Steppin’ Out

Home. Sunday night–early evening, really–and I am exhausted. Bouchercon just sucks the life right out of me every year, but I wouldn’t miss it for anything. I have the best time every year: reconnecting with friends I don’t see nearly enough; making new friends; drinking waaaaaaaaaaay too much; and laughing until my abdominal muscles hurt and hurt and hurt. Right now I think if I started laughing I’d also start weeping in agony–that’s how much I laughed this weekend. (And let’s not talk about the ten hours of non-stop drinking that was Friday evening. Oooooooohhhhhh.) I often have trouble sleeping when I’m home; this is exacerbated when I travel, so I’ve not had a good night’s sleep since I left on Wednesday. I am now very close to running out of steam, but am struggling to stay awake so I can hopefully get a good night’s sleep tonight.

And I won the Anthony Award for Best Anthology; rather, Blood on the Bayou: New Orleans Bouchercon Anthology 2016 won. I just edited it. It’s kind of thrilling; it was an incredibly difficult category and I was seriously just honored to be in the company of the other nominees. Art Taylor deservedly won the Macavity Award for Best Short Story; again, I’m just so thrilled that I was even on the shortlist that I really didn’t care about winning, and Art’s story was simply phenomenal.

Okay, I am too tired to think clearly. I’ve been trying to write this for hours now, and I think I should just go to bed and finish in the morning.

Monday morning. I slept so good last night. I woke up several times during the night, and I did wake up much earlier than I thought I would, but I feel rested; it was good sleep, and that’s always a plus. It’s also weird because it’s not light in the mornings anymore; it’s fine, and I’m going to love the extra hour whenever we get it–but I always hate giving it back.

Wow, what a weekend. As I said before, I laughed so hard all weekend; it was almost non-stop. I can’t believe how much I drank…but every year Friday turns into an epic drinking marathon. (This year broke Raleigh’s record.) So many great friends, so many highlights…the only low light was the “not able to sleep in hotels so am always running on accessory” thing, and that’s my low-light of every year and every conference. I met some amazing new people and made some amazing new friends; I was on two glorious panels with fantastic people and fantastic moderators and fantastic audiences; my biggest regret is the same as it is every year–that I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would like with everyone I would like. Toronto was absolutely lovely, and so was the hotel. (The hotel bar was just okay, but the private lounge on the 43rd floor was fantastic.) I read two books on the trip–Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco and The Vines by Christopher Rice, and started reading Oh, Florida! by Craig Pittman on my way home–which is also fantastic. I got some new books that I’m looking forward to reading: The Blinds by Adam Sternburgh; Sunburn by Laura Lippman; and the new Ivy Pochoda, Wonder Valley. (I finally met Ivy this year, and she told Paul and I a story about visiting Louisiana with her mother that had us both sobbing with laughter.) I had some awesome meals–but I think my favorite was the noodles I had for lunch on Friday, with the fish and chips on Sunday night at Braddock (not sure if that was the place) a close second. I drank wine instead of martinis–the martinis in Toronto were somewhat less than what I would have hoped for–and I got to laugh with so many wonderful friends. Paul, of course, was with me for this entire trip, and he fit in like I knew he would–I swear I think some of my friends like him better than they do me (I’m looking at you, Wendy) and oh, how I could go on.

I even ran into the ChiZine crew–Michael Rowe, Brett Savory, Sandra Kasturi–on Saturday night as two of my writing worlds converged!

And that LSU game on Saturday! That and the books are getting their own posts.

But probably the best–and this is simply because it was bigger than just being a good time for me–part of the weekend was being on the Writing the Rainbow panel. Moderated by Kristopher Zgorski of BOLObooks.com, the other panelists were Owen Laukkanen/Owen Matthews (seriously, buy his books!), John Copenhaver (whose debut novel I can’t wait to get my hands on), Stephanie Gayle (read her books–and she looks like Laura Dern with dark hair), and Jessie Chandler (seriously, read her books). When I was assigned the panel, my first thought was great, three people will show up for this. 

I was wrong, The room was packed. Kristopher had great questions for us, and the answers were all fantastic and thought-provoking. We talked about great queer books and great queer writers, talked about our own experiences writing about queer characters, and the audience was so receptive and amazing. I almost got teary and emotional, honestly; it was the first time I’ve ever be on such a panel at a mainstream event to have such a  great audience and such a great crowd. We’ve come such a long way. I just wish some of the great writers who were publishing when I first was getting started were still publishing so they could have enjoyed this moment as well. It was an honor to talk about Michael Nava and John Morgan Wilson and R. D. Zimmerman and Mary Wings and Katherine V. Forrest and there were so many others we didn’t  get to mention…and there certainly wasn’t enough time to mention all the great people doing the work now–although we were definitely able to plug the two great lesbian writers, Ellen Hart and J. M. Redmann.

And now, I have some things to get done around here while my other blog posts take form in my head, so I will leave you with a picture of me and my partner in crime for the weekend, the always amazing and hilarious Wendy Corsi Staub:

IMG_3048

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.

Harlencobenthefive

Highly recommended.

And now, back to the spice mines.

All This Love

Monday, and in two days I’ll be jetting off for Toronto. Huzzah! Needless to say, this is a very exciting thing for me; Bouchercon has become one of my favorite times of the year.

In other exciting news, I discovered an electronic final copy of Jackson Square Jazz yesterday. It was there the whole time, but I didn’t think it was the final copy because the first chapter, every time I opened the file, was only like 3300 words and I thought, no, that’s not it because it’s not long enough…and then I looked at it again yesterday, saw how many actual chapters there were, pulled them all into one document and realized that yes, indeed, this actually was the version I turned in. So, it’s not copy edited, which means I’ll need to copy edit it and it won;t be the same version, ultimately, as the print version when the book goes live…but I don’t have to retype the entire thing.

I’d much rather do a final polish than retype almost a hundred thousand words, believe you me.

Another horror novel bit the dust last night, not surviving the fifty-page test. (For those of you who are wondering that that is, I give a book fifty pages to engage me in some way. If by page fifty I don’t care about the book in any way, or it has annoyed me in some way, into the donation pile it goes.)  Likewise, I try to give a television show at least three episodes before giving up on it. I’m also trying to break the habit of watching shows that I once enjoyed once they’ve run out of steam. Much as I hate to say it, Paul and I have abandoned a lot of the superhero shows currently airing because they’ve either run out of steam or just gone off the rails. I loved Flash, but seriously–how many times do you go back in time and alter the timeline and fuck up everything before you decide “hey, maybe this is a bad idea”?

For the record, it should have only taken one.

So much to do before I leave for Bouchercon on Wednesday! I’ve made my packing list, still need to put together a to-do list, and figure out if it’s a stupid idea to take things with me to work on (since I never work on anything at these things, but of course, you know the one time I don’t take anything with I’ll not only have the time but will want to work on something and be enormously frustrated I didn’t bring anything); decide what books to take along to read (remember: I am only reading horror for October–I am thinking about reading Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco next), and get the suitcase started.

But I have to get through this week first. Two days at the office. Heavy heaving sigh. And I need to send out some more queries this morning.

C’est la vie.

And now, back to the spice mines. Here’s a hunk for you, to get your morning rolling.

1e3769b75af0e60ee6016d9974644998

 

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.

 

fitness-male-model-photo-men-83-1500x1500

 

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.

cantore

 

I’m Still Standing

Ah, Thursday. I am a bit wrung out from this week so far; I am hoping to get rested this weekend since I am not working. I just have some errands to run on Saturday, and other than that I am going to spend the weekend writing and cleaning the house and packing, trying to get ready for my trip next week to Toronto. Our flight is actually later in the day so I can sleep late and make sure everything is ship-shape before we head to the airport; our flight is at 3:20 so we don’t really need to leave for the airport until around 12:30. Which, of course, is absolutely lovely.

Later is always better.

We get into Toronto on a non-stop (thank you, Air Canada, for operating non-stops between New Orleans and Toronto) around 6:20 pm, and are going to take the UP Express train from Pearson Airport to Union Station. It’s less than a mile to walk from there to the hotel, and there’s also a subway…but I am leaning toward the walk, you know?  It’ll be chilly so it’s not like we’ll sweat to death or anything, and the exercise will be lovely. And our suitcases roll, so that’s not an issue.

Today I am starting to send out the queries to agents. Wish me luck, Constant Reader! I am, of course, putting it off…but seriously, I need to start doing this and getting it out of the way. I think the stress is what is actually hurting my work on the Scotty book. And so what if I get rejected? Writing is such an insane life, isn’t it? One really needs a strong ego to face down all the rejection…but at the same time, our egos are so fragile…

Ah, well. And here’s a Throwback Thursday treat: the original cover of Murder in the Rue St. Ann, from 2004. I’ve always thought this was a better book than it was ever given credit for, but it also was released during a bad time in my personal life and I did no signings, interviews, or promotion for it. Ah, well.

st ann

Heart to Heart

Gah, it’s Wednesday and the week is half over and I’ve not scratched many items off my to-do list. Heavy heaving sigh. Although the weather seems to have turned here and it’s been lovely the last few days. I worked in the storage unit for about an hour yesterday; got a few more book donation boxes together and threw some things away, which was progress of a sort. The primary problem, however, is discovering that almost everything in there appears to be cases of copies of my own books, or my kids’ series–the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, etc.–that I will never get rid of; so I think my next move is to swap out boxes of books in the attic (or decoratively hidden around the apartment), books that I want to keep (copies of books written by friends, etc.) for the cases of my own books; it only makes sense to have easier access to them in order to donate for charity auctions or for book events where they don’t have copies of my books or aren’t able to get copies of my books. Or to sell myself. I do think from time to time I should resell my used books and make some money off them, but it also seems like an incredible pain in the ass and I barely have time to keep up with everything I need to get done, let alone adding another chore.

We’ll see.

I am one step closer to sending out the query letters. With the assistance of some amazing friends, I think I had a damned good query letter put together that just needs a tweak here and there, and has also helped me figure out what tweaking, oddly enough, needs to be done in the manuscript itself. So, the goal is to send out a wave of query emails by the end of the week, work on Scotty, finish the final revision of a short story to get sent out there, and make those manuscript tweaks.

I also put another book in the donation pile this week that didn’t pass the fifty page test, and am about to start reading R. L. Stine’s The Lost Girl. I read a lot of Stein and Christopher Pike novels in the early 1990’s–which helped inspire me to write the drafts that became Sorceress, Sara, and Sleeping Angel–so I am interested to see some of his newer work. I met him, not only at the Edgars one year, but at Stokercon in Vegas, and he is a lovely, very nice man. My original thought with those y/a’s was to link them all together at some point, the way he’d linked the Fear Street novels together, and in a way, all of my young adult novels are sort of linked together–Sara is set in a small town in Kansas; that town is where Laura, the main character in Sorceress is from; the town in California Laura moves to is where Sleeping Angel is set; and Scotty’s parents in Lake Thirteen are from the small town in Alabama where my main character in Dark Tide is from…and the town where Scotty lives now, in the suburbs of Chicago, was where Glenn in Sara moved to Kansas from. All connected. I sometimes forget that my young adult books all are in the same world and are all connected…

And on that note, I’m not going to finish my to-do list by sitting here thinking about getting things done.

Today’s Hump Day Hunk is actor Aaron-Taylor Johnson.

 IMG_1671