When: Saturday, June 21, 2014
Who: John Billheimer, Cara Black, Barry Eisler, Judy Greber (aka Gillian Roberts), Alan Jacobson, Ellen Kirschman, Laurie King, Catriona McPherson, John Orr, Keith Raffel, Sheldon Seigel, Terry Shames and Ralph Sanborn Towle
Information: Visit www.keplers.com or call 650-324-4321
My biggest problem regarding finding an agent and being able to go the more traditional publishing route was that I didn't really understand what kind of book I had written.
I'd set out to write a kind of buddy mystery, with two or three main detective kinda guys, and in my mind that's what it was, although what I'd actually ended up with was a magical science-fiction fantasy. I mean, sure, I had detective kinda guys, but I also had witches, wizards and an eccentric tech genius who had invented an amazing new technology that threatened the entire world.
I just couldn't explain it in a query letter, at that time. I got more than one "WTF?" letter back from agents I queried.
Now, after putting the book out there, and thinking about it, I know what I have, which is good. But I still don't have money to promote it, and I still need an agent, because there are places the book can go that need an agent to lead the way.
So I was thrilled when Kepler's Books in Menlo Park let me be one of three independently published authors they would let take part in its Mystery-Thriller Saturday: An Afternoon of Chaos, Killing, Crime, and Kidnapping, on June 21, 2014.
While the big guns such as Laurie King, Barry Eisler and Keith Raffel held court in the public speaking area, Ellen Kirschman, Ralph Sanborn Towle and I were allowed to sit at a table off to one side with piles of our books, to waylay unsuspecting book shoppers.
It was a lot of fun. We couldn't hear the speakers all that well from where we were, but it was great to be able to do some meeting and greeting, and we each sold some books, through Kepler's, which doesn't otherwise carry our books.
Bricks-and-boards stores are still really sensitive about that whole independent publishing thing, especially when Amazon is involved.
Anyway, the event, which I am told was dreamed up by Raffel, was sponsored by the the NorCal chapters of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.
Raffel and Eisler kicked off the presentations with a conversation about traditional publishing vs. modern self-publishing.
I'm not sure, but I may have been the first newspaper book reviewer to review Raffel's first novel, "Dot Dead: A Silicon Valley Mystery," in 2006. His latest is "A Fine and Dangerous Season." I have also reviewed at least one book by Eisler, "The Last Assassin." Eisler's latest is "Graveyard of Memories."
King, author of the hugely popular Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, moderated a panel about the difference between mysteries and thrillers. Panelists included thriller writers Alan Jacobson ("No Way Out") and Sheldon Seigel ("Judgement Day") and mystery writers Cara Black ("Murder in Pigalle") and Catriona McPherson ("The Day She Died"). King, from Santa Cruz, carried a large hammer, which possibly helped keep the peace. King's latest is "Dreaming Spies."
After a bit of a break, audience member were allowed to submit the first page of unpublished manuscripts and hear them reviewed, "down and dirty," by Judy Greber (aka Gillian Roberts, "Murder, She Did"), Terry Shames ("Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek: A Samuel Craddock Mystery") and John Billheimer ("A Player to be Maimed Later").
I couldn't hear what was said, but my table mates could, and they said the reviews were sometimes pretty tough. Well, cool.
Email John Orr at email@example.com