Parts of 2021, the second year of the pandemic, remain a blur in my mind, but the year, nevertheless, had its bright spots. In January, I and two other mystery author colleagues, Susan Oleksiw and Ang Pompano, launched a new small press, Crime Spell Books, to continue publishing the Best New England Crime Stories anthologies after the previous publisher decided to focus solely on novels. Although I’d done this before with a different team of co-publishers/editors, it was still daunting to start from scratch with a new team. Yet, as things began to come together at an early Zoom meeting, my worries gave way to excitement. Susan gave us the name Crime Spell Books, Ang created our website before our eyes, I suggested the name, Bloodroot, for our first anthology, and an image of the plant with it delicate white flower and poisonous bright orange root appeared on the screen. Reading and selecting the stories was exciting also, and we were all pleased with the final result. Best New England Crime Stories: Bloodroot debuted at the New England Crime Bake Conference in November, which was held in-person instead of virtually as in 2020. For more information about Crime Spell Books and our next anthology, visit www.crimespellbooks.com.
As for my own writing, I consider myself fortunate that, unlike some writers I know, my muse didn’t desert me during the pandemic. I continued to work on Wolf Bog, the third book in my Berkshire Hilltown Mystery series, turned in the final manuscript to my publisher, Encircle, in October, and the book is scheduled for release in July of 2022. Now, I’m working on the fourth book, tentatively titled Wildcat Academy. I might not have gotten this far without the support of my writer’s critique group, and also Encircle, whose Thursday evening Happy Hours on Zoom have become a highlight of my week.
Writing has kept me going through difficult times, but so has walking. My days often began with a call from my partner: “Ready to hit the bricks?” And hit them we did in all kinds of weather and on terrain ranging from paved paths around a large park in my Cambridge neighborhood to trails through the woods in the Berkshires. I also had one glorious day of cross-country skiing in the Berkshires before the snow turned to ice and the going became treacherous.
Visits with friends and family members have sustained me, too, especially after many of us got vaccinated and then boosted, and could spend more time together safely indoors as well as out. Looking ahead to 2022, I know there will be challenges, but hope I’ll be able to meet them through writing, walking, and more than a little help from family and friends.