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Thrillerfest was fantastic. It was nice to see New York again, and meet up with great people.

I especially appreciated the book room, compared the Bouchercon. Bouchercon’s book room was populated by indie and specialty stores, which is great, but there was no one seller who took on carrying all the panelists’ books. A lot of books I had intended to buy there simply had not been available. Also, they leave it to the authors to contact all the sellers individually to beg to have their books carried. That’s just demeaning. We’re already paying to attend and be “the entertainment” (ie–do the panels). We have to be beggars too?

At T’fest, Barnes and Noble had all the panelists’ books, and ONLY the panelists’ books. It was exciting to scan the stacks and see who was there.

Highlights:

1) It’s a long way to Heathrow airport, so I usually hire a car service. By total chance, my driver for this journey was a recently retired detective of similar rank and same division and location as my series character! He had great insider stories and is an all-around delightful person. That ride has never felt so short.

2) I stayed with my agent in Brooklyn, which is always a delight. She has a lovely family and lovely home, and makes excellent coffee despite not being a coffee-drinker herself.

3) I did a panel on subplots, moderated by the delightful Wendy Corsi Staub. That was early Friday morning, so the rest of the weekend was free for improvisation.

4) Dinner for 10 at a nearby Chinese restaurant, thanks to Carla Buckley. Carla knows EVERYBODY. My strategy for networking is to stand near her. Thanks to her and Karen Dionne, I had the pleasure of meeting Brad Parks, Dan Tobey, Janice Bashman, Mike Cooper, Sophie Littlefield, Lissa Price and Julia Heaberlin. Also, dinner came to just $15 a head including a good tip, which is frankly a shock.

5) At lunch with my agent and editor, they both ordered octopus salad, which I imagined to be a salad sprinkled with something like calamari, so I ordered one too. Turns out that we each got our own personal octopus. Unexpected!

6) I wanted to pick up some American treats for my kids, so agent and I went to the BEST GROCERY STORE IN THE WORLD, Fairway in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It blew my mind. It’s like a Whole Foods + a Safeway + a third grocery store just to fill up the space, plus an outside area on the water with a view of the Statue of Liberty. Amazing. I’d go shopping twice a week if I lived near there.

One downer:

I had an absolutely ridiculous medical episode. It was hot, I was jet-lagged, and felt faint for a moment after coming up out of the subway. Not unexpected, right? But I got a squeezing feeling in my left arm that wouldn’t let go, and pins and needles in my left hand. When these persisted throughout the afternoon, I skipped out on the Thrillerfest cocktail party to get checked for heart attack. Thankfully, I was in the clear, but the doctors emphasized that I had done the right thing to come in, and in fact had even waited too long.

It’s probably unfair to say this was entirely a downer, because the clinic I visited was superb. 5pm in the middle of New York City, I walked into the Beth Israel clinic on 23rd. They saw me within 10 minutes, were empathetic and professional, gave me an EKG, blood tests and exam, all for just $250. Amazing.

To sum, I had a great time, thanks Thrillerfest! And the Grand Hyatt, attached to Grand Central Station, is a wonderful location. I hadn’t been in Grand Central since I was a teenager, and, while it has always had the good architecture, it has really been polished to a shine. Thanks, New York.

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Finishing a book is like packing a suitcase. You’re pretty sure you’ve remembered everything, but, when you step on that plane, you’re plagued by the thought that you forgot to pack underwear. You won’t know for sure until you get there and it’s too late.

Handing in the final-final edit of a manuscript is daunting.

I’m at that stage polishing up book 2 that I’m chasing down experts to make sure I’ve used the right specialist vocabularies throughout. I’ve been speaking with (well, emailing) astrophysicists and a lock-keeper, et cetera. To ensure that I’ve accurately described the seasonal levels of a local waterway, I emailed a geologist.

He was very friendly, and mentioned that it was a funny thing to be asked about a crime novel, because he is actually a forensic geologist. I replied that I think I had attended a lecture of his, about forensic geology in the solving of the famous Soham murders. He replied that, no, that was a *different* local forensic geologist. But, his wife had been a forensic *archaeologist* on that case.

How fantastic to live in the city where there are multiple forensic geologists, and even a forensic archaeologist! I didn’t know such jobs existed.

I’m a wee little bit late posting this, but I had a great time teaching a crime-plotting workshop at Lucy Cavendish College’s “Women’s Word” lit festival. My angle was the puzzle at the heart of crime novel, based on my puzzle-designing past.

Part of what we did was take the puzzles at the start of two crime stories (one a novel, one a TV episode) and brainstorm solutions. My point was that you don’t need just one good solution, you need lots, because the bulk of your story will be spent cycling through wrong ones. Wrong, yes, but each one still must be interesting.

We started with the puzzle in Sophie Hannah’s “Little Face”: a new mother returns home from an outing and discovers her baby has been replaced by a different baby; her husband, who was home with the child the whole time, claims it is the same baby. These are some of the answers we came up with (and not one was the ultimate answer from the book!):

The second one was from a Jonathan Creek episode, in which a dozen apparently clean, unladdered stockings were found in the rubbish bin. Again, of all the answers we brainstormed, none was the one the show used:

(You can click on the images to make them larger and easier to read.)

Once we’d brainstormed all these potential solutions, we talked about reasons for making one the right answer over all the others, and the kinds of characters we’d need to champion the various wrong answers.

One of the nicest things about Cambridge is the people. All the attendees were creative and talkative, which made for a great class.

Status: playroom, living room, dining room, basically sorted. They’re still untidy, but untidy with things we actually use, as opposed to unsorted piles. Much more comfy!

The front hall:
Organize socks/winter gear/bags/tennis stuff/etc into boxes/drawers.
Measure success by an empty bench and empty (but for shoes) floor!
Status: complete.

Child’s goal: clear out the Art Table (in the dining room). Status: success! He got rid of the YEARS of old drawings he had been saving, and we culled the supplies down to those we will actually use. Now there is space to actually draw at the table, which is handy in an art table, don’t you think?

Big project:
Have the children collect ALL their clothes from all over the house and sort them in the front hall. Treat these piles as a shop; be picky about what clothes will return to their rooms. Clothes that will have future use (for a different age, etc.) can go into underbed boxes.

Status: Complete! Except for the giveaway part. I’ve stockpiled all the good-but-we-don’t-want-it-anymores into a guest room. Out of the way is good enough for now! Nice that everything in their drawers fits them.

Aaahh–feels good, just like a nicely edited manuscript.

From “Envoy” by Billy Collins, a message to his just-published book:

"stay out as late as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can."