Bouchercon LogoAre you an author? If so, and if you’re planning on going to Bouchercon, you should sign up today! Why? Because if you don’t sign up by June 1, you won’t be on a panel! So run over to Bouchercon 2014 — Murder at the Beach right now and then come on back and read the rest of this post. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

OK, you’re back? WHAT? You haven’t left yet? Well, let me tell you why you should.

Bouchercon, for those of you who don’t know, is a reader and writer conference. No, you don’t have to be an author. Yes, your favorite mystery and thriller authors will be there. And this year, it’s in Long Beach. Say it with me…Long Beach. Nice weather when so much of the country will be miserable.

But even without the weather, even without the beach, B’con is so worthwhile. B’con 2012 was the place I first got the chance to meet my literary idol, John Connolly. (You can read about that encounter here.) Over the past few years, I’ve both moderated and sat on panels, and in both cases I really enjoyed myself. Because B’con is a fan conference, there’s a lot more interaction between readers and writers. Yes, it’s nice to socialize with writer friends the way one does at RWA or Sleuthfest, but at B’con you also get to meet people who have actually paid money for your books. Do you know what that’s like? Because it’s pretty darned fabulous. These are people who are literally invested in you.

Clare Toohey and Neliza DrewAnd, as a fan (because, yeah, if you didn’t get it from my pathetic reaction to John Connolly, I am a fan), it’s great to be able to meet the folks whose books you’ve invested in. The people whose characters you know and love. You can hang with them in the bar and find out their deepest secrets. You can go to panels and get the scuttlebutt on what’s coming next. Who has a movie deal? Who’s starting a new series? Get books that aren’t yet available to the general public. Get books signed. Oh, the books, the books!

There’s also a fair amount of general silliness at Bouchercon, like the 2012 cocktail party sponsored by, where attendees were provided with a mugshot backdrop and various props…and went all out! (You can see the pictures on Pinterest.) Fans and authors alike were getting goofy, and it was all-around fun.

You just never know what’s going to happen at Bouchercon. (Last year, Clare Toohey and I got kicked out of a bar before the conference even began, which I admit is something of a record.) That’s part of its charm.

And if you’re shy, or uncertain about going to a conference, this is a great one to start with. Seriously. Everyone is super-friendly and very helpful. And did I mention it’s in Long Beach?