Bouchercon Mystery Conference

A High-End Finish by Kate CarlisleEarlier this month, I attended Bouchercon – Murder at the Beach, a conference for mystery writers and readers to mingle and plot murder.

Of the fictional variety, of course.

As far as I know.

The conference was especially exciting because the night before it started, I found out that my latest book, A HIGH-END FINISH, had debuted on the New York Times mass market paperback bestsellers list at #9! And my good friend Jenn McKinlay’s book debuted at #8, so we were bestselling besties all weekend. Jenn suggested we get tattoos to commemorate the occasion. As you can see, Edgar Allan Poe disapproved. He’s surprisingly judgmental.

Kate Carlisle and Jenn McKinlay with fake tattoos

Having written both mysteries and romances, I’ve attended conferences for both genres, and once again, I was struck by the differences between them. Such as:

The conference theme

Bouchercon was Murder at the Beach. If it had been a romance conference, it would’ve been something like Love at the Beach or Love in the Afternoon or Let’s Roll in the Sand.

Bouchercon 2014 program cover

The pitch of the conference buzz

Romance conferences are attended almost entirely by women, but mystery conferences are more evenly split, which means that the buzz of conversation has a much lower pitch.

Books in the book room

It was fun to see so many of my books in the book room! It was interesting, skimming all the mystery titles in there. The cozy mysteries, such as the books I write, all have great titles based on the theme of the series. Romance titles are often clever, too, but here’s the difference—I didn’t see a single Duke in the book room at Bouchercon. (Hmm… wouldn’t that be a great mystery series, following a Duke detective through Victorian England?)

Bouchercon Book Room

Workshop topics

I got to see a very cool cadaver dog demo. There were workshops on murder methods and investigation techniques and forensics. Come to think of it, I could imagine all of those workshops taking place at a romance conference, too. One of the things I love best about romance novels is that they embrace every other book genre. There’s a romance for everyone!

I was the moderator of a panel on culinary mysteries. Such fun! Here’s a selfie I took, and then another picture of the exact same moment, taken by Dru Ann of Dru’s Book Musing, who was in the audience. Just goes to show… everything is a matter of perspective!

Mystery author selfie


Mystery author selfie

All in all, it was a great time! The best thing that romance and mystery conferences have in common is the chance to see my writer friends and to meet readers. That, and the fact that after a hectic few days, I get to hole up at home again and dive back into my story.

I always learn something at conferences like this. Have you ever been to a big conference of any sort? What did you learn that you still think about today?

By the way, during the month of December, I’m going to give away a paperback every day. Sign up for my mailing list at so you don’t miss out on 31 chances to win!

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  • Jane says:

    Hello Kate,
    Never been to a conference for work or any of the reader conventions. I know a few people who went to Vegas for job related conventions and I’ve always that I was missing out. I know they didn’t spend the whole time there networking. There’s always time to see the sights and party in Vegas.

    • It’s interesting you should say that, Jane! I just talked to the wife of an executive recently, who told me the loneliest week of her life was spent in Vegas. Her husband was in meetings all day, and so she said she just wandered around alone every day. She did enjoy going to shows in the evening, though. 😉

  • Amy Conley says:

    Buns and Roses was the biggest conference I’ve ever attended. I learned alot and I was really surprised at the variety of writers and yet the similarities. Hopefully I get to go again, soon. The authors were all amazing. All were willing to share their own stories, and yet you got to see who they were, amazing.

    • Writing conferences are so fun, aren’t they? As a group, writers are more interesting than, say, a conference of bean counters might be. Lots of funny one-liners. I’m usually left a little tongue-tied, and then later I think, “Oh, I wish I’d said that!”

  • Shannon says:

    My job used to send me to conferences, and I have been to a few others since for my own interests.

    For the work conferences, I usually left with an ah-hah moment or two, but since those were 10-25 years ago, I couldn’t tell you what those were. I do remember venues–one of the conferences was on an old UK university. The meeting rooms were spectacular, and the dining hall was something out of a movie. Breakfast was English, American, and Japanese buffets. Lunch varied. Dinner was always plated and served. That experience destroyed every preconception or perception that English food is bland, boring, or bad.

    My most recent conference I took away an inspirational message–set three goals (not six or eight) and do those goals. Take inventory at the end of the day. IF you didn’t succeed, figure out why? Sometimes the goal is too lofty; sometimes we miss how we’re really discounting a goal we do reach.

    • What great advice, Shannon! By forcing yourself to narrow it down to three goals, you help yourself focus. I find that’s a problem for me sometimes, having so much to do that I almost get paralyzed because I don’t know what to do first. Accomplishing three goals today would mean that I have more time to focus on the secondary goals tomorrow. Love it!

  • Cassondra says:

    Hi Kate!

    Great fun, especially that shot of you taking the selfie. What a neat thing to have that capture of the moment from two perspectives.

    I’ve been to so many conferences I couldn’t count. I used to go to horticulture/floriculture conferences, and I always left with new ideas and so excited to put what I’d learned to use. I’ve been to search & rescue conferences, where I could actually bring my dog, since a lot of the classes were search dog related. It’s great socialization for the dog, too. I remember taking my dog up and down the escalator at the Nashville conference center, teaching him to ride it without getting his toes caught.
    Then there are the writer conferences. More of those than anything else, probably. Yikes, the crush gets overwhelming at RWA National. I went to a mystery conference once and I thought the vibe was totally different. It’s always been interesting to me that readers attend mystery writer conferences. Not so much true for romance writer conferences (except for the signings.) I think it’s fun that mystery readers like to sit in on the workshops about plotting the murders. Completely different perspective–as you say.

    • Oh, I would love to go to a search and rescue conference with dog training. I found that cadaver dog to be just completely fascinating! I’d love to learn more.

      I agree, RWA National can get overwhelming. Fun but overwhelming. It’s a crush of people, and hoo boy, the lines for the ladies’ restroom…

  • Betty Paysour says:

    I have never been to a mystery convention. But I will be at Boucheron 2015 in Raleigh! Only 11 more months!!

  • Kate,

    I can tell you that writers’ conferences are very different from nursing ones. Do you know they expected me to show up at a seminar every freaking hour? 🙂 I had a hard time convincing my co-workers that time spent in the bar could be just as enlightening. 😀

    I have to admit the pitch of romance writer conferences is definitely deafening at times. 🙂

  • pjpuppymom says:

    Congrats on hitting the NYT list again, Kate! I’m looking forward to reading the new book!

    I’ve attended many conferences from very small reader conferences to medium sized regional RWA to the huge RWA National. I’ve enjoyed them all and always come away learning something new.

    Bouchercon is coming to Raleigh next year? Ooh, that’s just down the road. Must check this out.

    • Thanks, PJ!

      I always learn something at conferences, too, and not just at workshops. It’s amazing the great ideas we writers can get about marketing just by having conversations with other writers.

  • Toni King says:

    So wonderful for you to be in the top ten. Love all my mystery writers. You make my days go quickly

  • Kate, whoooooohoooo, yay, huzzah and well done to you on the NYT listing. That’s serious – top 10? I hope you did something really exciting to celebrate. Congratulations!

    The mystery conferences sound like they’re good fun. It adds a different feel when it’s not all women, doesn’t it? Went to a couple of genre fiction conferences here and as you say, MUCH lower tone somehow! And I mean that in terms of pitch not behaviour!

    • I got a tattoo to celebrate! Hee hee! I’m *so* the tattoo type, don’t you think? Seriously, the timing was just great, to get this news just as the conference was starting. It was very exciting.

      And yeah… even the behavior can get pretty low when there are men involved. SNORK!!!!

  • Woohoo Kate! How exciting to hit at #9. But it’s well – deserved. I love your books.

    I think attending a mystery conference would be cool. I’ve a friend (you know her too 🙂 ) who is trying to convince me to write cozies. Do they have many historical cozies? That would combine all my loves – corsets, top hats and murder. 🙂

  • Is this for the contest, too?

    • No, there’s no contest associated with today’s post. But at the end of the post, I’ve told everyone about a BIG contest I’ll be holding on my website for the month of December. I’m giving away a paperback every single day. Sign up for the mailing list at, and I’ll send you an email reminder on December 1. 🙂

  • Shirley Pearson says:

    I was lucky enough to attend Bouchercon in San Francisco in 2010. All the panels/topics were interesting/exciting/funny. The chance to meet my favorite writers added to the weekend – and the opportunity to bring home books by new authors. Loved the bookstore and the signings. I brought away a greater respect and admiration for mysteries and mystery authors. I hope to make it to another Bouchercon some day.

  • WOO HOO !! Congrats on making the list TOP TEN! SO richly deserved. I so love your books!

    RWA National Conference is the highlight of my year every year. I get to see all of my writing buddies, authors I idolize, room with my fabulous Roomie! And I always learn so very much. It helps to charge my batteries for another year of writing, another year closer to publication which actually happens for the first time on December 1st!

    I’ve heard those mystery conferences can get pretty wild!

    I did attend Moonlight and Magnolias the year before last and was privileged to room with the FABULOUS PJ !! She is such a doll and we had a wonderful time! M&M is a smaller conference, but the workshops are amazing and it ls loads of fun!

  • Margaret Utsey says:

    i am a retired elementary librarian and I loved going to our state meetings and getting to hear different authors and illustrators speak! We have a South Carolina Book Festival that I go to every year now! Love to hear authors speak!

    • Book festivals are the BEST, Margaret! What a fabulous way to spend your retirement. As an educator, I know you believe the “never stop learning” mantra. Book festivals are a great way to make learning fun.

  • Sharon Sommer says:

    Never been, looks like it would be fun.