The Highwayman

And he is home in the Lost Apartment, swilling coffee after having a good night’s sleep for the first time since, well, last Tuesday night, really; I had to get up at five on Thursday, after all. I got home around nine last night; I got a ride to the airport many hours before my flight–which I don’t mind, as long as I have something to read and an Internet connection, I am more than capable of entertaining myself. The flight home was uneventful, I retrieved the car and there wasn’t any traffic to speak of on I-10 so the drive home was practically nothing. Now I have to adjust back to my normal reality, which is also fine–it can be very tiring and exhausting being at a conference for the weekend, but as I mentioned yesterday, I had a marvelous time. Sleuthfest is a lovely event (kudos to the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, with an especial shout out to president Alan Orloff and chairs Michael Joy and Raquel Reyes) I’ve always enjoyed when I’ve had the opportunity to attend; I certainly hope it works out for me to go again next year. I met some new people and reconnected with others I’ve not seen since pre-pandemic (some of course I’ve met and seen since the pandemic started), and over all, it was truly a lovely weekend. I also managed to get some writing done over the course of the weekend, which is always a pleasant surprise when it happens.

But there’s also something quite lovely about being home, in my own desk chair drinking my own coffee and looking at my big desktop screen instead of the laptop. I have a million emails to get through and try to answer; data to enter for my day job; and at some point later today I have to run errands and finish re-acclimating to New Orleans and my usual, ordinary, day to day existence. I did manage to finish reading my friend’s manuscript (which I greatly enjoyed), as well as The Great Betrayal, and got about half-way through Rob Osler’s debut Devil’s Chew Toy, which I hope to finish this week. I have some stories to finish polishing to get out into the world this month, and I need to get back to the writing, of course. I’m also still a little reeling from how well my reading from Chlorine went at Noir at the Bar; yesterday people were still coming up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed it and how much they were looking forward to reading it when it’s finished. I suspect Chlorine might be the breakout book I’ve been waiting to write most of my career…it certainly seems like it, doesn’t it?

I am feeling a bit better about where I am at with everything and my writing, I have to say. That’s the lovely thing about events like Sleuthfest–writers with careers like mine often are operating in a vacuum. Sure, people say nice things to us about our work on social media or in Amazon or Goodreads reviews, but for the most part we don’t get many opportunities to engage with readers or other authors in person. I doubt, for example, that I will ever be so popular that my signings or readings or appearances will be ticketed events. It’s always possible, of course, but at this point hardly likely. having in person interactions with other writers and readers. Writing is different from other jobs; you mostly do it by yourself and it’s not like you have an office filled with other co-worker authors to go to every day. I never am overly concerned about how good of a job I am doing at my day job; I know my job inside out and I provide good care and education to my clients every day. But writing is an entirely different animal. You work on something by yourself for quite some time and polish it and edit it and rewrite it and you have no idea what’s going on with it–if it’s any good or not, because you’re not a good judge of your own work, and then you send it out and wait and wait and wait to find out if it’s any good or remotely publishable. And even then, you don’t get any feedback outside of your editor for months and months and months after you wrote it–and in some cases, by the time the book or story comes out, you’ve completely forgotten what it was about and who the characters were and so on.

Heavy sigh.

That’s why, at least for me as an author, going to events like Sleuthfest are so important. I need that reinvigoration every once in a while; it inspires me and pushes me and gets me back to feeling like an author again. It’s really nice.

But now I have to get back to reality–balancing day job with writing and volunteer work and keeping the house–and I know my next event will be Bouchercon in September, at the end of the dog days of summer and as football season once again kicks into gear. So for now, I am going to make another cup of coffee, put some things away and start doing some chores around here before I dive back into the duties of my day job. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow.

Ooh My Love

Sleuthfest Saturday!

Yesterday was marvelous for one Gregalicious. I had a lovely panel with marvelous writers–talking about POV, which I really cannot speak to with any authority, but I winged it and I think I did okay? It was quite fun–Alan Orloff and Elaine Viets, whom I already knew, were their usual witty and intelligent selves; and the new to me writers (Thomas Kavanaugh and Tammy Euliano) were also phenomenally smart and clever and I had a marvelous time. Several people also came up to me (out of the blue) to tell me how much they enjoyed my reading from Chlorine Thursday night, which was so nice and lovely and cool, and really meant a lot to me.

I then had a marvelous dinner in Boca Raton at Kuisine, a Peruvian-Asian fusion restaurant, with some writer friends. It was lovely; the food was remarkable and the company of course very interesting. I suspect I talked too much–I had a glass of rosé before we left for Kuisine and I had a marvelous specialty cocktail with dinner; as we all know, it’s very hard to shut me up once my brain has become infused with alcohol. But my companions were very gracious, for which I am eternally grateful.

I have two panels today–one about Amateur v. Professional detectives, followed by one on How to Write a Mystery, which I was a contributor to, and both should be marvelous. Marco Carocari is my first moderator, with the wonderful Oline Cogdill moderating the second. It’s been lovely ever since I arrived. I’m having a wonderful time, and I do highly recommend Sleuthfest for aspiring writers in Florida to attend; lots of good information and helpful workshops and panels on mastering the craft.

I also managed to write quite a bit yesterday morning; logging in over two thousand words on one of my many projects that I am working on. It was a very pleasant surprise, frankly; I just kind of wanted to see where I was at with the chapter I was working on, and just kind of went to town from there with it. I think it’s coming along nicely. I have three chapters done on this, about to go onto the fourth–but of course I’ve been writing this off the top of my head (pantsing, I suppose you could say) but I already kind of knew how these first three chapters or so would play out before even trying to write it–it’s something I’ve been thinking about for years, really–and maybe it will turn into something; maybe it won’t, but for now, I am having a good time with it so why not keep riding that rollercoaster while I can? I also need to get to work on the new Scotty–I am falling behind, and that is simply unacceptable. This weekend, as I had hoped, is kind of invigorating me and my creativity.

I do think my constant juggling act with the flaming chainsaws gets to me periodically. Yes, I have a day job (going on seventeen and a half years at the same employer, a record for me–previously the record of holding a job for me was five years) that I enjoy doing and I absolutely believe in the mission of what I do forty hours a week–but it’s not my identity (I think that may have always been the problem I had with previous jobs; they held my interest until i mastered it, and then I got bored. And jobs that have no value or connection with you other than the actual paycheck eventually become drudgery and I started resenting the job, which inevitably would lead to the downward spiral ending with me quitting or getting fired), but when I don’t have the opportunity (thanks, pandemic) to escape from that into the role that I do Identify with–writer–by being around other writers, talking about books and writing and so forth, which is my identity, it’s easy to slip into depression and everything that comes with that. Exhausting as events like this are–I tend to get overloaded and fried by all the talk and being around people and meeting new people and engaging with friends I only get to see at events like this, and i never sleep well when I am on the road–they are also invigorating. When I get home tomorrow evening, I will be energized and excited despite being completely exhausted. This is a very cool thing, of course.

My neck is also a little stiff this morning, which means I must have slept wrong on the pillow last night. It’s irritating getting old and having your body start betraying you on a regular basis. Heavy heaving sigh. But I think I am going to finish this now, do some stretches, take a shower and do some writing before I head back downstairs. Have a happy Saturday, Constant Reader, and I’ll be checking in with you again, as always, tomorrow.

Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You?

I really hate working on my MacBook Air. I mean, I guess it’s okay but it’s really difficult for me to get used to, you know? I really love the bigger screen of my desktop computer–but then, maybe that will change when my new glasses come in–if they ever come in; they were due to come in this week, in fact. Heavy heaving sigh. I’ll end up having to go out to Metairie to pick them up next Saturday, most likely. Yay. It’s always such a joy for me to head to Metairie for any reason.

Heavy heaving sigh.

Well, it’s Friday and I’m in Florida (not as lyrically magical as “Friday I’m in Love,” but this is why I am not a songwriter). I did my reading at Noir at the Bar last night, and yes, I did read from Chlorine, and it went over very well, I think. People seemed to be appreciative of it, or at least very kind, at any rate. The other readers were all fantastic–JD Allen, Tracy Clark, John Copenhaver, Jeffrey Deaver (!!!!), Tori Eldridge, and Alan Orloff. I was quite intimidated when. I got up there as everyone was killing it, but I surprisingly didn’t have my usual stage fright and nerves beforehand, and much to my surprise as I was reading, my hands weren’t shaking and I couldn’t hear my voice shaking either. I did have the big adrenaline crash afterwards, of course–that will never change, methinks–but it was kind of lovely not having my usual stage fright jitters before hand; I think that may have been because I was sitting and chatting with friends before hand? Anyway, it turned out to be a much more pleasant experience than usual, and I can check “Noir at the Bar” off my bucket list.

I have a panel later on today, which should be fun, about point of view; and then I have two back to back tomorrow afternoon. I slept okay last night–more restful physically than actual deep rest, which was odd, given how long I had been up but then again, strange bed and a lot of stimulation during the day. It happens, I suppose. I just figured I would zonk out after getting up so damned early yesterday and flying and everything. Ah, well. Maybe tonight? One can hope.

So I am going to just take it easy this morning, methinks. I will have to go foraging for coffee at some point–they have some in the room, but…yeah, not the greatest and only one cup so a-foraging I will go. I know they had free coffee in the bookshop this morning but I missed that by lounging in bed much too long and now writing this, but I want to be able to be chill and witty on my panel later this afternoon. It’s really nice to come to these kinds of things; it’s always lovely being around people who love books as well as people who also write; we all have that struggle in common–that weird love/hate thing, not to mention the total insanity of publishing and how the business works which we are all trying to figure out somehow even though there really is no way to figure it all out. It’s also nice being inside a conference bubble for a weekend, where I can pretend that nothing is going on in the world outside and everything else is great and hunky dory and I can put off dealing with reality until I go home Sunday.

Ugh, reality. Not my favorite.

Okay, Constant Reader, it’s time for me to go forage for coffee. I’ll probably come back up here and write for a while before it’s time for my panel. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader–I’ll be back to annoy you again tomorrow.

Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again

I didn’t start reading young adult fiction until I was an actual adult.

I didn’t read it when I was an actual young adult,, which I’ve tried to remedy in the years since I discovered that there is young adult fiction that is not “ABC Afterschool Special” style drama–these abounded to an extreme when I was a teen; everything was a cautionary tale. You want to have sex? Here, read Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones or My Darling My Hamburger. Drugs? You should read Go Ask Alice. And on and on it went…the 1970s were a very weird time to go through puberty and your teens, especially if you were beginning to realize your sexuality was all wrong and you needed to hide almost everything true and honest about yourself from everyone you know. There were actually good books for teens being written and published during that time, of course; I just never found them (some have been recommended to me by friends who are the same age and read them at the time; Trying Hard Not to Hear You by Sandra Scoppetone could have made a significant difference in my life had I read it back then).

But in the early 1990’s, I started reading horror/mystery novels by teens by Christopher Pike, which led me to R. L. Stine’s Fear Street books and my favorite mystery writer for teens–the forgotten and vastly under-appreciated Jay Bennett. Those books got me to start writing my own y/a horror/mystery/suspense novels for teens–which eventually became my novels Sara, Sleeping Angel, and Sorceress–and I continue to write them from time to time; my last two releases were actually young adult fiction (or marketed as such). I try to keep my hand in the field by reading horror/mystery/suspense novels for young adults that are more current; it’s hard to keep up with everything I want to read as it is, but I was really happy one of the books I took with me on my trip was Alan Orloff’s Agatha Award winning (and Anthony Award finalist) I Play One on TV.

He watched as a teen in a dark hoodie emerged from a storage closet and crept into the high school locker room. In the dum light, the shadowy figure advanced, slowly, methodically. In his left hand, a knife blade glinted.

The man’s insides constricted as he observed. He could almost smell the stale sweat left behind by the athletes after football practice, soon to be replaced by the stench of fear and the coppery odor of fresh blood.

The feelings he experienced now–rage, fear, excitement–mirrored those he had felt then, five years ago. When he had been the teen in the hoodie in that locker room. When he had been wielding the knife.

When he had been stalking his unsuspecting victim.

The premise of I Play One on TV is very original and clever: the main character is a teenager with ambitions of becoming an actor–he has an agent, goes out on auditions for commercials and local theatre productions, and works with his high school’s summer theater camp–and thus far his biggest break was starring as a teenaged killer in a true crime reenactment series. The killer he is playing, Homer Lee Varney, was a bullied outsider who murdered a jock, and has recently been released from prison due to a legal technicality. Dalton’s two best friends are also aspiring actors, and shortly after his episode of the show airs, someone starts stalking him–and he fears he is being stalked by the actual killer.

But was Homer guilty, or was he railroaded? Dalton has found some discrepancies in the police reports which indicate that the investigation might not have been as thorough or efficient as one might think…so maybe Homer isn’t a killer after all?

Dalton, despite his faults (and it’s to Orloff’s credit as a writer that he doesn’t make Dalton perfect–especially since this is a first person narrative), is easy to connect with, identify with, and root for to succeed–not just as an amateur private eye but as an actor and as a person. He’s a bit selfish and self-absorbed (as creative artists have a tendency to be), and he also has some serious professional jealousy for a schoolmate who often winds up going up for the same parts–but gets them instead of Dalton (which is a stage name). Dalton’s relationships with his parents and with his sister are also realistic and well drawn, and the story/mystery progresses at an excellent pace, and comes to a very satisfying, enjoyable conclusion.

I Play One on TV recently won the Agatha Award for Best Childrens/Young Adult Novel, and also received an Anthony nomination in the same category.

Definitely recommended!

Amazing Grace

Well, I am home and I am drained–exhausted on every level: emotional, physical, mental. I got home before six last night–I left Kentucky at seven a.m. my time–and of course, the entire time I was there I never slept much or well, so while I did sleep well last night (oh, the comfort and joy of my own bed at last) I am still bone-tired physically this morning as I swill my coffee and wait for clarity of mind to develop. I am glad I took this essentially last minute trip, though. I hate that my family lives so far away from me. Or I live so far away from them? I don’t know which is the proper way to put that. I guess it doesn’t matter.

I did do a lot of reading–I listened to Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway on the way up and Carol Goodman’s The Night Villa on the way home (I got home so fast that I wasn’t able to finish the latter; I am going to finish listening to it this morning while I get the Lost Apartment back under control), and I also read Alan Orloff’s delightful I Play One on TV and James Kestrel’s Five Decembers, which was amazing. My dad also gifted me two books by Paul Strathern, The Medici and The Borgias. After I finished reading Alan’s book I started reading The Borgias, which is really interesting. (My dad bought them because I talked so much about loving Italy, so he decided to read some Italian history; he really enjoyed them and thought I would as well, and I am like gimme gimme gimme.) He had also cleaned out an area in the basement, purging books (I come by my hoarding tendencies genetically) and found some that were mine when I was a kid so he put them aside for me, if I wanted them. I took them, even though I am trying to purge books myself; ironically, one of the books he gave me was The Rape of the A*P*E*: A History of the Sexual Revolution by Allan Sherman, which I talked about in my erotica writing workshop at Saints and Sinners, and since I have to teach it again at the West Jefferson Parish Library a week from Saturday, I am glad to have it in my hot little hands. I really have to be more prepared this time around.

As I sit here and the coffee works its wiles on me, I am trying to figure out and remember where I am with everything and what needs doing. I am terrified to look at my inbox; I mostly deleted spam the last four days, so that it didn’t get completely out of control. I need to finish the edits on my book and I need to revise a short story, that much I do know, so when I get through this morning I’ll be buckling down here at the work station and trying to get through them. I’ve also got to get the workspace under control, and the Lost Apartment isn’t exactly in great shape either (I didn’t get the chance to clean as thoroughly as I would have liked before I left; I also left a sink full of dishes, which I started working on last night but didn’t quite finish; Paul and I decided a few hours after I got home to relax and watch our shows-in-progress: Under the Banner of Heaven, Hacks, and Gaslit (what they did to Martha Mitchell was so disgraceful–and Julia Roberts is killing the role) because exhaustion was starting to seep in for me and I really was out of steam. My easy chair felt amazing–I really felt like I was one with the chair last night–and there is definitely nothing like my own bed. I woke up at six this morning–my body not knowing it was a holiday and I didn’t need to go to work this morning–but I stayed in bed for another hour before getting up. I really don’t want to figure out what all I have to get done and where I am with everything just yet–and I absolutely should go to the grocery store today, but I don’t have the energy to deal with that today so I’ll probably make a short list and stop on the way home from work tomorrow. I have to go uptown to get the mail anyway.

Yeah, that sounds like a better plan than going today. (Although hilariously last night I said to Paul at one point, “I probably should at least do the dishes and stop putting things off until tomorrow, which is becoming a habit and I don’t like it” and here I am, pushing something off till tomorrow again.)

Some things never change.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Memorial Day, Constant Reader.

Dancing on the Ceiling

And here it is, Saturday again, and life just keeps a chugging along.

I slept until nine this morning–I know, right?–and it felt marvelous, even though it’s taking me a moment or two to get my equilibrium this morning. I’ve already had a cup of coffee, and it’s already almost ten! I am going to try to get a lot done today–writing wise, reading wise, cleaning wise–and I am going to try to get the computer files better organized. Yesterday was a busy day; I managed to get my work-at-home duties completed; I picked up a prescription and the mail; went to the gym; and made groceries AND a Costco run (when I can plan ahead, my efficiency and ability to get quite a bit done in a short period of time can be amazing). I bought an enormous bottle of Kirkland white tequila (Costco store brand; the Kirkland vodka is basically Grey Goose, so I checked out the tequila on line and it’s seems to be close to, if not the same as, Patrón, which is my favorite tequila), and tonight I am going to have myself a Margarita. It’s so weird–we’ve not had liquor in the house for so long, and now, thanks to Costco, I have enough vodka and tequila for a fraternity party. Alcohol and I have always had a strained relationship, which is one of many reasons I never kept it in the house, but I am hoping that my sixties will be the year where I can enjoy alcohol while cutting myself off before getting completely intoxicated. In my thirties and forties I learned (finally) how to tell I’d already had too much and to stop (although there were times when I most definitely did not; and I do remember consciously thinking oh one more drink and I’ll be completely wasted; why not?) but having it in the house always kind of concerned me. But one cocktail nightly is something I think I can handle–and it should also help with sleep problems.

I really need to learn how to properly make a martini. That last one I made was so nasty I am afraid to try again.

We watched the opening ceremonies for the Olympics last night–but it felt off and weird; maybe it was the lack of an audience, and opening ceremonies that were planned to HAVE an actual audience? I don’t know, but the Parade of Nations walking into an empty stadium just seemed weird to me. I feel bad for the athletes–it’s already bad enough that this is last year’s Olympics, and the next Olympic cycle is a year shorter than usual–but at the same time this Olympics has already left a bad taste in my mouth with its systemic racism. Ted Lasso also returned last night, but I hate the thought of not being able to watch them all at the same time; it really is amazing how my television-watching habits have been completely altered and changed by streaming. This is also the first Olympics since we cut the cable cord, so streaming it through Hulu seems weird to me because I actually don’t know when anything is or when it’s going to air live…but the commentary on the opening ceremonies didn’t leave me with much hope about the coverage.

It was also a very weird week in college football. On Thursday the rumor broke and was reported that Oklahoma and Texas had reached out to the SEC about ditching the Big XII and joining, and by yesterday the entire world of college football was reeling and speculating and wondering how this would all shake out with changes to the play-offs and conference expansions and so forth. The thing that makes the most sense to me is divvying the Big XII teams up amongst the other four conferences, turning them all into “super-conferences” with two divisions of eight teams each; which essentially would turn the conference championship games into quarterfinals….with the possibility that a conference champion could not be invited to the semi-finals if there is an astounding team from outside the four main conferences…say, a 11-1 Notre Dame over a three loss conference champion. I think it’s an interesting–and it’s also interesting how much college football has changed since I was a kid and the games were exclusively broadcast on ABC, so at most two games were televised per week–usually a Major Game with National Implications and then a regional game of interest. It will be interesting to see how this most recent shake-up affects everything. I remember when it the Big 10, the SEC, the ACC, the Big 8, the Southwest Conference, and the PAC-8. (it has always amused me that the Big XII only has ten teams and the Big Ten has twelve and then fourteen)

Hell, this realigning might actually force Notre Dame to join a conference–and you can bet it will be the ACC rather than the Big Ten, which makes the most sense given their location.

I also got some great books yesterday, including Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic; Alan Orloff’s latest y/a, I Play One On TV; Heather Levy’s Walking Through Needles; Robert P. Jones’ White Too Long; and two queer sounding debuts: Yes Daddy by Jonathan Parks-Ramage and These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever; all of them sound positively delightful, and so yes, I need to get cracking on my reading. And my writing, and my organizing and my cleaning and–heavy sigh. You get the picture.

So I am going to take my coffee right now and go curl up with Razorblade Tears for a while. Have a great Saturday, Constant Reader!