Yesterday I downloaded Upstairs at Eric's by Yaz, as well as a ridiculous amount of Berlin. Yay!
I also got a lot of work done; Baton Rouge Bingo is coming along nicely, thank you very much for asking, and I couldn't be more pleased. Making the deadline is an entirely different matter, so we just won't talk about that, okay?
Have I shared the cover art?
I like it!
Amie arrives tonight, which will be fun, despite the fact I have a rather lengthy day tomorrow.
It never ends in Gregworld.
And now back to the spice mines.
A day off! I don't have to go into the office today!
Of course, the to-do list is absolutely ridiculous, Constant Reader, you have NO idea.
Meh, what can you do? I shall simply apply my bloodied and battered nose back to Ye Olde Grindstone, and get back to work.
Seriously, I need to focus, which is never easy for me at the best of times.
But Saints and Sinners is this week, which is always a wonderful and lovely time for me. Lots of friends descending upon New Orleans--people start arriving as early as tomorrow; when I get home from bath house testing tomorrow evening Amie will be in my living room, which is always a treat. The Lost Apartment has been thoroughly cleaned in preparation, and there's just some odds and ends that need to be put away.
I've also boxed up everything paper having to do with Dead Housewives of New Orleans and Anything for a Dollar to put into the storage attic for now; I also need to make a new box for Baton Rouge Bingo, which I absolutely MUST work on today. I also need to get packed for the lengthy weekend in the Quarter; we are again staying at our usual haunt, the Olivier House. There will be, I am sure, plenty of pictures for your delectation, Constant Reader.
But in other exciting news, this arrived last week (one of the things I had to do yesterday was clear the enormous stack of mail which was threatening to take over my kitchen counter) and I cannot tell how you excited I am!
S. J. Rozan is one of my writing heroes (none of her books disappoint, and Winter and Night is one of my all-time favorite mystery novels), and she mentioned on Facebook after the Boston Marathon bombings that if people donated to any fund for the victims, she would send a signed copy of one of her books to the donor. Naturally, I was all about that, and did so--even girding my loins and sending her the obligatory email about the donation.
She sent me a signed, limited edition hardcover of Lydia Chin short stories, pictured above.
AND she introduced herself to me at the Edgars!
AND THERE'S A PICTURE!! (That's me, mystery reviewer extraordinaire and Raven Award recipient Oline Cogdill, Kris Montee who is part of the P. J. Parrish writing team, and S. J. ROZAN!)
Sigh. How I love my life.
And now, back to the spice mines.
I am scattered every which way but loose. Seriously.
So far today I've had a massage, met Jean at the gym, done laundry, cleaned my oven, worked on making the bookcases presentable again, gone to the Ace Hardware AND the Vitamin Shoppe, washed the bathroom rug, cleaned the toilet and bathroom sink and mirror, have worked on my book, and am working on editing a manuscript (a really good one, Constant Reader, which really excites me) and on and on and on, ad nauseum ad infinitum.
I have some serious ADD working today. Seriously.
Yesterday I wrote a rather lengthy post about racism and Live and Let Die; I didn't post it because I want it to simmer a little while longer. As a white male in a society, country and culture that is overwhelmingly tilted in favor of the straight white male (and I qualify for privilege on two of the three), I am not entirely certain I have the right to talk about racism in America; despite the fact that it sickens me on every level--just as I am never certain I have any right to talk about women's issues.
But I will say this to anyone who thinks we live in a post racial society--if you really think that, go look at the comments on any on-line article on the subject of race, President Obama, or Trayvon Martin--and then ask yourself again if you think we are living in a post-racial society; I now have a strict "don't read the comments" policy because I am tired of wiping off my computer screen after my head explodes.
Last night, as Paul and I relaxed and before we started watching Season 5 of Fringe we discovered that Christine was airing on the Fear Channel (I love that we get the Fear Channel now, even if most of what they show isn't particularly good), and so we watched for a while.
I saw the film at the theater, and have seen it a few times since--but not in years. I always thought it one of the better King film adaptations, but seeing it again last night, I have to revise my opinion of that. It doesn't really hold up well; but a remake would be awesome. Imagine what they could do with CGI for the car regeneration scenes!
It also led to a long discussion about film versions of King; and I realized that I had fallen into the trap of believing that no good films had ever been made from King's work--especially when I started listing the 'exceptions': Carrie (the original), Misery, The Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me, Dolores Claiborne, The Green Mile, Children of the Corn, Creepshow, Creepshow 2--one can't really make a case for that anymore, can one? I even liked the mini-series they made of The Stand for television.
I didn't like either version of The Shining, though, and Pet Sematary was awful, as was The Dead Zone.
I really want to reread Christine again, though.
Okay, back to whatever it was I was doing.
When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, the only relative who lived near us was my grandmother and her second husband; all the rest of the family was back in Alabama--so of course my sister and I spent a lot of time with my grandmother; she watched us a lot so Mom and Dad--barely out of their teens themselves--could actually have a night off every once in a while. This grandmother was the one who was undiagnosed bipolar/borderline personality disorder--but I don't really have a lot of memories of her being completely insane when I was young and she was watching us; it was later that I realized she was batshit crazy and I began privately referring to her in my head as Psycho Gramma.
Anyway, she LOVED LOVED LOVED old movies, and she was a huge mystery fan. I've mentioned before how she always encouraged me to write (although she wanted me to write 'the story of (her) life'--as if), and how she introduced me to Mary Stewart and other mysteries whenever I was looking for something to read. She also introduced me to old movies, and curiously, she not only loved mystery films but she was crazy about noir movies. (One does have to question a woman who allows her eight year old grandson to watch The Postman Always Rings Twice with her; even cut up for television it's kind of a racy story...) The first one I remember watching with her was The Strange Love of Martha Ivers with Barbara Stanwyck (sometimes I think Psycho Gramma might have been really a gay man; she loved Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, and Katharine Hepburn movies), and it was the first of many.
Flash forward to when I was a teenager and discovered a used book store in Emporia, Kansas, when I was about seventeen. This, by the way, is the same used bookstore where I first got a copy of Peyton Place and where I also got copies of Harold Robbins' earlier novels; my first copy of Valley of the Dolls also came from there. Anyway, I was most surprised to discover there that The Postman Always Rings Twice had also been a book; I purchased three James M. Cain novels that day--that, Double Indemnity, and Mildred Pierce (I've never quite gotten over how different that book was from the movie). I later went on to read Love's Lovely Counterfeit, which was my favorite of Cain's novels.
Over the years, I've gone back and reread those four novels constantly, and have been through several copies of each. I love noir; and while I still consider myself to be a novice when it comes to noir, I hope to become more expert the more time passes.
Anyway, I was having a wonderful conversation several months back with Megan Abbott (I've raved about her books before, seriously, Constant Reader, she is fucking amazing, you NEED to read her), and we were talking about Cain, and one of the books of his I've never read, Serenade, came up. Megan confessed it was actually her favorite of his, and I decided there was no better recommendation than that. I talked about it with Aunt Julie shortly thereafter--and she also mentioned how much she had loved it as well.
So off to ebay I went, and I bid on, and won, a James M. Cain lot that included Serenade.
Might I just say, FUCKING WOW?
I cannot believe this is not the most famous Cain novel; it's unbelievably subversive. I cannot believe it was originally published in 1937; I cannot believe it wasn't banned for indecency back then, I cannot believe it isn't SO much more famous than it is--and while I can certainly see why it was never filmed (and I doubt it could be today, either; I cannot go into why without giving spoilers), it really is a shame, an absolute shame.
If you like mystery fiction, and if you like noir--if you haven't read Serenade, you need to.
I HATE that I cannot talk about it more, but it would be impossible to do so without spoilers. I even thought about going behind a cut and discussing it--I may yet do so, if the desire to talk about this amazing work becomes more than I can control.
And a Happy Mother's Day to all!
You will undoubtedly be pleased to know, Constant Reader, that I finally finished both books I was reading--Ian Fleming's live and Let Die and James M. Cain's Serenade. Each deserves a blog entry of their own, of course, and I am still ruminating and digesting both books, which were each fascinating and interesting in completely remarkable ways of their own. I also started reading a book by Rae Foley called One O'Clock at the Gotham. I'd never heard of Ms. Foley before, but when I bought a lot of Victoria Holt books on ebay, included were some of hers--and yes, they were given those classic style Gothic type covers--yet the books themselves don't seem to be remotely Gothic any more than Mary Stewart's or Charlotte Armstrong's were. In fact, I am thoroughly enjoying it.
I need to get back to work on Baton Rouge Bingo; I've made quite a mess out of what I've already written, so I need to go back and revise, revise, revise. I so love revision. Sigh.
I've also been having some serious issues with the battery in my iPad; the same problem a friend had been having with hers--which she got taken care of by reinstalling the firmware and then reloading everything. So, fingers crossed that this took care of the issue. I'd hate to have to get another one. Oy. I think Apple's gotten more than enough of my money thus far.
Interestingly enough, I had an issue with syncing my iPod Touch (don't judge me) and had to also take it back to factory settings to get it to sync again.
Okay, the spice ain't gonna mine itself, Constant Reader.
I am still feeling recharged, refreshed and revitalized from my trip, and have high hopes I'll be able to get my book done on time--just in time for the official release of Dead Housewives of New Orleans.
It never seems to end, does it?
Anyway, over the past couple of days a couple of my short stories have returned to my consciousness; "Unsent" and "Everyone Says I'll Forget In Time."
A reader emailed me about "Unsent"--and, as its wont, it had made him cry. "Unsent" is a terribly sad short story, and is probably one of my proudest achievements in writing short fiction. I wrote the story originally in about 2004, with no place to publish it. It did see print eventually--in Spanish and German, but not English. When la Beck and Timothy were putting together Fool for Love, this is the story I sent them--but it was too sad for them to publish, so I put it back away and sat down and wrote a much happier romantic story, "Everyone Says I'll Forget In Time."
And just yesterday, 'Postroph blogged about THAT story; which is another one of my personal favorites.
It's interesting that these two stories, who have that wierd connection, have come up in the past couple of days. "Unsent" was included in my Todd Gregory collection, Promises in Every Star and Other Stories, so it's finally in print.
Oh, wait, I'm sorry--"Unsent" was included in Lawrence Schimel's Big Book of Gay Erotica--how could I have forgotten that? Lawrence emailed me to tell me that the typesetter had told HIM it made her cry when she was prepping the book for production.
To be honest, I cry whenever I reread it.
It is one fucking sad story.
But "Everyone Says I'll Forget In Time," which is also about dealing with loss, isn't nearly as sad as it is melancholy, and of course, it's also about hope--which I always love to write about.
Back to the spice mines.
I have to go tape a radio interview today with Paul about Saints and Sinners, which is looming on the horizon.
So is Mother's Day (note to self: MUST ORDER ROSES TOMORROW).
So much to do, so little time to do it in. Seriously.
But I'm actually getting excited about some things, many things, everything.
Must get back to the spice mines--but before I do, Constant Reader, I am going to leave you with this, one of my favorite pictures of the past weekend, courtesy of Rose Templeton:
From left to right: Harlan Coben, Laura Lippman, me, Margery Flax, and Daniel J. Hale.
In my humble opinion, not only as a mystery writer but as a lifelong fan of crime fiction, one of the most exciting writers to come along in the last ten years is one Megan Abbott. I know I've raved about her before, but I'm sorry; as I work my way through her canon I can't help myself. She's just brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating: she is the true heir of the amazing James M. Cain. I don't mean to give the impression that she mimics his style (I am currently reading a Cain novel that I hadn't read, and as I had just finished reading a Megan Abbott just before, I can see the striking differences between their writing styles very clearly) because she doesn't; she most definitely has her own style and her own voice. Yet as Cain was arguably the greatest noir writer of his time, a case can certainly be made that Abbott is the greatest of hers.
And how lucky are we that she's publishing in our time!
And like the others I've read, this book is haunting, disturbing, and just gets under your skin.
At the heart of the book is starlet Jean Spangler; the setting is Hollywood of yore, the days when the original noir films were actually being made and finding their audience. Yet Jean herself isn't in the book--the first chapter is set on the last day she was seen, and the book picks up two years later. The point of view is that of Gil Hopkins, whom we also meet in that first chapter--when he meets Jean Spangler and her African-American friend Iolene on the set of The Petty Girl. "Hop" is a reporter for a paper, but when the book picks up again two years later he's working for a film studio in the publicity department--he's one of those people who cleans up messes for stars and keeps the dirt out of the paper (which really makes one long for those days; I am so tired of celebrity scandals and sex tapes and on and on and on....).
And soon Hop is on the downward spiral that makes noir so disturbing, on the two years cold trail of Jean Spangler, a trip that takes him through the sleazy world that existed just below the glittering surface of the klieg lights and the tinsel...and as that descent spirals further and further down, it's not just about what happened to Jean Spangler, but it's also about what happened to Hop--and what's still happening to him.
Abbott doesn't waste a word, nor does she ever misplace one. Each word is careful chosen, each image carefully yet tersely drawn. She is SUCH a master of mood, of creating character with five words spoken out of a twisted mouth. And you can just feel the period, you can smell the stale cigarette smoke and the sour alcohol.
Her books work on so many levels that reading each one is like a master class in noir.
Coming soon! :)
Well, that was a helluva trip!
Last Wednesday morning, I got up at the crack of dawn to fly to New York for the Mystery Writers of America Agents and Editors Party that evening, and the Edgar Awards banquet the following night. (Whenever I make wisecracks about the so-called glamour of my life and career, henceforth I need to remember this trip. Seriously.
So, here I sit, on Monday morning at my desk, and it seems like it's been a million years since the last time I sat here, swilling coffee and writing a blog post. I am not even sure where to being with updating you, Constant Reader, on the exceptional glamour that was my life for the last five days or so.
How's about my room at the Grand Hyatt? Seriously, it was almost too glamorous for me.
It also had an enormous bathroom, and an enormous glassed in shower. Color me a fan.
Then it was off to the Agents and Editors party, where I actually met MARY HIGGINS CLARK:
I was too starstruck and nervous to ask her to be in a picture with me--although she was so nice, gracious, and charming, I have no doubt she would have smiled and said yes. She looks amazing for eighty-five, doesn't she?
She presented the Mary Higgins Clark Award for Outstanding Suspense Novel by a Woman to the magnificent Hank Philippi Ryan for her extraordinary book The Other Woman:
Hank herself is always the epitome of chic glamour.
That evening I met the amazing Oline Cogdill for a drink in the bar at the Grand Hyatt, and it was like we were a pair of old friends who simply hadn't seen each other in years and immediately picked up where we'd left off. LOVE her, and her wonderful husband Bill.
The next night, it was the Edgars. I hadn't planned on ever attending, as I never do black tie--but Margery Flax came up with an amazing suggestion for me, and I went for it.
Yup, a kilt! This is the MacGregor tartan, part of my ancestry (going back a ways). It would probably be more appropriate for me to wear the McDonald, but it's red and green and a little Christmassy. This photo was taken by the wonderful Megan Abbott, who I met for a drink before the Edgars. I had just finished reading her EXTRAORDINARY novel The Song Is You, which I will write about later this week. But while we were in the bar, Reed Farrel Coleman showed up, and Megan snapped this awesome shot of us:
Reed always can make me laugh, and is an excellent writer. I am behind on his work, and hope to get caught up soon.
At the Edgars, I sat in with these two GORGEOUS women:
Yes, the ALWAYS drop dead beautiful Jess Lourey and Harley Jane Kozak. I was lucky enough to have Harley sit on one side of me during the banquet itself, and my buddy Patricia King (aka Annamaria Alafieri) on the other. I adore both women.
And the Edgars themselves! My word! Can you imagine the thrill it was to be in the same room as Mary Higgins Clark, Ken Follett, Margaret Maron, R. L. Stine, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Linda Barnes, Hilary Davidson, Dennis Lehane, Ace Atkins, Gillian Flynn, Dana Cameron, Charlaine Harris, Sandra Brown, Walter Mosley, and so many other glittering stars of the mystery world? I felt like such an imposter. But EVERYONE is so delightful, kind, friendly and charming.
S. J. Rozan, who is one of my heroes, even came up and introduced herself to me. I could have died right then and gone to heaven.
After the extravaganza, many of us adjourned to the hotel bar for more drinks (like I needed more), and intense silliness ensued:
Here I am with Oline Cogdill (who was awarded the Raven Award for her outstanding contribution to mystery criticism), the fabulous Margery Flax, Kris Montee (half of the writing team that is P. J. Parrish), and Dana Cameron, whom I fell a little bit in love with--she has a great sense of humor and is just adorable.
The next morning, Margery, Oline and Daniel Hale (the executive vice president of MWA) rode the Acela together to DC along with Rochelle Staub and Frankie Bailey, where we caught the red line to Bethesda for Malice Domestic.
Ah, Malice Domestic.
I had the absolute best time there. My head is still whirling from meeting superstars like Peter Robinson and Harlan Cobin and Carolyn Hart (an incredibly kind and gracious woman). I bonded with the amazing Sara J. Henry (we sat next to each other at the signings, and she has a wicked sense of humor). I got to hang with old friends, and had some amazing food, and my panel was amazing. I was on it with Carolyn Hart, Ellen Byerrum, and Kathleen Ernst--and it was moderated by the exceptionally able Chris Roerden. All weekend long people complimented me on my recent piece on Phyllis Whitney over at the Jungle Red blog, or my piece on Daphne du Maurier in the recent Third Degree, the MWA newsletter. I met so many kind and friendly and wonderful people--but I think my absolute favorite was G. M. Maillet, whom I sat with in the bar one night and we just howled with laughter. I am really looking forward to her books; if they are half as witty and charming as she is, I will love them.
Yesterday I spent the better part of the afternoon with dear friends, and then it was off to BWI and a Southwest home and back to reality.
I already miss my old friends and my new ones. :(
And trust me, I've merely scratched the surface here, Constant Reader--just scratched the surface.
It truly is a wonderful, wonderful life.