By Barbra Annino
In my opinion, the Chicago Love is Murder conference is the best bang for your buck for any mystery conference around. This was my third time attending and I have to say it gets better every year. Here’s a brief run-down of some of the panel discussions, the behind-the-scenes takes you won’t get on a roster, and those ‘you just had to be there moments’ as Tweeted and Facebooked by attendees.
Registration and Meet and Greet
Hard-working volunteers spend lots of time putting this stuff together. You get a nice big book bag filled with different goodies every year. This year, it was lots of bookmarks, Mystery Scene Magazine, a packet of seeds and the booklet that explains the conference activities, times and locations. Then you pop in on a panel, wander around, shake hands, introduce yourself, grab a drink and chit chat until dinner.
The Facebook post that sum it up by screenwriter for House/author, James Strauss:
Love is Murder. The biggest day of the convention. Lots of Jon Land, Joe Finder, and F Paul Wilson. It is great fun to hang out with such notable writers. Here, at this convention in Rosemont, Illinois, they are available and will discuss almost any topic you might bring up. Plus they will autograph your books (for free, not like actors from hit television series!) Get to the Intercontinental and get some culture.
"Love, Sex & Death – Why We Can't Look Away… Or Stop Reading!" (with panelists Sherrill Bodine, Laura Caldwell, Patricia Rosemoor, Tom Schreck (M), J. L. Wilson)
The tweet that sums it up by agent Barbara Poelle:.
@schrecktom just said,” Do you have to be in the mood to write a sex scene or do you just bang it out?" the crowd went wild - he's crimson.
A big focus this year was on e-publishing. The panel, "Get E Life! Publishers Share Tips on Accessing the Brave New World of E-Books," (Robert Brown, Rebecca Crowley, Angela James, Morgan Mandel, Sharene Martin-Brown, Marja McGraw, Terri Stone (M), Karen Syed) provided a fascinating discussion on how authors can and should take advantage of this medium. Larger-than-life e-book advocate J.A. Konrath opened a lot of eyes to the fast-moving world of electronic media and self-publishing. (For those who don’t follow his blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, the summary is that readers have become the gatekeepers, the consciousness of the book industry - and not only will they decide what they read, but how they will read it and at what price.)
There were Pitch-a-Palooza sessions where authors make appointments to pitch to editors and agents, master classes taught by Carolyn Haines and Joan Johnston, expert forensics panels, and publishers and agents dishing on what they want in a manuscript.
The hilarious quiz show is probably my favorite part. Veteran authors with more books to their name than I have teeth in my head sit side-by-side on a stage and are asked by Joe Konrath to identify their own passages. Of course they rarely get it right, which results in good-natured jabs and jokes that even the audience members participate in.
You might also catch a glimpse of several authors, with drinks in their hands, harmonizing in the lobby after the bar closes.
The tweet that sums it up by Marcus Sakey:
Award-winning novelist Bryan Gruley won't stop serenading me with Mac Davis's "You're Having My Baby."
Lovey Award Winners, Part One.
Best First Novel: Hal Ackerman for Stein, Stoned.
Best Traditional/Amateur Sleuth Novel: Julie Hyzy for Grace Under Pressure.
Best Historical: Tasha Alexander for Dangerous to Know.
Best Series: Rhys Bowen for the Royal Spyness series.
Best Romantic Suspense: Laura Caldwell for Red, White, and Dead.
Best Thriller: Jamie Freveletti for Running Dark.
Best PI/Police Procedural: Michael Black for Hostile Takeovers.
Best Short Story: Carolyn Haines for "The Sugar Cure" in Delta Blues.
Rhys Bowen's tweet on the whole experience:
Love is Murder was great! And I won the Lovey award for best mystery series. Going home happy!
Hope to see you there in 2012!
Barbra Annino is the author of Opal Fire, a Stacy Justice gemstone mystery. A Chicago native, she freelances for a variety of publications, writing about health, food and travel.