Do It Again

Here it is, Saturday morning and I am awake and on my first cup of coffee. I have things to get done today–two interviews and a roundtable (the round table is terrifying; I looked at the questions and I’m not really certain I am smart or knowledgeable enough to participate, but I said I would and I never back out of things I agree to–or rarely). It’s weird, one would think I would love the chance to talk about myself and my writing as they are basically my favorite subjects, but it always makes me feel, at best, awkward and at worst, deeply uncomfortable.

All that childhood conditioning against arrogance and bragging, I suppose.

I didn’t quite finish cleaning out my inbox yesterday–in fact, I didn’t get even remotely close to cleaning it out, so it’s going back to the list for today. I need to get the mail and I need to make a short grocery run this afternoon, and I would like to go to the gym and try to get started on a regular workout routine again, but that becomes even more difficult given the heat advisory. But thinking about going to the gym, while not the same thing as actually going, is a step closer to getting there, I suppose. I also need to stop by Office Depot to buy some padded envelopes; the arrival of the box o’books also means signing and mailing out copies I owe to friends and reviewers and so forth. Signing and packaging the books is a chore, but I don’t find it as odious as one might think.

Yesterday, as you already know, Constant Reader, I finished reading S. A. Cosby’s delightful My Darkest Prayer, and I am very thrilled and happy to know that he recently signed a two-book contract, so I can look forward to new work from Shawn in the future. Yay! I love discovering new writers, and I love when they have new work. I do have this insane thing where I try not to finish reading everything an author has published so I always know there’s one more book by them to read–I was looking at my bookshelves yesterday as I reorganized the living room, realizing there are still three Kinsey Millhone books by Sue Grafton I haven’t read yet, and was saddened again to know that those will always be the last three Sue Grafton novels, and actually was thinking I should, at some point, start reading the books to clear them off the shelves. I am already at the point with some of my favorite authors, like Laura Lippman and Megan Abbott, where I have finished everything they’ve published (Lippman’s new one, Lady in the Lake, is on deck and I am probably going to start reading it today). I am also behind on some of my favorite authors–I was caught up on Donna Andrews, but I read for the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original last year, which put me behind on everyone who wasn’t in that category last year (some of which I want to go back and reread, taking my time to savor them the way I ordinarily would), and I am also years behind on numerous authors I enjoy…but new books are being released every damned day. Sigh. There’s simply never enough time.

In my review of Shawn’s book, I wrote about something I truly believe–and the more I diversify my reading in my own genre, the more I believe it to be true. I believe that women writers saved the crime genre in the 1980’s, and while they are still doing some serious heavy lifting, the diverse voices of authors like Shawn are reinvigorating and reinventing the crime genre, and breathing new life into it. (I’m really looking forward to October, when I will switch to reading horror, and reading novels by diverse voices in that genre–there are some new and exciting people of color writing in that genre…plus, reading horror will further diversify my reading by taking me outside of crime for a month.) Some of the diverse voices I’ve read thus far this year–Kellye Garrett, Rachel Howzell Hall, Walter Mosley, Steph Cha, Angie Kim, etc.–are doing extraordinary work that needs to be recognized, promoted, and pushed by all of us; they are breathing new life into our genre, as are women writers like Laura Lippman, Alison Gaylin, Megan Abbott, Jamie Mason, Elizabeth Little, and many, many more. And while I often generically refer to the “straight white men”–let’s face it, some of today’s men are writing exceptional work, too–Ace Atkins, Bill Loefhelm, Michael Koryta, to name a few amongst many. I think this is a very exciting time for crime fiction, and I look forward to reading more work by queer writers, as well. I’ve not gotten to some of the newer queer crime writers yet, which I am going to try to focus on more in the latter part of the year. I am really looking forward to Kelly Ford’s Cottonmouths, as it is a queer novel by a queer woman set in the rural South; something I can certainly relate to.

I kind of had a lackadaisical day of rest yesterday, really, where I accomplished little other than reading my book and doing the laundry, and couldn’t really motivate myself to do much more than that–I did make a delicious shrimp stir-fry for dinner last night, though–and we watched two episodes of The Movies last night, “The 80’s” and “The 90’s.” There’s only one more episode left, unless they release “The 50’s,” which is also a rather interesting period in the history of film. I started reading, for research, City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940’s, by Otto Friedrichs (recommended by Megan Abbott), and it has a lovely bibliography in the back which should be enormously helpful for further research into the time period. I also have a copy of E. J. Fleming’s The Fixers, which should also come in handy for research; again, as a starting place with the gold mine of a bibliography in the back.

So, here’s hoping that today will be that unusual thing; a highly productive, but at the same time, a restful day. Last night’s wonderful sleep is, of course, a wonderful basis for the rest of my day.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

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In Your Room

I woke this morning with a headache that I can’t seem to shake; not sure what that’s all about, but am assuming it’s sinus-related; the heat and humidity this week in New Orleans (duh, it’s July) has been truly obnoxious. But it’s Friday, Paul comes home tomorrow, and all will be right with the world. I have to take the car in for it’s first-ever servicing (an oil change) tomorrow morning, which means a trip to the West Bank.

And lunch at Sonic.

Yesterday I picked up Daniel Woodrell’s Tomato Red again at long last, and got about 1/ of the way through it before I had to stop reading for the evening. It’s truly an amazing work, and that authorial voice! It is amazing. It also got me thinking about a sub-genre of fiction known as Southern Gothic; Faulkner, McCullers, and Flannery O’Connor are usually classified as Southern Gothic writers, and it made me start thinking about who the modern-day proponents of the Southern Gothic style of writing might be. Daniel Woodrell, of course, would be one of those; I’d even put Ace Atkins in that category based solely on his Quinn Colson series, which is quite extraordinary. But as I sit here this morning, I honestly can’t think of anyone else. (It will, of course, come to me later.) Probably Tom Franklin, and definitely Suzanne Hudson. Pat Conroy, too, can be shoe-horned into Southern Gothic; The Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini, and The Prince of Tides certainly can fall into that category.

I wonder if there’s any scholarly work on Southern Gothic writers?

I really need to reread Flannery O’Connor, and more McCullers.

I would also include, I think, Larry McMurtry; The Last Picture Show  and Comes a Horseman are definitely Texas/Southern Gothics. (I need to reread The Last Picture Show; it was one of my favorite novels as a teenager, and I’m curious as to whether it holds up after all this time; I can’t imagine it doesn’t.)

I’ve been working on “For All Tomorrow’s Lies”, and it’s not easy going; I am sure that has everything to do with the hangover of completing yet another draft of the WIP. It generally takes me a week or so to reset after completing a big project; plus I feel kind of out of sorts because my personal life isn’t normal with Paul gone. I am also certain that once this headache goes away I’ll be more motivated this morning. After I get the car serviced tomorrow and go to Sonic, I’ll stop for groceries on the way back to the Lost Apartment and will also have some cleaning up to do around here–last touches on the apartment before Paul gets home. His flight arrives around 8 pm, so he should be home between 8:30 and 9, hopefully.

And now, it’s back to the spice mines.

Here’s a Friday hunk for you, to start your weekend off properly.

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Chiquitita

Ah, the South.

Constant Reader knows I am a child of the South; my childhood is filled with memories of summers spent at my grandmother’s in the country in Alabama: picking wild blackberries in the woods, orangish-brown creeks and rivers, fields of cotton and corn, towering pines trees and hollows filled with kudzu. I remember the heavy thick humidity of lazy afternoons, the four o’clock bushes blossoming every day at four, the round rocks in the gravel roads, the way darkness pressed against the screens at night with moths and other insects fluttering their wings trying to get to the light, lightning bugs floating in the air glowing yellowish-green as the sun went down, the sound of rain beating out a rhythm on a tin roof. Next week I am off to visit my parents, and will be driving through the south; through Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia and Tennessee. I used to get creative on those long drives, particularly through Alabama, where exit signs and Birmingham itself trigger a lot of memories, things I’ve forgotten, and make me itch to sit down and start writing. I’ve written a lot about Alabama, but have only published two of my Alabama stories (“Son of a Preacher Man” and “Small Town Boy”), as well as one book, Dark Tide. But even though my main character in the novel was from upstate Alabama, it was set down on the Alabama Gulf Coast–which is really not much different than the Mississippi or Florida panhandle coasts.

I really do think the next book will be an Alabama one.

If you’re not familiar with Ace Atkins, you need to go buy his books NOW. He wrote a wonderful New Orleans-based series, featuring music history professor Nick Travers, some terrific stand-alones, and now is writing the Robert Parker Spenser novels in addition to a great series set in upstate Mississippi featuring former Ranger Quinn Colson. I am several volumes behind on that series–I am taking one with me next week–and they are truly fantastic; the first two were back-to-back finalists for the Best Novel Edgar award. Yesterday, I read his contribution to Mississippi Noir, “Combustible.”

“I shouldn’t be doing this,” I said.

“Hell you shouldn’t,” Shelby said. “You fucking owe me.”

“Why?”

“Don’t you want to meet Lyndsay Redwine?”

“Ever since I saw her in a bikini at the city pool.”

“Then shut the fuck up and drive.”

Shelby was fourteen. And she talked like that.

This delightfully dark little story, which plays with point of view (not easy to do in a short story), is incredibly well done. Atkins has an eye for the rural South; he makes it easy to imagine and visualize the area, the characters, and the situations they find themselves in. A lot of this is done through voice, again not easy to do, and the story, as the best ones often do, inspired me to want to write something.

I do recommend it, and so far Mississippi Noir is knocking my socks off.

And now back to the spice mines.

Here’s a hunk to start your weekend off:

S. O. S.

I was incredibly tired all day yesterday; so much so that I’m surprised my eyes weren’t crossed most of the day. This is to alert you, Constant Reader, that I did not read another short story yesterday, and so have nothing to offer you this morning. But to give myself a little bit of credit, I’ve done much better this Short Story Month than I have in previous years, so that’s something. And in reading these stories, I’ve also learned a lot about the craft and art of writing short stories, and I’ve also had to think about that as well–so this is the first time Short Story Month has actually had the desired effect on me. So I am counting this as a win, no matter what others might think. So there.

I depart on Monday for a trip to the frigid North to visit my family, and then on the way back, as I previously mentioned, I am doing the Murder in the Magic City weekend event in Birmingham and Wetumpka before returning home to New Orleans a week from this Sunday. I don’t have anything pressing to work on while I am gone–still, taking the MacBook Air just in case something comes up (despite hating to work on it), but hoping nothing will. I hope to do some reading–I’m taking four books with me; including an Ace Atkins and a Michael Koryta and a Laura Lippman–and I also have a lot of comic books on my iPad to catch up on as well.

I also think I am starting to come out of the post-book(s) malaise a bit; I woke up this morning with a great idea about the essay I need to write, and am very hopeful that I can bang that out today and tomorrow so I can not worry about it this weekend. Huzzah!

I am also going to try to read Ace Atkins’ story in Mississippi Noir for tomorrow.

And on that note, I am going to get my day going. I am going to run some errands before going into the office–another late night of bar testing looms–and then after tomorrow, my vacation starts, so yay!

Here’s a hunk for you, Constant Reader.

Knowing Me Knowing You

Monday, of a three day weekend. I sincerely hope everyone has a lovely day, and takes a least a minute or two to think about the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in this country. It still boggles the mind, doesn’t it, to think that just sixty years ago (and less) segregation and Jim Crow were still the law of the land…we’ve made some progress since then, but we still have a long way to go.

Today will be spent finishing, at long last, the Book That Would Not Be Finished; I promised it (late) to be turned in today. It doesn’t suck nearly as much as I thought it did last week, which is something, but I am not overly fond of this manuscript. I’m sure no small part of that is being utterly sick of it and the desire to be finished with it once and for all; it can be quite a relief to finish something and turn it over to an editor for a final go over once and for all. I have two essays and some short stories to work on the rest of this month; and then, once all of that is finished, I am going back to another couple of projects that have been lying fallow and waiting for me to get back to them. I do think 2017 is going to be a very good year. I also have another book idea I’d like to start messing around with; a noir with a gay main character. The working title for it is Muscles, but that may change as it gets worked on. I’ve had the idea since the early 1990’s, and perhaps it is time to get to serious work on making that book happen.

I also am hoping to get the brake tag for the new car today. The Shell station on Magazine Street, where I’d been getting brake tags since we moved back here after The Lost Year in Washington in 2001, is no longer at that location! It was still open when we went to Pat’s Christmas party last month, but it has since moved to Claiborne Avenue. I wasn’t exactly sure where it was located–and I didn’t take my phone with me on Saturday so I could look it up–so I just went on to the grocery store and figured I would check it out once I got home. They may be open today; I am going to call them in a moment to find out. If they aren’t, I’ll have to go on Wednesday morning on my way to work. Woo-hoo!

But at least I don’t mind driving any more, so there’s that. It should count for something, right?

I still haven’t finished reading “Grail”, either. I spent most of yesterday working on the manuscript, and then last night when I was burned out and tired, we watched another episode of Slasher–which we decided we may not continue watching, because it progressively gets worse and worse with each episode–and then started watching Westworld on the HBO app. I’m not really sure what to think of the show, after only watching one episode…I know I’ve seen some critiques of it that made me stop and think about it a bit, but the show is extremely well done, and is extremely well cast. The concept behind it is interesting. I barely remember the original film, with Yul Brynner, from the early 1970’s, but I do remember thinking it was exceptionally clever. Michael Crichton, the mind behind The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, and Sphere, wrote the original screenplay for the original film. (I don’t remember if I ever read Jurassic Park; obviously, I saw the movie, but I do remember reading a lot of his other work. You’d think I’d remember reading it, especially since I remember the other novels of his I read. Interesting….but now that I think about it, I did read it; I remember the ending. At any rate, we will continue watching for now.

I’ve also started thinking about what books to take along with me on my trip; I am leaning toward a Michael Koryta, an Ace Atkins, Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King, and a Laura Lippman novel I came across the other day while organizing that I never read (I know, right? Madness), The Most Dangerous Thing. It’s always fun to suddenly realize you’ve not read something by one of your favorite authors; it’s also kind of exciting.

So, as I prepare to head back into the spice mines for the day, here’s your hunk for today.

The Edge of Heaven

The end of the year is nigh.

I have a lot to do (of course, as always) over the next few days. I am already tired, just thinking about it, of course, but hey–such is life. I have to work late tonight again, and really should have made a grocery run this morning but I overslept, so there’s that. There is, of course, still time, if I get my act together and get moving, but right now that doesn’t sound particularly appealing. Heavy sigh.

But–probably better to get it done today than to try over the weekend. Nothing will be open on Sunday because of the holiday, and I can’t imagine that Saturday morning before out lunch at Commander’s Palace would be any better. Possible to do, but still most likely a madhouse.

Although Monday is a paid holiday for me, and apparently Costco will be open. Hmmmm. If I can do the grocery store this morning, and Costco on Monday…

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men.

Anyway, I feel confident I can get the errands run I need to this weekend around writing and football games….although to be honest, I don’t really care about the bowl games other than LSU’s this year; I may watch some to kill some time or while reading, but other than that–meh.

I am going to read George Pelaconos’ The Way Home next, and then I am going to start trying to get caught up on series I have fallen behind on–I’m looking at you, Ranger series by Ace Atkins, in particular–and of course, January’s goal is to read and write about a short story every day, so I am gathering my short story collections and anthologies close. I don’t want to write about a story I’ve already read and written about (alas, “Don’t Look Now” by Daphne du Maurier will have to be excluded from this as I’ve talked about it ad nauseum; but a reread of “A Rose for Emily” is definitely in order), so the idea is to read stories that are new to me, and then write about them.

And now, I need to get ready for work and mine some spice.

Here’s today’s hunk: