By Stephen Jay Schwartz

I was going to call this blog “Moonwalking in New York,” and it was going to start off something like this:

“Are you guys all dancers?”

“Excuse me?” I said, to the girl in the elevator at the Hyatt Regency, New York.

“It’s about Michael Jackson, right?”

We had almost reached the lobby by the time I figured it out.  She was looking at my badge.  Thrillerfest.  I imagined a thousand thriller authors taking over Grand Central Station, doing the moonwalk to cuts from the Michael Jackson album “Thriller.”

“No, oh-no,” I said, but the doors had opened and she had already gone.

True story.  But then I thought, ugh, really?  I’m going to blog about Thrillerfest?  My God, I’ll never do it justice.  It was like a whole universe unto itself, a crazy, wonderful mystery-thriller love-fest that just simply cannot be represented accurately in a blog.  It’s like Rashomon, where everyone’s perception of the event is different.  It’s really a thousand Thrillerfests seen through a thousand different eyes.

I mean, if you really want to read a good blog about Thrillerfest, check out Jason Pinter’s article in The Huffington Post.  I took one look at that and said, “Well, shit, I can’t top that.”

Of course, if I did talk about Thrillerfest I’d talk about all the things that made it special for me, the things that stand out in my mind as simply exceptional experiences.  Things like meeting Heather Graham, then drinking “car bombs” with her and F. Paul Wilson and Eric Raab, my editor, at the Irish pub two blocks from the hotel, I could talk about the tsunami high school reunion feeling of that first night when all the authors bumped one into the other and in one moment I was arm-in-arm with Sophie Littlefield and the next Ken Follett and then Jamie Freveletti and Allison Brennan and Alan Jacobson and then I escaped for a breather and it was just me and Gar Anthony Haywood chilling out in the hallway, two cats in love with a world of words.  I could talk about the excitement of being handed a copy of the trade paperback version of BOULEVARD weeks before it hits the stores, or my rush to the Mysterious Bookstore for yet another Thrillerfest cocktail party and how excited I was to be able to thank Michael Connelly in person for the blurb he gave BEAT, or the fun I had at our Murderati lunch where I finally got to meet Tess and hang with Allison and Alafair and JT and her husband Randy and Neil Nyren and his wife.  Or how I kept going back to that pub for more “car bombs” (Guiness plus Jameson plus Bailey’s Irish Crème) with Heather and Paul and now Keith Raffel and Marcus Sakey and Jason Pinter and more, and how I roomed with Josh Corin and he was great and sweet and wonderful and he talked like a madman in his sleep, and how I loved the Debut Author’s Breakfast where I pitched Boulevard in sixty seconds or less and saw my books sell out of the bookstore during my signing, how I ditched the big banquet to eat pizza with my editor and debut author John Rector and we rode the Stanton Island Ferry while others gave speeches and received awards, and when we returned all was good and everybody and everything simply glowed with enthusiasm and glee.

But that’s not the blog I chose to write.

So I started a different blog, and called it “Newbie No-Mo.”

The concept being that, despite the fact that I’m still in my debut year, I feel more like a veteran than a newbie.  Newbie, No More.

Despite its catchy title, the blog was a college thesis documenting my rise from naïve newcomer to worldly author.  I wrote about the fact that I’ve been a Murderater (Murdermarauder?) for more than a year now, my first blog having been posted on May 22, 2009.  (So where was my one-year chip?  Shouldn’t someone have given me a one-year chip on my “birthday?”  Who’s running this meeting, anyway?)

The blog detailed the three different conferences I’ve seen:  Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, and Thrillerfest.  There were graphs and pie charts showing the progression of my maturity in the business, beginning with those first sloppy attempts to pitch my book (in twenty words or less), and ending with the pinnacle of my success as represented in my ability to hand-sale Boulevard to the guy in the seat next to me on the airplane home, and how the momentum escalated further, climaxing with a slam-dunk pitch that sold my book to the Supershuttle driver who delivered me to my doorstep.

But there just wasn’t enough PASSION in these topics, so I bailed, I shut down, I closed out Microsoft Word and opened iTunes and I listened to a song by Aimee Mann called “Wise Up.”

Passion.  Why is it always music that takes me there?  Words are too wordy, they sometimes get in the way.  Music cuts right to the soul.

Aimee Mann… I love her voice and her phrasing and her range and control.  Her music brings me back to the core of what I’m feeling these days, and that feeling is passion.  That’s what got me here.

And where is here?  Here is two weeks away from the release of Boulevard in trade paperback:

See, that’s the cover I was passionate about from the start, and then Barnes & Noble had us change our cover to the one with the gun on it.  Which I love, too.  But this one really spoke to me.  My editor knew it, so he fought to get it for the paperback.

And then, two months after that, this little ditty hits the stores:

(Do me a favor and CLICK HERE – I couldn’t get the image to load up.)

Can you see why I’m such a nutcase over here?  I’m living my dream! 

So, I guess what I’m saying, at 2:30 am when my blog goes up in two hours, is that it’s all about passion.  When I start bitching about the bills and the dues I’m-a payin’, I better just chill out and…wise up.


26 thoughts on “WISE UP

  1. PK the Bookeemonster

    I love hearing about the glamorous lives of authors. 🙂 Congrats on the one year graduation and yet another book for me to add to the to-be-looked-for list.

  2. Barbara_NY

    Just went to B&N site to check out the hard cover Boulevard jacket. No comparison. I’m with you, and vote for the soft cover above. There’s just a feel to it the other didn’t capture.

    Keep your music preferences comin’, too! I always check ’em out, and always am moved.

    (insert chip here).

  3. Chuck

    Hi Stephen:

    The new cover is sweeeet! My wife commented on the BOULEVARD cover. I think she said, "If you EVER get published, you’d better hope your cover rocks like that one." (She’s so empathetic.)

    I’d never been to Thrillerfest before. JT urged me to attend and I’m beyond glad I did. Like you, I cannot package what it meant to me. It was four of the best days I’ve had in years. I felt like Hayden Glass on a four day bender at the Crazy Horse.

    Speaking of our boy, man Stephen, I’m enjoying BOULEVARD. It certainly breaks new ground, at least to these eyes, and manages to keep me guessing as I follow Hayden through the underbelly of LA. Also, I’m a D-licensed skydiver, so I enjoyed those references. Very cool stuff. Cannot wait for the next novel!

    I’m glad we met. If I don’t see you before, I’m sure I will see you next July in NYC.



  4. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Boy, it sure is great to wake up to all these cool comments. Wait, did I ever go to sleep?

  5. billie

    I think you were right about that cover – it captures the essence of the book perfectly. And looking forward to Beat!

    Now I’m going to go listen to Aimee Mann. 🙂

  6. Allison Brennan

    Stephen, it was fantastic to finally meet you! And your passion for Thrillerfest comes from being a first-timer. There’s nothing like your first conference for an organization, I felt that way in Arizona, and in 2005 Reno for my first RWA conference. There’s so going on, so many new experiences, so many cool people and big names who you realize are just really cool people, like Lisa Gardner and Carla Neggers and Lee Child and more.

    Thrillerfest had and energy that hummed. And I’m just glad now I don’t have to blog about this on Sunday because I wouldn’t be able to do it the justice that you did. Off to read Jason’s article . . .

  7. Alafair Burke

    Love the jacket. It was great to have time with you, Allison, JT, and Tess while you were here!

  8. Allison Davis

    Cover is perfect. Love car bombs. Feel like I’m looking in the window and watching the fun. You’re enthusiam is fantastic. Makes me want to leave work and go home and write.

  9. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    The paperback cover isn’t showing up on my PC at work. Anyone else having the same problem? If so – check out the paperback cover to the right of the blog, where all the murderati covers are shown. You can click to the Amazon site from there and see the image.

  10. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Oh God, Eric, Paul, Heather, and the car bombs. It will never die, now. You’re of course required to come to New Orleans for Heather’s Writers For New Orleans.

    Can’t believe we missed your birthday, but it seems like you’ve been here forever, as it was always meant to be.

    Love the PB cover.

  11. becky hutchison

    Congrats on such a successful first year! I hope you have many more fun conferences in your future. I’ve been to conferences for three different professions, and I have to say that I’ve never enjoyed any of them more than the mystery writer ones. Everyone is so personable and fun to hang with, and like Allison said, it seems the whole venue hums with energy when mystery writers convene. It must be all the electric personalities.

    BTW, I understand that once at a Malice Domestic conference someone asked if it was a gathering of abused spouses, but I think your elevator mate’s Thrillerfest question is a lot funnier.

    So spill…are you a dancer?

  12. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Well, with Alex at my side I can do anything. Except line dance. Or disco.
    But I can certainly sway to the blues.

  13. anonymous

    Your excitement and pride over your work and the industry is just contagious. I love it!! This is what it was all for!! I am simply kvelling. This roller coaster year has really had it’s way with you. But you have sweated through the swales and it’s time to enjoy the peaks. Go ahead, SJS, head for the last rolly bar, sit turned around so you can see where you’ve been……… arms in the air, no holding on

  14. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Hold on, now, Anon, we’re just about to hit the loop-di-loop…buckle that seat belt…

  15. Rebecca Glenn

    Beautiful covers, both! I went ahead and uploaded the cover of Beat onto LibraryThing, and am going to update my own review of it as well.

    Can’t wait to actually meet you at your signing in Rolling Hills next month!



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