First things first … allow me to wish you a Happy Halloween! If you’re anything like me, today is pretty much right up there with Christmas. (Or Hanukah, if your dreidel spins that way.)
October has been a crazy month. In addition to the “real” job, keeping up with this here blog (15 entries in 31 days), and contributing to forums such as CriminalElement.com, The National Book Review, The News and Times, The Strand, and Suspense Magazine, I’ve been out there promoting Tricks and Treats: A Collection of Spooky Stories by Connecticut Authors—a new anthology featuring two of my short stories.
Coming from a more journalistic background—meaning I’m more accustomed to asking questions than being asked questions—this has been quite the experience. A dream come true, really, given my career ambitions, but a definite departure from the norm. Can you imagine trying to rein me in? Let’s just say that “I’m gonna go off script for a minute” became a familiar refrain.
My first event was the inaugural #IndieAuthorDay—a celebration of local writers at nearly 300 libraries throughout America and Canada—in Manchester. And while I was there wearing my newly fashioned author hat, I also got tapped to moderate my fellow panelists. (See what happens when you have a reputation?) Three scribes joined fellow Tricks and Treats contributor (and Manchester resident) Dan Foley and myself for a meandering conversation about craft and marketing before the library streamed a live webcast on the topic viewed simultaneously in libraries throughout the country.
The next event was the one closest to my heart, in that it was a private fundraiser for my brother. Stacey Longo, Melissa Crandall, and I descended on East Hampton’s festive Fat Orange Cat Brew Co., where we read from our stories, signed dozens of books, and mingled with family and friends. There was an abundance of food (compliments of the domestic divas duo of my wife and mother), raffle prizes, a few resident goats, and unique, hand-crafted beers. Owners Sheila and Mike not only opened their doors to us but also their hearts (and their register). Theirs is a generosity that will not soon be forgotten, and one that serves as a reminder that there is still pure goodness in this world.
Stacey, Melissa, and I were then joined by Ryanne Strong as we made an appearance at the Bentley Memorial Library in Bolton, where I’ve had the pleasure of leading book discussions for the past two years. We were provided with apple cider and cookies—everybody knows snacks are the real draw!—and I read from “Just Cause.” That story’s protagonist, feisty prosecutor Nevia Hastings, is an homage to real-life litigator and bestselling crime novelist Marcia Clark, who once joined our group via Skype to discuss her fiction, and so I felt it an appropriate choice—though I did tone down the language a bit for the occasion. (The f-word of the night was “frick” rather than … well, never mind).
There was a return engagement to the Whiton Branch of the Manchester Library (where we initially introduced our stories in progress a year ago), but I had to bow out due to a family emergency. (Ditto scheduled appearances on “Books and Things with Tom” and my friend David Fairhead’s podcast, 9th Story, both of which I hope to reschedule.) But Melissa had my back, reading from one of her stellar contributions (“The Cellar”) and one of my own.
I was able to return to the road for our appearance at Mystic’s fiercely independent Bank Square Books. What a feather in our collective cap to have the opportunity to read at such a prestigious venue (which also happens to be one of my very favorite bookstores)! Event Coordinator Elissa Englund truly outdid herself, and even provided wine and other adult beverages—which served as yet another reminder that some things just go better together. Like books and booze (and boos). I read from the opening of “Blood Relations”—my ode to Scream, which inspired my love of all things scary—and rather enjoyed the contemplative silence that followed. My wife and I topped off this memorable night by dropping in at Mystic Pizza, where we did some serious carb-loading over conversation with Kristi Petersen Schoonover.
Though the promotional juggernaut rolls on, I made what will probably be my last appearance for Tricks and Treats at Broad Brook’s BOOK CLUB Bookstore & More. If you haven’t been there, you need to rectify that immediately. Not only do they sell new and gently used books, but they also host author events and book discussions (including a monthly group devoted to Stephen King titles) and sell an assortment of items created by local artisans. In addition to enjoying the company of Stacey and Dan, I finally got to meet G. Elmer Munson, who wrote the story “What About That Daughter of Yours?” I’ll admit that this one probably disturbed me more than any other in the collection—and yet Gene presented as perfectly normal. Congenial, even. (Then again, don’t they always?) Despite the ungodly hour (11 a.m.!), we managed to be somewhat coherent.
I also have to tell you that I received some very exciting mail the other day. Admittedly, anything other than bills tends to fit that category, but … A few years ago, I met Sheila DeLeo, mistress of the virtual bookstore Sheila Scribes, at a signing for one of my friends, Suzanne Palmieri. She presented Suzy with a beautiful handmade scarf and I joked that I, too, would like one if ever I published a book. While I thought nothing more of it, Sheila stored that away—and she sent me my very own scarf to celebrate the release Tricks and Treats! (The topper? It’ orange.) And, timing being what it is, it arrived to coincide with the very first snowfall of the season. I’ll wear it with pride.
Beyond the Tricks and Treats events, I also facilitated the second in a series of four book discussions on the topic of journalistic exposes (“The Power of the Pen”) for the Bentley Memorial Library—this month’s selection was Betrayal: Crisis in the Catholic Church, which inspired the award-winning film Spotlight—and moderated a panel at the third annual CrimeCONN at the Westport Library, where Rosemary Harris, Michael Ledwidge, and Liz Mugavero divulged their deepest, darkest secrets on the topic: “I Kill, Therefore I Am: What motivates your bad guys’ behavior?”
Needless to say, I’m a bit tired from all this cavorting. But, hey, I’d rather be out there indulging my literary lust with fellow booklovers than sitting at home scarfing bon-bons and watching Netflix, so I’m not complaining (or kvetching, as the case may be). In all honestly, it’s been a real pleasure having the opportunity to meet you, greet you, and give you a friendly reminder that you that you can’t have books without BOO. (Cute, huh?)
In celebration of the holiday, and the successful completion of my very first book tour, I’m going to be giving away a rarity: a copy of Tricks and Treats that is signed by all of the contributors. Well, those of us that are among the living, anyway (Melissa Crandall, Dan Foley, Stacey Longo, G. Elmer Munson, Ryanne Strong, and yours truly.) All you have to do is follow my blog (if you haven’t already) and leave a comment below. I’d also ask that you kindly share this offer with others, though that’s not a requirement—just a nicety. Then, like magic, one of you will be selected at random as the winner. Deadline: Friday, November 4th, at 11:59 PM EST.
Until then, may everything be spook-tacular …