Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Countdown to Bouchercon--Three Weeks

The second Bouchercon I attended was 2012 in Cleveland, an easy drive for those of us here in the Pittsburgh area. Let me just say, although I have grown up with the bitter football rivalry between the Browns and the Steelers, I discovered I LOVE Cleveland. It's a beautiful city.

It helped that I had excellent hotel room karma that trip. Somehow I ended up on one of the concierge floors (I had to swipe my room key in the elevator to access that level. You can bet I was on the receiving end of some raised eyebrows as convention goers wondered who I was!) While my friends had views of other buildings, I had a view of the lake!

And the room itself was HUGE. We could have held a dance in there!

Since my room mate was 8 1/2 months pregnant, she didn't stay the entire time, so my room became the designated "crash" space for when my Pittsburgh buddies needed to put their feet up a while.

We took several nice strolls outside...

...especially once we discovered The Chocolate Bar a few blocks away. Reese's Cup Chocolate Martini. Oh. My. God. I had a picture of  me enjoying one of those entirely too much, but it seems to have been lost. Heh.

Anyway, here's a picture of some of the Pittsburgh contingent at the Sisters in Crime Breakfast. My very pregnant roomie Jennifer Little Fleck, me, and Martha Reed.

Incoming Sisters in Crime president Hank Phillippi Ryan takes over the reins from outgoing president Frankie Bailey.

There was singing.

And there were panels. This one was moderated by Pittsburgh friend, the Fab Nancy Martin.

More Pittsburgh pals--Laurie Stephens, who was at that time the owner of Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Martha, my current critique buddy Mary Sutton (to whom I lent my'll have to ask one of us to tell you that story), and me.

The incomparable Mary Higgins Clark was the Guest of Honor.

I had the good luck to share the elevator with her on the final day. She was so gracious and I was such a fan girl. So was Mary Sutton. Another story you'll have to ask us about when you see us.

It was yet another fabulously fun Bouchercon. And only three more weeks until the next one!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Countdown to Bouchercon--Four Weeks

As I posted last week, I'm sharing memories of Bouchercons past each Wednesday leading up to this years convention in New Orleans.

The first Bcon I attended was in Baltimore in 2008. I traveled and roomed with my friend Joyce Tremel. At the time, both of us were aspiring authors, working on projects we hoped to see in print. (Happily, we're now both published!)

In looking back, one happy (at the time) memory now brings tears. Joyce and I met (for the first time face-to-face) our fellow Working Stiffs blogger, Wilfred Bereswill, who has since passed away. He was a sweet, funny man. I'm glad we had the opportunity to spend some time with him.

We also got to hang out with friends we usually only see online, like Michelle Gagnon and Lee Lofland...

as well as friends from back home like Paula Matter and Rebecca Drake.

Joyce and I took a walk to the beautiful Inner Harbor...

and attended some great panels.

We had some great meals with great friends, and spent a LOT of time in the bar.

Before heading home, we said farewell to our "new" friend Hank Phillippi Ryan (looking fabulous as always while Joyce and I had dressed down for the drive back to Pittsburgh). I had no idea at the time how many lifelong friends (like Hank!) I'd made that weekend.

And I can't wait to make a bunch more in New Orleans!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hot Weather Wimp

The intention was to share tales of our Sisters in Crime writing retreat here today. However, I can't. Not really. You see, I gave up after less than 24 hours and came home.

I've survived floods and blizzards, but was done in by heat and humidity. You see, the mountain lodge where we gathered Friday has no air conditioning. Combine that with it being the hottest weekend of the year and my history of heat exhaustion... Well, it just wasn't pretty. 

What was pretty was the house and its surroundings. 

And there was lots of food. 

LOTS of food. 

Anyhow, I bailed out first thing Saturday morning after a very rough Friday night. I'm happy to report I hear everyone else had a grand time. I look forward to hearing their tales, since I don't have any of my own. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Countdown to Bouchercon

In five weeks, I’ll be leaving on a jet plane for New Orleans and Bouchercon2016

I’ve never been to NOLA, so that alone is a big draw for me. However, Bouchercon is a mystery lover’s family reunion…if you had hundreds and hundreds of family members.

For example, click here for a list of some of my “family.”

This will be my fifth Bouchercon, although I’ve missed years in between. My first was in Baltimore in 2008. Then I drove to Cleveland for it in 2012. Followed by Long Beach and Raleigh in 2014 and 2015.

In the weeks leading up to “Blood on the Bayou,” I’ll be blogging here every Wednesday to share memories from those previous years.

Oh, and there’s a Bouchercon anthology: Blood on the Bayou containing some incredible short stories including several by good friends of mine. More on that in the coming weeks as well. In the meantime, go here to find links to pre-order it! 

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Revisions, Copacabana, and Lake Erie

I confess. This next book is making me slightly insane. Or, putting a more positive light on the matter, it’s giving me a wild ride on the emotional roller coaster. I’m currently working on revisions. Stuff needed fixed. It’s that simple. It’s also that confounding. Over the last few weeks, I’ve threatened to pull my hair out, I’ve beat my head on my desk, and I’ve broken my computer mouse…but that’s another story.

This week, however, I’ve turned a corner. First, I took a day off. Sort of. Tuesday, my friend and fellow Pittsburgh area author Joyce Tremel and I headed north to Erie for a book club talk. I love book clubs. I love Erie.

 I needed a day away from the computer.

So we killed an entire day. It’s a three-hour drive for me (each way). And there is no way I’m going all that way without sticking my feet in the sand while Lake Erie’s waves lap at my toes.

The book club was fun, too! As was the actual road trip. (Picture two crime writers cruising the highway singing Barry Manilow songs—Her name was Lola. She was a showgirl…)

Back to work on Wednesday (and Thursday, Friday, Saturday, TODAY), I started making major progress on the sticking points of my revisions. Little by little, I found answers to the problems. Yesterday was a marathon revision day and the rest of the pieces fell into place.


I’m not claiming to be done. I have another week before the revised manuscript is due. But the panic has eased. I have a new scene drafted to fill in the gaps. Tomorrow I’ll add to it, tweak it, and spit shine that scene. Yes, this book WILL happen!

No Way Home—coming March 2017 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

In the Mind of a Killer

Subtitle: Physician, heal thyself

For over two weeks, I’ve been working on the edits on the next Zoe Chambers mystery (No Way Home). And for two weeks, “working” has looked a lot like staring at printed-out pages. Or staring into space. There are problems that need addressed. But how?

About a week into my staring, I had something of an epiphany. Not about a fix. But about the source of my problems. I’d left out one very important step in my process.

I teach a workshop on villains and antagonists (not necessarily the same thing, by the way). Part of the workshop involves getting the villain’s story and backstory written down. This is stuff that won’t end up in the book. But it’s stuff that directs what ends up in the book. It’s the unseen action that drives the story.

And it can be a lot of fun. Since this is stuff that isn’t going into the book, it can be truly terrible. No one but the author is going to read it. No one is going to edit it, critique it, or otherwise make the author “fix” it. And getting inside a villain’s head can be therapeutic. We can drop the veneer of politeness and etiquette that we try to carry around in society.


Anyhow, I’d left this step out. I had no idea where my villain was or what he was doing. Or why.

Why is a big one. What motivated him to do such-and-such? The author (me, in this case) needs to know! And sort of knowing isn’t enough.

So today, I’ve crawled into the mind of a killer. The stuff that’s showing up on the page is creepy. And enlightening.

And I think I’ve solved the story problems my editor pointed out to me. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Country Living

Our "farm" isn't really a "working" farm any more. I miss the horses. A lot. I even miss the neighbor's %#*$ing bull bellowing outside our bedroom window at daybreak. But it's summer and there are moments when I'm reminded we're definitely out in the country.

Like when I hear the plaintive cries of coyotes wafting through that bedroom window in the middle of the night.

And in spite of those coyotes, we have a whole family (several generations, at the moment) of rabbits living in and around our yard. I call them the Bun family. Mr. Bun, Mrs. Bun and babies. Bigger babies (the teenagers?) and wee babies (second crop of the year).
 They're not very spooky and pose for photographs almost daily.

Our grand-nephew has bought my mom's house and is the sixth generation to live on this farm. Sort of. No one in the fifth generation ever resided here. But he's embracing his newfound farmer status.

He especially embraces his great-great grandfather's Farmall. Big boy toy.