The link above will take you to a Twitter picture of me, apparently in tears, on a panel MC-ed by New York Times best-selling author (Caitlin Strong series) Jon Land.DSCN0736

Jon has been a great friend to me. True story: I was at my first ITW (International Thriller Writers) conference in New York City. I didn’t know a soul. I was in the bar at the hotel where it is always held and a group had formed around a gregarious sort who was holding court. At the time, I had no idea who this energetic person was. (Nor did he know who I was).DSCN0729

Rather than simply ignore me,  (as most would have done), Jon asked me, “What are you working on?” At the time, I was working on the 2nd volume of my “Hellfire & Damnation” series, organized around Dante’s “Inferno.” Each level of Hell is represented by a story focused on the crime or sin punished at that level of Hell. Completely out of the blue, Jon asked, “Would you like me to write a blurb for that?” I had not asked because I didn’t know him (well or at all) and I didn’t think anyone famous would care about a retired English teacher who grew up (and went to school) in Iowa and had few credits. I stammered out that I’d be delighted if he would write a blurb for this slim volume of short stories and Jon wrote one of the best blurbs I have ever received, unbidden. What a guy!DSCN0733

I also ran into Jon in Chicago at “Love Is Murder” and again at the Spellbinders Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii when he was MC-ing panels again and I was on one. It was a great conference, but woefully under-attended.


Lance Taubold and Rich Devin of 13Thirty Books with the anthology “Fear Phobias,” which I have a story in about fear of dreams and dreaming.

This time out in New Orleans, all of the panels I saw Jon run or participate in, or the actual interview concerning his work that Molly Bolden of Bent Pages Bookstore conducted were well-attended, and he was in rare form.DSCN0726

Since I now knew Jon slightly better (and vice versa) he chose to give me some tough questions and, since I was on the end of the panel, I got the “speed round” question (in 5 words or less) and a few others that required some intense thought, and you’ll see, in that Twitter link (should you check it out) that I appear to be in tears…or distress.  DSCN0727

Jon went on to do an equally great job on his topic of “How to Write a Novel in 3 Easy Steps,” which featured him energetically pacing the room and taking suggestions from the assembled masses.DSCN0744

It was a very good presentation, and I enjoyed it very much. The entire conference was one of the best ever, and, since it took place the same weekend as Southern Decadence Weekend, there was plenty to see and do outside of the Hotel Monteleone in the heart of the French Quarter.DSCN0752

A great Labor Day