WASHINGTON, DC (Friday, May 4) -- Delayed by construction, my train from New Jersey arrives at Union Station 10 minutes late. I have a hissing fit when the robotic, incredibly complicated Metro ticket machine steals my $20 bill. And now--two subway switches and one kind stranger later--I’m jogging through the underbelly of the Marriott Crystal Gateway. In tow are my computer, luggage, and 45 pounds of promotional material. We weave like a halfback through the busy underground shopping mall. Checking my cellphone, I’m due at the Malice Go Round for new authors in nine minutes. My pulse and temperature climb. And I need to find a restroom. Nobody said being a new author was easier than getting to be one. I was just kind of hoping... I trot into Malice Go Round with two minutes to spare. I’m red-faced and dripping with perspiration. Suave, poised, dabbing at my brow and upper lip like President Nixon. “Ready to pitch your story to a hundred mystery fans?” the event coordinator says. “You get ninety seconds at each table.” My eyes scan the Marriott 10,000-square-foot ballroom. I’m too sweaty, nervous, and distracted to count, but there are three or four rows of five or six tables. AT LEAST 100 people. I’m sure I’m wrong, but it seems like half the room is staring at me. Buck up, I tell myself. Don’t be so self-conscious. “You’d better zip yourself,” the coordinator whispers. Later, in the bar, a veteran author of 20 some mysteries says, “This is our hazing process for you newbies. Fast-pitch practice, face-to-face. It’s tough, but you learned how to tell your story, didn’t you?” Indeed. A serious learning experience. At one point, I asked another author traveling table-to-table with me. “Did I have three blank faces, or four this time when I mentioned the tuna?” Malice had the best-run, most diversely interesting program of any conference I’ve seen. I sold a decent number of books from the dealers room, but signed only one book during a hugely attended, multi-author autograph session. Compared to vampires, cats, and werewolves, my book’s big tuna created as much interest as a stale danish. ON THE ROAD (Sunday, May 6) -- We stop driving toward Pittsburgh at the halfway mark. Everybody’s hungry. I make a mistake and order pot roast. I was distracted, thinking about that 90-second pitch session and what I SHOULD have talked about instead of giant tunas. “How about this?” I say. Chris, Susan, and Bob wisely chose hamburgers and are no competition for the conversation. “My style is best described as a sexy Raymond Chandler meets Carl Hiaasen.” It sounded good in my head. I rightly suffer snickers and guffaws, even from the family sitting next to us. The man with a tractor on his baseball hat says, “Why don’t you tell them you cook like Wolfgang Puck and golf like Tiger Wood?” LOVE LETTER To Richard Goldman and Mary Alice Gorman of The Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA: Thank you for making me feel like a prince. Your gracious, warm, and painstakingly planned Festival of Mystery brought me face to face with a lifelong dream. To see my book in your window with authors I admire and now know; to see space for me on your shelves; to sign and sell for a children’s reading program 11 books (A New BNWT Record!). I just haven’t stopped grinning in 72 hours. Glad you’re on the bus. Jack Getze

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