Cherish

Saturday and the coast is clear, I think?

Today I am going to venture out to run some errands and then probably (possibly) brave the horrible heat to head over to the gym. I also want to get a lot of writing and cleaning and so forth done today–yes, yes, what else is new, I know–but I was able to get the car back yesterday and then we ventured to Costco before coming home to collapse like heavy woolen blankets that didn’t completely dry in the dryer.

Christ it is hot this June.

Paul did point out that last June probably was just as hot–which reminded me of working the screening desk in the garage at work and getting dehydration sickness (HYDRATE PEOPLE)–and then he also pointed out May was unusually mild and much rainier than usual, so the bitch slap of the return of your usual New Orleans summer weather felt even nastier than it generally does when it happens.

I am tired this morning, despite sleeping like a stone. I was tired yesterday–any amount of time spent out of doors in this type of New Orleans weather is exhausting and draining (and I am not, alas, in as good of physical condition as I should be; but despite the draining nature of this weather I draw the line at driving the short distance to the gym, which is simply insane and goes against the entire idea of going to the gym in the first place)–and while I need to, am trying to, exercise and be more conscious of self-care, I cannot allow the weather to keep me from doing things. (Yesterday when we picked up the car–shout out to Dawn, our amazing Lyft driver–it was 97 degrees and morbidly humid; after the Costco trip and unloading the car, all I really wanted to do was curl up in a corner in the air conditioning and hide for the rest of the evening. But there were other things that needed doing, so I wrote for a while (adding about another thousand words to “Festival of the Redeemer”), finished some laundry (I just heard the dryer click off from a fluff cycle, since I left the clothes in there over night), and then we finished watching an absolutely delightful HBO MAX show called Starstruck, which is incredibly charming, funny, and sweet–the premise is a young woman who has two horrible dead-end jobs, approaches life with a kind of grin and sense of humor but is really adrift, hooks up with someone one New Year’s who turns out to be a major film star–and follows their back-and-forth fumbling towards a relationship. The chemistry between them is absolutely fantastic, and we absolutely loved it. Rose Matafeo plays Jessie (she’s also the writer of the show) and she is just perfect; while Tom Kapoor, the movie star, is also perfectly played by Nikesh Patel–the cast is perfect down to the smallest role. The irony of the show is Jessie is positively NOT starstruck; she finds his celebrity appalling and a barrier to any possibility of a relationship between the two. Constant Reader, I think you would love it. It’s probably one of the most charming shows I’ve seen, up there with Schitt’s Creek, Ted Lasso, and Kim’s Convenience–which is high praise indeed.

Someone tweeted at me yesterday about having finished Mardi Gras Mambo and having tears in their eyes by the end; which was absolutely a lovely thing and an incredibly pleasant reminder that I kind of needed…we so often as writers live in a vacuum, and the negativity out there about our work is so intrusive and debilitating sometimes that it’s always lovely when someone who enjoyed your work reaches out to let you know. Thank you, person on Twitter that I don’t know; you made my evening…and it really takes so little.

I read a wonderful article in LA Review of Books written by Michael Nava yesterday (he really is a treasure; I am so delighted he has taken up the Henry Rios character again), which was the second part (I somehow missed the first and will be looking for it today) about the history of queer publishing. This was about the Golden Age, from the late 1970’s to the mid-1990’s; and reading it reminded me of so many names that I hadn’t forgotten but simply hadn’t thought about in a very long time. I came into queer publishing around this time, as a book reviewer for the New Orleans queer newspaper Impact; eventually branching out into national queer glossies and Lambda Book Report, where I actually wound up working; first as an assistant editor for about five months before taking over as editor for a year. I made many friends during that year and a half at LBR; it was while I was working there that Michael ended the Henry Rios series (I got Katherine Forrest to interview him and put him on the cover, using my very poor and picked-up-on-the-job Adobe Photoshop skills to pull together my most ambitious cover design to date; I have all the issues I worked on in a box up in the storage attic…and reading Michael’s piece made me think about bringing that box down and going through them, for the sake of the memories they would bring back for me–and then I thought, wow you sure have been experiencing a lot of nostalgia this year and decided to skip it for now), which was heartbreaking for me, a long-time fan. I left LBR–which in many ways was my dream job–just before the release of my first book, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, because I felt I couldn’t really run a review magazine focusing on queer lit while I was also publishing my own fiction; I felt it created too much of a conflict of interest. I still stand my that decision–a lot of people were disappointed that I stepped down from the job; I remember one legendary queer writer telling me I was “destroying my career” by doing so (I think things worked out rather well, though; always trust your own instincts). I continued reviewing books for a few more years, but really felt uncomfortable doing so; for me, as a writer of queer fiction, it seemed–and still does–like a conflict of interest and so eventually I stopped being a paid reviewer. Now, of course, I review the occasional book I loved here on the blog; but I am not being paid for my opinion and I won’t talk about a book I didn’t like on here…I also don’t write about every book I read on this blog, either; and sometimes I worry that people think I didn’t like their book if I don’t review it…but then I remind myself that reviewing books isn’t the point of this blog, and it never has been….the blog is something I primarily write for myself, and I’m not interested in having a book review blog. I love reading for pleasure, and really, when I do write about a book I loved on here it’s to emphasize how much I love to read more than anything else.

And I really do need to get back to reading more.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. There’s a lot on the agenda today, and randomly riffing on my musings here isn’t going to get any of it done. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and see you on the morrow.

Take Me Home, Country Roads

And here we are, Sunday morning, and the dawn of a new week. I am still controlling things with copious amounts of DayQuil–it really works wonders.

I finished reading Daphne du Maurier’s story “The Menace” yesterday, and am not quite sure what to make of it, to be honest. It was very strange, and again, like “The Archduchess”, not your typical du Maurier story (if it can be said that there is such a thing as a typical du Maurier story), but I also wasn’t certain how it fit the supposed theme of the stories in The Breaking Point–people pushed to their breaking point, and how they react or behave once they break. But it was an interesting read, and I’m not sorry I read it. I may wait before moving onto the other stories in the collection I’ve not read yet–“The Limpet” and “The Lordly Ones”–because these last two seemed like lesser stories…but it’s also kind of nice to know that du Maurier didn’t always hit it out of the park, too.

Makes me feel a little better about myself, don’t you know.

I also started rereading my favorite ghost story of all time, Barbara Michaels’ Ammie Come Home, which is just as charming, enchanting, and compulsively readable as it was the first time I read it, many many years ago when I was a just a child.

Yesterday was okay, health-wise, for the most part. It comes in waves, it seems, and I dosed myself regularly with DayQuil. At one point yesterday I wasn’t paying attention to the time, and  I could feel my nose starting to run and my temperature starting to go up, so I walked into the kitchen and dosed myself. I started shivering for a moment and then it kicked in and that was that. So, DayQuil, if you’re ever looking for testimonials…you know where to find me. The DayQuil seems to help keep the fever down, and to help with the coughing. There was a slight headache now and again, with several minor dry-coughing fits throughout the day, but no uncontrollable shivering, which for me was really the worst part of it other than feeling off. I am still sticking to my plan of getting tested tomorrow and self-quarantining for the rest of the week–it’s the only thing that makes sense and is responsible. I cannot assume that what I have isn’t the COVID-19 virus, and I cannot put other people at risk (any more than I already have–which is quite a lovely burden to shoulder, I might add). At worst, I’ll exhaust my sick and vacation time staying home for the week; at best, I’m getting better and not getting anyone else sick. I hate the thought that I put people at risk more than anything else, but I also didn’t know, so there’s that–but does that make it any better? Obviously, deliberately infecting people is worse, and now that I’ve been sick, I know better than to go to work every day until I know I don’t have it, or until I know I did have it and have taken the time to get over it completely.

I slept very well again last night, which was lovely, but I did feel tired most of the day yesterday. Going up and down the stairs seemed to really tire out my legs. But my breathing seems to still be okay–no tightness in my lungs, no restriction to my breathing–and while there were a couple of dry coughing fits (which go on until my lungs ached), for the most part my respiratory system seems to be functioning properly. So far so good this morning–although I should probably take a shot of DayQuil pretty soon; certainly before my second cup of coffee.

We watched a lot of episodes of Kim’s Convenience last night, which is a really cute and charming show that occasionally takes on some interesting and topical subjects. It’s very well cast, and I think my favorite character is the mom, who is absolutely hilarious. After a few hours spent with the Kims, we decided to try something else, and I remembered that we have Apple TV Plus (yes, we have too many streaming services, and I know I really should take the time some time to sit down and figure out which ones we need and which ones we don’t), and so I clicked over to that app and saw that Stephen Spielberg’s reboot of Amazing Stories was available, so we watched the first two episodes. The show is aptly titles, by the way–it is amazing. The stories are what Harlan Ellison called speculative fiction–that terrific catch-all that covers horror, fantasy, and science fiction, with all the crossovers and gray spaces in between. The first episode dealt with time travel; the second with spirits trapped in limbo, and both were so incredibly well done. The writing and acting and directing were pinpoint sharp; and the production values made it very clear we were watching a Spielberg production. The first starred Dylan O’Brien of Teen Wolf fame, and despite being about time travel it never created the paradox issues that usually pop up with time travel and was entirely satisfying at the end, with everything wrapped up beautifully. The ghosts in limbo story was equally emotionally honest and strong, about the bond of love between two young girls of color who were track stars and best friends since they were children, until one dies in a tragic accident. The two episodes were so sharp and strongly written they reminded me of Ellison and one of my favorite short stories of all time, “Paladin of the Lost Hour,” which was filmed as an episode of the mid-1908’s reboot of The Twilight Zone (that remains one of my favorite television episodes of all time as well); I am really looking forward to watching more of Amazing Stories–which reminded me I also pay for CBS All-Access, which means we can also watch Jordan Peele’s reboot of The Twilight Zone, which is also incredibly cool. It also made me think that the reboots of these shows should do what Rod Serling and the producers of other such shows in the 1950’s and 1960’s did–buy speculative fiction short stories from masters of the genre to film. Goddess knows there are plenty of them around these days.

And now I’m starting to fade a little bit, so I think I am going to repair to my easy chair and take it easy for a while. Have a lovely, and safe, Sunday, Constant Reader!

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Blue Moon of Kentucky

It’s Saturday, isn’t it? I’m not really sure of my days or dates anymore these days, and if I do wind up having to quarantine for two weeks….that’s just going to get worse, isn’t it?

Heavy heaving sigh. It’s also possible I just have something else. I don’t have the cough, for one thing, which is weird, and I actually thought Paul and I had both had the COVID-19 earlier in March, so maybe this is something else, I don’t know. But whatever it is, it’s awful. I’m never a fan of being sick, of course, but this particularly nasty. The worst is being tired all the time and not being able to think clearly.

The cough also started last night. It’s also unpleasant.

But I slept through the night for the first time all week, which is something, I suppose, and this morning I feel good. I’ve also felt good the last two mornings on waking up and that last a little while before whatever is ailing me kicked into super-high gear both Thursday and Friday after being awake for a couple of hours. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and took some DayQuil, so hopefully that will manage it for me. I got very bad last night shortly before I went to bed–fever, felt wretched, the cough started, and then I was unable to keep dinner down–so I guess we’ll see. It’s so hard to decide what to do, you know? What if I self-quarantine and it’s nothing? I hate having to be an adult and make these decisions on my own–it’s so much easier being told what to do.

I spent most of yesterday sleeping on and off in my easy chair, after I got over the horrible shivering experience yesterday morning, and drinking lots of fluids to hydrate, but my mind couldn’t really focus to do much of anything yesterday. I did manage to do my Friday chore of laundering the bed linens–but carrying everything upstairs was exhausting; yesterday after finally being awake after the napping, I finished writing my blog, paid a few bills, and was exhausted by that. I went back to the easy chair and started watching things on Youtube–I should have watched the Moonlighting pilot, damn it–then we got caught up on Schitt’s Creek, and then started season four of Kim’s Convenience,  which is just as charming as ever before finally collapsing into bed. I’m hoping to try to get some work done today–hopefully, taking DayQuil first thing this morning will head off any symptoms, but who knows–and I don’t feel tired this morning, either. (I didn’t feel tired the last two mornings, either, until the symptoms kicked in) I really need to get working on the writing stuff, which I have fallen terribly behind on these last few weeks, and my email inbox is absolutely horrifying.

But even as I sit here, before drinking my first swig of coffee, I can feel my body changing. I can feel tiredness creeping into my legs and my brain getting cobwebbed. MY coffee does taste different, and I’m not so sure about my sense of smell. Sigh. Going to be another one of those mornings, I fear. But we’ll see how much I can get done before I return to the chaise, shall we?

At least let me get this finished and some other things accomplished, okay?

Heavy sigh.

I’ve also been invited to do Art Taylor’s blog The First Two Pages, for my story “The Silky Veils of Ardor” and if I am not mistaken, I have agreed in my fever dreams to do some live ZOOM things and conference calls and so forth over the next week. One of the things I apparently need to do this morning is figure when and where and how all of those things are, and what technology I need to possess in order to do whatever it is I’ve agreed to do. I am always terrible at the marketing aspect of being a writer; I’d be much more successful if I were better at these things–I have a tendency to say what I actually think and feel rather than what people want to hear (always has been a problem for me, all my life) and I am terrible at selling myself. Readings always make me tense, as does moderating panels–I often find my hands are dripping with sweat and my heart races during these things–but they are an essential part of being a part of this business, so I kind of have to do them.

My kitchen is also a disaster area.

And on that note, I am going to bring this to a close and head into the spice mines for however long as I feel half-way decent and stay focused. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

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Sweet Love

Saturday morning and feeling fine. Another good night’s sleep is in the books, and I am swilling coffee and looking forward to getting some things done today. I have to make groceries (I wound up pretty much effectively blowing most of yesterday off–who saw that coming?) and I need to get some work done on the WIP. I did get all of the laundry–including bed linens–done yesterday, and the dishes, and some cleaning and organizing done. I also pulled the WIP out from the back-up, and sure enough, the 300 words or so I’d one on Chapter Three weren’t there, since they are on the flash drive.

But as I said yesterday, reconstructing the revisions I’d already done turned out to be easier–and better–than the revision I’d done already; and while I simply added a different three hundred words to that chapter, this 300 is better than the last 300 and I also restructured the opening of the chapter so it makes better sense and works better. So leaving the flash drive at the office was, as I thought it might be yesterday, for the best. I intend to get that chapter finished this morning, perhaps move on to the next, and then perhaps get a short story reworked before retiring to my easy chair with Alison Gaylin’s quite superb Never Look Back, which is quite superb, actually. I thought her last two novels–What Remains of Me and If I Die Tonight–were marvelous; this one looks to be even better than both of those….which means hours of reading bliss for me. Gaylin is an author who always outdoes herself with each new work, like her peers Megan Abbott, Laura Lippman, Lori Roy, and Alafair Burke.

And I think the next book up with be something by a gay author, as I continue working on the Diversity Project. I also need to get back to reading Murder-a-Go-Go’s, so I can keep writing up the stories in it. I also should be doing more promotion for Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories. I’ve done a terrible job of pushing the book thus far–even forgetting the publication date–and yeah, it’s a wonder I still  have a career to speak at all in this business.

But it’s great to feel rested and relaxed; that happens so rarely that having several good nights’ sleep under my belt has me wondering, is this how everyone else feels? Don’t take the ability to sleep for granted, Constant Reader, if it is something you are blessed with; it can be taken away from you before you know it and you’ll really, really miss it once it’s gone.

We watched some more of Kim’s Convenience  last night, and continue to enjoy it. I do want to get back to watching You and The Umbrella Academy at some point, but neither show crosses my mind when I am flipping through the Apple TV apps trying to find something to watch. I also never finished watching Pose, and there’s also Fosse/Verdon, which I’d like to take a look at as well. And I barely ever think to go to Amazon Prime…primarily because their television app isn’t really user friendly. (I’ve still never forgiven Hulu for changing theirs from something incredibly intuitive and super-easy to use to the more complicated version they have now.) But there are some terrific films I’d like to see–I still haven’t seen Black Panther, for example–and of course there are some classic films available for streaming.

It’s ever so easy to get distracted, you know?

So, once I finish this I am going to go read for an hour before getting back to work on the WIP, and then I am going to head to the grocery store. I’ll work on it some more when I get back from the grocery store, and then read some more until about five-ish, after which I’ll probably go sit in my chair and scroll through apps looking for something to watch…oh yes, the NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are on tonight, and LSU made it to the final four, along with UCLA, Oklahoma, and Denver. Paul and I are enormous LSU fans, and we watch the gymnastics team compete, whenever possible, on television. And football season will be returning soon…I am already getting emails from Stubhub about buying game tickets. Paul and I are still riding our eight-year streak of never seeing LSU lose when we are in the stadium; let’s hope that streak continues for a ninth year.

And now it’s time to head back into the spice mines. See you on the flip side, Constant Reader!

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Right Back Where We Started From

A very good morning and a very good Friday to y’all. I slept late this morning, which was fabulous. I did wake up once, sometimes after four, but rolled over and focused and was able to fall right back asleep, and yes, marvelous doesn’t even begin to cover how lovely it felt. We had a terrible storm last night–it was much worse on the north shore and in Mississippi than it was here–but there was lots of rain, wind and thunder/lightning. I was able to leave work early–half-day–and came home feeling exhausted, so I went right to my easy chair while getting some laundry going. Paul and I then finished watching the third season of Cardinal, a Canadian series that it quite excellent–Bill Campbell is exceptionally good in the lead–and then watched a few episodes of a cute comedy series, also Canadian, called Kim’s Convenience, also in its third season. I then went to bed after folding a basket of laundry; the second basket is currently tumbling dry in the dryer. At some point I need to run to Rouse’s–although I am trying to stick really hard to the “don’t be a food hoarder anymore Gregalicious” mentality I developed thanks to the Termite Armageddon.

I really am going to make it a goal to clean out the kitchen cabinets more frequently; perhaps once a quarter?

So, the three day weekend looms large before me. I realized last night I forgot my flash drive at the office, but never fear…this week I managed to back up everything, including the flash drive, to my back-up hard drive AND the cloud, so I should be able to access everything I’ve been working on. I may not have the three hundred or so words I managed on chapter three of the WIP, but I have also found that reconstructing work I have already done sometimes–not always, but most of the time–turns out better than the work I’d already done. So, yes, I am going to try to do that this weekend, and get some other work done. I have more things on the “get done” list than is likely to actually get done (as always), but hey, it is what it is, you know?

Obviously, as always, there is cleaning I want to do, and there are some books I want to read–Alison Gaylin’s Never Look Back in particular, which I’ve started and is amazing thus far–and I also need, at some point, to do some book review blog posts. I think I may have taken too much time between reading the last two books I read and writing about them; we shall see, I suppose, once I actually start writing about them.

But this morning I feel good and ready to go; rested and better and all about getting things done today, which is quite lovely. I hope this motivation lasts, frankly–although it’s pretty easy to see it going south fairly soon–it doesn’t really take very much for me to get off track. But this morning I am going to do some writing and do some laundry and some cleaning and perhaps some organizing and we’ll see where the day takes us, shan’t we? I am also going to spend some time writing answers to my emails, which I will send on Monday morning (email begets email; so I stopped answering emails on the weekends several years ago and it felt marvelous; it still does, actually).

And now, back to the spice mines. Have a lovely good Friday, everyone.

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Achy Breaky Heart

Monday, and only one more week until vacation and next week includes my departure to Bouchercon in St. Petersburg! Huzzah! I am really looking forward to this trip–you have no idea, Constant Reader. I am getting really excited.

I managed to focus and get two stories finished and revised and ready for submission, which I will do tonight after I get home from work.

I am still reading James Ziskin’s Cast the First Stone and really enjoying it as it hits its stride. It’s going where I thought it was going to go–although I am completely at a loss as to who the killer is or why or how etc.–and I really like the character of Ellie Stone, which means I am going to have to add Ziskin’s series to my must-read list, which is always kind of fun; I love discovering new-to-me authors who are terrific at what they do.

We also are nearing completion of watching the second season of Kim’s Convenience, and I am going to be terribly sorry when it ends, to be honest. I’ve become very attached to the Kims, and the actors playing the roles. It’s honest and funny and heartfelt; one of the better sitcoms I’ve seen in a while. I am also impatiently awaiting the release of Season Three of Versailles to streaming services, but will settle for  continuing to watch The Musketeers in the meantime.

The next, and final, story in Florida Happens is Reed Farrel Coleman’s “The Ending.”

BIO: Called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan and the noir poet laureate in the Huffington Post, Reed Farrel Coleman is the New York Times-bestselling author of thirty novels—including five in Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series—short stories, poetry, and essays.

In addition to his acclaimed series characters, Moe Prager and Gus Murphy, he has written the stand-alone novel Gun Church and collaborated with decorated Irish crime writer Ken Bruen on the novel Tower.

Reed is a four time Edgar Award nominee in three different categories: Best Novel, Best Paperback Original, and Best Short Story. He is a four-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel of the Year. He has also won the Audie, Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards. He has been signed by film director Michael Mann to write the prequel novel to the movie Heat.

With their kids moved away to far off Brooklyn, Reed, his wife Rosanne, and their two Siamese cats, Cleo and Knish, live in the wilds of Suffolk County on Long Island.

His website can be found here.

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Everything ends. He couldn’t argue that. But what he had tried to say to her all those years ago was it wasn’t always about the end coming, but how the end came. How mattered. It mattered a lot. It mattered to him then and it mattered more to him now as he stepped off the Southwest flight and walked to the rental car bus at Palm Beach International. When she had ended it, there was more to his life than there was now. There was a family and a career. There was still a family of sorts, but his wife was dead and the kids were moved away. His career had morphed into golf, sad memories, and revenge fantasies. Currently, how she had ended it mattered more than anything had ever mattered.

At the counter, the pretty young blond with impatient blue eyes asked if he wanted a free upgrade to a midsize car. It hit him, hit him hard so that the wind almost emptied from his papery old man lungs. Except for what he and Marlene had done for those ten years, he had always operated in a very narrow bandwidth. His life had been a midsize car. 

“You got a Corvette convertible?” he asked, barely believing the voice he heard was his own. “Red or yellow, something fast and sleek that makes a statement?”

The blond, her long silver-painted nails clicking on the keyboard, smiled at him in a way that made his blood run cold. Another old man looking for excitement on his way to the grave. But he hadn’t come here for her. Their ending would come as soon as she handed him the little paper binder and the keys.

“Yes, we have a red Corvette convertible. It’s in spot A12,” she said.

He didn’t pay much attention after that, wasn’t sure what insurance coverages he had agreed or not agreed to, wasn’t sure which gas option he’d taken. All that mattered was the red car in spot A12. The rest of his life, no matter how short, would no longer be easy to measure in bandwidth nor would he ever think of his life again as a midsize car.

“The Ending” is a melancholy story about how a man reacts to the end of an affair; an affair that was much more important to him than he realized until it was over. Coleman is a terrific write,r and this vignette really comes to life in his capable hands; once I read it, I knew it had to be the final story in the collection–so it could have a big finish.

I hope y’all have enjoyed my journey through the stories in Florida Happens as much as I enjoyed revisiting the stories.

And now, back to the spice mines.

I’m Too Sexy

How lovely to wake up to a terrific review of Florida Happens on the Mystery Scene website! You can read it here.

Huzzah!

I have to say I am very proud of this anthology, but even prouder that my story “Cold Beer No Flies” was also singled out for praise, which is lovely. As Constant Reader is aware, I don’t have a lot of confidence when it comes to my short stories, so those rare occasions when they get mentioned by reviewers is always a treat for me. (Which reminds me, I need to work on some this weekend. Sigh.)

It’s been a long week; I had trouble sleeping in the middle of the week but bounced back really nicely in the latter part of the week. Last night’s sleep was wonderful, long-lasting and deep and relaxing; I am still in sort of a rest-coma this morning. My kitchen is a mess–and something will have to be done about that sooner rather than later–and other than a social obligation today and a couple of errands that must be run (mail, prescriptions) the rest of the day is mine to do with as I please. The clock is running out on my Bouchercon homework, so I am going to need to curl up with James Ziskin’s Cast the First Stone in order to have time to read Thomas Pluck’s Bad Boy Boogie before Bouchercon, so I am prepared to discuss their books with the fine panelists on the Best Paperback Original panel. I also booked my rental car and paid for the  early check-in on Southwest–which apparently now is automatic; you don’t have to do anything and it checks you in thirty-six hours before your flight, which is actually kind of lovely. I need to read “A Whisper from the Graveyard and “This Thing of Darkness” aloud this weekend, and I want to start working on the revision of Royal Street Reveillon which I’ve been avoiding all month (now that the month is almost over, sigh).

So. Much. To. Do.

We started watching Kim’s Convenience last night, which is, simply put, a very endearing and funny show about a Korean family–the Kims–who own a convenience store in Toronto. I was worried, of course, that the show might deal in stereotypes, but the family dynamic and the relationships between the characters is very complex, and underlying it all is a deep sweetness; there is more to the Kims than you think at first, and the show is actually funny but not at the expense of the characters. Of course, I’m not Korean, so I can’t speak to its authenticity or to its not being offensive, but Paul and I are both really enjoying it. And Jung–the son who is estranged from his father for being a bit of a juvenile delinquent when a teen, even serving time in juvie–is sexy.  I highly recommend it.

The next story in Florida Happens is  “Frontier Justice” by John Floyd.

John Floyd’s work has appeared in more than 250 different publications, including Strand MagazineAlfred Hitchcock’s Mystery MagazineEllery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Woman’s World, Mississippi Noir, and The Saturday Evening Post. A former Air Force captain and IBM systems engineer, he is also a three-time Derringer Award winner, an Edgar Award finalist, and a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. One of John’s stories appeared in the 2015 edition of Best American Mystery Stories, and another is forthcoming in the 2018 edition.

John is also the author of six books: Rainbow’s End, Midnight, Clockwork, Deception, Fifty Mysteries, and Dreamland.

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The car was waiting in the alley, with Eddie Stark at the wheel and half a dozen cigarette butts littering the pavement below the driver’s-side door. Eddie had flipped a seventh out the open window and exhaled a lungful of smoke when he saw Charlotte Baxter stroll around the corner and head in his direction. Even from a distance, Baxter’s face looked as calm as always. Eddie Stark’s was sweating.

Baxter climbed in, set a thick brown attache case on the seat between them, and peeled off her honey-colored wig. She also took off a pair of glasses and removed two wads of cotton from inside her cheeks. Eddie hefted the case up and over into the back seat. It didn’t feel as heavy as it had been, twenty minutes ago, and he knew why: half its contents had been left in the building across the street.

With trembling hands Eddie started the engine and steered the big Lincoln out of the alley and into the downtown Tallahassee traffic. Finally he turned to look at Baxter.

“How’d it go?”

“Fine.” Baxter leaned back and closed her eyes. “Mission accomplished, package delivered.”

“Sure nobody recognized you?”

“Would you have recognized me? What they saw was a blonde with a chubby face.”

John Floyd is one of our best short story writers; I first met him at the Edgar Symposium several years ago when he was on a panel I moderated. He was nominated for the Edgar for Best Short Story for “The Ledge,” which I thought was simply brilliant. His work has been nominated and/or won many awards, and I am always excited to read a new story from him. He contributed a great story to Blood on the Bayou, “The Blue Delta,” and I am more than thrilled to have “Frontier Justice” in Florida Happens.

“Frontier Justice” is about a heroin ring’s decision to kill the investigating district attorneys by planting a bomb in their office. Charlotte Baxter, as seen in the opening excerpt, is the woman they hired to blend in and plant the bomb. But as always with a Floyd story, there’s more going on beneath the surface than is readily apparent to the reader, and the way the story flips on itself in the closing pages shows just how much mastery Floyd has over the form.

And now, back to the spice mines.