Friday, November 9, 2018

Tom Pitts, Author of 101


Tom Pitts became one of my favorite writes by stealth. He’s a nice guy, there was a download available of Knuckleball, I need something to read on a train ride back from Connecticut, what the hell. The end result was I was disappointed it didn’t last longer. Hustle was completely different yet just as good. Now 101 touches a whole nuther aspect of criminal activity and nails it.

It’s also always fun to have Tom on the blog. He’s an entertaining and thoughtful guy who always leaves me with something to think about.

One Bite at a Time: You sustain action through multiple POVs as well as anyone I’ve read. Do you plot it out first of just write from the perspective that seizes you at the moment?
Tom Pitts: I go by feel, scene by scene. I know the chapters are going to be eight to twelve pages, but beyond that, I just have to hope I’m getting a balance. I think that’s what I’m shooting for, a balance in the story. I’ve always liked that “meanwhile back at the ranch” portion of a novel. I feel like I have to remind the reader of what’s happening with the other plot threads so it’ll make sense when they tie together. With 101 it was a conscious decision to push the multi-POV as far as I could, so the effect would be cinematic, cutting from storyline to storyline.

OBAAT: I see from the acknowledgements you did quite a bit of research. How much of that was to make sure you got the things you wanted to do right, and how much of it was to help you decide what it was you were going to do?
TP: Mostly it was for details. Quite literally the flora and fauna. I’ve never been good at naming trees and plant life and that was one of the bigger challenges. I went up North a few times and got my hands dirty, but it was for the setting more than the plot. I needed the physical place firm in my mind. The cabin, the generators, the weird open-ended greenhouses they call hoopers, I had to see that stuff firsthand to really get it down.

OBAAT: What are the chances we see Vic in another book? The hook is set for a sequel but he also has the look of a character who can series on his own.
TP: Not very good because I wasn’t super happy with his name. I often come up with names phonetically, trying to give a tone for the kind of character I’m writing. Ollie, Ripper, those were names that were birthed with the character. With Vic I was a bit stuck. I wrote the first part of the novel with the name Victor, and it really wasn’t working for me. When I shortened it to Vic, I got back in the groove. Sounds silly, but the name means a lot. There’s a character in my next book, Coldwater, named Calper Dennings. I thought about writing another book featuring him just ‘cause I liked the name so damn much.

OBAAT: You wrote the story to take place specifically a couple of years ago when California was on the cusp of legalizing marijuana, which plays into the story. Was that the plan all along, or were you part way into writing the book and realized, “Oh, shit! They’re about to legalize the relevance right out of my story!”
TP: True, my present-day piece turned into a period piece right as I was wrapping it up. I was pretty sure it was coming, but not 100% positive. There were a lot of people you’d think would’ve voted yes, but were adamantly against it. Of course everyone in the outlaw weed business was voting against it. I’m sure if you broke it down, a lot of the northern counties went against legalization across the board. They knew they’d have the cash cow yanked from their hands. It’s now morphing into something no one saw coming. People thought it’d be big tobacco coming in and taking over, but it’s just big money. Tech money too. It takes a lot of capitol to stay in the game now. They’re making laws every day that’re designed to cut out the little guy. Who knows, if it keeps going this way, maybe the black market will open back up. It’s easy to grow good weed. It’ll be like bathtub gin. It’s tough to put that genie back in the bottle.

OBAAT: Barbara and Ghia are both thrust into impossible situations and handle them very well, though neither has a history of this kind of action the way the male characters clearly do. (Not that Barbara’s a virgin in this regard.) How they’re able to rise to the occasion without becoming stereotypical badasses is a key element of what makes the book work so well, its credibility. How much work was it to strike such an outstanding balance with them?
TP: Ghia’s character is based on a few women I’ve met. The “old hippie” type who has still got a bit of that frontier woman thing going. Tough as nails, but still a smartass. It’s not an easy life out there in the bush. There’s a lot of isolation and a lot of hard work to be done. Barbara on the other hand is a mother, and that’s what drives her. It makes her tough in some ways and blind in others. Barbra and Vic have a sort of PTSD from what they shared in their past and it’s calloused them both. Both women are decidedly independent, and I think that’s at the core of why they’re relatable.

OBAAT: The first book I read of yours was Knuckleball, which is pretty much a police procedural. A good procedural, but something in my reading wheelhouse. Then I read Hustle, which was anything but. 101 is something altogether different from either of them. Without asking where you get your ideas, how are you able to cultivate such a diverse range of stories? (I don’t mean to omit American Static. I just haven’t got around to reading it yet.)
TP: I know where I get that first idea. (Hustle’s impetus was a conversation between prostitutes I overheard while driving a cab. Knuckleball came from the vague wanted posters in a case where a Giants fan was assaulted. 101, oddly enough, came from a movie trailer that was about a young man visiting an old criminal—and, no, I’ve never seen the movie.) But where they go is beyond my ability to see when I start the book. I will say I try to show my own take on a subject, which is usually an attempt to add a Murphy’s Law flare. With Hustle, it was drug addiction, I wanted to show what drugs were really like, not how they’re portrayed in the movies. With 101 I wanted to show what I’d seen firsthand in the marijuana business, and I think that portion is accurate.  

Tom Pitts, looking severe
OBAAT: We got to hang out some at Bouchercon in St. Petersburg, where I learned you’re a native Canadian, yet your affinity and affection for the Bay Area comes through every book. What is it about the place that appeals to you so much?
TP: It’s just the only place I’ve known as an adult. But it’s true, over the years I’ve come to love San Francisco and I’m always learning more about its history, its people. Most every job I’ve had has been on, or dealt directly with the streets. A messenger, dispatcher, drug courier, taxi driver. I think being out the street and having your ear to the ground gives you a special appreciation for a city. Sharing donuts with cops at four AM, giving hookers rides home to Oakland, driving bookies on their rounds, delivering heroin to artist junkies—I’ve had a good view of the underbelly of San Francisco. That said, I think if I were to live in anywhere else for a year, I’d write about it. In fact, for a few years, my wife and I were splitting our time between Sacramento and San Francisco and I ended up with a book set in Sac. (It’s called Coldwater and will probably be out in 2020.)

Monday, November 5, 2018

Favorite Reads: October


Mom is nearing the end of her rehab stint (“home” to assisted living on Thursday) and work has been six different kinds of goofy so my reading time has deteriorated. The good news is that most of what I did get to read was first-rate.

Where the Bullets Fly, Terrence McCauley. Hard to believe he’s my friend. Wide as his talents range, I should hate him. He’s such a nice guy I don’t, but such a good writer I’m still tempted. As with his Prohibition-era crime stories and his University techno thrillers, McCauley makes it all look easy. This is a Western that pays homage to the glory days of the horse opera while clearly written in the revisionist period we’re in now, with awareness that was lacking in the 50s and earlier. This is harder to pull off than it looks (I should know, or my Western would have been done a couple of years ago) and McCauley does more than pull it off; he succeeds.

The Hook, Donald Westlake. Speaking of writers who seem to be able to anything they want and make it look easy, there’ Donald Westlake. Not a Richard Stark/Parker novel, and certainly not a Dortmunder, The Hook is a twist on Strangers on a Train, where a writer who’s successful but blocked hooks up with a writer who’s fertile but can’t get a contract; together they put one over on the blocked writer’s publisher. There’s a catch, though, and given my reference to SOAT you can probably guess what it is, but the complication is completely original and Westlake’s set-up is so masterfully done it doesn’t matter that you’ll see the end coming a chapter or two ahead of time. By then you’ll be wondering less “what” than “how,” and the pace at which the “how” is revealed will fill you with dread.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Movies Since Last Time


It’s been a while since I recapped the movies seen here at Castle Schadenfreude, long enough that I’m going to break this up into two bite-sized chunks. (Editor’s Note: It is not incidental that this also means two separate blog post slots filled.) (Author’s Note: Sue me, you persnickety prick.)

Black Mass (2015) I read the book so I knew the Whitey Bulger story and it’s a good thing, as this would have been hard to follow otherwise. Johnny Depp does his usual submersion into a character, this time as cold a gangster as has ever drawn breath, a man whose soul has no bottom. Part of the problem is that Joel Edgerton, tasked with playing corrupt FBI agent John Connolly, doesn’t measure up against Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch as Whitey’s brother Billy, president of the Massachusetts State Senate and later president of the University of Massachusetts. It’s not all Edgerton’s fault. The writing is clunky in parts and the dialog doesn’t exactly sing. Even Kevin Bacon looks uncomfortable. Black Mass is a reasonably accurate depiction of Whitey Bulger’s story, but it’s not a particularly good movie.

Tombstone (1993) I need to watch this every couple of years or so. Not a great movie, and my Western research shows the depiction of Wyatt Earp and Josie Marcus isn’t quite kosher, but the portrayal of the relationships between the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday is spot on, as are all the performances by Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, and Bill Paxton. Val Kilmer has had a fine career, if a little slow lately, but he’ll always be known as Doc Holliday, and he should be proud of that. It’s a career-making performance.

All the President’s Men (1976) Still compelling, even though we all know how it comes out. There are always little things I notice in this film that I missed before, often because of the different historical context. Among the things that struck me this time is how Bob Woodward is able to get people to talk to him the way they do, holding Mark Felt’s name private for over thirty years. His word is golden, as is this movie.

Legend (2015) We were going to watch Trumbo but saw this on the previews and shifted gears mid-stream. (Tonight’s entrée: Metaphor Gumbo.) Tom Hardy plays both of London’s infamous Kray brothers, 60s gangsters so nasty I’d even heard of them. A good rise and fall movie, with Hardy’s outstanding performances carrying the day.

Spotlight (2015) A film everyone should have to watch every few years, lest we forget, especially in light of recent news that the Catholic Church hasn’t cleaned up its act as much as they would have you believe. First rate cast led by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel MacAdams, Liev Schreiber, and Stanley Tucci, and nary a frame wasted. If you’re not mesmerized while watching and freshly outraged for several days afterward, there’s something wrong with you.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) I hope I never get too old to want to watch this, and to laugh at it. If I do, may I encounter the most foul-tempered rodent you ever laid eyes on, with big pointy teeth.

L.A. Confidential (1997) Yes, again. And immediately after Monty Python. This is the kind of thing that happens when you live in an anarcho-syndicalist commune where we take it in turns to be a sort of executive officer for the week but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs (Editor’s Note: Get on with it!) Right, then.

Absence of Malice (1981) A different perspective on investigative journalism, especially when it’s not done well, as reporter Megan Carter (Sally Field) is duped into reporting a bogus federal investigation that ruins the life of Michael Gallagher (Paul Newman) and leads to the suicide of Teresa Perrone (Melinda Dillon). The newspaper is careful to stay on the safe side of libel—hence the title—and Newman takes matters into his own hands. A fine film top to bottom,
capped off by Wilford Brimley’s Hall of Fame-caliber scene as the Deputy Attorney General sent down to find out “what in the good Christ…is goin' on around here.”

Friday, October 26, 2018

Fear and Loathing in Southern Gas Stations


I lived in Georgia when I defended our nation from the scourge of Soviet musical units during my three years in an Army band. I knew then that tings were different in The South™ but these differences have evolved in the 35 years since I took off the uniform and returned north. The drive to St. Petersburg for Bouchercon pointed one key change out to me, namely how much harder it has become to buy gas in the Deep South.

4 September 2018
Ocala FL
The Beloved Spouse™ goes into the convenience store while I pump gas. A trailer full of beef cattle stare at me from the next island. I insert my credit card and withdraw it. The screen flashes and this appears:

Enter your PIN to continue.

For those of you either too high-class or clueless to pump your own gas (and you know who you are), credit cards don’t have PINs; debit cards do. I figures this happens from time to time, so I press Cancel and try again.

 Enter your PIN to continue.

I clean off the chip and the strip on my credit card and try again.

Enter your PIN to continue.

Now I’m remembering that stopping here for gas was not nearly as urgent as the other reason I wanted to get off the road, so I clear the entire transaction and start over.

Enter your PIN to continue.

Glancing at the cow trailer I swear they’re nudging each other and mooing, “This guy’s the top of the food chain?” I try again.

Enter your PIN to continue.

Now I’m pissed. I jerk out the card and say at a more than conversational decibel level, “Motherfucker, this is not a debit card!”

Enter your Zip Code to continue.

Okay. So now we know what it takes.

10 September 2018
Manning SC

TBS and I pull off of I-95 and have two gas stations to choose from. I choose the one on the left because I won’t have to cross the highway we’re on to get back to 95 when we come out. She goes in to use the necessary and I get gas.

This pump doesn’t even screw around with that PIN business.

Card not read.

I try again.

Card not read.

The card worked at dinner last night and all through Bouchercon. I wipe it off and re-insert.

Card not read.

It’s not taking as much to piss me off this morning. I’m still over 450 miles from home and not in the mood. Not in the habit of accommodating inanimate objects, I go to a different pump.

Card not read.

Now I’m mad. I try another card.

Card not read.

All right. Enough of this shit. We’re leaving. I go into the store to round up TBS to tell her we’re not buying anything here and I hope she stunk up the bathroom. We drive directly across the street to the station that would have been easier to get to in the first place. She goes inside to buy road food and I try my original card in the pump.

Card not read.

I go straight to the second card this time.

Card not read.

Now it’s time to escalate. “Who do I have to blow to buy gas in this town?”

Re-insert.

Enter your Zip Code to continue.

Okay, Florida and South Carolina. You had your fun with the Yankee liberal. Just don’t expect me to leave the light on for you when climate change puts your asses underwater.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Bonus Bouchercon Coverage


We went over my panel highlights at Bouchercon a few weeks ago but anyone who knows anything about Bouchercon knows the panels are just the appetizer; what happens later is the main course.

The Beloved Spouse™ and I checked in Tuesday afternoon and immediately caught a good vibe from the hotel when the bellman arranged for a refrigerator that arrived inside of five minutes and TBS was able to talk us into complimentary Internet in the room fifteen minutes later. (She didn’t lie. My mother did have a broken hip and it was a great help for us. Still, the hotel wasn’t required to comp us.) Kudos to Josh and Caitlin.

Not knowing the area or where to eat, we took a trolley ride on an impulse, as one was pulling up to the hotel as we stepped out looking for lunch on Wednesday. Terrence was better than a good tour guide, he was an entertainer who hooked us up with The Moon Under Water for lunch on Wednesday. And Thursday. Dinner on Saturday. Three meals in four days and not a disappointment in the bunch.

We had a delightful dinner in the hotel dining room on Wednesday with Terrence McCauley, his lovely wife Rita, and a “new” acquaintance we got to meet in person, Frank Zafiro.

Thursday was an event that will likely never be overshadowed no matter how many Bouchercons I attend. Terrence and Rita had about twenty of us for a private dinner to launch Terrence’s new Western, Where the Bullets Fly. A chance to spend quality time with old friends, make new, and enjoy an excellent meal. Nothing I write here can do it justice. Suffice to say I was humbled to know both of them thought so highly of my friendship.

Friday night was the annual Shamus Awards dinner with the Private Eye Writers of America. We shared a table with Renee Pickup, Danny Gardner, and his lovely daughter, and had the usual great time. Congratulations to all the winners, and the nominees. There are a metric shit tonne of books released each year. To be blessed with even a nomination is a supreme honor. (Said the man who has been twice nominated but never won.) The evening was enhanced by getting a ride to and from the festivities with Mike Pett of Express Taxi & Sedan, who chauffeured us (and John Shepphird on the way back) in a spotless black Town Car—yes, a Raylan Givens Special—and provided what amounted to a sit-down comic routine all the way. You need a ride in Tampa, call Express Taxi & Sedan. (Phone number available on request.)

The Shamus dinner was but the first half of Friday’s twi-night doubleheader. Down & Out Books commandeered Hops and Props, just a few blocks from the hotel, for festivities that went on well into the night. Another chance to catch up with old friends, make some new ones, and get entertained by the guy who wasn’t the bartender, though he spent all night behind the bar.

Saturday had no special events but was still a special evening. I’m lucky enough to have been to nine Bouchercons now and people still speak to me. I’d hate to single anyone out because I saw and chatted with so many people on Saturday (and Friday and Thursday and Wednesday) but to start the evening at the bar by running into Peter Rozovsky, Pam Stack, and Terri Lynn Coop and to conclude on the veranda with Terrence and Rita, Jeff Hess and his lovely wife, and Tim O’Mara gives you a pretty good idea of the kind of evening it was. Long story short, I don’t think I spent an unpleasant minute the entire weekend. Kudos to the organizers, moderators, panelists, readers, writers, and hospitality industry workers for making the entire weekend special.

No weekend is perfect, and I do feel the need to make a few less than sterling comments in the hopes folks won’t make these mistakes in the future.

Sound systems were a bit of a problem throughout. Microphones all over the hotel popped Ps and had irregular tone quality. Such is life but it was at times disconcerting.

Note to moderators: never volunteer you haven’t read the author’s book, and if you’re going to mention a book, get the title right. And do at least a modicum of research. Don’t ask an author if he’s from Boston only so he can answer that he’s from New York. Another tidbit: don’t let the authors introduce themselves. It implies you haven’t taken the time to prepare and some will use the opportunity to tell their life stories, sucking up half your time.

Why do they put lemon in water pitchers? It makes the water feel not as wet when you’re dying for help with a dry throat. Water’s been perfect for a bajillion years. Let it be.

Enough quibbling. The 2018-2019 hiatus between conferences is 416 days, much longer than usual. Good thing the vibe from St. Petersburg will carry us through.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

August and September's Favorite Reads


It’s been busy here, so much so that I was unable to get my favorite August reads posted, Now I’m late for the September and both were banner months. No offense intended toward the authors noted here. Your books kicked ass, but I need to condense the comments in the interest of time. I owe you one, if only because of how much I enjoyed your books. (Except for those of you who are dead. You’re on your own.)

Bye, Bye, Baby, Alan Guthrie. Guthrie is one of the writers who compels me to keep an OCD-quality list of authors to keep up with. His name doesn’t pass before as often as some others, but I’ve never read one of his books that didn’t knock me on my ass. This is no exception.

Sick Puppy, Carl Hiaasen. This is the book that introduced me to Hiaasen over fifteen years ago and it was just as good this time. Maybe even better, as I’m better able to get into Hiaasen’s state of mind.

The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis. No one is better able to make arcane topics relatable. Here he examines the inherent flaws in how humans think. Got me so interested I bought a book by one of the guys this book is about. We’ll see how that goes. The subject is fascinating, but few can make the complex as understandable as Lewis.

Good Behavior, Donald Westlake. A Dortmunder caper that begins when Westlake’s smart yet unlucky thief falls into a convent during an escape. Hilarity ensures. Literally. The Beloved Spouse™ kept asking me to read to her whatever it was that had me breaking up in the hotel room. (Read on the road to and from Bouchercon.)

Tricks, Ed McBain. Nothing extraordinary by McBain’s standards. Just a good, solid 87th Precinct story. There isn’t much higher praise than that.

101, Tom Pitts. I used to have a policy of holding off on noting which ARCs made this list on the premise the books weren’t available yet. That’s a stupid policy. Often I forgot to make a fuss when the book did finally come out. I’m not making this mistake again, and I apologize to all those I may have slighted in the past. Few can keep disparate story lines all moving in the same direction with perfect pacing as well as Pitts. This is a good one, even by his high standards.

The Backlist, Frank Zafiro and Eric Beetner. Dueling—competing?—hitters written by two writers with similar enough styles to make the book read seamlessly. I’ve been in the bag for Beetner for a long time and just met Zafiro at Bouchercon, so I figured this had sat on my TBR stack long enough. Now I’m going to have to read the whole goddamn series.

Plaster City, Johnny Shaw. Shaw is a master of one of the hardest things to do: write a serious book with laugh out loud comedy in it that doesn’t diminish the seriousness of the violence or drama. It’s not like he got lucky, either. Dove Season is just as good.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity 2018

The sixth annual Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity conference happened last weekend in Columbia. There are bigger conferences, better known conferences, but I’ve never attended a conference that is more fun or has a better vibe than C3. I missed the first due to a scheduling conflict; now I schedule around it.

It’s much more compact than Bouchercon so my review won’t be as sprawling, but it’s definitely worth recapping. The panels are a little shorter, the schedule is condensed, and the meals are communal to allow writers of different levels to mingle with readers before heading off to the bar. I’m not going to break things out by panel, but by days.

Friday
John DeDakis’s current work of fiction has the working title of “Fake.” It’s about the concept of fake news. He has to keep rewriting large sections as he can’t stay ahead of actual events. 

David Swinson has great faith in his agent. He once showed her a book. She read it and asked, “Are you sure you’re done?” He said yes. She sent it out. No sale. He has not again questioned her judgment.

No matter what you see on TV, cops shooting at moving vehicles is frowned upon unless the danger is greater to let the car go.

David Swinson was taken for a ride in a paddy wagon as a kid to put the fear of God into him after he was caught placing cherry bombs in trees. He later became a decorated cop himself. Chauffeuring a miscreant like that today is a firing offense.

Swinson and Bernard Schaffer agree that Internal Affairs cops are just doing a job and are not as vilified as fiction often depicts them. True, some are pricks. But cops like dirty cops even less than the public does, so the job is necessary.

Jamie Freveletti thinks the Netflix concept of binge-watching is trickling down to reading. If you’re thinking of releasing a series of short stories or novellas in sequence, get them out quick.

Friday’s after-dinner speaker was Keith R.A. DeCandido, writer of comic books, novels, role-playing video games, and tie-in books for properties ranging from Supernatural to Star Trek and Dr. Who to X-Men to…I was going to insert something really off-the-wall here but I can’t be sure Keith didn’t write something for it while I was busy elsewhere. The theme of his talk was “You are responsible for your career,” and he made sure everyone understood he wasn’t just running his mouth. I can’t do his points justice, but Keith was kind enough to post his remarks on his blog for everyone to read.

Keith was a tough act to follow, but E.A. “Call me Ed” Aymar put together the first (hopefully annual) C3 Noir at the Bar. Ten readers in a venue where everyone could actually every nuance of the stories brought out the best in the competitors. That’s right. Competitors. the audience favorite won an engraved buck knife to commemorate the occasion, and John Gilstrap’s epic poem and dramatic reading richly deserved the award. Note to anyone thinking of reading at a subsequent C3 event: Bring your A game. The bar has been set.

Saturday
The only down side to participating in a panel is I can’t take notes for these recaps. Saturday morning’s discussion of villains had several lines worth repeating but I was too in the moment to memorialize them properly. The one that stuck out was when I asked Michael A. Black for the ultimate villain and he said, “Maybe Satan.” That’s badass, people, when someone will only go as far as saying Satan “might” be the ultimate villain.

Lunch dessert was an interview with the aforementioned Ed Aymar who gave us many insights under skillful prodding from Austin Camacho. We learned how long it took Ed to become an overnight success, the other writing-related ventures he’s involved in, and mostly, that he needs either adult supervision or medication. Both, to be safe.

Jamie Freveletti reminded us there are no INTERPOL agents who run around the world chasing criminals. INTERPOL issues warrants, usually for war criminals, It’s up to the participating governments to make the arrests.

Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are overrated. They can’t be enforced when the signer is answering a subpoena and whistleblowers statutes likely protect…uh,,,whistleblowers.

John DeDakis condensed a class he teaches to fit the time allotted and squeezed in enough worthwhile information for me to come away with several pages of notes even after having half a dozen novels published. Among the prime morsels:
Procrastination is not always a bad thing. Rumination is part of the process.
Some sort of organization system is important, but don’t let it be the tail that wags the dog.
“Go all the way through your first draft without your internal editor. You’ve written a book! It sucks, but it’s a book!” Then the real work of re-writing begins.
Cowardice is fearful inaction. You know what you have to do and don’t do it. Courage is action in the face of fear

Shawn A. Cosby referred to what are commonly referred to as “psycho sidekicks” as “benevolent sociopaths.”

Ed Aymar, pretentious as ever, quoted de Maupassant with, “Everyone leads three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.” He then tried to claim credit for himself when the audience made approving noises.

The after-dinner speaker was Jamie Freveletti, who went over her career, and, like most of the successful writers I’ve heard speak, was quick to credit good fortune in her success, not that she hasn’t earned it. Her talk covered a range of topics from her own career and included her new venture, a publishing imprint of her own.

Sunday
We had breakfast dessert on Sunday, as Austin interviewed John DeDakis about his career at CNN and his subsequent work as a novelist. I frankly wasn’t as aware of John as I should have been before last weekend, but after seeing him on a couple of panels, sitting in on his class, and soaking up his interview, that is an oversight quickly rectified.

If you’ve never seen John Gilstrap give a talk, make time to do so. John spoke for 45 minutes on POV in writing and not only gave everyone plenty to think of when writing their own stuff, kept them in stitches throughout.

There was one more thing for The Beloved Spouse™ and I to take care of before heading out: signing up for next year. September 13 – 15, 2019 at the Sheraton Columbia (MD). We’ll keep an eye out for you.