Take Me to Heart

Being an LSU fan is not for the faint of heart.

Saturday afternoon in Toronto, after my panel, Paul and I retired to our room and flipped on the television to see if we could see the LSU-Auburn game up there. There was a CBS station from Buffalo, so we were able to do so; the primary problem being that when we turned the game on, it was late in the first quarter, the score was 17-0, and Auburn had the ball.

We both sighed resignedly and collapsed onto the bed.

I was raised on college football. My dad’s family are Auburn fans, my mother’s Alabama. I’ve had relatives play for both teams; bestselling author Ace Atkins also played for Auburn, and we bonded many years ago over our lifelong fandom of the Auburn Tigers. The rules in my family were very clear: we rooted for Alabama when they played everyone but Auburn. I always liked LSU, though–I thought the whole “Death Valley” thing and having an actual live tiger mascot was kind of cool, and of course I’ve always loved the colors purple and gold. After we moved down here to New Orleans, Paul started watching college football with me on Saturdays, and he started rooting for LSU; the same way we both rooted for the Saints. I followed the same rules I’d grown up with: root for Auburn, root for Alabama when they play everyone else but Auburn, and added root for LSU when they play everyone else but Auburn and Alabama.

Paul, of course, always rooted for LSU.

I remember one night a year or so after we moved here, we were out with friends at Lafitte’s and I happened to notice that the Clover Grill’s television was tuned into the LSU-Florida game. Florida was riding the nation’s longest winning streak, hadn’t lost an SEC (Southeastern Conference) game in a couple of years, and was ranked Number One in the country; LSU wasn’t given much of a chance. I wandered across the street with my beer to watch the kick-off and was stunned as LSU jumped out to an improbable 14-0 lead early in the first quarter. I only walked back across the street to get more beer or go to the bathroom or when it was half-time; I watched that entire game without sound through the Clover Grill’s windows and improbably, upstart LSU managed to hang on and win the game 28-21. It was probably the biggest upset in LSU football history, and Death Valley went crazy–I could also hear people yelling around the Quarter every time LSU scored.

Everyone knows about the great Halloween game between LSU and Ole Miss back in 1959, when LSU was ranked number one and Ole Miss number three, and LSU won on the great Billy Cannon punt return, 7-3. I watched the Auburn-LSU game in 1988, when LSU upset 4th ranked Auburn 7-6 on a last minute touchdown and the fans were jumping up and down so much it registered on the LSU’s geology department’s Richter scale (my cousin was playing for Auburn then, and in full disclosure–I wasn’t thrilled to see that Tommy Hodson pass completion). That game is now known as the Earthquake Game, and clinched a tie for the SEC title that year for LSU with Auburn.

I switched fully over to LSU after Hurricane Katrina, during the evacuation and the return, watching the LSU games because watching those games was something about Louisiana that was normal; when everything else seemed to be disrupted there were the Tigers playing in Death Valley. I didn’t have the Saints that year because they weren’t playing in the damaged Superdome, and there was talk about them being moved to San Antonio. Tiger Stadium had been a triage center as FEMA and the Coast Guard and the Marines air-lifted people out of New Orleans; many of the players were from the city and had relatives and friends and neighbors crammed into their apartments with them. LSU and the campus were instrumental to the rescue efforts, and essentially, a life-line for the city I loved so much. That year LSU moved to Number One in my heart, and they have stayed there ever since.

And the games! My God, LSU games are nail-biters almost always. and from 2005-2007 LSU seemed to almost always pull the game out at the end with some kind of insane end. LSU won the national championship in 2007; the only time a two-loss time did so, and were the first team with more than one loss to be able to lay claim to the national title in over forty years. There were so many great moments that year–including the insane come from behind win over Auburn. With time running out and the ball on the thirty yard line, one point behind…quarterback Matt Flynn threw a pass to the end zone that was caught to win the game 30-24 with one second left on the clock.

There have been many games like that since–the Tigers don’t always pull them out, but they do more often than they don’t. Last year’s Auburn game was the same–a touchdown pass completed to win the game as time ran out, only to have the officials rule the ball was snapped after time ran out and nullified the touchdown.

Coach Les Miles was fired after that game.

This year’s LSU team hasn’t looked good. Paul and I went to watch the lackluster win over BYU in the Superdome to start the season; we went to the season opener in Baton Rouge to see another lackluster win over a second-tier team. LSU was blown out at Mississippi State, but still managed to stay ranked….until they lost two weeks ago against Troy in Tiger Stadium; the first loss for LSU against a non-conference opponent since 2000. Somehow they managed to upset Florida 17-16 the next week in Gainesville…but this weekend, Auburn was ranked Number 10, rolling over everyone they played. Mississippi State, who had beaten LSU by thirty points, lost to Auburn 49-10. No one had high hopes…even though Auburn hadn’t won in Baton Rouge since 1999.

That year, after beating LSU 41-7, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and some of his players walked out onto the field to the tiger eye at the fifty yard line to triumphantly smoke cigars. It was an insult no one here has forgotten….and Auburn has lost every time they’ve played here since.

After forcing Auburn to kick a field goal to go up 20-0, LSU scored to make it 20-7. Auburn managed another field goal, but LSU scored in the closing seconds of the first half to make it 23-14, and were getting the ball back first in the second half. A comeback wasn’t out of the question….but on that first possession they had to punt, and despite keeping Auburn from getting a first down, a stupid penalty gave Auburn another set of downs and it was time for us to go.

I was certain the game was over.

I checked my phone later in the lounge as we ate hors d’oeuvres and drank wine in the lounge while waiting for it to be time for our dinner reservation–and lo and behold, the score was now 23-21 with about ten minutes left. I kept hitting refresh and BOOM! LSU kicked a field goal to finally go ahead 24-23.

They held on, kicking another field goal with just seconds left in the game to go up 27-23…and somehow pulled it off.

I still can’t believe I missed seeing it.

Geaux Tigers! I hope to see a replay of the game at some point.

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Death Valley: where dreams come to die.

Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy

Tomorrow morning at this time I will be running around, hoping that I am not forgetting to do something before we leave for Toronto. I haven’t had much of a chance to get excited about the trip, but this morning it’s starting to be kind of real to me. The kitchen is a mess–I made Swedish meatballs last night–and so I need to get the dishwasher loaded, start gathering things to pack for the trip, etc.

I also queried another agent yesterday, and submitted another short story. I have three more agents to query on my list today, and I might submit yet another short story to another market. We’ll see how that goes.

I also printed out Jackson Square Jazz last night; I am going to do the ever popular copy edit with it. It also occurred to me that this is a golden opportunity, as the ebooks for the first two Scottys are about to go live, to re-edit them and therefore make the ‘new’ versions of them worthwhile to have for people. I haven’t completely decided whether I am going to re-edit the books or not, but we shall see how it goes. It’s really dependent on the time factor, and since I am trying to finish writing another Scotty at the same time…it’s also not a bad idea, as rereading the originals will put me in a Scotty mindset, which can’t hurt, you know?

I started reading Robert Marasco’s Burnt Offerings last night, and was very quickly absorbed into the story. The beginning is reminiscent of several other horror classics–Rosemary’s Baby, Harvest Home, The Haunting of Hill House–and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s clearly a ‘haunted house/bad place’ story; I’ve never seen the movie nor had I read the book before, so I am kind of excited about it. I also need to pick out the books I’m going to be taking with me on the trip.

We also finished watching Harlan Coben’s The Five mini-series last night on Netflix. There are ten episodes, and it’s a interesting show with several different mysteries, several different crimes, and they are all connected in some strange way to the disappearance of a small boy some twenty years earlier. The main characters–Slade, Danny, Mark, Pru–were all friends, and one afternoon they were off in the woods playing, with Mark’s younger brother Jesse in tow. Being older kids, they wanted to go off and do their own thing, so they sent Jesse off on his own and he disappeared. A child molesting serial killer later confessed to killing him…but the body was never found. Flash forward twenty years, and Jesse’s DNA has turned up at a brutal crime scene, which begs the question, is Jesse still alive? How did his DNA wind up at a crime scene twenty years after he disappeared? And then his DNA turns up at another brutal crime scene. What is the connection between the cases? Lots of twists and turns, and several big surprise twists made it quite enjoyable to watch. The cast was also really good, and the mini-series format gave the writers the opportunity to delve into the characters and their lives a lot more. It also was very haunting in that it’s theme–the damage the disappearance of a child can do to those left behind–is something I am fascinated by.

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Highly recommended.

And now, back to the spice mines.

I’ll Tumble 4 Ya

I slept very well last night and woke up to sunshine this morning. Nate kept turning to the east as he headed for land last night. We didn’t even get high winds here at the Lost Apartment; and just a little sprinkling rain. He also came ashore much sooner than originally anticipated; the weather at the Michigan-Michigan State game looked much worse than it was here. LSU also won yesterday, a nail-biting and highly nerve-wracking 17-16 win over Florida in Gainesville, which we watched while we waited for Nate to arrive.

I’m enjoying Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, and it has a lot of interesting things to say about modern society and the zombie apocalypse; basically, the theme is that modern society is just as much a zombie apocalypse as an actual one. And it’s an interesting world he’s building there, with his post-apocalyptic Manhattan. This is a zombie novel, but it’s also literary; I appreciate Whitehead’s take on zombies, but it’s more literary than zombie, if that makes sense. I’ll keep reading it, because it has a lot to say, and the insights and language are quite lovely…but nothing has happened, really, and I am about 100 pages in. When you compare that to, say, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, which is only about 170 pages long…I decided yesterday that the thing to do was read it along with something else; maybe a chapter or two a day of Whitehead while reading something else more traditionally horror. I got started on two more books that didn’t pass the fifty-page-test and went into the donation pile, and then started Stephen Graham Jones’ Mongrels, which is pretty interesting so far. The voice is pitch-perfect; and I am curious to see where it goes. I found a couple of more books in the TBR pile to add to the Halloween Horror Read-a-thon; let’s hope those pass muster.

I didn’t get as much done yesterday as I would have liked; I did go to the grocery store but failed to get the things I really went for–so was unable to make Swedish meatballs for dinner last night. (Seriously, the most important things to get were ground sirloin and heavy cream…the two things I didn’t get.) So, today I am going to focus on getting things done. I did get the filing done yesterday, and today I need to make a packing list for the trip; a to-do list for the week; a submissions spreadsheet for the agent search and short stories; and I need to clean. I am also going to go back to the beginning of the Scotty and start revising, to write my way out of the hole I’ve gotten myself into. I’ll take the other WIP with me to Toronto to make notes. I’ve also relaunched my wrestling blog, which I kind of let slide for the last years or so, with a goal of posting at least once or twice a week. That’s something that’s just fun for me; I need to do fun things periodically in order to keep my writing fun. I was thinking last night about a short story I wrote, that was in the collection Wanna Wrestle?, and how much thought I put into structuring it and the story I wanted to tell…I think I might rush my short stories a bit, just coming up with the idea and not thinking about it before I start writing it, which could be why I am so not-confident about them as I should be.

Something definitely to consider.

And on that note, this spice isn’t going to mine itself.

Here’s a hunk to get the week started for you, Constant Reader.

 

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It’s a Mistake

Tropical Storm soon to be Hurricane Nate is out there, drawing nearer by the minute and moving pretty fast across an incredibly warm Gulf Of Mexico. I slept very well last night–woke up a few times, one of course being the daily five a.m. purr kitty lying on me and kneading my chest with his paws, but was able to fall back into a restful sleep every time. It’s gray out there this morning, and the storm seems to continue shifting eastward (sorry, Biloxi!), and they’re now saying we’re going to get tropical storm strength winds. The west side of a hurricane is usually the dry side, too, so we won’t get as much rain. I have to stop by the grocery store today to get a few things, but I imagine it won’t be quite the madhouse it would have been yesterday when STORM PANIC mode was gripping the city. I also don’t need water or bread, so am not too worried about the few things I need to get. I can’t imagine there was a run on cat food, for example.

Paul had some late afternoon/early evening meetings last night, so while I waited for him to come home I read R. L. Stine’s The Lost Girl and started reading Colson Whitehead’s Zone One. It’s a zombie apocalypse novel, so I figured it fit with my Halloween Horror reading for this month. It’s also remarkably good, and while it is not my first zombie apocalypse novel (I’ve only read Michael Thomas Ford’s Z, which is really good and vastly under-appreciated), it’s not like how I imagined any zombie apocalypse novel to be (I still have one of Joe McKinney’s in my TBR pile, but I don’t think I’ll get to it this month).

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What I remember most about that afternoon was the shimmering scarlet and yellow of the sky, as if the heavens were lighting up to join our family’s celebration. The sunlight sparkled off the two-day-old snow at teh curb, as if someone had piled diamonds in the street.

I think I remember everything about that day.

Running all the way home on the slushy sidewalks from my weekend job at the Clean Bee Laundry. The smell of the dry cleaning and the starch still on my clothes and my skin. I remember the blood thrumming at my temples as I ran and the feeling that, if I raised my arms high, I could take off, lift off from the crowded sidewalks of the Old Village, and glide easily into the pulsating colors of the sky.

The Lost Girl is a Fear Street novel, one of many R. L. Stine has published, set in the small city of Shadyside where Fear Street is located, where the ruins of the old Fear mansion, which had burned to the ground decades earlier, remained…only now, in this relaunched Fear Street series, the ruins have been cleared away and it’s a vacant lot. Stine built quite an empire with the Fear Street books, but his scary books for children, Goosebumps, were what really made him an industry. They were adapted into a TV show, and movies, and as the Goosebumps took off, the Fear Street books became less and less important and disappeared eventually. A quick glance at his Wikipedia page shows that there are, to date, 166 young adult novels written by Stine; the majority of them having something to do with Fear Street. I read a lot of those books in the early 1990’s–he and Christopher Pike and Jay Bennett, and those are the books that gave me the idea to write young adult novels in the first place–Sara, Sorceress, and Sleeping Angel were written in first drafts during that time. The Fear Street books were also what gave me the idea to link all of my y/a novels in some way; not all being set in the same town because that didn’t seem realistic, but linked in some way. I did manage to do that.

The Lost Girl is an entertaining enough read–it took me about two hours to get through it before I moved on to the Whitehead–and it’s very much what I remembered of the Fear Street books; very likable protagonist caught up in something terrible and awful through no fault of his own…loses some friends to the supernatural force, but eventually figures out how to bring it all to an end. It was a pleasant way to spend the evening while I waited for Paul to come home, and that was kind of how I read Stine back in the day; I always kept a few of them around on hand to read when I had some time to kill but didn’t want to get into anything truly heavy.

Stine is also a very nice man; I met him at the Edgars several years ago, and he was a Guest of Honor at Stokercon in Vegas, so I got to arrange his travel and email back and forth with him a few times. He’s very gracious, very kind, and it was kind of a thrill for me. Since I was representing Stokercon and the Horror Writers Association, I couldn’t gush and make a fool of myself the way I probably would have otherwise–which is probably a good thing.

And now, back to the spice mines. I want to find some more markets to submit my short stories to, and get some of this mess cleaned up.

Have a great day, Constant Reader!

Hot Girls in Love

Friday!

What a day I had yesterday. I sent queries out to four agents, and then thought what the hell and sent two short stories out for submission. One has already been rejected; they were, alas, closed for submissions. But that’s fine; onward and upward.

I am starting to get excited about next week’s trip to Bouchercon, and Toronto. I am going to query a few more agents today, and then give it a rest for a few days while I focus on doing some manuscript tweaking and writing as well as getting the Lost Apartment prepared for our departure. We’re apparently going to be visited by a hurricane this weekend as well–hurray!–which is going to make some things a little tricky. (Must remember to gas up the car tomorrow just in case.) I also need to make a packing list for the trip; I’ve printed out my panel schedule; bought our train tickets for the trip into the city from the airport and back; fetched the suitcase from storage…and now I have to make sure that we eat everything perishable in the house before Wednesday; which is always tricky. But I’m really looking forward to seeing friends I don’t see frequently, and lots of laughter and maybe….just a little bit of snark.

It happens.

So, as we hunker down and await the arrival of Nate, I am going to be submitting more stories and sending out more queries. It’s kind of addictive, now that I’ve gotten past the hump and have started doing it. I mean, it is what it is, right? Either they want me, or they don’t. And really, it’s not about the quality of the writing and it’s certainly not about anything personal; it’s about whether they think they can make money with me…which is the same thing with publishers. Honestly, I’m so good about giving advice to others about this sort of thing rather than taking it myself.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines. In honor of Nate’s imminent arrival, here’s a beefcake shot of Jim Cantore.

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The Other Guy

Thursday!

I survived the long day yesterday somehow, slept beautifully last night, and am wide awake and raring to go this morning. Hurray! I am still reading Background to Danger by Eric Ambler, which is another one of those “uh oh, what did I get myself into?” style espionage stories, and am enjoying it tremendously. I also made more progress on the new Scotty yesterday morning–having my usual this sucks doubts as well–and it looks like I am finally going to be getting the ebooks for Bourbon Street Blues and Jackson Square Jazz under way; with an eye to hopefully having them available after the first of the year.

Right? It certainly has taken me long enough.

I also want to get a short story revised and out into the markets over the course of this weekend. We shall see how that goes.

I hope to finish reading the Ambler either today or tomorrow, and then dive into The Elementals by Michael MacDowell. Toronto Bouchercon looms on the horizon; and I need to start thinking about getting ready for that.

Also, speaking of the first two Scottys, I am donating a signed copy of the first two–unavailable in any form other than second-hand sellers or ebay–since 2010 to a fundraiser for disaster relief being organized by Murder by the Book in Houston. So…this is a good chance to see where the Scotty series began, before the ebooks/POD versions become available.

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We’re very excited to announce that Murder By The Book will be organizing and hosting BOOK LOVERS CARE, a collectible book auction benefitting natural disaster relief. The book-loving community is a generous one and we’re hoping this news gets spread far and wide. Authors, readers, collectors – we’re looking at you!

We are currently soliciting donations of signed/collectible books and book-related items to be auctioned off online. While Murder By The Book specializes in crime fiction, we are looking for books of all genres.

* 90% of the money raised will go to Direct Relief, a highly-rated charity providing worldwide relief, specifically to areas affected by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, and the Mexico City earthquake.

* 10% of the money raised will go to the BINC Foundation – the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, providing aid to booksellers in time of crisis.

* Please mail all donations to the following:

Murder By The Book
Attn: Book Lovers Care 
2342 Bissonnet St.
Houston, TX 77005

* We will be accepting donations through the end of October, with the hope of the auction occurring in November – just in time for holiday gift-giving!

* While any donation of a book is a good deed, we are specifically looking for signed first editions, limited editions, unique book swag, and unique items that would bring excitement to an auction because of their value and rarity. We are not looking for used paperbacks. If you’re looking to donate them, we suggest Operation Paperback.

* For any specific questions or media inquiries regarding this, please contact us at the following email address: bookloverscare@gmail.com

And now back to the spice mines.

Promises, Promises

Hello, Wednesday! I’ve  been sleeping incredibly well since having to get up so early for the NO/AIDS Walk on Sunday; I’ve also added some more vitamins to my daily regimen that are supposed to help with creating melatonin naturally in my body, and have started drinking tart cherry juice, which is also supposed to assist in that. Has this change in routine had something to do with it? Perhaps. I am also trying to not look at any kind of electronic screen (other than the television) for half an hour before bed. I do feel very relaxed and rested this morning; which is lovely, since I have a very long day on deck.

I meant to take the Ambler novel with me last night to read between clients, but forgot it like a moron. I did work some more on Chapter Six yesterday, and even finished the draft of it, but it’s really terrible. But the framework is there to make it better; and that’s what rewrites are for. I also got started on Chapter Seven, so I may be on track to get this next Scotty book finished by the end of October, which was my hope (the draft, that is). I am, as always, behind on everything–I was so close to being ahead….but then the sleep issues started again last week and BAM! My energy and creativity were knocked flat and here I am, behind on everything again. Hurray.

I need to finish reading the Ambler by this weekend, since I’ve decided to  make October a horror-only reading month. I am going to start my reread of It this weekend, and I am also going to start reading The Elementals by Michael MacDowell, because I promised Katrina Holm I’d read it before Toronto Bouchercon. I also want to get my reread and re-evaluation of The Haunting of Hill House done before Toronto; and I have an enormous stack of horror that I want to get read this month. November I’m going to get back to my eclectic reading patterns, and then, of course, January is going to be Short Story Month again, where I read a short story every day for discussion. I’ve found even more short story collections scattered throughout my book collection, which is incredibly exciting.

All right, I am heading back into the spice mines. Here’s a Hump Day Hunk for your viewing pleasure:

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