One of These Nights

I have been saying for quite some time that some of the best crime fiction in print is being written by women. This is not to say that there isn’t great crime fiction being written by men these days–there are a lot of amazing male crime writers–but the women don’t ever seem to get the attention–or rapturous praise–that men do. Sistersn in Crime has dedicated itself for over thirty years to put women on the same playing field–recognition, reviews, awards–as the guys, and their hard work is starting to pay dividends.

That isn’t to say we don’t have a long way to go, however; but I do believe in recognizing progress once it’s been made.

I met Jamie Mason I don’t know how many years ago; I do remember it was at Sleuthfest in Orlando (thanks for the invite and another shout-out to MWA-Florida!), and we were on a panel together about place/setting. I think Laura Lippman, who was a keynote speaker/special guest, was also on the panel, and maybe one more person? My memories are hazy these days, my apologies. But I liked Jamie immediately, she was smart and had really insightful things to say. After the panel, Laura and I repaired to the poolside bar for a cocktail and lunch (it was afternoon and no one was out there), and Jamie tentatively asked if she could join us.

From such humble beginnings are friendships born.

I bought Jamie’s first novel that weekend, Three Graves Full, and read it several months later and LOVED it. (It’s still one of my favorite crime novels of this decade, for the record.) She handed me a copy of the ARCs for his second, Monday’s Lie, at Bouchercon in Long Beach either later that year or the next; I treasure that ARC, but as is my wont, didn’t want to read it until there was another Jamie Mason book in print.

That time is now. This summer sees the release of Jamie’s third novel, The Hidden Things, and she very generously send me an ARC of it.

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The video had been watched only forty-four times before Carly Liddell’s attacker was identified to the police. Viewer number forty-four was the prize tipster, and it was a good thing it was all resolved quickly. The young man in the video had killed a turtle over a span of hours one dull Saturday a decade earlier, at the age of nine, in the early weeks of the same summer he’d set his first fire. Since then, matches, rocks, the heel of his shoe, the long drop over the railing of a bridge, and other weapons of juvenile destruction had been urgently fascinating to him in ways that got him into trouble when he was a boy, in ways he’d learned to hide over the years.

He’d been stealing things, lately. And watching women.

He always would have made the news.

The video, a sloppy edit of footage from a home-security system, went on to become something of a phenomenon. It had been cut together in a hurry by a tech-savvy officer in the cybercrimes unit who was good with that sort of thing. It went up on the police website less than twenty minutes after the flash drive, loaded with the raw recordings from the home’s monitoring surveillance, had been plugged into his computer. Backslaps and high fives all around for that one.

I love the way Jamie writes.

She has a very distinct and different style from others writing today, which is, in and of itself, an achievement. She builds her stories from a small kernel, a small thing that might happen at any time any day to anyone, and it builds from there. In Three Graves Full that small thing was the main character’s decision to hire landscapers to redo the flower beds around his nondescript home; in The Hidden Things it’s a little more unique: a high school girl coming from school to an empty house is followed by an assailant who gets into the house behind her. She manages to fight him off and go for help; all of this is captured by security cameras inside the house. The local cops post the video on-line on their Facebook page in order to help identify the assailant, with the unexpected result that the video goes viral.

Videos go viral, after all, every day. So what makes this viral video memorable, different, from other viral videos?

Well, for one thing, neither the girl (Carly Liddell) nor her mother had known there were security cameras in the foyer of their home; so her stepfather has some explaining to do.

Secondly, something caught on video–the corner of a painting hanging in the foyer–catches the attention of some very dangerous people.

You see, Carly’s stepfather of four years has been keeping some seriously dark secrets from both her and her mother…secrets that start coming out now with serious consequences.

I absolutely loved this book. The characters are beautifully sculpted; Mason knows what makes people tick and also understands that small, barely noticeable touches are what make characters come to life as well as making relationships ring with honesty and truth and reality. The book is so good I deeply resented everything else that was keeping me from reading it–being tired, errands, cleaning, doing my own writing, my day job–and I literally had to finally push everything aside one day to read the second half in one sitting. Her style reminds me of a combination of Margaret Millar and Patricia Highsmith; literary but accessible at the same time.

It is officially being released in August; do yourself a favor and preorder it right now. And if you’ve not read her before, do yourself an even bigger favor and go read her back list. You won’t regret it.

Devil Woman

Oddly enough, I wound up not working on the book yesterday.

I did reread Chapter Eight, and it’s actually not bad at all. But it’s good enough for me to have to think about how to revise it and make it stronger; this is one of those situations when writing that I am afraid trying to improve something will actually ruin it–and even the fact that it’s only dreadful possibility–after all, the possibility that I actually will improve it is much more likely, and statistically more probable– is still paralyzingly terrifying. So it bears more thought than simply diving right in–and then, of course, I question that judgment–is this simply a stall tactic?–and yes, here is yet another example of why writers drink.

At least this one, anyway.

I had intended to get up early this morning, rather than allowing myself to wallow in bed until I finally got tired of lying there the way I usually do every Wednesday. The alarm went off, I hit snooze a couple of times, and finally turned it off….and yes, wallowed in bed for longer than I should have simply because I was so relaxed and comfortable. I’m not sorry that I did this, now that I am awake–this no regrets thing I am trying out; part of which is listening to myself and listening to my body; my body needed the rest else I would have been wide awake and willing to hop out of bed at the first sounding of the alarm this morning. My body must have needed to rest, so I rested it. When I was a personal trainer I used to advocate this all the time; listen to your body. The problem of course, for me, is that I’ve been told so often throughout my life that I’m lazy that whenever I’ve taken time to rest (my body or my brain) I’m so conditioned and so convinced that I am lazy that it’s my default: you’re just being lazy and making excuses for yourself to be lazy. This is so ingrained into my subconscious that it’s my immediate default; but be told “you’re lazy” enough times…well, you start to believe it. And then have to spend far too many years trying to unlearn that.

But, as I said above, Chapter Eight was in much better shape than I thought it was, and so I am going to reread it again today (along with Chapter Nine) and start working on it again. I don’t regret not working on the book yesterday–not at all. It wasn’t one of those what’s the point days, or I just don’t feel like it; it was more along the lines of I don’t really know what to do, and the chapter wasn’t terrible, so there was no urgency to fix it, if that makes sense? Had the chapter been horrible from start to finish, it would have triggered me to want to fix it, the need to fix it would have been overwhelming. But it was actually kind of good and complete and creepy and the mood and feeling were exactly what I was going for, and trying to force the revision/rewrite was…as I said above, I was more worried about messing it up more than anything else. But perhaps today–as the caffeine from my first cup of coffee begins to flow through my system and my body comes awake, I am beginning to see a way to revise this chapter…and in fact, at the moment I feel as though I will actually have the energy to not only do it but the next chapter as well.

We shall see how that goes, shan’t we?

But I am now on my second cup of coffee, and I also have to recognize that the weather is also changing again; which always has something to do with my energy levels and how I feel. The heat and humidity are coming back–we’re supposedly getting our first major heat wave next week (it’s only MAY)–and of course, the termites are swarming again. May brings the termite swarms; a plague of Egypt that descends on the city every year  around Mother’s Day.

I continue to read Jamie Mason’s wonderful The Hidden Things, and I am marveling at the way she plays her cards; the slow reveal of information that adds to the story. It opens wonderfully; a young girl coming home from school is victim of a home invasion, defends herself, and the attacker runs away, all captured on security cameras within the house. The police post the video on their social media page, hoping to get community help to identify the attacker; the video goes viral. But there’s an issue here–why did the husband/stepfather not tell his wife and stepdaughter there were security cameras inside the house? Why was the alarm pad not connected to the security company in order for help to come? And why is the father so nervous about the footage going viral? It’s fascinating, as a reader, to become so intrigued and curious, wanting to keep reading; as a fellow writer it’s even more interesting to see how she is constructing her story and creating her characters. Her debut novel, Three Graves Full, was quite marvelous, and this one is quite good as well. We have so many amazing women crime writers these days…

I also need to get to work on that article. Heavy heaving sigh.

So, I suppose it’s time to get back to the spice mines.

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That’s the Way (I Like It)

Friday and we have made it to the end of the week, Constant Reader!

I am most pleased, and am even more pleased that I woke up before my alarm this morning. This, as you can imagine, doesn’t happen as often as I would like, and I was not only awake but functional, so I went ahead and got up. The kitchen is a mess this morning, primarily because I made dinner last night after cleaning when I got home yesterday afternoon, so I should probably do something about that before I leave for my half-day this morning. I am hoping to run to Costco after work today, and then come home to my usual Friday chores–primarily washing the bed linens–and perhaps getting back on track with writing. I really need to get back into the habit of writing some fiction every day. I do have other errands to run this weekend–making groceries being the most important of those–and I absolutely have to clean the Lost Apartment. I’ve not done the floors in forever, and the kitchen windows are filthy, absolutely filthy.

I also would love to finish reading Jamie Mason’s quite marvelous The Hidden Things this weekend. This is Jamie’s third novel; her first, Three Graves Full, was quite a stunning and brilliant debut, but I’ve been holding on to her second until she’d published another so I would always have one of her books that I’ve not read on deck. It really is quite odd that I do this; but I never want to run out of authors I enjoy’s books. (I’m still holding back on some Mary Stewarts, Daphne du Mauriers, and Charlotte Armstrongs)

I’ve also had a strong breakthrough on my short story “And the Walls Came Down,” which I reread this week, and think I can fashion with another revision into something quite marvelous. So, that’s also on the agenda for the weekend–and I’ve decided that each week I am picking one of my short stories for a reread and a final revise. At one story per week, it’s going to probably take me the rest of the  year to get them all done–I had no idea precisely how many short stories I have that are in some sort of progress–but at some point I am also going to have to finish the ones I’ve started and never finished the initial draft for–I also need to go through my journals and start digging out the short story ideas I’ve jotted down over the last year, because there were quite a few of those as well.

Paul and I watched the first season–there were only seven episodes–of a Netflix show called Bonding–which was actually quite funny at times and rather clever. The premise of the show is two former close friends from high school run into each other as adults; she is now a dominatrix and he’s an aspiring stand-up comedian who has too much stage fright to ever actually get up and do his act. He winds up working as her assistant, and they begin to bond and learn from each other while negotiating their own hang-ups and possible new relationships. I’m not entirely certain this is an accurate depiction of the BDSM community, or even of what a dom is like; but it was clever and cute and funny; and up till the last episode, we greatly enjoyed it. (The last episode got kind of weird.)

I also got some new books in the mail yesterday: They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall; Miracle Creek by Angie Kim; A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab; and Upon a Burning Throne by Ashok Banker. I’ve bumped Rachel’s book to the “on-deck” position on my TBR pile; so I am hopeful I can get Jamie’s book finished this weekend so I can dig into Rachel’s.

I am also bound and determined to get caught up on the WIP this weekend, so I can start writing new chapters next week.

Or…I might just be a slug and lay around and not do a goddamned thing all weekend. It happens.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Friday, everyone.

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