Thursday, November 27, 2014


I knew this would be a crazy year (2014 Calendar), and it hasn't let up. Fun and craziness are in full gear for November, which is National Novel Writing Month, known by participants as NaNoWriMo.

November 1 write-in at Geeksboro
I did pretty well the first week, fueled by our local group of writers. We met up for write-ins at Geeksboro, a unique coffee shop and movie theatre with a gaming, communal-TV-watching clientele.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Writers' Police Academy 2014 — Day 2

Classes started again early Saturday morning. I enjoyed the session on Policing "Back in the Day." Less than 40 years ago, police still carried revolvers (eg. six-shooters that you have to cock between shots), had only two items on their belts, and had very limited radios. Information — like license registrations — came from books, not computers, or from teletype machines that sent requests for somebody in another state to look in a book. (For a fun fictional account of cops and life in the 1970s, I recommend Life on Mars.)

I grabbed a seat in John Gilstrap's class, which had been overflowing all weekend. His take on "Technical stuff that writers get wrong" had us falling out of those precious seats. We moved from laughter to sobriety as he showed us what kind of damage bullets and explosions can do.

"There are no flesh wounds" or minor bullet wounds, contrary to what we see in movies and TV shows. Even a shoulder is a complex part of anatomy (those of us with past injuries can agree). And a broken leg will not hold a person's weight.

(The very next day I read a passage wherein a villain was standing in the protagonist's path, a piece of bone jutting out of his leg. But maybe the laws of physics don't apply in fantasy...).

Writer and former prosecutor Alifair Burke debunked myths about court cases and police procedure, especially search and/or seizure. More than 90% of searches don't have or need warrants.

The banquet was fun, as usual, though busy for those of us behind the scenes.

Michael Connelly was our featured speaker. He keeps a dedicated writing schedule to pound out all those novels. He worked as a reporter before publishing his first book. As a former journalist myself, his statement resonated with me: "There is no writer's block in the newspaper business."

The silent auction, raffle, and some practical joking topped off the evening. Here's yours truly with the crime scene quilt, one of the silent auction items. It reminds me of a little bookshop decor.

Back to Writer's Police Academy — Day 1

Monday, September 08, 2014

Writers' Police Academy 2014 — Day 1

How do you sum up a high-speed weekend of buzzing writers, detectives, forensics experts, famous authors, a prosecuting attorney, an explosives expert... and much, much more?!

Friday morning I walked into the chaos of our largest class of "recruits" ever. For part of the day I hung out in the hallways, checking people off for the firearms training and emergency driving simulators, and giving directions. I enjoyed the look on one man's face as he walked out of a classroom to hear me direct a lady to "prostitution class" across the hall.

I snuck in a couple of classes, including part of "Romance Behind the Badge." I enjoyed Rick McMahan's class on firearms basics. We learned the differences between rifles and shotguns; single-shot, semi-automatic and automatic (machine guns); revolvers and (semi-automatic) pistols.

Lisa Gardner returned this year and gave an inspiring talk on turning facts into fiction. Most of the experts she calls don't recognize her name. She can almost hear them wondering why she wants to know so much about murder! One of her great tips was to use the coolest detail, or the assumption you made that was wrong — but don't put everything you learned into the story.

Sisters in Crime hosted Friday night's reception. I talked to a couple of the instructors and met a lady from Missouri who, like me, has started a colonial-era historical. I finally drove home. Time for a little sleep before another day of excitement!

Click on the WPA tag below to see past years of Writers' Police Academy or move on to Day 2.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

A pleasant side-trip to Black Mountain

I plan to tell you more about Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, but this writer's (and bookseller's) calendar is bulging and I wanted to share this week's events. Tomorrow I'll be back in the midst of motivated writers, working at Writers' Police Academy.

Last weekend I went to Black Mountain for North Carolina Yearly Meeting (a church conference).

This year, instead of shifting into mountain gears on Labor Day Monday for a detour up to Little Switzerland, I drove up earlier on Friday to visit Black Mountain Books.

I introduced myself to Jean, the owner, and browsed all around the shop. It took a bit of willpower not to buy books I just plain liked. As a growing bookseller, I try to think: can I sell this for a profit?

All the way around, back to the front of the shop, I found a shelf of genealogy. Ah, this is what I'm looking for! I went through them one by one and picked out a few just before closing time.

My other destination, a yummy cafe on the same street, was closed. It's only open for lunch. So I wandered around, past the old depot and across the tracks, and found the Red Radish, a catering/take-out place. They feature one big supper per night, from grilled salmon to comfort casseroles, and publish their menu for the month. I love how they're only open Monday through Friday — maybe that's why the employees were so cheerful. Since I've been avoiding bread, they fixed me a "sandwich" of chicken and smoked brie on polenta. Oh, my! I carried my food and peach tea to a bench near the bookshop, where I could savour the view and every bite.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Books for the Bookseller

These just arrived: shiny new reference books!

A good antiquarian bookseller has to have a good reference library. Two things I've been wanting to learn are the identification of leather bindings and the identification of illustrations (copperplate? woodblock? photogravure?).

How to Identify Prints, by Bamber Gascoigne, explains all about images, including magnified examples and a handy checklist.

And John Carter's ABC for Book Collectors is a classic reference of book terms.

Now, if I could just order a little time to read them...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Booksellers in Denver

The morning after the Rocky Mountain Book and Paper Fair, Denver booksellers open their shops for brunch.

I started on the 200 block of Broadway, at the Broadway Book Mall (pictured at left) and Farenheit Books.

Broadway Book Mall and Printed Page Bookshop are co-ops — groups of booksellers that sell their books in one shop. I love the idea of combining resources and not being physically tied to the counter every day.

Printed Page was down on the 1400 block.

I really enjoyed their neighbor, Gallagher Books — what a beautiful shop. Best of all, I got to meet Sue Gallagher and her husband Don. I'd "talked" to Sue via e-mail, and she made me feel right at home.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Rocky Mountain Book and Paper Fair

The Rocky Mountain Book & Paper Fair wrapped up last weekend in Denver, Colorado. I made a side trip on my way to Colorado Springs because I've never been to an antiquarian book fair, and there aren't any in North Carolina or my neighboring states. 

A press

It was fun. It was overwhelming. 

I browsed through every booth, but only a few drew me in to look at particular books. Trying to remember lessons about not buying a book that won't turn a profit, I didn't buy any. I was tempted, though, by a quite reasonable set of signed Tony Hillermans. I looked in awe at signed firsts and their amazing prices. 
Type and images to go in the press

I looked through one seller's collection of cruise ship ephemera with a particular customer in mind, but he didn't have the particular ship. 

Sally Burdon gave an interesting talk about bookselling from an Australian perspective. As a second-generation bookseller, she has seen many changes in her shop and the business. 

After getting up at 3 am Eastern time for my flight, I was exhausted before the fair closed. But I made it all the way around the room and enjoyed looking.