Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Where Have You Been?


It’s been a week since my mom passed quietly from this earth. The last few months have been awful. Those last few weeks had been agonizing. Those last three days, nothing short of torture. For me, at least. Mom was surrounded by some of the most compassionate caregivers I could have wished for. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the staff of Evergreen Personal Care Home and Bethany Hospice. I watched you treat my mom with dignity and respect, love and honor in her final days.

And you held me together too.

My mom was tough.

She was also chronically late.

In the last few weeks and days, we wondered how she managed to hang on. There couldn’t be much keeping her alive. A couple of times, she seemed to be looking at something/someone over in the corner of the room. My dad, I’m sure. Once while I was sitting alone with her, I had a little talk with Dad, pleading with him to take her and end her suffering here.

Then I remembered something. I flashed back to the many times Dad would be ready to go somewhere, shoes and coat on, tapping an impatient foot and looking at his watch. Mom would be taking her own sweet time getting ready. Mom was never one to be rushed. Dad was convinced—even then—that Helen Riggle would be late to her own funeral.

The memory made me laugh. And cry.

Dad also used to be impatient when Mom and I went somewhere without him and didn’t get home when he expected us. “Where have you been?” he would demand when we walked through the door.


Last Wednesday morning, I sat at Mom’s side and watched her take her last breath. I watched the flicker of her carotid pulse slow and fade. And I sobbed.


But I’m convinced, somewhere, Dad was watching Mom come through the door and demanding to know, “Where have you been?” 

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Together Again

Love you forever, Mom.

Helen Riggle April 10, 1920 - January 4, 2017

Sunday, January 01, 2017

2017: Looking Ahead

One thing I didn't mention in my post about 2016 is the weight I've gained. I confess, I've been using food (especially chocolate) to medicate myself. One of the first items on my goal list is to get back to the treadmill, the workouts, and the yoga practice. And back to healthy eating. Hopefully, I'll be closer to my fighting weight by the time my new book hits the shelves and I hit the road in mid March.

I had a blast writing and researching the new book, No Way Home, which takes Zoe and friends to the badlands of New Mexico.

Don't worry. Zoe comes back to Pennsylvania by the end of the story. But creating this one took me AND Zoe out of our comfort zones. I hope my readers enjoy the adventure as much as I did.

I'm still working on travel plans and public appearances to promote the book. The ones I've already confirmed are listed on my website.

As for travel, I intend to take a road trip to Williamsburg, Virginia to attend the Williamsburg Film Festival (as a fan, not as a participant, although I do hope to set up a book event nearby while I'm there). I also MUST take a trip to Colorado and New Mexico to promote the book, of course. I'll make my annual pilgrimage to Bethesda, Maryland for Malice Domestic in April.

On the writing front, I'm making good progress on the sixth Zoe Chambers mystery and hope to have some other Zoe news for you in the very near future.

I'm hoping for a productive and healthy 2017, not just for me, but for all of you--my friends, family, and readers--too. And I hope to see you all in person somewhere in my travels.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: Looking Back

Before I get started, let me say the last couple of months have been horrible. And not just because I'm terrified for the future of our nation. I'm not going there. Not now. This is more personal than that.

For the last couple of months, I've been watching my mother's health decline. As I'm writing this, she's in a coma. All of her meds have been discontinued. We're in limbo, waiting for the inevitable. Therefore, my view of the world right now is colored with sorrow.

[Taking a deep breath and plunging ahead]

However, the entire year was NOT bad. In fact, looking back, I had some of the best moments of my career and my life in 2016.


Henery Press released my fourth Zoe Chambers mystery, With a Vengeance! That's Trevor and Natalie of Mystery Lovers Bookshop hamming it up with an advanced copy of it. AND Bridges Burned was an Agatha Award nominee for Best Contemporary Novel!!! That photo was taken at the celebratory lunch my critique group threw for me.

The Agatha nomination was awesome beyond words. Just look at the women with whom I shared the category! Catriona McPherson, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Margaret Maron, and (not pictured) Louise Penny. I still can't believe it.
It was so much fun getting dressed up for the banquet. And I wasn't at all nervous like I had been last year, because I knew full well I wasn't going to win. (Margaret Maron did...no surprise).

I got to wear the dress a second time at the Pennwriters Conference in May. Always fun, especially when sharing the good times with these folks, my Sisters (and Mister) in Crime.

In June I went on the best vacation ever. I started with a week in New Mexico, relaxing with my best friend, Leta Burns. It was a research trip for my next book (more on that in my post about what's ahead in 2017), but it was also a chance to unwind, something I desperately needed.

I detoured on the way home from New Mexico to attend the Memphis Film Festival in Mississippi. Yeah, don't ask about the geography. I got to meet one of my all-time favorite actors, Robert Fuller, who played Dr. Brackett in Emergency! That show is the reason I became an EMT, which is the reason I'm writing a mystery series about a paramedic.

It was a joy to meet Bob, and an equally great joy to hang out with the other members of his Fandom. I danced at the sock hop, I played pool in the bar, and just generally cut loose.

Speaking of cutting loose, Bouchercon was held in New Orleans this year. Another wild trip. Another chance to hang out with fabulous friends.




The following few months were a whirlwind of library panels, book clubs, and workshops. And I already mentioned how the last two have gone, so we won't speak of the rest of it.

So I'm going to think of 2016 as a fabulous ten months. Books. Friends, old and new. And travel.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Holidays

Wishing all my family, friends, and readers the happiest of holiday seasons.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

#TBT Disney World 1984

I was still a newlywed and deathly sick from sun poisoning. I'm surprised the my shoulders didn't glow red through the shirt from the burn.

My other thought as I look at this: Here I am in my Miami Vice phase.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Day After

Yesterday was my FINAL deadline for No Way Home. I have this production schedule spreadsheet tacked up next to my desk that lists due dates and tasks. It begins with turning in the manuscript and ends with "Official Release Day." Some of the tasks are things I owe my publisher. Others are things they're doing or owe me.

We're getting near the bottom of the sheet. There are still a few items left, but those items are things THEY have to do.

The last few items with MY name on them were "typos from the final print PDF proof pages" and "Acknowledgements/Dedication," all due yesterday.

And I met the deadline. Yay!

So No Way Home is out of my hands. Done.

Which makes this THE DAY AFTER.

So what do I do with myself on the day after a big deadline?

Well, of course I keep writing. There's always a next book. But I did my pages early this morning and now I'm looking at my to-do list. It's long, as always, but not urgent. I could update my website (and probably will later today). I could edit the short story I'm re-releasing later this month. I could work on some guest blog posts. But what AM I doing?

I'm watching Leverage.

My current guilty pleasure. BUT I consider this part of my "work." You see, I'm watching the DVDs with the commentaries turned ON.

And I'm taking pages of notes.

I love DVD commentaries. If you've never listened and watched, you're missing something. The writers, directors, producers, and sometimes actors all sit around and talk about the background of the film. And since I love the pace, plotting, and character development of this series, getting a peek inside the writers' minds is priceless. Stuff like "what is the definition of a hero?" Discussions on misdirection and role reversals. And character motivation.

I love it.

So yes, today work looks a lot like Annette with her feet up and a bowl of popcorn on her lap, watching Eliot Spencer kick ass. However please note the legal pad and pen on the table next to her.