Sunday, July 12, 2015

ThrillerFest X-ploits (Part Two)

We've just crossed the finish line at ThrillerFest, the annual convention for ITW (Int'l Thriller Writers).  The festivities wrapped up (late late late) last night.  Here's a rundown of the last two fun and frazzled days.

Although the entire week is called ThrillerFest for convenience, Friday and Saturday are T-Fest proper, and aimed at the genre's fans.  Since most of us writers are also fans, it's huge fun for everyone.  We get to see and often chat with leading authors like Lee Child, Gayle Lynds, Steve Martini, Kathy Reichs, Karin Slaughter, Douglas Preston, John Lescroart, Tess Gerritsen, and David Baldacci, among many many others.  My first year, David Morrell talked to me (I didn't corner the man reverently called the Professor, I promise!) for twenty minutes about the journey to first being published.  

Their are panels on various topics, like this one hosted by Peter James on International Thrillers.  Panelists from left to right: Kathleen Antrim (USA), Mark Billingham (England), Eric Giacometti (France), Maria Gustafsson (Sweden), David Khara (France), Mark Leggatt (Scotland), Chris Pavone (USA), and Anne Trager (USA and France, and publisher of mysteries translated from French.)

There are interviews with and by famed authors.  Here's the crowd for this year's Thriller Master honoree, Nelson DeMille, being interviewed by David Morrell.

For authors like me who have publishers in New York City, there's even more fun.  HarperCollins hosted a giveaway and signing for us.  Handing out free books to book lovers is one of the great joys of writing.
Here I am with friend and fellow HC author Simon Toyne, who is making sure I spell my name correctly.

For authors in their debut year, ITW hosts a breakfast banquet on the final day (just this morning; I'm still decompressing!) Last night, we met for a much more relaxed dinner of genuine NYC pizza.  

And this morning, each of the thirty or so authors had a chance to stand up in front of the very large audience and promote their book, ideally without freezing up and falling over.  Here are SJI (Susi) Holliday, me, and Simon Gervais, all putting on brave faces before the carnage begins.

One true cliche of writers: we like a good drink, and the conversation that comes with it.  Most nights there is a cocktail reception thrown by a publisher or literary company...

...HarperCollins hosted a reception for their authors at the famed Algonquin Hotel...

...and when those are over, the bars are still open.  Yes, that is the hugely popular and successful author F. Paul Wilson on the left...

Finally, there is the annual Thriller Awards banquet, where we all get dressed up to celebrate the year's honorees, and cheer on the friends nominated for ITW awards.  For a large event, it's very informal and welcoming.  Which is true of the mystery and thriller community in general; it's the company that keeps us coming back.

Of course, the banquet is preceded by, and followed by, (what else) cocktail receptions.   

with Jay Shepherd and James Ziskin (author of the Ellie Stone mysteries)
Jamie Mason (Monday's Lie), Nancy Matuszak, and my amazing wife Amy
Amy and me with Liz Nemeth, Ursula Ringham, and Cara Brookins (Little Boy Blu) 

It may be a shock after all of the carousing mentioned above, but I'm not writing this while in the grips of a hangover.  I've learned to pace myself at these things.  

It's worth mentioning that while ThrillerFest is one of the more expensive conventions (adding up registration, NYC hotel, and the general cost of Manhattan) that it's also an entirely volunteer shindig.  The authors and supporters donate their time and energy to make TFest one of the biggest and brightest gatherings, and also to keep ITW a dues-free organization.  

Okay, enough of this online stuff.  We're off to enjoy a last day in NYC.  See you soon!  


Friday, July 10, 2015

ThrillerFest Exploits (Part One)

Hello from New York City!  ThrillerFest is the annual conference for mystery and thriller writers, held each July at the Grand Hyatt in midtown Manhattan.  Conference-wise, TFest is sort of home turf for me, as it was the first big conference I'd attended since starting to write with intention, and it's also where I first met my literary agent two years ago (more on that below!)

Thrillerfest is the short-hand name for a combination of events, with different aims.  There are pre-conference teaching sessions with law enforcement, forensics, and other specialists.  The FBI day has been especially popular the last couple of years.

Wednesday and Thursday are for CraftFest, which offers a variety of great classes taught by leading authors.  Here's friend and fellow HarperCollins author Jaime Freveletti talking about when and why to kill off characters:

Thursday afternoon is given over to PitchFest.  This is the time of week when the whole conference buzzes with excitement and tension.  PitchFest is essentially speed dating with literary agents.  Aspiring authors wait in line for each agent (having wisely done their homework ahead of time to know which agents are looking for the kinds of books they write!), and have 3-5 minutes to pitch their ideas.  If the agent likes what she or he hears, they may ask the writer to send them some or all of their manuscript.  In the course of about 3 hours, a writer can usually talk to 8-10 agents.  When I went through PitchFest in 2013, I got a lot of interest in the book that became PAST CRIMES, and that subsequent turned into a couple offers of representation.  You can read more about that in the Success Story I wrote for the ThrillerFest site:

Here's a photo of this year's practice session.  The established and very successful authors who help to run ThrillerFest offered their time to give the pitchers a dress rehearsal:

Each day there are coffee gatherings and cocktail parties (official and unofficial), where we all have a chance to mingle and relax.  

Come back to the blog later this week for more on the Friday and Saturday portions of ThrillerFest.  And the cocktail parties.  'Cause those can be a minefield. 


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Foot on the pedal, engine revving...

The green flag has already waved to start July off right, and the month is only going to get faster.

On the last weekend in June, I flew to San Francisco for the American Library Association's annual conference.  I had two signing hours, hosted by the terrific people from Sisters in Crime and by my outstanding publisher, HarperCollins.  In between, I had time to wander the two gigantic conference halls, which were packed full of booths and presentations from other houses and organizations.  I returned home that evening with a bag loaded with books and other swag.  But the very best part was giving away dozens of copies of my own novel to librarians and library professionals from all over North America (and a handful who had traveled even farther.)  There's nothing quite as much fun as giving a true book lover a free copy.  Huge thanks to William Morrow for sponsoring the giveaways, and for making the arrangements to have their authors present.

Right now I'm in Florida, visiting family and gearing up to fly north to NYC and ThrillerFest X during the last half of the week.  ThrillerFest feels like the home track for me.  It was the first big conference I attended, back in 2013, and that same year I met my agent at the PitchFest afternoon.  Because my book PAST CRIMES was published in March, this will be my debut year at ThrillerFest, and I'll get to join about 30 other authors who have had their first novel released since the last gathering at the Debut Authors Breakfast.   It's tremendously exciting.  

And as usual, the week will also be loaded with classes, guest speakers, business lunches, the awards banquet on Saturday, and by my conservative estimation, twelve dozen cocktail parties.  ThrillerFest is some of the most fun I have all year, but it's also sixteen hours a day of being on.   I'll write some posts from the conference to let you know how the race is going.

What have I left out?  Oh yes: Book Two.  I'm working every day on finishing the rewrites, with about two weeks to go.  I'll be plugging away at those in New York too.  There will also be a visit to Boston, which I'll tell you about later.  

So if my first post in August looks like gobbledegook, you can blame it on lack of sleep.  And those cocktail parties.