An old Mazda pulls into the parking lot and I have to hurry. I’ve known Gene for a few years now and that means I know he hasn’t had his coffee yet. A quick wave gets me the waitress’s attention. The look on her face tells me she’s seen his car too and is already off to prep the jet black rocket fuel my favorite Magician enjoys.
Martin: Morning, Gene. How are you doing this fine day?
The mid-aged father of two takes a seat at the table across from me, running a hand over his pre-dawn stubble, and trying to blink the sleep out of his eyes.
Gene: I’m here, Martin. Not that I really had a choice. Really would have loved an extra hour of sleep, you know.
Martin: I bet, if I recall correctly, you’ve got to get the kids to school soon, right?
Gene: You’re the one telling this story, but yeah that sounds about right. Listen, while you’re at it, any chance I could get you to tell me what to get Porter for our anniversary? I can’t help shake the feeling I really screwed that up last year.
Martin: You did, but I’ll make this year’s more memorable.
Gene: Oh, great, and now I’m sure that’s going to mean terrible things in my future. Thanks, Martin.
I shuffle up my notes for an anniversary short and thank my lucky stars when the waitress arrives with Gene’s coffee.
Martin: So Gene, our readers have a few questions. Would you mind?
Appropriately mellowed with his black coffee, my favorite Magician nods.
Gene: Sure, shoot.
Martin: Great! All right, our first question comes from a reader from upstate New York. She writes, ‘Gene, I’m a big fan. How do you juggle being a dad with all of the challenges of Magick in the Sunshine State? Don’t you ever worry about your kids?’
Gene: Simple. You screw up a lot. Seriously, I’d say it all comes down to compartmentalization, when you’re with the kids, you try to make it all about the kids. When you are out in the real world and some Shade from the fifth circle of Hell is trying to chew your face off, then you focus on that. To say I have a plan would really not be fair to planners everywhere. I prefer to think of it as a loose set of guidelines. First, focus on what’s in front of you. Second, don’t let it cut your fingers off and snack on them like jalapeño poppers, and third, make time for your family, because without them you really don’t have anything to speak of.
Martin: That’s a great answer.
Gene: Well, I’m glad you liked it, you came up with it.
Martin: Oh, right. Let me grab another question. This one I hear all the time. A reader from Maine asks ‘I love your relationship with Porter. How did you two meet?’
Gene: Crazy story. We met in college. It was right about the same time I was trying to disentangle myself from Morgan Crowley and–
Martin: Whoops, hold on Gene. That’s the entire plot of ‘Gathering Gloom,’ the second book in the Tales of Weird Florida series. We can’t let you give that up before they get a chance to read it.
Gene: Really? Did you get it all in there? Shorty the talking shrunken head? My old roommate, Ed Lovely? What about the–
Martin: Yes, I got it all. Now, let me jump ahead to the next question. A reader from Orlando writes, ‘Do you ever leave Tampa? Florida has a lot of great nooks and crannies, any chance you visit more of them?’
Gene: All the time. I know for a fact I spent way too much time in the Green Swamp trying to survive Alligator Men, a Darkling, and–
Martin: Whoa there, buddy. That’s the plot of ‘Beaten Path,’ the third book in the Tales of Weird Florida series. We don’t need to cover that today, our readers will get that one early 2020.
Gene: What? I suppose you’re also going to tell me I can’t talk about Miami, Viktor, Delia, and the Flock?
Martin: Nope. That’s ‘Bloody Deed,’ also coming out in 2020.
Gene: We’ve had a hell of a run, haven’t we?
Martin: Right, Hell. That’s ‘No Fury,’ also coming out in 2020. Would really appreciate it if you didn’t share any spoilers from that one.
Gene: Oh, right. Well, is there anything else I can answer for you before I have to get the kids to school?
I shuffle through the questions, more than half of them would result in tons of spoilers for future books.
Martin: Wow, uh. Hmm. I guess we’ll end with a personal question. What’s the best place to get a beer in Tampa?
Gene: Easy. Coppertail. Go get an Unholy and tell them I sent you, but watch out for Migel’s garage and the Skeet–
Martin: That’s enough spoilers, Gene. You’ve gotta get the kids to school, and I’ve got to get these books out.
Gene: You got it, author man. Thanks for the coffee, next time not so early.