29 March 2016


I knew when I went to Left Coast Crime I might pick up some terrific books and make new friends. But I was surprised to meet someone who not only made me admire his writing but made me say, Yep, that’s how I want to live.

See, I felt guilty about going to a writing conference. I felt like I should be working in the emergency room, or raising my kids, or staying at home and working on my manuscripts. 

When you have three careers, the guilt never ends.

But after my favourite panel of police officers-turned-writers, I met panelist David Putnam in the book room. I told him how much I enjoyed his talk (no lie. Cops tell great stories. I was haunted by one of his stories about being called to a domestic dispute with a river of blood). David handed me his book, The Disposables.

Then he and his wife Mary marched over to the book table and bought my book, Stockholm Syndrome.

My jaw dropped.

We just met. He gave me his book for free. And he was buying my book.

“Sure. I want to get you hooked, and then you’ll buy the rest of ’em.”

Right. But wasn’t he worrying about money, space in his suitcase, his to-be-read pile, or the conference fee?

Clearly not.
My only complaint is that I look short. I feel normal-sized.
“We spend money on conferences every year. It’s what we like to do.”

That made so much sense. Intellectually, I know that I’m allowed to go to conferences. Emotionally, I felt like I shouldn’t. It reminded me of an article saying that, if you look at how children turn out, it doesn’t matter so much whether a mother works full-time, part-time, or not at all outside the home. The best correlation with the kids’ well-being is if the mother doesn’t feel guilty about her choice, whatever it is.

I wanted to be like David and Mary. I wanted to enjoy myself and be generous. I was also fascinated to hear that they owned an organic avocado farm and that Mary is something like a rocket scientist as well as a writer herself.

I tore through The Disposables on my flight home. It’s the story of a Bruno Johnson, once a much-feared and respected cop, now a man willing to work outside the law to save the poor and neglected children our society no longer cares for. Fast-paced yet emotionally rich, packed with characters you care about, with a tight plot and an ending that felt right.

And I’m picky about thrillers. I don’t like unbelievable plot twists, cardboard characters like materialistic and treacherous bimbos, and/or info dumps about some technological hoo ha.
The Disposables felt real. Real grit, real heartbreak, and real redemption.

I closed the book feeling good about the journey I’d taken, both in the book and in my own mind. It was even better to know that the author and his wife are mighty cool people.

How about you? Does guilt stop you from achieving more? Or are you already more evolved, like David and Mary Putnam?

If you comment, you could win a signed copy of The Disposables. I’ll send it anywhere in the world. If you like it, please tell a friend and/or post a review.

And if you like crafts, Mary made a video on how to make book cover earrings! https://youtu.be/836Nrrp9ko0


  1. Oh, guilt is huge - I think in everyone's life. It's just that a lot of times, we don't admit that it's guilt that won't let us do _____ (fill in the blank). I'm just starting to attend conferences because (1) I could never afford it (time/money) before and (2) I have a certain type of shyness that makes it hard for me to go up to a perfect stranger and introduce myself and (3) I felt guilty about letting myself do something like that... But not anymore! See you all (I hope) in New Orleans in September!

  2. Melissa, I certainly understand the guilt. When I started writing I was a wife, mother, and I worked outside the home. So I started getting up at 4 a.m. to get to work by 5 a.m. (3 hrs. early) so I could write. The only one I was taking time away from was me. Good way to burn out. And I totally understand the generosity you are talking about. I can't begin to tell you the writers who were kind to me when there was no reason to be, starting with Jan Grape who, at the time I started, owned a bookstore and was V/P of MWA in Houston. She arranged my first signing without even meeting me, and, after we did meet, had me speak at an event of the MWA in Houston. I was scared to death, but I did it. Joan Hess and Sharon McCrumb, two of my favorite writers, allowed me into their circle, no questions asked. And, drum role please, at a Left Coast Crime Clive Cussler bought one of my books! He didn't know me from Adam, and even though that over ten years ago, his generosity is still felt. (And obviously I'm still bragging about it!)

  3. Melissa, I'm glad you had not just a good time but a wonderful time.

    To answer your question, my guilt is that I don't get enough done, but that's not the same issue.

  4. My guilt is that I can't fit everything in, yet often feel as if I've only managed to succeed in fitting nothing in.

    P.S. You looked normal-sized to ME. Clearly those other two must just be giants.


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