Love Touch

Tuesday!

Time keeps slipping through my fingers. There’s only one week left in July, and there’s so much I have to do before August 1! Heavy heaving sigh. There’s nothing else for me to do but gear up, buckle down, and get to work.

Yay?

In other exciting news, the Bouchercon program was announced and I have three, yes, three, panels this year! Such a bounty of riches!

They are all on Friday, September 7, and first up, at noon is:

A Nooner–The Sex Panel

Helen Smith (M)
Hillary Davidson
Christa Faust
Greg Herren
Catriona McPherson

Fun, right?

Then, at three:

Anthony Nominated Paperback Originals

Greg Herren (M)
Nadine Nettman
Thomas Pluck
Eryk Pruitt
Lori Rader Day
James Ziskin

and then, last but not least, at 4:

The Rainbow Connection–LGBTQ Inclusivity

Terri Bischoff (M)
Kelly J. Ford
Greg Herren
Kristen Lepionka
Catherine Maiorisi
CS Poe

All I know for sure is I will be ready for a drink at five.

Today’s story for the Short Story Project is “Witch War” by Richard Matheson, from The Best of Richard Matheson:

Seven pretty little girls sitting in a row. Outside, night, pouring rain–war weather. Inside, toasty warm. Seven overalled little girls chatting. Plaque on the wall saying: P.G. CENTER.

Sky cleaning its throat with thunder, picking up and dropping lint lightning from immeasurable shoulders. Rain hushing the world, bowing the trees, pocking earth. Square building, low, with one wall plastic.

Inside, the buzzing talk of seven pretty little girls.

“So I say to him–‘don’t give me that, Mr. High and Mighty.’ So he says, ‘Oh yeah?’ And I say, ‘Yeah!'”

“Honest, will I ever be glad when this thing’s over. I saw the cutest hat on my last furlough. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to wear it!”

“You too? Don’t I know it! You just can’t get your hair right. Not in this weather. Why don’t they let us get rid of it?”

“Men! They make me sick.”

Seven gestures, seven postures, seven laughters ringing thin beneath thunder. Teeth showing in girl giggles. Hands tireless, painting pictures in the air.

This is a story that leaves you wanting a lot more. Those seven girls? They are the entire military might of whatever side they are fighting for, and as the story progresses their gossip and chatting about clothes and make-up and the things girls theoretically talk about when they are in groups is interrupted because the enemy is launching an attack, and the girls go to work….and then go back to their gossiping and chatting once the battle is over and the enemy annihilated. Very reminiscent of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, I also think this would have made a terrific novel; the story really leaves you wanting more.

And now back to the spice mines.

59961988699ac4c62f2a733b8f4274ba

Give It Up

It rained overnight, and is still damp and gloomy this morning. There really is nothing like sleeping during a downpour, is there, the constant strumming of the rain, the comfort and warmth of the mattress and under the blankets, is there?

Yesterday was a crazy busy day for one Gregalicious, who got up in the morning and did some work, cleaned, and then walked to Comic Con for a signing and a panel. The signing was fun, and the panel discussion about creativity and creativity triggers was also a lot of fun; as exhausting and draining as it is to do public appearances, I also always somehow forget, in the nervousness and terror of having to speak in front of a room full of people, how much I actually enjoy talking about writing and creativity. So, there’s that. I then came home, watched the ice dance final at US Nationals, and then the Saints play-off game, which was a nail-biter down to the very last play of the game (GEAUX SAINTS!). We stayed up and watched the Golden Globes before going to bed; I also managed to get some brainstorming done in my journal, and I also read a short story, to keep the Short Story Project going.

One of the truly fun things about the panel was that Tom Cook was on it. Tom was an animator/director for Hanna-Barbera in the late 1960’s/1970’s, and of course, one of the shows he worked on was Scooby Doo Where Are You, which tremendously influenced me in the direction of mysteries and crime when I was a kid. So meeting Tom, and thanking him for the influence, was kind of a thrill for the weekend for me. I am starting to feel energized about writing again, which is very cool.

The short story I read was “East Wind,” from Daphne du Maurier’s The Doll and Other Lost Stories.

the doll

Nearly a hundred miles west of the Scillies, far from the main track of ships, lies the small, rocky island of St. Hilda’s. Only a few miles square, it is a barren, rugged place, with great jagged cliffs that run deep into deep water. The harbour is hardly more than a creek, and the entrance like a black hole cut out of the rock. The island rises out of the sea a queer, misshapen crag, splendid inits desolation, with a grey face lifted to the four winds. It might have been thrown up from the depths of the Atlantic in a moment of great unrest, and set there, a small defiant piece of land, to withstand forever that anger of the sea Over a century ago few knew of its existence, and the many sailors who saw its black outline on the horizon imagined it to be little more than a solitary rock, standing like a sentinel in mid-ocean.

“East Wind” is an early du Maurier tale, from early in her career (which people seem to want to divide into ‘pre’ and ‘post’ Rebecca); and in some ways the inexperience shows. The story is, as so many of her later stories are, very matter-of-fact; simply told with a move this  to that to the other; unemotional and simple. However, what is actually missing from this story that shows up in her later stories are layers of detail and complexity; stories like “Don’t Look Now” and “The Birds” have so many layers to burrow through, so much detail, and so much creepy, quiet horror that they continue to haunt the reader once the story is told. “East Wind” is an equally unpleasant tale, but doesn’t have the impact of the later stories in its telling.

As I started reading it, it reminded me of one of my favorite Stephen King stories, “The Reach”, which was the final story I think in Skeleton Crew, and was originally called “Do the Dead Sing?”, which is, in my opinion, a far superior title. That story was from the point of view of an old woman, dying in her bed on a cold, blustery winter night, and remembering something that happened many years ago–while also hearing her beloved dead one’s calling to her to join them. The story was brilliant and beautiful and haunting, and as I said, remains one of my favorite King stories to this day.

The du Maurier tale is similar in that it is about a remote island, where the inhabitants have very little contact with the outside world and because of a limited pool, have become more than a little inbred. The east wind of the title is brutal, blasting away at the little island and making the seas rough, so a brig of foreign sailors is forced to take shelter in the harbor, foreigners who don’s speak the same language. These exotic to the islanders strangers have an odd impact on the islanders, who become intoxicated in the strangeness and newness of this experience, which eventually leads to seduction and murder, changing and scarring the island forever; and of course, once this has happened and the east wind stops blowing, they get back in their ship and sail away because, of course, it was nothing to them. This is, of course, a terrific theme that du Maurier returns to again and again in her work; the dionysian influence of an outside force that causes trouble and then moves on without a care, leaving damage in its wake. The story itself, which is short and unemotional, is important as an early work because the reader, the duMaurier afficionado, can see how she developed themes she used extensively in her later career; her fascination with the concept of the unfeeling outside force on ordinary people’s lives, and the disruption such an influence can cause.

And now, back to the spice mines.

An Innocent Man

EPIPHANY. King cake season has officially begun! HUZZAH! Although…Christ on the cross, it’s Carnival season already. In fact, a month from tonight there will be parades. As I sit here shivering in my kitchen (although the sun is out) this morning, that thought blows my mind.

Anyway, Comic Con was very fun yesterday.

DS0NZsWW0AAhYQ4

And this was lovely:

DSz8qtXWkAAKhrF

And instead of name plates, they had a MARQUEE:

IMG_3550

How lovely to have one’s name up in lights, as it were!

DS3p5WqX0AIKPpS

It was a great panel, lots of great questions from the audience, and some great discussion and tips and hints about writing.

Then I walked home, and watched the live stream of the US Figure Skating National Championships, which reminded me that I had an idea for a figure skating noir, and even started writing the first scene in the book, so here’s yet another fragment for you:

The move is called a charlotte.

The move is not considered masculine so his coach will not let him do it in a program. But he’s proud that he has the flexibility to do it, and he always gets to the rink early so he can practice the moves he will never be allowed to do until he lets his Olympic eligibility go and scoring no longer matters.

Men don’t do spirals.

He reaches the end of the ice and goes into a curved turn, going to the inside edge and letting centrifugal force pull him back around so that he’s facing the other end of the ice. He turns and glides backward. He brings his arms together, crossing them at the wrists in front of his chest and explodes them out in a straight line at his sides at ninety degree angles. With his chest puffed out he bends at the waist, raising the left leg up, perfectly straight, the toes pointed as he brings his chest down to his right knee, grabbing the right ankle with both hands as he continues to glide toward the other end of the rink, his left leg raised in a perfect split, feeling the stretch in his groin and his hamstring. The stretch feels good and he works to catch his breath, his heart still thudding in his chest and his ears, the cold emanating from the ice slapping his cheeks, a drop of mucus hanging from the end of his nose as the slide slows.

When he is almost to the other end of the rink he pushes with his hands off from the ankle, bringing the back leg down and tapping the toepick on the ice, digging it in and launching himself up into the air, pulling his arms back in and together as he spins neatly in the air, ankles crossed and counting.

One….two…three.

After the third revolution he releases the tight arms, exploding them out at ninety degree angles to the side as his right foot comes down and his left leg goes backward. The blade of his right skate lands off balance, on the inside edge and hits a groove in the ice. There’s no way to save the landing. His ankle gives under the pressure of the force and he falls.

This is going to hurt.

Is all he has time to think before he hits the wet, glistening ice. He lands hard, chest first followed by the rest of his torso and his legs tangle. The impact forces all of his air out of his lungs and the thud sends jolts of pain, dull agonizing pain, through his ribs and he gasps for air as he spins on the ice, out of control and unable to stop himself until his crashes into the boards with his right side and bounces back off out onto the ice, finally coming to a stop with stars dancing in front of his eyes and his lungs gasping to take in the icy cold air. He lies there for what seems an eternity, the wet ice soaking through the sweatshirt he is wearing, his ribs aching, his legs screaming in pain from the lactic acid burning through the muscle fibers. He lies there, knowing he needs to get up and start moving before the muscles seize and tighten, knowing he needs to get back up on the blades and build up speed and try the lutz again, it has been drilled into his head so many times to get back up and skate, when you fall you have to get up and try the jump again and keep trying until you land it, otherwise you’ll become afraid and will never be able to land it, you have to be fearless, get up, get up, get up….

But sometimes he wanted to never get up. Sometimes he wanted to just crawl over to the opening, take off his skates and grab his bag and put on his shoes and walk out of the rink never to come back.

He gets up, his breathing still labored, his legs still aching. He starts doing crossovers, even though his legs are shaking, and he picks up speed, going faster and faster and it feels like he is flying…flying…and nothing will ever bring him down.

A little rough, but not bad.

And here’s Guillaume Cizeron, the sexy French ice dancer, for your Saturday viewing pleasure:

13187978_486739044862306_934340098_n

Breakdance

Another cold morning in New Orleans, but it is helping me sleep. I went to bed early last night (before eleven) and woke up at nine thirty this morning. Of course, the cold isn’t nearly as awful here as it is in other places, but still. It ain’t supposed to be this cold south of I-10, yo.

But I am living through it, persevering as it were, and as I said the other day, the cold spell is supposed to snap this weekend. I am, of course, going to be at Comic Con this weekend at the New Orleans Convention Center:

PANEL: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Thriller and Suspense Storytelling
DAY: Friday
TIME: 6:00-6:45pm
ROOM: 288
SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, THRILLER AND SUSPENSE STORYTELLING
What does it take to create stories and worlds in the science fiction, fantasy, or thriller genres and what do we hope to see in the future for these genres as well? Join Genese Davis (The Holder’s Dominion), Lilian Oake (Nahtaia: A Jaydürian Adventure), Bill Loehfelm (The Devil’s Muse: A Maureen Coughlin Novel) and Greg Herren (Garden District Gothic) as they unlock their writing process and experiences as creatives. The stories and worlds behind sci-fi, fantasy and thrillers will be revealed in this panel and hopefully any hinderances standing between you and your sci-fi saga, epic fantasy, or that heart-pounding thriller will disappear!
PANEL: Start Your Creativity Engines
DAY: Sunday
TIME: 2:30-3:15pm
ROOM: 291
START YOUR CREATIVITY ENGINES
Having trouble revving up your creativity engine? Writer’s block and general creator’s block often succeeds in stalling every type of artist at one time or another, but thankfully, there are creative solutions that can bulldoze those standstill challenges! With the right tools and inspiration, the wonderful world of art, writing, and creativity becomes your oasis. Join Genese Davis (The Holder’s Dominion), Tom Cook (Saturday Morning Cartoons) and Greg Herren (Garden District Gothic) as they divulge their experience when creating worlds and storytelling. Discover the routine, environment, and even networking and collaborative solutions that can bolster creativity and help you complete your artistic endeavors during this fantastic discussion!

I am signing at the Tubby and Coo’s Bookshop booth on Sunday before (starting at 1) and after the above panel (ending at 4). If you’re there, stop by and say hello, buy a book, and check out the merchandise. Candice always has lots of cool stuff in the booth, and the store is pretty awesome too–it’s on Carrollton, just up the street from Five Guys. I mean, you can go buy some books, and then wander over and have a fantastic burger and Cajun-style fries. How awesome is that?

I went over some edits on a short story this morning; there will be more info on that particular anthology as it develops.

And now, back to the spice mines. Here’s a hunk for your Humpday viewing pleasure:

a-shirtless-friday-16

My Love

Ah, Thursday.

At this time next week I’ll be in Toronto at Bouchercon! Woo-hoo! Although I glanced at the weather forecast and was horrified to see that it’s apparently winter already up there; forecasts in the 60’s? Dropping into the 40’s at night? Madness, absolute madness.

My panels, if you are there and would be so inclined as to hear me speaking, trying desperately to sound like I know what I am talking about (and usually failing), are:

 Best Anthology, which is described as Meet the editors of your anthology Anthony nominees.

Moderated by Sarah M. Chen, the panelists are Lawrence Block, Jay Stringer, Eric Beetner, Jen Conley, and Greg Herren (me!).  It’s Friday morning at 10 am, in the Grand West Ballroom.

 Reading the Rainbow, which is described as An LGBTQ panel.

Moderated by Kristopher Zgorski, the panelists are  Stephanie Gayle, Greg Herren (me!),
Owen Laukkanen, John Copenhaver, and Jessie Chandler. The panel is at 2:30 on Saturday, October 14th, in Sheraton Meeting Room B.

I will also be at the opening ceremonies on Thursday night, during which the Macavity Awards will be presented; I am nominated for Best Short Story. (Eep! At least I have lots of practice being at awards ceremonies where I lose.) I’ll be missing the Anthony Awards Sunday, as we will be flying home at the time, but it’s still quite an honor to be nominated.

Look forward to seeing everyone there!

Here’s your Throwback Thursday hunk for the morning, model/actor Ed Fury:

IMG_2417

One of Us

On Sunday, a panel I wasn’t on was asked by its moderator if they had ever met and embarrassed themselves in front of one of their literary heroes? I wasn’t on that panel, but had I been, my answer would have been “Yes, I met Stephen King at the Edgar Award banquet a couple of years ago and was a complete gibbering idiot.”

Although I am pretty sure he is used to that by now, it’s something that I still think about, and am embarrassed by, to this very day.

Then again, what DO you say to someone whose work you’ve admired for over forty years? Who inspired, and continues to inspire, you to this very day?

He won the Edgar Award for Best Novel that night for his book Mr. Mercedes. I have to admit I don’t read King the way I did for years; buy it the day it comes out and shut everything out and do nothing, watch nothing, ignore the entire world until I had devoured the book. I still haven’t read 11/22/63, haven’t finished The Dark Tower (have about four books to go in that series), put aside Doctor Sleep and Black House, and not only hadn’t read Mr. Mercedes, but none of the other two books in the Bill Hodges trilogy either.

Bad fan, bad fan.

But I took Mr. Mercedes with me on this trip, saved it for last, and just finished it a little while ago.

Whoa.

Augie Odenkirk had a 1997 Datsun that still ran well in spite of high mileage, but gas was expensive, especially for a man with no job, and City Center was on the far side of town, so he decided to take the last bus of the night. He got off at twenty past eleven with his pack on his back and his rolled up sleeping bag under one arm. He thought he would be glad of the down-filled bag by three A.M. The night was misty and chill.

“Good luck, man,” the driver said as he stepped down, “You ought to get something for just being the first one there.”

Only he wasn’t. When Augie reached the top of the wide, steep drive leading to the big auditorium, he saw a cluster of at least two dozen people already waiting outside the rank of doors, some standing, most sitting. Posts strung with yellow DO NOT CROSS tape had been set up, creating a complicated passage that doubled back on itself, mazelike. Augie was familiar with these from movie theaters and the bank where he was currently overdrawn, and understood it’s purpose: to cram as many people as possible into as small a space as possible.

As he approached the end of what would soon be a conga-line of job applicants, Augie was both amazed and dismayed to see that the woman at the end of the line has a sleeping baby in a Papoose carrier. The baby’s cheeks were flushed with the cold; each exhale came with a faint rattle.

The woman heard Augie’s slightly out-of-breath approach, and turned. She was young and pretty enough, even with the dark circles under her eyes. At her feet was a small quilted carry-case. Augie supposed it was a baby support system.

“Hi,” she said. “Welcome to the Early Birds Club.”

“Hopefully we’ll catch a worm.” He debated, thought what the hell, and stuck out his hand. “August Odenkirk. Augie. I was recently downsized. That’s the twenty-first-century way of saying I got canned.”

The book deserved its Edgar Award. Wow.

One of the things I love the most about Stephen King’s work is how incredibly well he draws characters; he even manages to make the worst of the worst, characters you absolutely hate, understandable.

The prologue to the book is, as you can see above, set in a line for a job fair outside of an unnamed city in Ohio’s civic center. In the relationship between Augie and Janice, the young mother, he immediately creates two characters you feel like you know–the older guy who’s lost his job and is worried about his future; the young struggling single mother who just wants to work so she can provide for herself and her child. These are working class people who are hurting, who are worried, who are willing to do whatever they have to do. But as the morning sun begins to rise, someone driving a Mercedes jumps the curb and deliberately drives into the crowd–the last we see of Augie is him lying down on top of Janice and her baby to try to protect them from the car.

The book is, actually, a taut, fast moving thriller that begins after the prologue; about a duel of wits between retired police detective Bill Hodges (who was in charge of the Mercedes killer investigation) and Mr. Mercedes himself, the killer. The killer is now stalking Bill–divorced, estranged from his only child, now retired and with nothing to do. Bill sometimes takes out his gun and considers eating it…and the killer’s plan is to drive Bill to suicide.

Instead, Bill is reinvigorated upon receipt of a nasty letter from the killer, and so begins a cat-and-mouse game that kept me turning the pages and up way later then I needed to be. Wow; what a great story! And I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series–there were some loose ends there that will be tied up in later books in the trilogy.

VERY recommended.