Saturday, October 6, 2012

On the road again: Bouchercon, Cleveland, day 4

I'm taking advantage of every chance I get to sleep more, so I slept as late as I could today without jeopardizing the morning work or the first panel I wanted to attend. 

That discussion proved a very good choice indeed, as Mark Billingham, Karin Slaughter, John Connolly, Alafair Burke, and Martyn Waites held forth entertainingly for almost an hour on the topic of heroes and villains. Two points of the discussion were of particular interest to me.

The first concerned the Amazon sock-puppet scandal.  A group of writers that included four of these five panelists posted and signed a simple condemnation of this practice and a vow not to indulge in it.  This post, which to me seems quite clearly a good (if probably Quixotic) thing, apparently drew quite a backlash.  It's an interesting topic to explore, if you feel like diving down that particular rat hole.

The other topic concerned whether writers were basically done by the time they're fifty.  I don't know the ages of these panelists, but most must be well enough past thirty that they were definitely not in favor of this concept.  Connolly cited James Lee Burke (one of my all-time favorite writers) as someone who is still doing amazing work quite late in life.  As someone who didn't start his first novel until he was fifty, and who feels he is still learning and improving, I have to hope that my best days as a writer are still ahead of me and that I never stop growing my skills.  Time, of course, will tell.

The next panel was a very different discussion of how authors create characters.  I went to see Charlaine Harris, who is always both gracious and entertaining, but I was also particularly interested in the very analytical way that Elizabeth George approaches the problem of character creation. 

The Anthony Awards ceremony was the highlight of the early evening, though waiting for its hour-late start was a bit painful.  Toastmaster Connolly moved the ceremony along smartly, and the winners kept their acceptance speeches mercifully short.  I have to give a special shout out to Dana Cameron, who walked away from this convention with two different awards and who has a story in The Wild Side

Dinner tonight was an okay but overall disappointing meal at the well-reviewed restaurant, The Flying Fig.  The service ranged from mediocre to bad, and the food was serviceable but no more.  Either of the previous dinners I've had in Cleveland bested it easily, so I can't recommend this place. 

Tonight, I hope, will bring a lot of sleep. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

On the road again: Bouchercon, Cleveland, day 3

Today proved to be very busy at work, so I spent a lot of it doing email either in my room or in various chairs while trying also to listen to panels. 

I particularly enjoyed the "Cop vs. Constable" discussion, in which writers from Australia, Denmark, the U.K., and the U.S. talked about ways in which the laws and cops, though fundamentally similar, differed.  Michael Connelly and Mark Billingham were among the panelists, so it was sure to be entertaining. 

After a quick lunch and some more work, I caught the discussion between Michael Koryta and Michael Connelly.  They sort of interviewed one another, and though I didn't learn a lot, I enjoyed it. 

Karin Slaughter then interviewed Toastmaster John Connolly.  I came away from that presentation a bigger fan than before of Connolly's work.  His writing process is way closer to mine than to Slaughter's, so I found the contrasts in their approaches interesting.  I also found myself agreeing with just about everything Connolly said. 

After a few hours of work, I ventured into the damp outdoors to pick up some soda.  While I was waiting for a light to change so I could cross a street, a cop stood next to me and scanned the area.  His unhappiness was palpable, which was completely understandable given the weather.  When a woman on the other side of the street jaywalked directly in front of him, and then three men followed, he stopped them all and demanded they produce IDs or be arrested.  I could chalk that up to a grumpy cop, except that he was Caucasian, those four were African American, and while hassling them he let a dozen Caucasian jaywalkers saunter by.  Sad to see.  I don't blame him for wanting to stop people from jaywalking--it can be dangerous--but he didn't need to go as far as he did, and if he was going to do that, he should have applied the same penalty to all offenders. 

All that said, you can bet your ass I won't jaywalk around here.

Work in the room was positively inviting after the outdoors, so I kept at it until it was time to go to the live auction. 

Mystery fans spend serious money at these auctions, which are almost always in support of a good cause; the proceedings from this one went to local libraries.  The right to have a character in the next Lee Child book named after you was the big earner tonight, garnering an even grand.

More work is still to come, and then, I hope, a lot of sleep.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

On the road again: Bouchercon, Cleveland, day 2

The con kicked off in earnest today.  I spent, as is sadly usual, far more of the day working than doing anything else, but I still managed to squeeze in multiple fun events. 

I slipped away from work in my room during the daytime to catch two panels, one on odd things writers will do in the name of story research, and the other an interview with Guest of Honor Robin Cook.  I didn't learn a ton from either one, though I came away impressed with Cook's passion and work ethic. 

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer, Amazon's mystery publishing line, the Bouchercon folks were able to host a reception and opening ceremonies at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I've been a supporting member of this place since around the time of the groundbreaking, and I've always wanted to see it, so I was quite excited by this opportunity. 

Directly in front of me when I stepped off the shuttle trolley was Johnny Cash's bus.

He lived in it on the road for many years, so it was cool to see.

The I.M. Pei-designed structure was, of course, even cooler.  

The guitars appear all around Cleveland, and though their quality is uneven, I quite like them as a theme.

Wandering the museum was a very emotional experience, because rock and roll has been so important to me for virtually all of my life for which I have memories.  They don't permit photography in most areas, but a security guard confirmed that it was okay for me to take this shot of the original awning from CBGB.

Without rock music, I don't know how I would have made it out of adolescence.  Hell, without rock, I don't know how I'd make it today.   I loved my time in the museum.

Dinner was at the Greenhouse Tavern, a place that focuses on local sourcing, where we again made a meal of starters.  The sickest dish we tried was the "Animal Style Frites."  You can read the menu's description here, but suffice to say that anything with fries, bacon, fried eggs, mozzarella cheese curds, and brown gravy can't help but be as delicious as it is life-threatening.

For dessert, we had maple and walnut brittle ice cream, a special Jeni's flavor that is available only at this restaurant (and that brought me there in the first place).  It was mighty damn good. 

Walking both to and from dinner, I was struck again by how lovely downtown Cleveland is. 

The young me was wrong.  This is a very cool place, and I'm grateful for the chance to have come here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On the road again: Bouchercon, Cleveland, day 1

Growing up in Florida, I had three strong mental associations with Cleveland:

1) Lake-effect snow.

2) This Randy Newman song and the burning rivers it mentions.

3) The fact that more tourists who visited St. Pete seemed to be from Cleveland than from anywhere else.  I figured that if you were that eager to leave home, home must be pretty miserable.  (I now realize that there are many, many alternate interpretations of the same paltry body of data.)

Despite these associations, when Bouchercon, a convention for mystery and thriller fans and writers, and a gathering I quite like, moved to Cleveland, I followed.  I'd also heard many good things about Cleveland over the years, so this con afforded me an opportunity to see the city for myself.

After less than half a day here, I have to admit that I am finding Cleveland quite charming.  The downtown architecture is splendid, a blend of new and old skyscrapers with grand re-purposed buildings and the occasional lower structure still boarded up and awaiting its ride on the gentrification train.  The hotel is grand in the old style, but with large remodeled rooms that feature decent wireless access and tons of electrical outlets. 

To give the city a chance to put a good foot forward, I made my first meal here, tonight's dinner, be at as close to a sure thing as possible:  Iron Chef Michael Symon's signature restaurant, Lola Bistro.  We made dinner a shared affair that consisted of an assortment of entries, an order of the delicious rosemary frites, and a few desserts.  The weakest dishes were good.  The strongest dishes, the crispy pig's ear, the beef cheek pierogi, and the deconstructed lobster roll, were excellent. 

I was wrong about Cleveland, at least so far.  I quite like it and look forward to seeing more of it.

So you can share some of what I saw today, what follows is a selection of my iPhone happy snaps. 

Enjoy (and click on any image to see a larger version).

The ceiling in a lovely hall in sort of indoor shopping center slash business center. 

A fountain in the same area.

The view entering another large hall in this same building.  The place feels like an old train station, but I haven't had time to make sure that I'm correct.

Yet right outside the end of the building, the industrial city reappears.

This lovely metal detail work... part of this beautiful vent grate.

A lounge area in the hotel.

Sunset through my hotel window.  The sky was so much redder than I can show you.

The historic (for reasons I don't know) 4th street dining area.

The top of a building as I saw it while walking back to the hotel.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Come on down to the library to talk urban fantasy

On Thursday, October 18, I'll join another local author, Clay Griffith, at the lovely Cameron Village Regional Library for a panel on dark and urban fantasy.  The event is part of the library's October Haunted Happenings series, as you can see in this poster.  (Click on it for a larger image.)

Librarian (and friend) Dan Brooks is organizing the event, so when he asked if I'd join, I of course said, yes.  Clay and I will each read a bit of fiction, answer some questions from Dan, and then throw it open to the audience.  Afterward, anyone who wants to join me is welcome to head somewhere nearby for a bit of dinner.  The Flying Biscuit comes to mind, but minds do change. 

If you're not doing anything that night, come on by, support the library, and talk writing and urban fantasy. 

Monday, October 1, 2012


I received earlier today a package from my sister, Liza. In it was a very old glass paperweight, its glass clearly aged, its bottom devoid of the felt that a little kid had once glued to it. In the note that Liza sent with it, she commented,

As long as I can recall, Mom always had this [paperweight] by her computer in every home she lived in. I used to comment how precious a gift this was, and she'd smile with great love and satisfaction....
 The blond little boy in that photograph is smiling awkwardly.  He appears to be four to six years old, though it's hard to tell.  You try; click on the picture to see a larger version. 

That little boy is on his second or third father.  He's already used to comforting his single-parent mother on her many, many rough days, and he's either already been in his first fight or will be soon. 

He hasn't yet put anyone in the hospital.  His third father hasn't slapped him repeatedly and pushed him off the end of a dock to help make him a man.  He hasn't lost his memories prior to age ten.  He hasn't been a Young Marine yet, nor has he endured four years of daily beatings.

He and I are one, of course; this was a gift I made my mother long ago, one I'd forgotten.  

Thank you, Liza.  I will keep this near my main computer keyboard, as my mother did.

I miss my mom.

I also miss that boy.  I would like to have known him in a world without the many fathers, without all the abuse, without the violence.  I have no clue what he would have been like, nor will I ever be able to fathom that person. 

When I stare at this picture, though, sadness invades me like a virus, and then my rage rises up and shoves it out and yells "Fuck you!" at all those who stole that future from that boy.  From me. 

I would like to have known that boy.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Another excellent new album

is The Killers' Battle Born.  Sarah upped it in my listening queue by mentioning this song, which is, I agree with her, quite lovely.  I hope you feel the same way.


By the way, if you don't remember The Killers, their first album, Hot Fuss, was, for my money, possibly the best of 2004. Here's a great track from it.


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