A Quick Hello to Maryland

 In West Ocean City, looking across the water to Assateague.

In West Ocean City, looking across the water to Assateague.

It's tempting for me to think it's not worth it, dropping a bunch of money and flying halfway around the world for just a few short weeks' worth of reconnection with my home state of Maryland. But then I do it, and oh, yes, it is. The moody grey and brown landscape, the bright winter skies, the cutting wind that snaps me alert clear down to my bones: this is where I was born, and this is what I cannot get in the Middle East, no matter how chilly the evenings get in the desert winter. This is home.

While here in Maryland, I got this great bit of news: The cover has been revealed for the Sisters in Crime Chessie Chapter's seventh anthology. It's called Storm Warning. My story, "The Gardener," will be included along with other scary weather-related tales by Donna Andrews, Art Taylor, KM Rockwood, Maddi Davidson, and other fellow chapter members. It will publish in April. I'm excited and humbled to be in such esteemed company. And look at this cover! 

Happy Holidays and Horn Tooting from the Middle East

 Happy holidays to you, wherever you are and whatever you celebrate.

Happy holidays to you, wherever you are and whatever you celebrate.

Just barely in time for the holidays, I am happy to announce that the Mystery Times 2015 anthology has published--and I'm in it! My 2nd-place story, "Pesticides Can Kill You" features a farmers market master who goes too far.... Pick up this short story plus seven other spine-tinglers in Mystery Times 2015, in paperback or as an ebook. What a perfect last-minute gift!

The Aramex delivery guy (he's our local version of the FedEx guy) showed up this morning with the one small box of presents that I ordered for my husband for Christmas. We don't do much here for the holidays (a tiny tree, a couple of poinsettias, a plastic sprig of mistletoe hung from the ceiling), much to our immense relief. We both dreaded Christmas in the States, with its rush and pressure and that nagging sense that whatever we bought, whatever we did, it wasn't quite up to standard. No more! I hope that when we leave the Middle East we can take with us this pleasantly minimalist new style of celebrating, which (ironically, but of course) feels more genuine and brings us closer to our "family" of friends here. 

This year a couple of girlfriends and I are planning a feast of Chinese dumplings and roasted duck for Christmas dinner. Another friend is organizing a Christmas dinner on the beach. We did that ourselves a couple of years ago, putting together a big sit-down supper on the sand, and then lounging around the fire into the evening. It was great! I think we spent thirty bucks on presents that year, but it was one of my most memorable Christmases.

However you choose to spend your holiday, I wish you a peaceful and happy day. 

The End of an Era

After almost ten years as a freelance writer and novelist, I have taken a full-time job. No more workdays in my pajamas on the couch, with Eddie the Cat as my only colleague. No more folding laundry or prepping dinner on my coffee break. No more spontaneous girls’ lunches. 

 

What have I done?

 

Actually, I’m thrilled. My husband and came to the Middle East for his work, and it is very difficult (for legal reasons and cultural ones) for most wives to find full-time work after arriving here and settling in. Knowing what I know now, I’d have applied for work before we moved, so that I could have established my residency with a work visa. But I didn’t. Instead, I added local clients to my already-established freelance business. I pitched in on writing and editing projects that ranged from business proposals to book manuscripts. English is the language of business all over the Middle East, so pretty much everyone can at least get by—but native speakers and writers are in demand. I had a good run here as a freelancer. 

 

Now, though, I’ve taken a support staff job at my community’s expatriate school. It’s a friendly, fast-paced work environment. At the moment I’m coordinating bus schedules and building maintenance logistics. I’ve also been trained to run the attendance desk. Who knows what they’ll have me doing next?  No matter what the job description, though, everyone stops when a kid shows up with an emergency. (“Emergency” is a word with a lot of flex, I’m learning.) Left your trumpet on the school bus? I’ll try to track it down. Ran full-tilt into a wall at recess? I’ll find the nurse. Lost a shoe? (How do you lose one shoe?) I’ll direct you to the lost-and-found box.

 

I’m learning to be more efficient with my off-the-clock hours, and to respect the sanctity of bedtime. My workday starts at 7:00 a.m.—appalling, no? And I’m the type who needs a lot of sleep. These days I’m in bed by 9:00 p.m., or else I’m regretting it the next day.  I’m doing more food prep on the weekends, and remembering what it used to be like the last time I worked a 40-hour office job. The weekends are as much about preparing for next week as they are about socializing.

 

My weekends, though, must also include some dedicated novel-writing time, if I ever want the third installment in the Jamie August series to see the light of day. Which I do! Hopefully soon I’ll be in the groove and able to fit some writing time into my normal schedule—the way the majority of other writers do. I was incredibly fortunate to have such a long run as an independent writer with the luxury of setting my own schedule.  But as the clock towards retirement ticks closer, I’m grateful to have landed this fun, busy job.