I spent the last few days doing something I wish a few more of you would do: attending Mayhem in the Midlands.
Seriously. It's capped at 200 people, so some years you couldn't have gotten in, but this year, what with the economy and all, there was room--a little too much room. And it's one of my favorite conventions, and I don't want the organizers to give up on it, so here's my invitation: Meet me in Omaha, Memorial Day weekend, 2011.
Did I mention that the guest of honor will be Laurie R. King, with S. J. Rozan as toastmaster? If you're a big fan of either--or like me, of both--this is your chance to see them in a much more intimate setting than you'll find at, say, Bouchercon. You never know--you might actually get a chance to buy S.J. a drink, in the bar, or sit at Laurie's table at the Sisters in Crime buffet dinner.
And if you have ever envied those lucky people who manage to win a chance to be a character in a favorite author's book--envied them, or perhaps shaken your head in amazement at how much they've paid for the privilege--Mayhem's for you. Several well-known writers donated character names. And while it's my job as long-standing Mayhem auctioneer to raise as much money as possible for the cause--in this case, the children's collection of the Omaha Public Library--there's only so high the price will go at a small convention. Several people went home very happy that they are now going to appear in books by Kent Krueger and Kathy Lynn Emerson. (At left: Deborah Crombie, Steve Hamilton, and Marcia Talley at the signing table.)
Except for a couple of tracks, like the guest of honor interview, there are always multiple panels going on. So you might have a few tough choices--ooh, shall I go to "Living Here, Writing There" with Deborash Crombie, Kathy Lynn Emerson, Lee Killough, and Sharan Newman? "Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Murder," with Carl Brookins, Steve Hamilton, Alex Kava, and William Kent Krueger? Or "The (Not So) Glamorous Life of a Writer" with Michael Allen Dymmoch,. Nancy Pickard, Anthony Rainone, and David J. Walker. The good thing is that at least this year, most writers got more than one panel, so you didn't have to miss seeing one of your favorites entirely. (At right: Nancy Pickard, Sean Doolittle, Shannon Baker, and William Kent Krueger in the "Murder Close to Home" panel.)
If you get paneled out--it happens to the best of us--you'd be surprised how many distractions Omaha can offer. The convention hotel is at one end of the Old Market section of Omaha, where you can find much of the city's best dining and shopping. The Durham Museum is only a few blocks away, in the fabulously restored Art Deco Union station. The hotel shuttle will gladly take you to the Henry Doorly Zoo--be sure to check out the newly opened Madagascar exhibit, where you can actually walk through the lemurs' habitat. (Just be careful not to take in any edibles. The lemurs are omnivores, and they're not shy. That's a couple of them on the left.)
Or you could just hang around the hotel and talk to your fellow convention-goers. It's a nice group. I should know; this was my eleventh Mayhem in the Midlands. Right now, I'm the only writer who has attended all eleven Mayhems. Kent Krueger has only missed one, and he's trying to bribe me to stay away one year so he and I will be even. (At right: the Durham Museum.)
Hmmm. Laurie King and S. J. Rozan.Sorry, Kent. Maybe some other year.
p.s. If you live on the east coast and Omaha's a little far . . . well, try Malice
Domestic, April 29-May 1 in Bethesda, Maryland (outside Washington, DC). Also a good cast, with guest of honor Carole Nelson Douglas, lifetime achievement winner Sue Grafton, and yours truly as toastmaster.
Yeah, I know it's a tough choice. So do what I do. Go to both!