19 October 2009


Despite this joke that I heard:

"What's the difference between a writer and a large pizza?"

"A large pizza can feed a family of four."

It was a reasonably cheerful and upbeat event in Indianapolis.

I look forward to Bouchercon every year. It's four or five days of water cooler time with my colleagues - that I don't get sitting around at my computer in my home office. And it's a great opportunity to hang out with booksellers and readers and a few agents and editors as well. It's informative, useful, nearly always fun and reassuring in that for us solitary writers it makes it clear that we're in the same boat as a bunch of other folk.

It is not so good for my liver or lipid panels. (Bouchercon in Anchorage was the cholesterol exception - I ate a lot of salmon and halibut.) The culinary highlight of this time in Indianapolis was the St. Elmo Steakhouse. A classic place that's been there since 1902. The second night I was there I couldn't bring myself to eat anymore MEAT. So I had the "World's Best Shrimp Cocktail." It was loaded with very strong horseradish and did an excellent job of clearing my sinuses while tasting good. Three of the people I was dining with shared one Kansas City Strip steak and were well and truly stuffed by it. (Shapiro's Deli, however, which had been highly recommended, was a disappointment. The pastrami was dry and bland, the rye bread limp and dull.)

I was on a couple of panels, both of which were extremely well attended and a lot of fun. I don't know how many books it sold, but probably a few.

On Friday I was on a panel about "Setting As Character." It's one of those topics that can go either way. It can be deathly dull, or fun and thought-provoking. Thanks to our moderater, William Kent Krueger, it was the latter. Deborah Atkinson, Tom Corcoran, Jonathan King and myself, made a very good, wide ranging mix of panelists. And by my rough estimate, there seemed to be more than 200 people in the audience - which is a lot.

On the last day I was on what is known as "The Liars Panel" with Charlaine Harris, Dana Cameron, Ed Lin and moderated by SJ Rozan. Questions were asked. Three of us would tell the truth and one lie and the audience would vote on who they thought was lying. I won the award for the most times that the audience thought I was lying when I was actually telling the truth. (Yes, I really did work a drill press in an airplane toilet factory and if I wasn't a writer, I really would want to be an economic anthropologist.) I didn't know whether I should be concerned about that or not. Do I look untrustworthy? I am preferring to think that there are elements of my past and my opinions, notions, desires and attitudes that are, shall we politely say, somewhat odd.

I was happy to meet Charlaine Harris. She seems like a southern belle, and then you start talking to her and hearing her talk and well, she's just plain funny, smart, full of entertaining and interesting quirks and someone I'd very much like to hang out with. She reminded me of how one of the things I tend to like about my fellow authors - and that Bouchercon is always a good reminder of - is that with a few notable exceptions, they are seldom full of themselves. Even the most successful rock star writers are more often than not supportive of their fellow writers and wannabe writers, helpful and encouraging and willing to give of themselves to the scribbling community.

Next year Bouchercon is in San Franciso, the year after that St. Louis, and I'm looking forward to both of them.

Lastly, a little bit of hate mail for American Airlines. You suck!

[] I do not appreciate being sardined more and more into my seat every time I fly. (Ashley Ream, who sat next to me on the flight from Chicago to L.A. and who is not by any stretch of anyone's imagination - perhaps a mouse's imagination if it had one - large, said it was the most cramped and claustrophic she'd ever been on an airplane.) I felt like I was going to be in need of amputating my legs and ass by the end of the flight.

[] I do not appreciate being nickel and dimed to death for every minor convenience or comfort - while at the same time the quality of said available conveniences and comforts is laughably - if it doesn't make you want to cry - bad.

[] What the policy of charging for check-in bags has done is to make entering and exiting the planes even more of a nightmare than in the past. Overhead compartments rapidly fill with suitcases that by all rights belong in the cargo hold. The meager leg room under the seats in front of passengers has disappeared as it has filled with what won't fit overhead. Passengers are duking it out to get to and from their carryon bags that have found their way to points more and more distant from where they're sitting.

In recent years I have flown on Virgin America, Jet Blue, Southwest, American, Delta and Northwest. American, Delta and Northwest are pretty much tied for worst. Unless I have absolutely no choice in the matter, I won't fly on any of them ever again - unless I hear that their treatment of their customers has greatly improved.


Bill Cameron said...

Alas, that I couldn't make the water cooler this year. Next year, next year...

Delta is my "saw my head off before I ever fly it again" airline, though I can't argue with American in that position either.

Austin said...

I was in the audience for the Liars Panel and I thought you were great. You had one of the best quotes for the entire weekend:

Audience Member: "My question is have you played strip poker and when?"
Eric: "Do you mean most recently?"

(Calm down, ladies. That was one of his lies.)

Dianne Emley said...

Sounds like a good time was had by all. Sad to have missed it this year, but definitely SF in 2010.

Bill H said...

I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in

Lori Wolf said...

Eric, American Airlines DOES suck. I'm claustrophobic and wanted to jump out of the plane coming back from Honolulu a few years ago. Uncomfortable seats. Kudos to you and Ashley for surviving.

Never again will I fly American.

Jacqueline Vick said...

Thanks for the warning about AA! And you are so right about mystery authors being a supportive group.

I went to LIM in Chicago and a charming woman sat next to me. It was Charlaine Harris. We chatted about her duck. She asked me about myself. Then I said, "And how about you? Do you write full time?"
She said "Yes, honey, I do," and not "Do you live in a cave?" And then she got up and gave the luncheon address.

I'm still trying to live it down, but the points are that she was interested in ME and was gracious when I turned out to be an idiot.