Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Romantic Times and LA Times Festival of the Book

I'll be running all over the country again in the next two weeks:

APRIL 25 - APRIL 28: Houston, TX

Romantic Times Booklovers Convention

- THURSDAY, April 26:

...9 - 10:30 am Bookseller Event

...11 am-12pm panel: "Thriller: Hooks that Shock" -
with Carole Nelson Douglas, Heather Graham, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Rick Mofina, Jason Pinter, Alexandra Sokoloff

...4pm-5pm: Club RT: signing and chat

- FRIDAY, April 27 8:30 pm performance:

Heather Graham's Vampires of the Wild, Wild West dinner theater (not to be missed!)

- SATURDAY, April 28 -

11 am- 2 pm signings: Katy Books, bookseller

then...

SUNDAY APRIL 29 - Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

Signings:

12-1 pm: Mysterious Galaxy booth
1-3 pm: Sisters in Crime booth #355
3-4 pm: The Mystery Bookstore booth #411
4-5 pm: Sisters in Crime booth #355

And then...

MAY 1-4 - Malice Domestic, Arlington, VA

Monday, April 23, 2007

Thrillerfest 2006, Day 1

Reposting my recap of LAST year's inaugural Thrillerfest, for those who are asking questions about this year!

(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.)


DAY ONE:


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.

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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...

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Killer Thriller Band

I leave the post-Preston party, where Thrillerites are proceeding to get happily inebriated, and rush through the hotel looking for the Aztec room, weaving through Gamma Phi Betas and Fellows on my way (We're sharing the hotel with two other large conventions: The Fellowship - which sounds more ominous than the gospel-singing congregation it is - and 700 sorority girls and matrons, which is every bit as ominous as it sounds, but makes for some interesting viewing. And eavesdropping. And costuming, especially around the (eight!!!) swimming pools. I'm truly surprised any of the straight TF men can concentrate on anything else at all. If I hadn't already slept with just enough women to know I'm hopelessly heterosexual, I might be tempted myself. As it is I have some amusing and elaborate fantasies, because, you know, that's my job.).

I find the Aztec room which is, indeed, a pyramid. Or rather, it's an octagon with a pyramidal ceiling. Very odd. And hot. It calls out for, well, peyote. Instead, as a close second, we have the first rehearsal of the Killer Thriller Band.

First, the man behind it all. Bob Levinson is a showman. I am too new to the whole author thing to have seen his previous legendary productions for various Edgars and Bouchercons (or his TV specials) but his love of the old razzle-dazzle is apparent from the moment you meet him. We'd known each other online from WriterAction, the website I started for screenwriters to unite to throw off the chains of corporate Hollywood (but that's a secret, so don't tell anyone). Also we've both done time on the WGAw Board of Directors, which makes us fellow war survivors. But the day I met Bob f2f, at the LA Times Festival of the Book, we spent an hour dissecting WEST SIDE STORY. Nothing bonds you faster than an impromtu duet of "When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way..."

That's when he told me that he was producing the ThrillerFest Awards Show, and explained about the "Killer Thriller Band" he was putting together - a group of writers who are also real musicians, in the vein of the "Rock Bottom Remainders". He asked me if I was interested in being the third Killerette.

Well, I know that drill - short skirt, high heels, a little harmony, a lot of dancing... I've put in my time with enough girl groups called, variously, The Magnettes, deciBelles, Lip Service, the Perfect Fifth (you get the idea). I happen to love back up singing. Also back up dancing, if it can be called that. My greatest thrill in theater (besides, um, Shakespeare....) is the featured dancer role - playing one of the six or seven character dancers in the big sexy show stopper like Big Spender, Jailhouse Tango, Mein Herr, Steam Heat... usually involving a corset, fishnets and kinky boots. Pretty Shakespearean, when you think about it.

So what could I say to Bob but - Hell Yes.

If I'd known the rest of the lineup I would probably have been too intimidated to agree. Because just look at this lineup:

Heather Graham and Harley Jane Kozak on vocals; Michael Palmer on vocals, congas, and harmonica; Daniel Palmer on vocals and harmonica; John Lescroart on acoustic guitar and vocals; David Morrell on keyboards; F. Paul Wilson and Blake Crouch on drums; David Simms and Nathan Walpow on guitar, and Scott Nicholson on bass.

Some of these people I've been reading for YEARS. And now I meet them in the flesh.

Heather and Harley and Gayle and I have been exchanging a good dozen increasingly bawdy e mails a day for weeks now, about costuming, choreography and, well, obviously, sex - so this is like being reuinted with long-lost sisters. We have a group hug and gush over each other. Heather is an earthy, sexy powerhouse (150 books and five children? The woman is a FORCE), and Harley is an irresistable mix of old Hollywood glamor and author workhorse practicality. Goddesses, I tell you. We know we have extremely limited time to pull off our part of the show and are determined to make it work, but are surprised at how quickly we fall into pretty decent harmonies, with no squabbling over who has what part: Harley with a smoky alto, Heather a sweet, clear soprano and me taking the 1st alto/second soprano I grew up on.

I have instant crushes on every one of the men.

John Lescroat. If this man isn't Irish he should be. Ruddy, raucous, bawdy - and the soul of a poet. I adore him on the spot. Good thing I don't actually catch his full name until after we've added and rehearsed a new number with him - an acoustic version of "Bye Bye Love" - or I wouldn't have been able to squawk out a note. Of course I've read and loved his Dismas Hardy series. This must be a dream because it's too wild to be reality.

F. Paul Wilson glows. There's no other word for it - that combination of dreaminess and radiant intelligence. Kind, sad blue eyes. I have been a fan since I was a teenager and am shy and starstruck, even though he's already generously read and blurbed my book. At the same time I feel an odd protectiveness toward him - maybe just knowing the amazing and complicated things in this man's head.

Nathan Walpow is sweet and unflappable. He cracks me up with his wry observations.

Scott Nicholson I've e mailed and talked to through Horror Writers Association. I recognize him instantly. He's a bear - not because he's big, but that mountain, woodsman feel. Back country drawl and a journalist's savvy. Sweet, smart, SMART. Bass is the perfect instrument for him. His girlfriend Liz I also love instantly, not just because she jumps up and dances with me the second I shimmy over to her.

Dave Simms and I have already bonded at World Horror Con over our mutual experience working with disturbed teenagers (not our own). He is the man behind the curtain - all the music and arrangements and instruments that have magically appeared are thanks to him. So many horror writers in this band, come to think of it - what's that about? Dave, Scott, Paul, Blake, Heather and I all have that dark, supernatural bent.

I've already met and raved about Michael Palmer, but here's a surprise - his son, Daniel Palmer - phenomenal harp player. Killer voice and his father's profile and amazing eyes. They do things simultaneously sometimes, creating a vortex of charisma. The two of them together evoke twisted fantasies even I have never entertained before. Disturbing. It would make a good book, though... NO. Must steer away...

Gayle Lynds and David Morrell run in and out - obviously running the whole BIG show. David is cheerful and charming, just a prince - I will never fathom how Rambo came out of this man's brain. Also a hell of a keyboard player.

Gayle is so elegant and regal you'd swear she's wearing ermine. Equestrienne, powerful, lovely in every way. She is knocking herself out to make this party unforgettable, without ever showing the effort. I want to give her deep tissue massage and bring her silly trinkets that will make her smile. Both are doing an excellent job of being 72 places at once and giving every single one their undivided attention.

The professional level of musicianship among the guys is clear from the first few chords, but the enormity of pulling together anything resembling a reasonable show in under 48 hours is a little daunting. Our first attempts are rather like the disastrous rehearsal montage in THE COMMITMENTS - but everyone is so fun and good-natured it takes the edge off that "WTF have we gotten ourselves into?" panic. John wisely keeps us well-lubricated with a vast quantity of beer, which helps.

Still, there are fifteen minutes of sheer terror when the Killerettes realize the guys expect us to sing lead vocals on Bad Moon Rising. Bad Moon Rising is, I'm sorry, not a chick song. Many helpful but increasingly distressed suggestions as we stumble through it. What is missing, of course, is testosterone. I finally put on my most charming voice to suggest that Bad Moon is such a man's song that perhaps a man should be singing it. The twelve of us are I think equally and vastly relieved when Michael plays proud father and pushes Daniel forward and Daniel belts the sucker out in classic rock star style. Done and done.

Things get better from there, as we rehearse "Margaritaville" and "Twist and Shout" (some great dancing, there...) Daniel has tactful musical suggestions (this is a writer's son - he prefaces everything with "Just one man's opinion..."). Paul Wilson is the real barometer of our progress. He winces with his whole body when something goes off. Sometimes he visibly shudders. The Killerettes start watching him to gauge how we REALLY sound. Still, we have some great moments and are all already completely in love with each other, and I keep remembering that when the alarm went off before our flight this morning (at five fucking AM) the song on the clock radio was "Margaritaville". I kid you not.

If that's not a sign, I don't know what is.

We rehearse until one in the morning. I hit the bar for a moment afterward with Harley, and find JA Konrath propping up a pillar (a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it). James Born and I get a running commentary going on the parade of Gamma Phis (now, this could turn into a FANTASY...). Marcus Sakey breezes by, Mr. Suave y Rico, and takes the opportunity to steal my personal belongings.

I get a brief, shining moment with Allison Brennan as we leave the bar at the same time and navigate the long lawn back to our rooms, which are not, after all, so terribly far. At least not at night, in the moonlight, barefoot, with the mist from the fountain over the lawn. The desert air is heaven - I do love dry heat.

I stumble into our room - which I'm seeing for the first time at this moment. LUXE. I've stayed in some pretty fabulous places but this is just wonderful in every detail. Gold and brown and olive green. Marble and mirrors everywhere. Original ranch art (or at least, lithos). Deco design and sheets like whipped cream. It is a miracle for which I will be forever grateful that our intrepid ITW founders have gotten us this palace for less than $100 a night. Truly, a gift.

Michael is zonked out in bed and I am too tired to wake him up for... anything. I collapse into a coma myself, BAD MOON RISING running through my head in an endless loop. I'd forgotten how exhausting singing can be, but it's not so late that I can't get some good sleep before my ten AM panel and long day tomorrow, I think.

But oh, how laughably wrong....

Thrillerfest, Day 2 (morning)

Michael's phone goes off at 4:45 am. His ring tones are like a samba on crack. Amusing - during the day. He locates and punches off the phone after probably 16 bars, at which point I know I will never get back to sleep.

I take a Melatonin anyway.

Mistake.

Now I am both wide awake and comatose.

I sleepwalk out to the jacuzzi, hoping it will make me feel better in some way. The desert air in the deco courtyard is peaceful and lulling. I am nodding off in the jacuzzi when suddenly 20 doors open simultaneously on three different balconies and two dozen sorority girls in full sorority dress and hair to match step out in perfect sync. A good half of them then flip open cell phones. I feel I have awakened in the Planet Camazotz scene of A WRINKLE IN TIME.

I sleepwalk, dripping, back to the room to shower. Michael is a perfect angel - vast quantities of ice and Diet Coke have materialized in the room. I stick my head in the ice bucket. It helps a bit.

Our New Authors Tell All panel is at 10 am. I have no real nervousness about it - panels I can do in my sleep (and clearly would be this morning). It's the rehearsals starting at one that have me worried - as I am useless from 3 pm to 6 even on a good day.

The panel is lively, well-attended, and I hope informative, thanks to the expert moderation of the lovely Christine Goff and the charisma of my fellow panelists, Rob Gregory Browne, Brett Battles, Phil Hawley, and Marcus Sakey (about whom I have already raved two posts below...) There's something very familial about being at the exact launching point in our careers and I feel I am around a dinner table with a set of (very attractive) brothers. I do feel a certain weird helpless uselessness, because although I'm sure we all have splendid careers ahead of is, the fact is none of us really KNOW how it's going to go for us and our books. Rob and I for sure know the vagaries of a writing career already.

Also, it's odd to be doing a panel that's all about the money when the real miracle of book authorship is just that - AUTHORSHIP. Copyright. No rewriters, no credit wars. The book is all you, and all yours. But that, as they say, is a whole nother story.

Can I just say it is totally insane to me that writing a book is so much harder than writing a screenplay and you are paid so much less? If I were not so sleepy I might have gotten really annoyingly revolutionary about it all. I don't know how anyone can make a living as a novelist, at least at first. You need a well-paid partner, a trust fund, or a miracle. Breaking into screenwriting was so much more sane. But then again when I broke in there I was insane already, so what am I really talking about? I was too young to know the odds - I simply didn't think that way, and could cheerfully live on oatmeal and Top Ramen for months at a time.

But you know what it is? If you're a writer, you're just going to do it - whether it's good for you or your loved ones or your health or your eternal soul. I am quite aware that at this point I should give up writing altogether (the epitome of desire and attachment) and start focusing on eternity, but there is not a chance in hell of that happening. I am doomed to several more turns on this Wheel of Karma because I just can't stop myself.

I see it. I know it. And I go right on. Doomed.

Sigh.

The most illuminating moment of the panel for me personally is when an audience member, savvy up-and-coming writer Boyd Morrison, asks us how it felt the moment we found out we sold (that is, LICENSED!) our books, and I realize for myself how very undramatic, or unecstatic, that moment was - although I did become weightless for several weeks, funny about that! It was more a profound and deeply quiet relief that I hadn't been WRONG about taking this huge risk in changing horses midstream.

I guess it was sort of the same for me when I sold my first screenplay - I literally cried through the entirety of a week-long bidding war and when it was done I was just quietly disbelieving - and weightless.

That's what the next step toward heaven is for me, I think. Weightlessness.

Can you write without attachment and desire and obsession? I wonder.

Contemplative moment only lasts a moment as there is attachment, desire and obsession going on all around me and I don't want to miss any of it.

Thrillerfest, Day 2 (cont.)

ThrillerFest Day Two (Continued...)

I head for the Grill for lunch with Allison Brennan, Rob Gregory Browne, and Toni McGee Causey. Toni is lovely, Cajun, creamy skin and huge luminous eyes. I want to tell her about what I have seen and felt in New Orleans (was that only two days ago?) and ask her how she's handling it all but am afraid I will start to cry and not be able to stop. I haven't been able to process it myself, yet.

Toni and I commiserate about Hollywood. Rob and I commiserate about publicity. Allison and I fight over the Kalamata tapenade. All too soon I must run off again, this time to meet Heather and Harley for a Killerette rehearsal.

Heather's cottage really is in Utah, but air-conditioned to below freezing, which keeps us lively. We work on our dance moves and try on the sequined hats I scored in New Orleans. We repair to the patio to bond some more. It is so hot I can feel brain cells melting. We summon a golf cart and are driven to the next rehearsal.

I am sad to be missing all the panels and random chat and especially the trial of Jack Reacher and my chance to stalk Lee Child. Luckily so many people are blogging about it in such detail that I will have a chance to experience everything I missed -with pictures!

Bookbitch
Bookbitch photos
Scott Nicholson
Natalie Collins
JT Ellison
Tess Gerritsen
Jason Pinter
David Terrenoire
JD Rhoades
Mary Reagan's great photos


At this next (just our second!) rehearsal we meet Blake Crouch, our other extremely talented drummer, author of very dark suspense. Blake is indeed a "twisted little goober". He is also a walking archetype for me. A recurring character in my dreams is a red-haired young man who is half-angel, half-demon. Two of my best friends in life have been physical manifestations of this dream figure. His appearance in real life is always a sign of a massive creative breakthrough. It is even weirder to meet Blake's identically red-haired and angelic wife, and red-haired and mega-angelic new baby boy. If one is a creative breakthrough, what is three at once? Scary.

It is better, today. Blake looks as worried as we were yesterday, but the rest of us realize that overnight the improvement is so exponential that we might be able to pull this thing off. John Lescroart is massive fun to sing with. He doesn't hold back a thing, he's completely communicative and wickedly playful.

We are all having the best time. How to explain it? We're all writers, we love writing, we love talking about writing, we love writing about writing, we love WRITERS - but it is just so great to get with a group of people who understand all about you on that level and ALSO express all that same creativity physically - through our bodies and voices and instruments and rhythm. Music is a language, just as potent and intoxicating as words. It is so fucking great to get out of my head and just BE.

After this rehearsal there is nothing I want to do but sleep. Lee Child could be doing a striptease in the bar and still all I would want to do is -- (okay, even I'm not buying that one). But when I go by the bar, Lee Child is not doing a striptease, nor is anyone else, yet, so I'm off to bed - exhausted, but happy.

Thrillerfest, Day 3

Hah! Feel great this morning! Bring it on!

I head for MacArthur for the panels, really irritatingly cheerful I'm sure to the people who did not get as much sleep as I did, of whom there are many.

First, the Sandra Brown spotlight. Michael Palmer's "Thriller Blues" verse about Ms. Brown keeps running through my head, here: "And with a cheerleader's smile, she blows them all away." Amen to that.

It is a vast and liberating relief to hear this force of nature and the literary world admit: "Every morning I face this wall of fear that every bit of talent I had has disappeared overnight." This is a recurring theme through the conference, actually - bestsellers who face the same fear every morning, who admit to being two months away from a book deadline and not having written one useable page. It is worth every penny I've spent on this conference just to know that I'm not alone.

After Sandra, Allison Brennan hijacks me and drags me along with her and JT Ellison to a Special Ops session I really wasn't planning to attend by promising hot guys. Cop-turned-novelist James Born IS mightily hot and a total riot as well - he has the audience in stitches, and at the same time periodically scares the crap out of everyone with that very experienced way he has of shouting things like "Police, don't move!" I begin to understand the concept of cop groupies.

By now it's impossible to get to panels in time, or at all, even though they're all within 20 yards of each other, because I just keep running into the greatest people and having the most fascinating random conversations.

One more rehearsal, now, this time in the actual Gold Ballroom. Continuing the desert theme of the Biltmore (I guess), it looks like the inside of a UFO. We have very little time, now, but we sound a lot better. A LOT. Even Blake and Paul seem pleased. I am entranced by Michael's addictive "Thriller Blues", which he and Heather sing. The chorus is irresistable: "Cause we write thrillers, thrillers... we're so damn scary, sometimes we even scare ourselves."

Bob has added a bit for me in the show - he wants me to read a proclamation from the Mayor of Phoenix about ThrillerFest. It is a dry and daunting document, too long and in very small type, but I understand the principle. It IS pretty cool to have the mission of ThrillerFest and the ITW spelled out like that, and sealed by the Mayor (a little Wizard of Oz-y, even!) and God knows Gayle, David, Diane and CJ deserve every bit of the official hoopla, so I figure I'll give it my best shot. Ultimately I am much more nervous about doing that reading that I am about any of the singing.

I go up to Harley's room to dress and meet her adorable husband. I then have the treat of watching, spellbound, as Harley puts on makeup and transforms into a movie star before my eyes. (How do they DO that?)

Scott Nicholson shows us the route backstage - through the kitchen. It is exactly the scene from THIS IS SPINAL TAP.

When I hit the bathroom, several very sweet members of The Fellowship try to convert me. They have mistaken my opening night jitters for a spiritual crisis. Or I have mistaken my spiritual crisis for opening night jitters. I can barely sit still for the banquet part of the banquet. Michael eats both our dinners while I have a lovely talk about horror with the wonderful Hank Wagner. This calms me down (talking about horror always does) and suddenly it's showtime.

Bob Levinson's opening monologue is hysterical - classic Borscht Belt comedy. It's a great audience - I even get some laughs during my reading of the mayoral proclamation. And then that's over and the party starts. The band is perfect. It goes so well I hear people singing along out in the audience. Daniel's harp solo is so hot my hair is singed. For the first time, we can do no wrong.

Since we are backstage for the entire awards presentation, we miss who wins!, but here's the official list.

I just want to dance all night, but by the time I've gathered up my stuff back stage people are crowding the bar talking and drinking again (I am quickly learning that for actual dancing, you have to go to the library conferences. The librarians are putting the authors to shame on the dance floor. I vow to do something about that next ThrillerFest.).

All of us in the band have had so little time to actually talk to each other that Paul herds us all over to Heather's cottage so we can drink and decompress. It is lovely to just sprawl on the floor and chat. We talk about our books and our lives. We are not ready for this to be over, and suggestions start flying about our next gig.

Looks like we've got ourselves a band.

ThrillerFest, Day 4 (Last Call)

I don't get much sleep after the party, but am still on a performance high so I fly through the all-too-short last morning on a cloud.

I get to talk to everyone, now - it is just thrilling how much people enjoyed the show and how much fun they had. I am asked to sign T-shirts and programs and even THRILLER, which makes me feel a little odd, as I did nothing to contribute to the book. ("Oh, you'll be in it next year", people assure me. These people clearly have no idea that I've never written a short story in my life. The concept of "short" has always escaped me.). One lovely man with a wheeled cart full of books even thrusts a bottle of wine at me -"For your performance!" he beams. I like this concept. No applause, please, just throw alcohol.

I barely make it to the panel I want to see, "Walking on the Dark Side", with J.D Rhoades, Blake Crouch, Bette Golden Lamb, J.J. Lamb, David Terrenoire, Louise Ure. Reverend Rhoades runs the show as a revival meeting, which is funny, sinister, and weirdly befitting of the topic. Undoubtedly I have gone both farther and not as far in my own exploration of the dark as these panelists. It's interesting to me what I find myself flinching away from in the discussion. We all have our lines. Generally, though, I am so much at home it's, well, scary. And - I find out Rhoades and Terrenoire are practically my neighbors, now. Even scarier.

I dart into the dealers room to load up on books from our lovely conference booksellers, Maryelizabeth Hart of Mysterious Galaxy, John Neri of The Well Red Coyote, and Mike of Legends Fine and Rare Books, all lovely people and passionately supportive of authors. I then run around frantically looking for band members to sign the books. In the process am reminded of what giants I've just been playing with.

The John Lescroart brunch is the perfect close to a perfect convention. I am now so used to thinking of John as a rock god that it takes a moment for it to sink in who he ALSO really is. Interviewed by the great (and sleepy!) Gayle Lynds, John gives some writing advice I will pass on as close to verbatim to everyone who asks me from now on:

1. Write one page a day and at the end of the year you will have a novel. It doesn't have to be a good page, it just has to be a full page. If you can't write a page a day, then do something else and be happy, because there are plenty of other people who can write a page a day and will.

2. Finish. Just FINISH. Get to the end. Everything from there is gravy.

At brunch I felicitously sit next to Karen Dionne, founder of Backspace, a private message board for authors and aspiring authors, the literary equivalent of our WriterAction.com for pro screenwriters. (Backspace is a phenomenal resource I never knew about until I met Karen here and I'll post about it in depth tomorrow.)

And now our time really is running out. I would be heartbroken to leave everyone - I am not good at goodbyes - if I had not already realized one truly tremendous thing. You don't have to say goodbye. You get to take everyone home with you - you have their books. Even as I write this, I have all my new friends lined up on my shelf, and I'm so looking forward to getting to know them better.

As I am saying my final goodbyes I notice a tall, now familiar figure in my peripheral vision. Wait - could it be... yes!!!! It's Lee Child waiting to talk to me.

I'm here to tell you - go ahead and dream. Dream big. Because at Thrillerfest, ANYTHING is possible.

For more information on the Interational Thriller Writers, click here: ITW.