I started the day bright and early at the annual Bouchercon Sisters in Crime Breakfast. I've been a member of SinC well before I was published, and indeed, I credit my getting a contract as soon as I did (after a decade's worth of rejection for my historical novels) through networking, through a bombardment of information, and through the paying it forward of so many of its members--which is why I pay it forward whenever I can as well.
Former Sisters in Crime national president Laura DiSilverio hands over the "seal" of office to incoming president Catriona McPherson (above). The national office oversees the chapters (I was president of my local Orange County chapter for two years, and vice president and director of programming for two years for the Los Angeles chapter--and I'm currently co-editing their latest anthology). National also commissions studies through Bowker on publishing and sends their own team to do on the ground information-gathering on publishing platforms and publishers. And they keep up with their famous and unfortunately necessary Monitoring Project. I can never say enough good things about Sisters in Crime. By the way, you don't have to be a writer to be a member or even a woman. We have our "Misters" in Crime as well, and many of our members are readers, booksellers, and librarians. Don't be left out. Join!
I sat ith Jan Burke, Pat Broeske, and Cat Warren, who wrote What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs (specifically, cadaver dogs), and a host of others.
And after the breakfast, well, it was time to hit the panels again. I decided to drop in on "A Fine Palate of Death: Dessert, Wine, and Crime" with mod Ovidia Yu, Kathy Aarons, Jenifer McKinlay, Carlene O'Neil, Nancy Parra, and Penny Warner (Below).
These may not be the kinds of books I read, but I support ALL mysteries, because we are all under the umbrella of murder and crimes. I know that in many ways, cozies get a short shrift. Harder crime stories--hardboiled, thriller--are considered more "serious" books and are the ones winning awards. Cozies are often thought of as "women's" books and therefore worth less and marginalized. It's a big market, though, so I wouldn't discount it at all.
And then it was on to the sort of last minute event called "Bloody Murder: Recommendations from the Margins," hosted by Charlaine Harris and Sara Paretsky. Essentially, this slot was designed in response to the programming controversy that had been in its place. The Men of Mystery was an event put on every November in socal to promote male mystery writers at a banquet. Since it fell at the same time as Bouchercon, it was felt by the organizers of MoM and Bouchercon that it would be swell to combine events so they wouldn't compete with each other, have a two-hour program devoted to male authors within the auspices of Bouchercon. There were a few who protested this initially, but those complaints were dismissed. And then more heard about it, feeling that it marginalized women writers in such an important event. So the MoM programming's time was cut in half and this Bloody Murder event was put in that slot. (You can read more about it here and here) And as you can see above, Edgar, the mascot of Mystery Writers of America, supports women writers.
At any rate, some forty or so writers, both men and women--including me--gave shout outs to some perhaps forgotten authors or authors who need more recognition. I gave my shout out to Dorothy Hughes, the first lady of noir.
Once that was done I had to get cracking on the thing that was stressing me for the last year. As president of the southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America, I couldn't let Bouchercon pass through our region without doing something for the mystery community there. So our board of directors concocted the idea of a Librarian Tea. Jessica Kaye, one of many of our fabulous board members, took the reins and created not only a high tea with great food, but an unusal and fascinating panel of audio book narrators. This was an invitation-only event, and included librarians, bloggers/reviewers, authors, and MWA members and special guests. Penguin Random House graciously supplied free audio books and swag for our giveaway bookbags below, as well as bestselling authors Chris Pavone and Taylor Stevens.
The place was just beginning to fill up, with 74 guests all told.
(Above) with reviewer extraordinaire, Ali Karim.
Our narrators were Kirby Heyborne and Julia Whelan (who both narrated the wildy successful Gone Girl), Scott Brick, Cassandra Campbell, and Richard Brewer, and was moderated by Jessica Kaye. Some of the questions included: If you listen to an audio book, does that count as having "read" it? Do you prefer third or first person (most seemed to prefer first). I was amazed that some could produce 120 pages of a book a day. And yes, they do sometimes make mistakes and have to go back and correct those.
Sometimes narrators become the voice of a series and readers get used to their performance...and make it known when a new narrator comes on board how displeased they are. We do get set in our ways. I love my audio book narrator Michael Page. So much so that the way he voices my protagonist's side kick, teen Jack Tucker, is the voice I now hear when I write him! High praise indeed.
And something I hadn't thought about before. A writer can get away with parts of the book written in the killer's point of view, but when you narrate it, how do you accomplish it without broadcasting who the murderer is...especially if they are the only one with an accent?
A huge thank you also to those guests and MWA board members who came to help to stuff bags and to sign in our guests. You guys ALL made it possible.
After that I was pretty much wiped. And--happy day--my husband came up to meet me and we took a stroll through Shoreline Village and got ourselves some food and spirits.
I'll only be doing some stock signing at Bouchercon today, Sunday, and then going on home. Which brings up a discussion I've been hearing of late from many authors, me included, and is bound to be controversial.
We feel Bouchercon goes on too long.
Well, perhaps all conventions. They seem to go on longer as the years progress. Now we are arriving Wednesday to get ready for panels starting on Thursday and it goes on through Sunday. It's exhausting. But let's take a look at some facts. Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Malice Domestic...and many others...are mystery FAN conventions. For the fans, that is, and they are the ones we are catering to, offering programming with big name authors that they would enjoy. True enough...to a point.
I go to these conventions to sell books. I work hard to get the word out about me and my series. It's a constant uphill battle and conventions help just that little bit sometimes. When I appear on a panel and amuse and entertain, I have just suddenly put my name in front of many faces. And those faces will, hopefully, go to the bookroom and get one of my books (or many, I'm not picky). Or, if not buying them now, perhaps recommending them to their libraries, to their friends, buying them elsewhere. That is, if I'm on a panel. And make no mistake. If I'm not on a panel, I don't see a reason to attend. I've been lucky. I've always seemed to make it onto a panel (the value of a niche genre like historical mysteries). But the Convention staff always say, "It's not about the panel, but about being with your fellow authors and visiting with fans."
But you have to look at it from my point of view, that is, the point of view of a midlist author. I'm spending some $600 on hotel costs if I stay at the hotel of the convention (and let's face it, when I go out of state, it's the most convenient). If I am going out of state we can add another $500 for airfare. Now we can also add the cost of the conference/convention itself ($200-$300), food, other costs. It adds up quick. And frankly, I can chat with my fellow authors any ole time I want to. And fans? What fans? Not if I can't get on a panel and be seen. (Actually, since I've been around a few years now, I do have fans at these conventions and I love them dearly. I'll even break the taboo and sign a book you slip to me into the bathroom stall. I love you THAT much.) But I'd have a hard time getting more fans if I wasn't on a panel.
Let's break it down. Bouchercon has maybe 6 to 8 really BIG name authors, and you know who they are. They are on the marquee for heaven's sake. Then there's the next tier down, those bestselling authors who may or may not be making a living at writing. And then there's the rest of us, the midlist, some more successful than others. I'm not sure of the numbers. But I've been told there are 1,000 attendees. That includes booksellers, bloggers, reviewers, and editors in that mix. I did a rough count and eliminated those editors, booksellers, and reviewers from what I think includes some 660 midlisters. So you can see how it breaks down. More writers than fans. Not that writers can't be fans and we don't buy other writer's books. Of course we are and of course we do! I get just as fan girly on some authors as anyone, but this is just for the purposes of discussion. And by the way, we all pay our own way to be there.
So I don't know what the answer is. If you cut down on days you have your con, that means fewer panels. And in order to get more midlist authors on panels, then that means the bigger authors should only get one panel to be on. Do THEY want to spend the time to come here then? And if midlist authors left in droves because now THEY aren't getting panels, you suddenly don't have a convention. You see the problem?
Personally, because it is a fan-oriented convention (as opposed to a writer's conference, where writers go to learn to be better writers, going to panels, sessions, and workshops dealing with craft, the business, and getting published) I think it serves the fans to make sure they get to see some new (to them) writers, to give voice to as many diverse writers as possible.
Something to think about. I will soon be leaving for home (about an hour and a half away) because I have to get back to work and write! See you on the library trail!