Kin and Kindred

It’s Easter. Like many people, I have fond memories of family gatherings for dinner on Easter and Thanksgiving, exchanging presents on Christmas Day, family outdoor cookouts on the Fourth of July or Labor Day, celebratory drinks on New Year’s Eve, or devouring chocolate cake on someone’s birthday. Most of those original family members are gone now, victims of old age or disease. Those few remaining are scattered to the four winds.

This Easter I’m connected, not by birth blood but by spilled blood, to an exciting extended family of friends.

I feel blessed to be part of a vibrant community of crime writers and horror writers who are indeed like family to me. I’ve been active in the Science Fiction and Fantasy communities since leaving active military service in the 1970s, and I’ve been a member of HWA since its inception. I’ve recently rejoined the Mystery Writers of America. I look forward to re-connecting in person with my writer friends at annual conventions. We stay connected during the rest of the year via Facebook, e-mails, and by reading stories and novels written by our family of friends. But now it’s time to get up close and personal.

April may be the cruelest month, but April is also the beginning of the busy convention season. I begin with panels and signings at Odyssey Con in Madison, Wisconsin, Midwest Mystery Writers readings in Chicago, Stokercon in Las Vegas, and I get to return to Madison for Wiscon on Memorial Day. Printers Row weekend is in Chicago in June. I go east to New York City for Thrillerfest in July, then west to MidwesternconII, the World Science Fiction Convention, in Kansas City during August. September sees me in New Orleans for Bouchercon, October is World Fantasy Con in Columbus, Ohio, and November is Windycon in Chicago. In between, I’m scheduled to do signings at bookstores and teach a class in the history of science fiction and fantasy at Rock Valley College. Each of these events is an opportunity not only to sell novels, but a time to meet and greet new and old friends. It is such friends that make life worth living.

Venturing out of the safety of my comfortable cocoon can be scary. Each year I’m reborn as an older version of myself. But the child that is within me emerges, and I’m at home with readers and writers who are more like me than most of my own family. My parents and grandparents were readers. So, too, is my daughter. My wife Gretta was a reader, and my ex-wife Teddie is still a reader of thrillers. Elizabeth Flygare is a reader and writer, though she prefers character-driven mainstream literature to thrillers and SF. But I boldly seek out new readers to welcome into my family because I love to share what I read and write, and I love to learn what others are reading and writing. It’s that love of the written word that connects us and unites us. It’s the spilled blood on the page that binds us.

It is written that the spilled blood of the only-begotten son of God redeems us, but it is the spilled blood of man that scares the be-Jesus out of us.

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