And So It Went

I had the best weekend, y’all.

On Saturday, my GPS and I slalomed down the Orange Barrel Trail to Indianapolis, a trip that would have taken longer than I planned, even if I’d remembered which time zone and Daylight Savings Plan that part of the state is using these days.

The purpose of the journey was to meet up with writer friends I’d originally met online a couple of years ago, when I started hanging out in the comments section of Betsy Lerner’s blog. Four of us—Lyra, Sherry Stanley Stanfa, and Laura Maylene Walter, just to shamelessly name drop—were meeting Saturday, spending the night at the perfectly placed Westin Hotel, and then having breakfast with three other friends the next morning.

Lyra and I had hoped to arrive early in the afternoon to spend an hour of two writing and/or talking over snacklunch, but we’d both made a late start and the above memoryfail about the time zone, so we both showed up around four o’clock EST, mere minutes before Sherry and Laura.

We dumped our stuff with Christian the Concierge, who can rock a bow tie, and immediately set forth to find the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, because it closed at 5.

Unfortunately, we set forth in the wrong direction, but we found a lovely park about ten blocks down where we could stop, reorient ourselves, and maybe turn the map around a little.

We did make it in time, though and it was well worth the walk.


Kurt Vonnegut FTW

Photo graciously supplied by Lyra–my attempt was a big black rectangle.

It’s a great place, small but high impact, with art and reading materials, displays and quotes, photographs of an astonishingly young Mr. Vonnegut—I found the evolution of his hair almost as interesting as the rest of his personal history— and also a knowledgeable assistant curator (I think?) with whom we had a great conversation about the outrageous banning of books in schools (his daughter is a lucky kid).

And a nifty little gift shop, where many Vonnegut-themed souvenirs were purchased.

I spent the rest of the evening and a good portion of the night eating, talking, drinking, talking, laughing, suddenly getting serious with the talk, moving to a quieter venue, and drinking, eating, and talking some more with these amazing women who happen to be amazing writers and, somehow, my friends.

I wore out about half-past midnight, because I am a sleep-deprived pumpkin, and collapsed into a bed so comfortable^ I would have tried to smuggle out with me—mattress, duvet, and All The Pillows—if I thought I could find my car in the parking garage and stuff everything into the trunk of my Civic before I was caught by Christian the Concierge.

The next morning, I woke earlier than I’d intended, showered, packed, wrote a very little, poked at the Vonnegut-shaped Souvenir Blister on my left foot—and so it goes—and went down to the lobby to meet Amy, who kindly helped me find my car so I could stash the mattress dump my bags. We waved at Lisa Golden, who passed by on her way to a more sensible parking space, and headed for Café Patachou, where we joined and were joined by the rest of our crew at our table, which was blessedly close to both the Self-Serve Coffee Station and the bathroom.

It was serendipity all the way through, y’all.

After a couple hours of talk both writerly and otherwise, and the eating of good food and drinking of massive amounts of delicious caffeine, we all hugged—one or two of us might have teared up a bit—and went off in our separate directions.

The GPS and I followed the Orange Barrel Trail west for five hours and a good portion of Laurie King’s Garment of Shadows, arrived home, passed out leaf-shaped bars of hotel soap to my children, who are not Vonnegut fans (yet), and collapsed on my own pretty-darned-comfortable mattress until dinner.

It was a very good weekend.

We need to do it again—soon!


*I was later told that the others came into the room twice to get beer and snacks from the cooler, and when I woke up the next morning, Lyra was sleeping in the other bed, but I don’t remember a thing. That’s serious comfort. Or serious exhaustion, anyway, which is easier to fit into a Honda Civic, so whatever.



Bouchercon Aftermath

So . . . I arrived home from Bouchercon  (“Oh,  is that where you were?”) early yesterday evening, having achieved a truce with the GPS.*   I hugged and gifted and babbled like only an exhausted woman hyped on adrenaline and four bottles of diet Pepsi who is me can.

My homecoming, for those of you who didn’t see it on Facebook, went a little like this:

‎”So, how was the conference, honey?”
“I loved it! I learned a lot and met all these great people–”
“–Aaand I’m back.”

After baths and babble and a little Internet catch-up, I faceplanted into my own pillow and slept until 9:30 this morning, got up, and started doing laundry.  I swear, I didn’t pack this much . . .

But while I wait for the second load to dry,  I thought I’d do one final post about the experience.  I promise.

What I learned:

Pack something extra to wear just in case the weather gets nastier—or nicer—than it’s supposed to be.  And an umbrella.

Do not attempt the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame without sensible shoes, moleskin-lined fab shoes, or a blister-care kit.   Watson just reminded me that moleskin packs flat, so go with that.

Don’t skip lunch or a  substantial snack just to squeeze in one more panel—even if you had breakfast four mornings straight and screwed up your hunger cues—and remember to stay hydrated, or you, too, will get seasick during that last afternoon panel because your blood sugar tanked and the gentleman in front of you kept swaying fore and aft to see the speakers.

Speak to almost everyone you meet—some won’t want to go past hello or a remark about the lethargy of the elevators, but the others will turn out to be interesting people: librarians and readers and tattoo enthusiasts, writers whose books you love or will love,** and a few who are wondering what’s going on—I had a couple of great conversations with the server at my hotel bar, where I dragged myself every afternoon to have a very late lunch.

Writers and agents and editors are real people.  Most of them are really nice people.  And they really, really don’t mind you telling them how much you love their work, clients, new releases, or blog posts.

You don’t have to worry about finding something to read at Bouchercon, but you may have trouble finding time to read.

Take in everything—while eating and staying hydrated—it’s only for a few days, sleep is optional, if you’re gonna do it, do it!

And take a day or two off afterward to recover—if I’d gone to work today, I’d have died.

What I brought home:

Eleven swag books; three first chapter sampler books; three books I bought for me; five books I bought for other people; a charge on my Amazon account for four more and a DVD; two tee-shirts, five buttons, and six pencils for friends; seven new e-mail or phone contacts and three Facebook friends; something fun for Mom, who reads this blog so enough about that (Dad, you’re getting one of the Amazon-purchased books); clinical exhaustion ; and my new favorite necklace:

I collect tiger’s eye jewelry (it’s rare enough to make it interesting, but not expensive enough to make it impossible) and friends have sort of made me into a collector of skulls, so the combination was irresistible.

The book room was a treasure trove, but there were other hunters out there and I lost out a couple times.  I managed to snag one of two copies of Jaden Terril’s A Cup Full of Midnight, but couldn’t find any of Mike Cooper’s books for love or money—same with Duffy Brown and R.D. Cain (whose books, as I think I mentioned, were stopped at the Canadian border).

As for those swag books, I’m planning to mail one title to each of the four people who wrote me poems lamenting the lack of a Poetry Wednesday—and don’t think I didn’t notice that no one complained until I offered a bribe—Averil, independentclause, Odie, and Kev.  E-mail me your first and second choices and a mailing address (Averil and Kev, send me a reminder, because I don’t know where I put yours).  And thanks for humoring me.

From top to bottom (cat not included):

Vision Impossible by Victoria Laurie

The Stranger you Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams

The Pain Scale by Tyler Dilts

Life Without Parole by Clare O’Donohue

Road to Nowhere by JimFusilli

The Bubblegum Thief by Jeff Miller

Stolen Hearts by Jane Tesh

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

The Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker

Murder at the Lanterne Rouge by Cara Black

It was a great time.  I highly recommend this conference for anyone who likes mysteries, cozies, thrillers, crime fiction, and general insights about writing and the business thereof—or who just wants to have a terrific time mingling with people who do.

The next Bouchercon is in Albany, which is probably not within solo driving distance for me, but if I can, I will.***  And if anyone would like to carpool, I can always pick up people along the way.


*She did lead me slightly astray on my way to meet Sherry Stanfa-Stanley for lunch—which really deserves its own post, because the whole trip was worth it just for that—but it wasn’t her fault, really, or mine, as her maps are four years old and the restaurant had moved.

**True story: twice, I ended up chatting to people for a while, only to find out that they were quite well-known authors.  I already mentioned Libby Fischer Hellmann, but Saturday night, I was talking with a friend of Alexandra Sokoloff and found out twenty minutes later that she was Heather Graham.  My patrons, who read anything of hers we can find, are going to plotz.

**I don’t mind flying, but I dislike airlines and airports (in general, not specifically) and loathe their business models.

Recalculating, Recalculating . . .

Lock up Your Sons

It’s six(ish) pm Ohio time and I’m here in the beautiful bar of the Cleveland Marriott at Key Tower, sipping on a diet Pepsi on the rocks in an actual glass, waiting for my white bean hummus and wondering why Watson’s GPS hates this place, because it’s  gorgeous.

Okay, Watson’s GPS doesn’t hate the hotel—though she didn’t know where on earth it was— but she absolutely loathes toll roads, and went out of her way—or mine, but who are we kidding—to avoid them, which means I saw a lot more of scenic Indiana than I had planned, including a lot of Amish Country.

Which was about the time the GPS freaked out because  her roads and the actual roads don’t always match up and she kept trying to get me to get back on the right path and turn on streets that we’d just passed, muttering, “Recalculating, recalculating, recalculating . . . ”   until she steered me into a dead end where a through road used to be and told me to take proceed straight for the next mile and get back on the bloody highway already.

In her defense, the through road was still technically there, but Rocinante couldn’t make the fence.

So I back tracked and ignored her pearl-clutching insistence that I was driving us through a pasture—
“Recalculating, recalculat—Cows! Look out for the Cows!! Dear God, where did you get your license you stupid—Recalculating . . . “—and we made it to Ohio, where I could breathe easy . . . until I was reminded that Ohio is the Tailgater State, by which I do not mean brats and beer in the stadium parking lot before the game.*  For about ten miles along the Ohio Turnpike, I could tell what the guy in the Geo behind me had for lunch while he tried his best to force me up into the bed of the pickup truck in front of me because of reasons that clearly had nothing to do with the fundamental laws of physics.**

But here I am , safe and almost sound, eating hummus.  Rocinante is under the tender care of the excellent valet staff.  The GPS is sleeping it off in the room.

I had planned to go to the Renaissance Hotel and see if they had early registration before heading to the Cleveland Public library for the Ohio Book Slueths’ Nancy Drew Scavenger Hunt, but I arrived too late for the latter and then my stomach reminded me that I hadn’t stopped for lunch and it didn’t agree that those two cheesesticks were going to cut it until breakfast.

This is really good hummus, y’all.

So, if you catch this post in time and you’re in or near the Key Tower Marriott, come join me in my corner of the bar.  I’m the brunette in the weird green sweater and tattoos peoplewatching over her Netbook until the GPS cools off a little and disengages the safety lock.

Tomorrow, we begin . . .


*Although I could—Ohioans know how to do it right.

**Edited to add:  Before all you Ohioans start chuckin’ buckeyes at me, I was born and (with a couple of detours) raised in Cincinnati, so I claim Right of Whine.

Unpacking The Bag

I’ve been running around all day getting ready for tomorrow’s drive to Cleveland: going to the bank (for toll money) the grocery store (for diet Pepsi and snacks), the library (to return a couple items and pick up a couple more), doing (and repairing) laundry, gathering up the truly impressive number of charging cords I think I need (I really do, though), learning Watson’s GPS (loaned so I won’t run off the road reading the directions and will instead veer off a bridge listening to them), making many piles of the things I’m taking (from the many lists I made yesterday), and trying to fit them all in two or three pieces of luggage.*

One of these pieces is my purse. Or, as my family calls it, The Bag:

The Bag is one foot by two feet, has eight pockets, and can easily fit a family of four, or at least several not-so metaphorical tons of their stuff.  In order to prep for this trip, I decided to clean out The Bag and then restock it with only the things I need for the trip.

But first, Watson made me weigh it:**  Seven pounds even.

I was impressed—it seemed heavier than that.

The content  varies from day to day, but this is what I’ve been schlepping around with me since the last time the contents of The Bag were allowed to settle:

Library ID
Aquaphor hand ointment
Hand sanitizer
One Barbie purse
One mint box containing a lucky rock
Five pads of a feminine nature
Four pencils, three with broken points
Five pens, including a 2″ one with pink ink and one green Sharpie
One beaded bracelet
An excellent book
One planner
One scribble book with “Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake” on the cover
One small graph-paper memo book
One CPR Face Shield
Six laminated double-sided knitting needles
A powder compact
A quarter-inch stack of 3×5″ cards
My wallet (contents also various)
Three dollars and eight-one cents (two bills and change)
Twenty-three crumpled receipts
The guarantee for Rocinante’s new windshield
One Splenda packet,
The plastic ball from a gumball machine toy
The butterfly zipper pull from Sunny’s jacket
A half-inch-worth of my business cards
One tablespoon of loose fortune cookie crumbs

I sorted out all the stuff, sharpened and capped the pencils, pitched the trash, gave back the things that weren’t mine, repacked the bag with only the essentials, and weighed it again.

Five pounds, six and three-fourths ounces.  That’s not so bad—and now there’s room in there for my three-pound Netbook, which was the ostensible point of this exercise.***

All that’s left to do before I head out at six o’clock tomorrow is . . . yeah, I’d better hit publish and get going.

See you on the Ohio side!

What’s in your pocketses?


*And then unpacking them, because I promised Sunny she could help when she came home from school.

*She also thought I should take that first image of it, before I emptied it out.   This would have been easy, if it weren’t for a certain furry-bottomed photobomber showing off his best side every single time I focused the frame.

***And also a blog post, I won’t lie.

Help! Looking for Good Listening

I’m sure you’ll all be thrilled to know I’ve finally decided to drive my carcass to Bouchercon next week, if only because the footnote mutterings about seven-hour midnight Amtrak layovers and my sincere disgust of airline policies and prices will stop for a while.

Rocinante has been pronounced drivable by my mechanic,* windshield replacement has been scheduled for this Friday, and I’ve collected nearly enough change from the couch cushions to pay for gas.**

So now, all I have to do is figure out how to keep myself awake during the nine-hour drive without risking caffeine poisoning or an extra hour of potty breaks by ramping up my already borderline diet Pepsi habit.

Music works for shorter trips but there’s only so long I can tolerate my own singing, so I’m thinking audio books.

I don’t often get to listen to books in the car, as three-fourths of the mileage on my odometer was achieved in the presence of my children who don’t care to listen to stories without pictures or video and will not tolerate being ignored*** for five minutes until Mommy finds out why the vicar hid the antimacassar in the old tree stump by the abandoned manse,^ thus neatly framing himself for the murder of the choir director.

While I know what I like to read—pretty much everything except the sports page—good print doesn’t always translate into good listening.

I’m looking for stories likely to keep me interested enough to stay awake but not so engrossed I blow through the toll booths or ignore exits in favor of plot twists.   Falling in love with the reader’s voice is totally optional, though I certainly wouldn’t mind.

I’m not sure if I’ll have a working MP3 transmitter by then—Rocinante predates standard vehicle USB connectors—so I’ll need CDs  instead of downloads and I’m hoping to get them at the library, which is the point of mentioning all this now instead of next week when I’ll be too busy trying to pack for forty years in the desert instead of four days in a major city that most likely has a store or two that sells stuff for forgetful travelers.

Having said all this, anyone have any suggestions?


*Both ways, if I can find an eBay buyer for the stunning amount of Barbie accessories I also collected.

*At least to Cleveland and back, after which I need to think seriously about sparks and struts replacement costs  versus the trade-in value on a 2005 Honda Civic with less than 52,000 miles (pre-Cleveland) but several cosmetic eccentricities—plus the current financial advisability of a car payment.  Being a responsible adult really bites sometimes . . . And you can expect many more footnote mutterings on that topic well into the foreseeable future.

**They don’t mind ignoring me, especially when I ask them about homework or e-mails sent to my work account from their teachers during the school day, but that’s a completely different post.

***Because of the purple-spotted badgers told him to—the head of the altar guild found out he’d been at the sacramental wine and put in an herbal emetic that didn’t work the way she thought it would.

No, not really.  But that’s the kind of thing I’d ignore my kids to hear.