Tag Archives: Bouchercon 2017

Bouchercon Toronto Recap

With Dru Ann Love (Dru’s Book Musings) and Kristopher Zgorski (BOLO Books)

I’ve been a member of the Bouchercon 2017 volunteer committee since 2015, meeting quarterly at first, and then escalating to monthly. While my contributions were far less than co-chairs Helen Nelson and Janet Costello, this past 2 1/2 years has opened my eyes to the sheer volume of work that goes on behind the scenes to put on a four-day 100% volunteer run conference like Bouchercon. It was an invaluable experience and one that I will treasure always.

My books in the book room!

But what about the conference itself? What can I say? At last count, there were more than 1,700 attendees, of which approximately 33% were authors, including NYT bestsellers like Louise Penny, Maureen Jennings and Megan Abbott, as well as folks like me (not yet on the NYT list…but hope springs eternal).

CWC had a significant presence at Bouchercon. (L to R) Member Jim Napier, RCMP Officer Julie Meeks, CWC Past President Rick Blechta, CWC Chair Cathy Ace.

For my part, I was able to take my turn manning the Sisters in Crime – Toronto table, the Crime Writers of Canada table, and the Crime Writers of Canada hospitality suite. These are great opportunities to meet and greet other authors, and introduce readers to  SinC, CWC, and of course, my books.

I also had the opportunity to moderate (my first time as a moderator) a panel of reviewers: Margaret Cannon (Globe & Mail), Steve Steinbock (Ellery Queen; AudioFile Magazine), Marsali Taylor (Mystery People; Mystery Readers), Erica Ruth Neubauer (Publishers Weekly, Crimespree, Mystery Scene), and Andrew Gulli (The Strand Magazine). We had a tough time slot: 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. on Sunday—trust me when I tell you that an early morning panel on the last day of a four-day conference is not ideal. Fortunately, the strength of the panel drew people in, and we pretty much had a full house. I wasn’t perfect, and I might do some things differently if I ever have another opportunity, but overall, it went really well. The thing I’m most proud of? Two years ago, I was terrified to speak in public, and there I was, moderating a panel of esteemed reviewers in front of a packed room!

Inside MacKenzie house on the Ghost Walk tour

One of my favorite moments was leading the Ghost Walk tour on Wednesday night. It was damn cold, and a wee bit drizzly, but I learned about Toronto’s “ghost subway stations,” AND I actually saw where Samuel Lount was hanged for treason! Readers of THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE will understand why that was such a thrill for me.

View from my hotel room

The hardest thing (besides the sheer sense of exhaustion as the days and hours start to blend together) for a solitary loner type like me is the crowds, but thankfully I’m well familiar with Toronto, having been born and raised there, so I was able to escape during lunch times and walk around downtown. Sure, there are crowds there, too, but in typical big city fashion, it’s pretty easy to blend in and become anonymous. For the moment, at least, you don’t have to be “on.”

Gibbs sleeping at my feet.

My next conference is Left Coast Crime in Reno, March 2018. For now, I am just happy to be back home, and I think Gibbs is happy to have me here.

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Poll: What Would You Ask a Reviewer?

Last week, I wrote about my Bouchercon 2017 Panel: Reviewers Recommend. Thanks to all who took the time to respond. I’ve created a poll with some of those suggestions. Please select the top 3 questions YOU would like answered. Poll closes on September 7 at noon EST. And if you can, please share this post on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks!

Bouchercon 2017 #1: Reviewers Recommend

This post will be the first of several dedicated to Bouchercon 2017 Toronto, which will be held from October 12-15, with some special events starting on the 11th.

Although I now live about 90 minutes northwest of the city, I still consider Toronto my home patch, since I was born and raised there. So I’m pretty excited to be part of this massive celebration of all things mystery.

Today, however, I’m looking for your input. I’ve had the great fortune to be assigned a panel on Sunday, October 15th from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. It will be my first time as a moderator! and the topic is Reviewers Recommend, described as Reviewers Discuss their faves. Here’s the prestigious list of panelists:

Margaret Cannon (Toronto Globe and Mail)
Andrew Gulli (The Strand Magazine)
Erica Ruth Neubauer (Publishers Weekly, Crimespree)
Steve Steinbock (EQMM)

Marsali Taylor (mystery people and Mystery Readers)

Are you nervous for me yet??? Yeah, I thought so!

Now…pretend that you’re in the audience. What question do you want me to ask?

Ready…set…GO!

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A Volunteer’s Perspective: Bouchercon 2017 Anthology

Bouchercon (pronounced Bough-chur-con) is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization, which holds an annual convention in honor of Anthony Boucher, a distinguished mystery fiction critic, editor and author.

In 2017, Bouchercon will be held in Toronto. The first Bouchercon took place in 1970 in Santa Monica, California. Recent Bouchercons have been held in many cities across the United States, including Albany, NY, Saint Louis, MO, Raleigh, NC, New Orleans, LA, and Long Beach, CA.  Future conferences are scheduled for St. Petersburg (2018), Dallas, (2019) and Sacramento (2020).

Because Toronto is my home patch, I signed up as soon as registration opened in 2015, and checked off the “Volunteer” box. It wasn’t long before I agreed to take on the task of working on the Bouchercon anthology. These collections of short crime fiction are a means of fundraising for a local charity; the judges, the editor, and the authors do not receive any payment or royalties. The charity for A PASSPORT TO MURDER is Frontier College, a Canadian national literacy organization.

I learned a lot as a volunteer on this project. Here’s a bit of a rundown:

Step 1: Interview four publishers to determine the “Best Fit.” Important considerations included being an Mystery Writers of America approved publisher, past experience producing anthologies, and a commitment to contributing to the charity after publishing costs had been recouped.

Step 2: Selecting the publisher (with input from the Bouchercon Chairs and other volunteers). The publisher selected was Down & Out Books, who had published prior Bouchercon anthologies, and agreed to contribute all profits to Frontier College.

Step 3: Selecting three judges to read the submissions, and an editor. This responsibility fell primarily on the part of the Bouchercon Chairs, with input from the volunteer committee.

Step 4: Defining the guidelines and timeline. We were open to submissions from November 2016 through January 30, 2017. Here’s the fine print:

  • The story must include travel and at least a strong suggestion of murder or a plot to commit  murder
  • Story length: a maximum of 5,000 words
  • Electronic submissions only
  • Formatting requirements:
    • .DOC format, preferably double-spaced
    • Times New Roman or similar font (12 point)
    • Paragraph indent 0.5 inch (or 1.25 cm). Do not use tabs or space bar to create the indents
    • Include story title and page number in document header
  • Maximum of one entry per author
  • Open to writers who have been previously published, in any format, and those who have never been published
  • The story itself must not have been previously published in ANY format, electronic or print.
  • Please remove your name or any identifying marks from your story. Any story that can be associated with the author will either be returned for correction (if there is time) or disqualified.

Step 5: Set up an Excel spreadsheet to log all submissions. Author name, email, story title, story/batch number, date received, date to judges.

Step 6: Each story received was stripped of any identifying marks (yes, about 50% of authors left them in under “Properties.”) Log the story, author information (from entry form), and rename the stories, i.e. Batch 1, Story 1 would be B1-S1, and so on. Batches of eight stories were sent to the judges. Each story submission was acknowledged within a day of receipt.

Step 7: In all, there were 116 submissions, of which approximately half came in on the last two days. About a dozen came in during the last hour. Three came in after 11:55 but before 11:59 p.m. This surprised me (and the judges). It also served as a reminder to me: Don’t be so last minute! It’s just plain annoying and you run the risk of something going wrong (i.e. internet problems) and missing the cutoff. The latter “almost” happened to one author, who managed to squeeze in at 11:59 p.m. with a panicky email saying their internet had been down all evening. If it had been the next day, it would have been too late. (The dog ate my homework comes to mind as an excuse).

Step 8: The judges did their thing, reading and rating each story as the batches arrived. I did not read any of the stories. Two stories were disqualified for having known characters. One story, judged “the best” by all three judges, was rejected because it did not meet the travel criteria. It was my unhappy task to inform those authors of the decision. One story came in at 4,015 words. Since it was not a last minute submission, I returned it to the author, who managed to get it to 3,999 words. But had it been last minute, it would have been DQ’d.

Step 9: After the judges culled the list down to 24 stories, I submitted them, and their comments, to the editor,  John McFetridge. John pared the list down to 18.

Step 1o: Draft a rejection and acceptance letter, and send them out. It was more than a bit humbling to send myself a rejection letter, but the competition was fierce, and I know a lot of great stories from some very well-known authors didn’t make it in. I’m going to revisit that story, hopefully make it stronger, and find a new home for it.

What’s Step 11? Not sure…yet…but one thing is certain. My work on the anthology is not yet done. To see the list of authors who did make the cut, visit the website. Kudos to all who made it. It’s quite an accomplishment.

To register for Bouchercon, or find out more about it, visit the Bouchercon website