Friday afternoon I attended a panel called Second (or Third) Acts featuring Sarah Smith, Kate Gallison aka Irene Fleming, Dana Haynes, Bonnie Ramthun, and Ken Wishnia. This discussion involved career changes, the kind that are most often unexpected (such as when your agent retires or your publisher declares bankruptcy), but sometimes simply results from low sales. Whether an author takes months to recover or years, whether a change of genre is required, or even a change of name, the consensus was that authors can come back. They need to be patient, hang on to the day job, work hard, and never give up.
At 4:30 on Friday, my Illinois librarian friend, Molly MacRae, was the moderator for a later panel called You Talking About Me? Sarah Wisseman stepped in to replace C. J. Lyons who had come down with the flu. The other panelists were Ken Isaacson, Twist Phelan, and Hank Phillippi Ryan. This group debated the pros and cons of modeling characters after self, friends, or family (or even your enemies) and discussed the risks involved. Sounds like a serious panel, doesn’t it. Don’t be fooled. This group, led by a well-prepared and witty moderator, was very funny.
To finish off the day, the authors published by Five Star gathered once again in a dark corner of the bar and chatted with editor Deni Dietz and Tekno’s John Helfers who keep us informed of the Tekno/Five Star relationship and plans for the future.
After a great night’s sleep, and when I finally had consumed enough coffee to get going, I dropped by the Continuous Conversation rotation to see what the authors were talking about this morning. The three on the hot seat when I arrived were Suzanne Aruda, Beverle Graves Myers, and Alan Gordon. When Suzanne’s rotation was up, she was replaced by Laurie R. King. And when Alan left at his turn, Megan Abbott joined the group. This Continuous Conversation was, I believe, the brainchild of Carl Brookins a few conferences ago, and it seems to be extremely popular with both authors and fans. The conversations go on all day and each author stays 45 minutes, but the rotation is set up so one author moves each 15 minutes.
I had to scurry off at 10:30 AM to attend a panel on Serial Killers. The moderator was Leonard Cassuto and the panelists were Matt Hilton, Johnathan Santlofer, Stephen Jay Schwartz, and Howard Shrier. I was especially interested in Matt Hilton, a Brit whose name and book I had discovered when I visited the blog of cyber friend Paul Brazill. Because of Matt’s charming British accent and the story line of his book, I am now the owner of a signed copy of Dead Men’s Dust.
1:00 PM was the Geezer Lit Comes of Age panel moderated by Mike Befeler. Panel members were Chester Campbell, Naomi Hirahara, Mary Saums, and me. We had a wonderful audience, and I had a lot of fun. I’m totally convinced that humor in any panel is the secret to keeping the audience interested and engaged.
So it only makes sense that I would head for The Humor Panel at 2:30. With Alan Gordon as the moderator, authors Donna Andrews, Chris Grabenstein, Harley Jane Kozak, and Allyson Roy tried to tell us how they go about writing funny, and how funny can be used with murder without offending the reader. I’m not sure anyone knows how they do it at the time they’re writing. It just happens…or it doesn’t.
The only event I have left to attend this evening is the Charity Auction. Since Donna Andrews and Chris Grabenstein are the auctioneers, and I’ve seen Chris in this roll before, I wouldn’t miss it for anything. My contribution to the auction is a combination character name award with three other authors (Mike Befeler, Bonnie Ramthun, and Beth Groundwater). Whoever buys this prize will have his or her name attached to a character in each of our next books. That is, of course, if we all have new books. The chances are pretty good. But I think we’re all hoping the buyer doesn’t have a difficult name like Crystlemyer Crankerpoof.
The main thing going on tomorrow (Sunday) morning is The Bazaar where more than 100 mystery writers will be giving away signed books to convention attendees holding tickets (five of which we received with our registration package). I understand most of the books will be backlist books, but it hardly matters. There are so many great authors I haven’t read, that any book is a good book to me.
After that, we’re packing it up and heading for home. There will be no Sunday post. If all goes well, I’ll begin telling you about the twenty-one 2009 New Authors from Bouchercon on my blog on Monday. Our regularly scheduled Colorado Author Monday will resume on October 26th.