Monday, October 5, 2015

Bouchercon '15 and Reds in Raleigh

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: The other night I was watching a television show, and a woman was packing for a trip. Or, rather, her maid was doing the packing, carefully laying the woman's garments in lavender-scented tissue paper, before placing them in the (gorgeous) luggage.

That, ahem, is not how my suitcase gets packed.

Raleigh, NC

As Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, NC, approaches (yay!), I'm starting to think of packing. And after a few years of author travel, I think I have a better idea of what's needed. For example, for my first Bouchercon, I wore really pretty shoes. Did I mention they were pretty? Soooo pretty. And painful. Seriously painful. I actually lost a toenail from my insistence on pretty shoes in Albany.

So, lesson learned — comfy shoes. (Hank can get away with high heels, I'm still not sure how she does this, but witchery and sacrifices to Anna Wintour come to mind...)

I'm tired of figuring out what to pack, clothes-wise. So I've decided to embrace my New Yorker identity and wear only (well, mostly) black. It's great. Everything matches! 

And this year — workout clothes. Yes, after four rounds of pneumonia, I'm taking my health seriously. So yoga pants and sneakers, for sure.

I'll also be multitasking — just got the edits of Maggie Hope, #6, THE QUEEN'S CONSPIRATOR, and they're due in early November. So I'm bringing the laptop and notes. Maybe I can get some work done in the early morning? We'll see....

Reds, what have you learned to pack — or not to pack — after years on the road? And who will be at Bouchercon this year? What panels will you be on? Where can folks find you to say hi?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Oh, the tyranny of the shoes!  Yes, how did you know about the sacrificial offerings (burning  issues of Harpers and other competitors of Anna) ?
Anyway, yes, actually I am so used to heels after all these years that I can get away with it longer than usual..but I have to admit I always carry little fold-up flats with me, so if I have to walk long distances, I just change shoes.

(I keep saying to myself: NO ONE CARES.)

I use tissue paper to pack and I really believe in it. I pack my carry-on suitcase, and what I can fit in there goes, and what doesn't, doesn't.  

Yes, Susan, we will be twins in black. And I am also planning to hide a bit, I must say, I have SO much to do. And I am thinking that everyone will think (if they care!) that I am somewhere else.  

My panels are amazing! I am moderating Koryta, Housewright, Gaylin and Lawrence Block on Saturday AM, and then at the librarians tea, I am moderating  Slaughter, John Hart, Maron and Reichs. SO I have a LOT of prep work to do!

And TRUTH BE TOLD is up for an Anthony!

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Congratulations on your nomination, Hank! We're all rooting for you!

LUCY BURDETTE: Oh boo-hoo, I'm not headed to Bouchercon this time. I will miss schmoozing with the Reds and many other friends. I don't wear high heels anymore either. Can't do it with my chronic plantar fasciitis. And I am big on black mix and match too, though not tissue paper LOL. Totally agree Hank, if it doesn't fit into the carry-on and my small backpack, it doesn't go. Good luck ladies and have a wonderful time!

RHYS BOWEN: I've become quite good at packing, after years of bringing the wrong things... like going to New York wearing pastels and feeling like a creature from another planet. But I don't wear black unless I really have to (editor and marketing meeting in NY) because with my Celtic skintone I look like a zombie in black. And high heels? Never. Can't do it. Am amazed and totally impressed by Hank and her four inch heels. The most I manage is a neat little two inch wedge on comfortable sandals. Or boots. I have boots with a nifty little heel but I figure Raleigh is too warm for boots. 

I do know how to pack really lightly with just a carry on and one basic color and scarves and jewelry to change up the look. However this time I am travelling with my dear husband who always takes enough to accompany Marco Polo. And he never wears half of it. So I'll be fuming by the luggage carousel waiting for his suitcase.

My panels? Not so much. A strange one on protagonists and antagonists... what do I know about antagonists? And one of cozy mysteries being comfort reads. I really miss my Jungle Red game show! Next year in New Orleans or Malice???

DEBORAH CROMBIE: No heels here, either, but I've found some great flats from Clark's and I swear I'm going to buy them in all four color options! And, yes, I'm going to Raleigh! But not packed. I always have such good intentions... Although I have made a list of all my activities to help me figure out what to take. We'll see how well that works... Hank, tissue paper, really? I just roll stuff, and try not to pack things that wrinkle.

Really looking forward to see those REDS who can make it, but the schedule is bonkers. We need some kind of a plan. And, Rhys, yes, miss our JRW game show panel!

HALLIE EPHRON: I am so sorry to be missing Bouchercon, too. Cheering from the sidelines!

I'm just back from a weekend giving a writing workshop for the Heart of Denver Romance Writers (waving!) and it took me 30 seconds to unpack, as I've learned to bring less and less... 1 pair of walking shoes and 1 pair of presenting shoes (flat), black dress, black skirt, yoga pants and a t-shirt, and something to travel in (pants and a top). And that's it. The underwear takes up more room than the clothes. I keep travel cosmetics packed.

I just applied to TSA for pre-check, which will speed my travel even further.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I have the same standards lots of you do - two pairs of shoes, one flat and comfy, one low-heeled and comfy (ish.) I layer and roll my clothes in the rollerboard and I never check (unless it's at the gate.) Like Rhys, I'm a big believer in accessories (scarves and high-impact necklaces) to dress up simple outfits. 

I don't usually do all-black; also of Anglo-celtic descent, too much around my face makes me look like I've been improperly embalmed. Instead, my clothing secret it to take two or three colors that mix and match: Brown, beige and red, say, or Black, white and gray.
Another thing I've been doing for the past few years is Rent The Runway! I love this service for events where I have a big dress-up night: the Edgars, the Agatha Awards, a high-value cocktail party. They have designer dresses in every size from 0 to 22, and jewelry and clutches and wraps. You get two sizes of the dress you want with your rental (the back-up size is free) and shipping both ways is included.

I have the dress (and maybe fancy earrings or a necklace) delivered straight to my hotel. I wear it, I get compliments, then I stuff it into the included UPS bag and drop it at the desk to be mailed on my way out the door. Such a stress-free way to look fabulous. No tissue paper needed!

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Lovely readers, do you pack with tissue-paper or are you more of a throw-stuff-in-the-bag-at-the-last-minute traveler? And will we see you at Bouchercon? I'll be on the panel Political Espionage Thrillers: Pre- and Post-Edward Snowden on Thursday, October 8th, at 2:30 p.m. and would love to see you there!

Please tell us your thoughts in the comments!


  1. Oh, it all sounds like so much fun . . . I hope you all have a wonderful time!
    Congratulations on your nomination, Hank.

    No tissue paper [or heels] if I'm packing . . . I'm definitely a throw-stuff-in-the-bag-at-the-last-minute packer, but everything in a carry-on, lots of black, and comfortable sounds perfect to me.

  2. I, sadly, am not going to make Bouchercon this year. :( I have very little chance to get time off during the first half of the month, and this Bouchercon falls during the can't miss work deadlines. Last year's Bouchercon fall at the end of the deadlines, which is why I showed up one day late.

    Pack light? I just can't do it. I usually have to check and bag, don't even try to go with just a carry on. Of course, it's really nice to check a bag and just have my backpack (with laptop and books in it) since it means I don't have to pull a bag behind me through the airport or keep track of it. It's a pain to do that when you travel by yourself.

    And I never pack until the night before. If I pack earlier, I think everything is packed and then forget something essential that I use every day like a charger. This way, I can pack everything at one time and there is less chance I will forget something.

  3. Had to cancel my B'con reservations so I won't make this year, but I already have next year inked (note, not penciled) into my calendar. Take that, laughing karma gods! I'm busy scribbling Reds packing tips. Tissue! Hank, really. You always look so terrific, I'm putting tissue on my shopping list. Life on the west coast of Florida means if I'm going anywhere, I'm changing planes. So, unless I want to shop at my destination, it's carry on only for me (note to self - brown, beige, red).

    Have a great time, Reds. The panels sound wonderful!

  4. No tissue paper, but I do pack carefully. And I got some new black pants that LOOK professional but FEEL like yoga pants. Yay! See you down there - and hoping I get to meet Susan in person, since I haven't yet.

  5. The only time I packed with tissue paper was when I packed my husband for a work trip to India for six weeks. It was all ironed and ready to go. After that some nice people in India did his laundry. They even folded his t–shirts around cardboard!

    Heels only for a special occasion. Flats and lightweight footwear make the cut. I studied packing tips recently for a seven week trip to Europe. I did the the three basic colors and it worked out perfectly. I was able to get everything in one case, although I had to check it since lifting it over my head was not an option.

    Have a wonderful trip! I really enjoy the diverse topics here at JRW.

  6. LOVE those photos--they are GREAT!

    I pack the night before, too…but I hang everything on a rack so its all together--that way I can see if I have too much..

    Whoo hoooo, see you soon!

  7. Rent the Runway!?! That sounds so great, Julia - What a brilliant idea.

  8. I have all my books packed for Bouchercon. That is really the most important thing. On Tuesday night, I'll throw some clothes together. At least I have a sort-of uniform now with my BOLO Books shirts for promotion.

    Susan, will we FINALLY get to see each other? I'm bringing my cocktail book for autographing, so I think it will happen. ;)

    And yes, I'll be cheering on Hank and the wonderful Truth Be Told. Whoo Hoo.

  9. My first Bouchercon (in Cleveland) I made the shoe mistake. Thank goodness for friends (you know you have a true friend when she literally gives you the shoes off her feet). That trip made me a lifelong Clarks convert.

    I am going to Bouchercon. I am about 75% packed. This year, I am ditching the office-style business casual that all needs to be carefully folded then ironed when I arrive (because I truly suck at folding). Everything is either wrinkle resistant or the wrinkles will fall out when I hang. Couple pairs of cords, my dark wash dressy jeans, soft blazers that don't mind being wadded up, and a nice black dress for the Anthony awards (also fine knit that will laugh at wrinkles). Two pairs of flats (including the pair I'll be wearing down) and one pair of blocky, low-ish heels. I even laid out jewelry for everything! My personal fashion consultant (aka my fifteen year old daughter) approved of everything. "You'll look polished, trendy, and not stuffy. Totally your author image. I approve." Oh goody. Must throw in either my fuzzy pink leopard PJ pants or my Cookie Monster pants for lounging around.

    And there's stuff I can't pack yet because I still need to use it.

    I am debating taking my laptop. The only reason I would is because I'm doing the SinC Into Great Writing with James Scott Bell on Wednesday afternoon and I might want it for notes, etc. We'll see. And since I have to take a carry-on, the big bag (with clothing) will be checked.

    I'm actually (gulp) on a panel this year (suggested by a friend who had to cancel and I'm still a bit flabbergasted the programming board asked me): Death & Danger in Suburbia on Saturday at 2:30pm. So if you see me in the bar later drinking like the proverbial fish you'll know why.

  10. I always bring too much, but I like to be comfortable away from home, and have clothing choices. And colors, which means tops, since scarves defeat me. I also tend to spill things on myself. I roll everything. No tissue paper. I have never lost a checked bag, but I do make sure the essentials are in my carry on, including at least one pair of slacks and two tops. Most important item--my iPad! Looking forward to seeing everyone. Susan, our panels are at the same time. Darn! But on the bright side that means we'll be in the same signing session. See you there.


  11. "1 pair of walking shoes and 1 pair of presenting shoes (flat), black dress, black skirt, yoga pants and a t-shirt, and something to travel in (pants and a top). And that's it."
    Hallie, you have a skirt but no tops to wear with it? Daring!

    Julia, Rent the Runway is brilliant!

    Does anyone else find that whatever I decided was not necessary to pack is exactly what I want when I arrive?

  12. You guys, I'm getting so excited! Glad to know I'm not the only silly person who wore pretty but painful shoes to my first B'con.... And Julia, Rent the Runway sounds amazing! Off to check it out.....

  13. This will be my first Bouchercon and for some reason, I am beginning to remember how nervous I was just before I started high school. What's with that? Large crowds of people who already know each other? Hmmm... Thinking that even if Raleigh is relatively warm, the air conditioning in hotels suggests layering will be smart. And yes to comfortable shoes. No one ever had a good time anywhere when their feet were killing them.

  14. I learn the coolest things here! Rent the Runway!!! What a great idea. Not an idea I can imagine I'll ever use, but I absolutely love the thought of it.

    Tissue paper for wrapping. This is an idea that never occurred to me, but one I'll be trying!

    No high high heels for me, although I will be envious of Hank's and how she manages them with such style and ease.

    My two pairs of cowboy boots do have a heel. But I've worn both pairs so much that they feel as comfy as bedroom slippers. The other shoes are little black ballet flats with straps. I adore them. And they go so well with my little black dresses and my black pants . . .

    As I was rolling up scarves and pashminas to put into the suitcase, Don Barley walked up behind me and said something like, "a gal just can't pack too many scarves." I agree.

    Susan - I will see you in the workout room!!!

  15. I learn the coolest things here! Rent the Runway!!! What a great idea. Not an idea I can imagine I'll ever use, but I absolutely love the thought of it.

    Tissue paper for wrapping. This is an idea that never occurred to me, but one I'll be trying!

    No high high heels for me, although I will be envious of Hank's and how she manages them with such style and ease.

    My two pairs of cowboy boots do have a heel. But I've worn both pairs so much that they feel as comfy as bedroom slippers. The other shoes are little black ballet flats with straps. I adore them. And they go so well with my little black dresses and my black pants . . .

    As I was rolling up scarves and pashminas to put into the suitcase, Don Barley walked up behind me and said something like, "a gal just can't pack too many scarves." I agree.

    Susan - I will see you in the workout room!!!

  16. I never heard of Rent the Runway. What an amazing idea! Next Agatha banquet I'll try it.
    So excited to see Hank, Debs, Susan. In 3 days. Packing right now

  17. OK, I just looked at Rent the Runway -- WOW! Gorgeous stuff!

  18. I wish I was going to Bcon! But not getting my book done by the end of the summer means I have to put the time in now.

    Kathy Lynn, I have a friend who's a "More is more" packer when it comes to travel. I don't think she makes a weekend jaunt without three pieces of luggage. To her, the inconvenience of having extra baggage to deal with is outweighed by the pleasure of having exactly what she wants and, as you mention, feeling comfortable.

    Which is to say the ultimate secret of packing for travel is to figure out what works for you and stick to it.

    I'm glad you're all taking a look at RtR! One of the cool things I forgot to mention about it? It's a woman-founded, woman-run enterprise which was last year named one of the best companies to work at in New York State!

  19. Rent the Runway! How cool! going to check that out now.

    Hank, question: What exactly is the purpose of the tissue paper? It sounds pretty but I don't get it... Wrinkle prevention? I don't usually have clothes that won't uncrease when hung.

    I did some marathon shopping with my lovely daughter on Saturday. She is so organized, and so stylish, and now I'm spoiled for choice. I will try to keep everything to the rollaboard size suitcase, but I like to check. Lifting into the overhead is not a happy thing for my back, and because I usually have priority boarding I can't count on a tall, friendly guy to do it for me.

    Kaye, you know I am "Scarf Girl" but don't know if I'm bringing any this year. Hmm. All will become clear tonight.

    Hallie, I wondered about the missing top, too:-)

    Oh, and for the style challenged like me, my daughter suggested taking photos of the different outfits, with accessories. (Maybe she gets tired of hearing me say, "Now what was I supposed to wear with the --- top?")

  20. Although I live only about 45 minutes away from Raleigh, I decided not to commute, but to splurge on two nights at the Marriott, so I share packing and clothes-decision-making woes with many of you, too. However, if a serious clothing crisis arises, I can always zip home. (Not!)

    A big welcome to all you out-of-towners and a suggestion: if you have an extra day before or after B-con, take a side trip to Fearrington Village, about half-way between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro. It is a lovely planned community with a village center that features, among its shops and restaurants, one of the best independent book stores ever: McIntyre's Books. The manager, Pete Mock, knows just about everything there is to know about mysteries and has devoted an entire room of the store to mysteries and thrillers. The store frequently offers author readings--I know Hank talked at one a couple of years ago. Pete will be selling books at Bouchercon, so say hello if you can't make it to McIntyre's.

    And i hope to meet some of you in Raleigh.

  21. Tissue paper for preventing wrinkles. Just layer the tissue paper between any fold. Seriously. It doesn't take up any room, somehow, and it works.

    And you can use the same tissue paper going home. Just stuff it into the hotel dresser drawer.

    SO al that tissue paper that comes in stuff you order--don't throw it away. Re-use for packing!

  22. Darling Pale Reds, you can wear black--if you wrap the top part of yourself in a scarf, separating your luminous face from the noir.

    I'm the Scarf Girl, too, Debs, and I noticed--and loved--the scarf you were wearing so artfully in Dayton last year.

    Wishing you all a fun time in Raleigh, and wishing I could join you. But we're having company next weekend, so I'm really glad I did not make plans to go.

    And I have seen Hank walking in her sky-high heels, down the middle of a hotel staircase--WITHOUT HOLDING THE HANDRAIL. She is a shoe goddess. Full stop.

  23. Not going, too far to drive and I don't fly.

    Packing: 2 pair jeans, 4 T-shirts, 1 windbreaker, 1 pair socks per day plus an extra, underwear, 1 pair New Balance shoes. Done. Sometimes it's good to be a guy.

  24. Oh, Hank, I am so happy to find someone else who packs with tissue paper. I have endured much ridicule for my efforts to keep clothes somewhat presentable by this packing method, but it does work reasonably well, so I continue to have tissue at the ready. Of course, if I packed less, it would also help in the wrinkle prevention effort, but I am a chronic over-packer, and I don't see a cure in sight. My brilliant daughter does the roll packing and never checks a bag. She went to Europe for six weeks with one backpack. She likes the special underwear that you can wash and it dries out quickly, and she can make a skirt and a few tops go a long way.

    I will be sporting black themed outfits, although I do have one colorful blouse. I rarely wear dresses, but I purchased a black dress from Travel Smith that I actually like and hope to wear without too much embarrassment. I think someone here has mentioned Travel Smith before (Debs?), and they do have some great items that are supposed to be pretty much wrinkle free. I also bought a skirt from them, which, again is a rarity for me. I'm a slacks or jeans person, but I keep thinking that maybe I should have some grown-up clothes. I have a few scarves, but I haven't found a fall or Halloween one like I wanted. I do have a Halloween long-sleeved top and my Halloween earrings. See, I just can't be a grown-up in my attire.

    I am thankful to be flying Southwest, where I can check two bags free. I'll have a clothes bag (with a few books) and a book bag to check. I have a carry-on, but I'm trying to watch its weight, as, like you, Debs, my back will pay the price if it's too heavy. I'll be spending the night at my sister-in-law's before an early morning Wednesday flight, so I have to take a small bag for there, too. Gee, I'm beginning to think that last picture on your post, Susan, is me.

    Shoes. I hope I've learned my lesson. My first Bouchercon was Albany, too, Susan, and I wore some new shoes that had me dreading each step before the day was over, and it was, of course, the day that I had to walk to a restaurant to meet Laurie King and others for dinner. It's not a good first impression to be cringing in pain. I am being rather risky this trip, with two new pair of shoes, but I am also wearing an older pair on the plane, which may become my only pair. We'll see. Maybe I haven't learned my lesson.

    So sorry that I won't be seeing Roberta, Hallie, or Julia in Raleigh, but you all have perfectly good excuses, and I look forward to seeing you in New Orleans next year with a Reds panel (please). I'm super excited that I will be meeting you, finally, Susan! I think I have my schedule worked out to see each of the Reds who are there on a panel, and I'm hoping for a drink or meet-up elsewhere, too. Of course, now that I know you all might be working and working out, I will have to gear up my radar for sightings. Hank, I will definitely be cheering you and Truth Be Told on, such a great read. Rhys, since I read the Lady Georgie series after my first Bouchercon, I'll be bringing a heavy load of your books to this, my second one. Debs, I realized that I read some of your first books on my Kindle and in mass paperback, so I will be looking for some hardback copies of those. I can't wait to see you all!

  25. Yes, Hank--tissue paper! I've been using it for packing for years, and once the piece of clothing is tissued and folded, it goes into an appropriate zip-lock bag (usually more than one in the same bag). This type of packing comes in handy if TSA has to root through your suitcase!

    Having had foot surgery (both) at age 14, heels are out of the question except for, occasionally, kitten heels, which are not easy to find. Good thing my husband is the same height!

    I've never been to Bouchercon, but I'll be at Left Coast Crime in Phoenix next February and hope to see some of you there.

  26. Awesome travel tips! I'd wondered about using Rent The Runway, Julia, because I'd had the impression it only worked in the major cities, so I'm glad to hear it works. I'll consider RTR the next time I go someplace dressy.

    I can confirm the effectiveness of Hank's tissue paper practice because I tried it. Tissue paper between the clothes works great, even -- here comes the crazy part - if you layer your clothes before rolling them all up together into a giant log. Shocking, right? :)

  27. In a fit of shoe envy, I bought a pair of Hank-ish shoes. Put them on. Walked from the bedroom to the office. Took them off. I think they're on their way to the consignment bag. Bought a lovely Hank-ish pencil skirt. Did you know that there is a difference between a size 2 in a pencil skirt and a size that will remain unmentioned? Kind of the difference between string cheese and a salami.

    So I'm back to the packing drawing board. I have the perfect pants...except hubby says I look too wide from the rear. And the perfect plum silk tunic. And boots. No one has mentioned boots. I have perfect black boots and great Italian sandals and that marvelous scarf. I've even watched the videos that tell me how to tie said scarf. And cool earrings. And the long sleeve tee that says, in white fingerprints on black: It was me.

    So ready to strut my "Oh My GOD I'm an Anthony nominee!!!" stuff at B'con. And I get to be in the cadaver dog demo with the amazing Cat Warren.

  28. Hank, I don't think I'd recognize you if you weren't wearing heels. xo

  29. Debs, that's how I learned to store clothing as a theatre apprentice... loose fold and roll. xo

  30. Coming in late.
    What I always pack anywhere (besides comfy shoes, of course) is a sarong. Or two. They take up almost no room or weight, and they are massively versatile. They can be shoved into your daypack for emergency use. It can be:
    bathing suit
    bathing suit cover up
    head scarf (just in case)
    housecoat (over the nightgown)
    beach blanket

    They are colourful and cheap and easily washed and dry quickly.

    I don't leave home without one.

  31. I wish I were going to Bouchercon this year, Susan! Have fun, everyone!

    I learned two important things in the post: TSA pre-approval and Rent the Runway. Fantastic!