03 July 2006

Thrills and Chills at Thrillerfest

I'm safely home in L.A. where it is merely in the mid-90s. One day in Phoenix I passed a bank thermometer that read 116 and that seemed about right, if not erring on the cool side. In all I liked Thrillerfest well enough. It was the first one and I imagine it will improve with age.

It was mostly authors, wannabe authors and fans, which is not a bad crowd to spend some time with. But, one of the things I particularly appreciate about, say, Bouchercon (the big mystery event every year) is the wide range of people from the entire industry: publishers, editors, agents, booksellers, publicists, reviewers, fans and authors. While I don't believe that I already know everything there is to know about writing, I do know a lot more about it than the other parts of my chosen field. So I like spending time with people who do other things; especially booksellers who I think of as being on the front lines.

The panels were entertaining and even interesting, but by and large not all that useful. Sure, I love seeing someone demonstrate fighting techniques or a gory video about forensic medicine; but it's not as if I'm going to take notes then file them away on the off chance that I might need them some day. I know how to look that stuff up, if and when I need it, or who to call to find out.

I did spend a lot of time at the bar, which is where the real action tends to be at any conference anyhow. Not having an office with colleagues and a water cooler that I go to every day, conferences like this are as close as I get to that, and it's very welcome.

What wasn't welcome was the appearance of an old foe on Saturday night. I spent my 40th birthday in the jungles of Central Borneo. Among the gifts I received, was malaria. It wasn't a particularly horrible case. I spent about a week in bed in Jakarta, feverish and miserable, but I got over it. Still, every two or three years it decides to pay me a one or two day visit. It's the gift that keeps on giving. Saturday night I was with some friends at a very pleasant blues bar in Phoenix - the Rhythm Room should you ever happen to be in town - when I started to feel something coming on. I got back to my hotel room in time to be overcome by near convulsive chills, followed by someone sticking my body into a pre-heated oven, followed by every last drop of liquid in my body oozing out of my pores. This process was repeated several times through the night.

Sometimes my bouts of recurrent malaria come complete with hallucinations and vivid dreams. That at least makes it more interesting. This time it didn't. It was simply nasty.

The next morning, thanks to aspirin the wonder drug and espresso, another wonder drug, I managed to shiver and sweat through the panel I was on at Thrillerfest - "Killer Settings." It seemed to go pretty well, thanks to the moderating of Sarah Weinman - who runs the excellent blog: Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind. Then I drove home in a chilled one moment, sweating the next daze. My car has a thermostat on its air conditioner / heater. For a bit it was turned up to 85, then down to Cool, then back again. It was one of those sorts of drives.

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