My Publishing Journey: Bouchercon 2015, Raleigh, NC

A Canadian contingent: Helen Nelson, me, Rob Brunet, Janet Costello

I signed up for my very first Bouchercon—Bouchercon 2015— in July 2014, exactly one week after I signed my publishing contract with Barking Rain Press for The Hanged Man’s Noose.

For those who aren’t quite sure what Bouchercon is all about, here’s the “official” explanation: An annual crime fiction event that brings together authors, fans, publishers, reviewers, booksellers and editors for a four-day event that takes place in a different city each year. This year it was held in Raleigh, North Carolina. Next year it will be in New Orleans, and in 2017, it will be in Toronto.

The North Carolina State Capitol building.

The North Carolina State Capitol building.


I hadn’t even left Toronto when I met my first Bouchercon veteran, Rob Brunet, author of Stinking Rich, at the airport (thanks Rob for taking me under your wing!).

I arrived in Raleigh on Wednesday morning, the day before the festivities began, but that didn’t stop me from diving right in. After checking in and unpacking, I went for a two-hour walk around the city and acted like a tourist. The weather (high 70s and sunny) was spectacular.

James M. (Jim) Jackson and Jan

James M. (Jim) Jackson and his partner, Jan, at the Twisted Mango.

When I arrived back to the hotel, I dropped off my charity basket donation. Proceeds from the auction go to Read and Feed, a local charity that provides food and books to low-income, elementary school children. Participation was voluntary, but one of my mottos is paying it forward and I’m all for promoting literacy. Congrats to Sarah Byrne, top bidder for my basket. Sarah won a signed copy of The Hanged Man’s Noose, a family pass to the Sandwich Glass Museum, a one-year subscription to New England Antiques Journal AND gets to become a named character in A Hole in One, the sequel to The Hanged Man’s Noose, currently in progress.

Next I connected with James M. (Jim) Jackson, author of the Seamus McCree mysteries and current president of Sisters in Crime Guppies. I’d never met Jim in person, but we’ve been longtime email friends. I happily accepted his invitation to wine and dine at the Twisted Mango with him and Jan, his partner in crime.

An early morning (I was up at 4:30 a.m.) made for an early night. I wanted to be ready for Day One.


Beyond networking and meeting readers and authors, Bouchercon is known for the diversity of its panels, each one 50 minutes in length with a moderator (also an author) and four or more authors weighing in on everything from writing for television to social media solutions. With seven or eight panels going on at the same time, it was sometimes difficult to pick, but I was VERY glad to have selected New Faces – Best First Novel Nominees. Moderated by Margaret Maron, the panel included Kristi Belcamino, M.P. Cooley, Julia Dahl, Allen Eskens and Lori-Rader-Day, who won the Anthony for The Black Hour. Be sure to check out their books!

Sisters in Crime Guppies Lunch.

Sisters in Crime Guppies Lunch.

Following the New Faces panel, it was back to the Twisted Mango for the Sisters in Crime Guppy lunch. It was fabulous to meet so many Guppies and the make-your-own tacos weren’t bad either!

Tom Franklin.

Tom Franklin.

With Dr. Kathy Reichs.

With Dr. Kathy Reichs.

Next up was a panel on effectively using social media, an American Guest of Honor Spotlight with Dr. Kathy Reichs (of Bones fame) and Tom Franklin (you have to read Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter), and wrapped up with the Opening Ceremonies.


With fellow Sisters in Crime authors Edith Maxwell (L) and Annette Dashovy (R).

With fellow Sisters in Crime authors Edith Maxwell (L) and Annette Dashovy (R).

The day started with the Sisters in Crime Breakfast at the Marriott. A room filled with many sisters and a few brothers, it was great to meet more Facebook, Twitter and email friends, not to mention the many authors I’ve read and admired over the years.

At the Plaza Cafe with members of the Short Mystery Fiction Society

At the Plaza Cafe with members of the Short Mystery Fiction Society

A couple more panels and it was time for lunch, this time at the Plaza Cafe with 40 members of the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

The afternoon included meeting some new readers (thanks Cathy and Liz!), more panels (I especially enjoyed one called Beyond THE WIRE, BOSCH & TRUE DETECTIVE: TV Crime Evolves, which was moderated by Lee Goldberg (Monk, Diagnosis Murder). The day finished with a Crime Goes Global Reception and a glass of wine with some fellow authors.


Sharing a laugh at the podium with Les Blatt at the Debut Authors Breakfast.

Sharing a laugh at the podium with Les Blatt at the Debut Authors Breakfast.

My big day finally arrived. It started with the Meet the New Authors Breakfast, sponsored by Crooked Lane Books. Each new author (there were 55 in all) were allowed 60 seconds or less to explain our book. (Those who tried to go over were given “the bell” and cut off.) Here was my pitch:

A freelance journalist

An antiques shop owner

A greedy real estate developer

The Hanged Man’s Noose, where small town secrets, high stakes real estate wrangling, and subterfuge lead to murder.

I ended with an invitation to my panel (more on that later).

I left the breakfast, caught another panel, bought a copy of  Murder Under the Oaks, the official 2015 Bouchercon anthology, and went to the multi-author signing. Not all the authors were there, but a good many were. Great fun!

Don Longmuir, co-owner of Scene of the Crime books at the Bouchercon booksellers room.

Don Longmuir, co-owner of Scene of the Crime, holding up a copy of The Hanged Man’s Noose at the Bouchercon book room.

At 1 p.m. it was time for my very first panel ever: Crime Beyond the White Picket Fence with moderator Donna Andrews, and Maya Corrigan, LynDee Walker and Tom Franklin. I was nervous at first, but soon felt comfortable answering questions, thanks to my fellow authors, who made it a whole lot easier (though following one of Tom’s responses—which involved armadillos—was a bit of a challenge!) Not a flawless performance, but I learned a lot, and fellow Barking Rain Press author Ricky Bush assured me that I “held my own up there.” (Thanks Ricky!)

Author signing in the Bouchercon book room.

At the author table in the Bouchercon book room.

An author signing followed the panel. I even signed a couple of Bouchercon 2015 programs!

Saturday ended with the Anthony Awards Ceremony and a closing reception. It truly was magical to be part of a live ceremony celebrating the best in crime fiction.


The final day. A couple more panels, packing and back to Toronto, and finally, home. If I were to sum up Bouchercon 2015, I would do it in three words: Exhausting and exhilerating. Would I do it again? Heck, yes. I’ve already signed up for Toronto in 2017. Maybe I’ll see you there.

THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE is now available directly from the publisher at, as well as at all the usual suspects, including Amazon, Kobo, and

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11 responses to “My Publishing Journey: Bouchercon 2015, Raleigh, NC

  1. I understand so well…I hope that your book gets on the NYT bestseller list! 🙂 Fingers crossed.

  2. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Carol. I practiced that pitch a lot! Didn’t want the bell (some folks got the bell and it was horrid to watch). I don’t think I can afford to go to New Orleans. I am planning on going to Malice Domestic in May. Unless The Hanged Man’s Noose reaches NYT bestseller status, New Orleans is out. With Toronto, I can drive there, which saves a lot on travel. And yes, there is very little time to do the tourist thing. If I went to New Orleans, I’d want to spend a couple extra days.

  3. Your 60 second pitch is really awesome! Congratulations for being part of this event. I see you’ve signed up for Toronto but what about New Orleans? That sounds like a neat place to have an event. Then again, you were so busy that you probably didn’t do much sightseeing.

  4. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Cynthia. There were so many highlights. I couldn’t include them all but I tried!

  5. Love this, Judy! You captured the joy of Bouchercon beautifully. Congrats on THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE!

  6. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Gillian, it was great fun. The Debut Authors Breakfast in particular. Standing up in front of a huge room of folks for the first time and making sure to keep it at 60 seconds!

  7. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Susan, I am planning to attend Malice in 2016. Will you be there?

  8. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Grace. It was a good experience and I learned a lot at the panels and about conferences in general! It was really fun to meet readers as well as other authors.

  9. Grace Topping

    Judy — I’m so happy for you. Attending Bouchercon after publication of your first book has to be a wonderful experience. Congratulations.

  10. Susan Van Kirk

    Despite the fact that Bouchercon is bigger, I found your description and reactions much like mine at Malice Domestic. Exhausting and exhilarating.

  11. gillian hobbs

    Sounds like a very rewarding conference. It must feel great to be able to take part as a published author!

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