Saturday, October 11, 2008

On the road again: Bouchercon, day 3

Despite going to bed extremely late, I dragged my sorry ass out of bed at the insane hour of 7:00 a.m., pulled on exercise shorts, shirt, socks, and shoes, and headed to the hotel workout room for some time on a stationary bicycle. The reason for this crazy action? An 8:30 a.m. panel I wanted to attend.

Amazingly, the panel was worth it. The panelists were great: Laura Lippman, John Connolly, Mark Billingham, Chris Mooney, and Karin Slaughter. Billingham, a professional comedian, was the moderator, and he did a lovely job.

What really made the panel work, however, were two things: the gimmick, and the talking skills of the panelists.

The gimmick was simple: The moderator would ask the panelists questions, each (including the moderator) would answer, and in the course of their answers each would tell three lies. No one other than the panelist would know when she or he was lying. Anyone in the audience could challenge a panelist for lying. If the challenger was correct, the panelist had to put ten bucks in a bucket on the table behind which they were sitting. If the challenger was wrong, the challenger had to put two dollars in a bucket that some runners brought to folks in the audience. All proceeds went to charity.

The panelists were good talkers, funny, and full of enough odd stories that it was genuinely difficult to spot the lies.

Everyone laughed, frequently and deeply, and the event was both fun and a nice way to raise a little money.

I would love to moderate this panel at any convention. Con organizers, are you listening?

Friday, October 10, 2008

On the road again: Bouchercon, day 2

Though multiple folks have asked me for pictures of last night's extremely cool dinner and of some big-name writers here at the con, I'm way too tired to post the former and forgot to take any of the latter. I'll try to do better, I really will, but right now my fumes are looking for fumes to run on, so I'll keep this short.

I really like Bouchercons, because everyone I've ever met at one is an avid reader. Aside from the fact that they put great panels at obscene hours (8:30 a.m. here), and they mostly shut down early due to the graying demographic, the cons are just fun for readers. The dealers room is full of--gasp!--books, and people talk about books and reading and writing. I wish I could simply attend and not have to cram in ten to twelve hours of work a day, but so it goes; at least I get to some panels.

One dealer had both my novels, so I signed stock and chatted with her. I was tickled to see that three people (as of about 1:15 p.m. today) had bid on my contribution to the charity auction, and even more pleased to see that the most recent bidder was best-selling author Toni L.P. Kelner. I'd love to get her into my Wild Side anthology, and though I don't expect much chance of that, if I can find her at the con, I will try. More to the point of this mention, however, is the fact that it's always cool when other writers like your work, and if you also like theirs, that's all the better.

The panel highlight for me today was one in which Ace Atkins, William Kent Krueger, and Lee Child just stood around talking shop. I enjoyed hearing Atkins and Krueger, but for me the best parts came from Lee Child.

I've watched Child on multiple panels over the years, and each and every time he's struck me as a sensible, grounded, intelligent man who's also witty and, of course, a very talented writer. If you don't read his Reacher books, you should try one just to see a master of spare prose and rapid pacing in action. Child had many good lines today. Here are a few of the bits, which I must paraphrase because I was not taking notes.

Some years ago, a fan asked him to sign a novel and to put above his autograph his favorite line in the book. Child wrote, "$24.95".

Krueger asked Child what the down sides were of being rich and famous. Child said, "None that I can find."

Krueger talked about how hard writing was. Child commented that we needed to put it in perspective, that yes, we worked as writers, but really, we had it easy. Coal mining is hard. Writing is, by comparison, easy.

In response to a question about how writers must hate Hollywood ruining their books, Child pointed out that the movie and the books were separate things. "The books are still out there, in bookstores and libraries. It's not like Hollywood scours the Earth and destroys every copy."

Child has spoken in the past about how hard Reacher could be to cast. At one point, Tom Cruise's company had optioned a Reacher book. In response to people commenting on how much too small Cruise is for the part (Reacher is, if memory serves, about six foot five inches tall and 220 pounds or so--about the same size as my own Jon Moore), Child commented, "For what they would have paid had they made the movie, Katie Holmes could have played Reacher."

Like I said, a fun, sensible guy, someone I'd love to get to know better.

Now, back to my own work. Maybe in some distant future my sales will approach Child's. How cool would that be?

(My apologies to Lee Child if the quotes are wrong.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

On the road again: Bouchercon, day 1

I arose this morning after 3.75 hours of sleep, worked, exercised, worked, packed, worked, showered, and then got in the car to head to Baltimore for Bouchercon 2008, Charmed to Death. The con starts tomorrow morning, but I like to arrive early and be settled before any convention's official start.

Most of the car time went to work, with Jennie doing almost all of the driving and me on the phone doing meetings and sales calls and some family stuff. I don't know whether she or I had the worse car trip.

The highlight of today was the wonderful dinner at Minibar at Cafe Atlantico. The meal displayed all of the good aspects of molecular gastronomy: reinterpretations of dishes you think you know, clever constructions, extremely tasty dishes with unusual combinations of ingredients, plenty of surprises, and playfulness. I enjoyed every small course, and I took a lot of pictures. If you'd like some food porn shots of the meal, let me know, and as time permits I'll post them. I recommend the place highly.

I have another hour or so of work, so I'm off to it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Heading out

It's late, even for me, and I still have work to do. I'm heading out late tomorrow morning for Bouchercon in Baltimore. If you're going and you see me, come say hi. I won't know tons of people there, and few will know me--though I do hope to change that in time, as I wrote earlier.

Tomorrow night, I'll write more, including, with luck, a report from my second visit to the first restaurant at which I ever experienced molecular gastronomy. Yum.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A proud parent moment

I should probably apologize to you, because I make regular readers of this blog endure a fair amount of proud parent commentary, but I couldn't resist this one. So, if you don't want to hear about my kids, stop reading now.

Tonight, the school orchestra in which Sarah and Scott both play violin held a concert. I quite enjoyed the music. What I enjoyed even more, though, was the predictable thing: watching my kids perform.

They continually amaze me. I love music, but I have no musical talent. They both are loaded with it. They can have entire conversations about music that I can barely follow, and I'm very happy they can. I had always wanted to learn the guitar, but at this point I sincerely doubt I will ever make the time. I'm glad they are both such good musicians, not for my sake, but for theirs: the ability to play music is a wondrous gift.

In this admittedly rather crappy photo, which I took from my iPhone and a fair distance after having forgotten to bring in my camera, you can make out the figures but not the faces of the orchestra. To the left of the conductor (all directions as you look at the picture) is the first violinist, Sarah. Two chairs to the left is the fifth violinist, Scott. (With his tux tonight, he wore brown socks with blue skulls on them. Though I gave him grief about it and will in the future loan him some appropriate black socks, I also have to admit it was an awesome move.)

Watching Scott and Sarah perform is a treat I will greatly miss when they have both graduated and moved on to college. I know it's traditional for parents to gripe about the school concerts, and I've done my share of similar complaining, but the completely honest, totally sentimentalist truth is that I love these shows, I love the passion of the young musicians--even those I don't know, I love seeing art come to life, I love watching Sarah and Scott perform, and most of all, I love them.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A not so sneaky ploy

I love both mystery and SF novels. I read them in roughly equal measure, maybe slightly more mystery than SF. I'm writing an SF series now, but I have a 26K-word outline for a contemporary mystery/thriller and have written about 38K words of that book. Both of my SF novels have mystery plot lines: One Jump Ahead is a missing girl story, and Slanted Jack is a con-man tale.

Despite all that, no mystery review magazine or mystery bookstore will touch me.

As you might expect, and as I've mentioned before in this blog, I find this situation rather frustrating. I'd love to reach the mystery audience.

As part of my effort to do so, I've indulged in a not-so-sneaky ploy: I've donated signed first editions of my two novels to the charity auction at this year's Bouchercon, which I'll be attending this coming week. (Now that I'm announcing this tactic here, I suppose the veneer of sneakiness is gone entirely; oh, well.) I registered for the convention as an author, and in the attendee list they marked me as such and provided a link to my site. (Of course, in what I'm sure really was an accident, they dropped me entirely from the list; I'm hoping they'll fix that soon.) As a writer attending the con, I received the mass email from the con organizers soliciting donations to the auction. I wrote back that I wasn't sure they'd want my books, because of the SF marketing, etc. They replied that they would, and they pointed to a Baltimore-area writer who does future mysteries, the extremely well-known J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts). I sent off my books.

I plan to attend the auction and offer to personalize the books to the winner (which I'd be happy to do in any case), should anyone bid on them. I want to help the charities the auctions will benefit, and I'd do it anyway, but I figure maybe this way a few mystery readers will give my work a look.

I understand that this entire effort is almost certainly a waste, and it sure won't nudge the book-sales needle, but I'll feel like I at least tried, and that's something.


Blog Archive