Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Tale of Several Cities by Cathy Ace



Tell us which conferences are your favorites and why you like to attend them.

There are different types of conferences in “our world” of crime writing: there are the conferences devoted to the craft of writing where authors pay to attend and have the chance to listen to those who write and teach writing; there are “festivals” where authors are invited to attend, are paid to do so, and tickets are sold so that (generally) readers and fans have the chance to listen to authors speak on panels or in interviews; then there are “conferences/conventions” where authors and readers/fans sign up and pay to attend, the authors are arranged into panels where their audience comprises readers and other authors, and there are many chances for socializing and mingling.

I’ll take the chance to consider this third type of “get together”, because it’s what I’ve attended most of to date.

So far I’ve attended Bloody Words (now defunct…nothing to do with my appearance there, I don’t think!), Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic. I’ll be attending CrimeFest in the UK for the first time this year. Each is different and all have their plus-points, so being asked to choose a favourite is like being asked to choose a favourite child. I’ll therefore (wimp that I am), give that part of the question a miss and focus on each in turn (this might help readers of this blog who are considering attending a conference and need some insights).

With Sue Grafton at Bouchercon
Bouchercon is the biggest annual international convention focusing on crime fiction, and non-fiction. It moves to a different venue each year and, while it’s usually held within the last three months of the year, the exact dates vary. Because it’s the biggest (around a couple of thousand delegates sometimes) it can feel overwhelming (the first ever conference I attended was a Bouchercon and I certainly felt a bit nonplussed at first). However, because it’s so big it gives authors of many different types of sub-genres the chance to meet each other, their readers, and new potential readers. From cozy to noir, historical to espionage, YA to forensic (if you can imagine those as being on any sort of spectrum) authors and fans are represented, so it’s a wonderful melting pot for all things criminal. I met people at that first Bouchercon who have become friends I now keep in touch with on an ongoing basis, learn from as I read and admire their work…and I had the chance to become a complete fangirl when I met many of the Big Names whose work has given me joy over decades – Sue Grafton and Katherine Hall Page to name just two. Here’s a link to the website: http://www.bouchercon.info/

With Louise Penny
Malice Domestic is the annual conference that focuses on traditional and cozy mysteries. To the uninitiated, it might come as a surprise to realize how far the word “cozy” goes: Hank Phillippi Ryan, Louise Penny, Charles Todd and Catriona McPherson – all of whom write books that deviate from the expected “here’s a cat solving a mystery in a cheese shop” idea of “cozy” – are among the attendees (and award winners) who write compelling, thrilling, procedural and even dark works where a crime is at the heart of the story, and the recesses of the human condition and character are investigated. It’s always held in Bethesda, Maryland over the last weekend in April and has a few hundred attendees – both authors and readers. It’s a blast for those of us who believe suspense and satisfaction can be delivered without the need for acronyms, global maniacs, umpteen explosions or car chases – and that we can weave a tale that engages and holds the attention of readers without resorting to gore or strong language on the page. I’ve attended a few Malice Domestic conferences, and am looking forward to the next one at the end of this month. I’ll get to renew friendships, learn from my peers, and mix with authors whose work is, for me, the epitome of skillful plotting, character-building and storytelling. This year I also get to moderate a panel there for the first time – something I’m honoured (and a bit nervous) to do…it’s a big responsibility to ensure the authors on the panel have their chance to shine. Here’s the website: http://malicedomestic.org/

With Catriona McPherson at LCC
Left Coast Crime is, for me, a great balance: its focus is any sort of crime fiction/non-fiction but with a slant toward the West Coast of the USA and Canada. Around five hundred authors and readers attend, and it’s held in different venues in the “Left Coast Crime” region at slightly different times of the year (usually February/March). Authors who either live in the region or set their work there (the location on the temperate West Coast attracts many from the chillier East) enjoy the relatively relaxed atmosphere, and there’s a lot of mingling with readers and fans. I’ve attended a few of these and have also planned my time to be able to indulge in “side-trips” (this year it was held in Phoenix, AZ, so I took the chance to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West – next year it’s in Honolulu so I dare say a bit of time on Waikiki Beach will be called for!). Because it’s a multi-genre conference the mix of readers and authors is similar to Bouchercon, but on a smaller scale. Even so, with four or five tracks of panels running for the whole conference there’s no shortage of places to be, and people to meet. Here’s a link to the site: http://leftcoastcrime.org/

I don’t know what to expect of CrimeFest. Because I have a UK publisher for my WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (which are set in Wales) I felt I should find out more about UK authors and readers, and attending CrimeFest seems to be a good way to do it. I’m thrilled that the two panels I’ve been selected to appear on will have me sitting down with, in one case, James Runcie the author of the books featuring Sidney Chambers upon which the TV series Grantchester is based, and, on another, with Felix Francis, who has taken up the reins of his father’s hugely successful domination of books set in the world of horse racing. It’s also got an international slant that veers toward the European and I know I’ll get to meet Icelandic, Scandinavian and French etc. authors as well as others from the UK (Ian Rankin included – WOOT!). It should be exciting! Here’s a link: http://www.crimefest.com/

Cathy Ace writes the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (book #2 THE CASE OF THE MISSING MORRIS DANCER was published in hardback in February, and book #1 THE CASE OF THE DOTTY DOWAGER was published in trade paperback on March 1st) and the Cait Morgan Mysteries (book #7 THE CORPSE WITH THE GARNET FACE was published in paperback in April). Find out more about Cathy and her work, and sign up for her newsletter at http://cathyace.com/ 

18 comments:

Alan Orloff said...

I'll see you at Malice, Cathy! And I'm sure you'll do a bang-up job as a moderator, too! Just speak softly and carry a big stick.

Kristopher said...

A great rundown of the different conferences and thee distinct feel (and appeal) of each.

Looking forward to seeing you at both Malice and Bouchercon. One of these days I will get over for some of the UK conferences as well.

Cathy Ace said...

Looking forward to seeing you at Malice, Alan. Thanks for the encouragement about moderating - I can manage the big stick, but as for speaking softly....now that might be more of a challenge! :-)

Cathy Ace said...

Thanks for that, Kristopher - expecting hugs at both Malice and Bouchercon (you have been warned!) and I promise to let you know how the UK conference goes :-)

Kristina Stanley said...

Thanks for the info about different conferences. You look like you had a great time. The other authors are lucky to meet you!

Cathy Ace said...

Trust me, Kristina - I know how lucky I am to get to attend these wonderful gatherings...and I know we all enjoy meeting each other :-)

Marion Crook said...

That was informative, Cathy. Thanks. I'm attending Bouchercon in New Orleans and I'll see how that goes.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Marion - I'm glad you found it useful. I'll be at Bouchercon too - and look forward to seeing you there :-)

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

I'm attending Malice for the first time this year. Thanks for your intro to that. But you had me at Sue Grafton!

Merrill Young said...

Great blog, Cathy. Lucky you, going to Crimefest. You will do a brilliant job moderating. I, too,
am looking forward to LCC in Hawaii next year.

Susan C Shea said...

See you at Malice! Saw you at LCC! Will share a beach towel with you next year...

RM Greenaway said...

Exciting! And full-time. How do you get time to write? And how did it feel to be hugged by Louise Penny??

Cathy Ace said...

Hello Judy - I look forward to seeing you at Malice...I'll be stalking the stars there once again! :-)

Cathy Ace said...

Hello Merrill - glad you liked the blog :-) Thanks. Yes, CrimeFest, very exciting...though I don't think Bristol can rival Oahu! See you on the beach.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Susan - yes, see you at Malice, and will see you at LCC Honolulu....WOOT!

Cathy Ace said...

Hello RM! Being hugged by Louise Penny was delightful - "we look like a totem" she said. Such a lovely person - gracious and sharp, as one would imagine. :-)

Cathy Ace said...

Oh, and RM....writing? Hmmm...yes, it's a bit of a balancing act. Late night writing seems to be the only way for me.

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