Silver Linings

Yesterday evening at 8pm, just as the sun in central Ohio was sinking below the horizon and the cicadas were considering the merits of silence at last, I logged onto Poisoned Pen Bookstore Facebook Live for a conversation with well-known bookstore owner Barbara Peters and the amazing writer and teacher Jane K. Cleland. What a privilege for a relative newcomer like me to be talking about writing mysteries with such kind and generous women.

Barbara, editor-in-chief of Poisoned Pen Press and owner of The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a well-known advocate for writers. Her store has a worldwide clientele. She reads more books in a year than most people read in a lifetime and still finds time to host an incredible number of interviews and events. She does it all, as it turns out, not for profit but for the love of good books.

Both Jane and I write stories about American antiques dealers who solve crimes on the side. I’m a relative newcomer. My protagonist, Kate Hamilton, owns an antiques shop in Jackson Falls, Ohio, but has been spending most of her time recently in a small Suffolk village called Long Barston. The third in the series, The Art of Betrayal, was released this month. The fourth, The Shadow of Memory, is coming in June of 2022.

Jane writes a series starring Josie Prescott, owner of Prescott Antiques, a thriving business in the fictional town of Rocky Point, New Hampshire. The thirteenth Josie Prescott mystery, Hidden Treasure, was released in 2020. The next in the series, Jane Austen’s Lost Letters, is coming in December of 2021. Is that the best title or what? I can’t wait to read it. Jane has also written two books on the craft of writing, Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot (2016) and Mastering the Plot Twist (2018). Both won the Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction. Both are in my library. I recommend them highly. And last night I learned that during the pandemic, with all her events cancelled, Jane has been offering craft webinars online. Many of them are free. Here are a few of the upcoming titles: “Plotting Your Novel,” “The Art of Revealing Backstory,” “Mastering Story Structure,” “Crafting Evocative Prose,” “Find Your Path to Publication,” “Writing Dialogue That Sings.”

With all its disappointments and deprivations, it turns out the dark cloud of Covid has a lining of pure sterling silver. Through the miracle of podcasts and online platforms like Facebook Live, Zoom, and Crowdcast, we can go anywhere, anytime, without the time and cost of actual travel. Last night I appeared at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona. Next week I’ll be meeting with the Upper Hudson chapter of Sisters in Crime. In October, I’ll be participating in a panel discussion about crime writing from Dubai. The pandemic has given rise to new and expanded opportunities to meet people and to learn and grow as writers.

Are we looking forward to the time when life returns to normal? Yes, we are. But I believe going forward we also continue to appreciate and take advantage of the silver linings. Obstacles and losses aren’t easy to handle, but they always stir up human creativity and innovation.

The world will never be the same, and in some ways that is a good thing.

What Covid innovations have you appreciated?

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