Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bouchercon - Day 3 (Saturday)

Missed a couple of early panels because I went to brunch with Mom and The Brother (it was his last day in NOLA) at the Palace Cafe. Still got in four panels.

I also got to meet my LAst Resort editor Matt Coyle and see him on a panel. We'd talked on the phone and via email while editing my story, but it was the first time I met him face to face.

Look Through Any Window: Hollywood
Holly West (moderator), Renee Patrick (aka husband and wife writing team Rosemarie Keenan and Vince Keenan), Melodie Johnson Howe, Diana Chambers, Kathryn Leigh Scott

Hollywood is always an intriguing location and this panel featured writers whose stories are set in Tinseltown.
  • The Keenans write a series featuring legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head involved in crime-solving along with an amateur sleuth they created. Their pitch: "Edith Head, detective". Vince is the Managing Editor of Noir City, the e-magazine of the Film Noir Foundation. Rosemarie came up with the idea, Vince liked it, and they were off.
  • Scott, an actress who got her start on the 1960's series Dark Shadows, writes about an fictional actress who plays an amateur sleuth on TV and it carries over into her real life. As the character's fame fades, she ends up living out of her car, which she refers to as the "Ritz Volvo".
  • Vince Keenan: Despite being a native New Yorker, he believes that L.A is the ultimate noir town. When you screw up in L.A. there's nowhere else to go.
Their noir influences:
  • Howe: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Vera Caspary.
  • Chambers: Casablanca, filmmakers who fled Nazi Germany for the U.S.
  • Scott: Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers.

Doin' What Comes Naturally: Believable Characters
Meg Gardiner (moderator), Matt Coyle, Diane Vallere, Erik Storey, Marty Wingate

Writing characters who do jobs you have (or haven't) done:
  • Wingate: Avid gardener, has gone to England to research their gardens. Her stories are set in Seattle, where the weather is similar to England's.
  • Coyle: First novel was set in a restaurant - he's a former restaurant manager.
  • Vallere: Her books are set in the fashion industry - she's a former fashion buyer.
Challenging their characters:
  • Storey: Trial by fire.
  • Coyle: Make them do something they don't want to do.
  • Vallere: Find the emotional thread.
Making larger than life characters believable:
  • Storey: Give them a flaw. And have them fail once in a while - it's boring if they're perfect all the time.
  • Wingate: Trip them up. And give them a vested interest in the victim.
  • Coyle: Doesn't think of his character, Rick Cahill, as larger than life, but he has to do huge things.
Heroes vs. Villains:
  • Storey: Both should feel real.
  • Coyle: Villains often get short shrift. The villain thinks he's the hero, and needs to have a motive for his actions.
What kills believability:
  • Storey: Stereotypes.
  • Coyle: Behaving out of character to keep the plot going.
  • Vallere: Being too perfect.
  • Wingate: Too much coincidence.
Most important aspect to creating a believable character: 
  • Storey: Adding layers as the story progresses.
  • Vallere: Can you list 20 things about them? Even things they don't do anymore and have left in their past.

Born on the Bayou: Louisiana Stories
Bill Fitzhugh (moderator), Bill Loehfelm, O'Neil De Noux, S.W. Lauden, Harley Jane Kozak, Jaden Terrell

This panel was different than usual in that the participants took turns on the stage and did one-person performances showcasing their personal experiences with New Orleans. They were all terrific.

Loehfelm is a New Yorker who moved to New Orleans in 1997. He described dealing with the New Orleans Police Department's Mounted Unit during Mardis Gras, which can be summed up in three statements: "Yes sir/ma'am", "No sir/ma'am" and "Thank you officer, I'll be on my way".

Kozak was attending a conference in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit and she described fleeing her hotel, the city and the airport. Short version: It got crazy.

O'Neal was a Jefferson Parish patrolman who had a hilarious story about a naked dancer who ended up on his patrol car while on duty on Fat City Avenue, which he described as Metaire's (a suburb of NOLA) version of Bourbon Street. So basically, there was a ton of booze involved.

Laughton discussed his memories of his band's road trip from California to New Orleans. Apparently you can take the 10 Freeway all the way from Southern Cal to NOLA. I'll bet that's an interesting trip even if you aren't crammed in a van with a bunch of rockers.

Fitzhugh had a great story from his teen years about cutting school and driving from Jackson, Mississippi with some friends, and indulging (or trying to) in all the vices that NOLA has to offer. This included trying to score a tryst with a lady on a stoop, who, when he got closer, was sporting facial stubble. 

Because I'm writing this a month after the fact, I can't exactly remember Terrell's story because my notes are minimal, but I do remember that she still owes a tip to a construction worker.

Take a bow!

So Long, Farewell: Nailing the Ending
Cara Black (moderator), Lisa Alber, Charles Rosenberg, James Hankins, Stuart Neville

On playing fair with the readers' expectations of resolution:
  • Neville: As a writer you have a contract with the reader that the story will reach a satisfying (although not necessarily happy) ending.
  • Hankins: Playing fair is critical. You can hide the ball, but it still has to be there.
Endings they envy:
  • Hankins: Author Greg Iles - shades of gray in his resolutions, because you can't save everyone.
  • Neville: James Ellroy's American Tabloid, which ends with President John F. Kennedy's assassination. Instead of describing the shooting, the character of Pete Boundourant hears, "One big fucking scream."
  • Alber: Author Sophie Hannah. You get the sense of things continuing after the book ends.
  • Rosenberg: Gone Girl. He quoted T.S. Eliot: "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper."
Cool factoid: Neville proposed to his wife at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

And that does it for another Bouchercon! I didn't go to any of the Sunday morning panels because I wanted to hit the French Market again. Among other things, I had a gator burger for lunch!


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