Wake Up Everybody

Well, I finished reading Jamie Mason’s The Hidden Things yesterday (spoiler: it’s terrific and you should pre-order it, like right now; more on it later) and then started Rachel Howzell Hall’s They All Fall Down, which is also off to a terrific start.

You really can never go wrong with a crime novel written by a woman, frankly.

So, of course last night Game of Thrones ended, and I have to say I was satisfied, if not thrilled, by how it ended. Some of it was inevitable, and to be honest, I couldn’t wrap my mind around how it would all end; I absolutely hated the idea of Jon as king–he’s not the type, quite frankly, but will admit I was also all in for Sansa. So, in a way, I got what I wanted with Sansa being Queen in the North–but having a separate kingdom to the north will inevitably lead to problems with the Six Kingdoms; and what exactly ever happened to the cities Dany conquered in Essos? I was more sad to see the show end than I could ever be disappointed in how it ended; as I said to Paul, “You know, when we first started watching this show, we still had cable, didn’t stream anything, and we watched this on DVD’s that came in the mail from Netflix before giving in and paying for HBO again. We didn’t have Scooter yet, and we still  had our old television with a DVD player.”  Game of Thrones, no matter what you thought of it to begin with, whether you watched it or you didn’t, was a cultural event in this country (I am reluctant to say world, as that reeks of American exceptionalism, but I do believe the show was a world-wide phenomenon) that had everyone talking about it almost from the very beginning, and maybe was the last show of its kind–the kind where everyone waits patiently to watch, week after week, and everyone talks about and discusses and argues about. I don’t think we’ll see its like again; I doubt another show will ever take up as much room in the public discourse as Game of Thrones did.

And while everything was sort of tied up nicely with a ribbon last evening, as the credits rolled I turned to Paul and said, “What happened to the Dothraki? We know what happened to the Unsullied…but they never said what happened to the Dothraki.”

I guess they are just loose in Westeros?

I started working on one of my short stories yesterday; I couldn’t find the motivation to do much else of anything, to be honest. I did clean some and get some things organized, and of course, I was also busy reading, as I mentioned above, and I am kind of excited to be reading They All Fall Down, which is off to a really good start. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed this past weekend, if I am going to be completely honest, and while I am not feeling as overwhelmed this morning as I’ve been feeling, I am still in one of those “how am I going to get all of this done?” places this morning. But you know, it will all get done and I will handle everything that needs handling because I somehow always manage to do so.

As you might recall, I sold my story “Neighborhood Alert” to Mystery Tribune magazine; I am proud to say it appears in the quarterly issue that is now available as e-magazine or print editions; you can order it right here.

I like the story, and I hope you will like it, too.

I really need to get more stories out.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me.

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Fox on the Run

It is Sunday morning. I slept like the dead last night, which was quite marvelous, and now am awake and feeling rested (if slightly groggy; not mentally but I feel like my body hasn’t woken up completely yet, which is weird, I know) and sitting here at my desk swilling coffee. The day looks kind of dark outside–I just got a weather alert that Orleans Parish is in a tornado watch (along with about nine other parishes in the area) until eleven; which explains the gloom. I am going to do some things this morning–like write this blog, try to answer emails to send tomorrow morning, straighten up the kitchen a bit–and then I am going to get cleaned up and write for a while. I have a board call this afternoon as well; I assume after that is over I’ll get some reading done and start preparing for the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones tonight.

I figured out, as I mentioned yesterday, the perfect way to finally make my story “And The Walls Came Down” work, which is rather exciting, and something I definitely want to get to work on; I also figured out how to make “The Snow Globe” work; and I’d like to add some words to “Never Kiss a Stranger,” which is turning into a novella, but that’s fine; I don’t mind overwriting the story in order to trim it down to size at some point later. I also want to get Chapter Eleven finished; a rather ambitious morning I have planned here, but it should still work. I was also thinking about stopping at the grocery today to get some more Creole tomatoes, but that can really wait until tomorrow; if the weather is going to be shitty today I certainly don’t want to go out into it under any circumstances. I also need to make chicken salad for Paul’s lunches this week at some point, and I am going to make meatballs in the crockpot today for dinner, in order to have some things for lunch for the week myself (and making a crockpot meal makes it so much easier to clean up; I can get everything clean other than the crockpot itself long before the meal is done).

And of course this week ends in a three-day weekend, which is beyond lovely. I love me some three-day weekends, particularly since I will be sliding into it with two half-days before hand. Huzzah!

It’s going to be bittersweet seeing Game of Thrones come to a conclusion tonight. I’ve actually rewatched last weeks episode, “The Bells”, a couple of times–skipping over the parts I don’t care about (the so-called Clegane Bowl and the Euron-Jaime duel don’t need to be seen more than once, quite frankly) and I have to say, the more I watch the more impressed with the episode I am. I’ve also seen a lot of the fan reactions and read a lot of think-pieces about the episode–more so than I have about anything I watch on television or in a movie, other than my favorite Real Housewives franchises; and I do this a lot with Game of Thrones–and I’ve not really understood so much of the criticism. Game of Thrones has always been a show about the shades of gray rather than black-and-white; no one is truly good, no one is all bad. Good people can do bad things; bad people can do heroic things. Episode 4  (“The Last of the Starks”) is the episode everyone should have been angry with; that was the episode that ended with me shaking my head and thinking what the fuck just happened? People are disappointed that Jaime went back to Cersei, because that essentially ruined his redemption arc; but Martin has given us few redemption arcs that were seen all the way through. Maybe it’s because the redemption stories that actually were fulfilled were so powerful (Theon redeeming himself for his betrayal of the Starks and later his sister; Ser Jorah redeeming himself for the sin of slaving in his youth; etc) that we were bound to be disappointed with the ones that didn’t finish. But Jaime realizing that a happy ending with Brienne or whomever wasn’t simply in the cards for him and that he had to go back to Cersei in the end because they were bound together made total sense to me–and the payoff scene of their mutual deaths was powerful enough for me.

Did I want to see Cersei suffer more? Sure I did–I’ve been wanting to see her suffer since she demanded Jaime shove Bran out the window and Sansa’s direwolf killed–but there were also moments when I was rooting for her–the shame walk through the streets of King’s Landing, her victory over her enemies by destroying the Sept of Baelor, for two examples–and her death resulted in what I call “Darth Vader syndrome”; no villain ever dies in a way I find satisfactorily awful enough. (I waited three movies, six years, and almost seven hours to see Darth Vader finally get his; only to see him redeem himself before dying so I was cheated out of the grisly, painful death I’d been wanting to see for him for all that time.)

As for Daenarys turning Drogon loose on the city and destroying it while Cersei watched it all unfold in front of her (which was brilliant, and some brilliant, non-vocal acting by Lena Headey), I thought that was a brilliant way to torture Cersei and get some payback, and for the record, Dany has always been a bit of a ruthless tyrant. Her story has also been about her suffering and growing into the Queen she was mean to be; it is always her friends and advisors who held her back from unleashing the dragons of war on her foes. The show also did an excellent job of making us think that anything could happen with the siege/sack of King’s Landing; but the very points I made about the episode two weeks ago–why doesn’t she fly up high and come in behind the Iron Fleet–was the actual strategy she used last week to destroy the Iron Fleet and the defenses of King’s Landing–with the end result she and Drogon basically defeated Cersei and conquered the city almost entirely on their own.

As Paul said as Arya rode the horse through the ruins and the credits rolled, “Now imagine if she had all three dragons and her entire army.” She certainly wouldn’t have needed the Northern Army.

And as the bells rang and she sat on Drogon, both Paul and I were rooting for her to burn it all to the ground, frankly.

And really, the sleight-of-hand the writers have played with the viewers over the years has been quite expertly done: if Dany is indeed the villain, we have seen her go from a wide-eyed, meek and innocent girl who was merely a pawn in the great game to a great conquerer; we have seen the creation of a tyrannical Queen from the very beginning while we have also seen the development of Sansa into the smartest woman in the Seven Kingdoms playing the game better than anyone, the development of Arya from a young tomboy into the best assassin in the realm, and the growth of Jon Snow from belittled bastard of Winterfell into the true heir to the Iron Throne.

It’s truly been an enjoyable ride.

I’m going to miss Game of Thrones. I am going to miss the pop culture the show has spawned, and I am going to miss the shared experience. I don’t know that I could handle watching the show from beginning to end ever again, as I did with The West Wing a few years ago–part of the fun of Game of Thrones was the constant surprises the writers kept throwing at us. Love it, hate it, be indifferent to it–but there’s no question Game of Thrones was event television in a way few other shows have ever been, and I don’t know what will replace the hole it’s going to leave in the Zeitgeist.

Will I be disappointed with the finale? I don’t know, but I am going into it expecting nothing and with absolutely NO fucking idea what’s going to happen–and that was always the appeal of the show for me; nothing was too extreme or brutal for the show, and it always, always surprised me….and there were so many great moments over the years–the Red Wedding; the Purple Wedding; the battles of Meereen, Blackwater Bay, Winterfell, Hardhome, the Loot Train, the Bastards; the horrible but well-deserved death of Ramsey Bolton; the eradication of House Frey; Lady Olenna’s last moments (“Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me” may well be the best final words ever); the execution of Ned Stark; the execution of Littlefinger; the death of the Khals; Dany emerging from the funeral pyre with her baby dragons–the list goes on and on and on.

It is incredible how much time I’ve spent thinking about this show–which says something about it, doesn’t it? I do look forward to finishing my read of the books, as well.

So, I should bring this to a close and get started on my own day; there is a lot of spice to mine, and I actually feel as though I have the energy to actually get it done today.

Happy Sunday, Constant Reader!

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Saturday Night

Well, it’s certainly Saturday morning. I woke up around eight, yet remained a lag-a-bed until around nine-ish, and you know what? Not sorry, not sorry in the least. I clearly needed to rest more–the work week seems to take more out of me these days than it used to, thank you, aging process–and now that I’m awake and swilling coffee, I feel more rested and relaxed than I did for most of the week. I still intend to write a lot this weekend, as well as get some serious cleaning done around here, and perhaps this is the time for me to finish reading Jamie Mason’s superb The Hidden Things, which is really fucking fantastic. She reminds me, in voice, style, and plotting, a lot of the great Patricia Highsmith. As I get deeper into the book and the stylish complexity of the plot becomes deeper and more tangled than I could have ever imagined when I read page one, I despair of the things that keep me from having more time to read so I can finish this exquisite gem of a novel. I am perhaps just over half-finished–which should give you an indication of how tired I’ve been lately; it’s taking me a really long time to finish this book–certainly longer than it should, given it’s consistent high quality.

The Anthony nomination this week (I still can’t believe it, to be honest) effectively derailed my entire week–but only because I allowed myself to bask in the glow of the enormous pat in the back from my colleagues, as well as the flood of congratulatory messages, posts, comments, and tweets. But now we’re in the afterglow stage of having to come back to earth and reality and get my life back together and on track yet again, particularly when it comes to writing. I really couldn’t afford to lose the days of writing I lost this week through my self-indulgence, and yet I did lose them. Chapter Eleven of the WIP has been a bitch to write; I started this past week and got about halfway through, and now have to go back to finish it and see if I can get on some kind of roll with writing it. I am going to try something; I am going to try finishing that chapter today and then move on to some short stories that have been languishing in my files for a while. Last night–or more properly, sometime yesterday–I finally figured out how to fix my story “And The Walls Came Down”; it’s a shift in the plot which will require some extreme changing. I also want to revise “This Thing of Darkness” one more time, and I’d like to get some done on my lengthy short story that is turning into a novella, “Never Kiss a Stranger.”

We watched Widows last night, which was good, but could have been better. The acting was topnotch, as were the relationships between the women–but the plot was so complicated and twisted I wasn’t sure I was actually following it and knew what was going on for most of the movie; that could also be entirely my fault. But Viola Davis is one of the finest actresses of our time, and I would watch her in anything, to be honest; her performances are always complex, nuanced, and brilliant.

We also need to catch up on Fosse/Verdonwhich I can’t recommend highly enough, and we have yet to start season two of Killing Eve, which I am also excited about watching; although I am very worried about sophomore slump; season one was so brilliant and fantastic that I have concerns that the second season won’t pass muster.

Today I have to go by the Cat Practice to get another bag of Scooter’s expensive food (no, his Majesty is NOT spoiled, thank you very much), and then have to swing uptown to get the mail and make some groceries (not many, thank you Baby Jesus) before returning home, where I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon writing and cleaning (and probably doing some preparatory cooking for next week, as well). I may get the car washed as well; it’s looking pretty dirty, and the Uptown Car Wash does a lovely job; or perhaps I can put it off until next week, what with the three day weekend and all.

Yes, there’s a three day weekend lurking on the horizon, which is exciting. Huzzah! I am obviously thinking I’ll be able to either get a lot done over its course, or get a lot of rest, or some combination of the two, which would also be incredibly lovely.

I also have to start pulling together an article for Sisters in Crime for my diversity column. I have some ideas for it,  and I know who I want to speak to for it, but at the same time I’ve not been able to come up with an over-all hook for it. Maybe some brainstorming over the course of this particular weekend will do the trick for me.

And on that note, Constant Reader, it’s back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday!

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Rock and Roll Music

It’s Friday, I’m in love.

And it’s creole tomato season! Huzzah! I love me some Creole tomatoes. I stopped at the CBD Rouse’s on way home and there they were, in a box right by the entrance and I grabbed three. As soon as I got home I cut one up and ate it with just salt and pepper and it was exquisite. Now…I want to make grilled cheese sandwiches  with Creole tomatoes on them, and I want to make tomato salad, and I want to just eat them by themselves. If it means I have to stop at Rouse’s every day, so be it.

Just watch me. This also means it’s grilled-cheese-with-guac-and-Creole-tomato season. Drool.

It’s now three eleven or so in the afternoon. After work I picked up a prescription, went to Five Guys for lunch and then swung by Costco for a very brief visit–I only spent a hundred dollars, a record–and have already come home and put most everything away. Laundry is in the dryer, another load is in the washer waiting to for the dryer to be free, and I have several more loads to do. I’m hoping get the apartment sort of under control today so I can focus tomorrow on going to the gym, running errands and spending the afternoon in the spice mines. I’ve kind of decided to not work on the WIP over this weekend; I think I might need a break from it since it’s struggling so mightily, and might just go ahead and work on some short stories over the course of the weekend; maybe that will kick this book into gear.

One can hope, anyway.

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I’ll Be Good To You

Well, wasn’t yesterday an amazing day for one Gregalicious? Not only was it payday, but I stopped and got the mail on my way to the office (there was a check!), and then right around the time I got to the office my phone (which was in my pocket) made the sound of breaking glass, indicating I’d gotten a notification from Facebook; I pulled it out of my pocket on my way up the stairs and lo! The Anthony Award short-lists had been announced, and I’d been tagged in the post. This usually means one thing and one thing only–a nomination–but I thought, no, that can’t be. But sure enough I clicked on the notification, scrolled down the list, and there I was, nominated for Best Short Story for “Cold Beer No Flies” from Florida Happens…along with four other amazing writers–Art Taylor, S. A. Crosby, Barb Goffman, and Holly West!

Wow.

It’s really lovely to be nominated for awards, and I know I’m luckier than so many others–who can go their entire careers without ever getting any award recognition. This is my second time up for an Anthony (I won, in Toronto, for Best Anthology for Blood on the Bayou), and came as an incredibly pleasant surprise; the decision to not have a Best Anthology Anthony for Dallas Bouchercon was, I thought, the death knell of any shot I might ever have at possibly getting another Anthony nomination. I certainly never dreamed I’d somehow make the short-list for Best Short Story for my contribution to Florida Happens, “Cold Beer No Flies,” a story that’s been hanging out in my files in various different forms since the late 1980’s. But I am also pleased that it’s a story about a young gay man trapped in a small, conservative Florida panhandle town who has big dreams to get out of there–and isn’t afraid to break the law in order to make those dreams come true. This is also my second time nominated for a Short Story award from the mainstream mystery community–the first was the Macavity in Toronto, and the nod was for “Survivor’s Guilt” from Blood on the Bayou–and I also can’t even begin to tell you how thrilling it is to be nominated for a short story in the mainstream; but “Cold Beer No Flies” is, as I said before, a story with gay character/themes…and it might be the first time such a story has been nominated. (John Copenhaver is also nominated for Best First Novel, for Dodging and Burning–still in the TBR pile–and he’s also an openly gay writer of a book with gay characters and themes; I think it’s possible the two of us may have made history with our nominations as the first time this has happened; I could be wrong.)

This is especially thrilling when I take into consideration the fact that my writing self-esteem (never high in any discipline) is particularly low when it comes to short stories, as Constant Reader is undoubtedly aware. I love them, and I love the challenge of writing them, but…I’ve never had much luck with selling or placing them in places, but sometimes I do catch lightning in a bottle and the story works.

I spent most of yesterday trying to keep up with the congratulatory posts, comments, tweets and emails yesterday but failing miserably; I woke up this morning to a lot more of them and I suspect a lot of my free time today will be spent making sure I thank everyone.

Which is, frankly, kind of a lovely problem to have, amirite? I mean, I’d certainly rather spend a day basking in the glow of warm congratulatory messages/posts/tweets/comments than pretty much anything else, to be honest. Who woudn’t?

And to be on a short-list with talented writers like Art, Barb, Holly, and Shawn? Very very cool, quite frankly, and just the kind of flattering ego-stroke I needed at this moment as I struggle with the WIP (which I didn’t touch yesterday, for obvious reasons) but I am hoping to get back to today because things will, I am sure, be settling down somewhat. What’s interesting is that Holly is also nominated for her Florida Happens story; Barb also has a story in Florida Happens but is nominated for another work; and Art was the person who got me involved in working on Bouchercon anthologies in the first place. I met Shawn briefly in St. Petersburg at this last Bouchercon, and I am certain at some point in the future we’ll have a professional connection of some sort like these others–I certainly hope that’s the case, at any rate.

And now it’s back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, everyone, and thank you!

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Sing a Song

Denim, Diamonds, and Death

Anthony Awards

Among the most prized awards in the world of mystery writers, the Anthony Awards were named after Anthony Boucher, a mystery & crime fiction author, editor, and critic, who was also a founder of the Mystery Writers of America.

2019 Anthony Award Nominations

BEST NOVEL

  • Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown and Company)

  • November Road by Lou Berney (William Morrow)

  • Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur Books)

  • Sunburn by Laura Lippman (William Morrow)

  • Blackout by Alex Segura (Polis Books)

BEST FIRST NOVEL

  • My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Doubleday)

  • Broken Places by Tracy Clark (Kensington)

  • Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver (Pegasus Books)

  • What Doesn’t Kill You by Aimee Hix (Midnight Ink)

  • Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin (Ecco)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL NOVEL

  • Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett (Midnight Ink)

  • If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin (William Morrow Paperbacks)

  • Hiroshima Boy by Naomi Hirahara (Prospect Park Books)

  • Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day (William Morrow Paperbacks)

  • A Stone’s Throw by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books)

BEST SHORT STORY

  • “The Grass Beneath My Feet” by S.A. Cosby, in Tough (blogazine, August 20, 2018)

  • “Bug Appétit” by Barb Goffman, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (November/December 2018)

  • “Cold Beer No Flies” by Greg Herren, in Florida Happens (Three Rooms Press)

  • “English 398: Fiction Workshop” by Art Taylor, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (July/August 2018)

  • “The Best Laid Plans” by Holly West, in Florida Happens (Three Rooms Press)

BEST CRITICAL OR NONFICTION WORK

  • Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin (William Morrow Paperbacks)

  • Mastering Plot Twists: How To Use Suspense, Targeted Storytelling Strategies, and Structure To Captivate Your Readers by Jane K. Cleland (Writer’s Digest Books)

  • Pulp According to David Goodis by Jay A. Gertzman (Down & Out Books)

  • Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s by Leslie S. Klinger (Pegasus Books)

  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (HarperCollins)

  • The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman (Ecco)

The Anthony Awards will be voted on by attendees at the convention and presented on Saturday, November 2.

Island Girl: to171024_490628937077_648027077_6093813_7096576_o

Island Girl

And it’s Wednesday, just like that.

Time slips through my hands like mercury these days. It’s already the fifteenth of May, so this month is passing by rapidly and it’ll be June before I know it. Today is also payday, and I have bills to pay this morning before I venture off to errands and the office. I am not quite awake yet this morning; I slept deeply and well, waking maybe once or twice throughout the course of the night, and also didn’t really particularly want to get up this morning. As I lagged in bed longer than I should have this morning, time sped past, which of course has resulted in me needing to get a move on and not take my time this morning before I leave.

I managed to write about fifteen hundred words of a brand spanking new chapter last night; which is progress with which I am mostly pleased–a little disappointed I didn’t finish writing the chapter but pleased that it’s new and the story is starting to move along. This section of the book is the tricky part, the part I always have trouble with; as the backstory begins to be revealed and cross currents and cross-purposes begin to have an effect on the story. So, I have to be careful and focus on plot in this section, and plot is something I’ve never really believed myself to be particularly good with, so yeah, I hate writing the middle. Absolutely hate it, and this is where I always wind up thinking what I’m writing sucks and why did I ever think I could be a writer and so on and so on and so on…

And so goes the downward spiral.

I also feel terribly behind this morning; as though there are things I need to be doing and getting done but somehow am not. Sigh. I suppose what I really need to do is make a list and work my way through it…which is usually the answer; I’ve just been terrible about making lists and reviewing them throughout the week lately–which should tell you how off-kilter I’ve been lately…I live for making lists and checking off things. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, you know? And while I am not quite sure why that is so important to me, it is, and it helps, and it works, and I don’t know why I so consistently abandon things that work for me and help me get things done. It’s a kind of self-sabotage that I don’t quite understand, and probably should spend some time unpacking.

Writing the book I am currently working on–as well as the one I intend to go back and finish once this first draft is done–has opened some doors in my mind; both are attempts to deal with some things from my own life and my own past and make some kind of emotional/mental peace with things, if that makes any sense? Revisiting my past to draw from for the stories in both of these works is kind of a therapy of sorts…or at the worst, self-indulgence of the worst kind.

Yeah, back to the spice mines on that note.

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