The Definition of a Successful Author

I was chatting with a fellow author this afternoon and she  told me something that was pretty cool. According to her brother in law, who’s a literary fiction author, the incredible sense of camaraderie and accessibility that’s become one of the hallmarks of the thriller writer community is somewhat of an oddity in the publishing world. He told her the literary fiction world is considerably more cutthroat, and that we should be grateful to be in our genre.

I don’t think this is because of our genre. I think the reason for the ongoing buddy comedy that is most of the author friendships I’ve observed and made here at the conference are only made possible because of the ITW (International Thriller Writers). The organization’s founders specifically built mentorship and service into the mission of the ITW. This has resulted in a vibrant, friendly, and empowering support network.

I’ve attended three ThrillerFest conferences so far, and every single one has been a well-oiled machine. I’ve never felt like there was any sort of separation, implied or overt, between the Big Name Authors and those of us who can count our book sales using a child’s abacus.

Last night, I was invited out to have dinner with some of the presenters from the conference and it was a blast. They were welcoming, gracious, and made me feel like one of the group even though I’d only met one of them before. The most important thing I took away from those conversations (which went on until very late last night) was that no one’s career rises in a straight line. You never know which project of yours will take off, which means you just need to keep moving forward and try not to look back too much.

This morning, I attended a panel discussion featuring authors whose book sales can be measured in the millions. The moderator asked, “What is the definition of a successful author?”

The overwhelming consensus is that a successful author is one who gets it done. Writes a book, gets it out, writes another, gets it out, writes another, etc. No one mentioned sales or reviews. It was all about the writing. Each book you write promotes the books you’ve written before, which means the best thing you can do to sell books is, duh. Write more.

It was exactly what I needed to hear.

Man, I love this conference. I’m going to be sad when it’s over. And then I’m going to sleep. You guys, I’m going to sleep so much.

A Quick ThrillerFest Update

Today was the first day of the conference for me, and as always I’m exhilarated, exhausted, encouraged, intimidated, hopeful, and despondent. The trick to surviving a conference where you’re breathing the same air as the people who brought Rambo and Jack Reacher to life is to realize you will never, ever sell as many books as they have. Once you accept that simple truth, a healthy amount of hopelessness sets in and you’ll be right where you need to be.

Let’s see, this morning I attended a class on autopsies, learned how to structure a thriller from one of my favorite legends in the field (the incomparable Gayle Lynds, who is articulate and pleasing to listen to), and learned more about the ATF than I ever thought I would.

It’s been a long day (my first session was at 8 AM, and I’m only now sitting down for a break at 6 PM) but I have one last event tonight before I can collapse in an introvert coma. Cocktails and networking, here I come! And then? There’s a pillow with my name on it.

Greetings from the NYPL

I’m writing this from the Reading Room of the New York Public Library. It’s really, really quiet and really, really pretty in here. My friends who know the city really well recommended this to me as a good place to get some writing done and after seeing it for myself I heartily agree.

As you may have surmised, you clever reader, you, I am in New York City. I flew in yesterday afternoon and only felt a little like dying from jet lag when I woke up this morning. So far since entering the city proper five hours ago, the following things have happened to me:

  • A very nice man insisted on carrying my suitcase up the stairs at Grand Central Station, and wouldn’t hear of my carrying them. It occurred to me how easy it would be for him to just take off running with all my stuff, but thankfully he did no such thing and no flying tackles were carried out by me or anyone else.
  • I ate a late breakfast at a surprisingly affordable hole-in-the-wall diner called Scotty’s Diner that I immediately loved deeply and with all my heart.
  • A man tripped while walking past me and, when we collided, my immediate suspicion was that he was trying to pickpocket me because that’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. It turns out that 1) there wouldn’t have been anything to pickpocket even if he had been a scoundrel and 2) he was just clumsy and seemed very embarrassed by the whole incident. It’s possible I’ve been writing thrillers too long.
  • I walked past the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, and the New York Public Library, all of which were as exciting to me as if I had crossed paths with actual celebrities.

Stopped for a cold beverage break with a famous kitty. #thereisonlyzuul

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And now, after a quick catnap in my hotel room, I’m back at the library writing and revising. I can’t believe people get to see these spaces every day because it seems like there’s something astonishing on almost every block. I’ve now fallen hopelessly in love with this library and will find it difficult to leave.

ThrillerFest, the conference I’m in town for, begins tomorrow. It’s one of the only times a year all of us come crawling out from behind our keyboards to mingle and learn. I reckon by the time I need to be articulate tomorrow morning I’ll be mostly over my jet lag and ready to network with the best of them.

Until then, I still kind of feel like I don’t know what day or time it is but what I do know is this: You shouldn’t walk in puddles in NYC, there are some people who can walk in high heat and humidity wearing skinny jeans and not sweat like they’re stuck in a sauna, and sometimes nice people just want to carry your bag for you.

(By the way, I’m updating my Instagram feed quite a lot this trip, so check it out if you feel like visiting Manhattan vicariously through my pictures.)

Would You Look at the Size of this To-Do List?

Things have been quiet on the blog front lately because I’ve been living it up in southern California with my family. I limited myself to just checking in on emails sporadically because I knew July was coming soon and I’d need a break before things went into warp-speed.

What’s happening in July? you ask. Oh, just a  few things:

  • TAKE THE BAI ROAD is coming out July 5, 2017. (It’s actually available for pre-order already on Kobo! Click here to put cartels, conspiracy, and chaos into your summer reading rotation). Cue much promotion and marketing.
  • CLOSE TO THE BONES anthology is coming out July 15, 2017. The story I wrote for it, The Spy Who Came in From the East Coast, takes place after the events of TAKE THE BAI ROAD and deals with what happens when Bai goes home for the first time since he started working for the CIA. You’ll get to meet his family, learn what his actual name is, and see what happens when a spy tries to be a good son. The rest of the stories in this collection are a worthy addition to any beach reads list. Cue much promotion and marketing.
  • ThrillerFest in NYC, baby!!! I’m leaving July 10 for the East Coast, where I’ll be hanging out with friends, family, and fellow authors while I roam New York City and try not to faint from the heat and humidity.
  • BAI TREASON is in progress, and my goal is to finish revisions on it before the end of the summer (which really means I have to finish it in July, because August is crazy busy).

None of this mattered while I was on a beach watching my kids play in the waves, but now I’m home and WOULD YOU LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THIS TO-DO LIST?!

Would you do me a favor, oh faithful reader? Please buy my book and take it with you to a peaceful, shady location. Put your feet up, sip a cold beverage, and read my stories. It’ll make me really happy to know that somewhere, someone is relaxing with the stories I’ve put so much work into.

Wish me luck, friends. It’s been nice knowing you!

A Quick Birthday Break

By the gracious generosity of Wes’s parents, Wes and I were able to escape our children this weekend so that we could embark on a series of capers in celebration of my upcoming 32nd birthday. Examples of said capers?

  • Bowling (I scored two strikes in a row my first two frames, then began missing the pins entirely for the rest of the game. No, I don’t know why.)
  • Arcade games (There’s an arcade near the bowling alley that has a Terminator game for two in it and Wes and I freaking DOMINATE that game together. We have a system and everything. To my lukewarm annoyance, however, Wes was still a more accurate shot than me even with a broken gun. {Although I did score more points at the basketball dunking game, which made me happy.})
  • Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (Which we freaking LOVED! Even though it made me cry big fat tears at the end, I still thoroughly enjoyed watching that movie. Go see it.)
  • Shooting range (We rented a 9mm 1911 {but we can’t remember what brand} and emptied two boxes into a big green target. It was loads of fun! Wes is a MUCH better shot than I am {again. Duh.} but I think I did okay. Here’s a picture of the target after my first round of shots:Not too shabby, right?
  • Clothes shopping (for Wes, who has lost a bunch of weight and is now in desperate need of a pair of jeans that actually fits his smaller body. We didn’t end up finding anything {boo} but we did see Michael Bennett {a Seahawk} at Old Navy. He was very polite, and he was with a friend who may or may not also have been a football player. I actually ran into a rack of clothes in front of said friend, who smiled and said, “Better you than me,” to which I couldn’t come up with a reply because, outside of the context of him being a professional athlete, why better him than me? When Wes explained that he was likely a football player, too, I felt less confused but more embarrassed, because, you know, clumsiness.)

The weekend went by in a blink, and before we knew it we had to go pick up our kids again. What a fun break, though!