Friday, September 22, 2017

Happy Autumn! Five Things to Love

It's been a while since I've done one of these posts, but I like them because, although they're simple, they give everyone reading the blog an opportunity to join in. I enjoy when a blog post turns into a conversation.

So anyway, here are five things I love about autumn. And if you'd care to share five things YOU love in the comment section below, I'll randomly choose someone to receive a print copy of the Japanese translation of Fair Play.

Now perhaps you don't speak Japanese.

That's okay. I don't speak Japanese either. You will still enjoy this book because ILLUSTRATIONS, PEOPLE.

So.

Five Things to Love About Autumn.

1 - Idyllic temperatures. Fall in Southern California means cool, breezy nights and mild sunny days. The light is gorgeous. Luminous. The mornings smell of fresh-brewed coffee and a hint of something like damp earth and warm stone. It smells like the start of a new year, even though it's technically the wind-down of the old year. We use the fire pit in the backyard mostly in autumn. And those final, just-on-the-verge-of-too-chilly swims of the season are some of the very best.

2 - Sweaters. I love super-soft, warm and roomy sweaters. My cashmere coat sweater. The gray, green and purple pullover I bought on Orkney. The gray lambswool cardigan I wore the first night I went to dinner with the SO.

3 - The spooky vibe. I guess I partly mean Halloween, although I'm not really that much of a fan of Halloween. What I do like about it are the costumes and masks and spooky movies and spooky stories and spooky walks late at night when every skitter of leaves on pavement has you looking over your shoulder. There's something dark and mysterious about autumn, and that's what I love more than the candy...although I hasten to add there is nothing wrong with the candy.

4 - Baking. Serious baking starts in the fall. Pumpkin breads and pecan pies and bread right out of the oven, slathered in butter. All sorts of cookies and pastries and delicious flaky goodness. Yum.

5 - Going to bed early and sleeping late--and the snuggling that takes place in between. I sleep better in the autumn. I sleep better when I'm cold (not too cold of course--not so cold I wake up and start searching for socks). I read more in the autumn too, because there are few things cozier than climbing into a giant nest of pillows and blankets with a good book. Or even a bad book, if it's so bad it's funny.

Okay, what about you? What five things do you love about Autumn?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Author! Author! MEG PERRY

This morning we have another installment of Author! Author! with talented mystery maven Meg Perry, author of the long-running Jamie Brodie series. I've known Meg online for several years, but finally got to meet her last spring on Catalina Island. Watch out for the quiet ones. Just sayin. Meg has a brand new book out this week, which you can learn about right  here.

She's also on Facebook here.


Welcome, Meg! I'm so happy to have you here on the blog at long last. Is it true you're currently working on the fifteenth book in the Jamie Brodie series? What can you tell us about Published to Death? Any idea how long the series will run?

MP - I’m thrilled to be here! And yes, it’s true! Published to Death, Jamie Brodie Mystery #15, is nearly finished, and should be out in November. In short, there’s a conference of self-published authors being held on UCLA’s campus, and the keynote speaker (read: eventual victim) is one Mercedes Moran, who has made several million dollars selling 99 cent romance novels on Amazon etc., and who has made plenty of enemies (read: eventual suspects) in the self-publishing community because she is a terrible, horrible, no-good person. There’s also a cop who only speaks in clich├ęs. As for the series, it will wrap up at #20, in 2020, as Jamie turns 40. I’ve known for a couple of years now how it’s going to end.


Hahahahaha. It's tempting to ask who Mercedes is based on. However...do you listen to music while you write?

MP - No. I’ve tried, but I start listening to the music and get distracted. But I do construct a soundtrack for each book, tying key scenes to songs that fit the situation. (I publish the soundtracks on my Facebook page.) In the process I’ve discovered a lot of great music that I wouldn’t have
otherwise.


Sountracks, playlists, I love them! I'll have to check yours out. Were you Team Nancy (Drew) or Team Hardy (Boys) growing up? Or none of the above? What set you off on your own life of crime? 

MP -Team Nancy, until I grew up and got a look at Parker Stevenson.

Parker. Stevenson. Enough said. 

MP - Mmm hmm. I have to blame my life of crime on my grandmother, though, who introduced me to Agatha Christie. (Not personally. Only in the literary sense.)

That's so interesting. My grandmother was also a huge mystery fan. Everything from Christie to The Destroyer novels. :-D And what a nice little segue to the topic of ghosts. Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever had a ghostly encounter? How about extraterrestrials? You work as an academic librarian on a college campus, correct? So surely you MUST have met extraterrestrials?

MP - Oh, yes. Community colleges are full of sketchy characters, and I don’t mean just the students. Some of them must be ETs - it’s the only logical explanation. I haven’t had a ghostly encounter, but I’m open to the idea of their existence. There’s a lot of weird stuff in the world, and not just on college campuses.


Or publishing communities. Ba-dum-bump. ;-D  So, as previously observed, you're writing one of the longest running gay mystery series in gay mysterydom -- do you also prefer reading series, or do you enjoy standalones? Support your answer. 

MP -After lengthy scientific research (i.e., counting the series vs. standalones on my shelves and Kindle), I can unequivocally state that, as a reader, I prefer series. I’d rather get to know characters over time, feel as if I know them, watch them deal with their personal lives along with the crimes.


What do you love most about writing? What do you like least?

MP -I love the surprises that characters spring on me. For instance, in Hoarded to Death, when Jon Eckhoff first walked up to the reference desk, I had NO idea that sparks would fly between him and Liz Nguyen. But bam! There they were, flirting madly with each other. It’s as if stuff just falls out of my fingers onto the keyboard sometimes. That’s so much fun. What’s tiresome is going back through each manuscript, looking for all the places I’ve used “very” and “good” and replacing them with more sophisticated vocabulary. And I HATE writing blurbs. Ugh.

Does anyone LIKE writing blurbs? And will she come and work for us? What are the elements that make a Meg Perry book unique? What do you consider your strengths as a writer?

MP - My initial reaction was that my strength is Jamie himself! But in a way that’s true. I think the thing I’ve done best is to create a cast of characters that remain interesting over time, that continue to grow and learn and adapt, and that people care about. My characters also behave and talk like real people - which isn’t always the case in mystery novels. One of the best things about only writing one series is not having to remember who has what color eyes, or who’s allergic to cats. I have the luxury of knowing Jamie and his family as well as I know my own. I don’t know how you do it, frankly, keeping all the different couples in your series separate! Yikes!


Copyeditors mostly! :-D What's next for you? What can readers look forward to?

MP - I’ve been writing Jamie Brodie short stories for a while now, to fill in things that needed to happen in the guys’ lives but wouldn’t work in a book for various reasons. Some have appeared on my blog, some have appeared at the end of books. In late August I’m going to publish them all, plus a bunch of new ones, in an anthology. It’ll be called Dirty Laundry: The Jamie Brodie Short Stories. Then Published to Death will be out in November, and next spring will come Cloistered to Death, Jamie Brodie Mystery #16. Informally known as “Clinton’s Book.”


Oh! I love the idea of collected series shorts. How ruthless are you as a writer? What makes you decide to kill a character off? Have you ever regretted killing a character off?

I only kill characters when it’s absolutely necessary. I kinda felt bad about killing Matt Bendel, Elliott Conklin’s boyfriend, back in Psyched to Death, because Matt was a sweet kid. But he was so wrong for Elliott, and I needed a victim, so bye-bye, Matt. (That sounds pretty ruthless, doesn’t it?)


Yes, says the woman who ruthlessly killed off Taylor MacAllister's temporary partner in Old Poison. ;-D  If you could give aspiring mystery writers one tip on How to Build a Better Mystery, what would it be?

MP - Oh, there are so many… But here’s one I haven’t run across in any of the “how to write a mystery” books. Unless your mystery takes place in a small Southern town, don’t write stupid cops.

That's a good one for oh-so-many reasons! 

MP - Big-city homicide detectives are the cream of the crop, and they’re anything but stupid. I’ve read mysteries where the detectives are bumbling idiots compared to the amateur sleuth/star of the show. No, no, no. Have respect for your detectives. If you don’t think you should, read Ghettoside by Jill Leovy or Homicide Special by Miles Corwin. (Actually, if you’re going to write about homicide detectives at all, you should read those two books.)


I can rec Homicide Special, for sure. And speaking of homicide, do you think poison is a woman's weapon? What's your weapon of choice? 

MP - I haven’t poisoned anyone yet. YET. Let’s see...what have I used so far? Potassium injection, gun, hanging, a bust of Shakespeare, hot air balloon disaster, knife, strangulation, a Stone Age farming implement, knife, gun, strangulation, drowning, gun, gun, ice pick. Looks like guns win. (But my favorite of those is the Stone Age farming implement. Not a weapon you see every day.)


Er, no. And speaking of secret weapons, fashion magazines always ask this question: What is the one cosmetic or grooming tool you cannot live without? And do you have any idea why all these fashion models are always pretending the one tool they can't live without is their EYEBROW GROOMER?  

MP - Are they pretending? Maybe they all had eyebrows like Leonid Brezhnev before. As for me, give me a good old pair of tweezers any day. Not only are they essential for dispatching the stray unwanted hair, but they also serve as precisely the tool required to remove paper jams from document shredders. Which is extremely important when one has to shred a bunch of documents tout de suite. Er… I mean IF. IF one ever would have to shred documents… Hahaha! Forget I said anything.


Ha. We never forget ANYTHING on this blog. So. IS revenge best served cold or do you prefer room temperature? 

MP - NEVER argue with a Klingon. They tend to be testy. Cold it is. Cold, colder, coldest.


Is there any genre you'd like to tackle but you're kinda sorta afraid? 

MP - Postapocalyptic mysteries. Is that even a genre?


Probably. You would not believe what kids these days are writing. ;-D Okay. Tell us something surprising. Anything. Go on. Surprise us! 

I may be the only human in the Western world who has not read a word or watched a minute of anything Harry Potter.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Another Update Wherein I Offer Excuses

It's not like I want to miss deadlines and make readers sad. But stuff keeps happening and I keep missing the ball. It's uncomfortable. It's awkward. It's...not like me. Or at least not the old me. The new me...not sure.


It's been a weird year. I can't pretend otherwise. In fact, I'm flabbergasted to realize it's already September.  Half of October goes to Montreal and Bouchercon and meeting the SO's famille. Not a lot of writing will happen until I get home. I'm currently in the midst of edits for Murder Takes the High Road (non-negotiable because this one is due at the publisher's) and cooking up a quickie short story to keep the cauldron boiling.

Anyway, everything is completely off track, but still mostly doable before the end of the year. And even if something runs into next year, it will get done. That was the point of dedicating a year to catching stuff up (oh, the irony -- I need a catch-up year for my catch-up year).

So here's what I'm still planning on for 2017:

"Halloween is Murder" (a short story)
Murder Takes the High Road (although it doesn't come out until next spring)
Blind Side
The Italian translation of The Monet Murders
The Ghost Had an Early Check-Out (sequel to The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks)
In Other Words...Murder (the fourth Holmes & Moriarity)
So This is Christmas audio book (narrated by Kale Williams)
If Only in My Dreams - print collection of all my Christmas novellas

There is also stuff coming from publishers -- French, Japanese and Italian translations -- but I don't control that. Right now I'm just focusing on what I control. In theory.

I'm also starting to plan out next year. Again, the focus is going to be on catching up some of these long-promised stories like Ill Met by Moonlight (the sequel to This Rough Magic) and Haunted Heart 2 (Spring). There should be a good bit of audio too.  And there will be some surprises. No doubt for me as much as anyone. ;-)

Anyway, that's pretty much where we are as of now.






Friday, August 25, 2017

Author! Author! FELICE STEVENS

Welcome, Dear Readers, to another edition of AUTHOR! AUTHOR! Wherein I introduce you to some of my favorite writing friends...like today's guest, the delightful Felice Stevens.

Now, it's true that Felice does not write mystery or crime, but look. Nobody's perfect. What she does write is charming and heartwarming male/male romance. Her books are hugely popular--and with good reason. But more to the point, Felice is one of the nicest, most generous -- and genuine -- people you'll meet in this biz.

So without further adieu...Felice Stevens.

 Readers may not know that your day official day job title is Legal Eagle. I find it interesting that a lot of authors have a legal background. Why do you think that is? Do you think that some of the skills that make for a good lawyer make for a good writer?

FS - Well I could say because we are incredibly organized types, but I’d die laughing, because I’m the least organized person I know. I think, at least for me, that case law is like a story—the facts, the consequences of the facts and the ending. Plus we write SO DAMN MUCH. It was one of the reasons I became a lawyer and not a doctor. I can’t do math to save my life and I was a good essay writer.

 Do you eat breakfast? Did you know it's the most important meal of the day? What's your favorite breakfast food?

FS - Yes, mother. LOL I do eat breakfast. I love plain Greek yogurt with lots of fresh fruit. In the winter, I eat oatmeal with fruit.

 I have to eat more oatmeal! So we've established that you rock the contemporary male/male romance genre. Is there another genre or sub-genre you'd kinda, sorta like to try but haven't quite worked up the nerve yet? 

FS - Well, I do have a shifter story in the back of my mind. And I also have 3 full length and one half written MF Regency romances in my computer, sitting waiting for me to retire so I can go back and cringe at what I wrote in 2013. ;)  That should be interesting.

  Name three of your all-time favorite childhood books. Do you think those stories influenced your own writing? How so?

FS - I grew up on the Nancy Drew mysteries and moved on to Alfred Hitchcock anthologies. I always wanted to write a good mystery story. <grin> But that’s not happening. 

Note from Josh -- Well, it could! 

FS Continued: As for single books, I loved the Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland (I had to learn that "Jabberwocky" poem by heart and recite it for 5th grade English) and the original Wizard of Oz. As a teenager I fell in love with the Mary Stewart romantic suspense books. My love of reading is all thanks to my father. He was a prolific reader.

 What is with so many teachers insisting their pupils memorize "Jabberwocky"? It's not like is going to prove eventually useful in an argument. I know. I've tried to use it. As for the rest, the original Oz series is crazy imaginative--and probably not very PC, come to think of certain installments, but I remember being enthralled as a kid. And Mary Stewart! I love your taste in reading. Anywhoooo... Congratulations on being the first M/M author to be invited to take part in Amazon Kindle Worlds. Did you want to tell the at-home viewers a little bit about that? 

FS - Sure! Kindle Worlds are an Amazon only imprint that use already published series as a basis for creating new stories in that world. So, it’s basically fan fiction that you can now get paid for writing. Amazon took my Memories series and The Breakfast Club series since there is some cross-over and authors and readers who want to write a story about one of my characters, or create their own to live in my “world” can now do so and get paid. Unfortunately right now it is US only, but they are working to make it international.
  
That's excellent. Good for you, Missy! It couldn't happen to a nicer person or more deserving author. Next question. I've met your Mister and he's a hoot. How did you two meet?

FS - That’s one word for him! Haha. We met on a blind date. J We had a nice Japanese dinner where I broke date rule number one and had Udon. Totally messy but I guess it worked!  Although I have a funny story because he mentioned on our first date he didn’t like spicy food and I love it so my whole way home all I could think of was “How am I supposed to date a man who doesn’t like Mexican food?” P.S. He now loves Mexican food lol.

 :-D :-D :-D  Yeah, because anything else truly is unacceptable in one's life partner. AGREED. What do you love most about writing? What do you like least?

FS - I love the feeling when a character reveals their story. I love when the words flow and you’re typing away and before you look up you’ve typed a thousand or two thousand words without stopping. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, it’s exhilarating.

I dislike the way some think it’s a me vs. you environment. That if you do well, it means I can’t. I don’t like the thought of people coming into this genre simply for the money. I hate the thought of so much pulling us apart. For a genre that’s all about love we need to practice more of what we write about. I also dislike the uncertainty of publishing. You might think that’s funny for someone who isn’t the most well organized person, but I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen one month to the next. Probably why I don’t like going to court.

Well said, and I second all of that. This is a business that makes people crazy. But then you have to be inclined that way to want to write in the first place. 

Anyway, moving on. Fashion magazines always ask this critical question: What is the one cosmetic or grooming tool you cannot live without? And do you have any idea why all these fashion models are always pretending the one tool they can't live without is their EYEBROW GROOMER? 

FS - I have NEVER touched my eyebrows. Ouch. It even looks painful. I love Carmex. Lol I have to have it or my lips gets very dry. That and sunscreen because I’m pale and burn and have already had two bouts with basal cell on my face. Yuck.

 You sexy thang, you! :-D Readers of this blog love funny food allergy stories. Can you share any amusing near death experiences brought on by a food allergy?

FS - Oh what a fun question! Not. LOL I don’t have any food allergies but I once took chewable Claritin for my seasonal allegories and it swelled up my lips so much I could barely talk. My kids loved that. Haha.


 What do you think is the most important thing to remember when creating fully realized main characters?

FS - That they need to be imperfect. I know people have often said that they get frustrated by my guys because they make stupid decisions or they go back and forth. But to me that’s realistic. If everyone made the right choice the first time, we’d never learn from mistakes and I think that makes us more interesting. Plus it makes our characters more human. I’d rather have a person fumble and fall down and learn to pick himself up than be superhuman perfect from the start.

Uh, yes. And plus if everyone made the right choice to start with, there would be no plot.

 Do you consider yourself to be religious -- or even just spiritual? It's always a balance, but do you feel your work reflects your own feelings about faith and belief?


FS - I am to a point. I believe there is something out there. I do love watching those mediums, and wonder if they are all fake or if my parents are there watching me….Sorry, Mom and Dad. J And I also believe that if a hundred people make that illegal U-turn and don’t get a ticket, if I do it, I’ll be the one to get that ticket. So there’s that. Karma maybe? Yeah I believe in that.

 Ha! What are you working on now? What's out next?

FS - Oh there’s lots in the hopper. I have Under the Boardwalk which is part of Kade Boehme’s and my Landmarks series, based on different NYC landmarks. Under the Boardwalk is the story of Alexi, a Russian American man who’s never left Brooklyn and works on the Coney Island Boardwalk and Cam, the former opera singer turned teacher who sings on the boardwalk during the summer. They may be my sweetest couple yet.

 Then I have All or Nothing, which is the story of Rico, the closeted Cuban –American caterer from Learning to Love and Adam Barton, the fire fighter from Beyond the Surface who’s fighting some pretty big demons from his past.

There are also audiobooks a comin’. Kale Williams narrated the second book in the Through Hell and Back series, After the Fire and is working on the third and last book. Derrick McClain is right at his heels with Learning to Love. Seth Clayton is working on One Call Away and Nick Russo is hard at it with The Shape of You.

Just a few things as you can see. J

 Yeah, one or two. Ha! Favorite cocktail? 

FS - Margarita!

 I KNEW THAT. You've managed to build a pretty respectable backlist in record time. What's your secret? Do you have one particular book you're most proud of or pleased with?

FS - I don’t overthink things. I just do it. You might not think so but I’m not always on line yakking away. I wake up early and write. I write at lunch. I write when I come home before I have dinner. I don’t set word counts. I prefer to think in terms of chapters and strive for a chapter a day, but if I don’t and choose to play around on Facebook or if I am very busy at work, I don’t beat myself up over it.  I have almost a mile walk to and from work every day so it not only gives me time to prepare for my day, I think about my characters. When I get in front of the computer I have something loosely formulated to start with. I take those thoughts and run with it.

My book I’m most proud of? One Call Away. I love the characters and I wanted to show the Jewish religion in a positive framework. Too many books follow the theme of the forbidding religious father and that’s not always the case. Judaism is such a family oriented religion. I wanted my book to reflect that. I guess I’m tired of stereotypes. I wrote the book I wanted to read. Plus it took me a year to write and that’s crazy for me.

That's great. I love that. Now tell us something surprising. Anything. Go on. Surprise us!


FS - Despite all the traveling I do, I hate to fly. Makes me nervous as hell. Plus, I think we’ve discussed this before and you all called me an alien, I have never had a cheeseburger. Or eaten bacon. But I swear I’m human. J

(You do seem pretty in touch with the human heart, so I'll give you that one. ;-) )

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sneak Peek - MURDER TAKES THE HIGH ROAD

You will be amazed to hear I've had to do a bit of reshuffling my schedule once again. It's just that kind of year. We've got family visiting, I've got the usual big summer music gig at the end of the month, and a looming deadline for Carina Press. So I've jumped from Blind Side to Murder Takes the High Road in order to hit that deadline.

Blind Side is still going to happen, never fear. It's just being postponed a few more weeks. In the meantime, I'm enjoying reliving memories of my trip to Scotland a couple of years back. I'm using our tour itinerary, though changing names of hotels and so forth so as to not get sued by people with no sense of humor about murder occurring under their roof.

The unofficial blurb:
Vacationing librarian Carter Matheson must solve the murder of fellow tourists when someone begins picking off members of a mystery-themed bus tour traveling through the scenic highlands and islands of Scotland.


It's pretty much a classic cozy mystery with a generous dollop of romance and sex.

Here's an unedited excerpt:

 A gust of windy rain hit the small window in the corner. It sounded—and felt—like someone had thrown ice tacks at the glass. I opened my suitcase and dug around for the least wrinkled shirt I could find, and ended up selecting a black soft-wash long sleeve crew T-shirt. I remembered enough from my country dance days to know a ceilidh was not a formal event.

The door rattled noisily in its frame as someone banged on it.

“At this point the handyman's just going to be in the way,” I grumbled.

John leaned out of the bathroom and opened the door.

Trevor stood on the landing wearing a ferocious scowl and the blue cashmere sweater I’d bought him for his thirty-ninth birthday.

 “It’s for you,” John told me.

I gave him the look that speaks volumes, as we say in the librarian biz.

Trevor, too, was giving him a look. “Do you mind?” he said.


“Yep. I do,” John replied. “I’ve got thirteen minutes left to get ready for dinner and you’re about to take up way too many of them.” He withdrew into the bathroom once more, though the door remained open.
“Fine. Whatever.” Trevor swung back to me and realigned his glare. “How dare you go around telling everybody that Vance tried to shove you in front of a car?”

There wasn’t time to stop and argue. I hastily kicked out of the blue jeans I’d been wearing all day and pulled on a clean pair of black jeans. “I never said that.”

“Bullshit, Carter. Everyone on the bus was whispering about it.”

“I can’t help what people saw.” Okay, yes, I probably could have phrased that more tactfully. Trevor’s face got redder. I said quickly, “What they think they saw.”

“You sure didn’t try to correct them.”

I pawed through my suitcase for a clean pair of socks. It wasn’t that I didn’t have plenty of clean clothes, but from the state of my suitcase, you’d think Hamish had thrown our suitcases down a cliffside before stowing them in the bus’s luggage compartment. I threw a harassed look over my shoulder. “How do you know what I did or didn’t do?”

“I know you, Carter. I know how you operate. You’re doing everything you can to ruin this trip for me.”

That got my attention. I stopped digging through my suitcase, and straightened up so fast I’m surprised I didn’t throw my back out. “Explain how I’m ruining this trip for you?”

“Every time I turn around, there you are again with that accusing stare.”

Really?” John said from the bathroom. I think both Trevor and I had forgotten he was still in there.  I certainly hadn’t thought he could hear us over the sound of running water. We both stared at him, framed in the bathroom doorway, slowly, deliberately drawing the razor across his square jaw. He scraped away another snowy drift of shaving cream and said to Trevor, “Because you’re the one who keeps showing up at our door.”

 “Our?” Trevor looked even more taken aback. “How does this involve you?”

“It’s my room. Half my room.”

I think it genuinely threw Trevor. In any event it was a second or two before he turned back to me. “Do you really want to do this here?” he asked in a tone I knew only too well.

“I don’t want to do it at all. Look, I’m not accusing Vance of anything. I don’t think he deliberately pushed me into the road. If you’d shut up about it, people would lose interest in the subject.”

“He’s right,” John said.

“Nobody asked you,” Trevor snapped.

“If you’re going to have this conversation in my room, then I have a right to express my opinion.”

It probably wasn’t funny, but somehow at that moment, it seemed funny.

Trevor opened his mouth but I cut him off.  “Okay, time out. In fact, game over. Trevor, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not leaving the tour. And if that’s going to ruin it for you, sorry. I have every much right to be here as you do.”

“This is just more of your passive-aggressive—”

“Uh, no,” John said, rinsing off his razor. “That’s aggressive-aggressive.”

Will you keep out of it?” Trevor shouted. “This isn’t any of your business.”

The lights flickered and went out. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Farewell, my Lovelies


Angel's Flight
A couple of weeks ago, the SO and I went on a tour of Old Los Angeles. Well, Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles, not OLD (as in Spanish) LA. Anyway, I haven't been downtown--really downtown--in decades, although I do write about the area in stories like Snowball in Hell.

We rode the train down to Union Station and then walked from Union Station to a little oasis in the heart of Hell, known as Daily Dose Cafe where we had breakfast and waited for the tour group to arrive.

The tour was organized by a company known as Esotouric, and they describe themselves as Bus Adventures into the Secret Heart of Los Angeles. They're a bit informal, a little...on the zany side (I don't see that as a bad thing), and they definitely know their stuff. I'd like to have switched out the stop at Larry Edmunds Bookshop (the loose inspiration for Geiger's Bookstore in The Big Sleep) near Musso & Frank's for the Bradbury Building, but other than that I really enjoyed every single stop.

Probably the coolest moment for me was a completely personal (and a little weird) intersection of worlds. We were headed back from Hollywood and I suddenly started thinking that the streets looked familiar. Really familiar. I began looking for landmarks, and we suddenly passed through the intersection of a street called Bonnie Brae. Bonnie Brae is where my grandparents lived--it's where my mom lived when my dad started dating her. Later my aunt and uncle lived there and I was often there playing with my cousins. Which isn't all that remarkable, except that the last time I was there I was about four. Four years old. It actually gave me chills when I saw that street sign flash by.



Anyway.

A lot of Chandler's Los Angeles is gone, of course, but it's wonderful to see that many old, genuinely gorgeous buildings remain. Especially given that, unlike in Europe, the American thing is to raze old buildings and then build new ones on their graves. So much more money to be made that way! A lot of the remaining historic buildings are being purchased by foreign investors who typically don't have great reverence for the American past either, so if you write about old Los Angeles or you love architecture or you're curious about the way things use to be, I'd recommend getting yourself down there while there's still so much to see.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Killing It (A New Monthly Column for M/M Mystery Writers)

This morning's blog is basically just a signpost to a new monthly column I'm writing for Larissa over at BookWinked.

It's a long time since I've been interested in doing a monthly column, but a column on what's happening in the world of mystery writing and publishing -- specifically writing and publishing Male/Male and Gay Mystery -- seems to perfectly dovetail with my work on Writing Killer M/M Suspense and Mystery due out Winter/Spring 2018.

In the interests of finding any potentially-under-served* audience, a lot of male/male authors have turned to writing "mysteries." In what has become a brutally competitive market, writers are desperate to find any foothold (in fact, let's face it, that's how a lot of them came to be writing M/M in the first place). And that's okay. Since the first poet starved to death in his garret, authors have always scrabbled for a foothold in the publishing market.  What is NOT okay is putting out any kind of schmaltzy, vaguely suspense-ish crap and calling it a Gay or M/M Mystery. Mystery readers are a bit more difficult -- let's call it discerning -- than some other audience segments. They really do expect a decent mystery to be served with their romance.

And with so many aspiring (perspiring?) authors relying almost solely on output, advertising and promo to get the results they need, the author who comes along and knows her genre and can actually write will have a huge advantage. I'm not exaggerating when I say that consistently writing well is soon going to be the new secret weapon in the author arsenal.

To that end--and because I've pretty much devoted my life to the mystery genre, in particular the gay mystery genre--I want to help both writers and readers get the best books possible. I want Male/Male Mystery to be where you find the best books and the best authors.

Anyway, the column is called KILLING IT - WRITING THE M/M MYSTERY, and it's running August through December. Stop by and leave a comment as to what you'd like to read about and discuss over the coming months!


Friday, July 28, 2017

Five Entertaining Crime Documentaries You're Sure to Enjoy

1 - Sour Grapes - How a geeky twenty-something conned the world of wine collecting (and ended up as the first person convicted of wine fraud in the US). If you love wine, but hate the pretentious nonsense that so often supersedes genuine passion for the grape, you'll enjoy this one a lot. The real hero here is the unassuming but determined third generation proprietor of Domaine Ponsot, who travels to the US, determined to unravel the mystery of who is counterfeiting his wines.

Stream-able on Netflix

2 - The Jinx - Frankly chilling miniseries based on the life and crimes of Robert Durst (maybe you've seen the Ryan Gosling film All Good Things?). I was convinced of Durst's guilt long before the final episode. Even so, I felt a genuine sense of shock when I heard Durst's off camera comments. While it's true, his mumbles could be interpreted another way, I think this is one of those times you go with your gut reaction.

Available on HBO and Amazon

3 - Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery -  A really fascinating insight into the art world--and the art underworld. I've seen a lot of films (both fiction and non-fiction) on art forgery, but I don't think I've ever seen one as informative and entertaining as this. Up until this documentary I think I dismissed the idea that forgery could be, well, an art in its own right. And while I don't applaud what this master forger did, holy moly he's an engaging guy.

Streamable on Netflix

4 - The Keepers - Given that I turned my back on Catholicism at age thirteen when I dramatically refused to make my Confirmation (and learned that if you're going to cancel a party, don't wait until the day of the party to do it), I'm not sure why I have residual defensiveness about the Catholic church. All those jokes about pregnant nuns and pedophile priests? Not funny IMHO. Be that as it may, this is the heartbreaking and horrifying story of the (officially) "unsolved" murder of a young nun in 1969 -- and the determined effort of some of her students to find justice for her.


This miniseries might be exclusive to Netflix? Not sure.



5 - Soaked in Bleach - If you wonder why Curt Cobain killed himself...maybe he didn't. In fact, after seeing this documentary, I'm convinced he didn't. Ex-cop now PI Tom Grant makes a very credible witness, and builds, I think, a pretty impressive circumstantial case.

Streamable on Netflix


And one bonus offering. I've mentioned The Imposter before. Nearly four years after he disappears from his home in Texas, Nicholas Barclay turns up safely in Spain claiming he was kidnapped. HEA? Keep watching. It's sad and creepy--and a cautionary tale about how vulnerable guilt and grief can make anyone.

Available on Amazon and elsewhere.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Author! Author! CARROLL S. POE

Hello again and welcome to another edition of Author! Author! wherein I introduce you to some of my writer pals. Not all my pals are mystery or crime authors, but I'm always thrilled when someone is because, despite the sudden flood of people trying to break into the mystery genre, it's not as easy as I make it look. AM I RIGHT OR AM I RIGHT? ;-)

C. S. Poe doesn't only write mystery and suspense, but that's where she's really making a name for herself. I first met Carroll...well, honestly, I'm not sure. IT'S A MYSTERY. No, seriously, we interacted for a couple of years online and then I finally met her in person on Catalina Island a few months ago. WHAT HAPPENS IN CATALINA STAYS IN CATALINA. That is all.

Without further adieu, Meet my criminous little pal, Miz Poe.

Do you have a favorite cocktail? Can you share the recipe?

CSP - Not really. I usually stick with Whiskey Ginger or just whiskey neat.

Uh huh. We'll let that pass. What happens in Catalina stays in Catalina. So...why mysteries? What attracted you to a life of crime?

CSP - There's a thrill obtained from the uncertainty of a mystery that is unique. Who did it? Why? How does it end? Will the protagonist survive? The questions we, or at least myself, ask with a good mystery, build up a sort of adrenaline. We get to piece together clues, uncover an enigma and settle our innate curiosity to know more, all while building a sort of one-on-one relationship with the hero.
On more of a writer's level, I love how a hunt and the unknown propel a plot forward. Plus, I have a tendency to toss a lot of history into my books (great random facts for small talk at a party, try them sometime!) and when a mystery deals with murderous crimes, stolen items, etc., it's just begging for some sort of historical oddity to be inserted for good measure.

Standalone versus series. What do you prefer as a writer? How about as a reader?

CSP - As a writer, I like series more. But, but, but! I can admit when a book doesn't NEED to be a series and is quite capable of standing on its own. As a reader, I love a series that follows the same characters.

Yeah, they both have their pros and cons. Speaking of pros -- and cons -- is it true that your day job is bouncer for a night club? Why not? You look so young and innocent you'd be able to get the drop on drunks before they ever saw you coming. 

CSP - I can never get work as a bouncer because the clubs just keep carding me! Remember when the waiter on Catalina carded me? Everyone laughed. LAUGHED! But I'd be a great bouncer. Tiny but fierce.

I agree, Mighty Mouse. And also the money is better in bouncing, from what I understand. What do you think is the most important thing to remember when creating fully-realized main characters?

CSP - Rhys Ford said it perfectly, in that, 'sometimes people do things.' It's critical to remember--romance book or not-- that characters should have limitations and flaws. They are human and should act as such, and sometimes that means a character has to make the wrong choice in order to find themselves, learn a lesson, or win the guy in the end. Sometimes people do things.


Fun fact. Rhys was my first Author! Author! interview. Or maybe that was ZAM? Because she completed her homework first? But anyway, Rhys was one of the first, if not the first. So anyway, fashion magazines always ask this critical question: What is the one cosmetic or grooming tool you cannot live without? And do you have any idea why all these fashion models are always pretending the one tool they can't live without is their EYEBROW GROOMER?

CSP - In the magazine's defense, every time I see someone with wacky, out of control eyebrows that are attempting to crawl up their forehead, I kind of want to comb them.

How do you deal with the criticism that is part and parcel of any job in the arts?

CSP - Art is meant to move an individual. Whether I moved a reader to five star or one star, I did my job as an author. I touched them deeply enough that they were encouraged to say something. So as long as the science of my writing is firm (that being grammar, structure, the understanding and ability to build a cohesive plot) there is nothing for me to get upset about. Not every piece of art moves us in the same way.

So. True. And speaking of reviews and reviewers, have you ever broken a bone? Have you ever broken anyone else's bones? You must have because your day job is bouncer. Have any of your victims sued you?

CSP - My left wrist. I didn't keep it straight when I cold-cocked an ornery dancer being tossed from the club! What can I say, rookie mistake. ;)

Haha. I knew it! As I said to S.C. Wynne when we were watching you knock back those Whiskey Gingers, I bet she's broken that wrist cold-cocking customers! Ahem. Is there any genre you'd like to tackle but you're kinda sorta afraid?

CSP - I don't think so. I'm partial to mystery, contemporary romance, and paranormal (including Steampunk), so I write those. I am a selective reader of fantasy and sci-fi, but could never write those genres, especially sci-fi. My brain isn't wired for that, so I applaud authors who excel in those genres specifically.

One thing readers of this blog just can't get enough of are funny stories about food allergies. Can you share any amusing near death experiences brought on by a food allergy?

CSP - Mrs. White did it in the kitchen with the poison!

LOL. EXACTLY. So. What are the elements that make a C. S. Poe book unique? What do you consider your strengths as a writer?

CSP - Dry humor, witty dialogue, useless facts, and dead bodies often found in unfortunate circumstances. What? It's true. Has anyone read The Mystery of the Curiosities? I put bodies everywhere in that book. Like it was some kind of competition! In all seriousness, I think as a writer I am adept at snappy dialogue and weaving more than one genre together successfully, in most cases that being mysteries and romances.

 How many cats do you currently own? Are you in danger of becoming a cat lady? What about becoming Cat Woman? Crime may not pay, but it pays better than writing. Agree or disagree? Show your math.

CSP - Let's see... 3 cats, divided by my current age, plus the number of cats I wish I owned, equals the value of Faberge's long lost third Imperial Egg from 1887. That'd make me a millionaire if I took to a life of crime and cat-napped it. So I agree.

:-D :-D :-D What are you working on right now? What's coming out next?

CSP - I'm wrapping up edits on Southernmost Murder and writing Snow & Winter 3, but the next release is actually a holiday, contemporary romance called Color of You.

Are you religious? Would you be religious if you were falling off a cliff? What if you were pushed? 

CSP - *slowly backs away from cliff and gives Josh a wide berth.* I've got my eye on you, lady.

*Looks innocent while whistling aimlessly.* Tell us something surprising. Anything. Go on. Surprise us!

CSP - One time I crashed my bike while I was parked.

:-D :-D :-D There you have it, folks. The REAL C. S. Poe. You can find out more about Carroll and her work on her website and her Facebook page -- Oh! AND she's doing this really cool thing right here.  I think you might even want to kick in.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Blind Side playlist

Next up on the writing schedule is Blind Side, Book six in the Dangerous Ground series. It's been a while since I've written  anything about former DSS agents William Brandt and Taylor MacAllister, but I'm currently listening to Point Blank, which is the entire series collected in audio and narrated by Derrick McClain, and it's proving a very helpful refresher.

Since the series was already in audio (narrated by the wonderfully talented Adrian Bisson), you might be wondering why I decided to re-record it, and I suppose it's like remaking a favorite movie. Just because you have a great version, doesn't mean that you wouldn't enjoy another director's take or seeing another actor play the part of some beloved character. I like Derrick's work a lot and I thought it would be interesting to see what he brought to the series. I'm really enjoying listening, and I think you will too.

Meanwhile, here's the blurb for Blind Side.

With resources already overstretched, the last thing Will and Taylor need is another client.

And the last thing Will needs is for that client to turn out to be an old boyfriend of Taylor's.

But Ashe Dekker believes someone is trying to kill him, and Taylor is determined to help--whatever the cost.



Safe to say there will be some heartbreak this time around, but Will kind of brought it on himself. ;-)


And here's the playlist...

BLIND SIDE PLAY LIST 


Hello, Hurricane - Switchfoot

No, I Won't Back Down - Tom Petty

It is What it Is - Lifehouse

Scar that Never Heals - Jeremy Fisher

Run Down a Dream - Petty

Runaway Train - Soul Asylum

Trying Not to Love You - Nickelback

Where I Come From - Lifehouse

History - One Direction

Hurricane - Lifehouse

Something I Need - OneRepublic


Meanwhile, I don't have a firm release date for Point Blank in audio or even Blind Side, to be honest. After the fiasco of The Monet Murders release I'm a little skittish about preorders. But I'll keep you posted! 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth of July!

Every year the SO and I host a Fourth of July swim party and BBQ. Some years we've gotten pretty fancy with the menu -- one year it was slabs and slabs of ribs, one year lobster tails -- but this year we're opting for good old-fashioned hot dogs and hamburgers with all the trimmings. That way we can enjoy the fun too and not spend the whole time cooking and serving.

We always serve root beer floats for dessert because that's what my parents did when we were kids. :-)  Tradition is nice, so long as you're not strangled by it.

Anyway, if you're in the States, here's to a happy and safe Fourth of July!

 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Like a Nightingale Without a Song to Sing...

I'd say that I have spring fever, but I know it isn't spring.
Good morning!

It's been a while since I posted, and while I may go back and fill in some of those blank spots with some fun stuff, I thought perhaps it was time for a bit of a catching up.

June was...well, a really weird month. I think the early half of the year, with all the drama and trauma -- puppy rescue, writing conference, spills down hillsides, crazy deadlines -- caught up with me, and BOOM. I was visiting the doctor on a follow-up to the back injury and when they took my blood pressure it was high. Rather alarmingly high. In a way it hasn't been for years and years. Not since I walked away from being an evil corporate overlord with a huge corner office and the daily tirades/conference calls to go with it.

Nor did my pressure get better when the nurse cried, "Jesus Christ!!" and then took it three more times in a row. In fact, it continued to climb. (Unsurprisingly, IMHO.)

Anyway, the doctor and I had a chat and I confessed that my anxiety is sort of -- well, totally -- out of control. About things both great and small. For example, Marlowe the Mutt had his little doggie surgery the day before my doctor's appointment, and I was convinced he was going to die during the surgery. Which is just weird. I've had many dogs and a lot of them have had much, much serious medical emergencies than a routine neutering, and I always assumed the dog would be fine. And usually the dog WAS fine.

And Marlowe was fine too.

You've got me...who's got YOU?
It was not instinct or premonition. It was simply out-of-control anxiety. And I'm only partly kidding when I say I blame a lot of it on world events. I think the fact that a country like ours could elect someone like der Trump -- however or why ever it happened-- to the highest office in the land has really shaken my faith in my fellow Americans' commonsense and decency. It has shaken my faith that things usually turn out okay in the end. (Not that this is the end, and not that I want to get political, but this is the reality: our blimp is on fire and a vulgar, pathologically neurotic,  buffoonish madman is at the helm. Personally, I think anxiety is the reasonable and normal response.)

So the doctor and I chatted, with the end result that he prescribed Xanax. I dutifully filled the prescription, but did not take it. What I'm doing, what I've been doing for the past few weeks, is just...resting. Staying off line. Avoiding the news. Reading for Mr. and Mrs. Murder (the non-fiction book on pre-1960s husband and wife sleuthing teams the SO and I have contracted with McFarland), walking and swimming and even occasionally napping. I'm consciously working to Calm the Hell Down.

MOMMY DOESN'T NEED YOU ANYMORE!!!
And I am calmer. I'm answering email again--slowly--and getting ready to write once more (next up BLIND SIDE: DANGEROUS GROUND 6). I've lost weight, I'm sleeping better, my blood pressure is down--oh, and my puppy is healthy and happy, although he has taken to barking at the SO when he tries to enter the boudoir at night.

I've been thinking a lot about happiness. What does it really mean? Am I happy? If you're not UNhappy are you, by default, happy? And if you have time to wonder whether you're happy or not, doesn't it indicate you're too damned pampered and should be sent to the nearest work camp? What about Joy? What's the difference between happiness and joy? Does it matter outside of deciding which to use in a sentence? If I decided I didn't want to keep writing, what else might I do? Should I have kept teaching? And on it goes. I've been thinking about the future. The SO and I live a comfortable life--but we have very little saved for the future OR for the kind of medical emergency that used to destroy families -- and soon will again, if things continue the way they're going. Who knew old age was a preexisting condition!?

I mean, on the other hand, this is how it's always been for writers. Since when did I need or want a safety net?

Anyway, aside from a surplus of thinky-thoughts, everything is okay. I'm avoiding making new commitments though. I'm not making any promises and I'm not creating pre-orders beyond those already existing. Personally and professionally, I'm just taking things one day at a time.

So that was June. Half the year gone, baby, gone. It's going to be interesting to see what happens with the rest of 2017.

What about you? What do you think? Is the year going the way you thought? Better? Worse? Sideways?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

New Release - THE MONET MURDERS (Art of Murder Book II)

So, remember when I mentioned falling off a mountain (okay, it was just a little mountain, but still) and had to push the release of The Monet Murders back another month because I'd injured my back and was medicated and things were really not going well?

Well, I did finally manage to finish the book and it released yesterday. That's the good news. The bad news is, in my panic to get the file uploaded before the deadline, I somehow (see above: two kinds of prescription pain medications were in play) grabbed the wrong damned file. And because I'd already waited to the last minute, there was no way of updating until the book went live.

Which it did. Missing about 15,000 words. And necessary words, at that.

The correct version is available on Smashwords, Kobo...and shortly Nook and iBooks, but it sounds like it's still going to be another (possibly) 24 hours before the correct edition is live on Amazon. Which means roughly 3000 people got that wrong version.

This is embarrassing. I CANNOT APOLOGIZE ENOUGH. I am sincerely sorry. I know how disappointing it is when you've been waiting and waiting and waiting and then the thing you've been waiting for arrives broken in the box.

(And, by the way, thank you to those of you who have been so very kind and understanding about the mix-up. My first ever mix-up, I want to point out, in all these years and all those books. )

Most of the people who pre-ordered through Amazon will not see this post, or any of my other posts on social media, so...if you should hear someone cursing my name down through the ages, it would be very kind of you to let them know what's happening. If their Kindle account is not set for automatic updates, it's unlikely they'll know to click that Updates Available button.

Anyway.

BLURB:

The last thing Jason West, an ambitious young FBI special agent with the Art Crime Team, wants—or needs—is his uncertain and unacknowledged romantic relationship with irascible legendary Behavioral Analysis Unit Chief Sam Kennedy.
And it’s starting to feel like Sam is not thrilled with the idea either.

But personal feelings must be put aside when Sam requests Jason’s help to catch a deranged killer targeting wealthy, upscale art collectors. A killer whose calling card is a series of grotesque paintings depicting the murders.

EXCERPT:

For a time he was occupied in playing shuffleboard with the buses and delivery trucks and taxis clogging the crowded streets, but inevitably his thoughts circled back to the passenger in the seat beside him.
Given how irate Jason had been at being conscripted into Kennedy’s investigation, it was odd that what he mostly felt now was a sense of letdown, even disappointment, that Kennedy would not be returning.
But wasn’t it normal that his feelings should be confused? The situation was just…so strange. All those months. And when they finally did get together…
Nothing.
Worse than nothing. It was like they had never met. Never made lov— Oh, hell no. Not that. Never had sex. That’s what he meant.
His anger faded, leaving him depressed, disheartened. What the hell had happened to change everything? He just couldn’t understand it. He was baffled.
Yeah. Baffled.
The traffic lurched to a sudden standstill. Jason’s phone vibrated. He ignored it. Around them, a few impatient drivers vented their frustration with honks, but the seconds continued to tick by. Pedestrians in every size, shape, and color crowded the sidewalk beside them, darting around the cones and sawhorses and hoses of the workmen tearing up the pavement with jackhammers. The pound of the pneumatic drills was not as loud as the silence stretching between himself and Kennedy.
In disbelief, Jason heard his own voice—hesitant, slightly strained—break the silence.
“Look. Did I…do something?”
“No,” Kennedy said at once. And that was a relief. A relief that Kennedy did him the courtesy of not pretending he didn’t understand. In fact, it was as if he had been sitting there thinking the same thing as Jason. “It isn’t you. It’s nothing you’ve done or didn’t do.”
He didn’t elaborate, though, so Jason—who already felt like he was out on a very flimsy limb—had to stretch still further.
“Because I don’t understand.” Excruciating to have to put this into words. His face felt hot, and his heart was pounding as though this was a high-risk situation. He was not used to it. Not used to…caring so much. It wasn’t that he’d never been turned down before or even been dumped. It always stung, but it hadn’t hurt. Not really. Not like this.
Kennedy didn’t answer immediately, and Jason couldn’t bear the silence.
“Is it the promotion? Are you thinking that I would somehow trade on our friendship? Or that other people might think I was trading on our friendship?”
“No,” Kennedy said, again adamant. “I don’t think that. And I don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks.”
So what the hell was it? Because he was not wrong, not imagining things. Kennedy was confirming it was over. But he wasn’t telling him why, and that really was the part Jason needed to understand. They’d talked two weeks ago, and there had been no hint that everything was not…
Was not what?
Okay? Fine? Normal? None of that applied. They’d had a long-distance relationship that was more like phone tag. In other words, they’d had nothing.
And kudos to Kennedy for recognizing that fact and breaking it off.
Although this was more like passive resistance than breaking it off. But whatever. Over. Done. Finito. Let it go, West. It only gets more embarrassing from here.
A couple of excruciatingly long seconds passed while he tried to think of a way to change the subject, scrabble to the solid ground of…anything, for the love of God. How about them Cubs?
The traffic ahead of them crept forward, and Jason eased off the brake, letting the Dodge roll a couple of inches.
Because I care about you, Jason. More than I thought I could.
His eyes blurred.
Jesus Fucking Christ. Was he about to cr—tear up over this? No way. And sure as hell not when Kennedy was sitting right beside him. For God’s sake.
Kennedy said suddenly, “I…like you. Nothing has changed.”
Right. Except everything.
Jason made a sound in the back of his throat that was supposed to be…not what it sounded like. Which made him angry and enabled him to get out a terse, “Right.”
“But it isn’t…practical to try to…” Kennedy was picking words as painstakingly as somebody gathering shards of glass. “It’s not enough to…build on.”
Wow. Maybe he was misremembering, but getting shot three times hadn’t hurt this much. And anyway, what the hell did that mean? It’s not like Jason had been pushing for more. He had accepted Sam’s terms. Not that Sam had really given him terms.
He wanted to say something to the effect of what he had said in Kingsfield: Whatever. It was just supposed to be a fucking date.
But of course it wasn’t just a date. Not anymore. Somehow they had managed to move beyond that never-to-be date to something more. Something deeper. And yet less concrete than even a date.
It made no sense for him to sit here like his heart was breaking when they didn’t even know each other. It was ridiculous. Pathetic.
“It’s okay,” he said flatly. “You’re right.”
He felt Kennedy look at him, but he kept staring straight ahead. He shrugged.
“I should have told you sooner,” Kennedy said. “Made my position clear.” Had it been anyone but Sam Kennedy, Jason would have said there was guilt—regret?—in his tone. “But I like talking to you.”
“Yeah. Well.” He was relieved his voice had steadied again, because inside he was a churning mess of confused emotion. Mostly pain. “I liked talking to you too.”

Neither of them had anything to say after that, and the nearby crush and crash of broken cement filled the distance between them.


Buy it!
Barnes and Noble
Amazon (but maybe you should wait until tomorrow -- seriously)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Oh My Aching Back!

These might actually work
I'm way behind in updates and people are starting to get alarmed, so here's the update: I'm much better both mentally and physically. (Hopefully I didn't just jinx my recovery.)

Basically, I was recovering from that painful bout of sciatica (or so I thought) but progress seemed to be slow--I had this really awful limp if I walked any distance--and I thought I probably needed to push myself a bit more. Activity is actually good for sciatica. So is strengthening your core. I figured I needed a lot more of both. Which is how after a day of swimming, gardening and kung fu exercises I ended up in the emergency room.

That was a surreal experience. Happily, the memory is pretty foggy. Essentially, they were unable to help me. The injection they gave for pain had--I'm not exaggerating--zero effect. The pills they gave for pain, inflammation, spasm...were all ineffective. I could not eat, sleep or stay in one position for more than thirty seconds, and that went on for days. Three days, to be exact. I had three days of--again, not exaggerating--sheer agony before I was finally able to get in and see a GP.

Continental Plate?
The long and the short of it is three days of physical therapy a week for the next month and pain killers that actually work--but leave me mentally fuzzy (which is not optimum when you earn your living writing). I can eat, sleep, sit and even walk again. In fact, thanks to years of yoga and kung fu, I'm actually pretty flexible and still have excellent range of motion (to the astonishment of my physical therapist who says the patch of inflammation stretching from my back to my hip is as big as a continental plate).

There's nothing life-threatening here and I honestly feel silly even talking about it, except that my sudden disappearance needs some explanation.

Because sitting is really bad for sciatica, I'm using my chair time for writing--and basically abandoning all social media for now. Some lovely friends are filling in for me on my Facebook wall with great posts about writing and reading mysteries, and I know my Goodreads group always has lots to chat about whether I'm there or not. I'm not really responding to email right now.

That's where things stand at the moment. Marlowe the Evil Mastermind Puppy is doing great--he took advantage of my weakened state to start sleeping with us, but that's okay--The Monet Murders is coming along, slowly but surely, which is how I'm coming along. Slowly but surely.

1222222222222222222222222222qww (That's Marlowe signing off for both of us till the next time.)

 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Tall Timbers Falling

Last month I was hiking with friends at Vasquez Rocks and I slipped and fell. Ungracefully and painfully. It seemed like the only damage was a badly sprained right ankle, but it looks like I might have done a bit more harm than I realized.

Anyway, for the past two weeks...well, I guess three weeks since it coincided with the arrival of Marlowe the Mutt, and he's been dogging (ha!) my footsteps for nearly a month now...I've been suffering from sciatica. Which is really, seriously unpleasant because it hurts to sit (which makes typing difficult) and hurts even worse to lie down (which makes sleep largely impossible for more than a couple of hours at a time). So it's been hellish, although I realize as health issues go, it's minor.

Cutting straight to the chase, I've had to push back The Monet Murders again -- for the final time, I assure you -- which I am very sorry about. Not least because my finances rely on sticking to deadlines. But there are some things that just can't be bulldozed through, and it turns out that this is one of them. I don't want to crank out a book when I'm sleep-deprived and unable to fully concentrate--even if it was physically possible, which at this point, it isn't.

So that's that. The book will now be out May 25th.

In other news, Marlowe the Mutt continues to thrive and grow. Well, he's not growing much, but he is thriving, and he's pretty darned adorable, if I do say so. When I first scooped him out of that canine hell, my sciatica was at maximum misery level, and I can't deny that I did think I'd probably made a mistake but too late to turn back now. Not a joyous thought, to be honest. It turns out I was wrong because we love the little monster dearly, and if you're going to be in pain anyway, you might as well have something to distract you.

I've had to rearrange my schedule considerably. Mornings are now spent taking MtM outside and then feeding and playing with him (he is partial to chasing his squeaky stuffed raccoon toy up and down the staircase at top speed) ..and from there coffee on the patio seems a fairly natural move (and so much more pleasant than diving into email, though, frankly, that mental adjustment took some doing). I've been trying to swim a bit although it's a bit chilly right now. Supposedly the best thing is to keep moving, gentle stretches, etc.

Patience. A hard word to live by.

So that's where we are. The day before yesterday I bought some roses and tea lights and odds and ends for the garden. Yesterday I started catching up on email. Last night I actually slept through the entire night, so maybe the tide has turned. It's possible life is getting back to normal. Fingers crossed.