Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How I Ate and Drank My Way Through Bouchercon

I’ve been to several Bouchercons in the past several years and I must say the one in San Francisco last week was the best I’ve attended so far. It was very well planned and organized and even with approximately 1,400 people attending, you never felt overwhelmed.

By the time I got to San Francisco on Thursday morning, I was exhausted. I’d already put in three very long days at the office and now was facing four days of conference. After an uneventful flight and a smooth ride on BART from the airport directly to the Hyatt, I was pleased to run into my editor, Terri Bischoff, at the registration desk at the hotel. Since it was early and my room not ready, I visited with folks like Christa Faust, Julia Spencer Fleming, and Aileen Baron before taking off for a brief visit to the San Francisco office of my law firm. I’d never been there before and wanted to see the digs and say hello to many of the folks I work with via phone and e-mail. From there it was a nice walk back to the Hyatt with a stop at a tiny cafĂ© for a quiet lunch.

Bryana and "Odelia"
When I returned to the hotel my room was ready and I moved in and rested a bit before getting ready for my evening gig. Thursday night I was scheduled to speak to the Alameda County Legal Secretaries Association at the law offices of Nixon Peabody, which was almost across from the Hyatt. I’d spoken to this crowd before and they are always a delight. It was so nice to catch up with familiar faces and catch them up on my adventures in publishing. Terri went with me, as well as Diane Kudisch, the owner of the San Francisco Mystery Book Store, who brought books to sell.  And we sold a lot of books!

At the end of the dinner and program, Bryana Schroder, President of the Association, presented me with a very special gift: a crochet Odelia Grey doll she made herself! I was absolutely overwhelmed. The doll is quite large and has a tote bag filled with miniature editions of my books. How cool is that? Then it was back to the Hyatt and the bar, where I spent a lot of time laughing with pal Holly West, her hubby Mick and friends Julie and Rich.

In the morning, I had breakfast with a group of ladies from the Mystery Babes Yahoo group. What a fun time! At breakfast, I discovered Dana Cameron and I were born in the same town in Massachusetts. Even in the same hospital!

I had a very special treat in the early afternoon when I joined friends Rita Lakin and Steve Stienbock in the hospitality room.  Sitting with them was the legendary William Link and his lovely wife Marjory.  Later in the day I was scheduled to appear in the Midnight Ink booth to meet and greet folks. Steven Pomije, Director of Publicity at Midnight Ink, did a great job on the booth and we had lots of folks stopping by to check out our books.

When I lived in San Francisco years ago, my favorite restaurant was Tadich Grill. Determined to visit the historic restaurant this trip, I gathered up Joni Langevroot and Nikki Bonanni and took off for a bowl of the best cioppino anywhere. After, it was back to the Hyatt and the Jack Reacher party hosted by Lee Child.

At Midnight Ink booth with Joanna Slan and Kathleen Ernst
 Saturday was more of the same: chatting with old friends, making new ones and soaking in the wonderful atmosphere of San Francisco. Thursday night I met up with my long time friend Leila Sarkissian, who lives in The City, and she introduced me to a restaurant called Kokkari, which was across the street from the apartment complex where I used to live. Kokkari is a Greek restaurant with fabulous ambiance, food and service. We had lemon soup, split entrees of goat stew and lamb chops, and rice pudding with honey braised pear. WOW! is all I can say about dinner.

After, Leila and I walked back to the Hyatt and bumped into Holly, Mick, Julie and Rich. We grabbed a table in the bar, and spent the next few hours swapping stories while friends dropped by to join us for a bit or to say hello. The bar was hopping on Saturday night, which is not unusual at a mystery conference, and folks wandered from table to table in one big party atmosphere.

Sunday morning, after packing and checking out of the hotel, I went to my panel: Clown of Death. Panel mates included Sebastian Stuart, Mary Jane Maffini and Lenny Kleinfeld. The panel was moderated by Terri Bischoff. I was concerned about a panel on humor scheduled for 8:30 am but was surprised to find it a full house. The panel was lively and fun and no one seemed hung over from the previous night’s festivities; not the panel or the audience! After the panel,we signed books and then took off for the Anthony banquet. I was so very pleased that pals Sophie Littlefield and Hank Phillipi Ryan both won Anthony awards.

My trip to Bouchercon ended with lunch on Sunday with another dear old friend, Paula Boghossian. We had wonderful kabobs at Shalizaar in Belmont, then Paula dropped me off at M is for Mystery where I had a book talk and signing with Sebastian Stuart. After that, friends Doug and Shirley Pearson scooted me off to the airport for my flight home.

Okay, based on the above, can you see how much fun Bouchercon was? I mean, I ate, drank and chatted my way through four days of mystery books, writers, readers and friends.

Doesn’t get much better than that!

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