest of Honor, there was no way I was going to miss it.

And I was able to drive.

Which means I could pack as much as I wanted.  A good thing, since I'm the world's worst packer.  But a ridiculous thing considering how much of that stuff never saw the light of day the entire time I was gone.  (I will never learn).

I am beyond happy that I went.

It was wonderful. (do I overuse that word, you think?)

I think this is one that people will be saying wonderful things about for a long, long time.

I  had an uneventful, very nice drive to Raleigh from Boone, only to have a luggage cart fall off the curb at valet parking in front of the Sheraton. Now the dent I put in the Highlander a few weeks ago has a matching dent on the other side.  (Don Barley - I promise, this one was not my fault!) I look like I've been driving in a demolition derby! But the hotel was really sweet about it all and in addition to working with my insurance company comped the room for one night's stay.

Any of you who know me either in "real" life, or in our wonderful virtual community, have heard me speak of my friend Lesa Holstine.

Lesa and I have been friends for an awful lot of years.  I've quit trying to figure out exactly how many.

She's responsible for a huge amount of books that I've added to my TBR pile over the years, many of which have ended up being books that I have re-read and re-read and will live on my list of all-time favorites.

We've gone through things together just as we have with our real life friends.  Good, fun things, but also the not so good, sad things.

Well, we finally met face to face in Raleigh where we spent the next few days getting to know one another even better. And we spent our nights propped up in our beds posting the day's Bouchercon events on Facebook while we discussed them, laughed loudly and yep, cried a few tears before we would turn out the light way later than planned and say our goodnights.

Rooming with Lesa made my whole Bouchercon experience even better.  Suffice to say, I love her.

We met in our room and promptly left to join others for dinner at "The Pit."  

The others consisted of a group of women from an online photo group I used to be a part of.  I'm no longer in the group, but I love these women and keep up with them through Facebook and email and phone calls. I was tickled pink to be included.

Me, Mary Featherston, Judy Bobalik, Cynthia Westbrook, Fran Read, Janet Rudolph

What a great place to start off the week's activities.  Wow.

Me, Mary Featherston, Cynthia Westbrook, Em Bronstein, Janet Rudolph, Judy Bobalik, M'Lou Greene, L. J. Roberts, Loanne Slapar, Fran Read and Lesa Holstine

Dinner was delish!  I had falling-off-the-bone tender ribs, fried okra and brunswick stew.

The table was provided with platters of the lightest, most delicious biscuits and some of the best hushpuppies I've ever had.  Loanne treated us all to platters of fried green tomatoes (the first I ever had) and deviled eggs.  The honey flavored butter served with the biscuits was just a bonus.

And the walk back to the hotel was much needed and appreciated.

This is where we started collecting even more hugs.  

This is the huggingest group of people on God's green earth.  I love that!  I've noticed that even the guys who start out with a handshake end up in one of those wonderfully manly man hugs with lots of back slapping.  Makes me smile.

We walked over to The Marriott which was one of the convention hotels.  Usually, there's only one.  I was a little concerned about there being two, but for me, it worked out perfectly.

I enjoyed the walk between the two hotels and loved that it would sometimes take me 30 minutes to make a 2 minute walk.  There was hugging to be had, after all.  You couldn't make that walk without bumping into people you knew.  The walk could sometimes be a little windy - perfect!  It also meant my hair got blown around and usually a mess.  After looking at pictures at the end of each day I was determined to remember to give my hair a bit of much needed attention.  But never did.  My friend John Purcell, however, makes it all better by referring to it as "stylishly windblown."  I love that.

After a short stop in The Marriott Bar, Lesa and I walked back to our hotel, The Sheraton.  

The Marriott Bar was basically "THE Spot" for this convention.  We all look for where everyone is so we can gather and schmooze.  (And hug.)  Even if you're a non-drinker, the bar is where everyone gathers and it's lovely.

This year, however, the quieter bar and lobby in The Sheraton was also a gathering spot and where I seemed to fall at day's end.  It suited me to a quieter "T"

And this is where Lesa and I ran into friends and settled in for a nice little visit that became the beginning of our evening habit over the next several days.

That little lobby atrium also became my "go to" spot for morning coffee.  Coffee served by my new friend, Miss Faye.  Faye was a delight and always had a fun story to share.  Sitting in that atrium having coffee with good friends was a special part of the convention for me.

I didn't do many panels.  This con was more an opportunity for me to reconnect with people I've missed more than I realized by missing so many Bouchercons.

And a place to connect with people I've gotten to know over Facebook but had not had the opportunity to meet face to face and sit down for real conversation.

Usually after coffee, I'd wander up to the book room.  Wandering was what I did.  Wandered, chatted, hugged, giggled, laughed out loud and shed a few quiet tears - happy little tears that would spring up suddenly from the joy of being where I was, surrounded by so many I care about so much.  I couldn't help it, and I stopped even trying.

And here's a bunch of random pictures.  I think you can probably tell from these that this was most definitely a bit of a lovefest for a group of people who sincerely like and support one another.  Readers, writers, bloggers, booksellers, publishers, editors, reviewers - all lovers of the written word  and particularly crime fiction. 

William!  I end up standing in a signing line with William at every B'Con.  (help me with a name here,please), Ali Karim, Craig Robertson, Alex Sokoloff

John Purcell, who always makes me laugh

Maryglenn McCombs (My Girlfriend), David Magayna (My Boyfriend), Alex Sokoloff (Woman/Dancer/Writer Extraordinaire) and Sarah Byrne (Australian Attorney AND Jazz Singer - all 'round magical woman)

The bike I rode in on - naaaah . . .  :-D

me and David Magayna, who quietly put up with me introducing him to all my girlfriends as my boyfriend

Me and my pal M'Lou Greene - fellow North Carolinian, former Malice roomie and sister photographer.  She's become one very fine photographer, which I have not

aw - Lesa Holstine and Kristopher Zgorski - SUPER Bloggers 

i love this shot

Lesa, Kris and the delightfully talented all 'round sweetheart, Art Taylor

Not my picture, but used with permission from the Bouchercon organizers.  These are this years book bags, stuffed full of wonderful book goodies.
Two amazing women who do so much behind the scenes - Judy Bobalik and Ingrid Willis

Reed Farrel Coleman.  I met him in Baltimore.  Fell immediately in love with him.  Then fell in love with his Moe.  And very vividly remember thinking "this guy is gonna be a star."

What can I say - the man knows how to give a hug

This year's Lifetime Achievement Guest of Honor, community of crime fiction treasure and my friend - Margaret Maron

Michael Koryta, ?? , Don Bruns

LynDee Walker Stephenson and Risa Rispoli

Katie Munger

Anthony Winner, the always delightful, Catriona McPherson and the tireless Ali Karim

Dana Kaye, L.J. Roberts, Clair Lamb,Matthew Iden

The always positive, always supportive (of everyone in this community) Anthony nominee Dru Ann Love

Little service dog whose name I forget but I fell heads over heels in love with

Cheryl Hollon and Harriette Wasserman Sackler

Local Guest of Honor, Sarah Shaber


Leaving Opening Ceremonies I got in this huge mass of people and moved along with the crowd. I thought we were all moving to the door to exit the building to go to the BBQ, which is where I was to meet my girlfriend Maryglenn.


I found myself in the Harper Collins room instead.

Aside from being waaaaay too crowded, it also was where some of my favorite authors were, so that wasn't such a bad thing after all!

I was able to collect personalized books and (more importantly) hugs from Laura Lippman, Alafair Burke and Deborah Crombie.

okay.  dang.  for some reason, Blogger won't let me caption the following photos.  I'll come back later and try again.

Leaving the Harper Collins room, I bumped into these two.  One of my gal pal heroes, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Joseph Finder.

I am always so happy to run into Hilary Davidson, and finally got to meet her husband, Dan.

Sitting in our favorite spot, The Atrium Lobby outside Jimmy V's at The Sheraton.

Lesa and Ingrid.

My gorgeous, funny, sister of the heart (and maybe for real sister, we think) girlfriend, Maryglenn.  I always tease that I'm going to bonk her over the head to steal her boots.  Her jewelry.  Her clothes.
But I have never ever threatened to push her out a window.  oy.

Con Lehane has THE best laugh

Ah - this was a pretty good cup of coffee while I was waiting for another on-line friend I finally got to meet in person -

The adorable and delightful Carrie Feron

Giggles in the ladies room with Maggie Topkis while we admire one another's footwear.

My friend Molly Weston -  Mwah!  I do love a woman who can speak her mind.

Molly and the wonderful Kathy Lynn Emerson

Twist Phelan and "husband"

I luv Jenn McKinlay Orf

Margaret Maron, Janet Rudolph - two of the finest!

Brad Parks - who always looks like he's up to no good!

Me and another Kay - Kay Kendall

The adorable Chris Roerden

Susan Shea, Terry Shames and Kay Kendall

Finally getting a piece of cake to John Purcell

Sarah Shaber was our local Guest of Honor and Molly moderated her panel about North Carolina mysteries.

Panel included A. J. Tata, 

John Hart and J. D. Rhoades.

Two more people who have known one another for years and finally get to meet.  Jeff Cohen and Lesa

And, The Charity Auction begins with Al hoisting a bottle of Jack Daniels.  All for charity!

After the auction, we wandered into the Chocolate Reception and bumped into some familiar faces - including this guy

The picture I missed here was a hoot.  Lesa walked away and Mark Harmon fell over.  We decided he had fainted after meeting Lesa.  We were pretty tickled (imagine that) but forgot to take a picture of the fainting Mark Harmon

Always fun to see familiar faces, and especially fun when I get to meet a spouse!
Alan Orloff and lovely spouse along with Donna Andrews who can flat do an auction

Who loves this picture?!  Dru, Kristopher and Kathy.  I love this shot.

Look for my friend Aubrey's name in an upcoming Elizabeth George novel!

One of my favorite people on God's green earth.  Actually, anyone you meet at Bouchercon is pretty much going to say that about Bill Crider.  I always enjoy seeing him, and always feel honored if I get to exchange a few words with him.

What can I say?  It's all about the hugs.

Kris and Meredith Cole

The awesome Steve Hamilton 

The mystery community reaches out to its own.
Erin Mitchell is going through some serious health issues.
Judy Bobolik starting sharing some chocolates that she had brought for Erin when she learned Erin wouldn't be coming after all.
She wrote a message in the top of the chocolate box and took pictures of tons of people wishing Erin well.
Lesa and I saw the pictures on Facebook (and if you haven't seen them - do take a look!), but rather than knocking on doors in the middle of the night looking for Judy, we decided to improvise.  So, we used my boot box to write Erin's message.

Thanks, Judy for one of the nicest things ever to happen at a Boucheron.

And love to our Erin

Hotel room coffee is the pits.
An adorable mug helps.

One of my favorite things is brunch.
Especially if I can have Eggs Benedict.

And if I get to have them while sitting across the table from Maryglenn - even better!

Chris Aldrich and David Magayna

Ali Karim and Andrew Grant

Nancy Jackson

Jake Nantz 

Margaret Maron and family before the Lifetime Achievement Guest of Honor Interview

Caroline Todd and Margaret Maron
Guest of Honor Interview

There are a lot of reasons to come to mystery events such as Bouchercon and Malice Domestic. One is to have an opportunity to sit in a room and listen to some of your favorite authors engage in conversation on a panel, the possibility of meeting one of them, having them autograph one of their books for you. Another is to hang out with a few of them. And to hang out with fellow readers and fans and discuss the authors you love - or that you don't - and compare notes on their latest work. Another is to have an opportunity to be a part of a celebration honoring a much admired author who also happens to be a friend. At 6:00 this evening I hope to be sitting in the front row while Margaret Maron sits in the spotlight as the Guest of Honor/Lifetime Achievement Honoree. I would not miss this for the world. No one deserves it more. Congratulations, Margaret Maron - We all love you to the moon and back.

The Margaret Maron interview was perfect. She managed to make many of us laugh and to cry - just as she's done for so many years with her words spoken by a cast of amazing characters she's brought to life in her writing.

Me with Joe Maron

Sarah Shaber, Margaret and Vicky Bijur

I didn't get pictures of all the Anthony winners at the ceremony following Margaret's interview - but here's the few I did get.

Zoe Sharp

Tom Franklin

Margaret Maron

Art Taylor

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Bill and Toby Gottfried

Lesa and I found time to sip a Lemoncello one evening in Jimmy V's

Where we also found Hank

Jeff Siger and David Magayna

Jeff didn't like my style on that first pic so we did another (and he was right - of course!  Much better shot of two very handsome, very nice guys.)

Silly women enjoy coffee and one another

Mchael Wiley and Judy

Final Panel -  Guests of Honor

Saying goodbye to Raleigh

I had a lot of favorite moments with fellow crime fiction fans, and good friends. A highlight was most definitely Margaret Maron's Guest of Honor/Lifetime Achievement. She's a woman of such great talent coupled with honest modesty. I hold her up as a standard by which I measure people in general - writers in particular.

On a personal note here - I am humbled,honestly, by the number of people who know me from DorothyL, Facebook, Meanderings and Muses or through WHIMSEY who came up and introduced themselves to me the past few days. You have no idea how you have gladdened this girl's heart. Thank you for the kind words about "Whimsey," about Meanderings and Muses, about Harley and about the recent loss of my mom. I forget sometimes how very small our community is and that we do share one another's ups and our downs. The sharing of both is much appreciated.

See y'all next year in New Orleans!!!

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