Friday, September 28, 2018

Bouchercon 2018: Saturday's and Sunday's Panels

8:00 (Yes, that’s 8:00 AM. This is what I get for drinking with Joe Clifford Friday night and him telling me not to come to an 8:00 panel. I showed him.) Drawing Inspiration From Our Kids (Bonus panel not in the program)
Joe Clifford (M), Emily Carpenter. Mason Cross, Shannon Kirk, Tom Pitts, LynDee Walker

Mason Cross: I like all my kids individually, but as a group…

Tom Pitts: Tucks his kids in with, “Good night, sleep tight, and don’t let the bedbugs crawl in your ears and lay eggs.” (To which Joe Clifford added, “There’s a bucket in the back for donations to help pay for the kids’ therapy.”)

Clifford: The days are long, but the years are short. (Didn’t take credit for it, but he did say it and I liked it.)

Cross’s daughter has a year-end evaluation where the child gets a chance to comment the school and teacher. His daughter’s contribution: Don’t use collective punishment, as it’s not fair to those who did nothing wrong and is illegal under the 1948 Geneva Convention.

Emily Carpenter: It’s better to let kids read beyond their comprehension than it is to let them see the same thing in a movie or on TV, as they’ll only imagine what they can at that age.

Pitts’s earliest reading experiences were reading the novels related to movies he wasn’t allowed to see.

8:30 Authors on the Air
Pam Stack did two series of short interviews on Saturday. She had to scramble to get all the people in she wanted—hell, she even got me in, which shows how far she was willing to stoop—but two stories stood out, both by Reed Farrel Coleman. When someone asked him how to become a best-selling author, he said, “Wait for a famous author to die, then take over the series.”

Once he was talking to Lawrence Block about that and Coleman mentioned he was probably better suited to writing Matt Scudder novels than Jesse Stone. Block took his own pulse and said, “Not yet, you’re not.”

(Reed was on a roll Saturday. Later he said, “Love writing, not what you’ve written.”)

9:00 It Takes a Village to Publish a Book—Behind the Scenes
Clair Lamb (M), Terri Bischoff, Mary Harris, Maddee James, Bryon Quertermous, Lance Wright
I know I missed good stuff here, as I got to the panel late after making an appearance at the Authors on the Air gig.

Maddee James and Bryon Quertermous agree that the more thought you devote up front the easier and quicker the setting up of your web site will be. (Editor’s Note: Full disclosure: Madee James built the web site you’re reading this on. Not only is she absolutely right with this comment, she gives you all the help you’ll need to think of the things you’d never think of on your own.)

Mary Harris (editor) asks for half of her fee up front then half when the client is happy. She’ll also take payments.

Quertermous: When agreeing on how the editor or web designer will get paid, take into consideration how the author will get paid. There are trade-offs for an author. When working with a traditional publisher, you get paid slower but have no up-front costs.

Quertermous: It’s not bad to use an editor who freelances while working a day job for a publisher. Lots of people do it, but the author must remember it doesn’t guarantee publication unless the editor is working under the auspices of the publisher.

Harris uses Word and Track Changes and will give the author a tutorial if necessary. (Editor’s Note: If in doubt, this is definitely the way to go.)

Quertermous: If an agent or a publisher asks for an exclusive, put them on the clock.

11:00 Abracadabra—Turning True Crime into Fiction
Reed Farrel Coleman (M), Peter Blauner, Julia Dahl, Hank Phillippi Ryan, R.G. Belsky

Reed Farrel Coleman started by doing something I wish more moderators did: gave the audiences a chance to ask questions as the panel went along, but established ground rules for the questions: 1) no thesis statements; 2) do not begin with “In my book.” 3) get to the point. These rules were enforced and everyone was better off for it.

Peter Blauner once called Coleman before writing a Long Island story to make sure Reed didn’t want it for himself.

Julia Dahl: Hasidic Jews in New York have their own shadow government, including a “police force.” They are strongly encouraged to keep everything inside the community.

Hank Phillippi Ryan had a deal to write a book about the Casey Anthony story and had it almost done for a quick turnaround as the trial was ending. The whole deal fell through when Anthony was acquitted, as “No one wants to read about innocent people.”

R.G. Belsky likes to show how covering stories affects the journalist, prompting Coleman to remember Joseph Wambaugh’s famous line, “It’s not how the detective works the case, it’s how the case works the detective.”

Dahl on the reasons to write a novel instead of an article: As a reporter you can only tell the truth as related by others. A novelist can put herself on the actual scene.

Blauner is not a “ripped from the headlines” guy. He prefers the story on page 7 that creates an emotional attachment in him. He finds people are more honest when talking to a fiction writer because they know they’re not going to turn up in the paper or on television.

Coleman: If you want the facts, read non-fiction. If you want the truth, read fiction.

Belsky wrote a piece about a Kennedy funeral from the perspective of the guy who dug the grave.

Ryan: You might not be able to get inside the crime scene tape, but you might be able to talk a neighbor into letting you look out of an overlooking window.

Blauner: Research can turn into a very sophisticated form of procrastination.

(Not to put anyone else down, but this was my favorite panel this year.)

12:00 Walking a High Wire Without a Net—Creating Tension in Thrillers
Brad Parks (M), Jason Backlund, Simon Gervais, John Gilstrap, Taylor Stevens, James Swain

(Editor’s Note: My new writing fantasy is to have Brad Parks introduce me at a panel. Hilarious.)

Brad Parks: A mystery is about solving a crime. A thriller is about thwarting one.

John Gilstrap: Keep questions unanswered as long as possible. End chapters so they lead into the next.

Simon Gervais: Each sub-plot should have its own layers of tension.

Jason Backlund: Keep pulling on separate threads.

James Swain: Stay ahead of the audience.

Gilstrap: Several books into his series he killed off a recurring character so his regular readers wouldn’t get too comfortable with the idea that everyone will live.

Parks (citing some guy named Lee Child): Write the fast scenes slow and the slow scenes fast.

Gilstrap: Tension can be created when nothing happens. Mundane things that proceed in an unanticipated manner can do it. He told the story of a routine ordnance disposition where the pile of explosives didn’t blow up until fifteen minutes after they triggered the initiator.

Swain: If a pre-reader gives you a suggestion, at least try it.

3:00 Southern Fiction (Another bonus panel)
Eryk Pruitt (M), Ace Adkins, Shawn Cosby, Steph Post, Alex Segura

Shawn Cosby: Why is the onus on the black community to keep track of genealogy? Why does anyone need to keep track of it?

Ace Adkins is an Alabama native who lives in Mississippi and sometimes trips up interviewers when he mentions his ancestors fought in the Civil War—for the Union.

Eryk Pruitt: The South ends in Dallas and the West begins in Fort Worth. To him there is no boundary between east Texas and western Louisiana.

Adkins: Even as deep in the south as Oxford MS, pre-Civil War shopkeepers were likely immigrants speaking foreign languages.

4:00 The Building Blocks of Crime Fiction
Jill Block (M), Peter Blauner, Lawrence Block, Robert Olen Butler, Philip Friedman, Laura Lippman,

Laura Lippman likes to take other novels and move the story in different directions.

Robert Olen Butler quoted Graham Greene: All good novelists have bad memories. What you remember comes out as journalism; what you forget goes into the compost of the imagination.

Butler also said fiction comes from the same place as dreams do. Not as dreams, but from the same place.

Lippman: To lose the sense of fun when writing is death.

8:00 (Yes. Eight in the morning again! Damn you, Jeff Hess, for being such a good guy!)
Attenhut!—GIs Who Write
Ross Carley (M), Jack Carr, Jeffery Hess, Ward Larsen, Paul Sinor, Jeff Wilson

Paul Sinor described the difference between a war story and a fairy tale. The fairy tale begins “Once upon a time.” The war story opens with, “This ain’t no shit.”

Sinor: Military humility is often enabled by a morbid sense of humor.

Jeffery Hess encouraged people to let their kids read above their levels, to “read up.” (This in response to a question from a woman sitting directly behind me, who then said loud enough for most to hear, “So long as the language isn’t too bad.” In a perfect world someone that ignorant wouldn’t get to ask questions. I hope she home schools, otherwise what the fuck does she think the kids hear—and say—in school?)

9:00 Agents in Charge—Writing Federal Agents
Tim O’Mara (M), Christine Carbo, Matthew Clemens, Jim Doherty, J.J. Hensley, Mark Pryor
(Tim O’Mara is a retired teacher who subscribes to the Reed Farrel Coleman School of Panel Moderation.)

Jim Doherty: Relations between local and state or federal agencies aren’t usually as contentious as books and movies make them out to be. Even when they are there are back channels people on both sides can work. (That said, LAPD and the FBI do not get along. Must be left over from Die Hard.)

J.J. Hensley: Locals are often glad to give a case up to the feds, especially one they can’t handle of have no interest in, such as counterfeiting.

Matthew Clemens: Friction can arise when there are competing interests. Gave the example of a situation where it was decided to prosecute a kid who had prior knowledge of a potential school shooting and the kid turned out to be the son of a tribal leader.

Christine Carbo: Small and isolated police departments in Montana have a very laissez-faire relationship with the feds, who come and go pretty much as they please. The FBI wants good relationships with the locals. They’re there all the time.

Mark Pryor: FBI profilers will not get involved if you already have a suspect. They only deal with UNSUBS. Individual agents may provide opinions individually and off the record.

Clemens: Investigators need to go to social media immediately on a major crime because the media will and they don’t want to see evidence on CNN before they get it.

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And there you have it. I’ll have a couple more posts over the next few weeks to go over highlights that weren’t panels, as they deserve more attention than can be given in a post such as this.

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