Come fly with me…

If you know me, you know I like to be helpful. I also like to be prepared. (Bandaids in my bag? You bet. Hand sanitizer? Obviously. Need Tylenol? I’m here for you.) So it should be no surprise that when it comes to traveling, I like to do my research, and since I recently got back from a week of travel, just in case you’ll be traveling soon (the holidays are racing toward us!), I want to share a few items that could help make traveling easier.

Airborne Chewable Tablets

Airborne. I’ll be honest, I’m a skeptic when it comes to magic supplements. I mean, I take my multi-vitamin every day, but I used to get sick every time I traveled. On a plane, in a car, it didn’t matter, I would catch a bug on the way to or from my destination. And who needs that? So out of desperation, I tried Airborne. The first few times, I chalked it up to coincidence. But after two years of “coincidentally” not getting sick while taking Airborne and traveling, I’m willing to admit this stuff works for me. I don’t know what it is exactly that transforms my immune system from Incrediboy to Wonder Woman, but I’m so on board. Just one tablet before I’m in transit and another when I reach my destination seems sufficient to fight off the germ villains.

Apps. If a plane is your mode of transport, there’s good news: most airlines offer free in-flight entertainment on your personal device. But it requires a little bit of planning since you usually have to download a specific app. United streams movies through their own app, Delta uses GoGo Entertainment. I have no idea about the others, but make sure you download the necessary app first and pack those earbuds to help your flight time feel faster.

Contigo Ashland Glass Bottle

Water bottle. Yeah, I know, no more than 3 ounces of liquid through airport security. But there are water fountains (and sometimes bottle fillers) on the other side. So take an empty water bottle to fill up after security. And make it easy on yourself: use a carabiner to clip the bottle to your bag so you don’t have to carry it or try to fit it in your bag. That way you can access it easily but it won’t be in your way. Or buy one with a built-in clip, like this beauty I recently picked up from Target. It even has a lock switch so you won’t accidentally pop up the top if you bump it. Now that’s attention to detail.

Glasses case. Okay, so that might sound weird if you don’t wear glasses, but this tip isn’t about vision. See, I have a great, hard shell, travel jewelry case but sometimes it’s bigger than I need. But I do want something that will keep the more delicate pieces from being crushed. Enter the glasses case! And as a bonus, nobody’s gonna look at a glasses case and think it has jewelry inside, so it’s a two-for-one deal. If you don’t need to pack jewelry, it also works for other small items you want to keep protected.

Mediterra Snack Bar

Snack bars. Whether you’re on a plane, in a car, or strolling around a city, snacks are important, am I right? Nobody wants to deal with you and your hangry self. And one of my new favorite snack discoveries is the Mediterra savory snack bar. When I’m hungry, I don’t crave sweet, I want savory or salty but unfortunately most protein/snack bars are incredibly sweet so I had to do some digging to find another option. Enter Mediterra! These bars still have a hint of sweetness but they’re savory, with the goodness of pumpkin seeds and kale. Just, you know, check your teeth after you have one.

Pepper spray. So that took a turn, huh? When I travel alone, safety is a concern. Hello, I write about crime so of course I’m gonna think about worst case scenarios. One of your best defensive tools is awareness, but it never hurts to have a little backup. Obviously you can’t take pepper spray on a plane, so if that’s how you’re traveling, you can just slip it in your checked bag. (In a ziplock bag in case things go horribly wrong.) Once you get your suitcase, you can retrieve the spray and put it in a more accessible place before leaving the airport. Just make sure you know the pepper spray laws for whatever state you’ll be in.

Flapjacked Mighty Muffin

Breakfast. Speaking of being prepared, I always feel more ready to take on the world when I have protein for breakfast, which can be hard in a hotel. But again, a bit of research and hello, Mighty Muffins. These little beauties just require water and a microwave and boom: low carb, high protein nutrition to start your day. They’re not your standard sweet muffins, though. More like bread, which I prefer for a breakfast food. (They’re gluten free, too, if that’s your thing.) If low carb isn’t your concern, Kodiak Cakes makes their own version of instant muffins. Just make sure you pack a fork.

Bodium French Press Mug

Coffee. if you know me at all, you know my breakfast wouldn’t be complete without coffee. Good coffee. So naturally, when I’m confronted with the possibility of drinking hotel coffee, I pack my own. (Go ahead, call me a coffee snob. And then do it again after you’ve had old, stale coffee.) Lately I’ve been really enjoying cold brew coffee, so when I found this French press travel mug, it was the perfect solution. I just mix the ground coffee and water, stick it in the mini-fridge overnight, and the next morning I have a smooth, delicious iced coffee to sip. It also works well for visiting people who don’t own a coffeemaker. (Yes, those people do exist, apparently.)

Those are my favorite ways to make travel easier and more fun. What about you? Got any travel tips to add?







Nashville, Here I Come

This week, I’m heading to Killer Nashville, a writers’ conference for people like me who write about murder and other crimes. If you’re going to be there, please consider this permission to approach. Here’s what I look like these days:

Yes, that is teal in my hair. It’s an easy way to recognize me. I’m very introvert friendly, so don’t be scared. And I’m great with pep talks or pitch practice (I started public speaking when I was 6, so, you know, credentials.) Or if you just want a safe place to sit quietly, that’s fine too. Have a seat next to me and tell me you need some silence. I’m down with that.

I’m also a major observer. So if I’m sitting somewhere and staring at you, I’m probably just analyzing you and plotting your murder. Nothing personal. Feel free to plot my murder as well. Could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

I’ve been told I have an expressive face. Sometimes what I’m thinking shows up on my face.

That’s amusement on the left and mild concern on the right. Any time I had to take standardized tests in high school, I often ended up entertaining my teachers with my facial reactions to the questions. I tend to communicate a lot with my face, something my husband can attest to. That’s probably why I loved doing theatre.

I’m also a creative problem-solver, which makes me a fantastic brainstormer. So if you’ve hit a plot snag with your current manuscript and want to talk it out, feel free to ask for help. Or if you just want to play “Where Would You Hide a Body,” that’s good too. If you see me glancing around a room, studying the corners and ceiling, that’s probably what I’m doing.

So there you go, that’s me in a few snapshots. I look forward to meeting other creatively murderous minds and learning more about making a career of crafting twisty, suspenseful tales.





Of Love and the Ocean

My husband once told me no one loves the beach as much as I do. And I don’t know whether that makes me feel special or sad—special because maybe I have a connection to it that other people don’t have or sad because other people don’t love it as much. Either way, something about the beach seems to feed my soul. If it’s been too long since I was last there, I feel it. Life starts to feel like it’s piling up on me.

So we try to go to the beach every year. And our vacations do double duty for me, since they’re also research for my books. This June, we spent a week on Topsail Island, NC, where my latest manuscript is set.

The beach hair (and smiling) began the moment I climbed out of the car. I mean. Who wouldn’t smile at this view:

Every day I woke up with the waves dancing just outside the window. There is no better view for me. And every day, I walked along the beach, filling my lungs with the salty air and trying to figure out what it is that I love so much. Part of it is texture. The beach is overflowing with textures.

So many layers of textures and colors.

This particular beach was wide, with broad tidal ranges. At high tide, there was a large expanse of shallow water before you reached any real depth, so the light and wind could play with the water in the loveliest way.

Light and texture, every moment. And weather that can change everything in a minute.

Honestly, I could stare at that for hours. We even got to see a gorgeous lightning storm out over the water one night. But when storms rolled through during the day, they usually didn’t last all that long. And sometimes they left a stunning, mystical fog.

I love the way the water fades into the sky, how the light shifts the shade of the water. It’s dynamic, ever-changing.

Light, texture, dynamics, water reflecting the sky. And there’s this constant wind that wraps me up in a cocoon of solitude so that it’s just me and my thoughts. But at the same time, it seems muffles my negative thoughts. So it’s like being wrapped up with everything that is good and beautiful, with miles of possibility stretching out in front of me.

Who wouldn’t love that?

Now if you need me, I’ll be browsing the listings for beach houses and dreaming of being able to afford one.