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BoucherCon: an Author’s Guide

bouchercon raleighby K.B. Owen, misterio press author

A couple of days ago I returned from BoucherCon. With an attendance of 1500, it’s considered one of the larger mystery fiction conventions out there. (For those unfamiliar with the name, BoucherCon was created in 1970, in honor of mystery writer/editor/critic Anthony Boucher).

It appeals to every mystery fan along the continuum: authors, readers, agents, publishers, librarians, booksellers. The location changes each year. This year it was in Raleigh, NC.

This was my first BoucherCon. As an introvert who is most comfortable in my writing cave, I knew it was going to be exciting and challenging at the same time.

Here are a few things I learned along the way. I hope these will be of help for those new to the convention experience. I’m specifically targeting fellow authors, but many of these elements apply to anyone attending a large event of this kind.

Before the convention:

bouchercon11. Determine your goals. 

What do you want to get out of this experience? An agent, a possible contract? Connections to fellow writers, potential readers, booksellers? Spreading the word about your new release? A chance to meet well-established authors you’ve always admired? Learning from the panel discussions?

Clarifying your goals in advance will go a long way towards helping you decide how to spend your time at the convention and how you prepare. For me, I wanted to make connections with fellow authors and readers and learn more about this crazy process we call writing novels.

…and meet Laurie King! (Photo at right by fan-girl K.B. Owen).

2. Promo materials.

My convention badge, with my bookmarks front and center.

My convention badge, with my bookmarks front and center.

Chances are you’ll want to get the word out about your books, right? Well, in this environment, bookmarks rule! The numerous panels meant that two hotels were involved, with several corridors and public spaces where tables were situated. The table surfaces were absolutely covered with bookmarks, business cards, cocktail coasters, and rack cards promoting authors’ works. And readers patrolled those tables continually!  They couldn’t get enough bookmarks.

I had brought bookmarks that I thought I’d be hand-delivering, person by person (which I did), but I didn’t know about the tables until I got there. In the future, I’ll be bringing many more bookmarks (and probably adding tassels for extra pop). I’ll also bring some sort of holder for them, to keep them vertical and contained. Horizontal table space is at a premium, and loose printed materials tended to slide around and get buried under other stuff.

Books: one of the nice things about BoucherCon in particular (in contrast to another mystery fic convention I used to attend) is that indie authors have the option to sell their books on consignment through one of the book room vendors. It’s not ideal (my books were only available for one day out of the four), but it is a unique opportunity, so I recommend doing it if you get the chance.

My books for sale at BoucherCon.

My books for sale at BoucherCon.

3. Forge connections.

Conventions are all about connections, and you can get started on that even before you walk in the door. For example, if you’ve been meaning to join Sisters in Crime, join ahead of time. You’ll get emails from them about meet-ups, events, and promo opportunities at the convention.

Use this opportunity to catch up with fellow writers you’ve never been able to meet in person. Find out who’s going, exchange phone numbers, figure out where you might be able to meet up. I met several writer pals this way during the convention, and they turned out to be even more fabulous in person! (Pictured below: Diane Capri, and me with Susan Spann).


At the convention:

1. Volunteer.

bouchercon6Big conventions like BoucherCon need lots of volunteers to make the magic happen. When I got an email request to volunteer, my first instinct (being the writer cave-dweller I mentioned earlier) was to think this wasn’t a good idea. After all, I’ve never been to a BoucherCon, and I didn’t know what to expect. But then I realized that I could pick a job that didn’t require a whole lot of knowledge, and it might be a great way to break the ice and get to know some people.

And that’s exactly what happened. I served as a panel monitor twice, Thursday and Saturday. All it involved was keeping time, holding up a discreet sign for the moderator, setting out water for the panelists, and potential troubleshooting of microphone issues (which basically meant fetching someone who knew what to do). It felt good to be of assistance to writers I’ve always admired, such as Dorothy Cannell and Stephanie Barron, and it made me a bit more recognizable in a crowd.

2. Accommodations.

If you can manage it, book your hotel within walking distance, ideally within the convention center itself. BoucherCon’s convention hotel fills quickly (more than a year in advance!), but I learned after the fact that you can keep calling the hotel and snag a last-minute cancellation. That way you don’t have to drive in an unfamiliar city, remember what parking garage you’re in, and lug all of your worldly possessions (including books that get heavier by the minute), which is what happened to me. Fortunately, the garage was only a block and a half away, so I used my car as a place to stow things until I needed them, and just made an extra trip or two to swap things out. Also, fellow mystery writer Susan Spann graciously let me spiff up in her room just before the Anthony Awards reception Saturday night.

3. What to wear.

There were endless variations on this, but the majority of attendees dressed in business casual. There are no hard and fast rules for this. I wore dress slacks, dress blouse, and a nice scarf. Flat dress shoes were a must for me. I have a low frustration threshold for teetering around in heels on city sidewalks and in banquet halls. 😉

4. Making conversation (tips for the introvert).

 The prospect of introducing myself to strangers and making conversation with them used to scare the pants off me. That feeling has abated with practice, though I still get butterflies (and the occasional impulse to hide in the ladies’ room). When I find myself feeling this way, I do three things:

a) I remind myself that there are quite a few people like me out there. I may be cutting someone else a break by initiating the conversation.

b) It’s perfectly okay to talk about myself and what I write. Sharing what we do is a big part of why we’re all coming together in the first place.

c) If I feel tongue-tied about describing my own project, or the conversation seems to be lagging, I ask the other person additional questions about him/herself: what they write, how they’re feeling about the convention, what they’ve enjoyed so far, and so on. Being a good listener is a rare gift these days, and people appreciate it.

BoucherCon was an amazing experience, and I’m so glad I attended. I don’t know if it will translate into better visibility down the road, but it was worthwhile in many intangible ways. My final piece of advice: give it a try for yourself!

Have you ever attended a fiction convention? Any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you!


Concordia logo FINAL


The misterio press blog will be on hiatus now until the first of the year. Our next post will be on Tuesday, January 6th.

We wish all our readers/followers an absolutely  wonderful Holiday Season!!

Here’s a little music to get you in the mood.


We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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Forget Apples, Get a Hug a Day!

by Kassandra Lamb

A couple weeks ago I made a statement in a post (15 Things To Do By The Time You’re 62) that “hugs are the vitamin C of the heart.” This line struck a chord for many people.

And it is literally true. Just as the vitamin C in an apple bolsters your immune system (thus keeping the doctor away), hugs lower your stress level on a physiological level so that both your mental and physical health are improved.

photo of Derek Jeter hugging Hideki Matsui

Derek Jeter hugging Hideki Matsui in 2010 (photo by Chris Ptacek CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

So instead of (or in addition to) an apple a day, make sure you get a hug a day!

Would you like to know more about why hugs are so good for you? There is a fairly simple scientific explanation for it.

It all revolves around the hormone, oxytocin. This chemical serves many functions in humans. The one that you may be familiar with is the triggering of childbirth. Indeed, when women are having a slow time getting their babies born, doctors use a synthetic form of this hormone, Pitocin, to stimulate labor.

This hormone is also responsible for the letting down of milk during breast feeding, and is probably the biochemical explanation for “maternal instinct.” (Women tend to have higher levels than men, especially right after giving birth.)

Oxytocin has a calming effect and also “promotes affiliate behavior,” which is psychobabble for it makes us want to hang out with and be empathetic and affectionate toward other people.

Okay, all that is important to the preservation of the species, but what’s it got to do with hugs?

Physical affection tends to increase the release of oxytocin in our systems. So hugs mean more of this hormone in our blood streams, calming us down, and making us want to be even more affectionate. Now isn’t that a lovely positive cycle?

4 multi-colored hands grasping each other
Research has also found that oxytocin tends to increase empathy and trust, so it’s good for our relationships in other ways as well. The higher levels in women also explains why women tend to be more physically affectionate than men (in general, as a group; there are plenty of exceptions. Don’t throw things at me).

But don’t despair, gentlemen. The more hugs you get, the more of that nice calming effect you will experience. Also, fathers who actively participate in the care of their infants show significant increases in oxytocin as well, which in turn increases their warm feelings toward their infants (and calms them down/gives them more patience).

And research has found that oxytocin levels are higher, in both partners, during sexual arousal. It also tends to be higher in people who are in the process of falling in love.

So basically this hormone is a major feel-good chemical. And it’s totally natural and free!

Have you had your hug (oxytocin fix) today? Talk to me in the comments. I love hearing from you, because I’m really into that affiliative behavior. 😉

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Where Were You When? Flashbulb Memories

by Kassandra Lamb

I’m over at Jen Jensen’s blog today talking about our memories of dramatic world events and how they become entwined in our memories of our personal history. Between the recent release of her children’s time travel book and this week being the anniversary of 9/11, I’ve had the subject of history on my mind lately.

We read about history, write about history, hear about it and sometimes even see it in the making on TV. But what happens when historical events become entwined with our own personal histories in our memory banks?

New York skyline with the beams of light memorializing the Twin Towers

photo by Ekabhishek CC BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

This often happens when an event is particularly shocking, tragic and/or strikes close to home for us emotionally. Our brains will record what’s called a flashbulb memory. We will remember, years later, where we were and what we were doing (and sometimes even what we were wearing) when we heard the news of such events.

My first flashbulb memory is from the day President Kennedy was assassinated. (Yes, I am that old.)   Read more…

Zero Hero coverZERO HERO , A Kate Huntington Mystery

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11 the media replays the videos of that day’s devastation, and a national hero’s life begins to unravel.

When the first responder–already struggling with delayed PTSD and addiction–is accused of murdering his former drug dealer, psychotherapist Kate Huntington finds herself going above and beyond to help him. As she and her P.I. husband set out to clear him of the charges, they are thrust into a deadly world of drugs, prostitutes and hired killers, and end up questioning who they are and what it means to be brave.


Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Tag, Kirsten’s It!

by Kassandra Lamb

We’re playing a game of tag, blog tour-style here at misterio this week. I was tagged by the wonderful Barb Taub, and I posted about my writing process on Tuesday.

Kirsten Weiss

I tagged fellow misterio author, Kirsten Weiss, and she
already has her post up on her blog.

She’s fast!!

Check it out…



The Music That Feeds Our Souls

by Kassandra Lamb

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.  ~  Berthold Auerbach

All Saints Episcopal Church, San Francisco (photo by AJ Alfieri-Crispin CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

(photo by AJ Alfieri-Crispin CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

I finally got around to uploading a post to my own website. It’s one I wrote last year for Catie Rhodes’ Author Celebrity Playlist series on her blog. But instead of doing my own playlist, I did one for my main character, Kate Huntington.

It includes the songs that were meaningful to Kate at various turning points in her life. (If you’re a Kate Huntington fan, check it out; it gives a lot of her back story.)

Posting that playlist got me thinking about music, and how so often it can speak to us in ways that mere words alone cannot. Somehow combining those words with a beautiful melody makes the message so much more powerful.

My favorite song of all time is Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Teach Your Children. I first heard it in 1970, the year I graduated from high school. It spoke to me then, but it’s appeal has only increased through the years. I can now relate to the song from both the perspective of a grown child and that of a parent of a grown child.

Listen carefully to the lyrics:


“And feed them on your dreams, the one they picked…”

There is one dream that has survived for three generations in my family: to be a writer.

My mother was a public relations specialist for a college. She used words all the time in her job, writing press releases and college catalogs. But it had always been her dream to be a “real” writer. The closest she came were a couple rough drafts of children’s books and some travel articles she wrote in her retirement for a seniors’ magazine.

I spent the majority of my working life as a psychotherapist. It was a very satisfying career and I have no regrets. I wrote professional articles through the years. But the demands of my job and family left me little time or energy for creative writing. My second career was that of college professor. Again I found an outlet for my writing lust as I drafted lecture notes and developed tests, but still there never seemed to be much time left over.

Finally, at age 59, the novel that I’d started in my mid-forties came to fruition and was published (sadly, six years after my mother’s death). Now I have several published works to my name. I have been well fed by my mother’s dream, the one I picked.

My son has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and a masters in divinity. His full-time job is that of Episcopal priest. Like I did before him, he can satisfy some of his desire for writing through his profession as he drafts his weekly sermons. But he also carves out what little time he can for writing fiction–fantasy novels with a strong spiritual component. I have no doubt that he will be published, hopefully some day soon.

My mother is dancing in heaven. We have fed her with our dreams, the one she picked.

And then there is the chorus:

Don’t you ever ask them why; if they told you, you would cry.
Just look at them and sigh, and know they love you.

I get a lump in my throat every time I read or hear those lyrics. I have learned through the years that there are things we may never understand about other generations, the ones that came before us nor the ones that follow us.

Don’t you ever ask them why; just know they love you!

What song speaks to your soul? Do you share a dream with other generations of your family?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

The Dark Side of Love: Why Some Women Are Attracted to Abusers

Hey everyone! I’m over at Bianca Sloane’s blog today. She has guest posts all this month from a variety of folks talking about different aspects of The Dark Side of Love. Plus a contest with great prizes!

header for Dark Side of Love

Today, I’m talking about why women are attracted to abusive men and so often stay with them.

Abused Women: Why Does She Love Him?

Abusive relationships definitely fall into the category of the Dark Side of Love. As a psychotherapist, I worked with quite a few women who had been in such relationships, often repeatedly picking out one abusive man after another.

Many people, on the outside looking in, wonder why battered women stay with these men. Indeed, why are they attracted to such brutes to begin with? These sound like simple enough questions but… Read more




Happy Holidays from misterio press

No post this week, just a video of Little Drummer Boy (being sung a cappella by Pentatonix) to help get you in the holiday spirit. We will be on hiatus until mid January.

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone!!

From all of us at misterio press

We blog once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Iceland: The New Hot Spot for Mystery Novels

I recently returned from Iceland and was fascinated by the quality and depth of its bookstores. For a country of only 300,000 people, Iceland has a fertile written heritage, starting with its medieval Viking sagas and continuing to a rich collection of modern mystery novelists.

photo of Icelandic waterside town

A typical Icelandic fishing village.

Is their voracious reading habit because of the cold weather? Iceland’s recent economic crash? The BBC recently reported that Iceland has more writers, more books read, and more books published, per capita, than any other nation. It’s estimated that one out of ten Icelanders will publish a book. Unfortunately, only about three percent of Icelandic works are translated for the English market.

Iceland hasn’t yet developed the international reputation its Scandinavian neighbors have for mystery novels and thrillers. The English-language series I found most prominently displayed in the bookstores of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city, (and also available on Amazon) was the Reykjavik Murder Mystery series by Arnaldur Indridason. His prose is as sparse and clean as Iceland in October, which happens to be when the first book in the series, Jar City, takes place.

The book is noir-ish, featuring Reykjavik Detective Erlendur. Like a good noir hero, he’s divorced and feeling his age. One of his children is a junkee, the other in rehab. Chapter one drops the reader into a murdered man’s apartment, while the Detective examines the body. It seems like a simple enough crime against an elderly male –and most likely random – except for one clue: a cryptic three-word message left beside the body. Tantalizingly, the author only gives the reader one of the three words, driving an otherwise prosaic scene forward.

photo of moss-covered lava field

A lava field in Iceland, covered in moss.

The Day Is Dark, by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, is another currently “hot” Icelandic book, though it is largely set in Greenland. Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, an attorney, departs Iceland for a snowbound outpost in Greenland, where Icelandic employees have disappeared. Malignant townsfolk and hints of danger in the woods ratchet up the tension in this book, which is part mystery and part thriller.

Looking for a real classic? The medieval Icelandic sagas are jam-packed with murder, mayhem, and magic. Ranking as one of the world’s most important literary works, the sagas take place around the beginning of the last millennium, and have preserved much of what modern scholars know about the daily life, religion, magical practices, and adventures of the early Norse men and women, including their astonishing journeys to America.


Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten works part-time as a writer and part-time as an international development consultant. She writes the Riga Hayworth paranormal mystery novels. Her fifth book in the series, The Elemental Detective, will be published in December, 2013.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Ouija Boards Debunked (Maybe)

This is a combination psychology and paranormal post, written by Kassandra Lamb and Kirsten Weiss.

Kirsten here to start things off.

A few weeks ago I posted on the origins of Ouija boards. The post got some interesting reactions. Apparently there are quite a few people out there who have had very spooky experiences with them.

Ouija BoardIndeed, many psychics believe that this simple piece of wood with letters and numbers on it is a portal to the underworld. I’ll have more on that in a minute. First Kass Lamb (who’s a retired psychotherapist) is going to explain what makes the planchette move.

Take it away, Kass.  

When I was a teenager, a Ouija board was standard fare at sleep-overs and Halloween parties. We thought it could predict the future, so we’d ask it who we were going to marry. The third time it told me that the boy I was currently infatuated with would be my future husband (a different boy each time) I became a bit disenchanted with Ouija boards. But I still couldn’t explain how that little wooden planchette seemed to move on its own, spelling out the name of my current flame.

Forty some years and a couple of degrees in psychology later, I can explain it with a phenomenon called ideomotor response. This term refers to an idea (ideo) being able to cause minuscule muscular responses that can actually cause (motor) movement without the person consciously telling their muscles to move.

No, it is not magic, and no, I’m not making this up! This phenomenon was first described by William Benjamin Carpenter, M.D., F.R.S. (I’ve no idea what F.R.S. stands for). He presented his findings to the Royal Institution of Great Britain on March 12, 1852.

At the time no one had a clue how this worked, but today we know enough about the brain to attempt to explain it.

Freud speculated in the late 1800’s that only a small part of what’s going on in our minds at any given time is actually in our conscious awareness. He used the analogy of an iceberg, the tip of which is the conscious mind and the bulk is underneath the surface.

Freud's Id, Ego and Superego diagram on an iceberg

Freud’s iceberg, depicting the conscious vs. unconscious mind  (public domain)

Freud’s theories weren’t always right but with this one, he was spot on. There is a lot going on in our brains at any given time, most of which is not conscious. Part of our brains (the cerebellum) is moving our bodies around–walking, chewing gum, typing, etc.–without our having to pay attention to each little movement. Other parts of our brains (in the limbic system and parts of the cerebral cortex) are processing emotions, making connections between current events and past experiences, etc. while we are consciously thinking about other things (in another part of our cerebral cortex).

And it is indeed possible for a part of our brains, that we are not currently consciously controlling, to tell our muscles to move a certain way. You think the thought and the movement happens, without any specific signals to the muscles that you are aware of.

Let me demonstrate with a simple makeshift pendulum–a metal clip and two rubber bands.

Holding the top of the rubber bands between my index finger and thumb (relaxed but intentionally holding my hand as still as possible), I think the word “swing” while imagining the pendulum swinging back and forth. Lo and behold, it starts to swing. When I think “circle” (I say it out loud in the video so you know when I started thinking it), it changes directions, and when I think “stop” it comes slowly to a halt.

Click the video below and watch the pendulum do its thing, then watch a second time and keep your eye on my hand. (Note: my husband took this video with his digital camera. Every time I watch this I’m amazed myself that this works!)

Note: some of the related videos that come up at the end mention hypnosis; that is because ideomotor signals are sometimes used by hypnotherapists but it is NOT a hypnotic phenomenon. It is a purely physiological response. No hypnosis required, although the power of suggestion may be involved as we are about to see.

So back to the Ouija board. I’m fifteen and madly in love with a boy named Bobby. I’m at a sleep-over. The hostess whips out a Ouija board and we start fooling with it. My fingertips are on the planchette along with those of one or two other girls. I ask out loud who I’m going to marry. The other girls’ fingertips have no vested interest in the outcome but my fingertips are listening to my brain chanting, “Bobby, please let it be Bobby.”

I am NOT telling my fingertips to move, but they get that signal anyway and the planchette starts to slowly stutter across the board toward the B. Yay!!! Then I hold my breath as I think, “Make it an O, please make it an O.” But I’m being very careful not to intentionally move the planchette because I want the TRUTH. Sure enough, we slowly slide over to the O. Somewhere around the second B the planchette really picks up speed and whizzes over to the Y, and then maybe flies right off the board as my excited nervous system goes into overload.

This is the explanation for what makes the Ouija board planchette move. Our own ideomotor response is doing this. Now the next question is, who is controlling the messages in our brains that are being sent to our fingertips, bypassing our conscious minds along the way?

When teenagers ask it stupid questions about who they’re going to marry someday, it’s their own wishful thinking controlling the planchette. But when we ask the Ouija board to allow us to contact spirits from beyond, what happens then?

Is it still our unconscious minds–our own wishful thinking or our own greatest fears–controlling the planchette? Or is it something else?

Back to Kirsten and what psychics say on the subject.

I don’t claim this to be a representative poll, but the psychics I’ve spoken with believe that yes, you can contact the “other side” with Ouija boards. But you don’t know who (or what) you’re inviting into your home.

Most psychics and magical practitioners will erect magical wards and protections before attempting any sort of contact with spirits (not just through a Ouija board). These are to keep out anything with negative intentions.

They warn against the use of Ouija boards by the layperson who doesn’t know how to protect him/herself.

Kass here again.

Personally I don’t quite know what to believe about the spirit world but if Ouija boards can open a portal to the other side, I think it is very wise to avoid them. (Google “psychics and Ouija boards” if you don’t believe us.)

If a spirit can indeed enter your mind (when you’ve invited it in via the board), that spirit would then be able to use the board to communicate. The spirit could influences your thoughts (you would not necessarily be consciously aware of that influence nor even the thoughts themselves). Those thoughts then would move the planchette via ideomotor response.

I’m very grateful that my friends and I never asked to contact the spirit world with our Ouija boards.

Do any of you have cautionary tales you are willing to share about Ouija boards? Any thoughts or questions about ideomotor response?

Posted by Kirsten Weiss, author of paranormal mystery novels and the Riga Hayworth Metaphysical Detective series and Kassandra Lamb, retired psychotherapist and author of the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press on Tuesdays, sometimes about serious topics, and sometimes just for fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)