Can You Believe the Kindle is Ten Years Old?

by James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell

The Kindle turns ten next month. My, how that little baby has grown!

When Amazon’s ereader first came out (November 19, 2007 to be exact), I sensed most people were skeptical about the future of digital reading. The Sony Reader had been around for years but failed to take hold. “Electronic books” were thought to be the coming thing around Y2K. Publishers Weekly even started a section to cover the subject, but later dropped it due to failure to launch.

Clearly, serious readers preferred paper. So the Kindle would probably sell to some early adopters, but likely would not revolutionize anything.

**clears throat**

In 2008, Oprah Winfrey gave the Kindle her endorsement. Talk about a boost! Then people began to realize they could have all the works of Dickens and Dostoevsky on a single device which they could take on a plane or a train or (in L.A. commuter traffic) an automobile. Pretty doggone cool!

And the biz mavens realized that Amazon was (as always, it seems) making a powerful and forward-thinking business move—selling the Kindle as a gateway to their massive bookstore.

Here at TKZ, we were analyzing all this from the start. On Kindle’s one-year anniversary our own Kathryn Lilley wrote:

I think it’s time for all of us to stop mourning the nongrowth of paper book sales, and celebrate the new digital age. It’s the future. Let’s embrace it. For example, last week when I posted, I was freaking out about the changes in the industry. This week, I have decided to reframe my thoughts about the book publishing crisis, and seek out the hidden opportunities in those changes.

Because ready or not, the digital era is here. Kindle products like the Oasis are still going strong. In fact, this review of Oasis is spot on.

And what did all this mean for authors? Well, beginning in 2009 or so, it became apparent that Amazon was presenting a viable new way for writers to get published—by their own selves!

And get this: by offering authors an unheard of 70% royalty split!

The lit hit the fan.

A complete unknown named Amanda Hocking made a cool couple of million dollars publishing directly on Amazon!

This got the attention of many, including TKZ emeritus Boyd Morrison, and a mainstream mystery author by the name of Joe Konrath who, via his blog, began to champion the new digital possibilities.

When I went to Bouchercon in San Francisco in October of 2010, everybody was wondering how to get in on the ebook thing without ticking off their agent or publisher. Agents (and I heard several) were warning writers not to “go there” for fear it would jeopardize their careers. Publishers were not at all sanguine about their authors moonlighting with a company they saw as their biggest threat. Some writers even got sued or terminated over this.

But the money was dropping off Kindle trees! That could not be ignored.

A funny thing happened at that Bouchercon. I was sitting with a couple of writer friends in the lobby of the SF Hyatt Regency, talking about all this, when Joe Konrath arrived and made his way to the bar area. He was flocked by fellow authors peppering him with questions.

The next day, at lunchtime, I was outside the Hyatt and spotted Mr. Konrath and one Barry Eisler walking and talking excitedly along the sidewalk. I thought, “What is that all about?”

A few months later I found out. Mr. Eisler, a New York Times bestselling thriller author, turned down half a million bucks from his publisher in order to publish with Amazon!

It was the talk of the industry. I saw it as a real tipping point. In fact, I gave it a name: “The Eisler Sanction.”

Self-publishing was getting serious.

I put my own toe in the E waters in February of 2011. Now I’m all wet.

So ten years after the birth of the Kindle, what have we seen?

1. Kindle devices and apps are awesome. I’m currently reading the two-volume memoir of Ulysses S. Grant, easily highlighting passages I want to review later. The General is bivouacked on my phone. Cost me 99¢.

2. While other ereaders have appeared—notably Nook and Kobo—the Kindle is dominant and unlikely to lose market share. The poor Nook, which is also a cool device, is hanging by a thread.

3. Kindle Direct Publishing has saved the careers of thousands of midlist writers, and created the careers of thousands more who are making good-to-massive lettuce every month. Those who are doing well have mastered some basic practices but also concentrate on the most important thing: quality and production.

4. The traditional publishing industry was hit hard by the digital disruption. There have been mergers, layoffs, shrinking profits and even a DOJ smackdown.

5. But the Forbidden City is still open for business. And while large-advance deals for debut authors are becoming as rare as the blue-footed booby, they still happen.

6. There has been chatter about the “comeback” of print books, but it appears that most of any increase in print sales can be traced to … Amazon. (And here’s a counterintuitive development: Millennials may actually prefer print books!)

7. Big bookstores took a huge hit due to e-commerce. The massive Borders chain of stores went down, followed by Family Christian. Barnes & Noble stores have been closing steadily for the last eight years, a trend that will likely continue.

8. However, local independent bookstores may be emerging through the cracks. Oh, and guess who else is opening up physical stores? Amazon.

9. On the other hand, many niche bookstores are closing. The latest is Seattle’s Mystery Bookshop.

10. We’ve reached a period of relative stasis in the “self v. trad wars.” From 2010 to 2014 or so, it seemed like we’d get blogosphere firestorms every week cheering for, or predicting the demise of, Big Pub. There was also a lot of “gold rush” talk on the indie side. Reality, as it is wont to do, has settled things down. There’s a lot of information out there now (e.g., Author Earnings reports) and the savvy players have a better handle on where they stand.

In an episode of Downton Abbey, when it became clear that the old ways of life were on the way out, never to return, Carson the butler mused, “The nature of life is not permanence, but flux.”

Kindle brought the flux. And a decade later, we’re living it.

What do you say, TKZers? What are your reflections on the 10th birthday of the Kindle?

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Aftermath of a Writers Conference

Nancy J. Cohen

Recovering from a conference can take as much time or more as preparing for one. When you get home and unpack, you’ll likely have a collection of promo items from other authors to sort through. It’s good to keep some of these, as they can inspire ideas for your swag in the future. I keep swag from other authors in a small shopping bag designated for this purpose. It helps to have samples if you’re thinking of ordering a similar item.

What impressed me at Bouchercon this year? I always like Door Hangers. I did one myself for Hanging by a Hair. I liked the little bags of chocolate covered mints. I don’t remember the author’s name engraved on the M&M sized candies, but I do remember her book title as House of Homicide. One author gave out tape measures. My Bad Hair Day combs were popular, and every one that I put out got taken. As usual, the tables were a mess with print materials, but I picked up bookmarks for titles that interested me. And coasters are always useful. I keep them on my computer desk.

Swag

It helps to sort through the business cards we receive and add relevant contact info to our address books. I’d also suggest marking the date and place where you met the person for easy recall later. You might dash off a note to people you’d met or to booksellers who carried your titles. Uploading your photos and blogging about your experience will keep the memories fresh.

NanPanel1      DonConSandy

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I’m still recovering from Boucheron, held in Raleigh. Here you’ll meet fans as well as other authors, plus a conglomeration of industry personnel. I have piles of materials to sort out and notes from panels attended to write up. But since I’m on the road again for another book event, these tasks will have to wait. This means I won’t be around today to answer comments, but please leave any tips you’d like to share.

 

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Using the Novel Journal for Writing Breakthroughs

James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell

I was at Bouchercon a week ago and did a panel with some other legal thriller authors. Before it began we were interacting with some people in the audience, and a woman in the front row made a funny comment about something I said, and I replied into the mike, “I’ll do the jokes, madam.”
We all had a chuckle. The moderator, who was sitting next to me, leaned over and whispered, “Do you know who that is?”
I shook my head.
“Sue Grafton,” he said.
Indeed, it was the amazing author of the alphabet series featuring gumshoe Kinsey Millhone. 
Which, when you think about it, is virtually unprecedented. Twenty-six mysteries around a single series character in a wide variety of mystery plots.
How, one might ask, does she make the magic happen book after book?
One answer is the novel journal. I read about this in Ms. Grafton’s chapter from the book Writing the Private Eye Novel (Writer’s Digest Books, 1997). She calls this her “most valuable tool.”
What this tool does is provide a “testing ground” for ideas, a place for both left and right brain hemispheres mix it up a little. As she puts it:
Right Brain is creative, spatial, playful, disorganized, dazzling, nonlinear, the source of the Aha! or imaginative leap. Without Right Brain, there would be no material for Left Brain to refine. Without Left Brain, the jumbled brilliance of Right Brain would never coalesce into a satisfactory whole.
The novel journal is a free form document that is added to each morning before getting to work on the novel. This is what Sue puts in there:
The day’s date and a bit of diary stuff, how she’s feeling and so on. This is to track outside influences on her writing.
Next is notes about any ideas that emerged overnight. I especially like this part, because the writer’s mind has been working while I sleep and I want to pour out everything I can. The trick here is not to think too much about what you write. Just let it flow.
Third, she writes about where she is in the book. She “talks” to herself about the scene she’s working on, or problems that have arisen. In the “safety of the journal” she can play the What If game. She can debate things with herself. Right Brain and Left Brain can duke it out. She’s playful. “I don’t have to look good. I can be as dumb or goofy as I want.”
What happens then is that she finds she “slides” naturally into her writing day. There is no hesitancy as there might be if she just got to work on the WIP.  
Writing about this now excites me. I have to admit I’ve been lax about using this during this NaNoWriMo month. As I write this particular post (it’s Tuesday) I’m a little over halfway through my NaNo novel and feel the need to mine deeper into my writer mind. So I’ll be journaling away for the rest of the month. 
Yes, it was nice having Sue Grafton show up at my panel and crack wise.
Here are a few more tips on making the novel journal work for you:
Trust. Keep your fingers typing. Lose control. Don’t worry if it’s correct, polite, appropriate. Just let it rip. Stay with the first flash. If something scary comes up, go for it. That’s where the energy is. Figure out what you want to say in the act of writing.
“We write and then catch up with ourselves.” (Natalie Goldberg)
If you don’t know what to write in the journal, open a dictionary at random. Pick the first noun you see. Now start writing whatever that word suggests to you.
Work out problems in your novel by asking questions and letting your Right Brain suggest answers. Then let your Left Brain assess them.
Be specific. When something unique pops up, follow that lead. Don’t hesitate to write for five or ten minutes on one thing if that’s where you’re being led.
Be willing to be disturbed.
If you’re pantser, the journal will help you decide what to write next. If you’re a plotter, the journal will help you bring to life the scenes you’ve mapped out. And if plot or character takes a weird turn, you can hash it out in the journal until you decide how to use it. 

Give it a try sometime. I think you’ll be pleased with the results. 

0

But I Want Success Now!

When I was a writer aspiring to be published, I went to a book signing here in Seattle where number one bestselling author Lee Child was making an appearance. As I stepped up to get his autograph, I mentioned that I had finished three books and was struggling to find a publisher. He told me, “Remember, it only takes ten years to become an overnight success.”

At the time I thought he was just being kind to a newbie, giving me encouragement that I would someday reach my goal. It wasn’t until a few years later when I was a published author and knew Lee a little better that I ran into him at Bouchercon and reminded him of what he’d said. I told him that I understood he hadn’t been pandering to me, and Lee nodded in agreement. Although he won awards early in his career, it took him eight books before he made an appearance on the NY Times list, and several more years before he became LEE CHILD, brand name author.

I think the Internet has only accelerated our skewed expectation that you should become a huge success as soon as you type “The End” on your first manuscript. Writers focus on promoting their first novel to a fault. I see that mistake frequently when I go to writers’ conferences and spot an author pitching agents the same book they’ve brought three years in a row. I see it with authors flogging their one and only book on social media over and over in the hope that it will take off.

Our excessive exposure to the one-in-a-million shots only exacerbates the problem. We see someone like E.L. James, Kathryn Stockett, or Stephenie Meyer reach a massive audience with their first novels and think that will happen for us. It does happen, about once a year out of the over 200,000 books published, but we don’t often read about the back stories behind other authors who toiled in relative obscurity for years before hitting the big time.

Everyone knows mega-selling author Dean Koontz. He’s been producing work for so long that it’s hard to remember a time when he wasn’t on the bestseller lists, but many don’t realize the dues he paid to get there. Before he published Whispers, his big breakout hit, he wrote thirty-eight novels in twelve years. During that time he was making a living, but he wasn’t a household name like he is now.

The ranks of the current bestseller lists are filled with similar stories. It took twelve years and eight novels for Steve Berry just to find a publisher. Dan Brown published his first three books to little fanfare, and then The DaVinci Code turned them into bestsellers.

Tess Gerritsen wrote nine novels over nine years before she released her first NY Times bestseller, Harvest. Lisa Gardner wrote twelve books over seven years before reaching the next level with The Perfect Husband. Janet Evanovich wrote at least twelve novels before hitting it big with Stephanie Plum in One for the Money. In the self-publishing realm, romance author Bella Andre wrote two series over seven years without much notice and then began self-publishing, after which she became a regular on the bestseller list.

These stories of determination and persistence are the rule, not the exception. While it’s possible to land on that one killer premise from the get-go, building an audience, working on the craft, and developing your voice seems to be the steadier path to ultimate writing success.

I often think of a story from Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. They write about a ceramics teacher who, on the first day of class, divided the students into two sections: one half would be graded on the perfection of a single pot, while the other half would be graded on the weight of their output—an A for fifty pounds, B for forty pounds, and so on. At the end of the semester, the results for the quality vs. quantity test were remarkable. The students being graded on poundage had thrown pots that were of significantly superior quality than the ones by the students who had studied and ached about how to create that one perfect pot. Practice ultimately made the “quantity” students produce better quality as well.

I believe being an author is the same. Thinking about writing doesn’t make you better, writing does. And if you have a large body of work, it’s much more likely a publisher or readers will discover your writing.

So don’t perseverate on perfecting that one novel. If you want to make writing a career, your publisher and readers are going to want many more books. Sit down at your computer and throw those pots. When you’re a success and looking in the rear-view mirror ten years from now, you’ll wonder how it went by so quickly.

0

Fixing the Tool

A computer is at its core a tool. For a writer, it can be the mother ship of tools. It can be a research tool, a production tool, and a communications tool, among other things. If it suddenly goes wobbly, it can be a real problem that leads to other problems such as expense, downtime, and inconvenience. There is a way around it, if your mind is clear and your hand is steady and your heart is brave: you can, in many circumstances, fix it yourself.
I am the IT guy in our house. We — my wife, my daughter, and my bad self — each have our own computer. It goes without saying of course that we all share our respective machines with our cat (those of you who are owned by cats know exactly what I mean). My daughter, just to complicate matters and enable me to broaden my scope of knowledge, has an iMac. Since I spend the most time on a computer of anyone in the house it has fallen to me to be the fixer of all things technological. To that end, I have established the “three-minute rule” of computer aggression: if you can’t get the computer to do what you want it to do in three minutes, stop doing what you are doing and come and get me. Don’t sit there for three hours hitting the “Print” button because you’re going to get a surprise when your printer decides to start printing, yes indeed. You’ll see exactly how many times you hit the print button (“Thirty-two copies of the lyrics to the new One Direction single, huh?”) in due time.
How did I acquire my expertise, you might ask? I don’t have any. I have simply become good at looking things up and following directions. I am able as a result to resolve most resolvable computer problems with three things which you probably have as well: 1) internet access; 2) a computer or smart phone that works; and 3) the ability to follow simple directions. I started doing my own troubleshooting due to a combination of circumstances. For one, I don’t like strangers coming over, which precludes people in golf shirts driving up in vans to help me out. For another, I am somewhat tight-fisted when it comes to spending money to repair things that I should be able to repair myself. And for a third, I don’t like My Precious out of my sight for more a few minutes, which removes the possibility of my laptop spending the night with someone else.
I am totally serious.  I discovered this latent skill when, a few years ago (when all three of us, including my poor, deprived daughter, had PCs), I awoke one morning and discovered that all of our computers were displaying the “blue screen of death.” I figured out the problem was — a Windows update that had been automatically sent to all three computers did not get along with something that was already on them — but that didn’t help me with the main problem, which was how to repair each and all of the computers in the house. Fortunately, I had a smart phone. I did a search for “how to restore service to a computer displaying the blue screen of doom” and got the answer — do a “system restore” — and instructions for doing it. I had all of the computers working in a half-hour.

I will confess that doing this makes me feel useful.  I was having a delightful breakfast with some people at Bouchercon a few weeks ago when one very nice lady’s iPad froze up. I don’t own an iPad, but I fearlessly asked her to pass me her temporarily useless tool. I took out my phone, googled “How do you unfreeze an iPad?” got the answer, and…well, unfroze her iPad by pushing two buttons. A friend called me a few weeks ago because her daughter had a paper due the next day and couldn’t access Internet Explorer. Problem solved. But there is nothing special about me. There are folks who will attempt to fix their dishwasher utilizing a Google search (yeah, I did that too) but won’t even attempt to jump start their computers in the same manner. If you are going to do this, it helps to be as exact as possible when making your query. Googling “why did my pc just pass a sandcastle?” for example, will not be as effective a query as “why is my Lenovo B570 with Windows 7 displaying everything upside down?” It might be important to get an answer and use it five minutes ago, however, whether you are downloading pictures off of Tumblr or reading Facebook news posts or just wrapping up twenty more pages of a manuscript, when, God forbid, your computer freezes.  If you can frame a descriptive question halfway decently and follow directions a step at a time, Enterprise-style (boldly going where you haven’t gone before) you can very often help yourself. Some folks even post YouTube videos showing how certain procedures, such as installing new memory cards, are performed.  Most of the time the helpful people who post this information will give you an idea as to how difficult the task may be. Sometimes it is as easy as pressing F5, or restarting the computer; sometimes it involves more than that.
Which brings us to our question(s) of the day: When you have a computer problem that doesn’t involve smoke rising from the side vents, what do you do? Do you try to fix it yourself? Do you call a friend? Do you take it into a shop? Or throw it out the window?
0

Cleveland, City of Lights

When we last met  two weeks ago I was in New Orleans. In the interim I returned home for a couple of days, put out some fires, and then travelled up I-71 North for two hours to attend  Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland. Bouchercon is an assembly of mystery writers and fans of same, so, like, how could I not go, with it being so close and all?
I was glad I did. If I had stayed home for three days, I would have done nothing but work. I worked at Bouchercon, too, but also 1) reconnected with friends I had not seen for a few years; 2) made some new friends; 3) became better friends with some folks; 4) reconnected with a guy that I worked with some forty years ago; 5) took award-winning author Kelli Stanley and British crime journalists Ali Karim and Mike Stotter — three of the finest folks you will find on this earth —to Mike the Hatter in Broadview Heights, where they each and all found lids that looked wonderful on them; 5) visited the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame; 6) had breakfast with my editor and BFF Carol Fitzgerald, and three members of the original Bookachino internet chat room from way back when the internet was in its cradle; and 7) was the target of  an attack by a drunken troll in the men’s room of a theme restaurant near the host hotel. And how was your weekend?

I have to tell you though that one of the best parts of Bouchercon was beginning it and ending it with fellow Killzoner Jordan Dane. If Jordan ever raffles off a dinner with herself, buy up the tickets. She is wonderful company. We had dinner with author Bev Irwin Wednesday night, before the conference really got rolling, and Jordan is unbelievably funny. She was even funnier after dinner, when I was back in my hotel room, and she began texting observations about this, that and the other to me. Hilarious. And yes, Jordan, you can borrow my gun any time you want; just leave me a bullet so that I can take a shot as well.

Saturday night I was blessed by joining Jordan for dinner once again. I found myself seated with about ten million dollars’ worth of talent in the form of Jordan, Rick Mofina, Linda Castillo, and Julie Kramer. It was a celebration of wonderful news for Rick and Linda: they announced their engagement that evening. Just kidding. What was their news, really? Rick that morning had just received the news that his wonderful new novel, THEY DISAPPEARED, entered the Canadian book lists at Number Two. He learned of this from Linwood Barclay, whose own book, TRUST YOUR EYES, remains at Number One on Canada’s list. There is excellent taste up north, all the way around. As for Linda, her Kate Buckholder series, set in the Ohio Amish country about an hour’s drive from me, is on track to be a television series. Linda, if you hear that the producers are looking about for someone to play a rotund English, please tell them that Sweet Joseph is available.

Seeing Wonderful Jordan, however, was not my only encounter with Kill Zone participants. San Francisco’s Michelle Gagnon was in the house for the William Morrow party. Michelle, besides being an incredible wordsmith, has a fashion sense that any and all would envy. I don’t know anything about such matters, but she somehow always seems dressed to the nines without even trying. Everyone gravitates toward her, and rightfully so. It was wonderful to see her again and to get to spend a little time with her. And what conference would be a conference without Kill Zone alumnus John Gilstrap? John, who is always worth being seeing with and listening to, was in the “Cool Kids Corner,” outside of the hotel with the smokers, even though he doesn’t smoke. I was privileged to spend some quality time with him and Matthew Clemens and get several updates and down dates on the state of the industry. I also hear that Kill Zoner Boyd Morrison was in the House, but somehow failed to meet up with him. Boyd, you evaded me this time, but your luck will not last forever.
There’s more, of course, but that should be more than enough to persuade you to attend Bouchercon the next time it’s in your area. It will be in Albany, NY in 2013; Long Beach, CA in 2014; and Raleigh, NC in 2015. You gotta go. And if you do, say hey.


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Writers’ Conference Tips

I’m simultaneously energized and exhausted, and anyone who’s ever attended a writers’ conference knows how that can be possible. I just returned to Seattle from a fantastic time at Bouchercon in Cleveland, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to provide a few tips for those writers out there who have never gone to a conference and are thinking of trying it out (I heartily recommend it for those who intend to pursue writing fiction as a career).
First of all, I should clarify that Bouchercon is actually a mystery fan convention. As with other fan conventions, such as the RTBooklovers Convention, Bouchercon provides a chance for readers to meet authors whose books they enjoy, listen to them speak on panels about a variety of topics, and get signed copies of their books. The whole weekend is dedicated to readers, and writers love going because they get to meet fans and network with other writers who are going through the same trials and tribulations they are. It’s also the one place writers are treated like celebrities (there’s nothing more exhilarating than have a stranger on the elevator tell you she loves your books).
As opposed to fan conventions, writers’ conferences are geared toward authors, particularly those who are interested in learning the craft, understanding the business, or finding an agent or publisher. Confusion between the two may arise because authors tend to use the term “writers’ conference” generically.
With both types of conferences, I get a lot out of the long days and nights spent swapping information about writing with my fellow authors. My voice often ends up hoarse and I always need to catch up on sleep when I return home, but I’m also inspired with newfound energy to tackle projects that may have bogged down during my solitary confinement in front of the computer. Although I always learn something about the business and the writing craft, I especially enjoy hearing that someone else has the same doubts and challenges that I do, that I’m not alone.
I’ve been to over twenty conference and conventions over the last six years, and I consider every one of them time well spent. I list some of my lessons learned below, but I’d love to hear if anyone has their own helpful hints to add in the comments.
1.     If you can afford it, stay in or near the conference hotel. Trekking back and forth between a distant hotel and the conference center is a chore and doesn’t allow you to run up to your room to drop something off, get something you forgot, change, or simply recharge.
2.     Book as far ahead as you can. Popular conferences can fill up quickly, and there are only a limited number of hotel rooms reserved at the conference rate. I usually book the hotel room when I register for the conference because I can always cancel the hotel for no cost. If you do book late and the hotel is out of rooms, try calling the hotel daily in the hope that you can snag one of the cancellations.
3.     Dress in layers. Even if it’s warm outside, ballrooms can get chilly. Wear comfortable shoes during the day, and try to avoid wearing heavy perfume or cologne because it can be overpowering in a crowded room. Check to see if there will be any formal banquets or costume parties that might warrant snazzier duds.
4.     Target the panels you want to see ahead of time. You can usually download the programming schedule from the website a month before the conference.
5.     If you’re lucky enough to be chosen for a panel, be a generous panelist. Hogging the microphone is tempting because we all want to share our wisdom, but keep in mind that there are four or five other writers up there with you.
6.     Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people, even bestselling authors. That’s why we all go. I’ve made many good friends simply by joining in on a fascinating conversation, and writers tend to be very welcoming.
7.     Include people you don’t know in your discussion. You never know who’s going to have an interesting story or background or is just a really cool person. It may even be that bestselling writer you didn’t recognize.
8.     Have business cards to hand out. They don’t have to be fancy; just the basic info of name, email address, and website (if you have one). Ask for cards from people you talk to.
9.     Write down notes about people that you meet (if it’s an author, you can jot them down under the author names in the conference program). If you return next year, it’ll be a great way to remind yourself about the people you’ll see. When you see someone only once a year, it can be hard to remember the circumstances. I’m terrible with names, so please don’t be offended if this method doesn’t work for me.
10. When you’re in a discussion, always ask the follow-up questions to learn about why writers did what they did. It’s interesting to know what someone did to get published or how they wrote a book they way they did, but the reasons for their decisions can be even more illuminating.
11. Invite people to join you for lunch. I often strike up a conversation with someone I’ve met in an interesting panel and continue that discussion over a noontime nosh, usually with a boisterous group of friends who welcome the new person into the gang.
12. Check the schedule to see if there’s dinner provided. If not, plan to go out with your new acquaintances. During weekends, you’ll also want to make reservations if you go out to a local restaurant.
13. Spend your evenings at the hotel bar. It’s the place we all gather to shoot the breeze and meet new people. That doesn’t mean you have to drink; I know plenty of writers who are teetotalers.
14. If you do drink, do it in moderation. No one enjoys being around a sloppy drunk. Besides, writers love telling stories, and that kind of reputation gets passed around quickly.
15. Tip well. The waiters at this past Bouchercon were run ragged, and it doesn’t hurt to share your appreciation for them making your weekend enjoyable.
16. Wear your name badge, even when you’re in the bar. This will help me out a lot on the name problem.
17. Introduce yourself to booksellers, who also hang out at the bar. Don’t be shy about going around to the stores that are set up in the on-site book room. They love meeting writers. That’s why they’re in the business of selling books.
18. Take a nap. If you’re staying at the conference hotel, it’s easy to do.
19. Be nice and considerate, particularly to the conference volunteers. They’re putting in a lot of time and effort to create a great event. Not everything is going to go smoothly, but a little understanding and a friendly smile go a long way to getting past those rough patches.
20. Enjoy getting to know your peers. These are the colleagues you’re going to know for the next twenty years or more.
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Crime Fiction Rocks at 2012 Bouchercon Mystery Conference!

by Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

I’ll be attending one of my favorite conferences is coming up on Oct 4-7, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. Bouchercon is a world mystery convention that has been taking place annually since 1970. It’s open to anyone and is a place for fans, authors and publishing industry professionals to gather and celebrate their love of the mystery genre. It is named for a famed mystery critic Anthony Boucher. During the convention there are panels, discussions and interviews with authors and people from the mystery community covering all parts of the genre. There are signing events for people to meet their favorite authors face-to-face and get books signed. Bouchercon also has the Anthony Awards which are also named after Anthony Boucher. These are voted on by the attendees and given out during the convention. For more, click HERE. Guests of honor for 2012 include: Elizabeth George, Robin Cook, Mary Higgins Clark, Les Roberts, Librarian Doris Ann Norris, and toastmaster John Connolly.

Fellow TKZer Michelle Gagnon and I will be on a YA panel for the first time. I’m really looking forward to that. If you are attending, I’d love to meet you. Please confirm any of these times with the final program.

 
12:15 – 1:05 PM Thurs, Oct 4, 2012
Grand Ballroom B
The Popularity of YA Books panel – How do authors appeal to young readers and keep them interested in reading? Book signing will be held in the dealer room following the panel. Joining Jordan will be Michelle Gagnon, Joelle Charboneau, Bev Irwin, and moderated by Keir Graff.


I’ll be on another fun panel featuring romantic suspense with Heather Graham, Lori Armstrong, C. J. Lyons, with Monette Michaels as moderator. We may have a mystery guest to round out our group. We’re still waiting to hear. Stay tuned.
 

3:50-4:40 PM, Friday, Oct 5, 2012
Location: TBA
“I used to love her, but I had to kill her” Guns & Roses Panel – Moderated by author Monette Michaels, stellar panelists Heather Graham, Lori Armstrong, C. J. Lyons, and Jordan Dane will discuss romance in thrillers. Hallmark doesn’t make a card for “I’d take a bullet for you, honey” but our panel of bestselling authors share their titillating secrets on how they spice up their thrillers with Guns & Roses. (Door prizes and giveaways for those in attendance. Grand prize is a NOOK color e-reader for one lucky winner.)

Prior to this panel, Mike Bursaw will host a “Booze & Broads” signing event at the Mystery Mike’s booth in the dealer Book Room for the authors. Alcoholic libations will be served, a shot at a time.

HERE is the attendees list for 2012, but I understand TKZ’s Joe Hartlaub and Michelle Gagnon will be in attendance (as well as another TKZ veteran, John Gilstrap) so I hope to finally meet them all over a cool beverage.
 
Anyone else going to Bouchercon this year? TKZers—have you ever been? I’d love to hear from you.

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On the Road Again

I feel as if I am the only person in the world who is not at Bouchercon this week. I had planned to attend, but a music law seminar in New Orleans which I need to attend to keep my continuing legal education hours current and which has traditionally held in August was inexplicably switched to September, butt-up against Bouchercon. So it is that as you read this I will be in my car, somewhere between Ohio and Louisiana.

I have not flown commercially since 1997. I never liked flying to begin with — when you get down to it, I have control issues — and between the hassles of transporting an unloaded firearm in checked luggage and the thought of a jihadist with a LAWS rocket in hand staring longingly at the silver undercarriage of my plane I made the decision to drive everywhere I need to go. I have never regretted it. I probably will never get to Europe, and getting to the West Coast to serenade Michelle Gagnon with “Happy Birthday” in person will take some planning, but folks who fly everywhere miss a lot. It takes me fourteen hours to drive from my front door to the French Quarter, and that’s with stops for gas, coffee, and draining the crankcase. Westerville to Cincinnati — I can see the house my father where my father was born in from I-71, just after I cross the bridge into Kentucky — to Louisville where I switch over to I-65. The next big crossroads is Nashville, with its amazing intersection of interstate highways right in the middle of the downtown. You best be paying attention to where you are going or you might find yourself heading to Memphis, Chattanooga, or, if you’ve really cocked yourself up, back toward Louisville. I figure that if I can traverse it successfully then Alzheimer’s Disease remains at bay. Less than three hours later I am in Birmingham. With luck and good fortune I stop for lunch with Michael Garrett, with whom I have been friends for a half-century and who was the first editor for a bespeckled, quirky-looking guy named Stephen King. After lunch or otherwise I dog leg down to I-59; south of Tuscaloosa, the state of Alabama slowly melts into Mississippi, which after three hours or so becomes Louisiana. Or so the signs say. Once the swamp starts it is hard to tell the difference. And strange things happen. On a number of occasions, mostly late at night or very early in the morning, a pack of wild black dogs will run onto the freeway south of Picayune, Mississippi and chase my car for a few hundred feet. I almost wrecked the first time it happened; now I toss Milk Bones at them. Eventually, however, the swamps and the dogs gradually give way. I take the entrance ramp to I-10 west and isn’t too long at all before New Orleans rises to the south like a fever dream, as close to a foreign country as you will find within the borders of the United States.

Each trip is much the same, and each trip is a little different. I’ve actually made friends with gas station attendants and waitresses along the way who know the names of my wife and children, even though I see them infrequently (the gas station attendants and waitresses, that is). I would have missed a lot if I had flown, and not just with respect to traveling to and from New Orleans. I’ve gotten speeding tickets in Liberty Hill, South Carolina, been propositioned in a Baton Rouge hotel parking lot at 5:00 AM by a prostitute in a cheerleading outfit, and crammed a Pulp Fiction week’s worth of adventures a few years ago during a road trip to Phoenix with Marcus Wynne driving with a trunk load of machine guns, knives, hand grenades, and other assorted and sundry weapons. For demonstration purposes only, mind you. When the country is passing underneath you at 500 miles an hour, you can miss a lot; on the ground, every mile holds a potential story.

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Gilstrap’s Guide to St. Louis

By John Gilstrap
I’m really looking forward to Bouchercon this year, as I look forward to it every year. Last year, San Francisco provided a terrific backdrop for the conference, but I have to say that in my experience, Midwest conferences somehow work out better. Perhaps it’s because there are fewer distractions, and therefore more people hanging around the conference hotel.

My Big Boy Job takes me to St. Louis a lot—at least twice per year. I don’t pretend to know the city well, but as a creature of habit, there are certain haunts that are particularly worthy of note:

JF SanFilippo’s Restaurant. If you like down home Italian food, complete with a full bar and a great wine list, this is a place you’ve got to visit. Located at 705 North Broadway, it’s just a few blocks from the conference hotel, an easy walk. The food is reasonably priced, and the owner, Joe, is a terrific guy. It’s a good-size place, but reservations are a good idea. (314) 621-7213.

Carmine’s Steak House is a terrific high-end beef restaurant, though compared to New York or DC, the menus is very reasonably priced. They’ve got an impressive wine list, too. Attached to the Drury Plaza Hotel at 20 South Fourth Street—virtually across the street from Busch Stadium—it has a warm ambience and a terrific menu. Be sure to try their toasted ravioli appetizer. The restaurant is walkable from the conference hotel, but allow fifteen minutes to get there on foot. While on the small side, it never feels cramped, so you’d be wise to make reservations here, too. (314) 241-1631.

If you’re a scotch drinker, the bar that’s attached to Carmine’s Steak House has one of the best selections of single malts I’ve ever found anywhere.

If you’ve never visited the Gateway Arch, you really ought to, if only to experience one of the weirdest elevator rides ever. The underground museum there is okay, but it used to be better.

Bouchercon.  If you find yourself truly with nothing better to do, you might even consider coming to one of my panels. Thursday morning at 10:00, Kathryn Kennison will be wrangling—er, moderating—Val McDermid, Parnell Hall, Charles and Caroline Todd and me on a panel called, “The Mermaids Singing.” I think it’s loosely about Magna Cum Murder, but given the players, lord knows where it’s going to go.

On Saturday afternoon at 1:00, I’ll be moderating a panel called “Beyond Here Lies Nothing: The Challenges of Writing Your Next Book” which will feature authors John Billheimer, Jonathon King, David Levien, Lawrence Light and Jonathan Santlofer. I intend to lead the discussion in the direction of much of the stuff we talk about here in The Killzone: the future of the industry, eBooks, and lots of other stuff.

If you can’t make it to one of my panels, I’m pretty much a sure thing in the bar in the evenings. Y’all come and have a great time!

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