Calgary’s first snowfall of the season has got me dreaming about my holiday in California this September. The main purpose for the trip was to attend Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in San Diego. My husband Will (an avid mystery reader) and I spent four interesting days attending panels and events like Speed Dating for Writers and Readers and the New Author Breakfast. Both were more fun than I’d expected and popular enough to fill the large rooms by 7:00 am. When we weren’t occupied with the convention, we enjoyed the views from our hotel in the San Diego Marina.
After the convention, we stayed an extra day in San Diego to see a little more of the city. We walked along the boardwalk and took the short ferry ride to Coronado Island, an upscale vacation beach community. The highlight was a concert in the park featuring a great cover band. Hundreds of people gathered. Since we didn’t have chairs, we stood at the front and danced to songs like “Witchy Woman” and “One of These Nights” made famous by the Eagles.
From San Diego, we drove to Julian, a “hippie” town located in the apple-growing hills east of the city. In addition to exploring the quirky, historic former gold mining town, we gorged on apple pie – arguably the best I’ve ever had. A half dozen bakeries produce pies for tourists, many of them day-trippers from San Diego.
Sunshine, warmth, ocean, books, wine, apple pie — pretty much a perfect trip!
At Bouchercon San Diego in early September, I met Nancy Brashear at an evening event. She said she’d driven from San Clemente to the convention with her husband, who wasn’t attending Bouchercon. He’d brought his e-bike and had discovered interesting bike paths in the city. That morning he’d taken his bike on the ferry to Coronado island. Even though I was thoroughly enjoying the convention, as an ardent e-biker I was a tad jealous.
I spent the August long weekend at Calgary’s When Words Collide Festival for Readers and Writers. After three years of attending the festival online, it was great to see familiar faces in-person, make new connections, and participate in panels in front of live audiences. I also enjoyed spreading the word about BWL and Bouchercon Calgary 2026 at their Merchants’ Room tables, which were conveniently located next to each other.
As usual I especially enjoyed WWC’s opening evening keynote addresses. The four Festival Guest Authors were each given twenty minutes to talk about anything they wanted. This year’s speeches were intensely personal and brave. Writing coach and international speaker Angela Ackerman shared her struggle with imposter syndrome despite selling almost a million books in ten languages. I’m sure every writer in the room could relate. Stacey Kondla spoke about her stroke, which prompted her successful new career as a literary agent. Nicole Baart, author of “race-to-the finish family dramas,” discussed how her need for multiple surgeries during childhood led her to becoming a writer.
On my seven panels I discussed such topics such as creating characters, writing mental health, fiction in a world with COVID-19, putting your characters in danger, and how to write a series without losing your way (or your mind). About the latter, I confessed my method of combing through my notes and earlier series novels to recall a character’s eye colour, age, or divorce date wasn’t the most efficient way of keeping track of continuing series characters and suggested authors use a spreadsheet. Fellow panelist Cathy Ace prefers a series bible, which she described as a word document that she searches for a character’s pertinent details. Whatever works for each writer.
At the keynote event, WWC chair Randy McCharles passed the torch (a dragon statue) to the festival’s new management, the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society. The AWCS was busy taking registrations for next year’s festival in the Merchants’ Room. WWC 2024 is already 70 % sold out. AWCS has put together an interesting lineup of Guests of Honour and Special Guest authors. Check their website for updates and to register for When Words Collide Volume Two: Every Chapter Has Another Great Story.
Thanks to Diane Bator (above) for organizing the BWL table. Author Layton Park stopped by to chat with Diane and do a table shift. Diane went home with ideas for sprucing up the BWL table next year. Even the Merchants’ Room can be inspiring.
I’m excited about two upcoming events. Next week I’ll be on a panel at Bouchercon, San Diego, with four talented writers. It promises to be informative and fun. https://www.bouchercon.com/
On Sept 21st Owl’s Nest Bookstore will host the book launch party for my new novel, Spring Into Danger. The event will take place at cSpace Marda Loop, 1721 29th Avenue SW, 4th floor Treehouse. Scroll down Owl’s Nest’s Event page for details. Owl’s Nest Bookstore (owlsnestbooks.com)
Last weekend I spent a busy three days at Calgary’s When Words Collide Festival for Readers and Writers. This was supposed to be the ending of the festival’s successful thirteen-year run, but it will continue next year under new and enthusiastic management. You can read about my experience this year on today’s BWL author insider blog. https://bwlauthors.blogspot.com/
I look forward to connecting with new and old WWC friends next year!
Today on the BWL author blog https://bwlauthors.blogspot.com/I write about When Words Collide, Calgary’s annual festival for readers and writers, which will make its last appearance this summer. I’ll be there and plan to attend many panels and events, sit on a panel or two, and host a table for Bouchercon World Mystery Convention Calgary 2026. https://bouchercon2026.com/. Two great events for lovers of mystery writing.
Bouchercon Calgary’s website is live! Check out some of the authors who will be here in October, 2026. I’m excited to be part of the organizing team. https://bouchercon2026.com/ The photo shows co-chair Pamela McDowell and me presenting Calgary’s bid at Minneapolis Bouchercon last September.
This week I had an interesting chat with Erik D’Souza about my short story, A Deadly Flu, which appears in the Crime Writers of Canada Cold Canadian Anthology. We got into lots of other things. You can watch it on Youtube. https://youtu.be/l0ce-9aY320
This winter Tourism Calgary sent me an email out-of-the-blue. They explained they were considering a bid for the 2026 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention and wanted my help connecting with the Calgary writing community. The bid needed sufficient volunteer support to host this major convention. Tourism Calgary had done an internet search for local mystery writers and my name popped up in various places. They thought the convention could have numerous spinoff benefits for Calgary.
I’d first heard about Bouchercon at Mystery Writers’ INK, a Calgary writing group I belonged to for many years. Members considered it the premiere mystery writing convention in North America. A couple of them attended Bouchercon 2007 in Anchorage, Alaska. They described their experience as a fun mix of learning, book promotion, and travel. Many Bouchercon regulars plan annual holidays around the convention.
I was excited by the email and agreed to meet online with two Tourism Calgary contacts, and later with them and the Bouchercon administrator. I learned that Bouchercon is huge. Typically about 1,800 people attend. The majority are mystery fans, rather than writers. Bouchercon is usually held in the USA, although Toronto, Canada, has hosted three times and the U.K. twice. In London 1990, P.D. James was Guest of Honour. Nottingham England’s Lifetime Achievement Guest of Honour in 1995 was Ruth Rendell (not Robin Hood). Other Guests of Honour through the years have included Sara Paretsky, Ian Rankin, Harlan Coben, Laura Lippman, James Patterson, Michael Connolly, Anne Perry, Karin Slaughter, Anthony Horowitz — enough name dropping.
In October 2017, I attended Bouchercon Toronto. Louise Penny was Canadian Guest of Honour. (Each Boucherson has about a half dozen Guests of various descriptions). I moderated a panel on Noir Mystery Novels to a large audience (scary, both the moderator role and the subject matter). Each convention produces a short story anthology, with the proceeds going to a charity. A highlight for me was my story’s acceptance in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon Anthology 2017. This earned me a seat at the author signing table.
The Bouchercon administrator told us their organization provides a wealth of support and experience for host cities, but, in addition, Calgary would require a strong Local Organizing Committee. I provided Tourism Calgary with names of people and local groups to contact, including BWL. Our publisher, Jude Pittman, was instantly on board and will be part of the committee. Tourism Calgary sent a survey to local writers and organizations and the enthusiastic response exceeded everyone’s expectations. Calgary is called the volunteer capital of Canada for good reason. The Calgary Public Library, Calgary Wordfest, and the University of Calgary expressed interest in playing roles.
Tourism Calgary is now preparing a formal bid to host the convention in 2026. In June the Bouchercon administrator will fly to Calgary to assess the city’s hotel and convention capacity. If it meets the criteria, I’m told Calgary stands a great chance of winning the bid when the Bouchercon board votes this summer.
Since I’ve been with them from the start, Tourism Calgary asked me to chair the Local Organizing Committee. After some angst, I agreed to co-chair with Calgary author Pamela McDowell, my friend for 25 years. Pam and I will be busy, but it will be fun to work together on this big project.
Looks like Calgary mystery writers and readers are in for exciting years ahead. Stay tuned.
Bouchercon 2017 was an opportunity to visit Toronto in the fall