Thursday, July 06, 2006

ThrillerFest 1 (Confessions of a Killerette)

(In which I add my voice to the furious blogging about this incredible event. I will try to figure out how to link to other articles and photos. I will have to do this in manageable chunks, since I'm still trying to sort out all the wonderfulness and also have about eight hundred and seventy-two e mails to catch up on. Seriously thinking of changing my name and disappearing.)


Arrive at Arizona Biltmore, a Frank Lloyd Wright palace of a hotel on a golf course in the middle of a desert. Jaw drops in awe at first sight. I've toured many a Wright building, house, church - but this one hits me like a sledgehammer. The concrete deco detailing alone - beautiful and haunting. Fevered, is what I keep thinking. It's a little terrifying to walk into a manifestation of this man's mind.

Lobby: quadruple-planed fountain. Native American mosaic in stained glass. A deco grandfather clock that is going home with me somehow. COPPER ceiling glowing two and a half stories above. Unbelievable. And very aesthetic bellhops to match. (Yes, as a matter of fact you can help me with just about anything you can dream up, thanks...)

Room is not ready (and is rumored to be in Utah) so on to MacArthur ballroom for registration. Landscaping is as staggering as the architecture - desert deco. I'm never going home.

MacArthur lobby: glacial AC, thank God - after a five-minute walk in 110 degree heat I am on the verge of passing out. There is iced tea in huge silver urns. I almost knock over Erica Spindler, whose creepy BONE COLD I just finished a week and a half ago. I start to fawn. A bear of a man comes up and gives me a big hug. Towering, sexy, vital, killer eyes. I don't know him from Adam, but who the hell cares? He starts talking about rehearsal (that would be band rehearsal, about which much more in a minute) and I realize this is Michael Palmer. MICHAEL PALMER. I have at least seven of his medical thrillers lined up on the top shelf of the right-hand bookshelf beside my desk for easy access. How in the world does he know me?

I register and drift in the lobby in a daze. Tall, lean, devastating Englishman over there MUST be Lee Child. I have not started drinking yet and resolve I WILL NOT gush like a tedious fan girl. I will play it cool - let him come to me (I can dream, can't I?).

It is beginning to dawn on me that I have crash landed in the Valley of the Giants. Must get hold of self - the party's just starting.


I find my first panel of the day - one of the few I will be able to attend because so much of the conference will be spent rehearsing (I'm getting to it, I'm getting to it...). I am really looking forward to this one: BUZZ YOUR THRILLER, with MJ Rose, David Montgomery and Sarie Morrell.

MJ is a knockout - funny, sexy, savvy, stylish - clearly has left hundreds of dazed and delighted conquests in her wake. Just for one day I would love to be inside her head (and body). David is a class act, who I understand is responsible for much of the TF programming - stupendous job, there. And even after that staggering amount of work, he stepped up and helped the band schlep equipment when we were desperate for help. I love this man. Sarie Morrell is a beauty, and everything you would want in a publicist.

I am taking notes wildly all through this one. MJ says bluntly what I'd been suspecting - that a new author should take their advance and spend it ALL on promoting that first book. Sobering. And so we make a living exactly how? Food for thought for our own panel tomorrow. She also says that you have to realize that you're not going to be able to do everything (in fact she says quite clearly that it would be impossible to do everything that JA Konrath advises. Quite a relief, there.).

After the panel I meet my fellow New Author panelists Robert Gregory Browne, Phil Hawley, Brett Battles, and Marcus Sakey. Actually we have all bonded by e mail going on months before and they simply feel like family already.

Phil Hawley radiates doctorness. Great hands. I mean, bedside manner. I mean - right. Better quit while I'm ahead. Umm - did I mention he's a snappy dresser? Brett Battles has that far-off look of international espionage - distant, brooding... and then he suddenly breaks into a smile and it's like the sun. Rob Gregory Browne is the man behind the camera for the weekend, documenting TF on film - truly a labor of love and good karma. An elegant watcher. Also could be a spy, or a martial artist, or a hired killer. Very masculine energy.

All total sweethearts. Oh, and talk about sweet - Jason Pinter, who I meet here for the first time. Huggable! I am also thrilled that Paul Guyot is here - a great writer I know from the WGA trenches, and a friend of Dr. Hawley's. Worlds are starting to collide...

Now, much has already been made in the TF post-mortems about Marcus Sakey's attractiveness. It's true. A very young Paul Michael Glaser, the same self-effacing hotness. Women will be throwing underwear and hotel keys at his readings. But I'm here to tell you that he's more than just a pretty face. The man is a dyed-in-the-wool deviant. The very first night he will buy me a drink then steal my TF badge and my mesh shawl and pretend to chivalrously return them to me the next morning and cheerfully confess to going through the pockets of the badge pouch looking for incriminating personal details about me. Also, my lipstick is still missing. I feel instantly at home in the company of such authorly amorality (it's not just me, then...)

Also at this panel I meet two women I've admired from their blogs and instantly adore in person: JT Ellison, Killer Year founder and Murderata (singular feminine of Murderati, right?) and Allison Brennan, brand new author with three thrillers out within three months of each other - could you kill her? These are goddesses for sure - earthy, funny, crackling with life. Feel like I've known them before.

I start thinking - and will continue thinking all conference long - about the difference between screenwriters and authors. Now, I love me my screenwriters. I always get the sense being in a room full of them that I'm surrounded by thoroughbred horses. They're edgy, antsy, explosive.

As a species, authors are so much more sweet, somehow. I don't know how else to describe it. Not so much to prove, because it's all there on the page. Not so much need for the edge. I'll think about it and try to be more clear.

Wish I'd had so much more time with ALL of them - but band rehearsals were about to start...


Rob Gregory Browne said...

I have to say, Alex, this is one of the best reports on TF I've read. Especially the part about me. :)

JT Ellison said...

...earthy, funny, crackling with life. Feel like I've known them before.
Alex, you've taken the words out of my mouth. I felt that instant connection as well. You're just amazing.
And I can't wait to read your book. Rumor has it it's winging its way toward my door as we speak. If it's half as cool as you -- you're going to have a winner on your hands.

Allison Brennan said...

I'm not funny, but you and JT and Toni sure cracked me up. I love all the Killer Year folks.

Three books a year is doable. Sleep is overrated. I keep telling people that . . .