We don’t do Black Friday. And for Cyber Monday, the only things I bought were eBooks for myself! Instead of engaging in hand-to-hand combat with other shoppers over flat screen TVs at Costco, this is what we did (see photo). For the whole weekend, in fact. We went down to Surfside Beach, about 90 miles from where we live, on Wednesday evening and stayed there until late on Sunday.
The previous two weekends were abysmal. Temperatures in the forties, grey and rainy. However, luck was with us. All four days were in the seventies, with partly cloudy skies. It got a little cool when the sun went down, but that wasn’t a problem: our rental property had a good heating system (once we got the vents cleared of dust that set off the smoke detector the first time we turned the heat on). It was a non-traditional Thanksgiving, in most ways. We did have family visitors one afternoon, but other than that it was as off the grid as you can get. We did some reading, soaked up the rays (I’m a little pink, thank you for asking), playing games, cooking meals and relaxing. We only left the place once, and that was to get more wine!
While we were away, I heard about PD James’s death. It was fun hearing Ian Rankin tell some brief tales about her on Twitter. I’ve been reading her books for decades, and always enjoyed them. She and I were nominated in the same category for an Edgar Award a few years ago. I was sure I was doomed, being up against her, but I went to the banquet in part hoping to get the chance to meet her. Alas, she didn’t make the trip over to NY for the ceremony. And neither of us won the award.
One of the books I read last week was 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman by Adam Plantinga. Crime writers like George Pelecanos and Lee Child had commented on it favorably and the cover blurb is by Joseph Wambaugh. Plantinga is a 13-year veteran of two different police departments, now a sergeant. The book is 400 anecdotes and observations, bundled into rough groupings (What Cops Know About Juveniles, What Cops Know About Hookers and Johns…) that give readers some insight into a cop’s life. I imagine most cops could put together something similar, except Plantinga can write really well. The anecdote format doesn’t give him a lot of opportunity to show off his writing chops, but it shines through. It’s droll, witty, amusing, sardonic, resigned, introspective and sharp. I enjoyed the heck out of it, and read many of the passages to my wife after they made me chuckle. If you’re writing about cops, this is a great reference book.
One of the things I worked on while on vacation last week was the short story I’m writing for Jonathan Maberry’s series of X-Files anthologies. The first, X-Files: Trust No One, comes out in March, with stories from Brian Keene, Tim Lebbon, and others. My story, “Phase Shift,” is slated for the second book in the series. It’s a lot of fun playing in someone else’s sandbox. I got to do it before, with Doctor Who: Destination Prague. For research and prep work, I binged through the first two seasons. My story is set in the midst of the second season. I wanted to familiarize myself primarily with the technology. Did they use cell phones (yes, but big suckers with retracting antennas), email (yes, but on Windows 3.1 computers), or the Internet in general (yes). Video conferences cost $150 an hour, by Mulder’s estimate. Only 20 years ago, but my how things have changed.
I can’t remember when I first encountered Rocky Wood, or even when I first met him face to face. I do recall, however, a series of “last meetings.” The first was at the World Horror Convention in Austin in 2011. Rocky had been diagnosed with ALS the previous year, but he was still in pretty good shape. However, he thought that his doctors wouldn’t allow him to travel outside the country by the end of that year. We said goodbye, thinking we’d never see each other again. Happily, that proved not to be the case, and he got to go on a series of adventures and trips after that, and continue his work on books and as president of the HWA. I saw him again in 2012 at the world premiere of Ghost Brothers of Darkland County in Atlanta, and then at World Horror in New Orleans last year. His most recent publication was the 2014 update to Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished, just out from Overlook Connection Press. In fact, I received my copy from Dave Hinchberger on Sunday evening, just hours before Rocky succumbed to complications from ALS. To the outside world, at least, he never seemed to let the disease slow him down. He had a plan early on to raise money for the devices he would need as it progressed, and he kept on going. It was an honor to know him.