By John Gilstrap
Good morning, everyone. Now that you’ve had a chance to mingle and meet, let’s take our seats and get started. Welcome to the first annual Good Guy Professional Development conference. Mr. Grave, Mr. Rapp and Mr. Harvath, I need you to leave your weapons at the check station. You, too, Mr. Massey. Yes, all of them. Mr. al-Jawadi will take good care of them.
Mr. Rapp, I don’t appreciate that kind of talk here. Not all . . . Okay, apology accepted.
I’d like to offer a special welcome to President Ryan. It’s a real honor, sir. And congratulations on your son’s success as well. I think we all can agree that the world is a much safer—
Excuse me. Yes, Mr. Pitt? Because they’re Secret Service agents, that’s why. They are the single exception to the no weapons rule. Surely this makes sense to you. I thought it would. Thank you.
Moving along, this morning’s agenda includes—
Oh, good God. Who’s pounding on the door? Oh. Just ignore her, and maybe she’ll go away. What? No, I’m not being sexist. Jessica Fletcher is not welcome in any gathering that I run. Certainly not where food or tea is being served. It’s just not worth the risk.
Who locked the doors, anyway? Ah. And why did you do that, Inspector Poirot? Uh huh. I see. Well, technically, Inspector, there’s more than one killer in this room. Quite a lot more than one, actually. We don’t need a locked room, thanks. It’s a fire code violation.
Mr. Lockwood and Mr. Pike, please sit down. I don’t need your help. And Inspector Poirot does not “talk funny,” as you say. He’s Belgian. And meaning no offense, why are you two here in the first place? This conference is for lead characters. A sidekick conference is in the planning stages . . . My apologies, Mr. Pike, you’re absolutely right. I’d forgotten. You’re welcome to stay. But Mr. Lockwood—may I call you Win? All right, then, Mr. Lockwood, I need to ask you to leave.
Getting back to the agenda, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover, beginning with a panel presented by Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne discussing the difficulties of living a dual life. That will be moderated by Peter Parker.
I see you, Mr. Bolitar. Please put the laser pointer down. The red dot on my chest is certainly a riot, but it’s distracting. Thank you.
The dual life panel will be followed by a technical workshop called “How to Get 500 Rounds Out Of A 30-Round Magazine Without Reloading.” That will be jointly taught by two of my favorite Johns: John “Hannibal” Smith, and John Rambo.
Our luncheon speaker is the ever-entertaining Captain Ahab, whose keynote is titled, “Manic Monomania.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve been thinking about little else for days.
In the afternoon, we have . . .
The afternoon sessions are up to you, dear Killzoners. Let’s have some fun. Trying to stick to the voice of the speaker, post your suggested courses and presenters. Or interact some more with the attendees.
This could be a hoot.
(FYI, I’ll be away from the keyboard all day today, so I’ll be kinda quiet.)
by John Gilstrap
On Wednesday, Joe wrote of the trauma of ending a series. He likened it to a death in the family, and that seemed apt to me. I think that’s also the way fans feel when they know that a series is coming to an end. I confess to feeling a certain melancholy when J.K. Rowling placed the final period on the Harry Potter series. There was a sadness to the conclusion of the saga, of course, but for me it was more than that. I had come to look forward to my annual or biannual journey into the story. It was a passion and a pastime that I could share not just with my son over those years, but also with people on the subway.
Remember Jack Ryan? In the early ’90s, you couldn’t board an airplane without noticing that 80% of the male travelers had their noses buried in one of the Tom Clancy novels. Personally, I lost interest in Jack Ryan’s saga toward the end, but during the time he was important to me, he was very important to me.
Steve Hunter’s Bob Lee Swagger, Bob Crais’s Elvis Cole and John Miller’s Winter Massey are more literary friends with whom I love to spend time. Oh, and Jeff Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme, too. Sneaky Pie Brown not so much, but then I’m not much of a cat person in real life. Once they start talking, my powers to suspend disbelief fail me. That said, I’d walk a mile to hear her friend Rita Mae give a speech. I heard her once at Magna Cum Murder in Muncie, and she was a hoot. More recently, I’ve bonded seriously with Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas.
In June, I launch a series of my own, and I confess that I’m worried. I’ve always written stand-alones in the past, and I find the prospect of this long-term relationship with Jonathan Grave and his friends to be a bit daunting. In the early draft–all 750 pages of it!–I found myself developing so much fodder for future books that the main story for Grave Secrets (the first installment of the series) became hopelessly bogged down. I fixed it, and now the story is really tight, and I’m thrilled with it; but now I have to write another one. Same characters, different story.
And more pressure. It’s one thing when fans buy your books because they like your writing–that’s the main (only?) dynamic in stand-alones–but now some percentage of fans are going to buy the next book because they like the characters to whom they were introduced in the first. That’s a good thing, of course, but it adds a whole new dimension to crafting the story. The last thing I want to do is disappoint readers, and it seems to me that by creating a new series, I’m increasing the likelihood of doing that. Remember when Clarice Starling fell in love with Hannibal Lecter at the end of Hannibal?
Okay, I could never disappoint readers that badly, but I still worry.