Treacherous

And it’s Saturday, and my vacation is slowly but surely drawing to a close. Heavy heaving sigh,

It’s been lovely, actually, even if I haven’t been particularly inspired to do a whole lot this entire time. It’s always easy–and kind of a cop-out–to say, well, you needed the physical, intellectual, and emotional rest, but I really need to cut myself a break every now and again. The endless struggle between “feeling lazy” and “everyone needs a break” is an endless war inside my head; inevitably, the things I need to get done will get done and at some point, I’ll forgive myself for the rest.

I had a very strange inspiration for a short story the other day, which I scribbled down and have some vague idea of where the story will go; it’s called “The Sound of Snow Falling” and the first line is: It was the ice storm that finally broke him. I love that first line; whether it will wind up being a good story remains to be seen. But one thing I’ve never mined in my fiction is my utter hatred for cold weather; perhaps it’s time.

I actually worked on the book yesterday afternoon! It was lovely, and while it still needs polishing up some, I am confident that now that I’ve gotten past whatever the fuck it was that kept me holding back from working on it, I am certain I am going to get this done sooner rather than later–which is a very good thing, as time is running out very quickly. Today I have to run some errands, so I am planning on working on the book before I do that. The Iron Bowl (Auburn-Alabama) is today, and LSU plays Texas A&M tonight, so I need to try to get as much done as I can before the 2:30 kick off.

I did go to the gym yesterday and today my back muscles are sore and tight, so I am going to need to use the heating pad at some point today–probably while I drink more coffee and read some more of Night of Camp David, which is kind of scarily prophetic, given it was published originally in 1965. We also watched this week’s episode of The Mandalorian, which did a marvelous job of tying the show into the the original trilogy, the prequels, and the final trilogy–apparently, it also tied the show into The Clone Wars, which I’ve never watched (and perhaps should). We also found out the Child’s name–Gorgu–and as always, the show was enormously entertaining (also: a guest spot by Michael Biehn, of The Terminator and Aliens fame!) and visually stunning and splendid. It did occur to me last night that the show–in which the Mandalorian’s quest is to find Gorgu’s people–can’t ever really separate them, as their relationship is at the beating heart of the show.

The show is really one of the highlights of my every weekend, frankly.

We weren’t ready for bed yet, and were trying to find some stand-up comedian special to watch before hand–to no avail–when Amazon Prime suggested Porky’s to us. I had actually run across the movie when looking for things to add to my watchlist, and the film–from 1981–was a watershed moment in “teen movies”–when they turned from the unrealistic fluff from Disney or message movies to sex comedies. I assumed the movie wouldn’t hold up–I remember thinking it was really funny when I was twenty and saw it in the theater–and I was correct; the humor falls very flat in almost every case; the way women are treated–and the way they are expected to simply put up with it (and do) is horrifying, It’s a comedy predicated on the idea that high school boys are always horny and always trying to get laid–none of the boys have a relationship of any kind with any women–and the only female cast members exist only as potential sex partners–Wendy is the female equivalent of the boys, and despite her easy way with her own favors, (basically the boys see her as a willing sex partner who can be persuaded to have sex with just about anyone) she is actually popular and has a lot of friends. (This struck me as wrong when I originally saw it–she would have had a bad reputation-and none of the girls would have been friends with her) The other women in the cast are Miss Honeywell (a very young Kim Cattrall)–again, everyone calls her Lassie because she gets very aroused by the smell of the equipment room and howls loudly as she gets laid–and an uptight, overweight, gym teacher known as Beulah Ballbricker, that they all call Ball-breaker and I suppose her sexual repression and determination to keep the girl students safe from the lusts and perversions of the boys is played for laughs. She represents the sexual frustration and repression of the time, I suppose, that all the kids are rebelling against; but you also can’t help feel sorry for her in some ways.

The movie clearly doesn’t hold up–there are still some moments that are funny–but it depends entirely too much on very low sex humor for laughs, and its very vulgarity was what made it funny; it was shocking, and you would laugh back then because you couldn’t believe they were doing these things in a movie for laughs. Some forty years later, it’s no longer shocking, so it’s not funny anymore and it’s just plain vulgar. They also tacked on a subplot about prejudice and anti-semitism to, I suppose, give the movie a “serious” message about how stupid bigotry actually is in reality. And yet it–along with Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Animal House of a few years earlier–changed the teen movie forever, and paved the way for other movies of the 1980’s like Risky Business, Sixteen Candles, and The Last American Virgin. With the enormous success of this low-budget indie film, along with Ridgemont High and Animal House, Hollywood finally got the message that you can’t go wrong with sex comedies for teens–and teen movies, while still kind of extreme in some ways, began to more accurately reflect what life was like for teenagers, as opposed to the Frankie-Annette movies of the 1960’s and the Kurt Russell films for Disney in the 1970’s; or began developing films in which the teens were actually fully realized characters–I’m not sure how realistic the notion of running a brothel from your parents’ home in a wealthy suburb is. (Although now that I’ve said that, Risky Business was probably based on something that actually happened.)

There’s a really interesting essay or dissertation or even book there, methinks, but I’m not enough of a film expert to do such a thing–although it would make for interesting reading.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. The caffeine is beginning to kick in, which is most lovely, and I am most anxious to get functional and to work on the book as quickly as I can. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

So It Goes…

I often talk about how my education in the classics is severely limited, and by that, I also mean the classics in the genres as well. There are any number of great writers whose works I’ve never read–and given the ticking clock of my life, most likely will never get to–and I’ve sometimes wondered if that has had a negative impact on my own writing, on my own work; the greatest writers always inspire, and perhaps if I took some time to read their work it would improve my own.

Donald E. Westlake is one of those authors; someone I always intended to get around to yet somehow never have. Several years ago I read his Hard Crime Classic The Comedy is Finished and loved it. I also knew that the Rob Byrnes caper novels I love so much (most recently Strange Bedfellows–you really should check the books out) were inspired by Westlake’s Dortmunder series, and at some point in the perhaps not so distant past I acquired a copy of the first Dortmunder, The Hot Rock (which I knew had been filmed in the 1970’s and the film starred Robert Redford; I should add the film to the Cynical 70’s Film Festival), and even more recently, I picked it up and started to read it.

I finished it Thanksgiving day.

Dortmunder blew his nose. “Warden,” he said, “you don’t know how much I appreciate the personal attention you been paying me.” There wasn’t anything to do with the Kleenex, so he just held it balled up in his fist.

Warden Oates gave him a brisk smile, got up from behind his desk, walked around to Dortmunder’s side, patted him on the arm, and said, “It’s the ones I can save that give me the most pleasure.” He was a latter day Civil Service type–college-trained, athletic, energetic, reformistic, idealistic, and chummy. Dortmunder hated him.

The warden said, “I’ll walk you to the gate, Dortmunder.”

“You don’t have to do that, Warden,” Dortmunder said. The Kleenex was colf and gooey against his palm.

I greatly enjoyed reading this book, and I will definitely come back to the Dortmunder series again. It’s a caper book–a heist novel–and while I wouldn’t call it a page-turner, it definitely held my interest and kept me reading–mainly because I was curious to see what would go wrong next. The premise of the novel–and apparently, the series–is that Dortmunder is a very professional criminal; he plans and plans and plans, takes every possibility of what could possibly go wrong into account, and so every job should go smoothly–but of course, what he never takes into consideration is how humans will respond, and so things will always go wrong.

The Hot Rock itself is an emerald, worth (at the time) half a million dollars, and Dortmunder is brought into a plan to steal it. It is a sacred stone to a small, impoverished African nation, and was, of course, looted from their country during its colonial period. It is going to be displayed at a museum in New York City, and so Dortmunder and his gang of skilled but not terribly bright criminals plan to steal it. But things go wrong…and it turns out the stone will need to be stolen from yet another location….and on and on and on, with each successive heist more dangerous, more over the top, and more difficult, with each time the stone gets routed incorrectly; among the other places it must be stolen from include a police station, a mental hospital, and a bank.

Great, great fun; a little bit dated, but still a great read.

Lover

And now it’s the day after the holiday, where Americans ignore all sanity and safety precautions and slam into stores long before sun-up for bargains and to get their Christmas shopping finished. I don’t know if this is actually happening this year or not–I flatly refuse to participate in the nonsense of greedy consumerism (the antithesis of the holiday they intend to celebrate) known as Black Friday; for years, this was the day I drove home to New Orleans from Kentucky. In these pandemic times, I have not bothered to find out what the retailers are planning or planned in terms of safety and so forth; there was no need for me to know, frankly, and at some point today I’ll go to some news sites and see the horrors that transpired for myself.

No thank you.

I finished reading The Hot Rock yesterday, which I enjoyed very much, and then moved on to Night of Camp David, by Fletcher Knebel, which is also interesting. Knebel–I don’t know if anyone else remembers him, but he used to write political thrillers back in the 60’s and 70’s (probably the best known work of his would be Seven Days in May, primarily because it was also made into a film, and the subject–the US and the USSR on the brink of nuclear war–was timely and always in the back of everyone’s mind, right up until the day the USSR collapsed). I’ve never been a big fan of political thrillers, to be honest–political fiction has never really interested me too much, primarily because the reality is too much like fiction as it is, and for another, so much world building to do, even if you simply take the US government and political system as it is and simply graft your story and characters onto it–even if you use the actual history as the history of your new world. Paul and I avoided The West Wing for years for this very reason–why get vested in a fictional world of American politics when the real world is right there in front of you all the time–but we discovered it one day when Bravo used to do the marathons all the time, and went back and watched it from the beginning, and it remains one of our favorite shows of all time.

So, it’s entirely possible I would thoroughly enjoy political thrillers after all–I’ve certainly enjoyed, or at least never minded, when thrillers (like those of Robert Ludlum) brushed up against reality or created their own fictional American political world.

Like I don’t have enough to read already, right?

I was reminded of Knebel and his work back sometime during the past four years, as some website (maybe Crime Reads?) did a piece on this particular book, which had returned to print, and focused on a president who was losing his sanity, and the only person who really was aware is the first term, junior senator from Iowa, whom the president has taken a liking to, and keeps inviting to Camp David for late night conversations where the president tells him his insane, Fascistic intentions for his second term. (Yeah, can’t imagine what triggered the publisher to bring this back into print, can you?) I had never read Knebel back in the day, but reading this piece made me curious, not only about this book but about Knebel in general. The Cynical 70’s Film Festival has also reminded me of the deeply cynical political fictions of the time (I really want to read The Manchurian Candidate)–so many thrillers set in or around politics back in the day–and, of course, conspiracy theories flourished. (The true heyday of the JFK conspiracy theories was clearly the 1970’s.)

All in all, yesterday was a highly enjoyable, relaxing day; today will be more of the same. Sure, I did some cleaning–I cleaned out two of my kitchen cabinets, reorganizing them to make them more functional–and of course i made a turkey roast in the slow cooker, which was quite marvelous. We finished watching season one of Mystery Road, which was quite good, and then moved on to the first three episodes of the HBO MAX series, The Flight Attendant, which was based on a Chris Bohjalian novel, and stars Kaley Cuoco of The Big Bang Theory in the lead. Cuoco is tremendously appealing and quite talented. Working the first class cabin on a flight to Bangkok, she becomes involved with one of her passengers, played by Michiel Huisman, and agrees to go to dinner with him in Bangkok. She blacks out during the evening–she’s an alcoholic and in severe denial about it–and wakes up next to his bloody, dead body (his throat was cut) and has absolutely zero memory of the evening before. It’s an interesting mystery, and as I said, Cuoco is terrific in the lead, and is surrounded by a terrific cast.

There really aren’t enough books–particularly crime thrillers–built around flight crews, frankly. I kept thinking about that last night as I watched; I have a short story in progress about a gay flight attendant called “The White Knuckler”, which I’ve never finished, and it also reminded me of how much I love the Vicki Barr Stewardess mystery series for kids.

So, what’s on the agenda for today? At some point I need to get to the gym, and of course the kitchen is in ruins. I am probably going to clean up the mess in the kitchen this morning, then move onto my easy chair to read some more, and then I am going to write all afternoon before going to the gym. Since we watched all the episodes of The Flight Attendant that are currently available–there won’t be a new one again until Thursday–we’re going to need to find something else to watch tonight to entertain us. Which can sometimes prove challenging, but there are worse things.

Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

Dress

And it’s Thanksgiving, and a holiday! Huzzah for holidays! Thanksgiving isn’t really one of my favorites (other than the obligatory four day weekend that results; I wonder who had the brilliant idea to have the holiday fall on a Thursday instead of Friday in the first place? Give that person a Nobel Prize, please, even if it’s posthumous), but I’m really not much of a holiday person now, nor have I ever really been.

For me, it was always about time off–from school, from work, from responsibility–and now as an adult? I just appreciate paid time off from work, which is always welcomed.

I actually slept late this morning, too–almost all the way to nine thirty, without waking up once and looking at the clock and thinking oh go back to sleep for a bit. This is, obviously, unusual; I must have needed the rest, frankly, so I am not going to question it at all. I am taking the day off from everything guilt-free–it’s a goddamned holiday, so my guilt can just fuck right off–and in a moment, once this is finished, I am going to take my cappuccino into the living room and embrace The Hot Rock and some short stories.

I am making a turkey breast roast (that sounds just wrong) in the slow cooker today in a nod to the holiday–it’s a very simple recipe and then when it’s done I shred the meat with a fork, so it’s really pulled turkey–and yes, I make boxed stuffing because a) it’s perfectly edible and fine and b) if you use chicken broth instead of water, it’s even better. Plus, it’s easy. And the older I get, the more I embrace easy. (I still, however, will make a cheesecake from scratch because it’s so much better.)

I try not to engage much on Twitter–tempting as it may be, the amount of trolls there is truly amazing, and I certainly don’t have the time to bother with keyboard warrior trash– but at the same time, Twitter can be highly entertaining. (My standard rule of thumb for engagement is this: if I start writing an angry and/or snarky response to something someone has tweeted, I either report the original or block the person. It’s enormously cathartic.) I remember being riveted last Christmas, for example, by the massive meltdown of RWA (hard to believe we haven’t reached the one year anniversary of that, isn’t it?).

One of the most enjoyable things I’ve watched/read/scrolled through was the conservative reaction, led by Grifter Supreme Candace Owens, to Harry Styles appearing on the cover of Vogue in a dress. Harry, obviously, doesn’t have a fuck to give about pearl-clutching trash like Owens and her audience; it’s actually lovely to see such a handsome young man with a big career secure enough in his own masculinity to don a dress on a major fashion magazine cover–and it’s also historic, as he is the first male to ever grace a Vogue cover (something Owens herself will never do, but the thirst for it is fucking real). As RuPaul has famously said, “we’re all born naked and everything else is drag.” Fashion and styles change all the time–and it really wasn’t all that long ago that men wore make-up, wigs, heels, and tights. So, apparently, Owens doesn’t believe the Founding Fathers were masculine enough for her?

Anyway, it was thoroughly enjoyable watching her get dragged for the filth she is on Twitter. Like so many on the right (and let’s be honest–there are some on the left as well) she’s in it for the grift; being the go-to female black voice for the right is apparently lucrative enough for her–married to a white male whose own “masculinity”, as defined by the right, is questionable–to continue being a sideshow barker trying to stay relevant and keep the cash coming in.

And speaking of grifts, Ann Coulter certainly has become irrelevant, hasn’t she? (I am NOT complaining. Back in the day, I used to read her books–I used to read a lot of right wing polemics passing as non-fiction political tomes because I thought it was important to not only see what they were actually selling and saying, but to try to understand their position. All it did was convince me that they were sideshow hucksters hawking snake oil and grievance, so I abandoned that around 2003. And trust me, if you’ve read one Ann Coulter pack of lies from cover to cover, you don’t need to read any others.)

There’s only so much toxicity one brain can handle, frankly.

We started watching an Australian series on Acorn last night, Mystery Road, which stars Judy Davis and a lot of indigenous Australians (which is awesome); it’s interesting and entertaining, and I would imagine is going to have a lot to say about Australian racism and how the indigenous there are treated. Judy Davis is always marvelous in everything (I can never watch the Renee Zellweger Judy Garland film because I’ve already seen a definitive Judy Garland, and that was Judy Davis’), and the rest of the cast are quite good as well. The premise is very simply that two young man vanish in the middle of a wasteland–taken from their vehicle, with the doors left open and the motor running–and it also is taking a look at the community itself; I suspect the show is a slow burn. They also bring in police detective from elsewhere who is indigenous himself (played by Aaron Pederson). The two boys who disappear are a white backpacker and a local indigenous soccer hero; it’ll be interesting to see where the show goes. (I had to look up the actor, and apparently the second season is set elsewhere, with Pederson working with a new local cop in a different location)

I’m not sure how we’ll spend today, but whatever we do, it will be relaxing and chill.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

False God

Yesterday’s big vacation excursion was Costco.

What? you may very well wonder in horror, You went to Costco TWO DAYS BEFORE THANKSGIVING?

It wasn’t bad at all, frankly. Costco’s parking lot can be packed and yet I rarely feel crowded inside the store, and the checking out and paying part of the trip never seems intrusive, never seems to take forever the way it can in other stores, and I never really mind. Plus, everyone who works there is so friendly, polite and nice–this makes the experience ever so much more pleasant. I even took Paul with me, and even that wasn’t as bad as I feared it might be. (I took Paul to Costco a while ago to get new glasses; it was his first time there and he loves it. How can you not, frankly? And every time I do go to Costco I wish I had a bigger freezer. Yes, honey, that looks wonderful, but we don’t have room for that in the freezer, sorry.)

I really hate that going to Costco makes me wish I owned a separate freezer.

Today is also Payday, aka Pay-the-Bills-Day. and of course, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I have a million things to do today–including making groceries–but once I get home from today’s errands I have every intention of not leaving the house over the course of the next four days for anything other than the gym. My back is sore again this morning, which is odd; how can it have not been sore since the other day and then have the soreness return again is beyond me. But I keep meaning to use the massage roller and never get to it; perhaps that is something I need to take a little more seriously and should do every morning as I swill down my daily caffeine supply.

I didn’t write a damned thing other than my blog yesterday–and I really don’t know how that happened, or how the day escaped me the way it did. It would, of course, be incredibly easy to simply blame it on the Costco trip and be done with it; Costco is a disruption, no matter how you look at it, and of course the living room corner is filled with boxes now–but I really shouldn’t allow that to make the rest of the day essentially worthless to me for writing (although, really, in all honesty, I pretty much will seize on any excuse not to write), but I did make some notes in my journal about “The Rosary of Broken Promises”–its at that kinda-stuck place now–but I really need to be buckling down on Bury Me in Shadows. The cover is coming–I looked at options yesterday, which is always fun (and also makes the book seem more real in some ways to me)–and I am no longer looking at this week as oh look at all the free time I have anymore. I haven’t done any deep cleaning, I haven’t organized anything, and yet somehow I am already on day 5 of my vacation with very little to actually show for it, other than I feel incredibly well rested and level emotionally, which is always a plus.

I kept thinking, all day yesterday, that it was Thursday and today would be Friday. This is a direct result of working from home on Thursdays and Fridays for so long, methinks. It was quite disorienting, and even this morning I have to keep reminding myself it’s Wednesday and not Friday. I have a gazillion emails to answer–it really is a bottomless pit–and of course I must pay the bills this morning as well (a loathsome chore) and I am definitely am going to write today once I get all that out of the way.

That is the plan at the current moment, of course.

I don’t even know what I’ve been doing these past few vacation days, if I am going to be completely honest about it. Yeah, the Lost Apartment looks better, but I haven’t even been reading much, either.

We did watch the new Sarah Paulson movie Run on Hulu last night, and it was much better–and completely different–than I was expecting. Paulson is one of our finest actresses of this period, and I’m glad she was here for the explosion of great television so her talents can be appreciated fully. She was terrific in Ratched, and she is terrific in this as well. It’s another one of those crazy moms with Munchhausen by proxy, like the Gypsy Lee Blanchard story and that side plot on Season One of The Politician (how bad must season two have been, despite Judith Light and Bette Midler, that it came and went so quickly without much notice?), but it’s not the same story at all and it’s quite excellently suspenseful; imagine if that plot line was given to Patricia Highsmith or Daphne du Maurier to write–that’s what Run is. And quite enjoyable, frankly. It’s also not getting much buzz, at least not that I’m aware of, and that’s a real shame.

And on that note I am. heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thanksgiving Eve, everyone.

Treacherous

Tuesday morning, and. the second day of paid vacation leave. Yesterday was a pretty good day, all in all–I didn’t get nearly as much done as I would have liked; but I did get some things done and progress was made. I also went to the gym, which was lovely; I actually identified which exercise I was doing that was causing my back to be sore–and frankly, it was one I didn’t like to do–so I eliminated it and substituted another one. My back is still a little sore today, but nothing like it was before and in fact, last night it didn’t hurt at all. So, again–progress.

“The Rosary of Broken Promises” now sits at a solid three thousand words, and in all honesty, I am just vomiting up on the page and will worry about cleaning it all up later. It’s going well–definitely will require revision and rework; as I said, I’m just kind of feeling my way through the story and figuring out who my main character is (and resisting the urge, which is constant, to turn it into the opening of another stand alone novel) and why he is who he is; the story, ostensibly a poor family’s Christmas story, has already taken a much darker turn than I’d originally intended. But it fits, it works, it makes the story darker and richer and more personal than what I was originally thinking when I sat down to write it. It’s definitely not right for that anthology call that inspired me to be writing a Christmas story to begin with, and seriously, I am not sure where it might be right for (always a problem with writing short stories–figuring out where to sell them) but I. like the story a lot and, as always, my worst case scenario would be another short story collection of my own.

And being creative, actually writing, is fun.

We finished watching Le Manti last night. I won’t spoil the ending for anyone, but I was very disappointed with the incredibly lazy way the writers came up with for who the copycat killer actually was; it was a stereotype thing which has been already debunked, discredited, and is incredibly harmful. Then again, it was a French show and I don’t know how things work in France when it comes to things like this. It was quite a shame, because this laziness was unexpected, given the care they had taken with the story, the characters, and their past histories–and their current relationships. It’s a shame, because overall I enjoyed the show until that point and would happily recommend it, but now I feel like I can’t. Maybe they thought they were being edgy; I don’t know, but it was still terribly disappointing, especially in 2020.

Today I have some more errands to run–Paul wants to go to Costco (I knew he would become an addict the first time I took him there) and I have a prescription to pick up, and there’s a way to do all of this (and a few others) in a nice timely and efficient manner, which is always lovely. I don’t have to go to the gym today since I went yesterday, so other than that excursion, I’ll be home for most of the day, so there’s no reason I can’t write, read, and clean all day.

Other than utter laziness, of course.

I think tonight we’re going to watch that Sarah Paulson Hulu film, Run, which is another take on the Gypsy Blanchard thing–the mom who has Munchhausen’s by proxy and is making her child ill–but it’s done like a horror film rather than a drama, which is an interesting twist that I like an awful lot–although the concept of chronically sick children turning out to have been made ill by a psychotic caregiver is slowly turning into a stereotype.

And on that note, tis time to get back into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

MWA Announces Special Awards

MWA Announces 2021 Grand Master and Raven Award Honorees
Celebrates 75th Anniversary of Awards in 2021

November 23, 2020 —New York, NY—Today Mystery Writers of America (MWA) announces the recipients of its special awards. The board chose Charlaine Harris and Jeffery Deaver as the 2021 Grand Masters, and the 2020 Raven Award recipient is Malice Domestic. They will receive their awards at the 75th Annual Edgar Awards Ceremony, which will be held April 29, 2021.

“Mystery Writers of America is thrilled to honor Jeffery Deaver and Charlaine Harris as MWA’s 2021 Grand Masters,” said MWA President Meg Gardiner. “Over the course of decades, Deaver and Harris have gripped tens of millions of readers while broadening the reach of the genre with transformative books—notably, Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series, and Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels—and while generously encouraging and supporting fellow writers and the reading public. We’re delighted to recognize their achievements.”

MWA’s Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality. Jeffery Deaver has published more than forty novels since the early 1990’s, including two series besides the Lincoln Rhyme novels, numerous stand-alone and short story collections.  On being notified of the honor, Deaver said, “When I was a (relatively) young writer new to this business of penning novels, many years ago, the first professional organization I joined was Mystery Writers of America. Signing on felt to me like coming home—being welcomed into a community of fellow authors willing to share their expertise and offer support in a profession that was largely, well, a ‘mystery’ to me. Besides, how could I not join? MWA was the real deal; for proof, one had only to look at those in the ranks of the Grand Masters: Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, James M. Cain . . . and so many others whose works populated my bookshelves. Yet it never once occurred to me, in all my years as a member and my two terms as president, that I might be invited into those very ranks. I wish to express by boundless gratitude to MWA for this honor, which stands, without question, as the highpoint of my career.”

Charlaine Harris has published 13 novels in the Southern Vampire series (adapted into the popular HBO series True Blood), which proved so popular that at one point her novels took half of the top ten slots on New York Times’ bestseller list. Her other series include the Aurora Teagarden novels, the Lily Bard (Shakespeare) books, the Midnight Texas trilogy (adapted for television) and numerous others, as well as several standalones. Harris said, “This is like winning the lottery and the Pulitzer Prize in one day. I am so honored and thrilled to join the ranks of revered writers who are Grand Masters. I thank the MWA Board from the bottom of my heart.”

Previous Grand Masters include Barbara Neely, Martin Cruz Smith, William Link, Peter Lovesey, Walter Mosley, Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Ken Follett, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie, to name a few.

The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing. For 2021, Mystery Writers of America selected the Malice Domestic mystery conference, founded in 1989 and held every spring since. Malice Domestic focuses primarily on traditional mysteries, their authors and fans, and also presents the Agatha Awards, with six categories. “Who says Friday the 13th is an unlucky day?” said Verena Rose, currently chair of the Malice Domestic Board of Directors. “Certainly, not me. This morning I received a call from Greg Herren, Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America, letting me know that Malice Domestic has been selected to receive the Raven Award in 2021. What an absolutely, amazing surprise and as the Chair, I can’t wait to give my fellow Board members the news. This is an honor we are beyond thrilled to receive.” Previous Raven winners include Left Coast Crime, Marilyn Stasio, Kristopher Zgorski, Dru Ann Love, Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas, Sisters in Crime, Margaret Kinsman, Kathryn Kennison, Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Oline Cogdill, The Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Chicago, Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis, Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA, Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, and The Poe House in Baltimore, MD.

The Edgar Awards, or “Edgars,” as they are commonly known, are named after MWA’s patron saint Edgar Allan Poe and are presented to authors of distinguished work in various categories. MWA is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime-writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. The organization encompasses some 3,000 members including authors of fiction and non-fiction books, screen and television writers, as well as publishers, editors, and literary agents. For more information on Mystery Writers of America, please visit the website: www.mysterywriters.org

Tell Me Why

Monday on a vacation week isn’t nearly as brutal or as unpleasant as it is on a normal work week. Ordinarily I am up and out of bed at six in the morning every Monday; today I was able to be a slug-a-bed until around eight, which is when I generally begin the waking process when I do not have to go into the office. One week from today when I am getting up at six again I shall look back on the glory of this halcyon morning and will, as I shut off my alarm and blearily open my eyes, undoubtedly will wish I were still on vacation.

The Saints won yesterday–Taysom Hill played really well for his first start and first full game as quarterback—which was quite delightful. It was more delightful that they were playing the Falcons. The Saints have now won like seven straight games, which is great, but many of them were squeakers, so while I think it’s great, I’m not so gung-ho about the play-offs as one might expect. But 8-2 is much better than I was expecting for them at this point in the season, so I am going to happily take it.

I did manage to reread the first ten chapters of Bury Me In Shadows yesterday; it was necessary because it’s been so long since I’ve worked on it I couldn’t remember where I was at or what was going on. I found a lot of errors (and even more egregious examples of terrible writing), and I am going to spend some time today on fixing those. I also did an outline as I went, which I am going to continue to update as I work my way through the book, and I am feeling a lot more confident about making that due date than I was just yesterday. I just need to focus and keep writing and keep fixing. I need to thoroughly immerse myself in the book, and I think I can do that this week. (As I started making the outline and listing the character names at the beginning, I literally could not remember the main character’s name. That’s how long it has been since I’ve even looked at this; which is rather disgraceful, but also telling about my mental state, my brain, and my memory.)

I also managed to work on “The Rosary of Broken Promises” yesterday morning before diving back into the book. I have no idea where this story is going or what’s going to be about, but it’s in my head and it’s worrying me, like how you always worry a loose tooth with your tongue. I keep thinking about the story, even when I’m not writing it. It’s shaping up to be vastly different than anything I’ve ever done before, and while I am not entirely sure it will be publishable anywhere–the problem with short stories: at some point, you have to think about reshaping them to fit markets, or they sit dormant in your files until the proper submission call rolls around. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how self-destructive my creativity can be? I mean, I have two submissions calls I want to write a short story for, the timelines and deadlines for both are tight, so what do I write? A story that doesn’t fit either call.

We watched the new episodes of both The Undoing and Murder on Middle Beach last night, and another episode of Le Manti. All three are quite good, and we’re enjoying them tremendously. There’s only one more episode left of The Undoing, in which we will find the answers; I don’t see how they could stretch this into a second season, but I also thought the same with Big Little Lies, and they did a second season of that, so anything is possible these days–which is kind of cool but at the same time, sad.

I have a lot of work and other things to get done today. My back is still aching–not sure what it is, quite frankly, and am getting rather tired of it–but I am also going to the gym later this morning and hopefully that won’t affect it too negatively. It’s very weird; I should probably get it looked at, but if it’s just muscle strain I’d feel like an idiot, and rightly so. So at some point today I need to use my back massage roller thingee, and while it will inevitably tighten back up later, I should probably start thinking about stretching it/using the massage roller every day.

And on that note, the spice isn’t going to mine itself. Have a lovely Monday before the holidays, Constant Reader.

Big Star

Sunday morning, and all is well–as well as it can be, at any rate–in the Lost Apartment. The Saints play the hated Falcons today at noon, with Taysom Hill–he of the sparkling blue eyes, the shredded muscular body, and the big warm infectious smile–getting the start as quarterback in place of Drew Brees, who is injured with broken ribs.

LSU eked out a win yesterday over Arkansas by partially blocking a field goal attempt in the closing minutes, 27-24, but with the only games left being Mississippi (it really requires effort not to say Ole Miss), Texas A&M, and Florida left to play, and a possible rescheduling of the Alabama game (still to be determined), means a losing season is still hanging in the balance. Alabama and Florida are both ranked in the Top Five, and none of those remaining games are going to be easy. They could easily go 0-4; 4-0 is unlikely; 2-2 is possibly the best we can hope for, which would leave the Tigers 5-5 on the season. The officiating in the game yesterday was absolutely terrible–not biased; the calls both for and against LSU were constantly questionable (some of the things that weren’t overturned were astonishing in retrospect).

I got some things done yesterday–the early game time for the Tigers certainly helped in that regard–did some serious cleaning, which was absolutely necessary, as well as some deep filing, which was enormously helpful. I discovered that, much to my surprise, my novella “Never Kiss a Stranger,” actually began as a short story called “A Streetcar Named St. Charles”–which, obviously, I ditched once I wrote a story called “A Streetcar Named Death”–and what was interesting about finding the original story was that I originally intended for my main character to meet the love interest on the streetcar; I think that’s still going to happen in the new version I am doing, but not quite in the same way (plus, that was also how I started “A Streetcar Named Death'”–a chance encounter on the streetcar, so yeah, changes). Some of what I wrote can still be used, of course, in the newer, improved version I have in progress, but what was truly amazing was how completely I’d forgotten the original.

I also started writing another story that formed, somehow, in my brain as I cleaned and filed yesterday: “The Rosary of Broken Promises.” If you will recall, I had started my story for the Christmas horror anthology, “To Sacrifice a Pawn” (really love that title) and then decided I didn’t have enough time to write it and do a really good job….so of course, yesterday I began to form another idea, drawing from the mists of my brain a similar opening as the “Pawn” story, but with a different tone, mood, and main character, and the newer idea was much darker than the original. I love this new story’s title as well; because of course I don’t have enough work in progress already (eye roll).

My back is still sore–I’m not sure what the hell I’ve done to myself, but I’m also not entirely sure it’s a muscle strain issue. I mean, it easily could be, but I am still going to the gym regularly, and it doesn’t affect the exercises I’m doing, nor does it make any of the exercises impossible. In fact, usually after I work out it doesn’t hurt at all, and it takes a while–usually overnight–for it to come back with full force. Yesterday I was aware of it, wincing periodically, with it getting worse the later in the day it got; this morning it is really miserable. Today I am going to use some heat on it with the heating pad; slather it with Icy Hot, and am going to use the yoga roller on it to try to loosen it up.

And of course, periodically I have those “creative mind” moments like, what if it’s something serious, or you had a mini-stroke or something and don’t know it?

A creative mind is truly a curse sometimes.

We watched a delightful film with Sir Ian McKellan and Dame Helen Mirren yesterday, The Good Liar, which wasn’t anything like I expected it to be; for some reason I had gotten it into my head that it was a comedy, and it was anything but a comedy. It was a very dark story about the sins of the past and swindling–very well written, with some terrific surprises in it and some truly terrific acting; Russell Tovey also was good in a supporting role as Dame Helen’s suspicious grandson–and I am surprised this film didn’t get more attention, particularly from fans of crime fiction. Very twisty, very interesting, and very well done. We then moved on to a French limited series, Le Manti (The Mantis) in which a present day serial killer is copying the crimes of a confessed serial killer who has been in jail for twenty-five years–and the serial killer is a woman. Played creepily by former Bond girl Carole Bouquet (For Your Eyes Only), the Mantis offers to help the police catch the killer, a la The Silence of the Lambs, with only one stipulation: her liaison with the police has to be her son, who is now also a cop. Very twisty, very creepy, very well plotted, we tore through three episodes of it last night. I do recommend it, even if there are some plausibility questions. And how nice to see Carole Bouquet so many years after her Bond girl days, still strikingly beautiful as an older woman, and with much stronger acting chops than in her days scuba diving with Roger Moore in the Greek islands.

And on that note, tis time to get back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader–will check in on you again tomorrow morning.

Today Was a Fairytale

It is Saturday and I am also on vacation for a week. Huzzah!

I have a lot to do, of course, as always, and of course, LSU is playing Arkansas today at eleven–how far the mighty have fallen, to be playing a Western division conference game at eleven in the morning on the SEC Network–so I will undoubtedly watch the game while reading, making notes on things I am working on, and trying to get caught up while not getting terribly saddened by the game and how it turns out.

But of course, as always, the intent behind this vacation is to get caught up on everything, which is no easy chore, believe you me. I need to whip the book into shape and get it rolling again; I need to finish a short story that has to be submitted by January 15th; the Lost Apartment is a disgusting pigsty that desperately needs to be deep-cleaned; and I’d love to be able to finish reading The Hot Rock as well as some other short stories. I also have a goal to relax and get rested, which will also be lovely.

I am sort of looking at the vacation as a kind of reboot, quite frankly; a time to snap out of the writing malaise I’ve been experiencing for the last few months and get back into my writing again. Getting caught up would be absolutely lovely, but as I always tend to be behind on everything…it doesn’t help that Louisiana and New Orleans history is so colorful and fascinating that I will often go down a major wormhole triggered by something I come across looking for something else–I spent several days in the wormhole created by having my curiosity aroused by the Mississippi River forts, for example, and came away from it with no story ideas other than an amorphous Sherlock Holmes story and perhaps something more recent, but again, amorphous and not much else. I spent a couple of days immersed in Cajun and Louisiana folklore, looking for something I could use for the Christmas horror story, only to come up relatively empty-handed. I have the opening for the story, still don’t know what the rest of the plot is, and am not convinced I chose the correct Cajun folk story/monster to use–which is part of the reason I decided to give up on trying to get the story finished by December 1st.

I also have a sink full of dishes and papers and files and books stacked everywhere. Not good, not good at all.

Yesterday Rex–the main krewe that still parades on Fat Tuesday, and whose “king” (Rex) is traditionally considered the King of Carnival, cancelled their ball and also announced that, with no ball and no parade this season, they will not be naming a King and Queen this year. This came as a surprise to me–let’s face it, few krewes are as conservative politically as either Rex or Comus (who chose not to parade once the city passed an ordnance not allowing krewes to discriminate in their memberships) so having Rex cancel its festivities is indicative of the seriousness of the pandemic, really. I know a lot of New Orleanian traditionalists were still holding out hope that parade season would happen, but with Rex making this stand you can be pretty certain that the party’s over for 2021. While this is obviously sad–who isn’t sad that Carnival isn’t going to happen?–it also means that 2022 Carnival will be epic and balls-to-the-wall; I also hate that the last Carnival was the cursed Carnival of 2020. The Historic New Orleans Collection has a great article about the thirteen times parades were cancelled over the 150 years or so we’ve been having Carnival here in New Orleans; naturally, now I am thinking about writing something during a cancelled Carnival of the past.

It’s weird when norms vanish, isn’t it? I would have never dreamed Carnival would ever be cancelled, and yet, here we are.

But will people still turn out in costume on Fat Tuesday? It’s still a holiday, after all, and I can, sadly, see people turning out to drink all day and celebrate.

I meant to read some short stories yesterday, even got started on reading one or two, but after I got home from the gym I wasn’t in the mood and so none of them took with me; I hope to do better with that today. I did make it to the gym last evening, and it was lovely. There’s still some tightness and muscle soreness in my back, but it’s not nearly as bad it was originally, and going to the gym actually made it seem better, to be honest. We watched an episode of The Mandalorian last night–this week’s not being one of the stronger episodes, although the story of the Child progressed a little bit (note to producers: more Giancarlo Esposito, please) and then I fell into a wormhole of Ten Minute History videos on Youtube before retiring for the evening. I do feel very well rested this morning, and not especially groggy; which should bode fairly well for the rest of my day. The lovely thing about this abbreviated and bizarre football season is I am not vested in it other than in watching LSU play; and with the game on early today I should be able to get plenty of things done today (in theory, at least); but seriously, if nothing else, I should be able to make progress on my reading.

And on that note, those dishes aren’t going to clean themselves, alas, so it’s time to mine spice. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.