I made my first trip to Bouchercon this month.
For the uninitiated, this is basically the biggest crime fiction festival in the world. It's held every year in the USA (with occasional excursions to Canada), and this year it was in the beautiful St Petersburg, Florida.
It's a tough life, but sometimes you just have to knuckle down and do the author events.
I flew in via Philadelphia on the Wednesday evening, and had to spend an extra hour waiting on tarmac until the lightning went away. Having been travelling all day, I hit the sack early in order to be up in good time for day one of the festival. Luckily, those of us from across the pond have the advantage of being five hours ahead, so an eight o'clock start wasn't as painful as it usually would be.
I headed down to the con hotel (the Vinoy Renaissance) and registered. They gave me the biggest damn bag of books I've ever seen, and then free pastries. Good start.
I was pleased to get fellow-Glaswegian Abir Mukherjee's second novel in the bag, and doubly pleased to run into the man himself at the refreshments area.
After lunch at a British pub (I know) with some fellow authors, I headed into my first panel: Martini with a Twist of Plot. It was a great lineup: Alafair Burke, Meg Gardiner, Jennifer Hillier and Neil S Plakcy, ably hosted by Kristopher Zgorski. We discussed serial killers, techniques for building tension and lots more. We also got leis (the flowery necklace things) and coconuts, making this easily the best-accessorised panel I've ever done.
It was great company to be in and the forty-five minutes flew by.
My publisher was attending in force, so I got to catch up at the bar and then dinner with my editor Francesca and Katie, Sarah and Sam from Orion.
On Friday I went to a couple of panels then got lunch at a waterfront place, which somehow involved pina coladas. I went to see Michael Connelly interview Mark Billingham and finally got to meet one of my biggest writing heroes afterwards. He was very understanding about me being a fawning fanboy. No restraining order yet.
We took some time out for a quintessentially American trip to the Friday night ball game - the Tampa Bay Rays playing the Baltimore Orioles. The game was a blowout and the hot dogs were disappointingly small for America, but it was a fun evening.
Saturday morning kicked off with the Drawing Inspiration from Our Kids panel, moderated by Joe Clifford with Shannon Kirk, LynDee Walker, Tom Pitts, Emily Carpenter and yours truly. No prizes for guessing why I made it onto this panel.
This one was quite different from the standard book discussion, since we were talking about our kids. The other authors were all Americans, but I wasn't surprised to learn that most aspects of balancing child-rearing and crime writing are universal.
After that, I signed some books for a very friendly bookseller from Mystery Mike's in Indianapolis (yep, an indie from Indy).
The rest of Saturday was spent pleasantly socialising, hanging out with old friends, meeting new ones and generally sitting in the sun with a few of these.
Sunday at book festivals is always the Long Goodbye, with everyone going their separate ways and promising to catch up at the next thing. In this case that's Bloody Scotland, this very weekend.
I sat at the bar and had a beer with Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham. The beer turned into three or four, and then a few more after Mark had to catch his taxi to the airport. Very cool just hanging out with nothing to do, downing a few cold ones with a couple of crime writing masters.
And on Monday before flying home, I had a solo breakfast with a good book, which turned out to be exactly the right way to relax after a full-on weekend.