Friday, September 02, 2005

Been attending panels. These are groups of four or five writers chosen by the organisers to discuss various aspects of crime-writing - from plot, to characters, to research, to selling your work. I'm on a panel on Friday, discussing writing novels set in "Faraway Places".

It took me a couple of hours to orientate. The panel rooms are on two levels of this vast hotel, separated by about three floors. They all have names like "Michigan" or "Eyrie". I'm in "Sheraton 1" - a classy sounding name. Actually, I was at a panel there this afternoon where the discussion was whether or not to age serial characters. It wasn't very illuminating. The room is big and not very well lit, and the air-conditioning is up so high it feels cold and draughty. I think most people were dying to leave long before the end. Doesn't augur well for Friday.

The first panel I attended this morning was on the subject of "print on demand" technology. Must have been all of seven people there. Not a very auspicious start. I missed the very first session of the day which, according to the buzz, had almost ended in fisticuffs. My second panel was on the subject of "characters". This group of writers was quite entertaining. There was a good and responsive crowd in the room.

The panel's moderator, Don Bruns, was a dead spit of my next door neighbour, John Walters. Tanned, silver-haired, charming. But he had set his panellists a task in advance. It was to pick out someone in the audience during the course of the session, and at the end they had to identify who they had chosen and make up a character history for them purely on the basis of how they looked. It was just a bit of fun. But, of course, one of them picked me - the "guy in the kilt". So I had to stand up and tell everyone who I was, and the writer who chose me, the tall, moustachioed Chris Knopf, decided that I was Irish, not Scottish, that my family had made a failed attempt to emigrate to the US. I had returned to live in Scotland, Edinburgh in fact, spoke five languages and was a private detective.

I figured the truth was even stranger - a cross-dressing Scotsman who lives in France and writes about China! Well, truth is always stranger than fiction. At least everyone left the room knowing who I was.

Actually, the kilt is great PR. Everyone notices me. People just come up and talk to me - about where I'm from, why I'm wearing it. People I've not met recognise me from behind and call my name. The lady from Partners in Crime, in New York, for example. I was walking through the book hall where the bookstores all have stands displaying their wares, and someone called, "Peter!" I turned to be met by this nice lady with a mane of red hair who introduced herself as one of the partners from the New York store. She'd figured that I couldn't be anyone else.

This morning I met George Easter - he recognised me in the lobby. George is the editor of the very influential crime review magazine, "Deadly Pleasures", which has been singing the praises of the China Thrillers from the start. His magazine is also responsible for handing out the prestigious Barry Awards. He told me I'd been nominated for one a couple of years ago, and I didn't even know. We made an arrangement to meet for lunch on Saturday.

A lady came up to me after a panel and asked me why I was wearing the kilt. She was a writer from Scottsdale, Arizona. I told her bluntly, because I was a Scotsman, and because when you're promoting your work it helps to get noticed. She figured that was a good idea.

At which point another lady came up to me and thrust a business card in my hand. She was a reviewer from an online review outfit called "". She said I looked like someone who should be reviewed on it. So I e-mailed the lady who heads up the operation, Barbara Franchi, and asked if they would review "The Firemkaer". She wrote back and said it was out for review already - in the hands of one of their top reviewers - and should appear shortly.

I haven't met anyone from St. Martin's yet. But I've signed books for a number of the booksellers. A guy from Minesota came at me clutching "The Firemaker" and telling me it had been very highly recommended to him by the proprietors of the "Once Upon a Crime" bookstore in Minneapolis, where I am appearing next Wednesday. The recommendation was so strong he had sought out - and found - hardbacks of the rest of the series, and he got me to sign the lot.

Last night I'd had enough and gave the opening ceremony a body swerve. I sat up at the bar in the hotel's steakhouse and had a "starter" and a couple of glasses of wine. The starter was 14 dollars, and it was more than enough for me. The guy next to me - a man from Oregon attending a conference of the St. Vincent de Paul charity - had half a cow on his plate. Honestly, I have never seen so much meat on a plate in my life. "I'll not eat it all," he said. "But I wanted prime rib eye and they didn't have anything under 45 ounces." Which is nearly three pounds of meat!! The barman - Irish of course - looked at it and said, "In Ireland that would be Sunday roast for the whole family, with slices left over for sandwiches on the Monday." The guy ate about a sixth of it. And I think it cost about forty dollars.

But at least he got excited about my book, which he is buying tomorrow, and getting me to sign.

Oh, well, here I am awake at four in the morning again. Starving. When does Starbucks open?

Here is my hotel, and then some other views of Chicago...


susie said...

Welcome to my country. From the pictures it looks like you got good weather.

I love the part about the steak. People in the Mid-West like to eat! No futsy little California cuisine for them, no sir-ee.

Yesterday (September 1st) I was flying around the country--Phoenix to Houston to Sacramento. If you look at a map of the US you will see how strange that itinerary was. Anyway, I checked every book shop in all three airports and asked in each one if they were going to be selling The Firemaker. I can't wait to walk into a bookstore and see it shining there. No luck yesterday, but then it's early.

ARGIL said...

Bravo! Tu commences tr├Ęs fort. Mais attention aux courants d'air et aux ladies!

Janice said...

Et - tu pense - les courants d'air, ils vont au kilt ou du kilt?