My Life As A Con Man

For several years now, Bouchercon (The Annual World Mystery Convention) has been a nice way to track the progress of my writing career. At my first conference in Toronto, I was fresh off of being shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger and I had just started publishing storied in the online zines. By last year, I was on a panel and signed copies of several anthologies I contributed to. I was also known as a blogger and the editor and publisher of Demolition. But it’s also become an increasingly interesting place to track the progress of my personal life. At my first conference, I was living alone in a rooming house in Ann Arbor and by last year I was married with my first child. This year I had a second child tagging along. Interesting indeed.

As happy as I was to have my whole family there with me, it turned out to be a less than inspired decision. The original plan was for me to go by myself, but the day before I was supposed to leave, I felt guilty for leaving my new little family and wife alone while I went off to have fun. So I managed to talk my wife into thinking it would be a fun little family vacation. And for a majority of the trip it was. We wandered the wonderful mall, ate at the food court, and dined at the Hard Rock Café. But the days bookending it were kind of a mess.

We ended up leaving late Thursday night and by the time we rolled into Indianapolis around 4am, Spenser decided he’d had enough sleep and wasn’t too inclined to go back to sleep. So nobody slept well that night. And then, by late Saturday night, he had a nasty cough and a fever, so we packed up everything and left around 3am. Well, at first it was just Becky packing up and Spenser running around in his diaper and I’m half convinced that if I wouldn’t have woken up they would have left me there.

Like I said though, for most of the time I was happy to have them there with me, but was it really necessary for me to even be there myself? I definitely think so. This business, more than anything else, is about advocates. For any writer to break through the crowd they need to get people on their side pushing for them. Agents who will talk them up, editors who will move their submission to the top of the pile, and authors who will write blurbs and make recommendations to editors and agents, and booksellers who will handsell the book and readers who will seek out the book. And there’s only one place to come into contact with all of those people at once, these conventions. So over conversations about blues music, cat clothes, baseball, and any number of other topics not related to publishing I cultivated advocates for me an my novel. Every good thing that’s happened to me in my writing career so far can be traced back to a conversation or a meeting at a Bouchercon.

So now I’m done with the latest book for a time being, and there’s a couple of things I want to work on. One is right here, reactivating this blog. I’ve missed it, missed working through issues in my life and exposing the minutia of my life to mass consumption. I’m also going to work on short stories which is something I haven’t done in more than a year. I have one dark story I want to write that I think will be a nice way to get my name back out on the zine scene, and then another, more mainstream crime story, I’d like to submit to Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Magazines.

I don’t have the brain capacity for a proper conclusion with witty commentary and larger social links to my life, so I’ll close with a shout out to those who have made my prior conference experiences such a treat, but that weren’t able to come this year: Sarah Weinman, Jennifer Jordan, Dave White, and John Rickards (who damn well better get over here soon).