Ode to Joy

I went through a Robert Ludlum phase in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s; I don’t remember why exactly I began reading him–spy thrillers and international intrigue have never been of particular interest to me–but I know the first Ludlum I read was The Osterman Weekend, which I didn’t really follow or think was all that great, in all honesty; but I picked up a copy of The Gemini Contenders at a used bookstore and then I was hooked. I bought all of his backlist, and began buying his new novels in hardcover when they were released. I stopped reading Ludlum when Ludlum stopped writing his books–I don’t recall which the last of these was; I see that I am actually incorrect; I stopped reading Ludlum after The Road to Omaha–apparently he wrote and published three more, but this was when I was deep into reading only gay and lesbian fictions for the most part. I was always amazed at how intricately his books were plotted, and many of them–mainly The Gemini Contenders–were my favorite kind of thrillers: the treasure hunt. Ludlum was also where I learned that the best villains, second only to Nazis, came from the Vatican (Dan Brown made a shitload of money using that premise). Even as a fairly uneducated reader and writer, Ludlum’s overuse of exclamation points annoyed me–but I loved his intricate plots, his heroes, an he also wrote some really amazing women characters as well. I’ve been meaning to revisit Ludlum over the last few years–mainly because if I ever really do a Colin spin-off (stand alone or series), Ludlum would be a good author to study (along with LeCarre, of course) for plotting and structural purposes.

I’ve also always kind of wanted to do a gay Jason Bourne type story–which could also work for Colin as well.

Hmmm. I mean, maybe on one of his missions he gets amnesia? It’s a thought.

I had a pretty good day yesterday. I managed to get back on schedule with the book yesterday, which is great, and so today I am going to start going through it all, cleaning it up more and writing an outline as I go, and figuring out where to put the new things that need to go in it. I also need to do some writing rather than revise/rewriting; I’ve figured out a great way to bridge back story and build it into the book without having it be an actual part of the story/story, and it’s something that could easily build into another book or perhaps a series. Who knows? I also managed to work through my email inbox–the endlessly refilling inbox; it’s like Sisyphus or trying to clean the Augean stables or killing the hydra, I swear to God, and I have let it slide for far too long. I’m trying to get my life better organized–I don’t know what kind of fog I’ve been in, or for how long I’ve been actually in it, but I do know this: it’s gone on for far longer than I should have allowed it to, that’s one thing I know for certain. I also don’t know how long this “non-fog” situation will last (probably it will come to a screeching halt on Monday when the alarm goes off at six in the morning), but I need to take full advantage of it while I can. I also need to get to the gym today and groceries need to be made. After I finished work I watched a history program about a woman who was a Union spy in Richmond during the Civil War, which also talked about a young slave girl she raised and loaned out to the Davises so she could also spy on them and report back. What an interesting novel that would make–for a Black author to take on. I’d love to see what a writer like say, Kellye Garrett or Rachel Howzell Hall or Colson Whitehead could make of the story…history is chockfull of wonderful stories to be told, and after I finished watching that we watched Framing Britney, which was kind of chilling…I’m not sure what’s going on there, but the documentary made a very compelling case, and the thought that someone of her stature and stardom was essentially blackmailed into giving up control of herself, her career, and her money (they held their kids over her head) and she cannot break free of the conservatorship is truly frightening. I said to Paul at one point, “People always thought she was stupid but she wasn’t–she’s very smart; she just had a thick Southern accent and so, of course, that meant she was an idiot.” It also reminded me of an idea I had a while back of doing a modern-day version of Valley of the Dolls set in Las Vegas; a Britney-type filling in for Neely, more of a tragic role than Susann’s monster-in-training.

I mean, it could work.

Its gray and foggy this morning in New Orleans; with a bit of a chill in the air as well. I am going to drink some more coffee and then kickstart my day by going to make groceries before coming home to go to the gym and then getting cleaned up and probably working on trying to finish responding to my emails and putting away/cleaning up my desk area before rereading the first ten chapters of the manuscript I have revised and doing a hard edit–these revisions were pretty simple, really–and catching the things I know I was noticing when I was revising: duplications, saying the same thing in different chapters (this is my worst habit, repeating myself–which is a direct result of writing books a chapter at a time and then not remembering what was in previous chapters, or if I’ve said something before. It’s also trickier because I’m writing it in the present tense, and there are flashbacks and memories that have to be written in the past tense, which is going to undoubtedly give my editor fits. The present tense for the things happening in the present works much better than the past tense I usually write in; but not having a lot of experience with present tense is making this much more of a challenge than I thought it would be. Perhaps I should consult Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style? After all, I do have a copy sitting here on my desk in easy reach; mayhap after the gym and getting cleaned up I shall retire to my easy chair with the manuscript and that copy of Strunk & White.

I also slept really well last night, which was lovely. The bed was most comfortable, and it was probably the best night’s sleep I’ve had in quite some time, which is, of course, lovely but begs the question, why did I sleep so much better and restfully last night than I have in quite some time? I did have some Sleepytime tea before I went to bed, which could have had something to do with it…I always mean to have a cup before bed but always manage to forget; I will definitely have one again tonight. The problem is that my body will adjust and adapt to almost anything relatively quickly; so it’s not like the tea will work every night…but if last night was indicative, I need to make more of an effort to have a cup more regularly than I have been doing.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader. I certainly intend to do so.

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.

12318_104711849573566_100001042557199_40782_6934493_n

Do You Know Where You’re Going To?

Hello, Tuesday! How you doing?

I managed another not-quite-a-thousand words yesterday on the WIP; which was lovely. I am still not writing as quickly as I used to–I think I am still a bit on the rusty side, naturally–but I am getting back into the swing of it. Today is the last day of April, and I’d intended to have the entire first draft finished by tomorrow. Instead, I am halfway through a rewrite of the first ten chapters, with fifteen more to write. Epic fail, perhaps? Or just the usual Greg can’t make a deadline to save his life nonsense?

TBF, I was sick twice in this last month, and that certainly didn’t help in the least.

I did finish reading Kellye Garrett’s Hollywood Homicide, and today I am moving on to Jamie Mason’s The Hidden Things. Such a plethora of riches in my TBR pile, y’all. And I still have two Donna Andrews novels in there, too! I was also tired most of yesterday; not so much physically as mentally. I managed to get through the entire workday without feeling either sleepy or exhausted, and while I slept fairly decently last night, I did wake up a lot–usually an indication that I am going to be somewhat tired today. It’s another long day, but stranger things have happened, you know?

We got caught up on Veep as well last night, which is killing it in its final season. The show has always been funny, but this season is a bit more topical than usual…to the point I said, several times during the episode, “I can’t believe they’re doing this.”

Tomorrow is payday, and i really should start working on getting the bills paid. Yay. These are a few of my favorite things. *snark*

Okay, I paid some of the bills but also got a pleasant surprise: an electronic payment for the talk I did with Jean Redmann at the Jefferson Parish library a few Saturdays ago. I’d forgotten we were getting paid for that, so that was an incredibly pleasant surprise. Another pleasant surprise was checking Twitter (I know, right? A PLEASANT SURPRISE ON TWITTER are words I never thought I’d type.) and seeing, in a longer discussion about an article in The Writer about men writing strong women (don’t get me started) some love for my story “This Town” in Murder-a-Go-Go’s, and some love for me personally.

Aw. That’s always nice.

And now, back to the spice mines.

57950_157253970968314_100000511364453_445161_6926678_n

Hollywood Nights

I used to be obsessed with Hollywood when I was younger.

That should have been the tip-off to my family, right? My obsession with old films, the Oscars, and superstar actresses of the past? I lived for awards season; read tons of books about Hollywood history and the making of movies and biographies/memoirs of stars; I read People and Us magazines (Us was a biweekly years ago). I wrote about movie stars in Murder in the Rue Ursulines, and my first Phyllis A. Whitney novel that wasn’t a y/a that I read, about a haunted Hollywood legend (Listen for the Whisperer) remains my favorite of hers to this day. I’m not sure when I stopped being interested in celebrities and gossip about them, and the entertainment industry; but while the interest has somewhat waned (I often skip the Oscars now), I do still enjoy reading fiction set in or around the industry.

So, it’s strange that it took me so long–and that it also took the Diversity Project–for me to finally sit down with Kellye Garrett’s terrific debut novel, Hollywood Homicide.

hollywood homicide

He stared at my resume like it was an SAT question. One of the hard ones where you just bubbled in C and kept it moving. After a minute–I counted, since there was nothing else to do–he finally looked up and smiled. “So, Dayna Anderson…”

He got my name right. The interview was off to a pretty good start. “So what in your previous experience would make you a good fit for this position?”

He smiled again, this time readjusting the Joey, Manager, Ask me about our large jugs! name tage that was prominently placed on his uniform. Since I was sitting in the Twin Peaks coffee shop interviewing to be a bikini barista, said uniform happened to be a Speedo. I pegged him for twenty-two, tops. And it wasn’t just because he didn’t have a centimeter of hair anywhere on his body. I made a mental note to get the name of his waxer.

And so opens Kellye Garrett’s terrific debut novel, which I hope is the first of a long series I will be able to continue to enjoy over the years (the second, Hollywood Ending, was published last year before the publisher, Midnight Ink, announced that it was shutting down, thus orphaning many a terrific crime writer: SOMEONE ELSE NEEDS TO PICK UP THIS SERIES).

Dayna, our main character, is a retired actress with no source of income and running out of cash pretty darned quick. To compound her financial problems (spoiler: she doesn’t get the bikini barista job) her parents are underwater on their house payments and she needs to come up some cash to prevent them from being evicted. One night while out on the town with friends they are almost hit by another car…and as they continue driving, find out that someone has been killed by a hit-and-run driver. As the financial woes continue to compound, Dayna decides to solve the crime in order to win the offered reward  and bail her parents out.

Far-fetched? Maybe. But it’s not the worst premise for an investigation for the first book in a series where the main character is not a professional investigator (cop, PI, reporter, lawyer), and it’s actually much more of a clever take than the standard trope of “stumbling over a dead body/I have to solve this crime because everyone thinks I’m the killer,” which most authors use* (holds up hand–GUILTY AS CHARGED).

And the supporting cast is as interesting and fun as Dayna herself; we don’t get a lot of background on any of them, really–Garrett is guilty of playing her cards close to her vest, as it were–which gives her the opportunity to delve into them all more deeply in the future volumes I hope are coming for us all. The plot twists and turns and winds up very very far from the hit-and-run accident the book opens with…and every step of the way I was rooting for Dayna. She’s likable, has a great sense of humor (not only is she funny but she also has a sense of humor about herself, and about Hollywood as well), and then there’s that love interest–a friend from back home who is just now breaking big on television.

SO MUCH FUN.

COnstant Reader, get thee hither to the book merchant with credit or debit card in hand.

*This isn’t a bad thing, by the way–most authors who do use this trope are incredibly creative and smart in how they use it; the point I am making is I greatly appreciated the originality of Kellye’s methodology of getting her amateur sleuth involved.

Deep Purple

It isn’t much, but I managed to get that bitch of a Chapter Four slogged through yesterday. It was almost like pulling teeth–and then when I was near the end, I remembered that the entire purpose of this chapter was to establish something near the beginning that will come up again later in the chapter and of course I forgot to put that thing in.

Heavy heaving sigh. And this, Constant Reader, is why writers drink.

To excess.

Regularly.

I am also still processing last night’s Game of Thrones. In all honesty, I didn’t really notice that the episode was almost too dark to see things; Game of Thrones has always, to me, been shot very dark so it wasn’t big enough of a change to be necessary. I simply thought I wasn’t able to see because there was literally, in some moments, so much to see and so much going on that my eyes and mind were kind of overwhelmed. It wasn’t until after the episode had ended and I went on social media to see what other people thought that I saw that so many people were complaining about how poorly lit the episode was. I’m also not sure how I felt about the episode itself; as I said, I am still processing it. I’m not sure that making the Great War the prelude to the Final War was necessarily the best way to go; surely it should have been done in reverse? I am not sure, but I guess we’ll see how these final three episodes play out.

Also interesting are the turns Veep is making this season–I honestly can’t believe how spot-on they are in satirizing our current situation and our last election.

I also read a lot more of Kellye Garrett’s debut novel, which I am hoping to get finished this week–either today or tomorrow. I am greatly enjoying this book, and I’m glad I finally got around to it. So…the Diversity Project, despite my slight misgivings about it, is actually doing some good for me.

I also feel well enough to go back to work today. Yesterday was still kind of iffy for me, but I decided to set the alarm for this morning and just see how I felt when it went off. I am awake–maybe not as rested as I might prefer, but I am awake and don’t feel like death, so I am also seeing that as a plus as well. My throat is still sore, but I am not sure why, and it isn’t affecting my voice at all, which is also a plus. I’m not really aware of it unless/until I swallow, but it’s still not very pleasant.

C’est la vie.

And on that note, I suppose I should get in the shower so I can head into the spice mines.

56953_143367129047959_100001240186267_243555_2257129_o

Love to Love You Baby

Paul’s flight was delayed a bit, but he got home last night just after nine pm and all is right in the Lost Apartment. I have ceased to exist to Scooter except as a conduit for treats, food or water–he hasn’t even gotten out of bed yet this morning to demand food! I also woke up this morning feeling much much better than I have in days, which means I think I should be able to return to work tomorrow. Huzzah!

I’m sure it’s an utter coincidence that Paul’s return home cured me.

Yesterday I ran some errands over to the West Bank that simply couldn’t be put off until next weekend–and, I figured, it was better to try to get it over and done with while still feeling slightly unwell than wait until today when I might have relapsed–and so I have Paul’s birthday present ready to give to him when he wakes up, for yes, today is Paul’s birthday. He was honored with the Leadership Award from the Publishing Triangle on Thursday and today is his birthday, so he’s had quite a lovely long weekend of it. I also spent some time reading Kellye Garrett’s delightfully fun Hollywood Homicide yesterday, while I also did some odds and ends cleaning up around here. I still have some cleaning to do today, and I want to get that pesky chapter written once and for all today so I can move on to the next and try to get this entire pesky thing finished soon enough. I am behind, of course, as I always seem to be, but I am hoping/hopeful that I can get this first draft finished by the 15th of May. That’s basically two weeks, and there’s absolutely no reason I cannot be finished by then other than sheer, utter laziness.

Everyone who thinks I won’t be done by the 15th, raise your hand.

Bitches.

And so I shall spend this morning cleaning and working on the WIP. I suspect Paul, who was exhausted when he got home last night, will sleep till about noon–if not longer, which gives me a free morning to get all of this done. I am planning on going to the gym (I know, right?) around noonish/one, to get started again with my regular workouts and getting my body back into shape. We’ll see how it goes, but that is my plan at this moment–although there’s also a stray thought that I should go now, this morning, to get it over with and get my day kick-started, but no, I think I’ll spend the morning doing precisely what I said I was going to spend the morning doing. I need to get that fucking chapter finished, and maybe even get started on Chapter Five while I have Word open.

I also want to start doing something with all these short stories I have just lying around here in one form or another. Maybe after the gym I can read some of them, or something. They aren’t doing me any good sitting in my computer as files, that’s for certain.

And I also need to steel myself for tonight’s Game of Thrones. It’s certainly going to be a bloodbath, with characters whose lives I’ve been following since the very first season an eon ago certain to die tonight. Perhaps I should take a Xanax before watching? I also want to read some more of Kellye’s book, so I can move on to Jamie Mason’s The Hidden Things, which is up next in queue….although I am very tempted by Marlon James’ latest, an epic fantasy set in Africa which is being called “an African Game of Thrones“, although I am certain that’s simply a marketing gimmick to try to appeal to George R. R. Martin’s fans, and fans of the show. Marlon is a terrific writer, and he won the Mann Booker a few years ago for his A Brief History of Seven Killings, which I’ve not read, but have wanted to for quite some time. My TBR queue is quite something, I have to say, and I am really looking forward to reading all the books in it at some point.

At some point.

There will never be enough time, will there, to read everything I want to read and write everything I want to write. I think that’s why I get so caught up in falling behind and the sense of time slipping through my fingers, which gets more intense the more I age, which is, of course, every fucking day.

And now back to the spice mines, my friends. It’s already ten and I’ve gotten nothing done other than writing this.

And that shall not stand.

37364_1489177224789_1094708889_31398146_2958273_n

Only Sixteen

I woke up this morning with no fever and no congestion, huzzah! I still have a sore throat, however, and a little bit of medicine head, but I also went to bed early last night and woke up at a relatively decent, respectable hour–not too early, not too late, which of course is quite lovely. Paul returns home this evening (or sometime in the late afternoon). Therefore I have to run some errands this morning–it cannot be helped–which include going to the West Bank (on a Saturday! Madness) to get him a birthday gift, for his birthday is tomorrow. Since I am over there, I am going to stop at Sonic for lunch (it will be lovely  eating something other than soup, let me tell you) before heading back over here. I need to vacuum downstairs before I head out for the errands, and then until he gets home I am either going to write, or read Kellye Garrett’s wonderful Hollywood Homicide.  I wanted to do both yesterday, but my head was too foggy and medicine-y from all the DayQuil and the final spike of whatever it was that was wrong, and I couldn’t focus. I wound up mostly falling into a Youtube vortex on my television for most of the day–it’s really amazing how many fan videos/theories of Game of Thrones are out there–and I also rewatched last week’s episode of Game of Thrones again. It was, of course, the first and perhaps only episode of the show where someone, anyone, didn’t die–and you know what that means: CAST BLOODBATH TOMORROW. It was so emotionally manipulative, but at the same time genius: by giving the audience these incredibly touching moments, it makes this weekend’s deaths all the more heartrending and poignant. And yes, I cried several times during the rewatch; knowing what was coming didn’t change that: I cried when Jaime asked to serve under Brienne; when Theon offered to fight for Winterfell if Sansa would have him; when Sam gave the sword of his family to Ser Jorah; and of course, the ultimate tears came when Jaime knighted Brienne. Gwendoline Christie deserves an Emmy for that scene alone.

I can’t wait for tomorrow’s episode, even though I know I’ll probably have to take to my fainting couch after.

And those were the scenes that made the tears come; there were others that came close. It was probably one of my favorite episodes of the show, from start to finish; primarily because it was all about character. And that’s what Game of Thrones does so well; character. It’s an epic show to be sure, and even without the strong character development it would still be great to watch…but the character arcs, for me, is what makes the show spectacular.

I am terribly behind on the WIP. April slipped through my fingers somehow; there are only three days left in the month and there is simply no way I am going to be able to get this entire first draft completed in three days. Hell, I haven’t finished the revision of Chapter fucking Four yet, and I still have fifteen new chapters to write. I think it is fairly safe to assume I am off-schedule a little bit (a lot of bit) which means I won’t be getting to the final draft of the other WIP in May the way I’d planned. Meh, it happens. I also need to check my project schedule; I am not sure when exactly I have to step away from all of this to work on another one; it’s sometime this summer, I know, but I don’t remember the date off the top of my head. But I feel so much better this morning than I have all week–I think whatever was wrong with me these last few days clearly started earlier in the week; I was lethargic and fairly low energy since last weekend–and so maybe, once I get home from the errands today I can sit down here at the computer and get Chapter Four finished and maybe even make some headway on Chapter Five. And perhaps work on a short story.

Paul will be home tonight and tomorrow is his birthday, so perhaps I’ll take a look at the movies available to rent on iTunes. I got a giftcard in the mail–when I bought the new Air I also got an Apple Mastercard (ugh, like I need more credit) and I’ve already earned a reward; a $25 gift card for iTunes or the Apple Store. So…maybe I can rent a movie for us to watch tonight for his birthday. There are still plenty of other movies still on both Prime and Amazon that I want to watch, but…since tomorrow is going to be all about Game of Thrones, tonight will be the only option. I think I am also going to get us a deep dish pizza from That’s Amore for our dinner this evening (and it will take care of all our food needs for tomorrow as well).

And on that note, I need to get things done around here before departing for my errands, so I’d best get started on that now.

Happy Saturday, Constant Reader!

25442_380438156357_104531801357_3695826_8343885_n

All By Myself

Friday morning sliding into the weekend…and woke up still sick. The throat is still sore and my voice is a Kathleen Turner-like whiskey-soaked rasp; my eyes still ache and so do all my joints, and the fever is still upon me. I just swigged some DayQuil, so am hoping for some relief; this knot of phlegm lodged into the top of my lungs has to loosen and come out at some point, right?

Ye Gods, how I hate being sick. And the older I get, the more susceptible to these things I seem to be.

The weather was horrible yesterday afternoon, but for once, it was lovely to be covered in blankets while the storm raged outside, with a constant downpour of rain and the occasional blast of lightning and thunder. It is, really, the best time to curl up with a good book, and so yesterday I finished reading Alison Gaylin’s next novel, of which I am fortunate enough to have an advance copy. Never Look Back is probably her best book to date, and given she won an Edgar last night, that’s saying something. I then proceeded to start reading Kellye Garrett’s award-winning debut Hollywood Homicide, which I am also greatly enjoying. I really like her main character, and her voice.

And now that the Edgars are over and the program has been printed and distributed, I can now out myself as a judge for Best Paperback Original. That was the book award I was reading for all of last year–and I do mean reading for all of last year. Once again, the Lost Apartment was buried in an avalanche of books, and since electronic editions of books could also be entered, my Kindle is also incredibly full. Led by our distinguished panel chair Alex Segura, my fellow judges (the always delightful and talented Susanna Calkins and Gwen Florio) read and discussed, read some more and discussed some more, and finally narrowed our choices down to our top five and the winner. I do believe our category this past year just might have been the only (if not the only, but one of the few) times in Edgar history where all the finalists in a category were women; that wasn’t our intent, either; it just played out that way, but it was still amazing and cool. Last night’s batch of Edgar winners was also perhaps the most diverse in Edgar history; with Walter Mosley taking home the statue for Best Novel and Robert Feiseler taking home the award for Fact Crime for his Tinderbox, which is about the Upstairs Fire lounge fire in New Orleans back in 1973; the biggest mass murder of gay men until the Pulse shootings in 2016. I wrote about the Upstairs Fire in Murder in the Rue Chartres, and am really looking forward to reading Robert’s book. Sujata Massey also won the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and I feel that Sara Paretsky’s winning the first Sue Grafton Memorial Award would definitely have Sue’s approval.

And huzzah for the wonderful Art Taylor’s Edgar win for Best Short Story! Art is one of the best short story writers around; I keep hoping he’s going to put out a short story collection–I think he’s won every conceivable mystery award for short story now, which is an indication of just how good he is. He’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met–in general, not just the mystery community.

Needless to say, the illness has kept me from doing any writing or pretty much anything, really. Yesterday I spent most of the day swilling chicken soup and sitting in my chair under blankets and reading. I watched the live-stream of the Edgar Awards on my television through the Youtube app on my  Apple TV, which was very cool and surreal at the same time. I felt sorry for the young man with the long hair at the front table who was on camera almost the entire night and probably had no idea! Today I am going to probably swill some more soup while again retiring to my chair with Kellye’s book, and then I have an ARC of Jamie Mason’s The Hidden Things which I will tackle next.

And I did have two ideas for stories yesterday, through the DayQuil and fever induced fogginess of my brain. So that’s something, at any rate.

And now back to my blankets.

33718_1637106693818_1421271844_1638566_8166918_n

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.

6a01156e9cba4c970c0148c6a8973f970c-320wi

Nightshift

Yesterday I kind of hit a writing wall; not a big deal, really, just that I was mentally and physically tired for some reason (I suspect upsetting my usual routine by having to go have blood work done in the morning, and now of course I want to write a story called Blood Work), and so I was only about to get about 2300 words out on a short story. I had hoped to not only finish the draft of that particular short story but also get another one done, perhaps even getting to work on a Scotty chapter. Heavy heaving sigh. Ah, well. I’m not going to beat myself up over the lack of productivity here; I am simply going to embrace that I got a pretty decent 2300 words done. So, that is a victory, and one that I am very pleased to have. Each word is another step closer to finished, after all, and once should never berate one’s self for not getting everything done you wanted to as long as you got something done.

I’d intended to go to the gym this morning but didn’t want to get out of bed. I had a good night’s sleep for the first time this week so, well, yeah, that happened. I’ll just have to go after work tomorrow; I have to keep my eye appointment tomorrow morning before work. It’s getting increasingly harder to keep to three times a week; primarily because of my problems sleeping. Heavy heaving sigh.

But…I am liking what I am writing, and I do enjoy going to the gym. (I was wondering what to watch now that Black Sails is over, only to discover season 2 of Versailles is up on Netflix, and I believe this is the season of the Affair of the Poisons!) I just wish I didn’t always get off so late at night that I can’t make it to the gym. There has to be a more efficient way of doing this; there simply has to be.

So,  my plan is to get these two short story drafts finished this week, as well as another chapter of Scotty; I want to have this finished by the weekend, which means a lot of writing today and tomorrow. I also need to get some short stories read for the Short Story Project, and then I think I want to read a novel. (I’ll still read short stories, but I want to read a novel; it’s been awhile since I’ve plunged into the pages of one. Kellye Garrett’s Hollywood Homicide is calling to me, for one thing, and there are any number of wonderful novels in the TBR Pile, you know.) I also want to get the order of the Bouchercon anthology stories finished this weekend, and I need to get my taxes finished and off to my accountant: MUY IMPORTANTE.

The Lost Apartment is again a pigsty; it’s amazing how easily that happens. It’s not as bad today as it was last Thursday, but still. I just don’t seem to be able to manage time properly anymore. I don’t know what that’s all about, but it definitely needs to STOP.

All right, I need to get some things done before I leave for the office this morning; I need to run errands as well before I head in.

For today’s short story discussion, we are going to look at a crime story by Lia Matera, and a literary fiction story by Irwin Shaw.

Lia Matera’s story is “Destroying Angel,” copyright Lia Matera, 1990, and this short story was first published in Sisters In Crime Volume II, 1990, edited by Marilyn Wallace.

I was squatting a few feet from a live oak tree, poison oak all around me (an occupational hazard for mycologists). I brushed wet leaves off a small mound and found two young mushrooms. I carefully dug around one of them with my trowel, coaxing it out of the ground.

I held it up and looked at it. It was a perfect woodland agaricus. The cap was firm, snow white with a hint of yellow. The gills under the cap were still white, chocolate-colored spores hadn’t yet tinged them. A ring of tissue, an annulus, circled the stipe like a floppy collar. A few strands of mycelia, the underground plant of which the mushroom is the fruit, hung from the base. I pinched the mycelia off and smelled the gills. The woodland agaricus smells like it tastes, like a cross between a mushroom, an apple, and a stalk of fennel.

Lia Matera is one of my favorite crime writers, and her Star Witness is one of my favorite crime novels; deliciously sly and incredibly witty and clever. As I was reading this short story of hers, I also lamented that she’s not published a novel in quite a while. This story is incredibly well-constructed, and devious as well; there’s a lot of information in it about mushrooms, as Our Heroine is a mycologist who works at a local nature museum and is dramatically underpaid; as she talks about her work and her mushrooming and working at the museum, and of course how careful one must be to differentiate between the deadly ones and the safe ones…well, you just know someone is going to be poisoned by mushrooms, don’t you? Matera pulls off a delightful sleight of hand in that regard, though, and the overwhelming sense of melancholy and sadness she permeates the story with is masterful. Her novels are available as ebooks now; treat yourself to one and you’ll never look back.

The Irwin Shaw story I read (reread, actually) was “The Girls in their Summer Dresses” by Irwin Shaw.

Fifth Avenue was shining in the sun when they left the Brevoort and started walking toward Washington Square. The sun was warm, even though it was November, and everything looked like Sunday morning–the buses, and the well-dressed people walking slowly in couples and the quiet buildings with the windows closed.

Michael held Frances’ arm tightly as they walked downtown in the sunlight. They walked lightly, almost smiling, because they had slept late and had a good breakfast and it was Sunday. Michael unbuttoned his coat and let it flap around him in the mild wind. They walked, without saying anything, among the young and pleasant-looking people who somehow seem to make up most of the population of that section of New York City.

“Look out,” Frances said, as they crossed Eighth Street. “You’ll break your neck.”

You never hear much about Irwin Shaw anymore, but he was one of the more successful American writers from the 1950’s to the 1970’s; his books were critically acclaimed and best sellers; the novels in included The Young Lions, Rich Man Poor Man and its lesser sequel Beggarman Thief, Evening in Byzantium, and Aurora Dawn (which was lesser known but one of my favorites; it was about a radio show sponsored by Aurora Dawn soap and was clever and biting satire about art vs. commerce). I read most of Shaw’s work in the 1970’s when I was a teenager; I would love to reread some of them again.

I read “The Girls in their Summer Dresses” for an English course in college; I don’t remember which course or which college; but the fact the story was taught gives you an indication of how well-regarded Shaw was. The insights the instructor gleaned from the story–a switch of roles between the young couple, where she took on the more traditionally masculine role while the husband took on the more passive, traditionally feminine role–struck me, at the time and on this reread some thirty years later as more of that MFA program claptrap taught and regurgitated by people who don’t really understand and appreciate the art of fiction. (Yes, as you can tell, I embrace my role as a non-intellectual.) At the time I read the story in college it struck me as a really sad story about a newly married couple whose relationship was, in fact, doomed to fail; and the point of the story showed how it was either doomed to fail, or if it was going to last, how the wife was going to have to completely subsume herself and sublimate her own needs and desires to his, constantly biting her tongue and becoming increasingly bitter about those compromises as the years pass. The young husband is a narcissist and an asshole, who, despite his wife very clearly telling him how much his ‘window shopping’ of every woman they pass on the street bothers and disturbs her–cares so little about how this behavior hurts and disturbs her that his attitude is too bad so sad I’m the man and I’m not going to change so you need to get over it. This is kind of the prequel, in some ways, to Susan Glaspell’s “A Jury of Her Peers”–I can see this woman gladly strangling her husband in his sleep in the future after twenty years of being beaten down and humiliated over and over again.

Of course, I always tend to look at stories from the perspective of a crime writer now; so there’s that, too.

And now, back to the spice mines. Here’s a Throwback Thursday hunk for you:

IMG_2951