Best Advice Redux

By John Gilstrap

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that today’s post start as a response to Michelle’s post from yesterday regarding the best and worse writing advice we’ve received. Michelle pretty much nailed everything on the head, but there’s one more that plays to the heart of this whole author-as-marketer thing.

When my first book, Nathan’s Run, was published in 1996, the Internet as far as I knew it, consisted of the AOL Writer’s Club—singularly the best virtual writers’ hangout I’ve ever been affiliated with. Those were the days when you paid for online time by the hour. Between the newness of my writing career, the newness of the technology, and the overall coolness factor of it all, I spent a lot of time with my friends in the Writer’s Club. Enough time, in fact, that it prompted my editor at the time to issue the following bit of advice:

Don’t let being a writer interfere with actually writing.

Writing the next book is the single best thing you can do to gain support for the previous book. After a while, an author’s body of work becomes sort of a self-sustaining marketing tool. The poster child my editor named as the antithesis of this advice was Truman Capote, whose writing quality was, he believed and I agree, inversely proportional to his fame.

This advice resonates loudly with me every year when conference season rolls around. Properly selected and managed, I think that conferences are the single greatest marketing tool available to writers—both budding and established. The real work is done in the bar, whether you’re a drinker or a teetotaler. You just need to screw up the courage to talk to people. It’s not the place to pitch your books, but it is the place to meet and impress fans and industry people alike.

Even though I recognize the value of conferences, it would be entirely possible for an author to spend 75% of his annual allotment of weekends traveling the country and talking about himself. There comes a point of diminishing returns. I have my favorites—ThrillerFest, Bouchercon and Magna Cum Murder—which I try to make every year, and I might throw in one or two more if I’m invited or if it’s close to home, but that’s it. It has to be.

Standard book signings are to me a waste of time. Ditto book tours.

Facebook and Twitter are great as tools, but I believe they work best as subliminal pleas for business. If you post and say something smart, I might try your product. If you send me a direct request, the likelihood drops dramatically. For the life of me, I don’t understand why writers flog their work on writers’ boards. One or two posts per day on social media are ideal because I don’t think anyone does more than two things per day that are interesting enough to tweet about.

When all is said and done, I think the truth about effective book marketing is harsh news for new writers: You’ve got to build a fan base, and the only way to do that is to churn out a consistent stream of good product that is appropriately priced. Every minute of self-promotion that takes away from your ability to churn out at least one book per year (but probably no more than two), is doing so little good as to perhaps be doing harm.

ITW Thriller Awards

By Joe Moore

DSC_0373 (Small) It’s Thriller Awards submission time again. ITW announced the winners of the 2009 awards in July during ThrillerFest. Jeffery Deaver won Best Thriller for THE BODIES LEFT BEHIND. Tom Rob Smith took home Best First Novel for CHILD 44. Alexandra Sokoloff grabbed the Best Short Story award for THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN.

ITW_Award_black_72dpi As previously discussed on this blog, the hard cover and paperback originals were lumped together into Best Thriller for 2009. For the most part, this was based upon the belief that a good book is a good book no matter what the format.

For 2010, things have reverted back to separating the hardbacks from the soft. So the categories are Best Hard Cover original, Best Paperback Original, Best First Novel, and Best Short Story.

ITW has announced the call for submissions. Competition is open to anyone who meets the requirements which include being published by one of the organization’s recognized publishers. You don’t have to be an ITW member to enter. A complete set of rules can be found on the Big Thrill website.

Thrillerfest D3 '09 (Alan Jacobson) (194) [640x480]For a look at the 2009 Thriller Awards Banquet and ThrillerFest conference, visit the ITW photo gallery.

Now that the Thriller Awards are back to separating the hard cover from the soft, do you think there’s a preconceived prejudice between the two? In other words, if a book is published in hard cover, do you think readers consider it to be “better” that one released as a paperback? Or is it true that a good book is a good book?

Notes from Thrillerfest

I just returned from my first Thrillerfest–it was a fantastic conference! Fellow Killers John Gilstrap, Joe Moore, and James Scott Bell were there, and it was great to see them. Thanks to everyone here for holding down the blog-fort while we were in NYC.

A few notes from the Thriller front:

Drumroll, please!

As a former journalist I know better than to bury the lead. During the conference it was announced that our own Joe Moore is the incoming co-president of ITW!

Joe moved onto the board of directors last October as Vice President, Technology, and will officially take over the co-presidency on October 1st 2009. He replaces James Rollins as he steps down due to term limits. Joe’s fellow co-president is Steve Berry. Joe and Steve are in charge of setting the direction for the future of ITW as well as acting as executive directors.

Congratulations, Joe! You deserve the honor; we’re proud to be your blog-mates.

Star power
Thrillerfest ’09 featured some of the brightest lights in the thriller-writing cosmos: Sandra Brown, Clive Cussler. Robin Cook, David Baldacci, David Morrell, and many more! We got to ask them lots of questions during the breakout sessions. I brought home many writing tips that I’m already putting into practice.

Panel fun

I was on a panel with NYT bestselling author Peter De Jonge and Kathleen Sharp, where we shared stories about what it’s like to jump from journalism to a career in fiction. I got a lot out of all the panels I attended, especially “Can you cross genres?” with James Rollins and Jon Land. I hate to miss anything, so I brought home CDs of many of the panels I was not able to attend.

Goin’ to the dogs

There was a dramatic K9 demonstration of “tactical” dogs (the preferred term instead of attack dogs) and explosives detection. The very brave Panel Master, Andrew Peterson, put on a padded sleeve to demonstrate how the tactical dog takes down a suspect. An ATF officer explained that the dogs think they’re playing a game when they attack. But this is one game that the criminals are bound to lose!

To sum up, Thrillerfest ’09 was indeed a thriller–I can’t wait until next year!

It’s Gonna Be A Thriller!


Tomorrow I head off to the Grand Hyatt in NYC for ThrillerFest, a gathering of fans, friends, and some of the best writers on the planet. Fellow Kill Zone blogmates Kathryn Lilley and John Gilstrap will be there along with soon-to-be-permanent Sunday Kill Zone blogger, James Scott Bell. There will be discussion panels, workshops, demonstrations (Amazon Kindle, ATF), parties, interviews, the Clive Cussler Roast, the debut authors’ breakfast, and the Thriller Awards Banquet among the events. A good time will be had by all.

If you’ve been to a writer’s conference such as Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Sleuthfest, ThrillerFest, and others, you know that it can be great fun and offers a ton of opportunities for authors at all stages of their careers. And if you haven’t attended one yet, move it to the top of your to-do list. You won’t regret it.

Here are some important reasons to attend conferences like ThrillerFest.

Inspiration. You’re sure to be inspired by the time you leave. Being surrounded by hundreds of writers creates electricity and excitement. And the inspiration is contagious. You’ll get support and encouragement from agents, editors, and other writers. And you’ll feel emboldened to go home and write with renewed enthusiasm.

Knowledge. Most conferences like ThrillerFest are built around panel discussions. You’ll find workshops and author panels covering topics from writing young adult novels to creating believable heroes and villains. No matter where you are in your writing career, you’ll always come away learning something valuable.

Networking. Publishing is about people. Meeting fellow writing professionals is invaluable in getting your name out into the marketplace.

Friendship. The potential for forming long-lasting friendships with your fellow authors is perhaps the best benefit you’ll receive from a conference. And those friendships come in handy when you need advice, a blurb, someone to brainstorm with, or just a word of encouragement later.

Fans. If you’re a published author, chances are you’re going to meet a fan or two at a conference. And trust me on this, there’s nothing more rewarding than to have a total stranger tell you that they enjoyed your book and ask you to sign a copy. The part of this experience that affects me the most is to hear a fan speak of my characters as if they were real. You can’t buy that feeling of fulfillment at any price.

Pitching. At ThrillerFest and other conferences, you get the opportunity to meet agents and editors. If your goal is to acquire a new agent or find a publisher, there’s no better place.

There are many great reasons to attend conferences like ThrillerFest, not the least of which is you’ll have a blast. For those that have attended, what memorable experiences can you share with us? Was it worth your while to travel to a distance city for a conference? Any other reasons to attend or tips to remember?

Never Look Back

by Michelle Gagnon

Yesterday, Joe discussed knowing where you’re headed before getting started. I received an email from a college friend this week who’s writing his firstnever look novel, and he asked me a few questions about my process. I thought I’d share some of what I said in reply. Of course, there is no one “right way” to write a book; everyone has to find his or her own path. But after hammering out four books, I’ve learned what works for me.

1) At what point do you seek formal feedback, rather than just cranking it out?

I don’t show my work to anyone until I’ve completed two drafts. And then I send it to my “Beta readers,” 5-7 people whose opinion I trust. What I’ve discovered, however, is that they’ll all like different aspects of the story, and they’ll all criticize different aspects. I always take that feedback with a grain of salt. If more than one person is saying the same thing, I know it’s time to go back and figure out where I went wrong.

In Boneyard, one of my readers was so taken with a character in the initial chapter, she felt strongly he should be incorporated into the rest of the storyline. I had fleshed out that character fairly well, so that when something happened to him, you’d fear for his well-being. But ultimately, he was a device to kickstart the plot. Think of it as the garbage men who find a body in a dumpster in the first five minutes of Law and Order. You don’t expect to see the garbage men help track down the killers, or try the accused–they’re there to find the body, then they’re gone. Same with this character. No one else had that comment, so I chose to limit him to that opening chapter.

2) Do you counsel quantity (ie, getting more on paper) over quality (tweaking sentences) early on?

In my opinion what separates published authors from people who have been working on a book for years without completing it is this: never look back. I don’t start editing–at all–until the entire book is written. A lot of people get fifty pages in, then go back and start editing chapter one. The danger in this is that while you might end up with a perfect first fifty pages, by the time you finish those there’s a good chance you’ve lost the thread of the story.

It’s also discouraging to suddenly realize you’ve spent three months on fifty pages, and another three hundred and fifty remain to be written (of course, that’s discouraging whether you’ve stopped or not–I call it the “interminable middle”). I never even re-read what I’ve written until I’ve finished the first draft. (I also spend most of that draft thinking that what I’m writing is the worst junk ever committed to page. But I forge ahead, because I know the next draft will be better.) And then when I do go back, the bones of the story are in place.

3) When does it help to have a literary guide (agent? editor? coach?)? How do you get a good one to take you seriously?
Start the agent search only when your manuscript is as absolutely perfect as it’s ever going to be. That means a minimum of three drafts. And after completing each draft, put it away for a month before looking at it again. That gives you a fresh perspective.

Resign yourself to the fact that the agent search might take months- not always the case, but frequently enough that it’s good to be prepared for it. And not hearing back right away doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be rejected. My first agent asked for an exclusive on the full manuscript right away–then three months passed. If I had to do it over, I’d probably call after a month and ask if it was all right for me to submit to other agents. In the end it worked out for me, but I was gnawing my nails to the quick that entire time. A month is more than enough time for an agent to have an exclusive.

Begin by querying your 3-5 top choice agents, always making sure that a) they’re currently acquiring manuscripts, and b) they represent the kind of work you write (these seem like givens, but you’d be surprised). There are a lot of good books on querying an agent (my favorite is Noah Lukeman’s “The First Five Pages”). Your query letter needs to be perfect, as do your first five pages, since that’s what an agent reads to make a snap judgement on your work. I loved what people were saying yesterday about switching the second chapter with the first. About a year ago, I read a tremendous manuscript written by a friend. And the entire first chapter I was yawning-not good for a thriller. It was all back story: how the protagonist got his job, where he went to school, his mother’s medical condition…then, scene two kicked in. The main character picked up a woman home at a bar, was accosted in his apartment by Russian mobsters, was threatened with blackmail and suddenly boom- we were off and running. Telling too much at the outset is a common mistake. Bear in mind you have 100,000 words to develop your characters, so there’s no need to overdo it at the outset. (By the way, this excellent book- FREEFALL, by Reece Hirsch- found representation and will be published next year).

Your agent shops the manuscript to editors. Very few publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts these days.
Getting an agent is hard. My best advice would be to go to a writing conference that good agents are attending- a face to face meeting goes a long way toward getting you out of the slush pile. Incidentally, Thrillerfest is hands down one of the best for finding an agent for a thriller- I can’t think of another conference that gathers forty top agents in one place to hear pitches. Well worth the investment if your manuscript is ready.

4) Not a question but an observation — I can’t seem to help harvesting the real lives and personalities of friends and acquaintances. Ringing in my ears is Elizabeth Gilbert: “Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Tell the truth.”

I suppose my personal life infiltrates the storylines in some places–but it depends on what I’m writing. For the screenplay I’m working on right now, my co-writer and I are drawing heavily on our life experiences. But for my series, much of it is pure creation-I’ve never defused a dirty bomb, chased down a suspect, or done many of the other things my characters do. I just imagine what it would be like, basing it on research and discussions with people who do those sorts of things for a living. So the old, “write what you know” has never been something I strongly adhered to. Otherwise I’d write about sitting alone in a room typing day after day. And trust me, that is rarely exciting.

It’s Smackdown Day and I need your vote!

By Joe Moore

It’s going to be a short post today because there’s little time to spare. Like any great thriller, the clock is ticking. My co-author Lynn Sholes and I are in a death match with none other than Dan-da-Vinci-Code-Brown. And we’re determined to win.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Dan Brown. At least I like his books. megalithI’ve never actually met him, but I’m sure he’s a great guy you’d want to have a beer with. But today there’s something called the May Madness Thriller Author Smackdown over at a website/blog called Megalith. So a potential Brown-Sholes-Moore warm & fuzzy beer fest is not in the cards right now. This is serious smackdown stuff.

Each day of this month, the Megalith blog is matching up two thriller authors (or teams) to go head to head. The final round and championship will be on May 31. But today, we need your votes.

I mean, when you get right down to it, aside from a small difference of 80 million or so copies in sales, just like Dan’s, our thrillers have secret societies, ancient religious relics, angels and demons, globe-trotting heroes and villains, secret codes, seat-of-the-pants action, inside the Vatican cool stuff, creepy tunnels, dusty tombs, scary castles, and apocalyptic threats galore.

So call your family and friends, use names off headstones and the Chicago voter rolls—whatever it takes. Just get over to Megalith blog and vote. It’s a smackdown, and the future of the thriller world is in your hands.

Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Sandra Brown, Steve Berry, Robert Liparulo, Thomas B. Sawyer, Paul Kemprecos, Linda Fairstein, Oline Cogdill and more.

A Challenge from Across the Pond

Today we welcome our guest James Scott Bell to TKZ. Jim is the author of the Ty Buchanan thriller series – Try Dying, Try Darkness and Try Fear (July 09). His latest standalone, Deceived, was called a "heart-whamming read" by Publishers Weekly. He has taught novel writing at Pepperdine University in Malibu, and at numerous writers conferences. In July he’ll be conducting a workshop on suspense dialogue for the International Thriller Writers CraftFest portion of ThrillerFest in New York. Jim is also the author of two bestselling books in the Write Great Fiction series from Writers Digest Books: Plot & Structure and Revision & Self-Editing. A former trial lawyer, Jim lives and writes in L.A. His website is

By James Scott Bell

jim-bell Perhaps you saw the challenge a group of British thriller writers laid down last month. In The Guardian (UK) , Jeffery Archer, Martin Baker, Matt Lynn and Alan Clements declared they are out to end "the reign of the production-line American thriller writers, such as James Patterson, John Grisham and Dan Brown" and return British thrillers to their "rightful prominence."

Talking a little English smack, Archer said, "The tradition of thriller writing should never be allowed to die. Not least because we are better at it than anyone else in the world."

My thought upon reading that was, We whipped ’em in 1781, and we can do it again.

But I set my musket aside and continued reading. Here’s a clip:

Lynn, author of the military thriller Death Force, said that authors such as James Patterson – who writes, with the aid of a team of co-authors, up to eight books a year – have "drained a lot of the life out of the market". "Look at Fleming, look at Len Deighton – they had a quirkiness to them. Yes they were very popular, and had elements of the formulaic, but there was an edge of originality to them," he said. "All the writers in this group believe in bringing that back … Too many of the American thrillers are just being churned out to a rigid formula. Good writing is never a production line."

"We’re trying to say ‘why would you want to read fairly cynical, ghost-written books which are being pumped out by publishers when there are a lot of good new British writers you could be reading?’" explained Lynn. "We feel the genre has been quite neglected in the last seven to eight years … There haven’t been any new writers coming through. It might be because there aren’t any very good writers, or maybe it’s because publishers and booksellers have been neglecting it – they’ve become obsessed with the big names, and because they’ve got a new James Patterson or John Grisham four to five times a year to put at the front of the bookshop, it crowds out all the new British authors who are coming through."

These writers, who call themselves The Curzon Group, have come up with "five principles" for writing a thriller. They believe–

1. That the first duty of any book is to entertain.

2. That a book should reflect the world around it.

3. That thrilling, popular fiction doesn’t follow formulas.

4. That every story should be an adventure for both the writer and the reader.

5. That stylish, witty, and insightful writing can be combined with edge-of-the seat excitement.

Let’s take a closer look.

1. That the first duty of any book is to entertain.

Check. Without that, nothing else matters, because no one is reading you. And note that entertainment does not mean fluff. Being "caught up in the story" can happen in many ways and in myriad genres.

Our top thriller writers clearly entertain. Look at what’s being read on any given plane on any given day. For a read that gets you caught up in the fictive dream, we Americans are certainly holding our own, wouldn’t you say?

2. That a book should reflect the world around it.

TRY DARKNESS final cover I’m not sure what this means. Social comment? Message? Verisimilitude? You can take it a number of ways.

I do think a thriller has to "reflect" the world to the extent it establishes the feeling of reality, that the events in the story could happen. How well you do this is a matter of individual style, and avoiding things that could pull readers out of the story.

But this is SOP for any fiction writer, not just those who do thrillers. I’m not sure this principle moves the debate along.

What do you think it means?

3. That thrilling, popular fiction doesn’t follow formulas.

Here, I disagree a bit. There is a reason we have formulas in this world: they WORK. Try making nitroglycerin out of egg whites or lip balm out of sandpaper. We use formulas every day. We’re lost without them.

What most critics mean by this jab is "formulaic," which is a euphemism for "by the numbers" or otherwise without original content and style.

And we’d agree. Thrillers need formula, but should never be formulaic.

So what’s the formula?

For one thing, somebody has to be in danger of death. (I’ve talked elsewhere about the three types of death—physical, professional and psychological. For most thrillers, physical is on top).

Another ingredient: an opposition force that is stronger than the Lead. If not, the reader won’t care about the stakes.

And the Lead has to be a character we care about deeply. Not perfect, and not necessarily all good (think: Dirty Harry). We just have to care, and there are things you do and don’t do to forge that reader connection.

What keeps a thriller from being by-the-numbers is the freshness you bring to it by way of character, voice, style, and the arrangement of plot elements.

Take A Simple Plan by Scott Smith. A tried and true formula: innocent man finds forbidden treasure, succumbs to greed, disaster results (the death overhanging this novel is psychological death, which the Lead and his wife suffer by the end). That story’s been done over and over. But Smith brought to it compelling characters in complex relationships, and a style that drives you relentlessly from chapter to chapter.

Or the film The Fugitive. Innocent man on run from the law. Formula! But what they did with both Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) and especially Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) turned it into a classic thriller. We’ll never forget Sam’s line, "I don’t care!" Or the beat where Kimble, trying to get out of Cook County Hospital without being recognized, puts his own troubles on hold to help a kid in the emergency ward.

When the film was over, and Sam does care, we’ve been taken on an almost perfect thrill ride.

4. That every story should be an adventure for both the writer and the reader.

Check. For the writer of thrillers, that means taking a risk in each book, somehow. Stretching the muscles. For example, I love that Harlan Coben has taken Myron Bolitar international in his latest. I’m sure you have your favorite examples, too (what are they?)

No adventure in the writer, no adventure in the reader.

5. That stylish, witty, and insightful writing can be combined with edge-of-the seat excitement.

Who is going to argue with that?

deceived I’d aver, however, that style cannot overcome a weak story construct. So while I’m at it, let me put in a good word for Patterson, who has been castigated by so many. His concepts are terrific. He knows story at the fundamental level. His books wouldn’t do nearly so well without the solid scaffolding of the basic premise.

Before I can start outlining or writing, I have to have a logline that excites me, that calls up all sorts of possibilities in my mind. That’s something Patterson, Grisham and Brown also have as the baseline of their books. And so do all successful thriller scribes, as far as I can see.

Our team, the American thriller writers, do pretty well after all. So if the Brits want to have a contest, I say: Bring it.

I’m in.

Any other takers?

And what do you think of the five principles?


Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Sandra Brown, Steve Berry, Robert Liparulo, Thomas B. Sawyer, Paul Kemprecos, Linda Fairstein, Oline Cogdill and more.

Are you here for the conference?

by Michelle Gagnonconference

Until I received an invite to Bouchercon, I had no idea conferences like that even existed (and until relatively recently, I had no idea how to properly pronounce Bouchercon, either, as it turns out. I have to stop myself from French-ifying it).

How cool, I thought- the opportunity to meet some of my favorite authors and discuss their books with like-minded fans. When I joined some of the online mystery groups and found out that not only could I attend, but I might even be asked to serve on a panel, it was downright mind-boggling. So the year my debut thriller was released, I devoted most of my marketing budget to conference fees, flying everywhere from Anchorage to New York.

Was it worth it?

Well, I had a great time, that’s for sure. The camaraderie at these conferences is fantastic- where else could I spend a night kicking back with Jeffery Deaver and Harlan Coben? But after two years of attending as many as I could afford, I’ve developed some basic parameters:

  • Cost and release dates: My last two books had summer releases: great for conferences, since most of the big ones occur between March and October and they’re clustered in the summer months (I always think of Bouchercon as closing out conference season). THE GATEKEEPER will be released in November, so I’m cutting back dramatically on what I attend since I’ll just end up pitching BONEYARD to people, many of whom already heard about it last year. Cost is always an issue- even if the conference fee isn’t very expensive, once you factor in all the ancillary costs (travel, hotel, etc), each conference runs me at least a grand. And that adds up quickly. Which leads to…

  • What do I hope to get out of it? Mind you, I love hanging out with fellow writers and fans, but it’s hard to justify spending a thousand dollars over a weekend to do that (especially in this economy). So ideally, I hope to get on at least one good panel, and to network with people I haven’t met yet. There’s always a lot of debate on the lists about which conferences are worth attending, and I’m certain that everyone has a different experience. You might sell more books at smaller regional ones where you’re one of a handful of authors, whereas at larger conferences you might get lost in the shuffle. Yet at those big conferences there’s an opportunity to meet domestic and foreign editors, booksellers, and agents, and to get your name out to a larger cross-section of mystery fans.And sometimes the regional conferences are skewed toward local authors, so if you’re not from the area, you might find yourself relegated to the panel on bug detectives (not a well-attended one, in my experience). So it largely depends on what your career goals are at that given moment. Personally, I’m doing the same thing with conference attendance that I do with my financial portfolio: spreading it out between smaller conferences like Left Coast Crime (they had me at “Hawaii”) and big ones like Bouchercon (which I always seem to get a lot out of).

  • Is it a fan conference, or a writing one? Not that writers aren’t fans- we all are, obviously. But some conferences specialize in helping new authors hone their craft and pitch agents- which is invaluable for them, but I’ve discovered that at those conferences, I spend most of my time dodging requests to pass a manuscript on to my agent. I’d much rather go to a true fan conference, where most of the attendees are readers who want to meet their favorite bestselling authors, and who might be persuaded to try a new one as well.

  • Which genre does the conference emphasize? I’ve gone to a few romance conferences, and so far haven’t had much luck with those (although I know my friend Alex Sokoloff has had a much more positive experience). For me, going to RWA felt like starting over again; I didn’t know the lingo, and since romance isn’t a major component of my books, I drew a lot of blank stares. I’m considering giving Romantic Times a shot when it lands a bit closer to home, but flying to Orlando isn’t a possibility for me this April.

Even though I’m cutting back, as of right now I plan on attending Left Coast Crime, LA Times Festival of Books (a cheap flight, and I can stay with friends), Book Passage (local, and no conference fee), and Bouchercon. I’m on the fence about Thrillerfest, since NY is just so darn expensive, and I’m skipping BEA since my ARCs won’t be ready yet. Also, no Edgars for me, sadly, or Sleuthfest (I could really use a trip to Florida, too. Oh well).

On the plus side, this leaves my summer largely free. But I have to wonder what poor Harlan and Jeffery will do without me. So my question for the day is: are you going to any conferences? Which ones, and why?