If you weren't at Face the Fiction you missed a fantastic time. The three guest speakers on the panel complemented each other so well, we couldn't have asked for a better panel. The speakers on the panel were Ken Isaacson (Silent Counsel), Jackie Kessler (Hell's Belles and the soon to be released The Road to Hell) and Brian M. Wiprud (Tailed, Crooked, Sleep with the Fishes, Stuffed, Pipsqueak). Each brought a different perspective to the panel and each brought a different style of presentation. All three brought talent, great presentations and personality to spare.
The meeting started with Steve S making announcements, bringing us up to speed on his recent Washington trip and then introducing our panel. First up was Brian M. Wiprud, and when the blurbs on his books describe him as "the funniest tough guy writer there is" they do not exaggerate - seriously. Mr. Wiprud has quite a flair for comedy, more on that later. Next up, Jackie Kessler, also very tongue in cheek funny - just ask her about her erotic reading with her mom in the audience! Closing the deal was Ken Isaacson who opened with the fact that his day job was being a lawyer and that most people think lawyers right fiction anyway so why not. We knew from the three humorous openings that we were going to have fun.
Before I go into the specifics of each speaker, I'll give a brief overview of the meeting and then talk about each individually. All three read from their books, discussed how the writing process happened for them and gave an in-depth discussion on the publishing process offering a font of information. They then opened the floor to questions - and questions there were. Plenty of questions, we didn't take a break until after 9:30. Books were purchased, signed, we chatted with our guests and then reconvened for the wrap-up.
Now, here are the specifics: Brian M Wiprud - if Mr. Wiprud ever thinks of changing his career the group unanimously suggests stand-up comedy. Brian read an excerpt from his most recent book, Tailed, about a character, Garth Carson, who seems to be a magnet for trouble. The book is part noir, part comedy, part mystery, but all fun. The character, Garth Carson, appraises taxidermy collections for one of the largest insurance companies in the country. Nice, safe, respectable job, until some prominent big-game hunters start dying - apparently slaughtered by their own taxidermy. Garth somehow becomes the FBI's number one suspect. He goes on the run to find the killer, and that, believe it or not, is when the real trouble starts - secret government installations, renegade brotherhoods, nudist mothers that turn into werewolves.. ...you get the picture. After reading the opening of his book, Mr. Wiprud had us rolling on the floor as he shared that he likes to research news stories "of a different kind" for possible use in his writing. We thought the news story about the husband beating his wife with six frozen squirrels couldn't be topped - yes, you read that correctly, 6 frozen squirrels - until he read the story about the man who wanted his sandwich warmed and wound up throwing a microwave on his girlfriend instead. I don't know what was funnier, the stories or Brian's incredulous reaction to the stories. When he said, "now, I wonder, did he push her on the floor, ask her to heat up the sandwiches and then throw the microwave at her? I wonder about these things" the crowd lost it.
Jackie Kessler (who gave me an awesome advance copy of her upcoming book!! thank you, thank you, thank you Jackie) also read from the opening of her book Hell's Belles to set up the background for the main character succubus-on- the-run-from- Hell Jezebel. Ms. Kessler explained how she did her research for the book, in which said succubus-on- the-run, becomes a stripper. Yep, went to strip club. Even cooler, took her husband (who she pointed out so very generously offered to go). Her description of an erotic reading she had done earlier was very funny - her mother was in the audience! Jackie described the research that went into Hell and how once a writer "creates" a world, they need to stick to the rules they've created. In Hell's Belles, Jezebel has some issues with the changes "management" is making and decides to leave. Satan, not too happy, sends bounty hunters after her. Mayhem ensues as Jezebel, aka Jessie, tries to fit into the human world, in the stolen body of a witch, while trying to overcome her natural instincts as a former succubus. Delightful, fun romp - no pun intended!
Ken Isaacson discussed how, as a lawyer, he has to deal with certain 'givens" and facts that cannot be changed, but as a writer, he can change those facts (this said with a sly grin). He read from his book, Silent Counsel. Silent Counsel is about a hit-and-run accident that leaves a young boy dead and the only person who knows the identity of the driver is the driver's lawyer and he won't reveal the name. What follows is the mother of the child's ever increasing rage, frustration and desire to find the driver's name. The passage he chose to read, is describing how the mother, Stacy, has a recurring nightmare about her son. It was chilling. She winds up getting so desperate that she kidnaps the lawyer's daughter - it becomes a questing of doing the right thing, not necessarily the legal thing or outwardly looking correct thing. Who hasn't been in a position like that? Did you do the right thing, the hypocritical thing, what you thought someone wanted you to do? To add to the suspense, someone else besides Stacy is looking for the driver.
At 10:45 we reluctantly, very reluctantly, let our speakers go home. Jackie had to go to Albany! We couldn't offer up enough applause to a delightful panel that thoroughly entertained us all night long. They were amazing. The three meshed so well you would've thought they did this all the time together. We continued the night at the diner and the fun continued there. I'm writing this now because the dirty stay outs wouldn't let me go home (lol) and now I'm wound up (the coffee had nothing to do it). Hope you dirty stay outs are all happy. I know I am ;) Great meeting, great time, great people. Join us next month for guest S.J. Rozan.
Additional remarks: The panelists started showing up by 7:45-Jackie Kessler first, Then Ken Issacson, and lastly Brian Wiprud. At 8:15 I officially started the meeting by plugging www.cafepress. com/SFSNNJ - which is the home of ye old SFSNNJ Shoppe & showed off the hat & official shirt of the club (Master Chris Hasselkus was wearing the official shirt as well & briefly posed) as well as the mouse pad which features our motto- "Always Free & Always Fun", then proceeded to introduce our panel. AM then gave our panelists a briefing on the format for the evening and away we went. Brian Wiprud's bizarre crime cases were a pure riot - apparently squirrels are a delicacy in both Vietnam (where the man and wife involved were from) & Northeastern Mississippi, where Elvis Presley was born & raised (and if you don't believe that, read "The Life & Cuisine of Elvis Presley" by David Adler, which has a recipe for Fried Squirrel [I'm not making this up, folks!]). Even more bizarre was the last crime story Brian shared about a woman painting a fence in West Virginia who was sat on by a CAMEL but still managed to pull out her cell phone and call for help. Ken Isaacson pointed out a similarity between the squirrel story & the famous third season episode of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS titled LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER in which a woman murders her husband accidentally (oh, sure ) with a frozen leg of lamb, which she proceeds to cook & serve to the policemen investigating the case (unaware that they are eating the murder weapon). This was a fun evening & we enjoyed ourselves immensely. (Steve S)
I want to add that all the speakers read their passages very well, but I thought that the passage that Ken Isaacson read was very moving & very sad. Jackie Kessler said that she was affected by that, having a six-year-old at home herself. I agree with Jo that the interplay between the speakers was very good. This was a great idea & I'm glad it came off so well!!! (Steve)
And not that this was a 3-person comedy routine; all three authors of varying experience gave helpful insights into writing and publishing. In fact, Ken Isaacson mentioned that he got published without having an agent, while Jackie Kessler talked about the advantages of having a publisher before getting published. They offered very interesting perspectives on both sides of that aspect.
It almost seemed as though all three authors had done this type of panel together before. They played so well off of each other. Their responses to our questions complemented each other and as I said they sometimes had different opinions on questions that arose and very happily offered them. One of the best instances of interplay among the speakers came when Brian M. Wiprud finished reading his "inspirational" news articles, which included the story about the guy who beat his wife with 6 frozen squirrels. As Brian suggested, "did he use them like nunchucks or what?" As he passed the microphone over to Jackie Kessler, she said, "And you want me to follow that?" (Josephine)
I also would like to take a moment to gush and offer Kudos to the Face The Fiction moderators for a brilliant and well thought out program. This was a fantastic panel, and all three authors were so different that they gelled really nicely. There were a lot of laughs, and fun all around (Ken Isaacson's cheerful smile, Brian Wiprud's incredulous japes, and Jackie Kessler's infectious laugh will be remembered).
I would also like to point out that in addition to the wonderful event, we met a number of really great, nice new people at the store. The SFSNNJ is really maturing into a wonderful gathering inclusive of everyone. Hopefully we will see Mike, Joe, and Ron again (they were incredibly friendly folks). One of the best things about this group are all the new faces that we see, and all the new stories we get to hear from the people we meet. (Todd)
This month we are proud to have a unique Paranormal/Mystery Writer Panel. Our guest panel of paranormal & mystery writers will read from their books, answer questions and more. Join us for a fun night of paranormal adventure and mystery.
Ken Isaascson is an exciting new voice in crime fiction. Ken Isaacson has been a practicing attorney for more than twenty-five years. Born and raised in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, he graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and went on to earn his law degree at Columbia Law School. He began his legal career at a major Wall Street firm, and continues to practice law today as in-house general counsel to an international transportation company. Ken's first novel, Silent Counsel, due to be released in September 2007, has already won exceptional advance praise. The idea for Silent Counsel came to Ken upon reading a true account of a hit-and-run incident along a highway in Florida some time ago.
Ken is an actively involved member of the Mystery Writers of America, and served on the Board of Directors of MWA’s New York chapter from 2002 through 2006. He received that organization’s Silver Noose Award upon completing his second term. Ken continues to serve on the chapter’s Mentor Committee, Program Committee, Membership Committee, and Website Committee. He is also the moderator of the chapter’s online discussion forum. Ken is working on his second novel.
Jackie Kessler: “Some kids want to grow up to be doctors, or movie stars, or political assassins. Me, I wanted to draw comic books. Not Archies, either—superhero comic books. Maybe it was all the heavily muscled guys in spandex…”
Jackie Kessler is the author of the Hell on Earth series – Hell’s Belles and the upcoming Road to Hell, as well as many short stories: Red was published in REALMS OF FANTASY (April 2007), To the Core was published in the Freya's Bower anthology, DREAMS AND DESIRES (February 2007) both in hardcover and in softcover. Why Monsters Don’t Do Group Therapy was published in From the Asylum (December 2006), The Ties That Bind appeared in Farthing (Spring 2006), Giving the Devil His To-Do’s appeared in From the Asylum (December 2005), Reflections my first dark erotic story, was published under the byline J.M. Kaye in Ruthie’s Club (November 2005), “Hunger”—really, not a vampire story—appeared in Byzarium (September 2005), The Compromise, my first non-genre story, was published in Wild Child Publishing (August 2005), Guilty Pleasures was my first-ever sale…for money! This horror tale appeared in Peridot Books (Winter 2005). She has also been the fantasy editor for Wild Child Publishing (where she got to interview Margaret Weis).
In her own words: “In case you’re wondering, I live in Upstate New York, along with my Loving Husband and two Precious Little Tax Deductions, two cats, and about 9,000 comics. (But actually, that number is now closer to 8,000, thanks to a flooded basement. Alas!)”
Brian M. Wiprud: Born and matriculated in the Washington DC area, Brian went on to NYU Film School before finding his a day job and a career in utility infrastructure. Well, that and surfing Brooklyn is what kept him alive while writing, and the day job eventually led to an expertise in underground utilities. He's been involved in many subsurface explorations, including a number of urban archeological digs. Some of his published articles have delved into this topic, most notably in Mercator's World, the book Concrete Jungle and in the Tribeca Trib. His talents were called upon after 9/11 as part of the rescue and reconstruction effort at ground zero.
His most recent book, Tailed, has met with rave reviews. Other works include Crooked, both a 2007 Barry Award nominee and a Shamus Award nomine for best paperback original, Sleep with the Fishes, Stuffed and Pipsqueak.