Festival Madness Yields Festival Madness

JudyMohonk2aEdith: I’m delighted to welcome fellow New Englander and Sister in Crime Judith Copek to the blog today. She has a new book out, Festival Madness. I have a few friends who attend the Burning Man festival in the desert every year, but I was surprised to hear that Judy and her husband Hans did, too, so I asked her to tell us about how she got there and then wrote a book about it. Take it away, Judy!

“You won’t be the oldest people there.” Thus spoke our son to convince my husband and me to attend the Burning Man Festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. He was right. I wandered around taking in the sights: the unbelievable BM2009_NYT_loRezsculptures arrayed in the desert, the art cars, fire belching (mechanical) dragons, the costumed (and occasionally buck naked) denizens on the “playa,” and the whole mind-blowing scene, including the burning 72.Temple_Burn.900x600of the Man and the temple. When I got back to staid, laced-up Massachusetts, it occurred to me, there has to be a book in this. We returned to the “Man” two years later, this time with a camper, supplies and an agenda. I took notes and photos. Characters from a prior novel stepped up to the plate, providing even a rudimentary plot.FM_Cover-1

Not having a deadline, it took two-plus years to write Festival Madness, and a couple more years to realize that no one was salivating to buy the story. Last summer, I decided, “Amazon Kindle, here I come”. Due to some unforeseen copyright issues, another story, I couldn’t use my favorite cover, and negotiations dragged on until January, when the Kindle and Createspace versions of Festival Madness finally debuted.

You may wonder if there is anything remotely cozy about Burning Man or my novel? Actually, yes.

Carl_tending_fireOur second trip, we camped at the “Airport” next to one hundred little planes and a dirt landing strip. Sitting in front of the roaring Franklin Stove by night, and lounging in the shade of the pilot’s tent by day; even cooking (in my pajamas) for the pilots and airport volunteers in the primitive kitchen facility were friendly, laid back experiences amid the craziness of the festival and the challenging desert climate.

In Festival Madness, hanging out in the main character’s kitchen feels warm and safe, even if a murderer is out there somewhere. What could be cozier than a hearty breakfast at an Adirondack diner on an autumn morning before the exciting climax? Even a mystery with a decided edge can have scenes where the characters recharge for the next crisis, scenes Burning-Manthat feel “cozy”.

Everyone wonders what The Burning Man Festival is like. It’s like no place you’ve ever been or even imagined. You can read Festival Madness and visit the web site, but you should really experience it. Remember, you will not be the oldest person there.

E: Thanks, Judy! What an amazing experience. Readers, have you ever been to Burning Man? Any questions for Judith? She’ll pop in and answer all day.



An information systems nerd for twenty-plus years, Judith Copek is a survivor of Dilbert-like re-engineering projects, 3:00 a.m. computer crashes and the Millennium Bug. In her writing, she likes to show technology’s humor and quirkiness along with its really scary aspects.

Occasionally Judith takes a vacation that spins off into a novel. Festival Madness arrived after multiple trips to the Burning Man Festival and years of observing high-tech hi-jinx. World of Mirrors was born when Judith and her husband visited the Baltic island of Rugen shortly after the reunification of East and West Germany

Judith is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, New England PEN, and Toastmasters International. She has published poems, short stories and memoir as well as an earlier novel, The Shadow Warriors.  

15 Thoughts

  1. Judy, thanks for coming by! I’ve got to admit, Burning Man intrigues me. I hear more and more about it, and suspect it needs to be on “the list”. So glad that this book finally “got born”, and it is waiting for me on my Kindle.

  2. Thanks, Wicked Cozy Authors, for inviting me to your great blog. Burning Man is such a stupendous event that it’s impossible to describe in a few words, but it was really fun to write about.

  3. The Burning Man website is HUGE. Look especially at the photos from various years. “Tales of the Playa” is also good The denizens of Burning Man refer to the vast dry lake bed as the Playa, which of course is Spanish for beach. It’s alkalai dirt which packs down nicely, but is hard on bare feet and will seep into anything not encased in plastic.

  4. The first time I’d heard of Burning Man was through your posts, Judy. It sounds intriguing but I can’t imagine going! Thanks for joining us today!

  5. Mark, you’re close enough to drive there. I will admit that the stories I’ve heard also included lots and lots of people choosing the clothing-optional style, but Judy’s approach makes it seem like I could go, too. Not that I don’t love clothing optional, but at this stage of my life, I think I’ll exercise that choice only in the privacy of my own home!

  6. Thanks for the welcoming words, Barb and Sherry. Clothing optional at Burning Man is true, but most people actually wear something. Night in the high desert is cold, and by day the sun is hot and the dust can be a problem, too. There is actually a “family camp” where people with children can stay that is quieter and less crazy. My granddaughter attended with her father when she was just three and does not seem to be scarred for life. 🙂

  7. The Burning Man festival sounds like the perfect place to pick up a few quirky characters for a novel (or several novels). And the photos are something!

    1. No dearth of quirky characters or dramatic nature. One always does need a plot and I had to come up with scary stuff that could happen at Burning Man while still being true to the spirit of the Festival. That was the challenge.

  8. I don’t know about the Burning Man Festival in Nevada—must read your book, Judy—but I have been to Santa Fe intending to go to Zozobra, the Burning Man festival there. I decided to go after my Diné copoet had gone and returned with photos. I’m not sure that I wasn’t set up by my old friend and partner in writing and performing poetry with song and dance. Patrick is a good prankster. (I know what you’re thinking… Diné named Patrick? Yes. His mother liked the sound it made.) When I got to New Mexico I went first to Taos Pueblo to visit a friend from college. She told me that the Santa Fe Kiwanis Club purports their Burning Man festival to be the invention of a local citizen to celebrate during the Fiestas de Santa Fe. People gather to burn and destroy “doom and gloom.” The Fiestas are, however, a celebration of the Spanish retaking Santa Fe from the Pueblo tribes who had occupied Santa Fe since the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, suppressed by the executions of 70 Pueblo Indians and sentencing their families to ten years’ servitude. You can read about it in Gutiérrez, When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away, 145. You could have a whole series of Burning Man Festivals, but I don’t know how cozy they’d be. They could be, though.

    1. There ARE a whole series of Burning Man Festivals–all over the world. Several in the US and more in Europe–not sure about Asia. It’s not just art and music and costumes and hedonism. Burners went en mass to New Orleans after Katrina and stayed to help for a very long time. It’s also a non-commercial culture which is one of the things that makes it so interesting. I think the idea of a being, whether a god or a phoenix or a man who dies and is resurrected is mythic through many cultures, from ancient to modern.

  9. I hope all of you enjoyed learning something about The Burning Man Festival. It only takes up about 1/3 of Festival Madness, but it echoes all the way through the novel. I’ve enjoyed being with the Wicked Cozy authors today. They’re an amazing group of writers. I’m reading (and enjoying) Barb’s clambake mystery now.

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