I got my brake tag Tuesday afternoon (FINALLY) and so now my car is at long last legal; six days after I bought it and drove it home from the dealership. Woo-hoo! I also bought one for two years, which I didn't think you could do. Ah, well. There you go. I've also had a few almost panic-attacks over the last few days: a new car? Financing? What were you thinking how the hell are you going to pay for this what happens if this happens or this happens and how are you going to handle this and what if someone hits it/scratches it/steals it/vandalizes it and so on. I also panic when I am stopped at a traffic light and I see a car coming up very fast behind me.
Sigh. It ain't easy being a Gregalicious.
So, I rewarded myself after getting my brake tag by curling up in my easy chair with the delightful Laura Lippman's short story collection, Hardly Knew Her, and read the first story, "The Crack Cocaine Diet." Originally published in The Cocaine Chronicles, in 2005, this is a wonderful wonderful story.
I had just broken up with Brandon and Molly had just broken up with Keith, so we needed new dresses to go to this party where we both knew they were going to be. But before we could buy the dresses, we needed to lose weight because we had to look fabulous, kiss-my-ass-fuck-you fabulous. Kiss-my-ass-fuck-you-and-your-dick-is-re
Isn't that opening extraordinary?
Laura Lippman has long been one of my favorite writers, and every novel/short story I read from her is a revelation; every time I read something from her, I am always amazed. Reading her work is humbling for me, and yet also inspires me and pushes me to work harder, be more creative and to think differently about my own work. The way she can juggle an incredible, long-running series with powerful, creative and smart stand-alones is really a master class in how to build a successful career as an author.
This story, though.
When I wrote my first noir story years ago, the anthology editor's instructions were simply to come up with my own definition of noir and write a story that fits that definition. For me, the definition was 'the endless nightmare--someone innocuously makes a bad decision and things just keep getting worse, and the decisions made also get worse--as the choices are between bad and bad." That story was "Annunciation Shotgun" (one of my favorites), but years later I heard Laura on a panel define noir as "dreamers become schemers," which is a better definition. And boy does this story fit both definitions. Our main character and her friend made a bad decision--'hey, we need to look hot at this part our exes will be at, so let's do a lot of coke and lose weight'--which then leads them down a path that gets darker and darker and darker. The stakes continue to rise with each decision, with each new situation, and the surprises and twists come like machine gunfire. God, what a story. And I sure as hell didn't see that ending coming.
Here's a hottie for the day:
Lots of friends here! Huzzah and congratulations!!!
January 19, 2017, New York, NY - Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce, as we celebrate the 208th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, the Nominees for the 2017 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2016. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at our 71st Gala Banquet, April 27, 2017 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.
The Ex by Alafair Burke (HarperCollins Publishers - Harper)
Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (Hachette Book Group – Grand Central Publishing)
BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry (Penguin Random House – Penguin Books)
Dodgers by Bill Beverly (Crown Publishing Group)
IQ by Joe Ide (Little, Brown & Company – Mulholland Books)
The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Dancing with the Tiger by Lili Wright (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Lost Girls by Heather Young (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
Shot in Detroit by Patricia Abbott (Polis Books)
Come Twilight by Tyler Dilts (Amazon Publishing – Thomas & Mercer)
The 7th Canon by Robert Dugoni (Amazon Publishing – Thomas & Mercer)
Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)
A Brilliant Death by Robin Yocum (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)
Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)
BEST FACT CRIME
Morgue: A Life in Death by Dr. Vincent DiMaio & Ron Franscell (St. Martin’s Press)
The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle that Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder: The Unsolved Murder That Shocked Victorian England by Paul Thomas Murphy (Pegasus Books)
While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man's Descent into Madness by Eli Sanders (Penguin Random House – Viking Books)
The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale (Penguin Random House – Penguin Press)
Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life by Peter Ackroyd (Penguin Random House – Nan A. Talese)
Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime: Works and Authors of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden Since 1967 by Mitzi M. Brunsdale (McFarland & Company)
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (W.W. Norton - Liveright)
Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula by David J. Skal (W.W. Norton - Liveright)
BEST SHORT STORY
"Oxford Girl" – Mississippi Noir by Megan Abbott (Akashic Books)
"A Paler Shade of Death" – St. Louis Noir by Laura Benedict (Akashic Books)
"Autumn at the Automat” – In Sunlight or in Shadow by Lawrence Block (Pegasus Books)
"The Music Room" – In Sunlight or in Shadow by Stephen King (Pegasus Books)
"The Crawl Space” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Joyce Carol Oates (Dell Magazines)
Summerlost by Ally Condie (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dutton BFYR)
OCDaniel by Wesley King (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)
The Bad Kid by Sarah Lariviere by (Simon & Schuster – Simon & Schuster BFYR)
Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand (Simon & Schuster – Simon & Schuster BFYR)
Framed! by James Ponti (Simon & Schuster – Aladdin)
Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)
BEST YOUNG ADULT
Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger (Simon & Schuster – Simon Pulse)
The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group – Henry Holt BFYR)
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown BFYR)
My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier (Soho Press – Soho Teen)
Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor (Penguin Random House – Penguin Young Readers – Dial Books)
BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY
"Episode 1 – From the Ashes of Tragedy" – The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Teleplay by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski (FX Network)
"The Abominable Bride" - Sherlock, Teleplay by Mark Gatiss & Steven Moffat (Hartswood Films/Masterpiece)
"Episode 1 – Dark Road" - Vera, Teleplay by Martha Hillier (Acorn TV)
"A Blade of Grass" – Penny Dreadful, Teleplay by John Logan (Showtime)
"Return 0" - Person of Interest, Teleplay by Jonathan Nolan & Denise The (CBS/Warner Brothers)
“The Bicameral Mind” – Westworld, Teleplay by Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy (HBO/Warner Bros. Television)
ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
"The Truth of the Moment" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by E. Gabriel Flores (Dell Magazines)
Max Allan Collins
Dru Ann Love
ELLERY QUEEN AWARD
* * * * * *
THE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD
The Other Sister by Dianne Dixon (Sourcebooks – Sourcebooks Landmark)
Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson (Llewellyn Worldwide – Midnight Ink)
Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Tor/Forge Books – Forge Books)
Blue Moon by Wendy Corsi Staub (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
And it's done. I turned the manuscript of The Book That Would Never Be Finished last night in to my editor, and now all I have to do is write an essay due by the end of the month whilst I wait on edits on three, count 'em, three, manuscripts. Huzzah! I cannot even begin to express to you, Constant Reader, how absolutely delightful it is to be finished with that. I am torn as to whether it is any good or not--like I am whenever I turn in a manuscript--maybe someday that sense of being an absolute phony who's managed to fool people into thinking I am a writer will go away...and yet, over thirty books in print later, not so much.
Heavy heaving sigh.
Someday. I keep telling myself that someday I will be more confident about my writing.
Heavy heaving sigh.
I did finish reading Harlan Ellison's "Grail" last night, and enjoyed it. It's a very good story; I don't think it has the emotional impact of his best stories--then again, maybe if I'd had the time to read it all the way through in one sitting, it might have--but it's quite enjoyable.
Years later, when he was well into young adulthood, Christopher Caperton write about it in the journal he had begun to keep when he turned twenty-one. The entry had everything to do with the incident, though he had totally forgotten it.
What he wrote was this: The great tragedy of my life is that in my search for the Holy Grail everyone calls True Love, I see myself as Zorro, a romantic and mysterious highwayman--and the women I desire see me as Porky Pig.
The incident lost to memory that informed his observation had taken place fourteen years earlier, in 1953 when he was thirteen years old.
During a Halloween party from which chaperoning adults had been banished, it was suggested that the boys and girls play a kissing game called "flashlight." All the lights were turned off, everyone paired up, and one couple held a flashlight. If you were caught kissing when the flashlight was turned on you, then it became your turn to hold and flash while others had free rein to neck and fondle in the dark.
Aside: does anyone still say 'neck/necking' in reference to making out?
"Grail" is just that; Christopher spends the rest of his life looking for the holiest of Holy Grails, True Love--which isn't, as one might think, about finding the right person, but is actually a thing, an object; he traces it and spends his entire life on the quest for it. It's an allegory of sorts, but as always, Ellison's writing and characterization is superb. I do recommend this story; it's in his collection Stalking the Nightmare.
I also realized last night, in my excited frenzy about finishing the book, that I actually have Laura Lippman's short story collection, Hardly Knew Her, and even better, I have not read it (although I've read some of the stories already, in other collections), and I literally rubbed my hands together in glee. I will be reading one of those stories today, to discuss tomorrow.
Life is good.
And in honor of the quest for True Love depicted in "Grail", here's a sexy Cupid for you.
Monday, of a three day weekend. I sincerely hope everyone has a lovely day, and takes a least a minute or two to think about the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in this country. It still boggles the mind, doesn't it, to think that just sixty years ago (and less) segregation and Jim Crow were still the law of the land...we've made some progress since then, but we still have a long way to go.
Today will be spent finishing, at long last, the Book That Would Not Be Finished; I promised it (late) to be turned in today. It doesn't suck nearly as much as I thought it did last week, which is something, but I am not overly fond of this manuscript. I'm sure no small part of that is being utterly sick of it and the desire to be finished with it once and for all; it can be quite a relief to finish something and turn it over to an editor for a final go over once and for all. I have two essays and some short stories to work on the rest of this month; and then, once all of that is finished, I am going back to another couple of projects that have been lying fallow and waiting for me to get back to them. I do think 2017 is going to be a very good year. I also have another book idea I'd like to start messing around with; a noir with a gay main character. The working title for it is Muscles, but that may change as it gets worked on. I've had the idea since the early 1990's, and perhaps it is time to get to serious work on making that book happen.
I also am hoping to get the brake tag for the new car today. The Shell station on Magazine Street, where I'd been getting brake tags since we moved back here after The Lost Year in Washington in 2001, is no longer at that location! It was still open when we went to Pat's Christmas party last month, but it has since moved to Claiborne Avenue. I wasn't exactly sure where it was located--and I didn't take my phone with me on Saturday so I could look it up--so I just went on to the grocery store and figured I would check it out once I got home. They may be open today; I am going to call them in a moment to find out. If they aren't, I'll have to go on Wednesday morning on my way to work. Woo-hoo!
But at least I don't mind driving any more, so there's that. It should count for something, right?
I still haven't finished reading "Grail", either. I spent most of yesterday working on the manuscript, and then last night when I was burned out and tired, we watched another episode of Slasher--which we decided we may not continue watching, because it progressively gets worse and worse with each episode--and then started watching Westworld on the HBO app. I'm not really sure what to think of the show, after only watching one episode...I know I've seen some critiques of it that made me stop and think about it a bit, but the show is extremely well done, and is extremely well cast. The concept behind it is interesting. I barely remember the original film, with Yul Brynner, from the early 1970's, but I do remember thinking it was exceptionally clever. Michael Crichton, the mind behind The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, and Sphere, wrote the original screenplay for the original film. (I don't remember if I ever read Jurassic Park; obviously, I saw the movie, but I do remember reading a lot of his other work. You'd think I'd remember reading it, especially since I remember the other novels of his I read. Interesting....but now that I think about it, I did read it; I remember the ending. At any rate, we will continue watching for now.
I've also started thinking about what books to take along with me on my trip; I am leaning toward a Michael Koryta, an Ace Atkins, Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King, and a Laura Lippman novel I came across the other day while organizing that I never read (I know, right? Madness), The Most Dangerous Thing. It's always fun to suddenly realize you've not read something by one of your favorite authors; it's also kind of exciting.
So, as I prepare to head back into the spice mines for the day, here's your hunk for today.
Sunday of the three day holiday weekend, with an enormous pile of work to get done today. I didn't get as much done yesterday as I had hoped because--well, let's be honest, distractions and lazy. I am also in the process of learning how my car's gadgets and so forth operate--I didn't realize until yesterday that I also have, for example, a rear camera that turns the stereo screen into a television, so I can see how much room I have to back up and so forth. It startled me when I happened to glance at it yesterday at the Rouse's parking lot, but will come in handy for parallel parking. I also love that all I have to do is plug the iPod into the car and it plays beautifully through the stereo, and this bluetooth phone capability thing is life changing.
So, yes, Constant Reader, I am loving my new car. I probably won't love it quite so much when it's time to make the first payment, or renew the insurance (I paid it in full) the first time, but for now, it's kind of cool. I haven't named it--someone asked me if I was going to--but for now it's name is NEW CAR!!!!
And I find that I don't mind driving at all any more--although I do find myself getting a lot angrier at terrible drivers on the road now.
Last night we watched a really fun movie called Keanu, which is a Key and Peele movie, and it's quite funny; it's about the world's cutest kitten, and how it becomes the subject of a gang war, and Our Heroes also have to get the kitten away from the gangs. We also started watching a Canadian series on Netflix called Slasher, which seems to be a cross between the Halloween, Scream, and The Silence of the Lambs movies, but it definitely held out interest despite it's being so derivative (and let's face it, it's kind of hard to do this kind of show and NOT be derivative). We will definitely keep watching, as we've both lost interest in Ray Donovan during its second season.
I still haven't finished reading my Ellison short story, "Grail,"--I know, I know, bad Gregalicious, bad Gregalicious--but hopefully I'll get to that today. It's quite good, as all Ellison stories are--you really can't go wrong with reading Harlan Ellison's anything, really--but by the time I finished working yesterday and cleaning and after running the errands and all, I was tired and simply wanted to watch television. I hate that about myself--I should be able to read and engage my mind, but NO--but it happens every once in a while.
I still need to finish reading the Pelecanos. I'd hoped to be finished with the book before this weekend, and had fully intended to spend THIS weekend relaxing and cleaning and reading. Heavy heaving sigh. And I only have one more weekend before the trip to visit my parents....although I should be able to get a lot of reading done during that trip.
Heavy heaving sigh.
And I really want to get back to that short story I started, "Quiet Desperation." I also have figured out how to rework several other short stories I've struggled with--"The Ditch", "The Weight of a Feather", and "Death and the Handmaidens." This always happens when I am trying to finish something--I get all these other great ideas about new projects and how to fix others. It's annoying, because I would almost always rather work on that than what I am working on. I hate that my mind does this to me, without fail, every single time.
Heavy heaving sigh.
All right, I need to get to the spice mines. That spice ain't going to mine itself.
Here's today's hunk: