Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bouchercon Follow-up and RIP

By Karen McCullough

Me (far right) with my fellow Bouchercon panelists – from left, seated, Kaitlyn Dunnet, Leslie Budewitz, Laura diSilverio and our moderator (standing) Catriona McPherson.

Many months I struggle to come up with a topic for my scheduled blog post here, but this time I’ve got two things I wanted to talk about.

Since I posted about how much I dreaded Bouchercon last month, I thought I should follow up. The con went just about as I expected, with a lot of good stuff and a few irritating things.  The good was mostly people I met or re-connected with there. I had several really enjoyable lunches and dinners with other author friends.

The panels were uniformly good. It was interesting, though, to be at a reader-focused convention after having been to so many writer/author ones. There were no how-to panels about writing dialogue or creating query letters, etc. These were all focused on more general topics, like “Setting Mysteries in the Past” or my panel, “The Comfort of Mystery in a Random World.” The topics are set up to give the author panelists ways to talk about their own books in an interesting way. And the moderators were good at keeping things on topic, making sure everyone got equal exposure, and asking excellent questions.

As always, I found it a bit overwhelming and did have to retreat occasionally for some refresh time, but not as much as I expected. There was so much variety and so much going on that it kept me hopping and I still couldn’t get to everything I wanted to. That said, I skipped several evening things to go back to my room instead. By the end of dinner I was normally pretty brain-dead. The only evening thing I did was a Death by Chocolate party sponsored by the Southeast chapter of MWA. As a past president, I was helping to host that so I needed to be there.

There were a few frustrating SNAFUs, but in such a huge undertaking, I would expect it. Unfortunately my books didn’t make it out on the dealer’s table for my signing…sigh. Since I likely wouldn’t have sold more than one or two, I just smiled and signed programs.

I surprised myself by not completely collapsing and being out of it for several days afterward. In fact Monday morning I was in the office and ready to get back to work. Not sure why.

Will I do it again? Not likely. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I have to consider it from the business angle, and viewed that way, it just doesn’t make sense. If I had a somewhat higher profile and some fan base, maybe it would, just for the exposure. Possibly even if I had a book that was just released. Being there did give me some publicity, certainly, but as a very small fish in a very large pond, it wasn’t nearly enough to justify the considerable cost.

And now for the second, more somber thing I wanted to talk about.

The writing world lost two amazing people in the past few weeks. 

Author Joyce Lavene was half of the writing couple of Jim and Joyce Lavene, who’ve written something like forty cozy mysteries in the past twelve years. I didn’t know Joyce well, but I enjoyed her company at the Cape Fear Crime Festival a few years ago, and she and Jim were co-presidents of my local Sisters-in-Crime chapter. She died way too young, after a brief illness. She’ll be missed.

The other person who died recently is super-reviewer Harriet Klausner. She was a controversial figure, but I found her wonderfully supportive, and she did something for me that gave my career a big boost. When Dreams Unlimited, the epublisher that first brought out my two romantic fantasy novels (Witch’s Journey and Wizard’s Bridge), closed its doors, Harriet, who had read my books and given them nice reviews (if she reviewed a book, it was a good review, of course), told the owner of ImaJinn Books (which is now a part of Belle Bridge Books since the owner died a few years ago) that she had a great opportunity to pick up my books and reprint them. The owner respected Harriet’s opinion and offered contracts for both books. It gave me a huge boost at a time when I really needed it!

Rest in peace, Joyce and Harriet. You’ve both made a mark on the world and your passing leaves a hole.


  1. I generally do not like signing at conferences. Like you my fan base isn't large and I sell very few. Still I get good info from the workshops

    I do had books reviewed by Harriet. She was firm but fair. A great loss to the industry

  2. Interesting take, Karen. My experience with conferences is pretty much like yours. I do enjoy meeting new people, but am thrilled when I see a familiar face - and I come home pretty much wiped out.

  3. Thanks for the comments, Kathye and Sandy. It makes me wonder why we inflict these things on ourselves... Something to ponder on. Maybe another blog post topic here.

  4. Hi Karen--
    Thank you for your post, and sorry to hear about the passing of wonderful people whom shared our passion for good stories.