What will always stick with me is that I didn’t get a final conversation, really a final time to have a true “laugh fest,” because that’s what always happened when I chatted with Erica Abbott.
Many of you know by now that Erica passed away on the Fourth of July after enduring a long, painful illness, one that never seemed to bother her whenever she greeted everyone at a GCLS Conference.
I knew she didn’t want to discuss it much, so I’d shrug and say something like, “You’re breathing, smiling, and laughing. That’s good.” Her eyes would light up with a quick-witted reply, and we were off! Our conversations usually evolved into exchanging one-liners or talking about random topics like how we’d like to co-host a lighthearted roast for Katherine V. Forrest once she hangs up her editing pencil. We both shared the good fortune to be edited by Katherine, who is not one to mince words. We laughed at our poorly worded descriptions, “weird” scenes that rubbed KVF the wrong way, or unmotivated actions that earned us a giant question mark in the margin. We sighed in relief, grateful that none of that stuff ever made it to the final galley proof. Nope, not with Katherine as our editor! We both knew how lucky we were to have her for a mentor.
I met Erica at my first conference in 2014 at Portland. I don’t easily navigate large groups of strangers, and it was incredibly difficult for me to approach people. We wound up sitting next to each other for the Bella photo. While we waited for everyone to meander over, we chatted. As I recall she said, “I’ve read your stuff.” I looked at her with trepidation and replied with a pained look. “Uh-huh?” Then she said, “I like it.” We talked mystery after that, and I made sure I had one of her books by the end of the conference.
If you haven’t read anything by Erica Abbott, you’re missing out. Her Alex and CJ series is a great read for mystery lovers, but there’s also romance and paranormal works from which to choose. And coming in September is [Un]Common Ground, a collaboration with GCLS Conference roomie and Bella author Pol Robinson. The cover features the Seattle Space Needle and a goat. I’m not joking. See it for yourself,HERE.
This was supposed to be a chance for me to tell you all to read my latest mystery, Dying on the Vine. And I do hope you read it. In fact, if you leave a comment below, you’ll be entered in a drawing for a free e-book. With that said, treat yourself to an Erica Abbott book as well.
This year has sucked in so many ways that I’ve lost count. The yearly GCLS conference allowed me to connect with so many friends, since I eventually got over my fear by about 2017. 2020 and Erica’s death has reminded me how long a year really is and how tenuous life and friendships can be. My wife, who is mentioned in the acknowledgements of Erica’s book, Taken In, said a few weeks ago, “We need to connect with her and make sure she’s doing okay.” I agreed and went back to the wall of work that was the GCLS Virtual Con.
Like always, I should’ve listened to my wife. So, instead, I hope you listen to her. Call, text, email, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype…or, write (there’s a novel idea!) to someone you haven’t seen in a long time–since the last GCLS Con if that’s your jam, since you ran into them before wearing a mask was necessary and fashionable, or since your last argument. Yes, reconnect.
We all need to keep her memory and her writing alive. I don’t think it was any accident that she passed on the Fourth of July. Even when she must’ve felt awful, every time I saw her, she was optimistic, laughing, courageous, and well…fireworks–a truly brilliant display of color, energy, and excitement.