Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Bouchercon - Day 1 (Thursday)

Another Bouchercon - my third - is in the books. This year's event was held in New Orleans, which is my new favorite place on the face of the earth. If someone could have just shipped Sophie to me, I could have just moved into that hotel room permanently. I didn't even mind the god-awful humidity. It feels weird to know that I've already been home for three weeks. Mentally and emotionally I'm still back in Louisiana. Get this girl some gator bites.

One of the great things about this year's Bouchercon was that instead of packing the book bags with random books as they've done in the past, everyone got to pick six books from the "book bazaar", many of which were from authors who were appearing on panels. It was hard to pick just six, there were so many good ones available. But good idea, not to mention it probably saved the volunteers tons of time not having to pack the bags.

Here are my Thursday panels:

Hank to Hendrix: Beyond Chandler and Hammett
Peter Rozovsky (moderator), Martin Edwards, Gary Phillipe, Eric Beetner, Rick Ollerman

The panel was asked to discuss writers who are not as well-remembered as say, Chandler and Hammett, but who in their opinions should be. Here are their picks and reading recommendations:

Beetner: William P. McGivern - An Edgar Award winning author whose novels were turned into great noir films, including The Big Heat with Glenn Ford. Later, McGivern wrote for TV shows including Adam-12 and Kojak. Also recommended: Shield for Murder, Odds Against Tomorrow.

Edwards: Michael Gilbert - A prolific British author of crime and spy novels, as well as numerous short stories. He was a lawyer and did a lot of his writing on his commutes to and from work. Ironically, Raymond Chandler was once a client of his. Recommended: Smallbone Deceased, Death in Captivity.

Ollerman: Peter Rabe - Fled Nazi Germany and landed in the United States as a teen. In addition to his crime novels, he also wrote a couple episodes of Batman. He was once misdiagnosed with terminal cancer (he was accidentally given another patient's diagnosis). His take on noir: "You start out screwed, you end up screwder." Recommended: Kill the Boss Goodbye, The Silent Wall.

Phillips: Clarence Cooper, Jr. - An African American author whose stories revolved around Black American life at the time, especially in regards to  violence, drugs and jail, the last two of which Cooper was well acquainted with. He started out as a newspaper editor, but his heroin addiction landed him in prison, where some of his books were written. Unable to get a handle on his drug problem, he died in his mid-forties, destitute and strung out. Recommended: The Scene, The Farm.

Guest of Honor Harlan Coben interviewed by Michael Connelly

Connelly interviewed Coben in front of a packed house. Coben is the author of thirty novels, plus he is also the creator of a British series called The Five. His bestseller Fool Me Once is in development with Julia Roberts attached, with Coben writing the script. Some other things discussed:
  • Personal loss is influential in his writing due to his own experiences. By age 32 he had done seven eulogies, including his parents and a three-year-old niece.
  • He doesn't outline. 
  • He doesn't write for the market and doesn't recommend it.
  • On what he is going to do next: "I'm gonna write a book."

One More Time: Character on the Screen
Lee Goldberg (moderator), Nina Sadowsky, Burt Weissbourd, David Morrell, Alexandra Sokoloff, Phoef Sutton

Goldberg has been at almost every book event I've attended the past few years, and he's always entertaining. In fact, I just saw him at Writers' Police Academy in August. Despite the title of the panel, they discussed adaptation more than seeing their characters brought to life.
  • Panelists offered best adaptions in their opinion (movies at least - if not better - than the books): Jaws, Terms of Endearment (six separate characters in the book were combined into the one played by Jack Nicholson), Silence of the Lambs, The Godfather, The French Connection, Psycho.
  • Sokoloff: Find 6 to 8 things that are key to the story and keep those. Think of scenes that a reader would expect to see in the movie trailer. Sutton: Find the main set pieces.
  • Sadowsky: The more successful the book, the less you can change in the adaptation because of reader/audience expectations - she gave the Harry Potter books as an example.
  • Morrell, the author of First Blood, talked about how his book became a series of movies that took on a life of their own. First Blood - which has never been out of print - introduced the character of Rambo, who would later be played by Sylvester Stallone, and Morrell talked about how the tone of his story was changed quite a bit in the process of being adapted for the big screen (not to mention that Rambo dies in the novel, which didn't go over well with test audiences).
  • Goldberg related the story of meeting with a studio executive to discuss his book The Walk. The main character in The Walk is a male TV executive who has to walk from Downtown Los Angeles to his home in the San Fernando Valley after a major earthquake. The executive wanted to change the main character to six midwestern cheerleaders and the quake (too cliche) to a flood. Goldberg passed.

Can't You Hear Me Knocking: Social Media and Promotion
Sarah Williams (moderator), Cara Brookins, Tess Collins, Jennifer Kincholoe, Maddee James

How to navigate the internet, social media and self-promotion as an author was the focus of this panel. Some of the advice:
  • Don't depend on social media sites to manage your readership. Direct traffic to your website - you own your mail list. Your website should be the hub of your online presence. 
  • Run your online presence like you're running for President.
  • Think about interaction and community, not just your sales pitch. 
  • When responding online, make it count. No "LOL", "Thanks" or "Heh".
  • Publishers will take notice of how many followers you have.
  • Pay for a professional profile photo, logo and website design.

Dead Man's Party: The Realities of Death Scene Investigation
Ayo Onotade (moderator), Jan Burke, Alistair Kimble, DP Lyle

  • Burke, in addition to being an author, is also the founder of The Crime Lab Project, which is trying to bring awareness to the fact that most crime labs aren't well-outfitted like the ones you see on TV. A lot of them are underfunded and backlogged (especially in terms of DNA samples waiting to be tested for rape and murder cases) and The Crime Lab Project is working to correct that. D.P. Lyle, who I blogged about here (and whose expertise I called on again when editing my LAst Resort story) is also involved. Burke and Lyle also do the highly regarded Crime & Science Radio Show podcast
  • Lyle and Kimble (who is an FBI Special Agent) joked about the "CSI Effect", the phenomenon of the public believing that crime scene investigation, crime labs and other aspects of crime investigation are what they see on TV. It becomes a problem when viewers end up on juries and wonder why real-life doesn't imitate art.
  • Kimble's FBI forensics team worked the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting. Their crime scene was covered with popcorn along with brain matter, and inside the theater it was hard to tell the difference. As a result, a number of people on the team can no longer bring themselves to eat popcorn.
  • Burke: DNA is a great tool. A sample the size of a dot from a pen on a piece of paper is sufficient to test. 
  • Kimble was asked how his bosses at the FBI feel about his writing fiction. The FBI requires its employees to get permission to take on any additional employment and don't usually give it, but because he can write on his own time he gets a pass. They do review all his manuscripts. He joked that the FBI's 3-day turnaround on his work is faster than most editors.
  • Lyle on being the difficulty of being writer: "After sixteen books, there's still that 50,000 word panic, like you don't know what you're doing, you're a fraud, this is horrible, why are you doing this, go kill yourself. Happens every time."

It was a long day - Friday was a bit more sane and is up next.

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