Disco Duck

Wednesday.

We’re now caught up on both Archer and Animal Kingdom, and no, I didn’t write anything yesterday. I was putting out minor fires pretty much all day–nothing major, but they all added up together, one right after another, into draining me of energy and creativity and pretty much by the end of the day I was over it.

It didn’t help that this morning my computer also starting being stupid yet again. (Congratulations, Apple, on the shit-show that is the Mojave operating system. We can certainly tell Steve Jobs is dead.) I wish I had a dime for every minute I’ve wasted watching my screen freeze or a program stop responding…

Last night, in my irritated crabby mood, it occurred to me that part of the reason I’ve been thinking about the past so much is because it’s also Pride Month, and I’ve been doing a daily post/tweet on queer crime writers–which also has taken my mind back into the past and remembering things. It’s really astonishing sometimes to sit down and think about how much the world has changed during the course of my lifetime….some for the bad, some for the better.

And sometimes thinking about all that change just makes me feel really, really old.

And not writing makes me crabby, so maybe I should try to do some tonight, even if it is like pulling teeth, even if it all turns out to be so much shit on a stick that it requires a complete do over.

My kitchen is also a terrible mess. It never ends. And the laundry is starting to pile up yet again.

Lather, rinse, repeat. The story of my life.

But Animal Kingdom got me thinking about unsympathetic characters again. The Codys, the family of three brothers, an adopted brother, their nephew, and their creepy, hard-as-nails mother Smurf, are not sympathetic in the least. They’re all criminals, have a tendency to do drugs, get violent, and drink too much–they’re not too smart with their money, which is why Smurf runs the gang; she’s the only one who knows how to launder their money, pay the taxes on it and keep their money on the right side of the law from the IRS. The show is very interesting–one of the brothers is also gay, and part of his story arc is him gradually, slowly emerging from the closet with his macho, tough-guy brothers–and the interrelationships between them all are also fascinating to watch; they love each other but they also hate each other–and Smurf herself is not above pitting them against each other when it suits her own purposes. It’s a terrific role for Barkin, who brings it hard to every scene, and the boys are all hot as fuck and frequently shirtless (sometimes nude) and you never really can be sure where the story is going to go. As I was watching this week’s episode, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a favorite Sidney Sheldon novel, If Tomorrow Comes, which was about Tracy Whitney, a beautiful young woman who is set-up and ruined by gangsters, and then, being super-intelligent, gets even with all of them before launching a career as a master thief. Some of the heists the Codys pull off remind me of the great robberies Tracy managed; and that was one Sheldon I always wanted to see made into a mini-series.

I’d love to write a heist novel someday.

Someday. And now back to the spice mines.,

48423251_2479291932081044_6326169068147572736_n

Sing a Song

Denim, Diamonds, and Death

Anthony Awards

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

2019 Anthony Award Nominations

BEST NOVEL

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

  • November Road by Lou Berney (William Morrow)

  • Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur Books)

  • Sunburn by Laura Lippman (William Morrow)

  • Blackout by Alex Segura (Polis Books)

BEST FIRST NOVEL

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

  • Broken Places by Tracy Clark (Kensington)

  • Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver (Pegasus Books)

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

  • Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin (Ecco)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL NOVEL

  • Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett (Midnight Ink)

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

  • Hiroshima Boy by Naomi Hirahara (Prospect Park Books)

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

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

BEST SHORT STORY

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

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

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

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

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

BEST CRITICAL OR NONFICTION WORK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Island Girl: to171024_490628937077_648027077_6093813_7096576_o

I Love Music

I’ve always supported women crime writers, and I’ve always read them. From the women who wrote the children’s mysteries for Scholastic (Mary C. Jane and Phyllis A. Whitney, to name two) through the Agatha Christie canon (which essentially includes every subgenre of mystery to come, from serial killers to cozies to spy novels to romantic suspense to Gothic to locked rooms to private eyes to amateur sleuths to unreliable narrators–you get the picture. An argument can be made that And Then There Were None was the original Friday the 13th; a group of people stranded somewhere being targeted by a killer, who goes through them all systematically), moving on eventually to Victoria Holt and Charlotte Armstrong and Dorothy Eden and Mary Stewart, who in turn were followed by Grafton, Paretsky, and Muller…terrific stories and series and stand alones by such terrific writers as Nancy Pickard, Lia Matera, S. J. Rozan, Laura Lippman…the list of women crime writers I love is insanely lengthy, and there isn’t any way that I could possibly, successfully, sit down and make a list of them all without forgetting so many, many others who don’t deserve to be forgotten or left off.

Women are currently some of the top writers in our field–Megan Abbott,  Alison Gaylin, Lori Rader-Day, Jamie Mason, Lisa Unger, Catriona McPherson, Wendy Corsi Staub, Carol Goodman, Gillian Flynn, Lori Roy, Alafair Burke…again, the list could go on forever and I would always manage to forget someone. There’s not, after all, enough time for me to ever read everything I want to read, and there’s fantastic new work being published all the time. And I am finding new to me writers all the time, that I greatly enjoy.

The reason I am even bringing this up is twofold; recently, there was an article in The Writer that acted like women crime writers essentially don’t exist (I don’t think, ultimately, the piece was mean-spirited or this was actually deliberate; the problem was the author of the piece used the angle that there were no women being written accurately, with nuance, in crime fiction today; she simply failed to qualify her thesis by adding by men. Had she done this, her piece–about how Lee Child and Paul Doiron have evolved and are now writing complex, believable women characters–probably would have been applauded rather than the subject of some outrage), and then, yesterday, Sisters in Crime president Sherry Harris wrote a blistering response to the almost non-stop mockage the cozy mysteries–which are kind of the backbone of our genre–are almost always subject to from the non-cozy writers in our genre.

I personally have never understood why some writers are so condescending and rude about any genre, to be honest. Romance novels aren’t for me, really, but I certainly am not contemptuous of romance novels, or the genre as a whole. Writing, and getting published, and maintaining a career as a writer, is fucking hard; I would daresay that writing romance novels would be incredibly difficult. There are the constraints of the formula and the required HEA (happily ever after) ending; you try to make a formula fresh and new and interesting to readers who read dozens of novels a year and are looking for something fresh, that will move them, will keep them reading, and leave them wanting more of your work.

I’ll wait.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I hear cozies dismissed and not taken seriously all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. And I don’t understand it. Sure, there are terrible cozies. There are also terrible noirs, terrible private eye novels, terrible police procedurals, terrible psychological thrillers, etc.; not every book in every style of mystery–or writing, for that matter–is good, and not every one is bad. And cozies are, quite frankly, incredibly hard to write. They have to be light, they have to be funny (and no matter how easy it looks–writing funny is fucking hard), and there have to be a lot of suspects and clues and red herrings and so forth. Cozies are also often stories about communities–whether it’s the people who work at a spice shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market (Leslie Budewitz) or the extended friends-and-family of the Langslow clan in Caerphilly, Virginia (Donna Andrews) or those who live in an art deco Fort Lauderdale apartment complex that used to be a motel (Elaine Viets)–and again, this is incredibly difficult to do, let alone do every goddamned year, managing to keep the stories and characters fresh and new, as well as juggling the need for a plot against the need to include the regular cast members the readers have come to love over the years.

For example, there are characters in the Scotty universe that have kind of dropped away as the years and the series have progressed; every time I write a new Scotty I think, I really need to include David in here somehow and yet it never seems to work. (David was Scotty’s best friend in the first three books; a character I genuinely liked and loved writing about…but in the after-Katrina books, having to juggle Scotty’s two partners and his family grew ever more difficult and David just kind of fell to the wayside.)

I digress.

I always say that cozies aren’t given the respect they deserve for the same reason romance novels aren’t, either; they are seen as books by women about women for women, and therefore couldn’t possibly be as important as the testosterone driven he-man crime novels men write. Even the non-cozy crime novels written by women don’t get the same respect as those by men–its the reason why Sisters in Crime exists, the Malice Domestic conference, and the Agatha Awards.

And let’s face it. Scotty might be a licensed private eye, but his adventures are more cozy than hard-boiled.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.

168405_109759765768028_100002020152501_71732_5818369_n

Moonlight Feels Right

It really is a wonder I have a career.

Yes, I missed the official launch of my short story collection, which was officially published on April 10….five days ago.

Seriously. How do I have a career?

Who fucking forgets their release day?

Apparently, this fool.

The jacket copy:

A Katrina survivor waits for rescue on his roof in the brutal heat, reflecting on the life choices that brought him to this moment. A young woman discovers there’s more to her perfect man than she thought. A gay journalist travels to Italy to interview his teen idol, only to discover a darkness in the Tuscan hills. A gay man cleans his home, reflecting on his sociopathic criminal mother. Chanse MacLeod returns to his hometown to help his younger brother, accused of murder. A daughter keeps her father’s legacy alive while hiding his darkest secrets.

Including five new stories written for this collection (along with the first-ever Chanse MacLeod short story), Greg Herren’s tales of murder, crime, and the darkness that lives inside all of us are evocative of the proud Southern Gothic tradition of writers and are now available, for the first time, in a single collection.

Table of contents:

Survivor’s Guilt

The Email Always Pings Twice

Keeper of the Flame

A Streetcar Named Death

An Arrow for Sebastian

Housecleaning

Acts of Contrition

Lightning Bugs in a Jar

Spin Cycle

Cold Beer No Flies

Annunciation Shotgun

Quiet Desperation

The Weight of a Feather

My Brother’s Keeper

Don’t Look Down

You can order it from Amazon right here. Or from Barnes and Noble here.  You can also get it directly from my publisher here. You can also support your local independent by ordering from here!

I also encourage you to walk into your local independent and if they don’t have it, request it.

Thanks all!

Survivors Guilt

Kissing Asphalt

Reading the stories in this book, in a roundabout way, led me to Spotify, and in an even more roundabout way made me rediscover one of my favorite bands from that period: The Cars. It also enabled me to rediscover how blissfully amazing the Cars’ eponymous first album, The Cars, was.
And the way “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” leads right into “Bye Bye Love” so seamlessly! Classic. 
I’ve also been listening to Candy-O, and this weekend I’m going to start listening to Heartbeat City, to see how well it holds up.
And the next song/story covered in Murder-a-Go-Go’s is “Kissing Asphalt” by Dharma Kelleher.
cover-west-murder-go-gos-front
Sitting in the back seat of the Lexus SUV, I racked the slide on my Ruger 9mm, secured the Rossi snub-nosed revolver in my ankle holster, and adjusted the Velcro straps on my Kevlar vest. I tried to convince myself I was ready for action. But I wasn’t.
My body was sore and heavy with fatigue from an all-night session of much-needed sex. Meanwhile, my mind bobbed like a balloon with the giddiness of newfound love. A tiny voice in the back of my brain warned me to get my shit together and quite acting like a twelve-year-old girl with her first crush.
It didn’t work. As I stared out the window at Phoenix’s urban desert whizzing past, a highlights reel of the night before played in my mind, with the Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed” as the soundtrack.
“Oy! Earth to Jinx Ballou! Are ya with us?” My boss, Conor Doyle, glared at me from the front passenger seat.
Deez, Conor’s second-in-command, chuckled from behind the wheel, “If I didn’t know better, I’d say our girl got some last night.”
“Shut the hell up, Deez,” I playfully punched the back of his seat.
Murph, the guy sitting to my right, screwed up his face. “All the times I ask you out and now you’re fucking some other guy?”
This is my first time reading something by Dharma Kelleher, and it won’t be the last. This tale–about bounty hunters tracking down a bail-jumper–turns what could easily be a tired old same-old same-old story into something fresh and new; which is just another example of showing how diversity, and diverse writers, can breathe new life into a genre that is in danger of becoming tired and stock. Kelleher’s characterizations and voice are fresh and new, the action comes fast and furious, and the personal story interwoven into the case work never feels forced or contrived. I do invite you all to check out some of Kelleher’s work; this story features her series character, Jinx Ballou, and is an excellent teaser for her series.
Get on it, people.

Pilot of the Airways

VACATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!

HUZZAH!

I am happy dancing, in case you were wondering.

It’s eight ten on Tuesday evening; the eve of the final parade weekend (yes, they start again tomorrow night and run through Fat Tuesday) and I am on vacation. This is the first Carnival in years–maybe 2008?–where I haven’t had to work during the final weekend of parades. No condom distribution, no three miles each way hike to the office every day, with aching feet and hips and thighs and knees. No, I can leisurely get things taken care of during the days without stressing or worrying about when I’m going to get the mail or make groceries or…any of that. No, I can get my errands taken care of and clean and edit and revise and cook and do all sorts of things while waiting for Paul to get home and the parades to arrive.

Honestly, I don’t understand why I haven’t done this before. I love the parades. I love the floats and the riders and the friendly people along the sidewalk and the kids playing and the marching bands and the celebrity riders.

Love. It. ALL.

Which means it’ll probably rain them all out this year.

But I’ll still be on vacation.

Huzzah!

And yes, I’m gloating just a little.

Now to start cleaning up this mess.

 

22405963_10159458313845290_5574648607552571217_n

Against the Wind

Yesterday I only managed to revise one chapter, but I am chalking that up as a win. I figured if I do one chapter a day it’ll be done by the end of the month, and there will be days when I’ll revise more than one, which will put me further ahead of schedule. This weekend I managed to get caught up–I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but what I did get done caught me up again, and that’s really what I needed to have happen. And it did. So, that’s a win.

I don’t know why I am so hard on myself.

Seriously.

I’ve not decided what to read next. I checked Caleb Roehrig’s White Rabbit, a queer y/a, out from the library, but I kind of also want to read either Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett or Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things, which is a vampire novel set in Mexico City and comes highly recommended by my horror peeps. I’ve got an entire pile of diverse books, including John Copenhaver’s Dodging and Burning, Kristen Lepionka’s The Last Place You Look,  Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths, Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go and Cotton Comes to Harlem, Frankie Bailey’s The Red Queen Dies…so many wonderful diverse books–and there’s even more than that. I know I have a Rachel Howzell Hall book on the shelves somewhere, and it might not, actually, be a bad idea to dive into some New Orleans/Louisiana history…decisions, decisions.

There are, frankly, worse things in life, to be honest, then being unable to decide which book you want to read next.

I think my sleep schedule is finally stabilizing. I slept very well on Sunday evening and as such, wasn’t tired even after a twelve hour shift yesterday when I got home. We’ll see how tired I am tonight when I get home from work after day two of twelve hour shift; but instead of working straight through, I have a doctor’s appointment in between testing shifts so I’ll be doing that instead…and since I’ll be over in that part of time, am going to treat myself to Five Guys for lunch. Huzzah for Five Guys!

One can never go wrong with a delicious burger. And Cajun fries to go with it. YUM.

Ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018, I’ve felt disconnected in some ways to all the projects I was brainstorming before it happened…which is why I think reading some local history might just do the trick of reenergizing me with the Monsters of New Orleans project. My life is so defined by said Data Disaster that I can hardly remember what was going on before it happened, and I’ve felt, as I have said numerous times, disconnected, and not just from Monsters of New Orleans, but from everything, and when I try to get everything back on track, it just seems like all those things are adrift in fog and I can’t quite get my hands on them again.

Which, obviously, sucks. But it’s life.

I had all kinds of plans for the future before a little disruption called Hurricane Katrina came along, too. And the time before the evacuation seems like it was a million years ago, and I can barely remember the time evacuated or the time after I returned, or that first year back in the carriage house. My memory is a sieve–and I used to have the most insane memory! I could remember all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys titles in order, and could even tell you the plots. I used to be able to remember details about every book I’d read, including plot and characters and scenes. I used to be amazing at Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit. Not so much anymore, sadly. I like to think I am forgetting things now because there’s so much more to remember, and some things are getting crowded out by new memories…but I think it’s more a symptom of being older than anything else.

Sigh.

And now back to the spice mines.

21617483_10213003032367101_1921444307605781546_n

Menu

%d bloggers like this: