Month: June 2014

Deadly Ink

Today seems like a good day to tell you about Deadly Ink. Deadly Ink is an annual gathering of mystery writers and readers in New Brunswick, NJ. This year, more than 20 authors have agreed to speak on panels and sign books, Friday August 1 – Sunday August 3. It is an intimate conference, with lots of opportunities to chat with your favorite authors. I’ll be there along with some of my favorite writers – Steve Rigolosi, Jack Getze, Jeff Cohen, Annamaria Alfieri, Ilene Schneider and other writers and friends I’m sure that I’m forgetting. The guests of honor are Donald Bain and Renee Paley-Bain, the husband-and-wife team who write the best-selling Murder, She Wrote series (based on the TV show) as well as numerous other popular mysteries.

The schedule of events will go up on the conference website soon, but I have seen a draft of the program and I can tell you it is going to be good, with panel discussions on Saturday and Sunday of interest to readers and writers alike. Writers who want an immersive experience can also register for Deadly Ink Academy. Spend Friday morning honing your craft at Jane Cleland’s workshop Writing Plot-Driven Fiction and the afternoon at Chris Roerden’s workshop, The Writer’s Voice.

There’s still plenty of time to make your travel arrangements and register for the conference. I hope to see you there. If you can’t find me at a panel, or in the book room, check the bar.

 

Words matter

If there is one thing I understand, it’s that words have power. The power derives not from the word’s dictionary definition, but rather from the images the word evokes. Words are not merely referential; they are inferential. They not only denote something; they also connote things. That is why two words that are ostensibly synonyms cannot necessarily be used interchangeably. It is fine to describe Santa Claus as jolly, but I suspect you would get some push back if you asserted that Santa was gay.

It matters what words we use to describe things. It certainly matters what words we use to name things. So I am not surprised by the storm clouds that are gathering around the Washington Redskins. But I am surprised by the lengths that some people will go to assert that the word Redskins has no negative connotations. If it were my team, I would change the name, change the logo, the mascot, even the team colors and I would console myself with the millions of dollars I’d make merchandising all the new team products. But I realize there are some folks who are incapable of imagining a world without their beloved Skins. So I offer up a compromise, a name that holds onto a bit of the old name and its connection to the team’s past without offending anyone. Because no one will have a problem next season when the Washington Coonskins take the field.

Words matter. Choose them carefully.

A Luddite with a new toy

I have often said that I’m not ready to make the switch to e-books, that I still need books, that I have a strong connection to the thing itself. But I have also acknowledged that it might be fun, or at least convenient, to travel with an e-reader. It appears that today is the day when I will find out.

I guess you could say that I’m a Luddite when it comes to electronics. It’s not that I’m opposed to new technology. Not at all. I just want the new technology that I had twenty years ago. But yesterday my cell phone died. My flip phone. I can’t go out of town today without a cell phone. So I went to the verizon store and, after some soul searching, agreed that it was time for a smart phone. As the salesman was ringing up my purchase, he informed me that I was eligible for a Father’s Day promotion. A free tablet.

A tablet. My head was spinning. I’ll be flying to Florida in a few hours. Tomorrow I’ll be flying back home. And I won’t be packing any hardcovers or paperbacks; I won’t be bringing any newspapers or magazines. I’ll be reading e-books. I’m still a Luddite, but now I’m a Luddite with a new toy.

Exit Zero

You’ve got to love a place that you get to by exiting the parkway at exit zero (or, if you’re coming from the other direction, by ferry). Cape May is a Victorian beachfront village at the southern tip of New Jersey. It is the inspiration for the fictional town of Port Salmon, the setting for my next book, Death and White Diamonds. After the book is released in January, I want to do a photo essay of the real places in Cape May that inspired scenes in the book. But that wasn’t the purpose of this trip. We were in Cape May for the Exit Zero Jazz Festival. Friday evening, we heard Dee Dee Bridgewater performing at Convention Hall on the Cape May boardwalk. Bridgewater is an extraordinary jazz vocalist in the tradition of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.

On Saturday we headed to the Emlen Physick Estate, a Victorian estate in historic Cape May and the site for a festival within the festival: Jazz at the Estate. The all-day event included a craft fair, fresh seafood, Tito’s handmade vodka and four exceptional jazz performances on the estate’s outdoor stage.

The opening act on Saturday was a 17 year-old violin virtuoso named Daisy Castro. If you are familiar with the music of Django Reinhardt, Ms. Castro plays with a style and skill that has not been heard since the 1930s and the Quintette du Hot Club de France. She is, I think, going to be a star, soon, and for a very long time.

Saturday’s second performance was a big band, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, playing jazz classics from Benny Moten, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington and more. If you watch Boardwalk Empire on HBO, you’re familiar with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks.

We took a short break from jazz to spend some time in sand chairs on the beach, watching the dolphins swimming just offshore. And then it was back to Convention Hall Saturday evening for trumpeter, Roy Hargrove. After an amazing performance by Hargrove, we walked down the boardwalk to one of the late night clubs, for the last set of the evening by vocalist Kellylee Evans.

And then, Sunday morning, because the universe works in mysterious ways, we found ourselves unexpectedly having breakfast with Kellylee at Congress Hall. We chatted over breakfast about creativity and creative process, but also about dog sledding and strawberries and family, about Cape May and Ottowa. So I can tell you that she is not only a remarkable jazz vocalist, she is also a delightful young lady.

Sunday afternoon put us back on the beach, for sun and sand and reading and then it was back to Convention Hall for the final headline performance, a phenomenal night in New Orleans featuring Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

In the midst of all that sand and surf, of jazz, both hot and cool, handmade vodka and fresh seafood, I had just enough internet access to receive an email from my publisher, who was happy with the manuscript revisions I sent to him on Wednesday.

So go ahead and set your GPS for exit zero. You won’t be disappointed.