I attended Bouchercon, the world mystery convention, earlier in October. This year it was held in Raleigh, NC, a city I'd never visited before. A friend of mine, and a very generous one at that, Mark Van Name (be sure to check out his Jon & Lobo series, published by Baen Books), allowed me to stay at his home while I was in town.
The trip to North Carolina was really two trips in one: the convention/writing and friends/food/entertainment.
Bouchercon: This was my first time attending Bouchercon, and I have to say, I really enjoyed myself. I met so many wonderful writers and fans of crime fiction. I was on an early morning panel (8:30am), but unlike other conventions I've attended, people were up and about and filled the room! The panel was Lone Wolves & Loose Cannons in Crime Fiction. The other panelists were gracious and friendly and well-read.
An aspect of Bouchercon that I think other conventions might try is the schedule and signing after each panel. My panel was at 8:30am and ran until around 9:20am. Just outside the room there was a table setup for the authors on the panel to sign books and chat with fans until the next panel began (which wasn't until 10:00am). This was a lot of fun. I signed a copy of an anthology I have a story in, an iPad cover, and a bunch of Bouchercon programs which had my photo and bio inside. I enjoyed chatting with people after the panel, and even though we were signing and chatting, we had plenty of time to make it to the next panel at 10:00am.
There was a great bar at one of the convention hotels (which were next door to each other and easily accessible) and I spent a fair amount of time there (and even chatted and had a few beers with Tim Akers (a great guy and wonderful fantasy writer, and oh yes, pre-order his book that is coming out in January 2016 -- The Pagan Night) who was attending with his father who writes mysteries). The attendees were friendly, and more than one author and agent strolled up, introduced themselves, and joined us for drinks.
I'm looking forward to attending future Bourchercons, since this one was run so well and everyone I met was friendly.
Friends & Food
I already mentioned Tim Akers, but another friend, Mark Van Name graciously put me up at his house. I got to meet his family and circle of friends, and went out to a few nice dinners and a couple of great lunches.
If you're ever in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area of North Carolina, I highly recommend the following restaurants:
[one] -- this restaurant was amazing. The executive chefs have worked in some of the best restaurants in the world--The French Laundry and Alinea to name just two. The tasting menu (which they created just for our group on short notice) was delicious and varied. The presentation was creative and the choreography of the wait staff delighted. If you go to just one restaurant in that area, make it [one].
Panciutto -- this restaurant featured locally harvested food and generous portions. The restaurant itself had a rustic vibe, which suited the menu. The crafted cocktails and food I ordered were delicious. The food, combined with the atmosphere, and the company (about 8 of us) made the evening a delight.
lucettegrace -- this was a wonderful surprise, and so close to the convention in Raleigh. The lunch items were simple, but so delicious (try the Traditional French Ham Sandwich--a house made baguette, soft butter, naturally cured ham, and Parrano Cheese), and we ordered a bunch of pastries (all rich and delicious) and later, we shared a selection of macarons. If I had closed my eyes, I would have sworn I was in Paris, relaxing at a left bank patisserie.
One more thing...
Two weeks after I returned to Colorado I was browsing the mystery section of a bookstore and was approached by an older gentleman, who asked, "this may be a stupid question, but, are you the law enforcement guy who writes mysteries." I had no idea how this man knew me or recognized me, and I must have had a puzzled look on my face, so he added, "I recognized you by the hat and the way you wear the hat, tilted like you're wearing it now." He then told me he had attended the Lone Wolves panel at Bouchercon and had enjoyed the panel. Looks as if I'm doomed to wearing hats and attiring myself a certain way. Oh, darn.