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