Friday, October 12, 2012

First Bouchercon

Before I talk about my new book, I have to talk about Bouchercon. I've been wanting to go for about twelve years, but it never worked out for me. This year it did. Then I hesitated. Bouchercon is a huge convention of mystery fans and writers. I didn't know anyone there. I'm not good in huge groups. Was this really what I wanted to do?

I decided I'd never know until I tried, so I hopped in my Honda and took off for Cleveland, a 7-8 hour trip with the stops I need to make to stretch my creaky joints. Unfortunately, I couldn't get there in time for the Sisters in Crime meeting on October 3, so I didn't have a chance to make connections with people whose names I know from the e-mail listserve. Nor am I able to get up and ready for the day in time for a 7:30 in the morning Sisters in Crime breakfast. So I was totally on my own.

Now there are days when I can't seem to make my thick tongue move when confronted with strangers, since I'm sure I'm not interesting enough for them to talk to me. There are other times when I perk right up and start talking, and discover they're happy to meet me and want to talk some more. Fortunately, all four days at Bouchercon were the latter. I discovered that this wasn't a huge group - this was one person or three people at a time, and I could start making the connections that will carry over to future Bouchercons so I won't be totally on my own again..

Most of the panels, geared for readers who want to know more about mystery writers and how they ply their craft, were fun and interesting. I met several young librarians who were attending their first Bouchercon. Their faces were all aglow with excitement at being so close to so many well known authors, and hearing them talk about writing and about their books. The caliber of the authors on the panels even made them instructional for other writers. Several of them could make a second career of being comedians if they decide to stop writing.

If I go to Bouchercon in Albany, New York, next year, I'll plunk down the cost of the extra night at the hotel so I can attend the Sisters in Crime pre-convention meeting. I'll get up for a 7:30 in the morning breakfast (maybe) even if I have to go back to my room afterwords to finish getting ready for the day. I hope I can get on a panel. If I do, I promise to convince myself it isn't a day when my tongue is thick with doubt that anyone wants to hear what I have to say!

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Summer To Remember

Okay, so I haven’t written in my blog since May. Want to know how that happened? Are you ready for a roller coaster ride?

It has been a summer to challenge the energy level of any 70-year-old, but I have enjoyed every minute of it. Starting with a wedding in Washington D.C. at the end of May, that I drove to. Meaning two days on the road each way and three days in hotels there. In the middle of June I went with my sister, her son and family, to Branson, Missouri, for a week. Of course we drove (in one long day from my sister’s house, since we had four drivers) and endeavored to get every last ounce of pleasure out of our week. Since I enjoy everything, I joined whoever wanted to do whatever, except the zip line. I couldn’t quite manage that. A few days after I got home, my niece and her family came to visit and we did the Traverse City tourist stuff, especially what the kids wanted to do. I rediscovered that it is more difficult to swim in moving water on Grand Traverse Bay than in a swimming pool in Branson. We were front row center for the fireworks on the Fourth of July – I’ve never seen better ones. My niece put me on an airplane the next morning for another wedding, this one in Dallas for my late husband’s nephew with most of his family in attendance. What fun to get my first ever pedicure with all the females in the family! And a lovely time was had by all. I flew back home and, after another week, went with friends from my community here to a cottage owned by the son of one of them on Lake Michigan. Four days filled with sun and beach and shopping and wine and food and companionship! Oh, my, if you think swimming in Grand Traverse Bay is hard, try Lake Michigan! Home for a little bit before flying off to Calgary, Canada, for another of my husband’s nephew’s weddings, in Banff. Met some great people, had some good food and wine, and took in the spectacular scenery with a looong walk that almost did me in.

Back to work the day after I got home, to a two day Arts and Crafts Fair an hour and a half from home – so, of course, I drove both days. Sold enough books to make it worth it and won a free booth for next year! What a great topper for my summer.

Well, not the topper, exactly. That happened when the fourth book in the Marge Christensen Mystery Series, Where did you die?, was finally published and I got my copies later in August. My next blog will tell a little more about that. In the meantime, I’m ready to go to bed.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


In the not so ancient days I learned to navigate for my husband quite accurately using a map. Sometimes, though, the map didn’t make things quite clear enough and we found ourselves going in the wrong direction. It was always a hassle to discover we had done that, turn around, and go back to the error point unless I could find a shortcut on the map that would correct our mistake.

When I lost my husband, I had to learn to navigate for myself. Fortunately, about that time I discovered MapQuest. While that was a great improvement over pulling over to the side of the road to look at the map, I still had to keep close track of how many miles I had gone and how to identify the next turn. If I did make a wrong turn, it couldn’t tell me how to correct my mistake. It didn’t even tell me I had made one, and I could go quite far before realizing I was off track.

Enter the voice of Lucy, my GPS genie. What a modern miracle! I don’t even have to think about navigation. I plug in the address where I want to go and follow Lucy’s directions. She warns me ahead of time when I need to adjust my course in order to reach my destination. If I do happen to make a wrong turn, Lucy says “Recalculating” and tells me how to get back on track.

As I was taking a trip downstate the other day, it occurred to me that the story of my life is similar. If I follow the signs given to me, I will find my way and stay on the path of goodness. Although, I have to admit, Lucy is more of a nag than God. Even though she never gets frustrated or angry, she continues to give me new instructions from wherever I am at that moment. It can get quite irritating if I’ve decided to take a different direction. God also doesn’t seem to get angry or frustrated, but when I go off course He lets me go and waits patiently until I ask for directions. Wherever I am when I do that, He meets me there and shows me His better way.  

In either case, if I rely on Lucy or God to show me the way, I am free of hassle and worry about how to reach my destination.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Another Road Trip

The highways between Michigan and Pennsylvania are familiar to me. I lived in Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, for ten years before moving to the state of Washington and returned to Pennsylvania for five years before resettling in my home state of Michigan. During those Pennsylvania years, trips to Michigan occurred at least twice a year: May for my mother’s birthday and either October for the fall colors or November for Thanksgiving. Now that my mother is gone and I live in Michigan I make the trip in reverse for my other family’s events.

Recently, I crossed the mountains heading east. I consciously looked around so I wouldn’t miss the multiple shades of green that covered the mountains like a tapestry. This was unlike my experience last year, driving from Michigan to Seattle, when the effort I had to make was to pay attention to the road instead of the rapidly changing scenery. On both trips, green tapestry covered many mountains. On both trips, also, I looked down into valleys of patchwork quilts, with fresh green crops, brown fields ready for planting, darker green of older crops, and occasional blues of irrigation ponds.

Trying to pinpoint the difference, I realized that to me the Appalachian Mountains are beautiful, and sensuous, like a grand dame of the south. Is it because they are so like a genteel, refined lady that they are confident of their grandeur, with no need to flaunt it? The Rockies, on the other hand, are in your face flamboyant with Yellowstone’s geysers, the Black Hills, the Painted Canyons, and numerous other spectacular formations. Even the Cascades threaten to overcome the senses with awe, while the Appalachians allow you to savor their beauty, like sipping a glass of fine sherry.

What do you think?

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Magical Mystical Trip

When I lost my mother in May, 2011, I had already planned to fly to the west coast to promote my third book, Who More Than Wished You Were Dead?, in Ocean Shores and Bellevue, Washington, where it is set. Having moved to Michigan to be close when my mother needed me, I found myself now feeling rootless. I decided that what I needed was a road trip.

After a book presentation that I had scheduled earlier, I had only three days before the check in date at my time share in Ocean Shores. No problem. At worst, I might lose a day or so at the time share. I started out in beautiful weather at 1:30 p.m., taking the northern route up over the Macinac Bridge and through the upper peninsula. This was only the second time I drove across the bridge and it was spectacular, which turned out to be a foretaste of the whole trip.

Not being a spring chicken, I have a bit of trouble with my knees, so I when I drive I stop every hour and a half to two hours. Sitting in a restaurant would not help my knees, so I take a fifteen to twenty minute break, snack on the food I have stashed in the car, and stretch my legs.  I got in over 400 miles before calling it a day. A swim in the motel pool, a soak in the hot tub, a glass of wine, and an instant food dinner in my room while reading a book, a perfect ending for a glorious day.

Having done so well the first day, I decided to aim for 700 miles a day the next three, which would get me to Mariner Village, my time share, late on check in day or early the next morning. Seven hundred miles is not nearly as bad as it sounds when you take breaks and get fresh air so often, and when you are zipping through country that makes you look around and say "Oh, my goooodness," every time you blink. So, I did my 700 miles and stopped in Bismark, North Dakota. No rooms. No rooms in the whole town. I had stopped at a Best Western, and was told the next Best Western was 90 minutes away and probably didn't have any rooms, either. I kept driving, stopping at every small town that advertised a motel on the roadside signs. It seems all that wonderful scenery around the painted canyons and Yellowstone and the Black Hills and the rest of that glorious landscape drew a lot of people; I had plenty of company in my search. After completing a thousand miles I found a room in a small, old, downtown hotel.

A thousand miles.

Who knew that I could do that?

I am woman!

I was pumped for the rest of the trip and forgot to feel tired. My only peeve was that my car was covered with bugs and dirt, meaning I would have to hit a car wash before I ever got to the time share. Lo and behold, as I was nearing the Montana/Idaho border, the car wash hit me. Two ferocious downpours a few miles apart cleaned my car better than any car wash could do. Then it was back to perfect weather and more awsome grandeur through the Cascades. I wondered how much more I could take.

And lest you think it is only in the truly awe inspiring that I find joy, as I coming out of the mountains and approaching North Bend, Washington, I remembered there was a Corning store at the outlet mall there, and I needed to replace some lids for my Corningware that I had ruined in the microwave. Icing on the cake!

My stay at Ocean Shores and Bellevue continued to feel miraculous, but that's for another posting.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Where Does the Time Go?

I thought it had been a year since I had posted on my blog. Imagine my surprise when I finally took a look and discovered it's been a year and a half! Do I feel guilty? Yes. Can I make excuses? Probably. But first, I want to apologize to my few followers who have (I hope) been waiting to hear from me again.

I actually do have a few excuses. 2011 was a full year, including, on the sad side, the death of both my mother in May and my mother-in-law in August. I have found that emotional hits like that put a real damper on my ability to concentrate.

On a happier note, in addition to three weddings to cheer me up, I spent about six weeks on the west coast to introduce my third book, Who More Than Wished You Were Dead?, to the area where it is set.  I'll save details of the trip (I drove from Michigan) for my next blog. An upside to being alone is that I have the time to attend writer's conferences, and took in the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in Bellevue, Washington, a great place for me to do research on my newest book, Where Did You Go to Die? That one is now with the editor and should be out sometime this summer. I also went to Crime Bake in Boston, and was happy to spread my wings in a different direction. Then, this February I attended Love is Murder in Chicago, deciding I should probably spend my energy (and money) in my local area.

So 2011 turned out to be a year of travel. I expect to do more of that until I'm ready to settle down again, but right now I plan to get back down to writing and blogging and updating my web site and wallowing in good books. Next, I'll write a bit about my trip out west before putting the past behind and concentrating on what is going on right now.