Thursday, September 08, 2005

How Much is Too Much?

I'm looking back on Bouchercon with mixed emotions.

There were many good parts. I was able to touch base with dozens of writers and friends. I had a signing line for a solid hour. I emceed the charity auction and helped raise over eight grand. I gave away over a hundred free drinks at the ITW table. I moderated a standing room only panel and got some big laughs.

But I also heard many negative things about me, some of them from good friends. Those include drinking too much and acting inappropriately, showing off, being loud and obnoxious, trying too hard to be funny, and crossing the lines of good taste.

I've been thinking about these comments---the bad ones. I haven't been focusing on the good ones, because you can't learn from praise. Criticism, however, is a great teacher.

In my profession, being viewed negatively isn't helpful. Public appearances are a time to shine, to make friends, to spread good-will.

While I don't recall insulting or offending anyone personally (though I was drinking Absinthe on the last night of Bouchercon and can't remember much of anything,) I can honestly say that it's never my intention to hurt anyone, ever. Shock them, perhaps. But not anger them.

If I pissed you off, I apologize.

My attitude toward conventions is a simple one; be entertaining. This doesn't mean get up on a table and yell "Joe Joe Joe!" And it doesn't mean push other people out of the limelight so I can step in with my sound bite. But if there's an opportunity to say or do something funny, I always take it, and don't consider the consequences.

When I'm at conventions, I'm a performer.

During the panel that I moderated, I talked very little about my own books. I didn't even introduce myself. I spent most of the panel trying to make the audience laugh.

I received many compliments on that panel when it was over. A day later, I still had people coming up to me, saying that the panel I moderated was the funniest they'd ever seen.

But I also found out that one of my panelists thought it was terrible. "There goes Joe, doing his stand-up comedy routine again," was their comment. And another author came up to me and sarcastically said, "Didn't you do the exact same thing at another conference?"

Well, yeah. It's called a routine. Was I that bad?

I'd kept an eye on my audience and they seemed to be enjoying it. They were laughing and smiling.

I also made sure that the panelists had ample time to talk about their work, and about the topic at hand (the difference between thrillers vs. mysteries.) I even made the audience say the panelists' books out loud, several times each, so they'd remember their titles.

In my mind, we were entertaining for an hour, got some information out there along with the laughs, and the panelists did a great job.

But at least one of the panelists didn't think so. And word-of-mouth got back to me, and I found out that many other authors shared that view. I'm gaining a reputation among my peers as Mr. Obnoxious. And that's not a moniker I particularly like.

On one hand, I know I'm reaching some fans, and making a lot of people laugh.

On the other hand, I'm alienating some fellow writers, who think I'm an unbearable egomaniac with a drinking problem.

While I'm not going to defend myself, I would like to mention that the average conference panel is not a non-stop thrill-ride. I can safely say that I've seen the panelist who disliked my performance on many other panels, and this person always does a wonderful job. But I can't for the life of me remember any of those panels, their topics, or a single thing this person said.

Panels have very little substance to them, very little about them that is memorable.

People remember my panels. I'm not saying that because I'm stuck on myself. I'm saying that because that's what I work very hard to accomplish, and that's what I hear afterward.

The rule in performing is simple: be anything but boring.

So what percent of the population am I allowed to piss off in order to be memorable? Or should I tone it down several notches, and try to act more like a responsible adult?

The only thing I'm 100% sure about is: I'll never drink Absinthe again.

I'd like to hear from folks in general, and folks who went to Bouchercon. Feel free to post anonymously. Feel free to post hearsay. I'd like to hear some negative things about myself.

That's the only way I'll learn.

51 comments:

Mark Terry said...

I don't know, Joe. I wasn't at B-Con, but I saw you in action at Magna and I've interviewed you twice now. You're definitely out there. It's your schtick and it seems to work for you. It's always a danger to be the "class clown," because there are people who don't like class clowns. Sort of the RObin Williams thing, you know? SOme people love everything he does, some people wish he'd tone it down.

I probably wouldn't be too sensitive about other authors complaining unless you were stepping on somebody's own "schtick." In my experience, which is more limited, half the writers out there, no matter at what level, seem horribly hypersensitive to any criticism directed at them, real or perceived. I've got my own story about this with a well-known mystery author, but I won't go into it here. If we talk on the phone or see each other, I'll share the story, but it was an example to me of somebody who was so hypersensitive about things said about them--and he took it completely wrong--then lashing out, that it practically spoiled all signings and author-interactions for me. And I've seen it over and over again at all the cons and multiple-author events.

And you're right--these panels are not thrill rides. Some of them are almost unbearably dull. There was one at Magna last year with a panel of well-known authors trying to be cute and funny that I thought was embarrassingly inane. And after catching authors a few times, you find we're all pretty much saying the same thing over and over again.

You might want to tone it down a bit. But maybe not. I'm reminded of a Stephen King story, where he was getting ready to head off on a promo tour or TV show, and Tabitha King asked their young son if he knew where daddy was going, and he said, "Yeah, he's going off to be Stephen King."

We've all got a certain persona as authors--mine is probably, That Guy in the Corner You Don't Notice--and yours is louder and more aggressive than most. But I don't think it's hurting your reputation any. And from what I can see, you're a very "pay-it-forward" kind of guy who supports other authors, published and non-published, and that's pretty damned rare. I'm waiting for your attorneys to tell you to cut it out.

Best,
Mark Terry

Jim Michael Hansen said...

Joe, I wasn't at B'con, but as far as you being an "unbearable egomaniac," here's what I know about you: (1) you took a full day out of your life to read, blurb and critique my debut novel when most authors I approached wouldn't even respond to my e-mail request; (2) you helped me with plot structure resulting in a change to the MS for the better; (3) when you spoke at Murder by the Book in Denver, you pointed me out to the audiance and told everyone the name of my upcoming book. So, if you're looking for criticism in the name of improving, sorry, I just don't have any.

Jim Winter said...

Well, Joe, I'll be honest. You did rub me the wrong way in Toronto. But like me, that was your first. I'd say it was first year jitters.

You were manic this year, but all the times I was around you, you handled yourself well. (That dumpster dive for the books was classic!)

It was hanging out with you at Ken's little afternoon get together. I mean, Tom Waits, man. How can you go wrong with Tom Waits among a bunch of noir and hardboiled writers in a bar?

Besides, there's a reason a few people call you the Howie Mandel of Crime Fic. Over all, you're one funny guy.

Keep chugging. We all make mistakes. Even the big guys do. If I don't see you before then, see you in Madison.

And dammit, try to make Ohio on the next tour. Your books are everywhere here.

Jim Winter

Nathan Welty - Welty69 said...

Joe, I was not there to see you thought I wish I was. Soem can say it was first year itters, others say you are just a loud alchoholic, others worship at your feet.

The way I see it is maybe tone the drinking down a bit, but don't change who you are. You cannot please EVERYONE all the time. My jokes go over at work all the time, but my wife just looks at me and shakes her head in dissapiontment.

WELTY69
http://welty69.writing.com/

Anonymous said...

Glad you had lines for an hour and moderated a memorable panel.

I disagree with you to an extent, by the way. While you always learn from criticism, you can learn from praise as well, and if you have people rolling in the aisles consistently, there ain't much you need to change.

You need to remember the praise for the down days when you're being critical of yourself. And by the way, as you've pointed out a lot of times, your job is not just to write your books, but to sell them. And it looks like you did a good job of that, too... and you also seemed to have done a great job of sharing the limelight.

I used to wear a button on my shirts that said "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke."

I understand your concerns, I think. You "killed" with your consumers. You pissed off your colleagues. You made the right impression with the right group.

Remember that writers are neurotic and insecure. Yes, they are helpful to each other. Highly so. But the ones who are not yet the successes they want to be... or more likely, no longer the successes they used to be, the ones who are being surpassed in sales by people they don't think to be as talented as they are... those are the ones whose insecurities will come out at times like this... and they'll bitch about the guys on the way up simply because they're on the way down.

I think.

I agree, you don't want to alienate yourself from them, but you know, a lot of them were probably drunk on Absinthe or something else when they were criticizing you.

Don't get me wrong. As a PR guy, I always advise clients to give a sincere, heartfelt apology, and an explanation which is not an excuse. And you did both, in a public place, right away, which is more than what 90% of my clients are able to do (and they paid me a ton of money over the years to tell them shit like that).

That said, you're being too hard on yourself. Everybody drinks too much once in a while. That does not mean we all have drinking problems because we overindulge. And remember? We're writers? You were at a conference with other writers. None of us can afford to be choir boys. I mean, it wasn't the fucking Southern Baptist Convention last I checked. Drinking and dancing are allowed. Even encouraged.

And I have a pretty good knowledge of drinking. The one thing I know is that drinking exaggerates personalities. Let's see: You're a nice guy. You're funny. You're over the top, but not offensive. You're smart. You help other writers. So when you have a couple of drinks, you're nicer, funnier, more over the top, but still not offensive, you're smarter and more helpful. I fail to see a problem.

You managed your PR problem very well, if it is indeed a problem, and I predict it will go away. I tend to agree that if there is a problem, it's with your colleagues, not your consumers... and you're on your way to solving your problem if it indeed exists.

It was most likely some variation of one drunken writer bitching about you to two or three other drunken writers, knowing that those two or three other drunken writers would run to you. Or somebody bitching directly to you just because they think they're trying to be helpful.

Another thought on the over the top part: Most writers that I know are terribly uncomfortable speaking to groups (I mean, we write privately, and our readers read privately). The fact that you're good at it, and funny besides... shit. It has to piss people off. I mean, a good writer, who is funny, good in groups and knows how to sell his books? They ALL wish they could be that way. You figure that when you get into a setting like that, EVERYONE is a good writer, so they rank people or tier them, based on other things. Even if you're not a household name yet, they're starting to think you will be, and they wish they could be, too.

Keep the chin up and keep the blogs coming. They're funny as hell and I check your site every day. I admire your love of our profession. Well, for me it's still a hobby, though I treat it as a business, but it's a hobby instead of a profession because I'm still not making any money at it.

Guyot said...

Other than effing up my shot at getting an ice sculpting job from the geriatric home down the road, you handle yourself well.

Here's the thing I've learned after hanging around these cons for years without even having a damn book:

They tend to be like high school. Jocks hang with cool jocks, dweebs with dweebs, burners with burners, and the truly cool kids hang with everyone.

And each clique talks shit about the other.

A lot of writers seem to have a problem with those writers (like yourself) who bust their ass to sell books. I believe it comes from a self-loathing issue - they wish they had the stones and the work ethic to do it themselves.

I'm reminded of Kate Hepburn's quote to John Wayne when he was getting slammed by the media at one point in his career...

Don't let the bastards get you down.

She then went on to say that the only person we need to satisfy when we hit the pillow each night is one's self.

Be you. Don't be who you think they want you to be. Chances are their taste in people sucks.

And besides, can you imagine a Bouchercon without drinking??? My daily breakfast was paying $22 a pop for 18-year-old McCallan in that Spectators bar just to make it through another Bcon.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed our panel at Left Coast Crime in El Paso and had a lot of fun. But to be brutally honest, I would say the feedback I got afterwards was evenly divided: Half the people I spoke to thought you were funny and the other half were put-off by the whole thing (they came to hear a panel, and certain authors, on a particular subject and instead got The Konrath Show). And I know of one author on the panel who was very upset (you probably know, too).

My advice is that next time you moderate a panel, you might want to moderate your performance, too...perhaps cut it down by half (I should probably follow the same advice).

Lee

guyot said...

My proof reader sucks.

That first "cool" in my third paragraph doesn't belong... don't know what happened there.

It's probably cause I'm drunk.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you got your head on, listening and learning from it.

I don't know this from direct experience, but every person in the limelight gets knocked. Mother Teresa? Christopher Hitchens savaged her. Mr. Rogers? A national joke, courtesy of Eddie Murphy on SNL and every other stand-up. The Marx Brothers were stars on stage, not so well in their early movies. Did their material change? Nope. Just the audience.

But the advice here sounds good: cut down on the drinking if you're performing, throw the spotlight on the other authors on panels (try this on someone who you know raked you over the coals, "Now, here's George to tell you this very funny story!" Sit back and watch the squirming.)

Anonymous said...

Peope are generally pretty accepting of others drinking too much and making asses of themselves.

Therefore, if you heard that you were drinking too much - from good friends - you probably WERE drinking too much.

If I were you I would take a long, hard, look at my drinking habits. I don't know you, I don't dislike you, I've never even read any of your books (the blog rocks, though). I just had to go through a similar self-evaluation at one point. My conclusion was that drinking made me act like an asshole, so I stopped drinking.

It's hard being grown-up sometimes.

JD Rhoades said...

Huh. Personally, I though the panel was great, with some interesting discussion along with the "Konrath show." But yeah, if you find out you're pissing off any of your fellow panelists (and you don't know for a fact that said panelist is a humorless jerk) then maybe seek another outlet. Or do a panel with Mark Billingham, who's hilarious as well...you guys could play off each other. I'd get up early to see that.

As for alcohol...after looking over my credit card receipts from the bar, I can tell you that I am the LAST person to be tossing rocks on THAT topic. But Absinthe... might be a good idea to lay off that. I have heard, however, that it has powerful aphrodisiac qualities.

After all, everyone knows that Absinthe makes the fond grow harder.

Thank you folks, I'm here all week, be sure to tip your waitress....

Jim Born said...

Jesus, Joe, more people read this blog than your books.

Sorry, I thought this was e-mail.

You might recall that I called you personally a few months back to express my thoughts.

Jim Born

M.J. said...

Joe- I didn't see your panel or the scene at the bar, but I just blogged about this issue. For what it's worth-- http://mjroseblog.typepad.com/buzz_balls_hype/

JA Konrath said...

Good comments so far (except for Born). Keep them coming.

JA

David J. Montgomery said...

I blogged about this, too:

http://www.crimefictionblog.com/

Guyot said...

I didn't blog about this at all.

http://paulguyot.blogs.com

Anonymous said...

Joe:

I didn't see your panels, only because I had other things to do at the time, but I did run into you
when you were very drunk one night, it might have been the night you were drinking absinthe. I should be the last to talk, with the way I drink, but when you're blacking out it may be time to slow down. I have struggled with drinking for a long time, and I stopped totally for a whole year when I started blacking out. It scared the shit out of me. It's one thing when you're doing cool things, like waking up with fat chicks, another when people tell you the next day you're falling down stairs or urinating in inapropriate places (I've done both)

As for toning your act down or worrying about what others are thinking of you, don't sweat it too much. You are more than generous helping out new writers. I'm only one of many who have benefited from knowing you. And I wish I had half your energy for self promotion. It is possible to try too hard though, but that's something you have to decide for yourself.

You're a good guy and this self introspection can only make you a better guy.

I kind of feel guilty that I haven't paid for one of your books yet, you were kind enough to send me a copy of Whisky Sour and I got a copy of Bloody Mary in my Bouchercon bag.

Anyway, don't worry about this shit too much Joe. I still love you (in a manly way, with only the slightest homoerotic overtones)

Pat Lambe

Anonymous said...

Me neither.

http://jdrhoades.blogspot.com/

Otis said...

Konrath,

You were rude to me once, amusing twice, and just plain cool on half of another ocassion... That makes it 2.5 to 1. Not a bad score. Guyot, on the other hand...

Tammy said...

Having never been to Bouchercon, I can only speak from my general life experience. As I see it, there are certain shticks that are bound to rub most people the wrong way, some that won't offend anyone (such as standing there acting like a mute cinder block) , and a whole bunch of terrain in the middle.

My approach, then, to evaluating situations like that is to use the "middle 60%" rule: sort all your responses from most favorable to least, knock 20% of the responses off each end of the curve, and see if what's left forms a consensus. If that middle 60% thought you were over the top, that tells you something.

Any time we have to come out from behind our word processors and deal with real, live people, we're apt to make someone unhappy. That's the nature of the beast, and we all walk that fine line. If the consensus is that you're too far to one or other side of the line, take a step or two back toward it and move on. But don't let the least imaginative, least social, least dynamic person in any crowd convince you that you should become a clone of them.

Tammy

Ronald Cree said...

Joe...I was there in the third row, completely enjoying the JA Konrath show. Were you over the top? Fuck yeah. It was awesome. Were the other panelists making faces? Yep, they were. (I actually felt a bit bad for one of them, so I bought his book and went to his non-line afterwards, instead of yours.)

I thought the panel was great. It was a good mix of personalities and opinions, and the bit about repeating the author's books was effective. Even now, a week later, the topic is in my mind...as well as the titles. You're right--the entire panel was memorable.

In the day(s) that followed, I heard many of the same disparaging comments about you that you mentioned in your blog entry. But who cares?? I mean, seriously. You are who you are. Jack Daniels wouldn't give a shit, and neither should you. You were there to do a job and you did it.

You have a reputation, that's for sure. (I don't recall seeing you drunk, but would I have known if you were?? LOL. Come to think of it, there's a pic of you on my site hosting the live auction with a bottle of beer in your hand...) If someone doesn't like the way you are, they don't have to be on a panel with you in the future. That would be their loss, as your being there draws a huge, fun crowd.

This was my first B'Con, and I had a good time. I met many authors that I liked, and many that didn't give me the time of day. As another poster here mentioned, the entire event reminded me of high school.

You just need to know that you mean a LOT to new authors (and trying-to-be authors) like myself. We didn't get a chance to hang out at B'Con, but you knew who I was and you remembered my name. (Although I was hoping for a mention during the panel, especially when the discussion turned to YA thrillers / mysteries!)

All of the valuable advice you offer on this site was put into practice by me last week. From the chapbooks to the posters to the handshaking, I tried to do it all just as you suggested. (And I photographed / documented everything to send to the folks over at S&S.)

No other author that I've found has put as much time and effort into helping "newbies" as you. It's admirable and valuable.

Don't let this B'Con get you down. Like you said, take it in...digest it...learn from it. Perhaps next year, you should concentrate your time and attention on the "newbies" and forget about the established cliques. We all love you.

I finished "Bloody Mary" on the plane ride home. And for the record, it was the copy I BROUGHT from home, not the one I received in my gift bag. That alone should tell you something.

Cisco says hello.

Ron

Ronald Cree said...

I probably should have included my website address, huh? There are a few pics of my own Bouchercon adventure there, as well as one of Joe!

Homepage of Author Ronald Cree

Keith said...

Not only didn't I see the panel, but I wasn't even registered. So maybe a comment from another longtime performer/moderator will be of no value (or maybe it'll mean something).

Or maybe I'm out of line. But anyway:

The problem with over-the-top is that while it can be genuinely funny, it's about you. It intentionally draws attention away from everyone else. That kind of works against two of the main functions of a moderator: To showcase the panelists and to listen for openings to draw out unusual commentary from them. Keeping things fast and funny is also valuable, but too much funny and you're no longer going fast--you're bogged down in schtick.

Anyway, for whatever it's worth, from my experience. I admire your openness on the subject, so I figured I'd contribute my thought.

Anonymous said...

But see here's the real problem.

Ron says he's learned so much from Joe. But he's learning from someone who hasn't learned yet everything yet. In this case, what did he learn - that it's okay to take over a panel when you're a moderator and insult and ignore the panelists?

Not a good lesson if you want more panel gigs.

Like David M said. This is a buisness. Bouchercon is the office. And taking over when you aren't supposed to be center stage, isn't cute or excusable. Being an original, or iconoclastic is one thing. We're not talking about that. We're talking about not playing by the rules and hurting other authors.

Ronald Cree said...

Whoa, there. I did NOT say, nor did I even hint, that Joe "took over" the panel and / or ignored and insulted the panelists.

He didn't do anything of the sort. I'm not even sure what all the fuss is, to be honest. The panel was great. To the best of my recollection, everyone on it had a chance to talk, to contribute, and to make themselves heard. The folks who paid to attend certainly seemed to enjoy it. And if they didn't, all they had to do was cross the hall to another one.

Were there disagreements and differences of opinions? I guess so. It was one hour out of many. It was one of the better ones I attended. I'm sorry that some people's feelings were hurt, but I honestly don't think that was anyone's intention, especially Joe's.

R

Anonymous said...

I am a reader and a fan and a reviewer, and there are a small (but memorable to me) number of authors whose books I refuse to buy or read based on their public (including both face-to-face and internet) personas. I may smile when I see them performing, I may even laugh at one or two of their jokes. But there are too many books out there that I really want to read for me to waste my money and time on someone who seems to take pains to be perceived as a self-centered jerk. This may seem harsh, but that's the way it is.

Anonymous said...

Dear arrogant Asshole.
Your grandstanding, self-promotion and...oh wait, I thought this was Bill O'Reilly's blog.

Lee Carlon said...

This sounds like the hangover talking. I get those after a big night too. People were probably just pissed you weren't drinking with them

Molly said...

Remember that writers are neurotic and insecure.

I don't think this can be overstated. Any time an author shines IN ANY WAY from author photo to media op, there are going to be nasty comments made by small people.

If you are funny and lively and original, then expect that some of those who not funny, not lively and not original to spend their time tearing you down.

That's their schtick.

Anonymous said...

It's wonderful that everyone is coming to your defense Joe and saying screw the people who can't take a joke. But the reality is being a moderator is not about being memorable or insulting or ingnoring panelists to be entertaining. Being a moderator is not the same as being an emcee or being the opening act.

I just read Buzz and Montgomery's blog and I'd take that kind of advice to heart.

Anonymous said...

I've attended several of your sessions - or as much of them as I could tollerate. Listen to your critics.

Guyot said...

Joe,
One thing I absolutely know for sure is DO NOT EVER listen to anything said by anyone who doesn't have the stones to put their name on their comments.

moi said...

I have never met you and I was not at Boucheron. I'm basing my comments on what you and others have written. So take my opinion with a whole shaker-full of salt if you wish. But I've read and enjoyed your books and blog and I'd hate to see you self-destruct.

About the drinking: If you and "close friends" have wondered if there's a problem, there probably is. Social drinking is fun. If you really did black out memories when you drank, though, it's definitely a problem. You're not some stupid twenty-year-old frat boy, so don't act like one.

About the panels: I've both organized/moderated panels and been on them. The job of the moderator is to facilitate and enhance what the panelists have to say. Basically you're there to make them look good. You're wrong about people not coming to hear content. I have many writer friends who have returned from conventions who have shared great information from such panels. They're as good as the moderator and panelists make them. Would audience members at your panels have come out saying "That Joe Konrath is a wild and crazy guy" or "That was a really interesting discussion"? It's not supposed to be about you.

You may have some clue how you were perceived by what you are asked to do in the future. A host for an auction, etc. IS the show and is expected to be entertaining. The moderator for a panel needs to be, well, more moderate. It may be that your personality is better suited to taking roles that keep you in the limelight for a bit. When you're off stage, though, the act doesn't need to continue. It can grow stale.

But at this point, you should probably figure out for yourself how you would like to be perceived and what professional persona you wish to project. MJ Rose's blog on this is terrific. You've got a great start on your career as a novelist. Where do you want to take it?

Linda

B. K. Birch said...

Don't be too hard on yourself. Everyone rubs someone the wrong way sometime.

Be yourself.

Charles Benoit said...

We have attended several of the same conferences - we were even on the same panel (I think it was a Left Coast Crime). You may be a swell guy to your friends and fans, writing some of the best books out there, but this fellow author found you a loud, crass, grandstanding know-it-all who appeared to feel that as long as he was having a good time “entertaining” the crowd, anything he did was fine. It was all about Joe.

I was at your panel at Bouchercon. It was a typical JA Konrath performance.

That said, I’ve heard many good things about JA Konrath the man – mentor, sounding board, honest critic, insightful analyst, informed commentator... This is the JA Konrath I’d like to meet.

Brad said...

Hey Joe,
You and I spent some time together recently in an enviroment where not only was it accepted to be drunk and obnoxious, but expected. This was our first meeting and I found you to be neither of these things. Ok maybe a little obnoxios but we all were that night.
You and I, in my opinion, are alot alike. When there is an opportunity to be funny we take it, and sometimes even when there is not one. I recently went through a similar problem with someone that I was speaking to here at work. I must have been in rare form that day. He basically told me that I was a smart ass kid and asked if I spoke to everyone that way. This bothered me for quite awhile. I caught myself shutting down and "turning off" my routine for days. After the initial hurt of what was said wore off, like you, I began to refelect on what the problem really was. I discovered a couple of things. I do tend to go "to far out" sometiems to be funny. Poeple will like me more and they laugh when I am funny. So I think anyway. Another thing I found out was that in the case of this person I was talking with, I was messing with his schtick. He was doing a routine that made him feel comfortable and accepted, and it clashed with mine. I learned that it is important to be yourself, but it is also wise to see others and respect what they have going on inside them as well.
You have a good heart, you care about others. I would not even begin to presume that you have a drinking problem. When we were together, you were drinking, but I also now that you were in complete control of yourself. If you have a problem, look inside yourself and you will see it.
All people are different. When you did the signing here I heard comments that went both ways. Some said you were "over the top" and others want you to work here. I wouldn't like that though because I am the resident funny guy here.
It is a fine line to walk to be true to yourself and to be respectful of others. I know that you should have an easier time of this, because you do care about others. What you say, the time spent with your websites and even your writing reflect this.
I don't know if this helps you or not. I hope it does. I have not spent a lot of time with you, but I think I got to know you pretty well in the short time we had.

Take care,
Brad

harley said...

Joe, I think your panel at Left Coast was the funniest I've ever seen. It was the Joe Show, though, so while I will never forget Linda O. Johnston's title (SIT, STAY, SLAY) I can't say I remember much else except a very strong impression of you. Which was fine by me. Maybe at future conventions, on the part of the application where it asks what kind of panel people would like to be on, there could be the following box: I would adore appearing on a panel moderated by J.A. Konrath/I would rather be boiled in oil than appear on a panel moderated by J.A. Konrath.
I still owe you two drinks, but I guess they won't be ansinthe.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Unfortunately I didn't make it to B-con, so I can't comment on the panels or bar festivities.

But when I met you in Los Angeles you were funny, gracious and friendly.

For what it's worth, if the people who have a problem with your behavior don't have the balls to come out and tell you directly, their opinion probably isn't worth much.

David J. Montgomery said...

For what it's worth, if the people who have a problem with your behavior don't have the balls to come out and tell you directly, their opinion probably isn't worth much.

I find that comment interesting...Would you really go up to someone you didn't know and tell them you thought they were acting like a jerk?

If you were at a conference and Mike Connelly was being an ass, would you tell him? And if you didn't, would that mean he wasn't? (I can't imagine Connelly acting like anything other than a gentleman, but consider him an example.)

Joe isn't as well-known as Connelly, obviously, but he's still a lot better known than most writers. And I'm sure a lot of people would be intimidated to talk to him about something so personal, even if they felt there was a need.

Besides, the point of Joe's whole post was that people did talk to him.

Anonymous said...

Not only that, but Joe invited people to post anonymously! The whole idea is to get honest feedback.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Would you really go up to someone you didn't know and tell them you thought they were acting like a jerk?

An excellent point. I stand corrected.

JD Rhoades said...

Joe, my Lovely Bride was with me at the now-infamous panel. When I mentioned this post to her, she looked confused and said, "wait, wasn't that the panel where Konrath made the audience repeat the name of everyone else's book over and over?"

So, if anyone gives you grief for that panel being "all about you," you may want to mention that. I certainly will.

james rollins said...

Okay, I not only attended B'con (see I get to abbreviate it now that I've attended my first B'con)...but I was also a panelist on said imfamous panel. Now, I've sat on SO many panels during my career (buy me a beer....BEER, Joe, NOT Mead...and I'll tell you about my appearance on a "Furry" panel at a scifi con...suffice it to say, just because I'm a veterinarian, doesn't mean I want to dress up like an animal). Anyway, I was shocked to even hear of this controversy. Why?
(a) The panel was hilarious...especially at 9am in the morning.
(b) Joe plugged all our books ad nauseum and tried to get away without plugging his book, so I took it upon myself to prod him a bit.
(c) He gave ample time to ALL the panelists to speak their mind on the topic.
(d) He gave ample time to attendees to raise questions and voice opinions
(e) He posed interesting questions (a shame I didn't have interesting answers)
(f) He plugged authors in attendance
(g) He is as fast with a quip as he is with a compliment.
(h) And lastly, and most importantly, he makes me look skinny
Love ya, Joe...never change!

Anonymous said...

P.S. Joe, I admire your courage. Anyone who does stand-up, let alone doing it as well as you do it, is heroic in my book.

Harley said...

P.S. that's me, above. sorry. I can't even comment without accidentally turning anonymous.

david terrenoire said...

I'm a bit late to this, but as I was in the audience, I have to say I enjoyed the panel because you were damn funny. I like funny.

I introduced myself as you ran off to another commitment, and you did kinda blow me off with a bit of star attitude, but I was probably doing that fan gush thing that makes me cringe afterwards, so I gave you a pass.

I didn't see the heavy drinking part, but that was probably because I was drunk.

If you think you were over the top, you probably were. I'm always happier the less I talk, and I presume others happier with the quiet Dave, too. Not that it ever really stops me. So I wish you luck finding that balance.

Maya said...

I stop in periodically to read your blog because there is so much good information which you share so generously with others and because I enjoy your sometimes twisted view on things. I was dismayed to see your post on B-Con.

I have moderated a number of panels in my career and have always viewed that job as: (1) to make sure the material got covered; (2) to keep things moving along; (3) to assist any panelist who might be floundering; and (4) to throw a benevolent light on the panelists and help them to promote whatever product they're selling.

I noticed that you (and everyone defending you) has said you made sure attendees knew who the panelists were and repeated their names. That isn't the quite the same thing as genuinely promoting and may be why some persons took offense. If the entire focus of the panel was on you and not on your panelists, I think you might want to reconsider your approach.

I applaud you for facing the issue straight up and publicly. I think you are a very talented writer, a very funny man and a very generous spirit. I would hate to see those attributes buried under a cloud of alcohol and a "look at me" reputation.

Best wishes.

Maya Reynolds

Elizabeth Becka said...

You're still my guru, Joe.

Wait a minute...you got a THREE book deal from our publisher?...you bitch!!

Love,
Elizabeth Becka

Scott said...

If all these writers would spend as much time working on their manuscripts as they did in sending you e-mails they would all have their books done by now. I know, Joe, get back to work. As far as I'm concerned you're still my God. See you in Muncie. Hugs and kisses to Maria. Hope no one knows we are dating. We've tried to keep it a secret but as you can see, people gossip.

Hugs and Kisses to you to.

Scott

Scott said...

How come I always miss all the fun and excitement? All that time I spent with you over the weekend and you were boring as hell....the minute my back is turned the fun begins. I'm sitting in the bar with your wife having a wonderful time and she decides to go check on you. I order fresh drinks and there I sat. Raymond B. comes in the bar and says Maria took you back to your room. Your wife stood me up for you.....UNBELIEVABLE....You're still my God but I think I'm having second thoughts about my relationship with your wife. Hugs & Kisses Maria.

ACHILLE said...

Nice blog. Have you seen your google rating? BlogFlux It's Free and you can add a Little Script to your site that will tell everyone your ranking. I think yours was a 3. I guess you'll have to check it out.

Computer News
In search of the best


Ask.com, Answers.com outperform more popular Web engines

Even as they become more savvy, the Internet's leading search engines still sometimes bog down in befuddlement when a specific kernel of knowledge is sought.

Hoping to fill the gap, Answers.com (from GuruNet Corp.) and Ask.com (from Ask Jeeves Inc.) have pledged to provide more adept responses to vexing but straightforward questions about history, science, geography, pop culture and sports.


Both search engines aim to provide a correct answer explicitly at the top of a search's first results page -- or with a highly placed link to a Web page that contains the information.

Their mission raises a question: Just how knowledgeable are these search engines?

To find out, I staged a very unscientific test consisting of questions culled from a recent edition of Trivial Pursuit.

My mock game pitted the avowed prowess of Answers.com and Ask.com against the Internet's most widely used search engines -- Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN.

The findings: Answers.com and Ask.com appear to be a small step ahead of Google and noticeably smarter than Yahoo and MSN when dealing with such esoteric questions as "What glass beads are created when a meteorite strikes the Earth's surface?"

Both Answers.com and Ask.com guided me to the correct answer (tektites) with the first link on the results page -- an aptitude that both sites displayed with 10 of the 20 questions posed in the theoretical game. When they didn't get the answer with the very first link in response to some questions, both search engines generally came through within the next two links.

Although they performed similarly in our game,-Answers.com and Ask.com rely on different formulas.

Answers.com relies on a combination of Google's search engine and human editors who have stoked its database with answers to frequently asked questions that they've obtained by poring through reference materials.

Ask.com, part of a Web family about to be acquired by e-commerce conglomerate InterActiveCorp for $2 billion, has devised a fully automated approach that fishes through the Internet's sea of information.

Although they are superior to the other search engines at this task, Answers.com and Ask.com rarely realized their ultimate goal -- making things as clear-cut as possible by summarizing the correct response at the very top of the results page so it wouldn't be necessary to click on a link and peruse another Web site.

Ask.com spit out a concise "Web answer" in just two of the 20 questions, while the only time that Answers.com delivered was when I sought the definition of "googol." (It's the number one followed by 100 zeros.)

Google, which drew its name from that mathematical term, fared reasonably well in the competition. The Internet's most popular search engine came up with the correct answer on the first link in eight of the 20 questions (including the one about tektites). That's something Yahoo did just five times and MSN only twice.

None of the sites was omniscient. Answers.com, Ask.com and Google each drew blanks on three questions (I considered it a miss if a link to the correct answer didn't appear within the first three pages of results). Yahoo and MSN each whiffed on six questions.

There was only one question that baffled all the search engines, "Who was the first Cuban defector to play in Major League Baseball?" Although they all contained references to him in their indexes, none of the search engines could figure out it was Rene Arocha, a pitcher who first signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in the early 1990s.


Though it lagged behind the other search engines in this competition, MSN looked brilliant on one question that stumped all the other search engines: What company was acquired in the biggest leveraged buy-out deal of all time? The first link on MSN's results page took me to a site that correctly listed RJR Nabisco.

The test also revealed the disadvantage of depending on search engines -- they sometimes point to sites with conflicting answers.

This occurred most frequently when I asked how many viewers watched the series finale of the TV show M*A*S*H. The search engines pointed to Web sites that variously listed the audience at anywhere from 105.9 million to nearly 125 million. Trivial Pursuit lists the answer as 121.6 million.

To paraphrase M*A*S*H's theme song, searching for online answers still isn't painless.


About the Author: Michael Liedtke


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