Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Who needs book recommendations when you have drinking buddies?

Me, Chris Kuzneski, Elle Lothlorien, Boyd Morrison, & Lissa Price

See this photo? It was taken in New York, four or five years ago. I’m looking bedraggled on the far left, and next to me is Chris Kuzneski, then Elle Lothlorien, Boyd Morrison, and Lissa Price. The four of us met about six years ago at the very first Thrillerfest conference in Phoenix, AZ. The only T-fest to be held in Arizona, actually. Anyway, I met these four and many others during what turned out to be a magical conference. At the time, Chris was self-published (on paper—this was before the Kindle was even invented), and the rest were completely unpublished.

Somehow Chris turned his initial self-pubbed thriller into a very successful mainstream publishing career. He’s published seven Payne & Jones novels at this point, and he's a bestselling author here in America.  In fact, his novels have been translated into 20 languages.  Intriguingly, I have it on good authority that he's at the very top of the bestseller lists in Britain.  The man’s a rock star over there!

Elle, who guest blogged here last week, had opportunities in traditional publishing, but is one of the new breed of novelists who has found great success self-publishing both electronically and in print. Like, quit-your-day-job success. She was recently named one of the 25 Self-Published Authors to Watch. (Boyd and several other friends made that list, too.) Elle’s readership is growing exponentially with each novel released, and fans are clamoring for her next, Rapunzel.

Lissa you may not have heard of yet, but I think that will all change in the next few weeks. Her debut YA novel, Starters, is being published by Random House on March 13, 2012. Less than a month away now! I read it a few weeks ago. It’s as close to Hunger Games-level awesomeness as any YA title I’ve read since falling in love with Collins’ series. We all think Lissa is poised for greatness.

And then there’s Boyd, who is the first member of this group that I really clicked with. I’ve been a huge fan and supporter of Boyd’s work since before anyone else discovered him. I’ve been reading (and criticizing the hell out of) his novels since we first met all those years ago. After failing to sell three novels to a “big 6” publisher, Boyd decided, What the hell? He posted his novels for free on the internet, and for sale in the Kindle store. Seven thousand sales later, Boyd was the first writer to turn self-publishing via Kindle into a major publishing contract. I’m still his biggest fan, (and FYI his next Tyler Locke novel may be the best yet).

This group of friends and I have looked at this photograph many times over the years. What amazing success they’ve each realized! What are the odds? All of them? Heck, they might as well crop me right off the end of that photograph, LOL.

I’ve discovered that one friendship leads to others. The gang above befriended Graham Brown before I did, but I met him through them several years ago, and now he’s my friend too. Boyd introduced me to Sophie Littlefield over a casual dinner in San Francisco while he was visiting a few years ago. As Sophie and I both live here, I get to see her more often, now, than he does. Not only is she just a lovely, lovely lady, but I started reading her novels out of curiosity after we met and now I’m totally hooked. Graham, too, for that matter!

In fact, in the past few weeks, I’ve read published or forthcoming works by Elle, Lissa, Boyd, Sophie, and Graham. I’ve got an audiobook of Chris’s on deck that I’ve been meaning to get to. And earlier this week I acquired a galley of Clawback by Mike Cooper, Sophie’s brother, who I had the pleasure of meeting at T-fest last summer. And just today I recieved a galley of the lovely Allison Leotta’s  sophomore novel, Discretion. I can’t wait to dive right in! I really loved her debut, Law of Attraction—another novel I read out of curiosity after meeting her a couple of years ago. Ali is also part of the gang of friends above. Membership just keeps growing and growing! And like so many of these people, Ali and I keep in touch and get together whenever we’re in the same city.

Elle Lothlorien, Paul McEuen, me, Lissa Price, Ali Leotta - All we do is eat.
Even I bring folks into the fold occasionally. Last summer, at the T-fest opening reception, I sought out novelist/physicist Paul McEuen to tell him how completely awesome his debut novel, Spiral, was. I walked up to him and said, “Dr. McEuen, I’m a big fan!” He wound up kibitzing with me and my girlfriends, until Lissa said, “Let’s all go grab dinner.” And abve is a photo from that dinner. I’m looking even more bedraggled than usual, but what a fantastic night that turned out to be! Now Elle, Lissa, Ali, and I are all fans of Paul’s, and I look forward to the day that I can add his next novel to my reading list.

Basically, I could read more books than the vast majority of Americans without ever stepping outside my social circle. Some months, it seems like all I’m reading are books written by friends, and believe me, this isn’t social obligation. It’s pure pleasure! I don’t read every writer I socialize with—even I don’t have enough time to do that. And perhaps it makes sense that I enjoy these writers’ work so much, since I enjoy the people creating the work so much.

Come to think of it, I have a few more books by friends on tap for the immediate future. Jeremy Bates's forthcoming debut novel, White Lies, is waiting on my Kindle to be read. As is Raymond Benson’s second Black Stiletto novel, Black & White. I really enjoyed the first Black Stiletto novel, so I'm looking forward to the new installment.  Heck, I even have a galley of Owen Laukkanen's The Professionals on hand.  I've never met the guy, but any friend of Elle's...

Many of us will be converging on Sacramento late next month for the Left Coast Crime conference. I’ll be in the bar, nursing a Coca-Cola and hanging with my friends. Who knows who I’ll meet at that conference? But I wouldn’t be surprised if I pick up a new favorite author, because who needs book recommendations when you’ve got drinking buddies?

The night we ditched Kuzneski for Boyd's far more beautiful and charming wife, Randi.


  1. Good heavens, this thing reads like a Who's Who of Who to Know - you don't just have your finger on the pulse, sugar, you *are* the pulse :)

  2. Nahhh. It's just that we know all the same people, LOL.