You Sexy Thing

I feel human this morning, which means I can go to work today! Hurray! Thank you, antibiotics and Claritin-D! Huzzah! Hurray!

It’s so lovely to feel normal (or at least what passes for it around here) again. The horrible thing about being sick is you can–or at least I do–often forget what it feels like to be healthy, and then wonder if you’re ever going to feel good again. My throat is still a little bit sore and my lungs still ache a bit from coughing so much, but other than that I am pretty damned good. So I can go to work today, do my half-day tomorrow, and then slide into the weekend. Ordinarily I’d take one more day off just to make sure I don’t relapse or something, but with the weekend so close…I think it’s okay to take the risk and go back to the office.

I just need to make sure I bring my Claritin with me–just in case.

But I also lost two days of productivity, and my mind was too foggy to even be able to focus on the book I am reading, Steph Cha’s wonderful Follow Her Home, which I hope to finish this weekend. I think next I am going to read my ARC of Alison Gaylin’s Never Look Back, and after that, possibly Kellye Garrett’s Hollywood Homicide.

There’s so much good reading in my future!

I am also appearing at the East Jefferson Parish library, talking about creating characters, with J. M. Redmann; the event is free and open to the public, and here’s the schedule:

Fifth Annual JPL               

Mystery Readers / Writers Literary Festival

METAIRIE – Five local authors will make presentations at the Fifth Annual Mystery Readers / Writers Literary Festival at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, April 13, at the East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie.

The festival is intended not just for mystery writers but for readers as well. This event is free of charge and open to the public. There is no registration.

9:30 to 10:45 a.m.

Farrah Rochon: “Using Psychology to Create Memorable Characters”

Farrah Rochon gives an interactive deep dive into creating characters using various methods rooted in psychology, including characterization with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Keirsey-Temperament Sorter, and how to apply them to fiction writing.

USA Today Bestselling author Farrah Rochon hails from a small town just west of New Orleans. She has garnered much acclaim for her Holmes Brothers, New York Sabers, Bayou Dreams and Moments in Maplesville series. The two-time RITA Award finalist has also been nominated for an Romance Times BookReviews Reviewers Choice Award, and in 2015 received the Emma Award for Author of the Year.

11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Jean Redmann and Greg Herren:

 The central character in a mystery oftentimes will be a detective who eventually solves the mystery by logical deduction from facts presented to the reader. Through the years, Redmann and Herren have created dozens of characters in their mysteries, and they explain how to create logical, believable, complex characters that readers will love.

J.M. Redmann writes two mystery series, one featuring New Orleans PI Micky Knight, and as R. Jean Reid, the Nell McGraw series, about a Gulf Coast town newspaper editor. Her books have won First Place Awards in the ForeWord mystery category, as well as several Lambda Literary awards.The Intersection of Law and Desire was an Editor’s Choice of the San Francisco Chronicle and a recommended book by Maureen Corrigan of NPR’s Fresh Air. Redmann is an at-large board member for Mystery Writers of America.

Greg Herren is the author of more than 30 novels and has edited more than 20 anthologies. He has won numerous awards, including the Anthony and Lambda Literary Award (twice). His short story collection Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories was released on April 1, and his next novel Royal Street Reveillon will be released this September.

12:30 to 1:45 p.m.

O’Neil De Noux: “The Femme Fatale”

The evolution of this female siren, the femme fatale, in detective literature has a distinct development from the early days of the victim in Poe to the deadly archetype seen in the Chandler and Hammett novels and film noir. O’Neil De Noux explains the femme fatale architype and how it is used today.

O’Neil De Noux is a New Orleans writer with 40 books published, 400 short story sales and a screenplay produced. He writes crime fiction, historical fiction, children’s fiction, mainstream fiction, science-fiction, suspense, fantasy, horror, western, literary, young adult, religious, romance, humor and erotica. His fiction has received several awards, including the Shamus Award for Best Short Story, the Derringer Award for Best Novelette and the2011 Police Book of the Year. Two of his stories have appeared in the Best American Mystery Stories anthology (2013 and 2007). He is a past vice president of the Private Eye Writers of America.

2 to 3:30 p.m.

Writing Seminar with Adrian van Young

Van Young will focus on a number of items: (a) basic methods of characterization in fiction, briefly; (b) building unlikeable, as well as likeable characters (crucial to mystery fiction and crime); and (c) how to establish narrative unreliability, which he says is important in mystery writing, and goes hand-in-hand with the likeable/unlikeable dichotomy. To demonstrate these principles, he will focus on a combination of writing exercises and excerpts from published works.

Adrian Van Young is the author of The Man Who Noticed Everything, a collection of stories, and Shadows in Summerland, a novel. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in publications such as Lumina, The Collagist, Black Warrior Review, Conjunctions, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, Slate, VICE, The Believer, and The New Yorker online. He received a Henfield Foundation Prize and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He teaches creative writing at Tulane, St. Martin’s Episcopal School and The New Orleans Writers Workshop.

For more information regarding this presentation, contact Chris Smith, Manager of Adult Programming for the library, at 504-889-8143 orwcsmith@jefferson.lib.la.us.

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

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I’d Really Love to See You Tonight

I never used to have trouble with my sinuses, or allergies, or any of that; at least that I recall. But I would think I would remember having these horrible headaches, that reach down into my jaw, or the constant dripping and coughing and the fevers and the eyes burning and all that comes with sinus infections or allergies. I think it was sometime after 2001 that it happened the first time; the weather changed and spring sprung and suddenly I was feverish and coughing and my nose was running and a friend told me it was sinus-related; and that the best way to deal with it was taking stinging nettles. I thought it was weird, but on my way home I stopped at Walgreens and bought a bottle of stinging nettles in capsule form. I took two and within half an hour all of my symptoms were gone.

Like the whole thing had been a figment of my imagination.

The nettles worked so well that I started taking them every day even if I didn’t sense symptoms; along with my multi-vitamins and my workout supplements and other vitamins and fish oil and so forth, I took two capsules of nettles. It worked for years, but as time passed and I grew older, the nettles stopped being effective and I switched to Claritin-D, which is the only thing since the nettles that I’ve found that helps. But you can break Claritin-D down into something approximating crystal meth (I don’t know how it works or how you do it; I’ve never watched Breaking Bad) and so now the government keeps track of how much you can buy; you have to present ID and if its too soon after the last time you bought some…they won’t sell it to you. I’ve never quite been able to figure out how the limit works–I suppose I could research it on-line–but the bottom line of it is I treat my Claritin-D like gold. I won’t even let Paul have one, in case I need one and I’m out and it’s too soon to buy more. I used to try to buy some every time I pick up prescriptions to stockpile it so I will always have it when I need it; I’ve slacked off on that and this recent sinus infection has reminded me of the importance of having stock.

So, much as I would simply like to take a Claritin-D every day during the spring, I can’t because one-a-day is above the government monthly allowance. So, when my sinuses start reacting and we have heavy weather like we did over the weekend, because I am worried I might run out of it sometime when I really need it, I don’t take it preemptively and wind up with yet another sinus infection. So, note to self: when I can, I am going to buy more. And I am going to put a bottle of stinging nettles on the list, too. It can’t hurt to take it every day, supplementing with a Claritin-D as needed.

It’s also insane that anything I can get with a prescription doesn’t work as well. In all seriousness, make it a prescription medication again. Wouldn’t usage being easier to track and people using it to make drugs be easier to stop if there has to be a prescription filed in order for it to be obtained for use?

I don’t know, just spitballing here.

In case you couldn’t tell, Constant Reader, I still feel lousy and I am feeling pretty damned crabby over the whole thing. I had to use two days of sick time  and probably two days of being productive in other ways by being sick. Heavy heaving sigh.

I actually feel worse this morning than I did yesterday; my hope is this will all clear up somehow before tomorrow so I can go back to work and stop using sick time. My sinuses feel okay today, so that’s something; but it’s the rest that needs to clear up. My joints ache, I’m still feverish, and I had to get up in the middle of the night to throw up–yeah, that was lovely. I am going to be eating chicken soup today for lunch; I tend to not eat when I am sick, which makes me even weaker.

Again, lovely.

But I did get to read some more of Steph Cha’s Follow Her Home yesterday between bouts of dozing off and feeling sick; I’d read until I couldn’t focus and then put it aside. I might just curl up in my easy chair today with a blanket and watch movies; Bonnie & Clyde, All the President’s Men, and Deliverance are all available to stream from Netflix, and I’ve been wanting to see them all again. I’ve never seen Bonnie & Clyde in the theatrical cut, only seeing the badly butchered edited for television version, and since reading Mark Harris’ brilliant Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of New Hollywood I’ve been wanting to see all five films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar for 1967–some again, some for the first time (I’ve never seen In the Heat of the Night, which won). Maybe if I can’t focus on reading…

And on that note, back to the spice mines.

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Love Hurts

I detest being ill.

Sunday night I began to feel slightly off–more off than I’d been feeling since Friday, when the wretched bad weather rolled in–and I began to suspect that the weather was wreaking havoc with my sinuses which would lead to the inevitable sinus infection. Yesterday I didn’t feel great, and as soon as I got home from work last night I started taking antibiotics leftover from the last sinus infection, and woke up this morning feeling absolutely horrible.  I called in sick to work, have taken some more antibiotics this morning, and am hoping that when tomorrow dawns, the antibiotics will have done their job and cleared everything up for me.

One can hope, at any rate.

The Claritin also seems to be helping. I intend on spending the rest of the day retired to my bed, with Steph Cha’s Follow Her Home to keep me company. I managed to read another chapter and I am very impressed indeed with Ms. Cha. She writes in a very hard-boiled, noir style that is reminiscent of Chandler and Hammett–and she does pay homage to Chandler quite a bit in these opening chapters. Juniper Song is an interesting, complex character that I like quite a bit, and am looking forward to getting to know her better. This is also the first in a series, which means there’s more Juniper Song out there for me to read, savor, and enjoy, which is absolutely lovely.

Is there anything more satisfying than discovering a new author whose work you love?

I think not.

When I retire to my bedchamber later on this morning–as soon as I take care of some business here at my desk–I will be taking my Macbook Air with me, along with my novel, so that if the mood strikes me I can work on the WIP whilst ensconced in the comfort of my bed. I don’t remember the last time I spent the day lolling about in bed; I usually move to my easy chair with blankets and heating pads when I am unwell, but it sounds absolutely lovely, despite the pressure in my head and the constant draining and hacking up of phlegm from my lungs. I see chicken noodle soup in my future for lunch as well; it may not help cure what ails me, but it always makes me feel better.

Last night we got caught up on the most recent episodes of both Veep and Schitt’s Creek, both of which were terrific, before I retired to sleep. I slept pretty decently, given that I felt terrible when I went to bed, but this morning I am still feeling kind of worn out, which is no doubt due to the sinus issue. Yay?

So, there will be no spice-mining today, most likely. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

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Get Up and Boogie

Blerg. I don’t feel good today.

It’s sinus-related, of course, and this horrible weather we’ve been having over the past few days has not been much of a help in either case. I did sleep extremely well last night, so that’s not it, but man oh man,  I feel like utter shit today. Hopefully I can power through the day at work, and reassess tomorrow when the alarm goes off.

I did manage to get some work done on the WIP yesterday so this week is off to a better start than last week was, and I also managed to get some more reconfiguring of the Lost Apartment’s kitchen done this weekend as well. I think it’s kind of ironic that I was starting to feel reconnected to everything in my life only to start to get sick. Fuckin’ A, man, nothing ever works the way it’s supposed to, does it? But hopefully I can get that next chapter revised and keep chugging through this revision, which will also hopefully get me back into the character’s headspace so I can power through and get the first draft finished this month, which would be very lovely.

Very lovely.

I also started reading Steph Cha’s Follow Her Home last night and am enjoying it thus far. I didn’t, alas, get very far into it because when sleep comes for me I’ve learned not to put it off–and I got drowsy fairly early last evening. NOT BECAUSE OF HER BOOK. I was already drowsy when I decided I would read for a bit before going to bed.

Also, Royal Street Reveillon is already up for preorder at Amazon; the link is here. 

Still no sign of it at other sites, and the ebook is not available there for preorder, either, which is odd, but it is what it is. I will share those other links once they become available; the paperback  isn’t even up for preorder on the Bold Strokes site yet!

And now back to the spice mines.

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I Write the Songs

Another good night’s sleep, with gloomy Sunday glaring at me through my kitchen windows. I wound up wasting most of yesterday–although organizing and filing and so forth doesn’t really seem like a hardship to me–and then last night there was some drama involving my phone again not being recognized by my computer, so yeah, there was that. So, I managed to get next to nothing done yesterday but relaxing and some little bit of my organizing, which means today I have to do a lot of it. Which is fine–I usually dread the morning of the day I pushed everything off to arriving; because nine times out of ten I will almost always feel just as lazy on the Sunday as I did on the Saturday.

It happens.

But I am not feeling quite so out of sorts–or lazy–this morning; which means I am going to start tearing through the to-do list once I finish this entry. I am determined to get my inbox emptied once and for all; I am going to get some work done, and I am going to finish the organizing and cleaning I started doing yesterday. I cleaned off and organized most of the stuff on the top of the kitchen cabinets–eighteen foot ceilings give you a lot of storage space on top of your kitchen cabinets, in case you were wondering–and while there is still stuff up there that should probably come down, I may leave that up for a while just yet…until I can figure out what to do with the stuff. I mean, I don’t want to give away my food processor, but the truth is I rarely, if ever, use it–maybe three times once I first got it and was impressed with the novelty of having one. Or my electric wok; again, used maybe once or twice. Again, a nice thing to have…but I never use it. Maybe I should store these things in the attic. I don’t know.

Yesterday afternoon (and early evening) we watched Venom and the remake/reboot/latest sequel in the Friday the 13th series–the 2009 version with Jared Padalecki of Supernatural in the starring role. Believe it or not, I’d never watched the original until a few years ago, when it became available on a streaming service, and while I can see why it was so enormously successful at the time and am willing to recognize it as a landmark film in the resurgence of horror cinema in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, the production values are only slightly higher than that of a home movie of the time–which led me to think about how The Blair Witch Project, with similar production values and maybe a slightly higher budget, also revolutionized horror cinema and made a fortune. The reboot (or whatever it was, a sequel with no number, whatever) wasn’t a bad film, it just wasn’t a great film; it was perfectly adequate, but added nor removed anything from the canon or iconography and therefore just seemed like an attempt at a cash grab. Likewise, Venom, despite its impressive effects and being about one of my favorite Marvel characters…just didn’t fire on all cylinders for me and was actually kind of dull. And I love me some Tom Hardy; perhaps the problem was that giving Venom an origin story that doesn’t involve Peter Parker was a misfire…and Stan Lee’s cameo at the end of the film just made it sadder, knowing he’s now dead.

So, today I have to make a quick and easy grocery run, deal with my taxes once and for all, and want to finish revising some chapters of the WIP while also putting together the proposal for the suspense thriller I may want to write later in the year. I also want to read the next story in Murder-a-Go-Go’s and get started on Steph Cha’s Follow Her Home. I also have some other things I need to work on as well. And there’s always cleaning that needs to be done, and organizing. Always. I just have to make sure I don’t get into one of those oh I feel lazy and this can wait until another time moods, you know?

Which is, sadly, easier and easier to slip into these days.

But that cannot happen, I cannot keep letting things slide, so today is the day when I need to get it all together and get it all done.

Beginning with the goddamned emails.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Sara Smile

Well, I slept much later than I usually do; I did wake up at seven but through nah, too early and went back to sleep, not awakening again until nine-thirty-ish. And yes, that is late for me, but I also stayed up later than I usually do because Paul and I got sucked into a marathon binge of season three of Santa Clarita Diet, which dropped this week. We have three episodes left to go–which will probably be watched this evening–and then we have to decide which of the shows we’d already started we want to finish–either Umbrella Academy or You. There are also some other shows we need to finish, others that look like possibilities, and Netflix also added some great classic films I’ve been wanting to watch again; namely Bonnie and Clyde, All the President’s Men, Deliverance, the reboot of Friday the 13th, and the Will Smith version of I Am Legend. I also intend to start reading Steph Cha’s Follow Her Home, kicking the Diversity Project back into gear, and I also want to finish reading Murder-a-Go-Go’s for the Short Story Project.

I also need to start doing some sort of promotion for Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, but I’m not exactly sure what and how and…you get the picture; again, I don’t really know how I have a career.

I was thinking about the Diversity Project the other day, and I want to make it abundantly clear that I don’t think it’s right that I have to turn reading diverse authors into a “project” to make diversifying my reading happen. Even saying The Diversity Project makes it sound effortful, as though if I didn’t make a point of it I wouldn’t do it. And that’s clearly wrong on every level. And I’ve been failing miserably at it thus far this year, no matter how many excuses I want to make for it. This of course has me examining my own prejudices. I’ve bought the books, of course, which is an important first step and every sale helps, but I also need to not only read the books but talk about them. Here it is April and the only one I’ve talked about is Walter Mosley; what kind of an ally am I to minority writers, of which I am one?

Apparently, not a very good one.

I had already softened the project’s goal from focusing on only reading minority writers to interspersing them with others; so if I read a book by a non-minority writer the next one I have to read must be by a minority writer. That hasn’t worked overly well, either; part of it has been due to my own, I don’t know, weird ambivalence to this year–something that’s been going on since around the Great Data Disaster of 2018. I’ve also realized, just this past week, that the Great Data Disaster wasn’t really where it all started. My life has been in an almost constant state of upheaval of some sort or another since late October, just before Halloween. My day job moved from the office where we’d been located since I was hired back in 2005 (the office actually opened in 2000) into a new location, which required all sorts of adaptation. For almost the entire first month of the existence in the new office we didn’t do a lot of testing, which is what my job is, which meant I was working a weird (to me) early morning to late afternoon shift–say, 8-430ish. This freed my evenings and I was going to town on writing and revising Scotty in those free evenings, because the Festivals were also kicking into high gear and Paul was coming home late. Then came December with a readjustment to working a new schedule all over again, followed by the Great Data Disaster, the Christmas holidays, and then Carnival. During that time period I was also working on finishing up my job as a book award judge and diving into a new task for this year, also involving award judging but not actually having to read anything (I really can’t say more than that about it; but it’s a big endeavor and I will leave it at that)I don’t think I ever really got a handle on anything, which is why I felt like my life was happening and I was not actively participating in it.

And softening the goal also makes me question myself and my internal, subconscious prejudices and biases. Yes, I had to read three books to moderate my panel at the Tennessee Williams Festival, which wasn’t easy and really involved a lot of cramming at the end. Why do I automatically reach for a book by a straight white writer when it’s time to chose another book to read? Why will I justify taking that book out of the stack rather than reaching for a book by a minority writer? It is these unconscious biases and prejudices that need to be ripped out by the root and plowed under with salt so they won’t take root again; and  not just in reading, but in life. 

I think I do a better job with my life than I do with my reading, quite frankly.

I also had thought, when I started on this, that I would expand the project outside the bounds of crime fiction and include other genres as well. I’ve always believed that reading more widely outside of one’s genre will make one a better author by exposing you to different styles of writing, different stories and different characters. Horror is always my immediate go-to when it comes to reading outside of mystery, but I also need to read more fantasy, science fiction, romance, and literary fiction. I also don’t want to stop reading women crime writers, either.

The exposure to other voices, other thoughts, other mindsets, will not only make me a better writer but a better person. What better key to understanding experiences outside my own is there than actually reading books outside my own experience, and to see the common humanity?

My first thought on rising so late this morning was well, you’ve shot your day to hell. But that isn’t true. I can still get things done today as long as I don’t allow myself to bog down on generalities or give up on the day. It would be ridiculously easy, you know, to simply write the entire day off and do nothing, but I really don’t want to waste the day. I’d like to get another chapter of the WIP finished, for one thing, and I’d like to work on this proposal I’m putting together. The kitchen needs work and there’s always filing that needs to be done, and there’s a lot of mess around. I also need to make a quick run to the grocery store as well.

So, on that note, I am off to the spice mines. Happy Saturday, Constant Reader.

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A Fifth of Beethoven

Friday afternoon on a gloomy, rainy day;  laundry is going and I need to get some things done.

But I don’t wanna.

But I am taking a break from all the mess that must be cleaned and the files that must be filed and the rest…and just want to sit for a spell.  I am in a much better mood than I was in yesterday–it really is astonishing what a difference not being tired can make–even though I was untimely ripp’d from my bed this morning. But that means, I hope, that I’ll sleep better this evening…provided I get all of this stuff on my to-do list done today. There’s no reason other than sheer laziness that I won’t, if I am going to be completely honest about things.

Anyway.

The breaking news on the Timmothy Pitzen story this week was so bizarre, and I have so many questions. In case you missed it, Timmothy Pitzen disappeared when he was seven years old…seven years ago. He and his mentally ill mother vanished–and then her dead body was found in a motel a few days later along with a note that said she’d given Timmothy to some nice people and no one would ever find him. A few days ago, a fourteen year old boy turned up in Kentucky and claimed to be Timmothy–and that he run away from two men who’d been holding him, crossing from Indiana into Kentucky over a bridge. DNA proved this kid isn’t Timmothy; so who is he, and how did he know about Timmothy? (Aside: why did Timmothy’s name have two m’s in it?) It reminded me very much of the plot of a television series I loved called The Family that aired a few years ago and only lasted one season; with a very similar type story–their youngest son is abducted from a park, turns up several years later but it turns out not to be him, after all, but another kid taken by the same kidnapper and held with the other boy–who died, and this kid escapes and takes on his persona. The first season ended with someone calling the family and asking for the returned son…and it turns out to be the real son, saying “You’ve stolen my life and I want it back.” IT WAS CANCELLED.

Best. Cliffhanger. Ever.

Especially since it was never resolved.

I had just moved to California when Steven Staynor returned home and became national news–Steven was abducted in 1972 and came home to his family in 1980. The case always fascinated me; what would it be like to be stolen from your family as a child, sexually abused for years, and then return home in your mid-to-late teens? I started developing a story based on that–I called it And Now, the Prodigal, which is a  great title but wouldn’t work because “prodigal” doesn’t mean a son who returns unexpectedly, but a son who’s profligate; who carouses and gets drunk and parties all the time (most people get that wrong, in my own defense). I’ve already remembered that story (plus Steven’s story was made into a book and a TV movie called I Know My First Name is Steven), and have always wanted to explore that dynamic in fiction…maybe I still will, someday. Steven died in a motorcycle accident when he was only 24; he’d had trouble adjusting to his family and there had been issues, obviously–but he was married, managing a fast food place, and had two small children when he died. In an even weirder twist, his brother was later convicted of murdering four women in 1999.

The reason Steven came forward in the first place was because he’d aged out and his kidnapper had brought another boy home. Steven took that kid and walked into a polive station, but all he remembered of his past life was his name: “I know my first name is Steven.” The young kid he rescued was one of his pallbearers.

Such a sad story.

But someday…

And I guess this spice ain’t going to mine itself.

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