It is after midnight in a very dark hotel room. The only light is from electronics recharging and the screen of my laptop. My wife is sound asleep across the room, and I’m sitting here in a dress shirt and shorts writing. My suit (yes, I actually own one) is hanging on the back of the chair, and my cowboy boots are kicked into the space between my bed and the balcony. It’s a pretty darned good night in my life.
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I’m in Dallas, scene of my Genesis victory two years ago. That same book, Assault on Saint Agnes, didn’t even make it to the final round of the competition for published works this year. While I was a little disappointed, it wasn’t fatal. I was actually okay with that, as I was competing against some industry heavyweights now, and you don’t win all of them. I went to the conference anyway, mainly because I’d skipped it the previous year.
Why did I skip it? The list was long, but 2017 came along and I had new goals and skills to flaunt. So I applied to teach at this year’s American Christian Fiction Writers conference. I submitted 6 different lesson plans, and they hired me to teach two of them (I have a copy of the check if you don’t believe me.)
I studied my material. I read a lot of websites, blogs, and PDF documents on police work and crime scene investigation. I was amazed at how little all of that had changed in the 36 years since I was a sworn officer. I was secretly pleased that maybe for an old man I had something special to contribute. I even did ride-along nights with the excellent people of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bloomington Police Department. They treated me very well, and gave me excellent access to verify my studies – and it was like magic: I was back in a patrol car and loving it. (Don’t worry, Dearheart, I won’t do it again for at least 20 years.)
My wife and I got to Dallas a day early, spent some quality time shopping. Yes, I even bought something for me. Nice meals, Netflix at night, and some time to be married.
The next three days were consumed with attending classes and teaching classes. I have to say that my two hours in the teacher role were a delight. I heard good things from my students, and they asked questions that told me I had the subjects in a good place. Mind you, some of these people write murder mysteries that you would recognize, and they loved my classes on Basic Police Patrol and Crime Scene Protection, as well as another class designed to teach authors about the finer points of weaponry for their books. I had finally given back after all the hours I spent in other people’s classrooms.
Saturday night was the awards banquet. It was actually great fun to watch the new authors compete for the same award I won two years ago. Smiling faces now launched on their way to publication. It’s still a long road for most, but they’re serious about their craft (being here for a very expensive conference that lasts 3 days is not for the people just dabbling!) and moving forward at a rapid pace.
Then it was time for the awards for the people I compete with all year for sales. To my delight, I was pleased for all the winners with no bitterness. After attending these events for over five years, I knew these authors. I had read some of their books, and I was aware of what they do for new authors. More than a few of them had mentored me. Best of all, I usually knew two of the three finalists, sometimes all three. All worthy of their awards. It made me smile to see good people who write to promote the Kingdom of God do well.
We wrapped it up in the hotel bar. No, I did not crawl out of the bar. (I had to clarify that for my sailor friends.) But I did get to talk to old friends, smile at people who won nice awards, and plan for the next year.
Changes are coming folks. Good ones. Ones that will be revealed soon.
In the meantime, be blessed. Revel in the victories of your friends. It feels good.
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