249 of My Closest Friends
G. Miki Hayden

I woke up at 2 a.m., Tuesday morning, trying to remember what I had just dreamed. What was it? I was having a leisurely dinner with friends, and then, suddenly, I realized I had a boat to catch. I hurried over to the waterfront. I was just about in time, I seemed to think, but a moment later, I found out the shocking truth-the boat had departed. Lying there in bed, I realized.... I had missed the boat. I'd missed the boat! How easy missing the boat had been.

Groggily falling back to sleep last night, I firmly resolved that I would not miss the boat later that day. I had to be at the boat on time. The implications were portentous.

Okay, okay, I'm a fiction writer and some of the above actually occurred, if only not on the night in question. But, nonetheless, at 4:00 p.m. that afternoon, I was ensconced among familiar figures on board the Spirit of the Hudson, about to depart from the Chelsea Piers on Manhattan's West Side. Soon, with 249 of my closest friends, some of whom I had yet to meet, we were off-or at least I thought we were off as the seas even at the dock seemed rough on this windy late April day.

Our new Mystery Writers of American president Margaret Maron (the Deborah Knott mystery series) welcomed us warmly, while MWA office manager Margery Flax kept her eye on the guests, announcing their names to the person handing out labels before the guests themselves could pronounce same. If anyone can tell the players without their tags, long-time mystery fan Margery can.

All one could do at that point was follow the line to the drinks, and chat. I tagged along after the charming Jennifer Bielicki with great blonde streaks and curls (done by her sister-in-law, gratis, at home in upstate New York) and Jennifer's husband. Jennifer has written a book about a psychic who helps the police, based on her husband's grandmother--someone doing just that. The first time the grandmother took Jennifer's hand, she told Jennifer welcome to the family, although this was only a first date or so for Jennifer. The rest is history. Any agent wanting to get hold of the bubbly Jennifer to see a few chapters, just let me know.

Soon I was talking to old friend Charles Todd who, with his mother Caroline, writes a series about Scotland Yard's Inspector Ian Rutledge. No, Charles isn't one bit British; he's very Southern and a gentleman. I asked Charles how the book business was treating him and, his answer was that he and his mother had enjoyed three hardcover print runs of A Cold Treachery from Bantam (January 2005) and have moved on to work with vice president/executive editor Carolyn Marino at HarperCollins. (Marino will be given the Ellery Queen Award on Thursday night). A Long Shadow by the Todds will be out in March 2006.

Bethesda author Noreen Wald, who writes as Nora Charles, happily told me she had signed a contract for another two of her Kate Kennedy series and would soon be forced to travel to Florida where the novels are set, purely for research-yup, research.

Very soon, the always delightful Mary Higgins Clark presented her award to a novel that best represents the spirit in which she herself writes. Underwritten for the last few years by Simon & Schuster, the Mary Higgins Clark Award this time went to Rochelle Krich for her novel Grave Endings. Congrats, Rochelle.

I then trooped downstairs where the savvy were gathered in order to be on shorter lines for drink and food. The seas were rough and the boat roiling and I pictured us all going overboard and-well, drowning. But we didn't, and I seated myself with a group of editors (what does one call a bevy of editors, a pride of editors, or whatever) from Tor/Forge. We sat and clutched our chair arms. The wind rose... Oh, never mind.

I spent some time talking to bilingual speech pathologist, mystery writer R. M. Peluso (www.RMPeulso.com) who has produced two interactive CDs for treatment of public speaking anxiety and treatment of writer's block. I suggested I review them for Kate Stine's Mystery Scene and she gave me copies of her disks.

The boat had turned around and headed for port though I could hardly recall our having set sail. Odd but true. I went on deck where I finally found email friend Persia Walker whose Harlem Redux is set in Harlem in 1926. Persia is now selling real estate in the new Harlem, so if you want to read a great yarn or buy a very expensive townhouse, try Persia. Walker was there with a Simon & Schuster guy whose name tag was marked Korda and some day soon (I'm not completely digital yet), I'll have the pictures to prove it.

We had docked, but no one seemed to want to leave the fun, although a gang was heading up to The Black Orchid Bookstore for Bill (William E.) Chambers' signing of his new book, The Tormentress. Great title, or what? I bid about 50 of my very dearest friends adieu as they raced to their cabs and, dyed in the wool city dweller that I am (read cheap), I hopped on the bus.

G. Miki Hayden's story "White Tea" appears in the May issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

G. Miki Hayden
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March 17, 2018
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