You Got It All

Saturday morning and I literally just rolled out of bed. I cannot remember the last time I slept this late, but rather than worrying about it, I’m just going to go ahead and embrace it. I have to run make groceries today before the LSU game, but it’s at two thirty so there’s still plenty of time for me to get caffeinated, woken up, and maybe even do some cleaning around the house before the Tigers take on Mississippi State.

Last night Paul and I continued watching a show on Hulu from some true crime channel. The series is called The 1990’s: The Deadliest Decade, or something like that; last night we watched two more episodes (we’d watched the first episode, about a murder in Houston, Thursday night). Last night’s episodes were about the torture/murder of a twelve year old girl in Indiana–very grisly–and the second episode was the Club Kid Murder, which I already knew the story of–Michael Alig, the Limelight Club in New York, and the murder of drug dealer Angel; there was a book I’d read called Disco Bloodbath, written by an accessory after the fact who got immunity for testifying, and it was later made into a film, Party Monster, which starred Macauley Culkin. I’ve resisted the allure of true crime for the most part–don’t get me wrong, I do love it, it’s just that since I started writing crime fiction I’ve worried that reading a true crime novel would inspire me to fictionalize the story (“ripped from the headlines!”), and for some reason that felt like cheating in some way to me. But over the years I’ve found that a lot of crime writers draw inspiration from actual true crimes…and yet I’ve continued to avoid it. (I used to love A&E’s show City Confidential, which was amazing)

And being inspired by reading Ethan Brown’s book Murder in the Bayou (as well as by the Showtime docuseries based on the book) kind of proves my point, doesn’t it?

Then again, Garden District Gothic was my own take on the Jon-Benet Ramsey case, wasn’t it, only twenty or so years later?

And of course, this whole situation with the Hard Rock Hotel collapse last weekend has my brain working feverishly to spin a plot around it. I already have introduced a shady developer into my alternate New Orleans universe, in Royal Street Reveillon, none other than Sam Dreher. Maybe the collapsing hotel can be the basis for French Quarter Flambeaux, one of the many Scotty titles I came up with recently.

What I really need to be doing is working on Bury Me in Shadows, but I suspect my fevered brain is going to continue to jump around today. I always keep my journal and a pen handy when I’m watching an LSU game, so hopefully after I get the cleaning done and the groceries made and start the grill–we always “tailgate” at home for LSU games; burgers and hot dogs–I’ll be able to work some more on Bury Me in Shadows during and after the game. I don’t know what other games there are today–I’m beginning to care less and less about watching games all day on Saturdays these days–and so it’s entirely possible this will work, you know?

But as always, the Lost Apartment is a mess. There’s a load of dishes in the dishwasher to be unloaded, and a sink full of dirty dishes from last night’s ravioli to clean. There’s laundry in the dryer to be folded, and I really should wash the couch blankets today as part of the general clean-up of the living room. The Saints game tomorrow isn’t until 3:25, which also gives me the entire morning to clean and write and organize. I have an article for Sisters to finish writing, and various other things on my to-do list that definitely need to get done before I head back to work on Monday.

And my throat is still sore.

I also have a lot of computer files to clean up and organize.

It never really ends, does it?

I also want to spend some time curled up with Certain Dark Things today.

And on that note, tis back to ye old spice mines with me. Have a lovely Saturday, all.

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In Too Deep

Well, Constant Reader, we made it to Friday somehow, didn’t we? Huzzah, I guess?

The heat finally broke yesterday; it was very cool in the morning and evening. The afternoon didn’t feel nearly as bad as it has been, even though it did get up to about 87 degrees. There wasn’t any humidity, and the humidity is, after all, what is really horrible about the weather here. There’s also a tropical storm of some sort out in the Gulf–I should probably check on that, since it’s projected to pass by close to here–which undoubtedly is affecting the weather here somewhat as well.

I don’t have big plans for the weekend; I never do, really. Just the usual: make groceries, pick up the mail, clean, watch the LSU and Saints football games, cook out, and do some writing. Today is a short day at the office, and I’ve already started working on the cleaning this morning. I’ll undoubtedly do some more tonight when I get home from the office, and I’d also like to get back to work on Bury Me in Shadows, which has pretty much lain fallow this entire week. I have done some thinking about it, of course, and there are changes to implement into the manuscript before moving on to those later chapters, but I am way off track to get it finished by the end of the month, as I had originally hoped and planned, unless I get back to work and start kicking some serious ass as I work on it.

And maybe–just maybe–with some dedication, I can get my emails all caught up. Stranger things have happened…and may happen again. Just you wait and see.

I slept really well last night–only woke up twice that I can remember–and feel very rested this morning. My throat is still sore, but the earache seems to be gone for good (huzzah!), and maybe tonight I’ll dose it with tea and honey before going to bed. I still haven’t started reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things beyond that enthralling first page, but probably tonight when I get home from work I’ll make some time for it–Scooter always wants some cuddle time whenever I come home, so I find that’s the best thing to do–curl up in my easy chair with a book so he can sleep in my lap and purr. It’s weird how far behind I’ve fallen in my reading–I’d hoped to read more horror this month than I have–and I’ve also got to start preparing for my Bouchercon panels; I’m moderating two, and that requires prep work, particularly since I have so many ridiculously talented people on them. One features Cheryl Head, Alex Segura, Steph Cha, S. A. Cosby, Michael Nava, and my co-moderator, Carsen Taite; the other features Lou Berney, Wendy Corsi Staub, Alison Gaylin, Elizabeth Little, and Steph Cha (again–and if you haven’t read her brilliant new novel, Your House Will Pay, shame on you and get to it). Ridiculously talented and wicked smart panels…so I am really going to need to be prepared, else I will come across looking like a moron.

I am also on the Anthony Award Best Short Story panel, where I will be sharing the stage again with S. A. Cosby in addition to Art Taylor, Holly West, and the always delightful Barb Goffman. Barb and Holly have stories in Florida Happens (Holly and my nominated stories are from Florida Happens); Shawn and I are both in the upcoming Dark Yonder anthology; and Art is one of the most awarded and respected short story writers in our genre–his nominated story also won the Edgar this past spring. (Holly also edited Murder-a-Go-Go’s, which includes my story “This Town.”) I don’t hold out many hopes for an upset win and a second Anthony for my shelves; but it truly is a surprise and a delight to be nominated in the company of these other writers whom I admire and respect so deeply.

It’s nice to periodically take stock, you know? I get so caught up in the grind of editing and writing and promoting and reading and everything else I have to get done–not to mention the dispiriting slings and arrows that come along in your every day life as a writer (not the least of which is fucking Imposter Syndrome) that I never really ever take the time to sit back and reflect and enjoy what I’ve done so far, what I’ve accomplished. I think part of that is because I am always dissatisfied with where I am in my career as a writer and wanting to get more done, accomplish more, and get more work out there. It’s a grind, as I mentioned earlier, and I always forget to enjoy moments, or to even take a moment here and there to bask in the joys of accomplishment because I’m always so focused on what’s next oh my God I have so much to do and so little time when will I ever get this all finished? That, of course, is self-defeating. I’ve been trying to be better about blowing my own horn and taking some pride in myself, as well as working on my self-confidence.  I’ve written a lot–novels, novellas, short stories, essays–and I’ve won some awards, been nominated for even more. It’s a thrill to be nominated for a mainstream short story award–the second time I’ve been nominated for a mainstream short story award–and it’s really quite a thrill. It’s a thrill to be in the company of the other nominees this time; last time the other nominees included Lawrence Block and Joyce Carol Oates. (I know, right?)

So look at the positives, and ignore the negatives.

And on that note, I have some time before I have to get ready for work this morning, so I think I’ll do a bit of writing.

Have a lovely Friday!

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Let’s Wait Awhile

Thursday and I still have no voice–well, I do, but my throat is still sore and my voice is still raspy-ish. But it is getting better–I really need to treat it with honey and tea, I suppose–but it’s annoying that it has lasted this long. I’ve also had an earache for a lot longer than necessary, which is terribly irritating. I’ve not actually had an earache in a very long time, and of course, now that sixty is just over the horizon, everything new and different and unusual that happens to me physically automatically turns into something traumatic in my head: I wonder if I damaged my hearing at Tiger Stadium last Saturday?

It wouldn’t surprise me. There were times during the game when the crowd was so loud I could feel the noise vibrating against my ear drums. Heavy heaving sigh. Of course I suppose now I can feign deafness when someone I don’t want to listen to is talking to me…

Oh, I already do that. Never mind.

But it’s Thursday morning, and I slept later than I probably should have this morning. C’est la vie. I kind of feel like I need another weekend to regroup and recover from everything; and I also can’t seem to get overly focused to work this week on my writing–or to read anything. It’s rather disappointing, but the earache from hell–which is sticking around, apparently, for another day–is enormously distracting and does make it harder for me to focus. I’m going to take a Claritin in a moment–my sinuses appear to also be fucked up; and maybe opening up my sinuses will alleviate the earache; stranger things have happened, after all–and hope that makes things better for the day.

I’m not really sure why we continue to watch American Horror Story: 1984. Last night’s episode continued to go even further off the rails, and the previews for next week’s episode seemed also incredibly unappealing. I had wondered how they would manage to draw out a slasher film homage into ten or eleven episodes, particularly since it was all taking place over the course of one night; and now I apparently have my answer. And yet, much as I am hating it, we’ll probably keep watching to the bitter end…the only season we ever completely bailed on was Hotel.

I’m hopeful that this weekend will be a productive one, since last weekend was a complete wash. I am so behind on everything now! It sucks being tired, and slightly ill, this entire week. It really sucks that my throat is so sore–and that it’s still not better. Is it worn from all the yelling last Saturday night, or is this a holdover from being sick? It sucks when they both happen at the same time so i can’t figure it out, you know what I mean? Just horrible. Heavy heaving sigh.

But I did manage to get the bills paid, and updated my debt list. It’s disheartening to see how much debt I’ve managed to accrue over the last few years, but it’s also somewhat heartening to know that it’s all, primarily, because I bought a new car, and have been trying to pay it off early ever since. It’s also lovely, and most satisfying, to see the debt owed on the car slowly but steadily decreasing. I haven’t been able to pay more down than the regular payment for most of the year, but it’s finally down into four figures, and should go much faster now that it’s that low. God, what will I do with all that extra money once the car is paid off? And if I take care of this car, it should last me for a good long time…

And once the car is paid for, the rest of the debt can get paid off. Thank you, baby Jesus.

Anyway, I am hoping to start reading Certain Dark Things today; I opened it the other night and read the first paragraph, and loved the style and authorial voice. My reading has certainly been suffering lately, and while I am desperately trying to get organized and rested and all that nonsense, I really need to focus. Sigh, I’ve been saying that for a really long time, haven’t I?

I am still reading my New Orleans history, though–I am now up to “The Last of the Mafia” in Robert Tallant’s Ready to Hang, which is about the kidnapping of young Walter Lamana. I’ve already read about this case–it was talked about in Empire of Sin, I believe, although I could be wrong–but it’s always interesting to me to read about how the French Quarter, in the days before preservation began, had turned into a terrible slum (which is why, before the preservation movement took hold in the city, bulldozing the Quarter would come up every so often). Since I am going to be writing a short story or two during this period–did I mention I was asked to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche? If not, I’ve been asked to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, and I have a terrific idea for it–I need to get an idea of what the Quarter was actually like back then, especially if Sherlock Holmes is going to be living in the Quarter.

My ADHD-addled brain has certainly been jumping all over the place lately, and I’ve been trying to write ideas down in my journal as they come to me.

And on that note, perhaps I should put on my miner’s hat and head into the mines. I don’t get off work this evening until eight, so I know when I get home I’m not going to want to clean or do much of anything; I’ll probably try to get some writing done this evening but I am not holding out much hope. This entire week has been almost a complete loss.

Sigh. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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The Next Time I Fall

Wednesday has rolled around again and it’s Pay-the-Bills Day. Huzzah.

That’s the worst part of being an adult, methinks–being responsible financially.

hate it.

Ah, well, it’s an evil thing that must be done, alas, for there is no choice.

I was still extremely tired yesterday when I got home from work; it was a long day, of course, and I am probably still recovering from whatever that was I caught at Tiger Stadium Saturday night–my throat is still sore–and I slept like a stone last night. I was so relaxed and comfortable this morning I didn’t want to get out of bed, and in fact, stayed in bed much longer than I probably should have. What can I say? Sleep is essential, and necessary, and I clearly needed more. I probably should have stayed home again yesterday, to make sure I was completely rested and over everything, but…yeah. I felt well enough to go to work and so I did.

I am, as ever, behind on everything; I tried yesterday but just didn’t have the energy to focus and get things done. I’ll have to do better today, as the month of October is clearly slipping through my fingers. But I have to make groceries on the way home from work tonight, and I’m not sure how much energy I’ll have once I get home. I need to remember to conserve my energy, and not expend it all the time. This weekend I seriously need to get my shit together and get some work done on the Lost Apartment–it’s seriously filthy; the LSU-Mississippi State game is the marquee game on CBS Saturday, so it’ll be on smack dab in the middle of the day, at 2:30–which means I’ll be on the emotional rollercoaster until sometime after five. So, clearly Saturday is the day I need to run errands and focus on cleaning around here, so I can devote Sunday to writing.

I keep getting more ideas on how to make Bury Me in Shadows a better book than it currently is; so that’s going to be my primary focus for the rest of this month–getting that finished. I think part of the problem I’ve been having this month so far has been lack of focus; I’ve been far too scattered with my energies this month, which is always a problem with me–that and focus. Squirrel! See what I mean?

And let’s be serious, any ideas I get on how to make the current WIP better are welcomed. I groan and moan about the additional work its going to cause me, but I already knew the manuscript needed work, and there were holes and inconsistencies in the story–the ever popular oh why would they do this other than I need them to in order to advance the story keeps popping up, and that’s what, frankly, needs the work. There’s nothing worth than having contrivances in your story.

Last night the SEC Network rebroadcast the LSU-Florida game, and as I already mentioned, I was too tired to do much of anything last night–even read–so I just put the television on the game yet again–I rewatched it Sunday night, but was so ill and tired I kept falling asleep and it was primarily on for background noise, that’s how tired I was–and as I watched the  game again my mind started wandering again–back to the first LSU game Paul and I ever attended, back in 2010 against Ole Miss. That game was also a nail-biter, with LSU finally clinching the win with a touchdown in the final minute of the game. LSU has, as I’ve mentioned before, never lost when we are in the stadium. I then remembered that I promised to dedicate my next book to the Judge and his wife, Janet, if they gave us those tickets–which they did, and so I did, and that book was, I believe, Sleeping Angel. Janet and the Judge have gifted us with their game tickets at least once per season ever since–others have given us tickets over the years as well, and we’ve sometimes bought them on Stubhub–and as I was thinking about Sleeping Angel, I realized, wow, I haven’t thought about that book in YEARS.

I had written a foreword for the new edition of Jay B. Laws’ The Unfinished, which was brought back into print yesterday byReQueered Tales–this was the essay I was struggling with several months ago–and while I did get it finished (the publisher loved it, I might add, writing me back to tell me it was beautifully written), in the posts about the book’s release yesterday I was referred to as “legendary writer Greg Herren” and other such complimentary things. I am always, inevitably, taken aback by such pronouncements–I don’t see myself as legendary, or any of the other kind ways people refer to me these days; mainly because when I think of legendary queer crime writers I think about Michael Nava and John Morgan Wilson, among others. It isn’t fake humility, either–although I’ve been accused of that before. I generally don’t, as a rule, tend to think about myself in those kinds of terms; therein lies, I believe, the path to madness–which I really don’t need any help finding, thank you very much. Felice Picano told me once, a long time ago, that if you stick around long enough you’ll get respected for the longevity, if nothing else…and it’s also weird to me when I realized I’ve been doing this consistently for seventeen years.

I was also thinking, in my roundabout way last night, about the need to buckle down and focus. I was talking with another writer friend yesterday about short stories–we’d both written a story for the same anthology–and we exchanged our stories, which turned out to be vastly different. But I loved hers–it’s wickedly funny–and she loved mine, which was also very cool. I love writing short stories, even though I often struggle with them, and right now I have two out for submission, and about three that are pending publication. I have two collections I want to do–Monsters of New Orleans, which would be Gothic horror stories set here, and Once a Tiger and Other Stories, which would compile my crime short stories that have been written and/or published since Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories was published. I was also thinking I need to rename Once a Tiger and Other Stories; maybe This Town and Other Stories, since people really seemed to like my story in Murder-a-Go-Go’s a lot. I was also thinking about doing the four novellas into one book thing, like Stephen King has done–which would most likely have  Never Kiss a Stranger anchoring the collection. I’d of course have to get permission from Kensington to reprint “The Nightwatchers” in this collection, and if they don’t give it to me, I’d have to write another, which wouldn’t be the end of the world, either. I’d always wanted to turn “The Nightwatchers” into a series; it’s loosely connected to both the vampire novella and novel I later wrote as Todd Gregory–“Blood on the Moon” and Need–but have never gotten back to them. (The next book I’d planned would have been Desire.)

I was also thinking I should dedicate another book to the Judge and Janet; the game experience was so amazing on Saturday night I should do something incredibly nice for the two of them again.

And maybe I should revisit Sleeping Angel. It, along with Sorceress, was set in the mountains of California, in the small city of Woodbridge; I’d intended to write several novels set there, and connect all my y/a fiction together in some way. Laura, the main character in Sorceress, was from the small rural area of Kansas where I also set Sara; and I keep forgetting that Dark Tide is also kind of connected to Bury Me in Shadows, which is also kind of connected to Lake Thirteen and Sara. 

I also have an unfinished manuscript, tentatively titled Spellcaster, which is also set in Woodbridge with some character overlap.

I was trying to do an R. L. Stine thing.

And on that note, the bills aren’t going to pay themselves, so I best put on my mining cap and head back into the spice mines.

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Keep Your Hands To Yourself

I feel a little better this morning, which is admittedly a low bar.

Of course, I discovered yesterday at one point that we are in a water-boil advisory, and had been since Saturday. This of course led to a frenzied googling of what I may have accidentally infected myself with since I didn’t know, plus the added is this why I am sick today thoughts. Ugh, no thanks, and it was perfectly awful; several hours of added stress yesterday I didn’t need. And this morning, apparently we are still in the water advisory. It was lifted briefly yesterday morning, but then the water pressure dropped again and it was reinstated. Maybe at some point today it will be lifted? It’s mostly Uptown that’s affected, from the highway to Riverbend and from the river to Carrollton.

Ah, the joys of living in New Orleans.

Being sick of course has put me further behind than I already was, which is not a good thing and means I’m going to be scrambling to get caught up on everything. Right now I’m at the point where I am not really sure what all I need to prioritize; I think my Sisters column is due today (and it’s not finished), and I need to get back on target with my fiction writing as well. There’s a lot of emails I need to get through today–I’ve never quite managed to get caught up on them, and every day I fall further behind on this–and there’s finances to be dealt with; tomorrow is Pay the Bills Day–which used to be known as Payday, but is no longer–and of course, the Lost Apartment looks like a storm blew through it. Heavy heaving sigh. I also want to start reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things, which appears to be a Mexico City vampire novel. It’s been awhile since I read and enjoyed a good vampire novel, and I feel fairly confident this one is going to be dramatically different–in a good way–from any I’ve read before. I’d actually thought about rereading ‘salem’s Lot for this month; it really is, for me, the gold standard of vampire novels, but as the month is slowly but surely beginning to trickle out of time…I’ll have to reread it another time.

We finished watching the first season of The Righteous Gemstones last night, and I was rather pleased with it…although it did seem as though they’d wrapped everything up in a nice bow and there’s really nothing left hanging; I guess season two will be an entirely new set of issues and problems for them to get involved with. Ultimately, it turned out a lot differently than I expected it to–I don’t know what I was expecting, but I suppose them all getting past all their personal issues and strifes and mistakes and renewing their faith was a surprise, and even more surprising, it was a satisfying end to the season. I guess because it was kind of a happy ending for them all? Maybe.

All right, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, CR.

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I Knew You Were Waiting for Me

I am sick, and I hate being sick. I suppose after spending many hours in crowds, exposed to the germs of over a hundred thousand people, while also wearing myself screaming and cheering and jumping up and down, it’s to be expected, but it’s still incredibly irritating. You never think about getting germs when you’re at a football game, but if you think about it–what better way for a plague to spread than Patient Zero attending a packed college football game? One of the most chilling chapters of Stephen King’s The Stand was a chapter about how the superflu spread out from the east Texas town of Arnette–I will always remember about how one woman stopped at a bar for a sloe gin fizz and left a dollar tip “that was crawling with death.”

I don’t think I have some horribly mutated super-flu, but my eyes hurt and so do all of my joints…and my throat is even worse than it was yesterday. I’ve gone from Kathleen Turner to Brenda Vaccaro in just over twenty-four hours, and it’s weird. My ears and sinuses were also bad yesterday, but Claritin-D has seemed to clear that right up, thank you, baby Jesus–the sinus pain is the worst.

I think I’m probably going to make myself some chicken noodle soup for lunch today, and I’m also terribly dehydrated–so I clearly need fluids.

I did some thinking about my work yesterday as I sat in my easy chair, curled up under blankets and watching the Saints game before watching the replay of the LSU game on the SEC Network (we used to do this all the time; watch the LSU game on television on Saturday, and then a local network would rebroadcast it on Sunday, when we’d watch it again so we could enjoy it without all the tension and emotion of the live-watch; knowing how the game ended made it a lot easier to watch!) and I made some notes from time to time in my journal. I was paging through Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, which I hadn’t put away after my annual re-read, and it occurred to me that there’s a terrific line that runs throughout the book, repeated over and over again, which would actually make an interesting title for a story: “Mrs. Dudley Clears at Ten.” I literally have no idea what the story would be, or who it would be about, or anything other than that title, which pleases me so much. I always start with titles, as Constant Reader should already be aware; it’s difficult for me to write anything unless I’ve given it a title already.–even if it’s one that I don’t care for or doesn’t really work. I also riffed on titles for Scotty books yesterday; as long as I can come up with a title I’ll probably be able to keep writing Scotty for as long as I want to, or as long as someone wants to publish them, and as long as people want to read them. Part of the fun of reading all this New Orleans history is that it’s giving me ideas for short stories and for novels, which is really a lot of fun. (Just as I will  never have time to read all the books I want to, I will never have the time to write every book or short story I have an idea for. Sad reality–and one that I try to deny all the time.)

So, while yesterday sucked eggs because I was feeling poorly, at least the creative side of my brain was able to function and come up with some ideas and thoughts. I also thought some more about Bury Me in Shadows, and whether I want to go ahead and try to get it finished by the end of the month. (Saturday afternoon I realized it’s not as close to being finished as I had hoped it might be….I’m going to go sit in my easy chair with the manuscript this afternoon, after I eat my soup, and see if I can figure out what needs to be added…there’s a scene that occurred to me sometime over this weekend that I think needs to be added into the first chapter…I was trying to be oblique in the writing, but I think there are some things that need to be clarified so the reader isn’t thinking, oh, it was necessary for the story for this to happen even though it really doesn’t make a lot of sense as they continue through the story–which is a horrible thought to have as an author; that you’ve contrived something because it needs to happen otherwise there’s no story.

Just thinking about it makes my stomach clench.

And I just got a wave of dizziness, so I am going to go lie back down for a while.

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U Got the Look

This week, The CW debuted a new version of Nancy Drew. I sort of watched it Thursday night, and will probably watch again so I can pay better attention. It’s definitely a reboot, with a lot of changes–Nancy’s mom died much later in her life, for example, and there’s no Bess. The story is also set in Horseshoe Bay rather than River Heights, and Nancy has hung up her sleuthing cap since her mother’s death and is now working as a waitress in a diner. George Fayne isn’t a close friend but now her boss, and they don’t get along–I expect that to change. Ned Nickerson is not white–a change I liked a lot–and prefers to go by Nick. It’s also a bit more in the vein of Riverdale than the classic Nancy Drew stories, but let’s face it–the real Nancy as originally written is kind of insufferable–bit more on that later.

I’m also sure these changes will enrage the Nancy Drew fanbase–anything other than the way she was originally written by a lot of ghostwriters generally sets them off. I am not such a purist–I recognize that changes have to be made for a different medium, for one thing, and for another–as I said earlier, Nancy was a bit insufferable as originally written.

I did enjoy the movie a few years ago with Emma Roberts (it might be the only time I’ve ever actually enjoyed an Emma Roberts performance, frankly); a lot was changed from the books to the series.

Nancy Drew and I go back to my fifth grade year at Eli Whitney Elementary in Chicago. I was already reading as many mysteries as I could get my hands on–those Scholastic Book Fairs were my favorite part of school–and I was checking out as many mysteries from the library as I could. (This was also the period of time when I discovered Phyllis Whitney’s mysteries for children; the first I read was The Secret of the Tiger’s Eye.) My fifth grade teacher had a big table in the back of the room with books for kids on them; we were on the honor system. We could borrow a book but we were supposed to return it when we finished reading it. The first day of school I wandered back there and looked at the books on the table; the first title to jump out at me was The Secret of Red Gate Farm. Above the title was NANCY DREW MYSTERY SERIES, and on the cover was a picture of a girl with wavy blonde hair, wearing a sweater and a long skirt, hiding behind a tree and looking, her mouth wide open in shock, fear or surprise, staring at the entrance to a cave  as some strangely robed figures entered it. I took it back to my desk, and started reading it.

red gate farm

“That Oriental-looking clerk in the perfume shop certainly acted mysterious, ” Bess Marvin declared, as she and her two friends ended their shopping trip and hurried down the street to the railroad station.

“Yes,” Nancy Drew answered thoughtfully. “I wonder why she didn’t want you to buy that bottle of Blue Jade?”

“The price would have discouraged me,” spoke up Bess’ cousin, dark-haired George Fayne. Her boyish name fitted her slim build and straight-forward, breezy manner. “Twenty dollars an ounce!”

“Oriental-looking.”

Sigh. The great irony is that both the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series were rewritten and revised to remove racist stereotypes and language…

Anyway, The Secret of Red Gate Farm enthralled me, as Nancy and her friends tried to help a young girl and her grandmother save Red Gate Farm from mortgage foreclosure while also trying to expose a ring of counterfeiters. There was a list of intriguing-sounding Nancy Drew titles on the back of the book, and back on the table in my fifth grade classroom there were three more titles: The Mystery at Lilac Inn, The Haunted Showboat, and The Clue of the Leaning Chimney. As I scoped around, there was another series novel, but it wasn’t Nancy Drew; it was the Dana Girls The Secret of the Old Well, allegedly written by the same person: Carolyn Keene.

Nancy Drew introduced me to the world of Grosset & Dunlap series–which were actually all produced, for the most part, by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. I eventually found myself reading–and collecting–many of those series, including the Hardy Boys, Dana Girls, Ken Holt, Rick Brant, Biff Brewster, Chip Hilton, and Judy Bolton, among others–I also wound up collecting Trixie Belden and the Three Investigators, too.

I always wanted to write a series like these when I was a kid; I even came up with a list of about forty titles I could use. I wrote one, actually, when I was in the fifth grade–called The Secret of the Haunted Mansion–which, to the best of my recollection, might be the first fiction I ever wrote; alas, it is lost in the mists of time. Periodically, I come back to the thought of writing such a series, but I don’t know that there’s a market for them anymore. Most of the series have gone out of print, with only Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, as far as I know, still available; Trixie Belden might be but I’m not sure. I still collect the books–it really pleases my OCD to have the series completed. I’m still missing a few from some of the harder to find series–like Biff Brewster and Ken Holt, and I do think I am missing a couple of Judy Boltons and Dana Girls as well–but I’ve stopped scouring eBay over the last few years because, well, money.

But at some point, I imagine I will go back and try to complete the series.

I do credit these series with a lot of my devotion to the world of crime and crime writing; while I always loved mysteries, it’s entirely possible I would have moved on to something else had I not discovered, and become addicted, to these series. These series led me eventually to Agatha Christie, Mary Stewart, Charlotte Armstrong, and Ellery Queen; and those authors eventually led me to others…and wanting to write crime fiction of my own.

So, thank you, Nancy Drew. It’s kind of your fault.