Destiny

Sunday morning and my last day in Fort Lauderdale for Sleuthfest. I am about to go forage for coffee, come back up here, get cleaned up and packed. I am heading to the airport early–I have lots to read with me, and of course, I can always pull the laptop out and write if I want to while I wait for my flight. I struggled writing yesterday, to be completely honest; I was trying to write every morning over my coffee before heading down for the afternoon slate of panels (nobody needs to see me here before noon, seriously) and tomorrow I will be at my own home after sleeping in my own bed, and will probably do a final wrap up of Sleuthfest and the marvelous time I’ve had here. I am always nervous about public speaking on panels and so forth, and it’s lovely when it always goes well.

I was on two marvelous panels yesterday; the first was about how does one decide between an amateur or a professional detective, moderated astutely by Marco Carocari, and then the How to Write a Mystery panel, moderated by the always marvelous Oline Cogdill. I sat in between Jeffrey Deaver and Elaine Viets; so pretty much my head was spinning the entire time–I’m sitting next to Jeffrey Deaver and Elaine Viets!!!–and somehow managed to not make a complete fool of myself…or everyone was simply being very kind. Both panels I thought went really well, thanks to expert moderation and marvelous people on the panel, and I also discovered some marvelous new-to-me writers this weekend, including Yasmin Angoe (whose debut Her Name Is Knight is neatly packed into my bag to take home, and Genevieve Essig, who actually lives in the French Quarter! (I am buying her book today when I go downstairs.) Yes, I bought too many books while here–just what I needed, more books, right?–but you can never have too many books.

I also discovered yesterday morning when I wanted to work on the first chapter of Mississippi River Mischief that I started this part week (in a very lame and ineffective attempt to get the book started) that I actually already had started writing the first chapter a few months ago–I told you my memory is a sieve–and I then found some notes that I had made on ideas for the book and realized dumbass, you had already plotted almost the entire thing out already; it just needs tweaking. Needless to say, I was incredibly thrilled and delighted to discover that I was not, in fact, needing to start completely from scratch but had already made some great progress; so now I am going to finish the first chapter while figuring out the story, plot, and structure of the novel–there’s a lot I need to fit into it; more than I had thought, which makes the book even more ambitious than I was recently thinking it would be. Gulp. But I always say I like a challenge…

But on the other hand, as lovely as it is to immerse myself into the world of writing and publishing, that always has to come to an end and I get to return to the mundanity of the Lost Apartment and my every day life in New Orleans. Tuesday morning I return to the office (Monday is my work at home day, and I have a massive stack of data entry to do), and now that I won’t be traveling again until after Labor Day, it may be time to start going to the gym (despite having to walk in the miserable heat of the summer over there) again. I want to get in better condition–I don’t care, for the first time, about the marvelous side effect of changes to my body–because i am getting older, and need to start worrying about things like muscle loss and bone density and things like that, and a regular weight routine will help with that. I should also probably try to eat healthier as well–I know, who am I and what have I done with Gregalicious–because of genetic things, like high cholesterol and heart disease on both sides and eating better will help with that as well. I also need to stay focused and stop feeling so defeated by the enormous amounts of things I have to do all the time; I’ve simply got to get the organizing of my life under control so I can get things done and not feel so oppressed and defeated all the time.

And on that note, I need to get cleaned up and packed and going on my day. Have a marvelous Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you tomorrow morning from my desk in the Lost Apartment.

Ooh My Love

Sleuthfest Saturday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jungle Boogie

Yesterday, much to my delight and astonishment, Raven Award winning mystery reviewer and critic Oline Cogdill included Florida Happens on her annual “best-of” list for 2018. Check it out here, along with some other amazing books.

Being on a list–even merely as the editor of an anthology–with writers like Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott Alison Gaylin, Lou Berney, Jeff Abbott, Alafair Burke, Michael Connelly, and Lori Roy, among so many others, is/was a bit overwhelming. Florida Happens was such a dream project; perhaps one of the easiest open call anthologies I’ve ever worked on (with the caveat that selecting the stories was probably the hardest job; we had such a bounty of riches submitted I could have easily done three fantastic volumes), and all the contributors were dreams to work with, in addition to their exceptional talent and their amazing stories.

It’s also kind of interesting that in a year I sort of dedicated myself to reading and writing more short stories, that the first anthology I’ve done in two years should get such an honor, and it is an honor.  I am still shaking my head in disbelief, but this is a credit to the fantastic stories my contributors wrote. Brava, one and all. (They also were ALL dreams to work with; completely professional and utterly reliable.)

So, here’s another short story I read recently, “From the Queen” by Carolyn Hart, from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

Annie Darling shivered as she sloshed through puddles. Usually she stopped to admire boats in the marina, everything from majestic ocean-going yachts to jaunty Sunfish. On this February day, she kept her head ducked under her umbrella and didn’t spare a glance at gray water flecked with white caps and a horizon obscured by slanting rain. She reached the covered boardwalk in front of the shops, grateful for a respite. She paused at the door of Death on Demand, shook her umbrella, and inserted the key.

The chill of the morning lessened as she stepped inside her beloved bookstore. In her view, Death on Demand was the literary center of the small South Carolina sea island of Broward’s Rock. She tipped the umbrella into a ceramic stand, wiped her boots on the welcome mat, and drew in the scent of books, old and new. She clicked on the lights, taking pleasure from the new book table with its glorious array of the best mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels of the month.

I was more than a little surprised–yet pleased–to see Carolyn Hart’s name in the TOC of this volume. She is certainly, if not the queen, a member of the royal court of the cozy mystery. I don’t recall reading Hart before–I do remember meeting her at my one appearance at Malice Domestic; I think we may have even been on a panel together–but she absolutely charmed me with her generosity of spirit and kindness. I’ve always meant to read her work–again, a most prodigious back-list–and have several of her works on my shelves and TBR piles…yet “From the Queen” is my first (I believe) experience reading any of her work.

More’s the pity, too, as this story is carefully and meticulously crafted, completely believable, and her characters drawn so fully, deftly, and completely that I felt I knew them as well as most of my real-life friends and acquaintances. At the center of Hart’s story is an exceptionally rare book–a first edition of Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie that is not only signed but inscribed to the Queen of England (Mary of Teck, grandmother to the current Queen and wife to George V), which only makes it even more valuable. It is come into the hands of a friend of Annie’s, someone who is financially struggling and has no idea of its worth (bless her heart, she thinks it might be worth a hundred dollars) and is quite overwhelmed when Annie delicately tells her that it is not only worth much more than that, but so valuable as to be life-changing. The book is stolen, and it’s up to Annie to figure out who the thief is and get the book back for her poor friend. Wonderful, just wonderful.

And like Elizabeth George did in her story in this volume, Hart liberally sprinkles call-outs to many terrific writers and their books throughout the story, showing off not only her impressive knowledge of the genre but how much she loves it.

That only added to the story’s value for me, but I loved it regardless. Perhaps it’s time to move Ms. Hart higher up in the TBR pile, for certain.

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