Ellen Byron

Malice Bound! Or Unbound???

On Thursday, I take off for the Malice Domestic mystery convention. Four years ago, I didn’t know what the h-e-double hockey sticks Malice was. This year, I’m a nominee and a mentor – along with author Susan Van Kirk – to some poor, unsuspecting author. (Hi, Mary Feliz!) As my mother would say, “Go figure.”

Now that I’ve discovered mystery conventions, I’ve been traveling so much over the last couple of years that my husband calls me Willa Loman, after the doomed protagonist of the classic drama, Death of a Salesman. (Sidebar: I think if Willy’s destination had been Malice, he would have met a much happier fate.)

But when you have a full-time job, a kid, two dogs, and said husband, actually getting out the door and hitting the road can be complicated. I  start my convention preparation weeks, even months before departure. The suitcase that came home from Left Coast Crime in March has been parked in the guest room awaiting my Malice departure in April. My husband now calls that room “The Promotions Department.” It’s packed with everything I feel I need to support my series.  My  author spirit animal, Diane Vallere, posts pictures of the immaculately organized outfits she curates for a convention or conference. Exhibit A, Diane’s outfits for the recent Left Coast Crime meetup in Hawaii:

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Now strap on a neck brace, because you’re about to do a 180. Here’s a picture of my packing prep:

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Notice the purple and green theme. I now have not one, but two closets packed with clothes in the signature Mardi Gras colors I use to promote my Cajun Country Mystery series.  That’s what they call “branding.” I swear, I’ll be writing mysteries set in Louisiana for the rest of my life because I basically own nothing that’s not purple, green or some shade of gold. I’m already trying to think of new ideas for books set in New Orleans, ifGodforbid my current series should end.

Prepping for a mystery convention also means purchasing promo products that either entice potential readers or reward fans. (Fans! I love how I get to write that!) Events like Malice offer a great opportunity to distribute this “swag,” which stands for “stuff we all get.” I LOVE swag. Seriously. Love it. If my husband knew how much I spend on it, he’d divorce me. Luckily, I pay the bills… so he can’t see them. I’ve got so much swag for Malice that I have to send it in the big box  below. Note that what you’re seeing is only the top layer. Swag is stacked a foot and a half below that.

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Another aspect of prepping for a convention is creating a basket to donate to the event’s silent auction. Again, I go a little nutso putting together Cajun Country-themed baskets. I fill them with my books, Cajun foodstuffs and souvenirs, and of course, loads of the aforementioned swag.

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But really, the most important part of my convention prep is making a run to the bank and withdrawing a thick wad of cash. Because once I finally pack and ship and travel, all I want to do when I arrive at my convention destination is belly up to the first bar I see.

So if you’re going to Malice, you know where to find me – either at the swag table or knocking back a Chardonnay at whatever bar is handy. Wherever I am, I’ll be the gal in purple. Or green. Or gold.

Readers, do you go to conventions? How do you prepare for them?

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59 thoughts on “Malice Bound! Or Unbound???

  1. I love malice! I planned on going this year until a friend talked me into going to a writing workshop in Texas that took the alotted money.
    I’m a planner diva, so I miss nothing!
    I make sure I take cash, because that way I don’t overspend. I save the credit card for charity events.
    I pack the bare minimum, because I will come home with twice as much stuff, at least!
    And I check out any programs in advance, so I can plan for anything that is a can’t miss.
    Is there any guest speakers I have to meet? They are front and center on my list. With stickers. Yes, I make my own itinerary on top of whatever is provided!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I make a list of what to bring, and I’ll pack on Wed. (leaving Thurs. early a.m.) I tend to be the one in black with some sort of “flouncy” thing (as my husband calls them) over top. Looking forward to seeing you again Ellen!

    Liked by 5 people

    • I know, it’s nuts! Thanks for the fab pic. And if it makes you feel better, my daughter hadn’t seen a friend who lives around the corner in two years. They finally got together over the holidays – when we were all in New York! Can’t wait to see you either. And see your pic of Malice packing!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dianne,
      Been reading all your books. I like you keeping your series short, because it gives me new characters to look forward to.cant wait to see more from you.

      Like

  3. ‘That’s what they call “branding.”’ This made me giggle. I see you mention swag for readers and fans, but what about swag for friends?? lol

    I haven’t even thought about packing or what I’m going to wear…eek.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I’m packed, too. For my first Malices I brought only red clothes (blood? easy to see/remember?)Now I’ve gone over to the dark side. Literally. Black and gray, with a little aqua to wake me up. See you there!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Uh, oh. I guess I better start deciding what I’m going to pack… (Though I did have the forethought yesterday to pull out my DC Metro card that still has some money on it from last year’s Malice.)

    And speaking of swag, I desperately needed something to take notes on for my current m.s. the other day while I was out and about, and what did I find in my day pack but your groovy Cajun Mysteries note pad and pen! Life saver!

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Love this post! Was hoping to go this year, but it wasn’t in the cards. Looking forward to seeing everyone’s pictures and hopefully I’ll get to one of these conferences in the future!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I have a mental list of some books I am taking to get autographed. And I bought a new suitcase. Other than that, I haven’t done any packing yet. I’ll do that Wednesday night after I get home from work.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. I’m bringing an Alaska themed basket this year: Native Alaskan crafts, book 1 from the popular Nathan Active series and a true crime movie that was actually shot in Andorage with John Cusack and Nicholas Cage. And all my linen clothes. I hear its hot in Bethesda. Can’t wait to see you!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I’m a little freaked out about the weather because the extremely awesome dress I want to wear on Friday is long sleeve polyester, which I wear with black tights and boots!! But I don’t want to change the outfit because that’s when my big panel is. It would be great if this was a day I didn’t have to leave the chilly climes of the hotel, but of course it’s also the day I need to hurry over to the Guppy lunch to say hi to everyone, then hurry back. ARGH! I’ll have to summon up my anti-heat reserves.

    And that basket sounds wonderful. Look for me on the bid sheet!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love going to reader/fan conventions. I never knew the definition of “swag” was stuff we all get. Cool. I’m usually packed a week before the trip, although final prep is the day before.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I LOVE these conventions. I wish I could pack my clothes a week before, but the one time i did that, everything was wrinkled by the time I unpacks. So I have my outfits lined up and ready to go, and pack as much as I can the week – weeks actually – before. See you all there!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Joyce, you’re not a slacker, you’re a normal human being – as opposed to me! And bookmarks are what EVERYONE wants. I tried to hand a pen to a visitor at the LA Times Festival of Books SinC/LA booth yesterday and she refused it. She said, “I just want bookmarks.” So you’re in good shape!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I love the picture of your packing next to Diane’s packing. Literally laughed out loud. And your swag box looks magical. What Kellye said–hope you have friend swag so we can score some from you.

    In terms of my own prep, I’m at the point of having sent my swag to the hotel and having planned what to pack (but won’t put into the suitcase until Wednesday). So I was feeling sort of ready. But I had a little shake-up yesterday because I checked the forecast and it’s going to be mid-80s. WHAT. Oh well. I’m wearing my usual long sleeves. Can’t afford a new wardrobe. So if you see me with sweat pouring down my face, please just pretend everything is fine…

    Liked by 4 people

    • It’s been cold lately in the Northeast and then BAM! the bugs are hatching. I have to pack part conference and part NYC for before and after–in one trainbohnd suitcase. I am mulling things over (leaving 6 am Wed.)

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks for the add to this website. I may sound like I’m gushing, but it’s places like Malice that made me realize the kinds of books I read are okay! Everyone looks at me funny when I say my faves are Agatha Christie type novels. But you guys and gals have fabulous stories to tell, that keep me reading, even in my ripe old age of the early 50s!
    I have met several of you at Malice over the years, and hope to make it back next year. Until then, I will keep polishing my first novel, and maybe some day I will koin your ranks!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I’ll look forward to seeing you there. I’m bringing my signature combs as swag for my Bad Hair Day mystery series. And look for me in tropical Florida colors. You’re right in that prepping for a conference can be time-consuming.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Pingback: Does This Boa Make Me Look Cheap? | Chicks on the Case

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