Sunday, April 20, 2008


“Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder where you are.”

ROBERTA: Almost eight books into my mystery-writing career, I’ve lost count of the mystery conferences and conventions I’ve attended. I certainly won’t forget my first, the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Milwaukee in 1999. I knew absolutely no one, and my timidity was just barely outdistanced by a fierce desire to get my book published. So I forced myself to leave my hotel room to listen to panel discussions and try to meet other authors, publishers, and agents.

Since then I’ve traveled across the country to Malice Domestic, Bouchercons as far away as Alaska, Left Coast Crimes in California, Arizona, and Colorado, Sleuthfests in Florida, Crime Bakes in Massachusetts…After a while, the events take on a familiar rhythm: Appear on panels, attend banquets, sign books, schmooze with writing pals and publishing professionals, greet fans.

Then my buddy Lori Avocato persuaded me to burst out of that mystery rut and try the Romantic Times convention. I joined up with thirteen other mystery types (including our Hank) to form The Mystery Chicks and Private Dix—the zanier the better at Romantic Times. Of course, there were panels about getting published, putting romance in your mystery, and shining on TV. But unlike at our mystery cons, muscled hunks in skimpy t-shirts wandered the halls and the goody tables offered such items as a six-inch felt lobster that was (hint, hint) neither a sock puppet nor a cell phone cover. But best of all were the nightly balls jammed with folks in full costumes—wings, horns, Medusa’s headpiece, lace gowns with plunging cleavage, thigh-high boots, and more. (Lots of pix to come later this week—stay tuned.)

Despite my reservations, I had a great time. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll break out of my rut and pack a suitcase of costumes for the balls! So Jungle Red Writers, what rut have you stepped out of lately and how did it feel?

HALLIE: But it's such a NICE rut...

Actually, I stepped out of my comfort zone a few weeks ago by attending a conference of skeptics--THE AMAZ!NG MEETING International Conference on Applied Critical Thinking. It's run by the James Randi Education Foundation.

There were about 300 of us with the usual panels and banquets and book sales but a much younger and more heterogeneous crowd, at a somewhat down-at-the-heels hotel outside Fort Lauderdale...all the room smelled like smoking rooms. Speakers talked about 911 conspiracy theorists and predatory psychics who prey bereaved parents of missing children. The focus was on activism/how to fight back against pseudo-science. A big split in the group: can we have the same kind of debate over whether God exists that we can over whether explosives brought down the World Trade Towers. It was a decades-old group that's been galvanized to new life with rise of Creationism and the push to bring it into the schools as an "alternate" to the science of evolution, and the religification (my word) of government and public discourse. We can all imagine a Muslim or a Jew or a Born Again Christian running for President...but never an atheist.

The group's founder and guru, magician Amazing (James) Randi, crusading scourge and debunker of psychics and the like, was there indefatigably performing magic tricks and taking part in lively discussions. He's got to be eighty years old and looks like an elfin Gandalf with his long white beard--talk about a great character for a book.

The highlights of the meeting was hanging around with a lot of young people who are passionately engaged in the headier questions of our time and who drink astonishing amounts, and learning a luscious new word: badonkadonk. To amuse myself (and to avoid writing), I've used it indiscriminately to replace words on the first page of my new novel (Authorities yesterday issued a badonkadonk... When I didn't hear from her I knew something was badonkakonk... We're trying to badonkakonk everyone she knew.....)

HANK: My rut? (I'm sure I have stepped out...haven't I? At some point?) But I'm too tired to think of it.Just got off the plane from Pittsburgh and I need a nap. A big big nap. And Roberta was too protective of me to reveal that I was the one who thought the 6-inch felt giraffe I got from the erotica publisher was a cell-phone cover. Badonkadonk!

There's much too much to tell about the conference (more later, we promise, including photos), but I leave you with one vignette:

I'm cranky because my key card to my hotel room keeps getting demagnetized. Not once, not twice, but five times at least. Why why why? I am trying to keep from bursting into tears as I call the hotel security for the fifth time. Are you putting your key card by your cell phone, they keep asking? That'll demagnetize it. No no no, I try not to yell. There's nothing like that.
I'll skip the middle--but just reveal that, turns out, the reason my card was getting demagnetized was that I had attached an adorable Lipstick Chronicles pair of plastic flashing red lips to my name badge. My key card was in the pocket of my name badge. And um, the lips were held on by a, um, magnet.

More to come, including my elevator ride with..wait for it...Fabio.

RO: Wow ee will be tough to follow that act at Malice this weekend. Ball gowns and party dresses? On the rowing machine this morning (rut) I was trying to make the monumental decision which pair of black pants and black shoes (rut) to pack for Malice. I need some Romance in my life!

What rut have I crashed out of lately? Let's see...I've only been a published author for 65 days so I'm not in that rut yet....still like my husband, so that's not it. No longer feel like I have to blow-dry my hair three times a week? That's been pretty liberating...and soooo....badonakonk!

JAN: My rut doesn't have to do with conferences, which I have to admit, still twist my stomach into knots, but writing. I'm writing a screenplay -- something I haven't done in a few years. To refresh myself, I've been reading screenplay writing books -- and I have to tell you, even though its all the same stuff I use in my mystery novel writing -- conscious goal, unconscious goal, midpoint, etc. -- it's somehow inspiring to be thinking about it all again. I'm also merging my journalism background with my suspense writing experience for the first time (the screenplay is based on a true story of a real life murder), and I'm having the time of my life.

ROBERTA: Hallie, it IS a nice rut! Hank, you met Fabio??? Jan, a screenplay--that's so exciting! Ro, I'd like to follow your lead!

By the way, we have Mystery Chix t-shirts to give away to two lucky visitors this week so don’t be shy with your comments...And the person who comes up with a cool give-away like those flashing lips but suitable for Jungle Red Writers gets something cool back...can't tell you what exactly...maybe a badonkakonk...


  1. Roberta, it was SO much fun hanging out with you and the other Chix and Dix. On to Malice!!!!

  2. I chaperoned a high school chorus and band trip to Williamsburg, VA, last week. This was a very big step for my 15-year-old son Greg, who has a mental disability, and for me as a sometimes overprotective parent. Even though I was along on the trip, I had to let him be part of the gang, let him share a room with three band guys I didn't know, let him go off at Busch Gardens with kids who kept breaking into separate interest groups (roller coaster v. wolves). And I let him do it all without a cell phone or tracking device. He was fine, the other kids were terrific, I was only a mild wreck by Day 3, almost blase by Day 5. And his chorus group won gold-level scores and an invitation to national competition next year. After hanging around for 5 days with 48 teenagers and 7 other chaperones, I'm not a SPED Mom anymore. I'm a Band/Chorus Mom.

  3. Mo--
    Wow. That is a great and inspirational story. You broke out of your rut by having the courage to let go--and everyone took wing.
    Yay for you. And Yay for Greg!

  4. Hey Mo,
    Congrats. Having recently chaperoned the "senior trip," to the Dominican Republic, I know how hard it is to strike that balance between letting go and still being responsible. You sound like you aced a very difficult assignment, and both you and your son had a transformational trip!