Tuesday, July 30, 2013

“Time is more complex near the sea than in any other place…”—John Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat

Sea Creatures
by Susanna Daniel

I can’t say why it is, but some stories grab you right from the opening pages. That was the case with Susanna Daniel’s fantastic sophomore novel, Sea Creatures. Early in the tale, Georgia, the novel’s first person narrator relates:
“A year before, I’d been running a business that if not thriving, exactly, then still had potential. A year before, Graham still had a shot at tenure, and his sleep troubles were more or less under control. Frankie had been a well-adjusted two-and-a-half-year-old, a little slow to talk, but not yet entirely mute.”
So, already I’m curious about these changed circumstances. As Georgia’s tale begins, it’s 1992, and she and her family have left their lives in Chicago to return to her hometown of Miami. Her dad and stepmom offer refuge, and Graham has a professional opportunity at the university. Unfortunately, work requires him to be away a lot. Georgia, meanwhile, takes on a part-time job of her own. Her stepmother sets her up working as a personal assistant to an old family acquaintance referred to as “The Hermit.” In actuality, he is a reclusive artist living in isolation in a stilt house surrounded by water, in a loose community called Stiltsville. Georgia and Frankie visit several times a week, ferrying out supplies and doing odd jobs.

That’s the set-up and the cast of characters, and that’s about all I’m going to tell you. Parts of this tale move in somewhat predictable directions—not because there’s anything clich├ęd going on, but because there are just some truths to relationships. Still, Ms. Daniel managed to surprise me many times along the way, and kept me captivated by the tale she was telling. For a book that’s not a traditional page-turner kind of genre, I could barely put it down! The novel is both character-driven and plot-driven, and some fairly dramatic events do occur. For instance, as I began the novel, I wondered about the 1992 setting. Why? Well, there is a reason, and it concerns a historic event.

The novel’s prose is lovely, as are her observations about human nature and relationships. Ms. Daniel
has created an appealing cast of characters, likeable, well-rounded, and flawed. Another brief quote:
“The strange reverse-nostalgia itched at me every time I stepped from the boat to the stilt house dock, and it was several minutes before I could slough it off and relax. I think as much as anything else it was a weighty sense of gratitude, as well as the foreknowledge that whatever this was—this occupation, this friendship, this parallel life—it would not last forever.”
It’s not too overwhelming, but there is a foreshadowing of events to come. By the time I’d reached the novel’s end, all lingering questions had been answered, the drama was passed, and I was a deeply satisfied reader. I’m looking forward to more from Ms. Daniel, who is now firmly on my radar!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

VIDEO: Neil Gaiman on "Why Fiction is Dangerous"

One of the unquestionable highlights of BookExpo America this year was the opportunity to hear Neil Gaiman speak.  I've been a fan of his work for years, and I've even met him a couple of times, but it didn't occur to me until I was in the room that I'd never actually heard the man speak before.

And what a speaker he is!  He's the sort of charismatic individual who makes what he does look easy--though I'm sure it's not.  This speech to an audience of librarians and booksellers and geeks on the morning of June 1, 2013 both held me rapt and entertained me.  I've found myself thinking about his comments many times in the weeks since.

Before I go on, I must apologize.  It was early on a Saturday morning, the last day of BEA.  I was beyond exhausted; I was barely coherent.  I'm not sure what I was thinking when I whipped out my iPhone moments after he started speaking.  Possibly this was merely for my own reference?  Because I'd never before succeeded in moving lengthy video from my phone to... anywhere.  (And in fact, this marginal success is owed to a trip to the Apple Store, and--I kid you not--about 72 hours of uninterrupted upload time to get this footage onto YouTube!)  Anyway, I don't appear to have been making much effort with the shooting.  I was listening to the man talk.  Consequently, the footage is beyond my normal standard of awful.  You won't see my finger most of the time, but it certainly makes appearances. There are periods where those who are prone to sea sickness should look away.  Honestly, it may be best if you just kick back and listen.  Oh, and sorry about my laughing.  I sound like Fran Drescher.  It's horrifying.

The above are all good reasons to bury this footage and never let it see the light of day.  But it was a really fantastic speech!  And Neil is such a natural story-teller!  This was such a pleasure to hear that, despite my embarrassment at the poor quality, I choose to share.  Part 1 of this video opens with Neil flinging promotional items at his audience.  He discusses the two "accidental" books he is publishing this year.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane (reviewed above) is his novel for adults and Fortunately the Milk is his middle grades novel.  As it happens, I read the signed galley of the latter (gifted to audience members) on the flight home from NY.  It must surely be one of the funniest, most delightful books I've read in years. Neil eventually gets around to the subject of why both non-fiction and fiction are dangerous.

Part 2, below, is the question and answer session Neil does with the assistance of his editor, Jen Brehl, who I've met on several occasions over the years.  (In addition to Neil Gaiman, this impressive woman also edits Joe Hill, Christopher Moore, and countless others.  Is that a list, or is that a list?!)  Questions cover accomplishments, fear of failure, education, worst sentences written, and of course, "hot librarians," among other vital topics of interest.

Sometimes I wonder if it's worth the time and expense to travel 3,000 miles to BEA almost every year.  And then an event like this reminds me that it is.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

“Kittens one day, old cats the next.”

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman

I’m not going to tell you much about the plot of Neil Gaiman’s latest, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s a slender book, under 200 pages, and his first novel for adults in eight years. Here, however, is a short exchange that happens early in the tale:
She shrugged. “Once you’ve been around for a bit, you get to know stuff.”
I kicked a stone. “By ‘a bit’ do you mean ‘a really long time’?”
She nodded.
“How old are you really?” I asked.
I thought for a bit. Then I asked, “How long have you been eleven for?”
She smiled at me.
That exchange occurs between the unnamed seven-year-old narrator and his new friend, Lettie Hempstock. However, we first meet this narrator about 40 years later in the novel’s prologue. He’s returned to the rural English village of his youth to attend a funeral. After the service, he takes a drive and finds himself strolling down not only the lane of his childhood home, but down memory lane as well. And what this visit unearths are some long-suppressed memories of extraordinary events.

Mr. Gaiman has been candid in admitting that the bookish protagonist of the tale is a stand-in for his younger self, and that the novel has autobiographical elements—though I think it will be clear that they are merely a jumping off point for the fantastic. And fantastic it is! In all senses of the word.

I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane on Father’s Day, which somehow felt appropriate. And I
read it travel-woozy and jet-lagged. Also good, I think. I was halfway into another world already. What I can tell you is this: I read the book in one sitting. I did not eat, drink, or take a bathroom break. I did not move. It’s possible I did not breathe. But I did get chills. The book opens with what I gather was a true incident from the author’s childhood, a tragedy that is the catalyst for all that is the come. And as the tale grew darker and darker, I began to truly fear for these characters Gaiman had brought to life and made me care about.

The story is a heady combination of fantasy, horror, nostalgia, and coming-of-age tale. Like all of Mr. Gaiman’s work, there is much subtext to be mined. One could discuss the fascinating Hempstock women at length—their mythic origins, the various legends and cultures from which they may have derived, and their relationship to other Hempstocks in the author’s catalog. Or, you could concentrate on how the author examines adulthood from a child’s perspective and childhood from an adult’s perspective. Or, you could identify the influences of numerous other writers on this work, and explore the importance of literature in our lives and the power of story within the tale. The narrator asks, “Why didn’t adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?” (Some of us do, Neil, some of us do.) What I’m saying is, that while The Ocean at the End of the Lane may be short on page count, it’s quite long on substance.

The writing is evocative, eerie, and very, very good. Dialogue and dialect bring characters’ voices to life. (“Right, my proud beauties,” said Ginnie Hempstock, loudly.) The tale moves quickly. At that length, there is nothing superfluous. More than anything, Mr. Gaiman is a masterful story-teller. When he tells you, in the guise of a pre-adolescent old soul, that a duck pond is an ocean, well, you will believe it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

“The next step in human evolution”

by David Wellington

David Wellington’s latest novel, Chimera, opens with a prison break. Except, Camp Putnam isn’t a typical prison:
“Sergeant Brian Lourdes had a pretty good security clearance. Not enough to know why those seven men had been locked away so tight. Not enough to know why they were so dangerous they could never be set free. But enough to know what would happen if they ever did get out. Enough to know it could mean the end of America.”
That’s page two of what may be horror writer Wellington’s break-out thriller. So, right from the get-go, readers are told the stakes are high. We learn a few other disquieting facts about these escaped “detainees” in that first chapter. They dodge bullets moving at inhuman speed and gaze at the world through solid black eyes. Cue the eerie music!

Next the action moves to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and the office of Captain Jim Chapel. Chapel, a veteran of Afghanistan, works at INSCOM, the army’s Intelligence and Security Command handling oversight on weapons system acquisitions. As the novel opens, he’s not exactly field-ready, having lost his left arm in combat. But receiving new orders he notes:
“DIA was the Defense Intelligence Agency, the top level of the military intelligence pyramid. DX was the Directorate for Defense Counterintelligence and HUMINT—HUMINT being Human Intelligence, or good old-fashioned spycraft. DX was the group that used to give him his orders back when he was a theater operative in Afghanistan, but he hadn’t worked for them in a long time—these days his work was handled directly by INSCOM and he hadn’t so much as spoken to anyone in the DIA in five years.”
Therefore, Chapel is an odd choice to track down and, well, neutralize these escaped detainees. What little he learns about them is deeply disturbing. He’s working mostly in the dark however, repeatedly told by superiors that information is on a “need to know” basis. Chapel’s given two things to help track the fugitives down. The first is a list of targets the detainees may be going after. And the second is a “guardian angel” whispering in his ear:
“Captain, I’ll always be with you. But this is as physical as I get. The sweet little voice in your ear, making helpful comments and keeping you company. I’ve already been briefed on your operation, and I’m looking for ways to help right now.”
So, that’s the set-up, and it’s a good one. The tale melds a bit of speculative science with a whole lot of action. The entire premise is about pace, pace, pace, and things move along at a fair clip. Mr. Wellington isn’t Michael Crichton, and while there’s a veneer of science to the tale, for better or worse, it never gets bogged down in facts or exposition.

Given the title of the novel, I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that in the course of his
investigation, Chapel learns that, “In genetics a chimera is an organism that has more than one kind of DNA in the same body.” I had to chuckle a bit over that (much like one of the novel’s central characters) because this tale is a bit of a chimera itself. I can think of any number of other novels it owes some of its DNA to. For instance, in his Sigma Force series James Rollins has written about a protagonist with a high-tech prosthetic arm for years, and Mark Alpert mined that territory as well in his recent science thriller Extinction. As for chimeras, Jeremy Robinson went to town with them in Island 731. Wellington’s creations are far less over-the-top, and I’m not implying that he actually borrowed from any of these writers. There are only so many new ideas under the sun. Some parts of Chimera (such as assistant “Angel” who really kept me guessing for the duration of the novel) feel fresher than others. The romantic sub-plot was neither the best nor worst I’d seen, though the whole “good guy hero just looking for love” motivation felt fairly superficial.

As I mentioned above, the novel moves swiftly. Chimera is more streamlined than a typical Rollins or Preston/Child thriller in that it’s a single narrative thread, making it a quick read—very much the sort of thing to make a long plane ride fly by. There were moments when I felt the plot was getting contrived, but author Wellington often boldly addressed these objections heads on, somewhat overcoming the issue. His protagonists are appealing enough—good news as the novel’s subtitle, “A Jim Chapel Mission” seems to indicate we’ll be seeing Captain Chapel again. Additionally, Mr. Wellington deserves brownie points for creating some strong and interesting female characters.

A science thriller-writing pal of mine once commented that “Writing techno-thrillers is really hard.” (Pithy, he is.) But, yes, it really is. I’ve seen a lot of dismal examples over the years. Chimera certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s promising. I’m quite looking forward to the next Jim Chapel mission.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

“The date for the end of the world… it’s in four days.”

The Eye of God
by James Rollins

The quote above is the final sentence of the first chapter of James Rollins’ latest Sigma thriller, The Eye of God. In other words, it’s just another low-stakes drama from this master of disaster. This time around, the prologue opens in AD 453 with the death of Attila the Hun. From there, we quickly move to present-day Rome, with our old friends Vigor and Rachel. (Already, things are off to a good start.) Vigor is consulting with his niece about a mysterious package he’s just received from an old friend—a priest declared dead more than a decade prior. The package contains an artifact, a human skull etched with Jewish Aramaic. “I believe this relic is an example of early Talmudic magic practiced by Babylonian Jews.” It also contains a book bound in human skin. And these artifacts are pointing towards a coming apocalypse with a very imminent date.

Meanwhile… At an air force base in California, “something’s gone wrong.” So says Sigma’s Painter Crowe, who happens to be in attendance. A special camera has been tracking a comet’s progress through space, trying to collect “proof that the comet was shedding or disturbing dark energy in its wake.” After a few pages of fairly sexy physics talk, remote data is retrieved: “It displayed a satellite view of the eastern seaboard of the United States, the photo taken as the satellite blazed a trail across the sky. It was detailed enough to make out the major coastal metropolises. Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C. Every city lay in a smoldering ruin.” So, you’ve got your ancient prophecies lining up disturbingly with your weird space-time science anomaly prophesies. Ladies and gentlemen, we are off to the races!

Now, I’ve reviewed a lot of Rollins’ novels in the past decade plus, and the reviews are beginning to feel a bit redundant only because Mr. Rollins is so consistent with the strengths of his novels. So please bear with me as I go over the major bullet points:
  • I read a lot of this type of science/adventure thriller and I don’t think there’s another writer out there that can touch Rollins for the complexity of the tales he weaves—and I mean that in an entirely positive way. Above I alluded to Attila the Hun, the Roman Catholic Church, advanced physics, and Jewish mysticism. That is merely the tip of the iceberg. Throw into the mix Genghis Khan, the world’s only freshwater seal, exotic locales spanning the globe, magnetic fingertips (So freakin’ cool!), St. Thomas, multiverses, and the question, “Could the ancient Chinese have had knowledge of events described in the book of Genesis?” In every book, Rollins weaves an astonishing number of incredibly diverse, incredibly cool elements into one cohesive tale. And usually it hangs together so well, I wonder if he hasn’t stumbled onto some secrets of the universe.
  • Again, I must commend the author on his strong female characters. I don’t think readers are ever disappointed when Rachel and Seichan are both a part of the mix. The Eye of God introduces several noteworthy new female characters as well. (And for those of you waiting for something to happen with Gray… Your wait is over.)
  • How many different times and ways can I express my love of Kowalski? This time around he
    enters with the line, “Why does that duck keep looking at me?” Which is just so Kowalski. I thought he was funnier than ever in this book. I want to quote all his best lines, but I’ll refrain.
  • Easter eggs! There are Easter eggs in this novel that refer to a non-Sigma book in the Rollins-verse. It’s not a character this time around. Really, really fun!
  • Not just one super-cool author’s note at the end describing what’s fact and what’s fiction, this time there are several of them.
Now, this is the point where I usually kvetch about a bunch of nit-picky stuff, but I don’t really have any significant complaints this time around. Once I was going to ding him on a plot element being too outlandish, but as he often does, he followed it up with enough science that I was willing to continue suspending my disbelief. No, this is a strong novel in the long-running Sigma series. The plot is fascinating, and I hope it goes without saying that it moves at a lightning pace. Furthermore, there are significant developments among the major players. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

I honestly don’t know how long James Rollins can possibly come up with these convoluted tales he spins. Surely he’s written about every single interesting thing in the universe by now? But apparently not. As long as he keeps writing them, I’m going to keep reading them!

Friday, July 19, 2013

“The Impossible happens once to each of us.”

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells
by Andrew Sean Greer

I warn you now, I’m going to gush.

The speaker of the above sentiment is the eponymous Greta Wells, the first-person narrator of Andrew Sean Greer’s fourth novel. We are introduced to her as the story opens. It’s New York City, circa 1985, the height of the AIDS crisis. She has just lost her twin brother, Felix—to whom we are introduced in a flashback that occurs not long before his death—at the age of thirty-two. Greta’s grief is almost more than she can bear. When, a few months later, her long-term relationship dissolves, it is more than she can bear. A pervading sadness leads her eventually to the door of Dr. Cerletti, who will administer a course of 25 electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatments over a span of 12 weeks. The doctor warns she “might experience some disorientation afterward.”

What Greta experiences is more migration than disorientation. She awakens in a different time, a different life. A different Greta. After her first treatment, Greta finds herself in 1918. World War I is nearly over. Just as she finds herself inhabiting an altered version of herself there, so too she discovers alternate versions of the most important people in her life: Nathan, the lover who left her; her beloved, bohemian aunt, Ruth; and her brother, Felix. Alive.

After her second ECT treatment, Greta awakens in yet another version of her life. It is 1941, and America is about to go to war. Here again are versions of those she loves and a new version of herself and the life she might have lived. So the months pass, spending a day or a week rotating through these different lives in 1985, 1918, and 1941, each with its own joys and sorrows. Because, as Greta learns, no life is perfect.

That is the set-up of this moving masterpiece of a novel. Mr. Greer is rather brilliant in his choice of time periods. The beginning of a war is juxtaposed with the end of a war. The plague of AIDS is juxtaposed with the Spanish influenza of 1918. Changing social mores are examined, and our protagonist gets to explore the lives she might have known if some of her fondest wishes and greatest fears came true. Ultimately, it is up to her to decide the life she will lead, in an eerie echo of her lover’s words, “I leave it to you.” Greer writes:
“A shrew, a wife, a whore. Those seemed to be my choices. I ask any man reading this, how could you decide whether to be a villain, a worker, or a plaything? A man would refuse to choose; a man would have that right. But I had only three worlds to choose from, and which of them was happiness? All I wanted was love. A simple thing, a timeless thing. When men want love they sing for it, or they smile for it, or pay for it. And what do women do? They choose. And their lives are struck like bronze medallions. So tell me, gentlemen, tell me the time and place where it was easy to be a woman?”
At times, I found it difficult to believe this novel was written by a man, so convincing was the voice of his female protagonist. I’m not sure how much I related to Greta, but I believed in her—despite a premise that required significant suspension of disbelief. And I didn’t have to love her, because I fell in love with those she loved, none more so than warm and colorful Aunt Ruth, a veritable Mrs. Madrigal of a woman, complete with kimonos. And I was deeply moved by the relationship of these fraternal twins, so eloquently conveyed by the author, a twin himself.

There are many echoes in this brief book. Echoes of other novels—though Greer’s tale is unique. I
found myself reflecting upon stories as diverse as Ken Grimwood’s Replay, Jack Finney’s Time and Again, and even Baum’s Oz! Greta’s life had echoes of other lives, with lines of dialogue recurring like motifs in entirely different circumstances:

“When you were a little girl, was this the woman you dreamed of becoming?”

“I understood nothing! But it was a great show!”

“If only we just loved who we’re supposed to love.”

These are brief quotes, but I want to pull long passages from this novel. Greer’s prose is so beautiful it hurts. Indulge me once more:
“They say there are many worlds. All around our own, packed tight as the cells of your heart. Each with its own logic, its own physics, moons, and stars. We cannot go there—we would not survive in most. But there are some, as I have seen, almost exactly like our own—like the fairy worlds my aunt used to tease us with. You make a wish, and another world is formed in which that wish comes true, though you may never see it. And in those other worlds, the places you love are there. Perhaps in one of them, all rights are wronged and life is as you wish it. So what if you found the door? And what if you had the key? Because everyone knows this:  
That the impossible happens once to each of us.”
I was very fortunate to receive a review copy of this extraordinary novel from the publisher in late 2012. I held on to it and made it my very first read of 2013. Will it make my top 10 list for the year? Absolutely. Will it be the single best novel I read in 2013? Very likely. But more than that, this is the book I will be foisting on friends 20 years from now. My love of Greta Wells will last a lifetime.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The story of the T-fest t-shirt

This is me. 

It's a self-portrait I shot in a hotel room mirror a few days ago.  No, no I was not wearing any pants, but that's neither here nor there.  It was Sunday morning, after Thrillerfest, and I'd been up past 4:00am the night before.  'Nuff said.

Please note the t-shirt I'm modeling.  It has a few signatures on it.  It is my memento from Thillerfest VIII in New York.  And I have one t-shirt like this for each of the eight years that the conference has been in existence.  This is the story of how the tradition started.

It was the first day of the very first Thrillerfest in Phoenix, way back in 2006.  I already had a few friends in the thriller community.  (I'd actually been at the party at the Algonquin Hotel a year earlier where ITW, and hence Thrillerfest, was born.)  Nothing was really scheduled to begin until late afternoon, and so I agreed to join my friend J.A. "Joe" Konrath to sign stock at a couple of bookstores.  That's a whole story in and of itself.  I actually accompanied Joe on the first two stops of his insane 600-store book tour for Rusty Nail.  Was he grateful for my company as he embarked on this epic journey?  I don't think so.  I recall him snarling, "Flap faster, Susan, faster!"  That was at the renowned Poisoned Pen Bookshop.  After that, we were joining some other ITW authors at a Walmart somewhere in Phoenix.  They were promoting the first Thriller story collection.
Joe Konrath plots his book tour.

There were quite a few big-name authors all sitting at a table, filled with books just waiting to be signed.  When Joe and I walked up, they were all alone.  I know that James Rollins, Steve Berry, and David Liss were there.  Gayle Lynds was supposed to be there, but she was feeling unwell, and I actually wound up in her seat.  And I could swear that there was one other author present, but for the life of me I can't remember who it was.  Isn't that awful? 

This is what I do remember: no one would come near the signing table.  Here were all these best-selling authors, and in the words of a boss I once had--they couldn't sell sex to a sailor.  In the course of about two hours they sold and signed maybe two or three books.  And that was with the added inducement of a free t-shirt!  It was truly pathetic.  At some point, one of them handed me a t-shirt and said, "Here, we'll sign this for you."  They were desperate to sign anything by that time.  And that is the moment this tradition started.

After the signing, I bailed on Konrath and hopped into the back of a limo with Rollins, Berry, and Liss to head back to the Biltmore and the official start of Thrillerfest.  It was where I had the first of many arguments with David Liss, who I'd just met.  Good times!  Eight years later, we're still at it.  It's how we express affection for each other.

Once the conference got going, there were so many awesome writers in attendance, it seemed
David Liss
like a good idea to have them all sign the t-shirt.  As I've said countless times in the years since, "It weighs a hell of a lot less than schlepping everyone's books back and forth from California."  I had a spare Thriller t-shirt I used for the same purpose the following year in New York, and I've bought a cheap t-shirt on the street every year since. 

I'm one of a dwindling number of individuals who have never missed a T-Fest in the conference's history.  The t-shirt is my memento of each year's conference.  It gives me an excuse to interact, at least briefly, with most of the authors in attendance.  The regular attendees know exactly what's up when they see me coming.  F. Paul Wilson addressed me as "T-shirt lady" the other day.  That's a moniker I could live without, but I'm sure he's not the only one who thinks it.  The newbies look at me (with my shirt stretched helpfully over a stitching frame) and say, "That's a great idea!"  Every year someone says, "I ought to do that."  They never do.

Close friends James Rollins & Steve Berry
And there's one more question I get over and over, "What do you do with these shirts?"  The answer, truthfully, is nothing.  I throw them in a drawer.  (Well, technically, most of them are in storage in a box at the moment.)  I'm not really the t-shirt-wearing type.  They're not framed.  They're not sold on E-bay.  They're kept.  I think of each t-shirt as a yearbook for that year's conference.  Who was in attendance that year?  They're a memento of dozens of friendships I've made through Thrillerfest in the past eight years.  So while I don't technically "do" anything with them, they're quite special to me. 

Lately, I've been wondering how much longer I can continuing trekking to New York for Thrillerfest each summer.  I'm eight for eight, but 3,000 miles is a long way to fly.  It's an expensive conference, and I'm neither a writer nor a wanna-be.  The truth is, I go to spend time with my friends.  Many of my closest friends for the past decade have been made at Thrillerfest.  It's hard to believe.  Exhibit A is Boyd Morrison, who I also met on the first day of that first conference in Phoenix and who has become a dear friend.  Eight years later and he hasn't missed a T-fest yet either.  I'm so grateful to spend this time with Boyd and Randi Morrison each year.

I was talking to ITW Director Liz Berry the other day.  We were talking about how many long-time attendees were missing this year's conference for the first time.  Apparently there were about 250 attendees total that first year.  So there can't be that many of us who have made it to all eight?  It was Liz who reminded me of the tenth anniversary of ITW's formation next year, and of Thrillerfest the year after.  That's my goal.  Make it to ten years, ten t-shirts.  After that, well, we'll see.  It's a great party and a great tradition.  I really hate to let it go.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A blogger in motion stays in motion...

...and a blogger at rest stays at rest.
Except, it would be rather disingenuous to claim that I've been "at rest."  On the contrary, I've been
traveling frantically for much of the past six weeks.  I've been to BookExpo America in New York, down to DC to visit my family, back to San Francisco to get sick, over to Sacramento for WesterCon, and then back to New York for Thrillerfest.  God, I'm exhausted just typing it. Plus, I must confess that all kinds of bad crap has been happening in my life lately.  Exactly the sort of stuff that isn't the scope of this blog, so there's no need to get into it here.  No worries, readers, I'm fine.
Anyway, I've just returned from Thrillerfest, where I was introduced repeatedly as a blogger.  Clearly, it is time to get back to blogging before I make a liar of my friends.  Inertia--it's a brutal force.  The good news is that I've read a boatload of awesome books in the past couple of months, and have even written a few reviews.  So, there is much to update you on.  Also, much of my travel has been book-related.  Even the non-book-related travel becomes book-related.  For instance, I did a amazing literary quest while back home visiting my parents and documented it.  So, I'm going to try very hard to get back with the program and posting regularly again.  There are too many good books that need the publicizing! 
But first, I'm going to tell you a story...