Monday, July 25, 2011

More Tales from the Road: Comic-Con

All I knew about Comic-con before attending this year came from G4's Attack of the Show. Which gave me some idea but really, no idea at all. Comic-con was a visit to a parallel universe of pop culture, where 130,000 people roamed cheek-by-jowl over two floors of a huge convention center, most of them wearing a ski hat made to look like an adorable cartoon animal. See that photo above? Under those white tents are serpentined lines of people queued up to get into the big exhibit room, Hall H, where the big panels are held. It holds 6,000 people. At Comic-con, people queue up better than in the former Soviet Union, where queueing was a way of life.

For me, Comic-con was another opportunity to realize how incredibly lucky I am as a debut author. Did I meet other debut authors there? No. I met some very talented and hardworking authors who earned their way by producing several great books for their publishers. It is really humbling. And my publisher, Gallery Books, and in particularly editor Ed Schlesinger, gave me another wonderful day, getting me on a panel and hosting an in-booth signing.

I mean, look at this panel. The moderator, on the left, is Maryelizabeth Hart, co-owner of Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego and a fixture in the sci-fi/fantasy firmament. The first panelist, l-r, is Michael Cassutt. He co-wrote a novel, Heaven's Shadow, with Daivd Goyer, the screenwriter of a little movie called The Dark Knight, oh and another one called Ghostrider. Michael is not only a long-time science fiction writer, he's also a TV producer who has done a few little shows like Twilight Zone and Beverly Hills 90210.  Next was Michael Carroll, who in addition to his latest book writes Judge Dredd comics; then there's Jason Starr, whose written many crime novels and comics; then there's my head. Next is Rachel Caine, author of the Morganville Vampires and several other series; then Drew Magary, who for a satirical writer proved to be extremely insightful (no surprise, probably); and lastly, Heather Brewer, who writes the Vlad Tod series and has another series coming out. Each and every one of them was witty and smart and so generous to the newbie author. As someone who doesn't get to interact with kids much, it was a delight, too, watching Heather Brewer with her young fans, seeing their faces light up to meet her. Authors like her are raising the next generation of readers.

So it was a great opportunity to learn the business by watching the pros, including Scott Westerfeld, a featured guest at Comic-con, whom I got to see when he dropped by the booth. He has this complete ease about him that most of us can only hope to achieve some day.

My only regret is that I was sick going in: I had a bout of vertigo which is disconcerting, especially in crowds or where there's lots of movement. Which Comic-con has in spades, along with food & drink that was as pricey as it is in Europe ($4 bottle of water! $3 cookies!) But I wouldn't have missed this for anything.

Next stop: Squaw Valley Conference of Writers in August.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thrillerfest: Everything a conference should be

Last weekend I was in NYC for Thrillerfest, the conference of the International Thriller Writers (ITW). A few years ago I was trying to write espionage thrillers and was an associate member of ITW, but this year was my first time as a published author. I was attending as one of the debut authors (more on that below). For those of you contemplating a career as a writer, it's important to attend writers conferences. When you're starting out, they're good for the craft talk -- to teach you to be a better writer -- but once you've sold a book, they're absolutely essential for networking. You need people you can talk business with, whose shoulders you can cry on, to turn to for advice, share a hotel room with. These friendships often are made at conferences.

Usually I attend as many panels as I can at these things, but this time I had a lot of business to get done. There were people I wanted to meet with, friends to catch up with. I went to some downtown bookstores to introduce myself. I forced myself to hang out in the conference hotel bar (because that's where the action is at writer's conferences, whether you drink or not.) Sirius/XM radio was there taping interviews for Book Radio and somehow I got squeezed in (thank you Maggie Linton and Kim Alexander)! My first radio interview! I got to see Jeffery Deaver, who I met a couple years ago, Joseph Finder (who is very gracious to debut authors), Alex Berenson, Karen Dionne, and the marvelous MJ Rose. I was thrilled to get to meet Douglas Clegg in person! Such a smart, thoughtful writer. I also got to meet Joe McGinniss, the author of nonfiction classics such as FATAL VISION. He thanks the attorney at Dept of Justice who was responsible for bringing Jeffrey MacDonald, the killer, to trial and you know McGinniss won my heart when he thanked a fellow civil servant :-)

I probably had the most unconventional book of all the debut novelists this year, but there were so many wonderful books it was an honor to be in this group. That's Jennifer Hillier in the photo with me; we are both published by Gallery Books and her debut CREEP just came out. She seems too incredibly nice to have written such a chilling book! (Ah, but we say that of all thriller writers. Such pussycats.)

Also among the debut novelists were Allison Leotta, whose legal thriller LAW OF ATTRACTION has been getting a lot of attention; Todd Ritter, whose book DEATH NOTICE has gotten great reviews; and Hilary Davidson, whose THE DAMAGE DONE has gotten nominated for many mystery awards. It was great to meet all these talented writers, and with Allison also living in DC, I expect we'll see more of each other.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Linda Ronstadt talks about The TAKER

Kidding, kidding... When I was in my twenties, I bore a crazy resemblance to singer Linda Ronstadt. Some people said Valerie Bertinelli. I should be so lucky. Anyway, there was something about this shot that reminded me of that factoid from my past.

Here's the video I mentioned a few posts back, the one filmed at Colonial Williamsburg. It gives a few more insights into what influenced me to write the novel, also some lovely atmospheric shots that will take you two hundred years back in time.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

On the Road: The TAKER tour kicks off

We're about two months out from the US release day for The TAKER. (Gallery has made a wonderful countdown widget in case the date slips my mind. Have you seen it? It's on the website homepage.)

The number one question I get asked by friends and family is whether I'm going on a book tour. The answer is yes and no; yes, I'm getting to go places to support the book release but no, I'm not doing a tour as they're envisioning it. The words "book tour" conjure up images of bookstores packed with people desperate to get the author to sign their book and maybe read for 5 or 10 minutes from their latest book. The sad reality is that few people go to readings at bookstores anymore, except for famous authors, and so bookstores are reluctant to book debut authors. It helps feed that catch-22: the stores won't book you unless you have a following already but how do you get a following if people don't get the chance to hear about you? (Also, reading aloud is highly discouraged. Turns out no one over the age of seven likes to be read to.)

Because I'm very lucky and my publisher has a lot of faith in The TAKER, they're sending me to some big book events this fall. (I'll be doing a few book store signings right around the release day; more on that in a future post.) Two very exciting events are coming up this month:

---8-9 July I'll be at THRILLERFEST in New York City, the annual convention of writers of thrillers and mysteries. My favorite thing about Thrillerfest is that a lot of big-name authors attend, and they're always generous in sharing their advice. Every year, they feature a group of first-time authors and I'm a member of this year's debut class.

---21-24 July I'll be at COMIC-CON in San Diego. I cannot tell you how jazzed I am about this. I'm on a panel on the 23rd with an amazing line-up of speakers: David Goyer (director/writer/producer of a few little films like THE DARK KNIGHT and the BLADE series), Michael Cassut (TV writer/producer), Rachel Caine (THE MORGANVILLE VAMPIRES series), Heather Brewer (VLAD TODD), Jason Starr (THE PACK), Michael Carroll (SUPERHUMAN) and Drew McGary (THE POSTMORTAL). These are people who know how to tell a STORY. This is about as far from Washington DC wonk-ville as you can get. I don't suppose I have to do a power point presentation for this one. I just hope I think of something to say.