So, I don’t participate in the first part of Thrillerfest. That consists of “Craftfest” and “Agentfest,” and since I’m not trying to learn how to write and I’m not seeking representation, there’s no point. The Thrillerfest part of the conference officially kicks off late Thursday afternoon. Happily, I didn’t need to accomplish too much on Thursday before the festivities began.
This was good, because I was experiencing “cascade failure” with my body. It had started the previous day. My contact lens was bugging me early in the day, so I took it out. The previous night, while sitting quietly in a darkened theater, suddenly my eye went nuts. Tears were gushing out of my left eye. I’m dabbing with a Kleenex, and Elle is wondering why I’m crying in a comedy. Soon enough, my nose is also dripping and my throat was sore. I had a head full of salt water. I woke the next morning feeling like I’d been pickled in brine. A week later, my eye is still slightly wonky, though much, much better than during the conference when I was surrounded by cameras and couldn’t put any makeup on my face. *rolls eyes* My throat no longer hurts, but my voice is, if anything, worse. You’ll be glad to know, I’m never speaking again. But I was lucky. Symptom-wise, I was kind of disastrous all weekend, but I never felt sick. I kind of hurt and I felt tired, but there was a reason for that. No sleep.
Hernando’s Hideaway of a bar. The new bar is a long, stretched out glass and chrome hot house on the lobby’s mezzanine level. It’s a lovely, sunny spot for breakfast or lunch, but how many extramarital affairs or other scandals are going to start in a glass house? (I’ve been hanging with these people for seven years. You haven’t seen the things I’ve seen.)
I met up with Elle in the non-lobby of the Hyatt, because we were going to be rooming together for the long weekend. I was already looking and sounding pretty pathetic at check in, and Elle was having issues of her own. Consequently (?), we scored a fairly nice double room with a small attached seating area. That is where our luck with the Hyatt ended. I am not going to go into excruciating detail, but we had issues, many issues in the next 36 hours. I’m a calm girl, but at one point I threatened to shoot “someone” at the hotel. The next time we came up to our room, there was a bottle of wine chilling on ice, a selection of non-alcoholic beverages, a fruit basket, and cookies. In addition, over the course of three days, we were comped four breakfasts, $200 in hotel credit, and two room nights. I’m pretty sure they lost money on our stay, but things were handled very, very badly. And then once they finally got their act together, everything was fine. So, enough about that.
|Reviewer extraordinaire Jeff Ayers|
I’ll admit that I was killing time. I’d connected with several friends, but meetings with agents and the like were happening at the bar. It wasn’t quite social hour yet. There was a welcoming cocktail reception at 6:30pm. Having nothing better to do, I wandered back up to the Conference Level. It occurred to me that for the first time in six years, I might listen in on M.J. Rose and Doug Clegg’s Buzz Your Book session. It’s sort of the transition between Craftfest and Thrillerfest each year, and I haven’t sat in once. I approached with the best intentions, but as I neared, I saw novelist Alan Jacobson enter the room, camera in hand. Alan’s been the official T-fest photographer since forever. Why? He has skills. Skills beyond writing a fine thriller. Anyway, I was lurking outside when the flashes had stopped, and I grabbed Alan for a nice catch up. He lives right in the Bay Area like me, but I hadn’t seen him since Bouchercon. So typical. Happily, Alan and I generally do manage to carve out some one-on-one time wherever we are, and it’s a pleasure for me, because he’s a lovely, lovely man. Seriously, a favorite in the industry. And I’m a bad lady, because I still haven’t read any of his Karen Vail novels. He gets all these starred reviews in the publishing trades, but I’ve been reticent to jump into an ongoing series. I’m going to remedy that soon. He’s got a new one coming out with the enticing title: Inmate 1577. Hear me now, I will read Alan soon.
|Me with Paul & Christi a couple of years ago.|
|Mike Cooper & Margery Flax of the MWA|
I’d forgotten to eat all day, so I was snarfing up food while socializing. But eventually we started to talk dinner. God bless Lissa for practicality. But then my attention was caught by a very recognizable stranger, the debut author of one of the best novels I’ve read this year. I walked right up to him and said, “Dr. McEuen, I’m a big fan of yours!” In general, I’ve found this to be an acceptable way to begin a conversation, and it worked like a charm. Paul McEuen is not only a brilliant, world-renowned physicist working in nanotechnology, he is also the author of the uber-smart thriller Spiral. I think I was gushing when Lissa walked up and said, “Come to dinner with us.” (God bless you, Lissa, for being cool and assertive!) And he did!
The final contingent was me, Lissa, Elle, Ali Leotta, and Paul. We’d gone looking for Mike Cooper to extend an invitation, but couldn’t find him. Poor Paul, he was stuck with four ladies. Our concierge directed us to Avra, an upscale Greek seafood restaurant a few blocks away. We had a reservation, which worked out great. The ambiance was lovely, and I was feeling very New York chic. We were given this fabulous semi-circle booth, and I was seated smack in the center, with Paul and Elle on one side, and Lissa and Ali on the other. We had plenty of room, but this had the unfortunate side effect of fracturing our conversation in two. At one point, someone had the bright idea of us all smooshing closer together. It was unbearably adorable, all of us taking up about 2/3rds of our booth, but it worked like a charm! Conversation was vastly improved! There’s a photo in existence somewhere, and if I can ever get my
|Ali back home in DC|
Now, let me tell you a little more about my girlfriends. They’re all beautiful and wildly accomplished. It’s enough to give a lowly blogger a complex, but I’m working on my issues. Ali Leotta is a Harvard Law grad who spent 12 years as a federal sex crimes prosecutor before writing her first legal thriller, Law of Attraction. She's also the married mom of two little boys aged two and four. Oy. I call her "The Underachiever." We met at Thrillerfest only last year, but have kept in touch since. I was so looking forward to introducing her to “the rest of the gang” this year, and she just hit it off with every single person I introduced her to. I didn’t even have to join the conversation.
|Lissa Price, the Next Big Thing|
|Sophie Littlefield & Elle Lothlorien|
|Paul McEuen, my new favorite person|
After dinner, we found ourselves back at the Hyatt’s bar, where we reunited with our other friends. I saw Jimbo for the first time since our cab ride into the city. After greeting him, he was like, “When did you become Brenda Vaccaro?” The voice truly was awful, and the worst part is the people who were only just meeting me don’t know that I don’t (in the words of David Liss) sound "like a 90-year-old smoker." I had fun introducing Paul to Jimbo and Boyd and so many others over the course of the weekend, leading him to believe I’m a Yenta.
My friends are always trying to propose an actual paying job for me in the publishing industry. That should be it. I’m a Publishing Yenta, a matchmaker. It really is what I do best, just ask anyone. The phrase I heard over and over all weekend is, “Susan knows everyone.” Clearly that’s not true, but of the people I do know, I like to get people who should know each other together. And I’m quite good at that.
I’m not sure how late we were out that night, but Elle and I were among the last to hit the road. I seem to recall us being among the last of the women, and at some point that night, we met these two guys, Ethan and Jeremy. It turns out they were sharing a room a few doors down the hall from us, and I seemed to see them constantly all weekend. Ethan Cross has just published his debut novel, The Shepard, and Jeremy Burns is still working on getting published. Now watch, he’ll probably become the next Lee Child or something. Seriously, everyone I meet at these things becomes wildly successful. Just a heads up for you, Jeremy. Anyway, these two were good fun, and we saw a lot of them as the weekend progressed, often late, late at night. Ah, to be that young again. Alas I’m not. I slept in the next day.