Because I didn’t realize the alarm in my room was set, I woke up at six this morning, but on the upside, I was able to get civilized and get to the convention with plenty of time this morning.
I got a swag bag containing the schedule, a bunch of books, and other odds and ends, and I started to poke through the goodies as I waited for the introductory session. Flipping through the program, I saw that my pic and mini-bio were placed among those of the “real” writers in attendance — it was another of those Pinocchio moments. I think my folks would have been tickled.
The first session featured Al Abramson, the chair of the convention, which is a 100%-volunteer enterprise. The attendees skew strongly female, and the majority were my age or older. It reminded me once again that about 70% of mystery buyers are women, and that may be one reason for the strength of gentler “cozy” mysteries versus the more hard-boiled/noir stuff. The writers, meanwhile (and we make up about 30% of the total attendance), are pretty evenly split between men and women. If you want to solve that particular system of equations, you’ll see how strongly the fan attendance leans toward women.
The first panel I caught was in the same room, and the subject matter dealt with thrillers, which these days seems to mean stuff in the Tom Clancy/Clive Cussler/James Patterson/Lee Child vein — adventure novels, often with a political or technical sheen; think 24. In fact, the authors on the panel are either collaborators or estate-selected successors to the very author/brands I listed. I hadn’t realized that when I stuck around, but it was still interesting. At one point, the writers chatted a little bit about pace, and one said that he’d never write a chapter that ended with the hero going to sleep at the end of a day unless he was going to wake up with the room on fire. Of course, as a Block fan, I thought, “Evan Tanner wouldn’t have an issue with that sort of thing.”
Next up was a session on marketing tips for indie authors, with a particular eye on e-publishing. That’s when I foundmout that one of the items in my swag bag was a flash drive with about 400 top selling mysteries from Smashwords. So it turned out I had even more free books than I had realized.
From there, I went to a session on lesser known crime writers of the past who warrant rediscovery. The panelists included Jordan Foster (who endorsed British noir writer Ted Lewis), Laura Lippman (who recommended Zilpha Keatley Snyder, an author known principally for Young Adult lit), Kevin Burton Smith (a fan of Norbert Davis, a pulp writer whose fans included Raymond Chandler and Ludwig Wittgenstein) and Sarah Weinman, who discussed Elisabeth Sanxay Holding. As it happens, Ms. Weinman has edited one of Ms. Holding’s books as part of a two-volume set of women crime writers of the 1940s and 50s for the Library of America. As it further happens, panel moderator Peter Rozovsky gave away a boxed copy of that two-volume set, and it was won by none other than Your Genial Host. Even more even more free books! It also gave me an opportunity to talk to the panelists regarding an academic project we’re working on here in Mondoville.
After a little downtime, it was time for “Noir at the Bar”, where a lot of terrific indie noir authors read from their work. Some of tonight’s readers included Christa Faust, Ed Kurtz, and Les Edgerton (whose praise of my work was effusive — thanks, bruddah!), and the setting — a Raleigh bar called Common 411 — was perfect. One of the best things of this whole experience for me is getting to finally meet writers whose work I admire, and who I’ve come to “know” online. They’ve all been even more lovely in person — and I never would have expected Kurtz’s voice to sound like it does. Dude makes Everett Dirksen sound like Minnie Mouse (Mondo’s blog: Come for the crime writing, stay for the Everett Dirksen references!). Kudos to Eryk Pruitt for putting the whole thing together.
And there are still a couple of days and change to go! Tomorrow, I’m planning to catch a panel that includes both Lawrence Block and Megan Abbott (one of the best young writers out there, and the Spawn’s favorite crime writer. Well, other than me.)
See you tomorrow!