Charmed to Death was the tag line for this years Bouchercon mystery/suspense/crime etc writers' convention at the Baltimore Sheraton. Baltimore is known as Charm City. It was a beautiful city and the people there were great. I was there with my wife and we stayed at the adjacent Radisson Lord Baltimore Plaza hotel and it was a wonderful 1930's looking hotel that was full of atmosphere. The staff there made us particularly welcome and the guys who worked on the door and on the valet parking where top notch. Both hotels were attached by a walkway that led from the Radisson mezzanine floor to the Sheraton and this was where a lot of the attendees gathered to smoke and have a chat - I met some great people there. This years Bouchercon was sponsored by William Morrow and Company (Harper Collins US) who just happen to be my US publishers, so it was a great opportunity to meet people I've only ever spoken to on the phone or via email. The people I met there are too many to list and it would be rude to list only some of them: let it only be said that they are a thoroughly great bunch who were very open and approachable - Yes, even the top names.
Baltimore gets a bad rep. Apparently there is on average seven murders in the city each week, and in the past six months police have shot dead 33 people in armed confrontations. Still, we didn't see any hint of this side of the city. We were in the commercial centre and near to one of the most beautiful harbours I've ever seen in a city. My only regret was that I didn't get the opportunity to visit Edgar Allan Poe's gravesite. It was only 3 blocks from where I stayed, but the opportunity just didn't present itself. Particularly when I only got as far as the Park Avenue diner which did some great meals and had the power to halt me in my tracks. If you are ever in Baltimore, look up the Park Avenue for some great grub and great service. Also of note is The Cheesecake Factory, Le Cheneile(I think) and also The Black Olive at Fell Point. But it wasn't all eating. There was writing and networking and some great company all around. For wannabe writers (like I was only eight months ago) attending the Bouchercon is a great experience. I can't promise that it will get you the elusive publishing deal that you are after, but it puts you a rung higher on the ladder.
To get to Baltimore wasn't the easiest for me. I'd to drive 137 miles to Manchester airport, take a flight to Newark (7 hrs 55 minutes), hang around for hours, then get a second flight to Washington/Baltimore International, then grab a taxi to the Rad. Coming back was exactly the same, but with more waiting time between flights. Coming back we lost 5 hours which was a bit odd and has taken a few days to get over. But, hey, I wouldn't have missed it for the world!
Keep on keeping on