Carol Pouliot Blog

  • November 2019

    Another Bouchercon has come and gone. Bouchercon (rhymes with voucher) is to mystery writers and readers what Christmas is to a five year-old. Every year in the fall, 1,500 to 1,900 mystery fans gather in the US, Canada, or the UK to celebrate our favorite genre. Cities bid on this, the largest mystery conference in the world, like cities bid on hosting the Olympics. 2019 marked the 50th anniversary and mystery lovers came from all over the world to share our common bond and to honor the work of some of our own. The guests of honor (GOH) at this year’s Bouchercon were: James Patterson, Peter Lovesey, Deborah Crombie, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Felix Francis, Harry Hunsicker, McKenna Jordan, Sandra Brown, and Charlaine Harris.

    This was my 3rd Bouchercon. The first time I attended, I had just begun writing Doorway to Murder. I was a new writer and like most newcomers a bit unsure of the landscape. The first person I met was Hank Phillippi Ryan. She welcomed me with open arms. It didn’t matter that I was working on my 5th draft and had no publishing prospects in sight. I was a part of the community. I was in. That simple kindness demonstrates the hallmark of the mystery-writing community. Everyone I have met over the past 6 years has been warm and welcoming, and has treated me like I was a member of the family. That first year, I attended an event where Louise Penny spoke. She said something that resonated with me and has stayed with me all this time. She said that she had found “the family of her heart” in the mystery community. Among mystery writers, there is no competition, no back-stabbing, only kindness and support. We cheer each other on. We celebrate each other’s victories. We help each other whenever we can. It is camaraderie at its finest.

    So, what do we actually do for 4 days during Bouchercon? We attend events where the guests of honor are interviewed. We participate in panel discussions−writers are on the panels, readers and writers fill the audience. We talk about all aspects of mysteries and mystery writing. This year I was on the Ghost in the Machine panel, moderated by Nancy Allen, who writes the Juror series with James Patterson. The room was packed with about 200 people on Halloween day, listening to writers talk about the uncommon aspects of their mysteries−skeletons, paranormal, ghosts, and, in my case, time travel. It was exciting and fun!

    Ghost in the Machine Panel

    In addition to panel discussions, we also spend considerable time hanging out in the hotel lobby, meeting areas, hospitality suite, and bar, of course. (We often take over the entire property because of the sheer numbers.) We network. We get together with old friends and catch up. We meet new friends, forming new partnerships, alliances, and bonds. Many of us meet with our editors and, in some cases, people meet with their agents or publicists. We share our experiences, the challenges we face, how we manage our time with the demands common to all of us. Sometimes we don’t even talk about writing, we just connect. It’s a friendly, homey, and, at the same time, thrilling gathering.

    With dear friends Grace Topping, Laurie Loewenstein, and Connie Barry.

    Bouchercon is also one of the conferences is associated with awards. The conference itself honors Anthony Boucher a New York Times book critic who focused on elevating the mystery genre at a time when it was not considered worthy fiction. The “Anthonys” are awarded each year to a variety of categories like Best First Novel, Best Novel, Best Short Story, Best Paperback Original Novel, and Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work. I liken these awards to the Golden Globes of mystery writing. There is an awards banquet and all the fanfare you’d expect.

    Finally, I would like to say that if you are a mystery writer or reader join us!! Bouchercon 2020 will be in Sacramento. The guests of honor are: Scott Turow, Walter Mosley, Anne Perry, Anthony Horowitz, Catriona McPherson, Cara Black, and Janet Rudolph. In 2021, we’re back in New Orleans. You’ll return home with autographed books (dozens of them for free!) and your head buzzing with excitement from living mysteries for several days.

    At the Anthony Awards banquet with lifelong friends Barb Schlichting and Chris Husom.

    With fellow 1930s writer Laurie (L.A.) Chandlar

  • October 2019

    Who doesn’t remember their first car? I sure do.

    It was a 1964 red VW bug and, although it was a mess, I loved it. It had belonged to a college friend who was going into the Peace Corps and didn’t need it. I was on Long Island, at Stony Brook University getting my Masters. She lived about 45 minutes away. Of course, it was a standard shift, which I didn’t know how to drive. But, why would I let that stop me? I got my friend Chucho from Mexico, who didn’t have a license but knew how to drive a standard, to come with me on the train then drive it back to campus. He showed me the basics on the way home.

    The first time I went out on my own, I caught a red light on a small incline. Depress the clutch, hit the brake, downshift to first. Good. I’ve got this. Green light. Release the brake and give it a little gas. I rolled back into a Lincoln Continental. BRAKE! I’d forgotten to release the clutch. Luckily, I only tapped his bumper and the man was very gracious. After that, I learned fast. A week later, I drove into Manhattan where I really learned to drive a stick.

    My maternal grandfather, affectionately known as Pa, was born in 1900−a year before Steven, the Depression-era cop in my series. Pa embraced the advent of the automobile like a long lost brother. He was a “Chevy man.” He traded in for a new one every two years. Pa loved his cars and treated them like they were his children. Every Saturday, he lovingly washed and hand-polished his Chevy. On Sunday, he and my grandmother often took a drive.

    Since Pa and Steven would have been contemporaries, I gave Steven his love of cars. Steven saved his money and, a month before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, bought his first car−a 1929 dark green, 4-door Chevy sedan. It has a 6 cylinder engine, a spare tire mounted over the back bumper, wire spokes in the wheels, and a leather strap inside for the front, bench seat passenger to hold.

    In Threshold of Deceit, Olivia spends several days in 1934 with Steven and gets to ride to Syracuse with him while he’s working on an investigation.

    Olivia sank onto the roomy bench seat and ran her hand
    over the soft tufted upholstery. The luxurious interior was
    a pale gray, chenille-like material. Olivia stretched out her
    legs and leaned back onto the seat, enjoying the moment.
    Yeah, this is pretty cool. (Threshold of Deceit)

    I’m having a lot of fun picking out cars for my characters. I search the internet and, because I live in Central New York, I actually get to see them in person. I even have a choice!

    The fabulous Northeast Classic Car Museum in Norwich, NY has nearly 200 vintage cars in stunning display. In addition, every summer, Syracuse hosts the Syracuse Nationals, the largest classic car show in the Northeast. In 2018, over 90,000 people came to see more than 8,000 classic cars from 34 states and 6 Canadian provinces. For someone who writes a mystery series set in the 1930s this is fabulous! Enjoy these pictures of some of the cars I had a chance to see recently.

    1930 Packard Roadster

    1932 Oldsmobile
    1933 Buick

    1935 Auburn Phaeton

    1933 Buick dashboard

    1929 Nash

    Rumble seat in the 1929 Nash

  • September 2019

    I love the promise and possibilities of a new beginning. I like Monday, the first of the month, New Year’s Day, and, after spending my life in school, September. It’s a fresh start, a do-over, a second chance.

    Since I began writing and have become very busy again−after a brief 5 years of being retired from teaching−I set goals and make lists. Early Monday morning, I look at what deadlines that are imposed on me and what deadlines I set for myself in order to get everything accomplished without feeling stressed or rushed. I want to enjoy what I do. Some goals are related to writing−copy edits are due to my editor, the video script must be written so we can film it. Others are more personal. I’ve been in training to swim laps again after an 8-year hiatus because of back problems. I mark my calendar with the days I’ll work out in the pool and those when I’ll walk and exercise. So far, it’s working. I’m thrilled to say I’ve been able to swim 4 laps so far. And it feels awesome!!

    I love the promise and possibilities of a new beginning

    I’ve experienced lots of new things this year. In January, I signed with a new publisher. After searching for the better part of a year, I was thrilled to become a part of the Level Best Books family. Trust me when I say that the submission process is not for the faint-hearted. I hit the jackpot and have loved working with my editor. I also have a new book out this year after a long and unavoidable delay. I’m buying my first laptop and am launching an updated website. Yay!

    In Threshold of Deceit, Olivia embarks on an epic adventure filled with firsts. After 2 months of successful experiments inside their house, she and Steven decide to push the boundaries and take a risk. Olivia time-travels to 1934 and leaves the house for the first time. Every step she takes and everything she does thrills her; some of it scares her.

    Steven had forgotten his watch and ran back upstairs to fetch it. Olivia waited on the front porch, sensing she was on the cusp of something epic. The enormity of what she was doing made her a bit light-headed and her heart beat faster from the fear of the unknown. (Threshold of Deceit)

    As we begin a new month, I’ll keep making my lists and, like Olivia, maybe take a risk or two trying something new.