The Dealer

Sunday morning in the Lost Apartment and I am feeling a bit bleary-eyed this morning. I slept magnificently last night; I didn’t want to arise from the nest of blankets in my comfortable bed this morning in the least. But arise I did, because there are things I must get done today and staying in the bed for a longer time than usual would not help accomplish anything except, you know, more pleasure of sleep.

We did finish watching Black Bird last night, which was an interesting show based on a true story and executive-produced by Dennis Lehane; in which a cop’s son turned bad gets a chance to get his sentence commuted if he goes into a prison for the criminally insane and gets a serial killer–whose appeal might earn his release–to confess to him. It was quite entertaining and more than a little intense, but I do recommend it. I don’t think it needed to be six episodes–I think it felt a little padded here and there to get to six episodes, which seems to be the American minimum/sweet spot for mini-series. We also started watching Five Days at Memorial, which is…interesting. It’s a dramatization based on a book and the true-life experiences of those who were trapped there after Katrina and the flooding; one thing that was absolutely spot-on was how everyone kept lapsing and calling the hospital “Baptist” instead of “Memorial”–the hospital had been bought out by Tenet Health and renamed in the years before the storm; it was a New Orleans thing as to how long it would take for the new name to catch on; I was still calling it “Baptist” to the point that even the title of the series took me aback; I actually did wonder before we started watching, was the name of the hospital Baptist Memorial and we all just called it Baptist? Mystery solved.

I did run my errands yesterday–it didn’t feel quite as miserable outside as I thought it would–and actually made dinner last night…meatballs in the slow cooker, but I also made them differently than I usually make slow-cooker meatballs, the recipe I donated to the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook; I added sour cream to the recipe, for one thing, as well as some other spices and vegetables in the sauce. They turned out really well–quite tasty, actually–and as I sliced bell peppers, celery and onions yesterday while the roux bubbled and browned, I remembered oh yes, I love to cook; I just never get the opportunity to do so anymore. Our work and sleep schedules are now completely out of sync, and the only time I ever cook anything is on the weekends. Today I do need to make things to take for lunch this week–the meatballs will only stretch so far, and I am starting the week in the office on Monday instead of Tuesday this week. I am also having Costco delivered this afternoon as well. I also need to get to work on my second-pass page proofs for a Streetcar today; they are due on my birthday, ironically, but I’d rather get them out of the way today. I also want to get some writing in today, if I am lucky and motivated; I need to start getting more focused and less concerned about other things and issues as well as getting distracted, which is getting easier and easier all the damned time. I know there’s medication for ADHD, but unfortunately it can also act like speed–and the last thing in the world I need is to take something that will make it harder for me to fall asleep.

Yeah, definitely don’t need something to keep me awake longer. (Although every night before I go to bed now I start drifting off to sleep in my easy chair, which is so fucking lovely you have no idea.)

I’ve been reading some non-fiction lately; my mind hasn’t been clear or steady enough to continue reading fiction–a malaise that has come and gone since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020–so I’ve been focusing more on non-fiction when I am reading lately. I’ve got a really interesting book called Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang, which is absolutely fascinating. I loved the Charlie Chan movies when I was a kid (neither knowing nor comprehending how racist they were, not to mention their “yellowface” aspects)–again, the influence of my grandmother–and I read some of the Earl Derr Biggers novels when I was a teenager. I am really interested in getting into the meat of this book, since the character was beloved but is problematic in our more enlightened time; can the stories and the character be reclaimed from the morass of stereotyping and cultural colonialism the books and films were steeped in so deeply? Reading the introduction to the book yesterday did again make me feel like gosh, I wish I was educated enough in criticism and the writing of non-fiction to produce this type of work; there are any number of books and writers and characters I would love to explore and dissect and deconstruct. But alas, I do not have that background or education, nor do I have the necessary egotism/self-confidence in my own intellect to believe that I could come up with anything interesting or constructive or scintillatingly brilliant to say that hasn’t already been side (although I have an interesting take on Rebecca I would love to write about someday). I’d love to write about the heyday of romantic suspense and the women who hit the bestseller lists throughout the 50’s-80’s writing those books (Whitney, Stewart, Holt being the holy trinity); deconstructing the themes and tropes and tracing their evolution as the role of women in society began to change during the decades they wrote their novels.

I also bought an ebook about the children of Nazis, which is something that has always fascinated me; how did and have Germany and Germans dealt with, and continue to deal with, their horrific and genocidal past?

Obviously, as a Southerner, I am curious to see how one deals with a horrific history.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Y’all have a lovely Sunday, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Free Fallin’

When I was being interviewed for the Sisters in Crime podcast the other night, Julie Hennrikus (their marvelous executive director) asked me, through a series of interesting questions, to basically start tracing back my writing career and how it came to pass–in particular, the young adult fiction I write (for that part of the interview, at any rate) and so I was recounting how I had decided, in the early 1990’s, to try writing y/a horror/paranormal/crime novels, inspired by Christopher Pike and, to a lesser degree, R. L. Stine. This was the period when I wrote the first drafts for Sorceress, Sara, and Sleeping Angel…and when asked why I put them in a drawer and switched back to writing crime novels for adults (or trying to, at any rate) I remembered that it was because I had suddenly discovered that there was, in fact, such a thing as queer mysteries: mysteries written by gays and lesbians with gay and lesbian characters and gay and lesbian themes (there wasn’t much trans or bisexual or any other kind of queer crime fiction at that time–at least, not to my knowledge). I had known that queer fiction and non-fiction was a thing, but it was Paul who actually introduced me to writers like Michael Nava, Steve Johnson, and Richard Stevenson. When I lived in Minneapolis that bitterly cold winter of 1996, the Borders in Uptown Square (just around the block from our apartment) had an enormous gay/lesbian section that I visited every week, immersing myself in queer fiction and its history as well as exploring the new-to-me world of queer crime novels.

In the years since, I’ve watched the ups-and-downs of queer publishing, all while writing and publishing my own books. Queer crime is currently having a renaissance of sorts; new talents coming up with wonderful new titles and themes and stories that is very exciting to watch.

A good example of this would be Devil’s Chew Toy, by Rob Osler.

Half opening my good eye, I squinted up at the fluorescent tube hanging from the stained popcorn ceiling. The club’s manager had suggested the storeroom as a place for me to chill until my nose stopped bleeding. I appreciated the gesture. The idea was a win-win. It saved me from the pointing and whispers of the crowd, and getting me off the dance floor restored the party atmosphere typical of a weekend night at Hunters.

Despite the damage done to my face, the worst of the experience had been me being the center of attention for all the wrong reasons–embarrassing for most, excruciating for yours truly. Everyone who knew me would say I was quiet and reserved–perhaps to a fault. My latest ex has joked that my tolerance for thrill-seeking maxed out on the teacups ride at Disneyland. I’d brushed off the comment with a laugh, but in truth, the remark had stung. Being five foote four (rounding up) and weighing 125 (again, rounding up) makes one sensitive to such jabs. Add in the fact that I’m freckled and possess a shock of red-orange hair that that same ex had pegged as being the color of a Cheetos bag, and you understand why I make take offense.

“Damn, dude, you’re going to have a nasty shiner. Does it hurt?”

First of all, can I just say how lovely it is to read a queer novel that opens in a gay bar? It’s been a while since I’ve read one, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I read one that wasn’t published by a strictly queer publisher–which Crooked Lane, the publisher of Devil’s Chew Toy, most definitely is not. It was also nice to have the book open with such a bizarre and out of the ordinary experience–our main character, Hayden, was kicked in the face in a weird accident while trying to tip a really hot stripper, Camilo, who slipped and fell, ending with Hayden looking like he’s been in a fistfight. Hayden, who is a self-described “pocket gay” (from “oh you’re so small I could put you in my pocket and take you home”) and has low self-esteem, is more than a little surprised when the apologetic and gorgeous stripper offers to take Hayden home with him. Camilo is a very sweet guy and only wants to cuddle, and Hayden drifts off to sleep cuddled up with him.

But when he wakes up, Camilo is gone. Camilo also has a dog who needs to be taken care of, and then the police show up at the door looking for Camilo–whose pick-up truck was found, running, with the keys in it and the doors open, in a parking lot. There’s also the possibility that Camilo may have been involved in something shady–which Hayden, despite not really knowing the stripper, doesn’t believe for a minute. He also can’t just abandon Camilo’s dog–despite the fact his own apartment complex has a “no-pet” rule. So Hayden decides he needs to find Camilo, if for no other reason than to return his dog–and the story is off to the races. Hayden encounters all kinds of interesting queer folk while on his hunt for Camilo, makes some new friends, and we the reader get to know him a lot better (he’s very likable) as the story goes on, taking some surprising twists and turns along the way.

I greatly enjoyed this book. It’s very well written, flows nicely, and the plot makes sense–which isn’t always the case–but that comes as no surprise. Rob Osler not only debuted with this novel earlier this year, but his first publisher short story won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award from Mystery Writers of America this past spring for Outstanding Debut Short Story.

I’m really looking forward to visiting with Hayden again, and am excited to read more of Rob’s work.

The Highwayman

And he is home in the Lost Apartment, swilling coffee after having a good night’s sleep for the first time since, well, last Tuesday night, really; I had to get up at five on Thursday, after all. I got home around nine last night; I got a ride to the airport many hours before my flight–which I don’t mind, as long as I have something to read and an Internet connection, I am more than capable of entertaining myself. The flight home was uneventful, I retrieved the car and there wasn’t any traffic to speak of on I-10 so the drive home was practically nothing. Now I have to adjust back to my normal reality, which is also fine–it can be very tiring and exhausting being at a conference for the weekend, but as I mentioned yesterday, I had a marvelous time. Sleuthfest is a lovely event (kudos to the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, with an especial shout out to president Alan Orloff and chairs Michael Joy and Raquel Reyes) I’ve always enjoyed when I’ve had the opportunity to attend; I certainly hope it works out for me to go again next year. I met some new people and reconnected with others I’ve not seen since pre-pandemic (some of course I’ve met and seen since the pandemic started), and over all, it was truly a lovely weekend. I also managed to get some writing done over the course of the weekend, which is always a pleasant surprise when it happens.

But there’s also something quite lovely about being home, in my own desk chair drinking my own coffee and looking at my big desktop screen instead of the laptop. I have a million emails to get through and try to answer; data to enter for my day job; and at some point later today I have to run errands and finish re-acclimating to New Orleans and my usual, ordinary, day to day existence. I did manage to finish reading my friend’s manuscript (which I greatly enjoyed), as well as The Great Betrayal, and got about half-way through Rob Osler’s debut Devil’s Chew Toy, which I hope to finish this week. I have some stories to finish polishing to get out into the world this month, and I need to get back to the writing, of course. I’m also still a little reeling from how well my reading from Chlorine went at Noir at the Bar; yesterday people were still coming up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed it and how much they were looking forward to reading it when it’s finished. I suspect Chlorine might be the breakout book I’ve been waiting to write most of my career…it certainly seems like it, doesn’t it?

I am feeling a bit better about where I am at with everything and my writing, I have to say. That’s the lovely thing about events like Sleuthfest–writers with careers like mine often are operating in a vacuum. Sure, people say nice things to us about our work on social media or in Amazon or Goodreads reviews, but for the most part we don’t get many opportunities to engage with readers or other authors in person. I doubt, for example, that I will ever be so popular that my signings or readings or appearances will be ticketed events. It’s always possible, of course, but at this point hardly likely. having in person interactions with other writers and readers. Writing is different from other jobs; you mostly do it by yourself and it’s not like you have an office filled with other co-worker authors to go to every day. I never am overly concerned about how good of a job I am doing at my day job; I know my job inside out and I provide good care and education to my clients every day. But writing is an entirely different animal. You work on something by yourself for quite some time and polish it and edit it and rewrite it and you have no idea what’s going on with it–if it’s any good or not, because you’re not a good judge of your own work, and then you send it out and wait and wait and wait to find out if it’s any good or remotely publishable. And even then, you don’t get any feedback outside of your editor for months and months and months after you wrote it–and in some cases, by the time the book or story comes out, you’ve completely forgotten what it was about and who the characters were and so on.

Heavy sigh.

That’s why, at least for me as an author, going to events like Sleuthfest are so important. I need that reinvigoration every once in a while; it inspires me and pushes me and gets me back to feeling like an author again. It’s really nice.

But now I have to get back to reality–balancing day job with writing and volunteer work and keeping the house–and I know my next event will be Bouchercon in September, at the end of the dog days of summer and as football season once again kicks into gear. So for now, I am going to make another cup of coffee, put some things away and start doing some chores around here before I dive back into the duties of my day job. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow.

Ooh My Love

Sleuthfest Saturday!

Yesterday was marvelous for one Gregalicious. I had a lovely panel with marvelous writers–talking about POV, which I really cannot speak to with any authority, but I winged it and I think I did okay? It was quite fun–Alan Orloff and Elaine Viets, whom I already knew, were their usual witty and intelligent selves; and the new to me writers (Thomas Kavanaugh and Tammy Euliano) were also phenomenally smart and clever and I had a marvelous time. Several people also came up to me (out of the blue) to tell me how much they enjoyed my reading from Chlorine Thursday night, which was so nice and lovely and cool, and really meant a lot to me.

I then had a marvelous dinner in Boca Raton at Kuisine, a Peruvian-Asian fusion restaurant, with some writer friends. It was lovely; the food was remarkable and the company of course very interesting. I suspect I talked too much–I had a glass of rosé before we left for Kuisine and I had a marvelous specialty cocktail with dinner; as we all know, it’s very hard to shut me up once my brain has become infused with alcohol. But my companions were very gracious, for which I am eternally grateful.

I have two panels today–one about Amateur v. Professional detectives, followed by one on How to Write a Mystery, which I was a contributor to, and both should be marvelous. Marco Carocari is my first moderator, with the wonderful Oline Cogdill moderating the second. It’s been lovely ever since I arrived. I’m having a wonderful time, and I do highly recommend Sleuthfest for aspiring writers in Florida to attend; lots of good information and helpful workshops and panels on mastering the craft.

I also managed to write quite a bit yesterday morning; logging in over two thousand words on one of my many projects that I am working on. It was a very pleasant surprise, frankly; I just kind of wanted to see where I was at with the chapter I was working on, and just kind of went to town from there with it. I think it’s coming along nicely. I have three chapters done on this, about to go onto the fourth–but of course I’ve been writing this off the top of my head (pantsing, I suppose you could say) but I already kind of knew how these first three chapters or so would play out before even trying to write it–it’s something I’ve been thinking about for years, really–and maybe it will turn into something; maybe it won’t, but for now, I am having a good time with it so why not keep riding that rollercoaster while I can? I also need to get to work on the new Scotty–I am falling behind, and that is simply unacceptable. This weekend, as I had hoped, is kind of invigorating me and my creativity.

I do think my constant juggling act with the flaming chainsaws gets to me periodically. Yes, I have a day job (going on seventeen and a half years at the same employer, a record for me–previously the record of holding a job for me was five years) that I enjoy doing and I absolutely believe in the mission of what I do forty hours a week–but it’s not my identity (I think that may have always been the problem I had with previous jobs; they held my interest until i mastered it, and then I got bored. And jobs that have no value or connection with you other than the actual paycheck eventually become drudgery and I started resenting the job, which inevitably would lead to the downward spiral ending with me quitting or getting fired), but when I don’t have the opportunity (thanks, pandemic) to escape from that into the role that I do Identify with–writer–by being around other writers, talking about books and writing and so forth, which is my identity, it’s easy to slip into depression and everything that comes with that. Exhausting as events like this are–I tend to get overloaded and fried by all the talk and being around people and meeting new people and engaging with friends I only get to see at events like this, and i never sleep well when I am on the road–they are also invigorating. When I get home tomorrow evening, I will be energized and excited despite being completely exhausted. This is a very cool thing, of course.

My neck is also a little stiff this morning, which means I must have slept wrong on the pillow last night. It’s irritating getting old and having your body start betraying you on a regular basis. Heavy heaving sigh. But I think I am going to finish this now, do some stretches, take a shower and do some writing before I head back downstairs. Have a happy Saturday, Constant Reader, and I’ll be checking in with you again, as always, tomorrow.

Rooms on Fire

Saturday morning and I slept late, and it was indeed marvelous. I have to make groceries and gas up the car (will probably need a bank loan for that), but my primary focus today is going to be reading and writing. I will also probably start going over the edits for one of the two manuscripts sitting in my inbox right now, but that’s also going to depend pretty heavily on how nasty it is outside. It rained off and on most of yesterday–I do love the New Orleans rain, especially if I don’t have to go out into it, of course–but it’s very bright and sunny outside my windows this morning. My morning coffee feels marvelous and tastes even better, and as I glance around the workspace and the rest of the kitchen I see some odds and ends that need straightening and putting away. There’s also some dirty dishes in the sink that need being taken care of at some point. The rugs needs to be straightened, and the entire downstairs needs vacuuming. I would also like to get a box of books down from the attic and start cleaning that out a little bit this weekend as well. An ambitious program to be sure, but one that isn’t impossible…if i stay focused.

Which is always the big if, isn’t it?

We did get caught up on The Boys last night–this third season is the best so far, and there was a great twist in last night’s episode, which doesn’t bode well for the future but I also can’t wait to see how it plays out (although that will probably come in season four). I wasn’t tired when I got home from the office yesterday the way I usually and ordinarily am, but there were things to do, and I immediately set out to get them done once I had reached the safety and respite of the Lost Apartment. But it all got done for the most part, and Scooter got his lap for a goodly portion of the evening while I doom-scrolled social media waiting for Paul to get finished with his work (he worked at home yesterday) so we could watch The Boys. I even fell asleep in my chair a few times while waiting–Scooter’s super-power is the ability to get both of us to fall asleep when he cuddles with us. I did spend a lot of the evening thinking about writing and things I want to write–there’s never enough time for me to write as much as I want to, really, even though I have to force myself to do it.

I also realized last night that I need to get ready for Sleuthfest. I am doing a reading on THursday night and haven’t picked out something to actually, um, you know, read, let alone rehearse. It’s my first-ever Noir at the Bar, and will be in the hotel bar. I’ve published so much stuff that I’ve never gotten the chance to read from, you know? Should I read from one of my recent books? Should I read a short story? Should I perhaps read something in progress–Chlorine, for example? I also am on a panel about MWA’s How to Write a Mystery, in which the other panelists and I are going to talk about our essays…and I really don’t remember much about mine other than it’s about dialogue, so perhaps I should go ahead and reread it at some point before the panel so I don’t sound like an utter blithering idiot.

Then again, maybe people enjoy me being a blithering idiot. I don’t know.

I can’t help but think that is not the case, though. I prefer to believe audiences laugh with me and not at me, but one can never be entirely sure.

Ah, well, there’s plenty of time to get petrified with fear about standing up in front of an audience. But I do have to decide what I am going to read on Thursday. Heavy heaving sigh. I was thinking “Moist Money,” from the Down Yonder anthology–mainly because it’s shorter, but it’s also one of the nastier things I’ve ever written; my short stories tend to be nastier than my actual books (by “nastier” I mean darker, not pornographic, FYI) but there are so many choices…and I need to make up my mind because I am going to need to rehearse before I get there…I can’t just get up and read the way I used to, completely unprepared and stumbling over words and…heavy sigh. There I go again, working myself up into a lather of anxiety about something happening in five days, which will end up being fine in the long run.

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee and head to my easy chair to read some more of The Savage Kind, which I hope to finish today. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Yo-Yo

A little bleary this Monday work at home morning–another good night’s sleep in the books–and my morning coffee should do the trick–and thus I will be reacclimated back to my normal life and some sort of what passes for my normal reality and real life again. I had a very relaxing day yesterday trying to unwind from the trip and get my land legs, as it were, back; I got some things done yet not enough, which is par for the course. Paul and I also finished Ozark–I imagine its ending is controversial; I wasn’t really surprised by it, to be honest–and dove back into Severance, which is truly bizarre and a very slow, unemotional burn–and then we both went to bed early. I have to work at home today and run a couple of errands at some point (Scooter needs to be retrieved from the kitty spa and I need to get the mail and groceries), as well as my work-at-home duties (data to enter, condoms to pack) and all kinds of others things. There never seems to be enough time in the day to get to everything i need to go to, but sometimes you just need to keep your head down and work your way through your to-do list.

The trip last week was invigorating and definitely raised my spirits; it was a needed and necessary reconnection with my crime community, which was marvelous. It is terrible and sad that I haven’t seen some of my friends in nearly (if not more than) four years; my last pre-pandemic appearance out of town was Bouchercon in St. Petersburg, so 2018. That’s a very long time to be away from connecting with the community and could be a significant part of the strange distance I’ve been feeling from…well, everywhere, to be honest. It was lovely dressing up (even if the pants I wore two weeks earlier in Albuquerque were suddenly strangely tighter in the waist) and putting on nice clothes; I also survived my brief stint at the podium on Edgar night. (The temptation to drink was very strong, but I declined all alcohol until I was off-stage.)

But now, it’s Monday morning after and the afterglow has somewhat faded and we are back to the cold harsh light of reality this morning. I have writing to do and chores and all kinds of other tasks and things to do. I am speaking as a guest at Spirit of Ink on Saturday; being interviewed by Jaden Terrell, whom I’ve known for years since we were both on the MWA board together. That’ll be nice, and I think at some point this week that Ira Levin ZOOM thing I did from my room in New York will be up and available somewhere on-line (I’ll share the link should I ever get one; it was a bit fun talking about Ira Levin and surprise twists). I am not feeling terribly overwhelmed this morning, or daunted; that will come soon enough, no doubt–it always does–but I am feeling a lot better about the non-stop Imposter Syndrome that is pretty much my entire life these days. It’s also gorgeous outside; it’s May so the heat is back and the humidity won’t be far behind; nor will the stinging caterpillars and the swarms of Formosan termites that generally return with Mother’s Day like the swallows of Capistrano.

And soon it will be summer, with the sweating and the misery and the high Entergy bills. But I want to also start working out again more regularly (it’s been a hot minute since I’ve set foot in the gym, so I am going to have to slowly start working my way back into it again, Jesus) and should probably start eating more healthy; the tightness of the waist of my pants at the Edgars was yet another signal that it’s only going to get harder to lose weight the older I get (which is sadly true for everyone–so don’t keep putting off your fitness regimen, people–don’t be Gregalicious) but I think discipline and dedication will do the trick.

And on that note, I think I am going to get another cup of coffee and try to dive into my emails before I have to start working. Have a splendid Monday, Constant Reader–I will be back here at the crack of dawn tomorrow as I ease back into my day job at the office.

Rose Garden

And today we fly back home from the glamour of New York and the Edgar Awards; to reality and what I would usually describe as the drudgery of my day to day existence. I do love New York; I love walking the streets and looking in shop windows and looking at the menus posted in the windows of little restaurants (and the bigger ones) and the crowds of people. I don’t know if I could handle living here–I’m far too old to try to find out now, at any rate–but there’s a part of me that kind of wishes I had run away to the big city from the provincial and pedestrian life I lived up until I was thirty; but that would make my life different than it is now and I am pretty damned happy with my life now. Could be better, but could also but a shit ton worse than it is, too.

I could also be dead had I been here during the plague years, so there’s also that.

Yesterday was a lovely and relaxing recovery day from the Edgar banquet. I slept really well that night (and last night; I don’t get it but for whatever reason I’ve been able to sleep here at the hotel and it’s been quite marvelous), and spent the day exploring and meeting friends here and there for coffee or drinks. I actually met a friend at the Campbell Apartment in the mid-afternoon for drinks; I had never been before but it was quite marvelous! It was like being back in old New York, with the gorgeous old decor, the magnificent window behind the bar, and sipping on a martini (dirty vodka, of course; aka the Gaylin) while talking about books and publishing and writing with a writer friend; one of the things I love about coming to New York–particularly when it’s on Mystery Writers of America business–is that it reminds me of what I used to dream being a writer was like: coming to New York, walking the busy streets from meeting to meeting, talking to other people in the business about the business and about writing and books. I always feel like An Author when I am in Manhattan in ways that I don’t when I am anywhere else–even if it’s a writer’s conference. There’s just something about Manhattan that gets into my system somehow and makes me feel like I’m really a writer. I guess it’s because when I was a kid everything I ever saw, in movies and television or even read in books, about being a writer always involved either living in New York or coming to New York to meet with editors, agents, etc.

I love New York because I love feeling like An Author, and I never feel that as intensely as I do when I am here.

I also spent some more time with Raquel V. Reyes’ marvelous Mango, Mambo and Murder, which she described on stage while accepting her Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery a few weeks ago, as her “Spanglish mystery,” and while I wasn’t sure what she meant by that when she said (as I hadn’t read the book yet) now that I am about two-thirds of the way through, I totally get it. Miriam, her main character, is a Cuban-American who is absolutely (as she should be) proud of that heritage and wants to keep it alive with her son, who has a white father. She speaks Spanish to her son (his father speaks English to him) so he will grow up bilingual and understanding and appreciating his maternal heritage; she speaks Spanish with other Spanish speakers; and her mother-in-law is…well, let’s just call her horrible and passive-aggressively racist in that way that certain white women can be. There have been any number of times in the book where I’ve wanted to slap the snot out of Mother-in-Law; and while intellectually I’ve always known how awful that kind of behavior (and equally awful those snide little remarks) are, experiencing it through the eyes of a character you’ve grown to like and admire and respect and identify with–all the while knowing I can just put the book down and escape from it, which people of Hispanic/Latinx heritage cannot in every day life–is always a little eye-opening and makes me understand just how much privilege my skin gives me (there was a weird incident at Left Coast Crime I’ve not blogged about that kind of put me in the shoes of a non-white person for a little while; I’ve not written about it because I am not really sure how to, and I’ve not managed to fully process the experience, to be honest, and there’s also the reality that this momentary sort-of-racist experience I had isn’t common, isn’t likely to happen again, and as a general rule I enjoy a lot of privilege due to my lack of melanin.)…which is precisely why books like Raquel’s (and Kellye Garrett’s, and Rachel Howzell Hall’s, and Mia Manansala’s, and so many others) are important. So many of us don’t understand how privileged we are as a category (it’s always infuriating when people are tone-deaf and make it about them–“I’ve struggled”–rather than stepping back and recognizing that it’s about the group and not individuality), and these books can help us see things from a different perspective as well as exposing us to other cultures within our over-arching society that we should actually embrace and celebrate and learn about in order to be more fully rounded and developed as people. I’ll probably finish reading the book either at the airport or on the flight; I have some more on deck in my backpack so I won’t be without a book to read (We also have to change planes in Nashville, and we have about an hour or two there as well).

I’d best wrap this up and get ready. Checkout time is 11, and our car is coming for us at 11:45 to take us to LaGuardia. I need to pack the last few odds and ends into the suitcases, take a shower, and get Paul up. So farewell to you, my beloved New York and Manhattan, and I promise to be back again at some point.

And I’ll check in with you again tomorrow as always, Constant Reader.

If You Could Read My Mind

Friday morning after the Edgars and I feel very drained emotionally and intellectually. Physically I am fine; I cannot believe how well I’ve been sleeping in a hotel up here in New York. I slept for about ten hours again last night–I’d forgotten how that actually feels, and it’s marvelous, really–so I am simply not going to question it, you know? We fly home tomorrow and today is one of those busy days where I am meeting people for coffee and drinks and trying to get all kinds of other stuff taken care of while I am here, and of course tomorrow we fly home. Sunday is going to be a regrouping kind of day, and I do get to work at home on Monday, so that will help me ease back into the regularity of what is my regular day-to-day life. I think I am already ahead of the game in that I am physically rested rather than exhausted, which is my usual when I travel. I have fallen behind on a great many things–April was simply a terrible month for one Gregalicious, and I think a lot of that had to do with being so tired most of the month. I still can’t wrap my mind around the way the Left Coast Crime trip just blasted me with both barrels; I was literally afraid that I couldn’t handle traveling anymore. But this trip has been marvelous; I’ve slept a lot on this trip (more than I do at home, which is even stranger) than I usually do at home, and the lovely thing is that when I feel rested, I feel like I can get anything and everything done, including taking over the world.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like that, too. I’d almost forgotten how amazing it feels.

I feel like me this morning, and I haven’t felt like me in a long time.

I didn’t take a single picture last night, either. I tried to keep my anxiety under control before I had to get up and speak, and I honestly don’t remember what I said when I was up there on stage–I always just kind of go into some weird dissociative state (probably not that extreme, but that’s how it feels) when I have to do things like that (panels and moderating are different; at least those I can remember some things I said and can remember being up there) and afterwards I have to really focus on breathing and so forth to come back into myself. I didn’t do a very good job of managing the anxiety, obviously; certainly not as well as I controlled the travel anxiety the other day when we flew here. (That experience gave me the false hope that I could possibly start being able to control my anxiety in other situations..obviously, I was wrong. But hope will always spring eternal.)

I still can’t get over how late I’ve been sleeping in here. And it’s not that weird half-sleep thing, either; I actually am sleeping. Obviously it something remarkable since I can’t stop writing about it, right?

But now that this is out of the way–I also think the anxiety was subconsciously building all month which helped make April a much worse month than it needed to be–and my mind is clear again, it’s time to start making lists and figuring out where everything stands and clean out the email inbox and start ticking things on the list and making progress again. I feel like, in some ways, I’ve been in this weird holding pattern for a long time without the energy or the drive or the desire to actually accomplish things. I don’t know what caused it; there was an awful lot of burnout I think for some reason. Probably all the juggling and plate-spinning I’ve been doing, and of course the first few months of the year are inevitably overwhelming on many different levels for me. I mean, I was on-boarding a new board of directors for Mystery Writers of America; coordinating and organizing the Bouchercon anthology; writing my own book; and writing several promised short stories (the one due tomorrow the editors graciously gave me another week so I am going to really have to buckle down and do a great job on the story–no pressure there, and of course the festivals and Carnival as well as other transitions at the day job. So yeah, the first third of the year were kind of rough, but I am–at least this morning–feeling like I can get everything done.

There’s nothing worse than that overwhelmed feeling of defeat.

I really don’t like it, because it also starts a spiral into hopelessness and I hate that most of all. That’s the why bother phase, the “why do I try because nothing matters and it doesn’t make any difference anyway” and I absolutely despise that; I call it the Pit of Despair (thanks, The Princess Bride). I seem to have spent a lot more time in the Pit of Despair lately than I have in years, and I don’t like feeling that way.

Or maybe I’m just on a high from the awards last night. It was a bit overwhelming being in such a big crowd, as well as seeing people I’ve not seen in years thanks to the goddamned pandemic; I wanted to see and talk to everyone and chat and laugh and get caught up, but it’s also kind of impossible in that kind of situation and yeah, it can be a bit much, particularly when you’re socially awkward and much more of an introvert than you should be when your job requires you to speak publicly and be social and circulate and all of those things. There are so many weird contradictions and oppositions built in my psyche and personality that are constantly at war with each other…for one example, obviously I would love to be more successful than I am, but success also comes at a price. The more successful you are, the more public events you have to do as well as public speaking (things I am terrible at, cause me stress and anxiety, and drain me completely) not to mention the small talk. One thing I’ve never been good at is receiving compliments. I don’t know what to say to people when they’re complimenting me and my work…I just stammer and blush and say “thanks you’ve very kind” but somehow can’t engage any further than that because I get awkward and feel stupid.

And on that note, I am going to post this and get some work done. Have a great post-Edgar Friday, Constant Reader.

The Morning After

And the winners are…

BEST NOVEL

Five Decembers by James Kestrel (Hard Case Crime)

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR

Deer Season by Erin Flanagan (University of Nebraska Press)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL

Bobby March Will Live Forever by Alan Parks (Europa Editions – World Noir)

BEST FACT CRIME

Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green (Celadon Books)

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL

The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock: An Anatomy of the Master of Suspense by Edward White (W.W. Norton & Company)

BEST SHORT STORY

“The Road to Hana,” Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by R.T. Lawton (Dell Magazines)

BEST JUVENILE

Concealed by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Scholastic – Scholastic Press)

BEST YOUNG ADULT

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (Macmillan Children’s Publishing – Henry Holt and Company BFYR)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY

“Boots on the Ground” – Narcos: Mexico, Written by Iturri Sosa (Netflix)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD

“Analogue,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Rob Osler (Dell Magazines)

* * * * * *

THE SIMON & SCHUSTER MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD

Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara (Soho Press – Soho Crime)

* * * * *

THE G.P. PUTNAM’S SONS SUE GRAFTON MEMORIAL AWARD

Runner by Tracy Clark (Kensington Books)

* * * * * *

SPECIAL AWARDS

GRAND MASTER

Laurie R. King

RAVEN AWARD

Lesa Holstine – Lesa’s Book Critiques; Library Journal Reviewer

ELLERY QUEEN AWARD

Juliet Grames – Soho Press – Soho Crime

Help Me Make It Through the Night

I actually slept last night here at my hotel, and slept late this morning, both of which are so unusual it does bear remarking on. I also walked a lot yesterday here in Manhattan; it’s about fourteen blocks from the hotel to the MWA office; a straight shot up Broadway. That’s a lot more walking than my tired old fat-ass is used to, so perhaps that had something to do with the deep sleep. I also met a friend for drinks with Paul last evening (here in the hotel bar), and then we came back up to the room and I read for a bit before I got cross-eyed with sleep (I am really enjoying this Raquel V. Reyes novel tremendously; although I probably won’t get much chance to finish it before the flight home Saturday, which should give me plenty of time to not only finish reading Mango Mambo and Murder but to read (or make good headway on reading) one of the other books I brought along for the ride. (There will also be giveaway books at the banquet tonight…)

It really is remarkable how much I dislike working on a laptop, thought. Mostly it’s because the screen is too small for my aging eyes (note to self: make an eye appointment stat, maybe new glasses will take care of this for me) but I have my wireless keyboard (I hate typing on a laptop most of all) and my wireless mouse with me, which makes it a bit easier for me to deal with.

I was also surprised that I slept so well last night mainly because, well, the banquet is tonight and I have to be up on stage to begin with to welcome everyone and do some thank you’s and introductions, which I have to be stone cold sober to do–which, given there’s an hour of cocktail reception before hand, isn’t going to be easy for one Gregalicious, who never likes passing up free wine or champagne–and of course being stone cold sober is going to make it a bit more stressful, although the days when I used to drink heavily to deal with the stage fright anxiety are long in the past and let’s face it, was never a particularly smart thing to do (ah, the wisdom that comes with age). The awards are going to be broadcast live on our Youtube channel (if I were better at my job as EVP I’d share a link, but I am not better at the job so oh well) which means it will also be recorded and always be up there for all eternity (the Internet is forever, after all) so the possibilities of me doing something stupid and going viral, therefore burning MWA to the ground, are much higher than say, my speaking for a few moments at the Lefty Banquet. But I am trying very hard to manage my anxiety and stress–I handled the travel here very well, after all–and so this new calm centering thing I am doing seems to be working. I feel remarkably relaxed and rested this morning, in fact, which is highly unusual.

After I finish this and do some more emails, I will probably work on my short story a bit more.

Oh! I also did a ZOOM thing yesterday for the Jefferson Performing Arts Society (JPAS) for their upcoming production of Deathtrap; which of course was a huge Broadway hit comedy/thriller written by one of my literary heroes, Ira Levin (who also wrote A Kiss Before Dying, This Perfect Day, Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, and The Boys from Brazil, for a few highlights). It was actually quite fun–I love the opportunity to talk about other writers; talking myself up is an entirely different subject–and I am not sure when or where it will be available to view on-line, but I don’t think I made a fool of myself.

I’ve been wrong before.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines and get to work on that story some more. You have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will recap the banquet for you tomorrow.