Welcome to the Thrillerfest V Blog!

We hope you'll bookmark us, just as you bookmark so many of the hundreds of the International Thriller Writers that participate in our annual conference, held in New York City in July.

ITW is a youthful organization, always ready for a new way of looking at things. You'll find that dynamism here, in blog posts from authors, agents, editors and Thrillerfest attendees, past and present.

And that same excitement you feel from your favorite reads is evident in everything ITW does, and no wonder--the organization, staffing and publicity for ThrillerFest--including this new blog--is undertaken by volunteers, most of whom are ITW authors themselves.

So pull up a chair and stay awhile ... discover the latest news on what Thrillerfest V--the fifth anniversary of the conference--has to offer. Visit old friends, make new ones, ask questions, and hear about the remarkable things in store for the conference.

Whether or not you can come see us in New York--and we hope that you can!--please join us here. It's gonna be ... a thriller!

Kelli Stanley, Thrillerfest Publicity Committee Chair

Thrillerfest Publicity Committee:
Jeannie Holmes
CJ Lyons
Carla Buckley
Grant McKenzie

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Can I Get An Interview?

Yet another reason for authors to attend Thrillerfest this year!


An emerging website ITW has been working with, WritingRoom, is offering those ITW members attending ThrillerFest a terrific opportunity.

Against a backdrop of skyrocketing promotional costs, the site will be taping video author interviews FREE of charge to ITW members who would also like to join WritingRoom. Sign-ups for the interviews will be handled on a first come, first serve basis via e-mail prior to Thrillerfest. ITW members who sign-up can send questions they would like to be asked and information to help make the most of their interview.

ITW authors interested in participating need only register as a member of WritingRoom at www.writingroom.com. WritingRoom will provide a free Professional Authors site for six months to the author. At the end of the six months the author can choose to continue their professional membership or can convert back to a free membership. In existence for less than one year, the site is already receiving 125,000+ dedicated visits per month with unlimited upside and expansion potential in the future.

Prior to the interview, interested authors will also need to provide an email of the cover art of their book or books, and one hard copy of the book. They should also feel free to suggest or send questions and any other pertinent information about their book. Authors will, of course, have to sign a release allowing WritingRoom to post their videos on WritingRoom, YouTube and other sites. Even better, each author will be provided with a copy of their finished video to use in any manner they see fit.

To take advantage of this opportunity, just make sure you’re registered for ThrillerFest and send an e-mail to Lindsay@writingroom.com.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


by Hank Phillippi Ryan

One of the most delicious things about Thrillerfest (and the fabulous Craftfest) is getting to chat with pals about things that might not be acceptable in more polite company. Like, say, killing people.

Treachery, conspiracy, ulterior motives, lust, greed, heck, all the seven deadlies. As common as coffee.

Like lying.

You watched Perry Mason when it was on TV, right? The real one I mean, with Raymond Burr and William Tallman and--who? As Della Street? In my house, we were not allowed to say a word during "Perry." My corporate lawyer-stepfather was glued and riveted to the set, and did not want to miss a word. It was one of our special family moments together--made all the happier for him, I think, because none of us kids were talking.

Anyway, he used to say that there was a problem with juries as a result of Perry, because they began to expect that--within 48 minutes or so--Perry would latch on to some critical hole in the case and blow the bad guy out of the water. Or, failing that, that some poor soul would leap up form the back of the courtroom and confess. And that would be that.

And when that didn't happen, my dad would say, people were not really convinced of anyone's guilt.

Time flies, but the effect of TV on juries persists. We all read last year or so about the CSI effect, right? When juries who watched the forensic specialists do their prime time magic were waiting for real-life counterparts to reveal--instantly and right on time--the critical blood spatter match or the maggot growth or the fact hat what someone thought was a bone was actually ossified chewing gum. You get he picture.

Real life prosecutors were wary and worried--and began to ask jurors in the voir dire whether they were CSI aficionados, and try to gauge whether they'd have unfair and unreasonable expectations of what real-life forensic analysis could provide.

Well now, there's a new one. The "Lie to Me" effect. You know the show. Investigators look for "tells" or "microexpressions" on suspects, and describe and analyze how these short-lived and fleeting expressions can point to the guilty person. (There was a terrific article in the New Yorker about it a year or so ago. And I admit it made me start watching people more closely.)

Like--a furrowed brow and jutting chin means someone is about to do something nefarious. Or pointing your finger in one direction while looking in the other signifies lying. You already know, when someone's covers their mouth when they talk, or pulls an ear--what they're saying is not true. (I think mothers get this instinctively.) It's interesting, like instant body language. And the TV show intersperses clips from real life (Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice) to illustrate their points.

So--the Lie to Me effect. My husband is a criminal defense attorney, and apparently there's some talk on his lawyer listserv that jurors are practicing the "skills" they "learned" on Lie to Me to assess whether a witness is telling the truth!

Scary. But completely believable.

And wouldn't that be a great element for a novel? Fiction imitating life imitating television imitating a magazine article speculating about psychology.

(I'm not lying. Can you tell?)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Zen and the Debut Author

Can I get a little zen on you here? Bear with me, I don’t do it often, I promise you. My thoughts are these: we hear a lot of lip service about enjoying the moment, that life is about the now, today is the only day we’ve got, and, my personal favorite, life is not a dress rehearsal. If that’s true, then are we doing what we can to live this play? As debut authors, we’re in the enviable position of living our dream for the first year. We’re not battle hardened professionals yet; at least not in this profession. Everything is new.

What brought this to mind was my realization the other day that I ‘d already settled into the “working writer” role. If you’re like me you’re writing or revising your next project, marketing the first, and juggling another “day” job while doing it. Maybe you’re fitting in kids, spouse, exercise, friends, and business travel. The day is not growing any longer, you’re staying up later, and essential chores are not getting done. (The other day I discovered that I’d left the clothes in the dryer too long without turning it on, which accounted for the strange smell that emanated from the laundry room). I felt that this new writer gig was rapidly taking over my life.

So what did I do? I marched to the store to buy a time management book. But even then I failed to enjoy the moment. I stood in line at my local Borders worrying about its debt load and hoping it would survive, while simultaneously leafing through the book to the “tips” section, because god forbid I waste any time. It was at this point that I started to laugh.

In the years before I was published I’d spend endless evenings writing into the wee hours. The family slept, and the distant wail of sirens, which is Chicago’s version of crickets chirping, was the only sound that greeted my ears. I loved it, and wished I could do it full time. I wanted to launch my manuscript into the world and let it settle where it would. In that time I would have been thrilled to be where I am today. And there I was, squandering it.

When I was done laughing at myself I bought the book and walked home feeling back on track. The bookstore, as usual, had done its magic. The time management suggestions (by Julie Morgenstern) were wonderful, as was the realization that I was where I’d hoped to be during those late night writing sessions.

I look forward to meeting everyone at Thrillerfest. Let’s celebrate the debut year. It’s a great accomplishment and there’s no denying that we’re very lucky.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

ThrillerFest on a Budget -- Handy Tips, Part 2

Last week's post had sort of a traveling theme for my series on handy tips for attending ThrillerFest on a Budget. This week it's all about food.

New York has great restaurants -- over 20,000 of them to be exact. With that many choices and with prices ranging from fast food dollar menus to a couple of hundred bucks a plate, it can be overwhelming. Especially when you're also facing a time crunch because you don't want to miss the co-author sponsored roast of Clive Cussler. (Yes, that is an event planned for ThrillerFest 2009. Check out the official ThrillerFest website for more details.)

Here are just a few of the places I've found within easy walking distance of the Grand Hyatt, TF's host hotel. I'll begin with my favorite food category: coffee.

ThrillerFest Food Tip #1: Java java java java java java

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you I’m a coffee junkie. Speaking to me before I’ve had my morning java fix is akin to poking a rattlesnake with a stick. It’s all fun and games until someone gets bitten. Fear not, my fellow coffee fanatics. I’ve scouted the area and know where to find the flavorful bean that is our life’s blood.

First, the Hyatt does have a coffee kiosk/stand in the lobby but the selections are somewhat limited. If I remember correctly, they also stop serving in the middle of the afternoon. . .just when we need our fix the most. That’s okay. I know the secret to having an eternal caffeine buzz.
Coffee location #1: Starbucks in Grand Central Terminal
From the main Hyatt lobby, take the escalators down to the street level but don’t exit the building. Turn right and you’ll see a set of glass doors. These lead to a tunnel that connects the Hyatt with GCT. Go through the glass doors, follow the tunnel to the right, go through another set of doors, and turn right again. Starbucks is on the left, just before you reach the street exit. It’s a small shop and has a street entrance so it’s often crowded, but it’s close by and that’s what matters.

Other nearby Starbucks: 450 Lexington Ave, 43rd St and Third Ave, 150 E 42nd St

Coffee location #2: Dunkin Donuts.
Not everyone likes Starbucks. Maybe you like to have donuts with your coffee. Personally, as long as it has caffeine in it, I’m good. I’ve found a couple of nearby Dunkin Donuts for those who crave powdered sugar and chocolate sprinkles. Find them at 370 Lexington Ave and 47 E 42nd St.

Coffee location #3: Grand Central Terminal Dining Concourse.
GCT boasts a huge dining concourse on the lower level. The tunnel connecting the Hyatt and GCT offers the most efficient route to the LLDC. If you can’t find coffee from one or more of the restaurants in GCT, you’re not looking hard enough.

ThrillerFest Food Tip #2: Starving Writers on the Prowl for Munchies and Crunchies

Here are a few of my favorite spots for cheap but good food:

#1 – Scotty’s Diner: 336 Lexington Ave, between 39th and 40thScotty’s is easy to find. From the lobby, take the escalators down to the street level, and exit the building. Turn left. At the intersection, turn right and cross the street. Walk past the Chrysler Building and keep going for about two blocks. Look for a blue awning. Scotty’s isn’t much to look at inside but the service is friendly and fast, and the food is good and affordable. Check out their online menu here.

#2 – Two Boots Pizza: Grand Central Terminal, Lower Level Dining ConcourseI always have to visit Two Boots at least once during my stay in New York. Offering unique pizza creations, as well as build your own, Two Boots is a great place for a quick bite. They will deliver to the Hyatt, for a minimum purchase amount, if you’re too tired from a day of panels and ThrillerFest fun to seek them out in the LLDC. To see what they have to offer, check out their online menu here.

#3 – Brother Jimmy’s BBQ: Grand Central Terminal, Lower Level Dining ConcourseI’m from the South and I love barbecue. However, not all barbecues are created equal. Brother Jimmy’s offers ‘cue good enough to satisfy my cravings and at prices that I can afford. I recommend the South Carolina pulled pork sandwich as well as the fried catfish sandwich for on the go meals. The Brunswick stew isn’t bad either. Click here to see their full menu.

#4 – Ciao Bella Gelato: Grand Central Terminal, Lower Level Dining ConcourseI tasted my first authentic Italian gelato in Grand Central and I fell in love. Ciao Bella offers a wide variety of decadent frozen creations, which is perfect for the balmy July days of ThrillerFest. Check out their full menu here.

#5 – Wendy’s: 447 Lexington AveStandard chain food fare, but they have a dollar menu. When you’re on a budget, sometimes a dollar is all you can spare.

#6 – McDonalds: 451 Lexington AveBig Macs, Quarter Pounders, and Chicken Nuggets. . .who hasn’t feasted on these at least once? As with Wendy’s MickyD’s offers a dollar menu so if your budget is stretched to the max, it’s good to know where you can go to make those last few pennies count.

If you, or someone you know, has more great dining ideas for the Midtown Manhattan area, share them with us! Post your recommendations in the Comments section.

Jeannie Holmes

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Debut Author at ThrillerFest

I attended my first ThrillerFest in July 2007. When I arrived in New York, I was the new guy on the block, having only recently signed a contract with Medallion Press for my debut novel, Thy Kingdom Come.

Over the next three days, I met authors who were household names, and others who were new to the publishing game, or still waiting to be discovered. During ThrillerFest, I heard informative presentations from some of the best—Lee Child, James Rollins, Lisa Gardner, and Tess Gerritsen, for example. Where else could one hear presentations from and ask questions of these pros? And they took plenty of time to answer questions.

During the year between ThrillerFest 2007 and ThrillerFest 2008, I became active with the International Thriller Writers Debut Author Program. In our mentor program, we heard from best-selling authors like Lee Child, MJ Rose, David Hewson, Sharon Linnea and Hank Phillipi Ryan. They covered issues such as guerilla marketing, developing a series character, and career building. Their honest and straight-forward answers to our many questions were helpful and so refreshing.

At ThrillerFest 2008, I now belonged to a group with common interests. During the Debut Authors Breakfast, I watched my fellow authors have the opportunity to summarize their novels for the audience, then do a signing. The maiden voyage of AgentFest gave many of us an opportunity to meet and talk to a number of agents. Nowhere else could one find this large group of experts from the publishing industry gathered in one place.

It soon will be time for ThrillerFest 2009. My own book, Thy Kingdom Come, was published in March. I’m using many of the suggestions from our mentors as well as my fellow debut authors to work with my publisher to market my novel.

During the Debut Authors Breakfast at ThrillerFest 2009, I’ll be on the podium with the other members of the 2008/2009 Debut Authors Class. While there, I’ll be thinking of all the information I’ve accumulated at ThrillerFest, and the friends I’ve made.

Thanks to the leaders of International Thriller Writers for starting ThrillerFest to make these opportunities available for all of us.

See you at ThrillerFest.

Don Helin

Saturday, March 7, 2009

ThrillerFest on a Budget - Handy Tips Part 1

Like most authors, I have to budget my time and money when deciding which conferences to attend. ThrillerFest is near and dear to my heart so I’d never miss it unless the world was coming to an end. . .and even then it would be a tough decision. However, TF has been held in New York, arguably one of the most expensive cities in America, for the past three years. Once the registration fees, airfare, and hotel stay are tabulated, the cost can quickly skyrocket into the hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on where you’re traveling from. (I won’t argue the point of whether TF is worth the expense here. That’s for a later post, but for now, all you need to know is my opinion is a resounding “YES!”)

I attended the past two ThrillerFests (both held in NYC) and have a few tips for the traveler on how to cut costs, especially in the food department. But, let’s start with getting to and from the airport/hotel.

ThrillerFest Tip #1: Getting from Point A to Point B

Regardless of whether your flight arrives at LaGuardia or JFK, you’re going to be faced with the decision of how to get from Point A to Point B. Taking a taxi is always an option, but it can be expensive. Last year I was offered a cab ride from LaGuardia to the front door of the Grand Hyatt (TF’s host hotel) for a mere $45. It may not sound like much, but that’s a one-way ticket. It would cost another $45 or so to return, making for a total travel expense of $90-$100. That’s money I’d rather keep and use later. . .at the TF book shop.

My suggestion for getting from Point A to Point B is to utilize NYC’s mass transit system, namely the New York Airport Service. Yes, riding the bus isn’t as glamorous as taking a cab, but it’s a lot less expensive. Remember that $45 one-way cab ride I was offered last year? I took the bus and purchased a round-trip ticket for only $21. (I checked the NYAS website and the same round-trip ticket from JFK is listed as $27.) Granted the bus doesn’t deliver you to the hotel’s front door, but it does stop across the street from Grand Central Terminal. The Hyatt is next door to GCT, so it’s a quick hop across the street and a short stroll away. The round-trip bus tickets are also good for thirty days so if you’re planning to extend your visit for a few days prior to or after TF, you’re covered.

ThrillerFest Tip #2: If The Shoe Fits. . .Or Not

You’re running late. Your agent/editor calls and informs you of a last minute meeting. Add one more outfit to an already overflowing bag. You board the plane only to be parked on a runway for seven hours. Finally you make it to your hotel room and open your suitcase. You realize you forget to pack your shoes, and the ratty sneakers you wore through airport security won’t work for that morning meeting with bookstore sales reps.

It happens. While there are plenty of shops in Grand Central Terminal that offer fabulous footwear solutions to your dilemma, you’re on a budget and have only $20-$30 bucks to spare. Never fear, weary and shoeless traveler. Head down to the Hyatt lobby and ride the escalator down to the street level. Turn right and walk past GCT. Cross the street and keep going for about a block to 60 E 42nd St. and you’ll find a conveniently placed Payless Shoe Source store. Happy feet are here again.

Thus ends my list of tips for today. I have more on other subjects, especially where to find cheap but good food, and will continue to post them in the coming weeks. May these serve to fill most of your needs and help to keep your budget from spiraling out of control. (After all, that’s what the TF book room is for, right?)

Jeannie Holmes

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pregnant with Possibility

Like any thriller author, I did my research before I wrote this blog. What are the titles of the previous posts: All things red and lovely (love), having a blast at Thrillerfest, and Virginity. What comes after all that? Sadly, if you’re not careful: Pregnancy.

Like pregnancy, my Thrillerfest experience started out with the sneaking feeling that I forgot something important and I wasn’t really ready. But Thrillerfest was happening regardless and I had signed up. The first morning, I checked in and got my badge, complete with a debut author button. But my book wasn’t due out for a year. Did I even belong here with all the other writers, all more famous and accomplished than I? Then other debut writers showed up at the registration desk and I forgot my worries. I had never met most of them, except online, but it was like a reunion of old friends as we sat around and talked about what to expect when you’re expecting.

The next pregnancy symptom: morning sickness. Technically the nausea was caused by fear of speaking on my first panel, but really, the feeling in the pit of my stomach was just the same. My moderator was encouraging, the audience enthusiastic and friendly so the nausea passed and I was able to concentrate on what I was there for: talking to others about my experiences as a new author. Next time I’ll bring ginger ale and crackers.

Weight gain was unavoidable. My poor book bag grew ever heavier. Practically every time I sat down, someone offered me a free book and I’ve never been able to resist a luscious free book. Or two. Or three. In fact, I overindulged so much that I didn’t fit in my…plane seat on the way home and had to ship back extra boxes of books. Appalling lack of control, really.

Most of all, though, Thrillerfest showed me all the possibilities open to me and the other first time parents…err..debut authors, as we were pampered and spoiled by more experienced ITW writers. We got friendly advice, emotional support and, I’m not making this up, free breakfast. I’m looking forward to this July, after my book makes its way into the world, when I too can sit on that big delivery table at the author breakfast and spend a few minutes talking about my own bundle of pages.

Rebecca Cantrell