Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Key West Mystery Fest

Every year there's a jewel of a conference in one of the happiest places on Earth not named Tijuana, the Key West Mystery Fest. I go every year and you should, too, or at least this year. It is too small to get lost in and big enough that they bring impressive people to talk to us.

Last year I had a chance to meet Clifford Irving, he of the infamous Howard Hughes autobiography hoax, and later, at a reception at the Hemingway House, one of Ernest's grandson, John. He gave a nice talk and signed and inscribed a nice copy of his book to me.

Everyone breaks bread together and rendezvouses for dinner at a local spot. The closing event is a brunch on a dockside restaurant. After all the information and stories you get from local, state and national law enforcement, various writers, agents and other people associated with the business, you will not be sorry you came.

And if you're in the hotel pool and one of the iguanas decides to come out of a palm tree and take a watery short cut, be cool. It's Key West, man, it happens all the time.

June 22nd through the 24th. Seriously. If you're in Florida, it's a no-brainer. And it's much cheaper than other conferences held in the state. And if you're not in Florida, jump on a plane. What's better than a summer vacation in the Keys? It beats walking in the park with a stick in your head. Or whatever that phrase is.

I hope to see you--you--there....

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Quick Addendum and Blood Oath

I was just on Amazon's site and I forgot a biggie for my list of Books I Will Not Read: ANY BOOK that comes up as a "Sponsored" book when you do a search on a particular writer. That's a disgusting practice of Amazon's, especially when they list their sponsored books first, ahead of the author you're actually trying to look up.

And they have the effect of squeezing my own stuff out of what should be my own list, which is long thanks to the many introductory essays I've written in addition to my own books. When a certain former President declared certain companies "too big to fail," I thought that was full of crap. Amazon, however, may be too big to fail because there is simply nothing to replace it unless they really, really transgress.

Sadly, they made their bones as a bookseller but now they treat books with the same reverence as bird food and you don't want to know how many books I return because they simply have a robot drop them in an envelope and let the post office swallow it up. It's actually luck if a book arrives undamaged and it becomes a question of damage tolerance and "return fatigue" when I get book shipments. Yes, there are alternatives, and I use them, but the fact is that if I used them for everything I couldn't buy as many books.

And I still need to get bird food from somewhere.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Books I Will Never Read

Books with titles similar--they don't have to be exact--to Sins of the Father or The Good Son, The Good Wife, or probably The Good [anything]. Nothing with the word "Prodigal" in it. Almost certainly no book titled with a Biblic quotation. Definitely nothing that has "White People"--it just isn't funny (and no, you don't know how I mean that, you just think you do).

Copycat titles have worn thin, like the "Girl" books, although I've read several. I keep waiting for someone to write The Absolutely Last Damned "Girl" Book That Will Ever Be Published. That would be a must-buy in hardcover.

Titles derived from Shakespeare lines have also seen their time. Especially if I don't recognize the line, then I'm just distracted by how stupid and miseducated you've made me feel.

Books with the word Baby are okay if they reference dames, chicks, women, ladies, tramps or trollops, but not so much when they mean an actual "baby" baby. Unless the baby smokes a cigarette and rides a hog, I'm passing.

Don't tell me you can't judge a book by a cover. Why else do we put art on them? Titles are part of them, which is why publishers reserve the right to name the books whatever they want because they almost always retain cover design and part of that cover design is the title. I suppose we're lucky they like our names.

Nursery rhyme titles seem to be artifacts from the eighties but I guess it would depend on the actual one used. Little Miss Muffet isn't a big name draw. Besides, Andrew Dice Clay already used that one.

All of these rules can be broken, of course. There are always exceptions. They just need three little words below or above the title: James Lee Burke. That'll get me every time.

Help Each Other Out

Hey, there, it's been a while. There was a time there when I thought there was no way I'd ever recover from the busted hand but now, though still buried, I believe I can see the makings of a light. The long-awaited, much-anticipated BLOOD WORK anthology should be finished with CRX and bios tomorrow, then I'll get back to work on DOWN & OUT: The Magazine #4, and then I need to finish a new piece to read at a Noir @ the Bar event in Manhattan the Sunday after Thrillerfest.

This morning I saw where Anthony Bourdain killed himself. I thought what I always do when someone takes their own life: they needed someone to save them. When you're in the darkness it surrounds you and there is no way out. Somebody else must bring the doorway to you. How you sustain that is anyone's guess. I wish I knew the answer. I was not a fan but I was barely familiar with his work.

I just kinda sorta have the notion that the key to stopping depression-based suicides lies with the unafflicted. It's easy to let yourself be driven away by someone in the midst of self-destruction. If I'm looking out for number one, if I just can't do it anymore, that may be all I can do but what a pity for the pain I'm leaving behind if I could only see through it. Before someone destroys themselves they often try to destroy those around them, not that I'm implying Bourdain did any such thing. I only base those statements on what I've seen. Or think I have. I may spend too much time alone these days.

There are several changes I have to make on the Schedule page and I'll try to get to those after BLOOD WORK goes back to the publisher. Noircon 2018 has been canceled due to the death of one of the co-founders, so I won't be going to Philadelphia this year, at least as of right now.

As I mentioned above, I'll be reading a new piece at Shade Bar in Manhattan on July 15th, more details to come this weekend (hopefully--soon, anyway). And I'm registered for the New England Crimebake for the first time. I was there a couple of years ago just to sign books but not as a regular participant. William Kent Krueger was there and he said we should catch up later and I just said okay as the surge of people carried him past. Then I left. I feel bad about it, but it was the simplest thing to say, and I'm sure he has no recollection of it. He has an excellent story in BLOOD WORK. When I suggested an alteration to the last lines he told me to go jump. You get that sometimes.

I should post more on that book, too, so I will. Right now though, it is a quarter of two in the morning, I'm on my fourth course of antibiotics for that same damned sinus infection I wrote about a couple of posts and a few months ago, and I think it's time to floss and brush. I need to be careful that I don't puncture the balloon that is my face.

By the way I'm reading Danny Gardner's excellent A NEGRO AND AN OFAY: The Tales of Elliot Caprice and enjoying the style immensely. Pretend "ofay" is a nice word, Bobby, and pick up a copy. I'm afraid the title may put some people off but the book is too good for that. At least the first half. I've been staying up too late working and not getting enough time in reading.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Saturday Celebration

This Saturday, March 31st, I get to go to one of my favorite places in the world, Minneapolis's own Once Upon a Crime Bookstore. Formally owned by Gary Shulze and Pat Frovarp, it has been taken over by the quite capable hands of the Abraham family and on Saturday they are holding their 31st Birthday bash for the store!

From 12 Noon to 2:00 p.m. 26 native sons and daughters will show up to mingle, chat and sign in an informal meet and greet so this is an especially great event for people who have always been too shy to come out to these things before.

I'm driving in from New Hampshire and then heading down to Florida. Someone told me it's on the way. So stop on by and say hello or ask me to introduce you to someone you'd really like to meet. That's always cool.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Post-Conference Sinus Headaches

I just returned from the Liberty States Writers Conference in Iselin, NJ. Wonderful folks--though a lack of impulse control may have left a poor impression on some of them--and my sinuses are killing me. Before that it was two days at the Maryland Writers Association (the other MWA) conference. Jessica Williams knows how to run a conference. Every event has its issues; the trick is not letting them show. She's the magician that knows the secrets.

Friday was a day of hanging out and speaking with various people as they attended the all-day events put on by author John Gilstrap and motivational guy/storytelling coach Michael Hauge. Saturday was a full day with presenting a workshop, moderating three panels, sitting in on one, having one break period, and then a book signing session.

From there I did what everyone else probably did: I drove to New Jersey for the Liberty States Conference. Got to Iselin about midnight, asleep at one, up for the breakfast event at too early o'clock. I did my back to back workshops in the early afternoon but it hurt me that I hadn't been there the day before--this wasn't a crime fiction conference per se, so without having had a chance to hang out with and meet people, I was just a name on a piece of paper. I probably had about ten people for each workshop, "Real Detectives," or what detectives actually do as opposed to what TV and movies and bad books try to make us think they do. And a repeat of my "Creative Wordplay: Dialogue vs. Exposition--how to use dialogue and exposition to advance your story" of the day before. Altogether I think I presented that one to around sixty people.

Both conferences have already asked me back, which is my measure of success, and the kind folks at Liberty Writers were talking about extending my time and promoting "Creative Wordplay" so more of their attendees could come to see it. Which is nice.

All of this is before they get their conference feedback, though. Next door to my "Real Detectives" workshop was one on "Flash Fiction." On the way to my room I noticed nobody was smiling. I stopped by, remarked on it, people laughed, and I continued on. Back in my room, a few people wanted to take a few minutes before we got started. Okay, that's fine. Dangerous, but fine.

The words "flash fiction" popped into my mind and how the overall vibe seemed to be kind of down. I peeled off my Spider pullover and told everybody I'd be right back. I went to the next room where they'd left their door open. One of the three presenters was standing up, speaking. The mostly full room had their backs to me. I untucked my polo shirt, grabbed the hem and pulled it up and over my face, leaning backwards. I heard a muffled, "That's not funny," from the speaker before I left, returning to my room and my own workshop.

It's still early, but I have yet to receive a formal invitation to next year's conference.

Friday, March 16, 2018

An Update is Occurring as We Speak

Finally or at last or why not, as we speak an updated website version is being ftp'ed up to the GoDaddy servers wherever they are. This has a small and not very good cover scan of The Digest Enthusiast, issue 7, where editor and publisher Richard Krauss took a very long conversation and turned it into a nice twenty-some pages of interview. He liked it so well he commissioned a portrait created of me for the cover. How much it actually looks like me, well, ah, um, I'll leave it to other people's imaginations.

The sad story behind it is that the painting was done by a guy named Joe Wehrle, Jr., whom I'd conversed with in the past on Harlan Ellison's board back in the days when the man himself would actually spend time there. The way I understand it, Joe complained of pain in his ear on December 10th and passed away on the 12th.

When I got back in town from wherever I was, there was a package for me dated December 5th. The return address was in Joe's handwriting. Inside was a nice note, the original artwork, and a few prints of other work that he'd done in the past. It was the first time I'd ever opened a package from a dead man.

I sent Joe's daughter an e-mail and she sent back a very nice reply where she told me that Joe had completed other work since he'd done the thing for The Digest Enthusiast which I found a comforting thought. I haven't thought about why and I don't think I will. Overall it's just a sad story.


At last year's Creatures, Crimes & Creativity (C3) Conference in Columbia, Maryland, which is put on every year by Austin and Denise Camacho, Cynthia Lauth, and the other fine people at Intrigue Books, Jess Williams of the Maryland Writers Association talked to me about doing a workshop and moderating some panels at their conference this year. That's going to happen this coming Saturday, March 24th in Baltimore.

A few months after that, I received an e-mail from someone else asking if I'd do not just one but two workshops at their conference. I'd sent them something so much earlier that I'd actually forgotten about it and when the e-mail came, I thought it was for the same conference as the Maryland one. I wrote out a reply telling them that I was already coming but that I'd been dealing with Jess Williams when something made me stop and check it out....

This was for another conference completely. In New Jersey.

The first thing I did was delete my e-mail reply. Then I told them that I had another gig on Saturday but if they were willing, I could do both workshops on Sunday. The woman said she'd have to check with her board and long story short, this week is going to be busy.

On Wednesday I've got an all day dental thing going on. I think my dentist needs a new car. And when did these guys start working four-day weeks? And I used to wonder why people would want to work in other peoples' mouths. Clearly they knew something I didn't.

Thursday I head out for Baltimore by automobile. I bought a car that's supposed to be comfortable that even my bent and twisted spine can drive it for distance and so far it seems to be working. Friday I'll lurk the first day of the conference and hopefully relax a little after the hellish schedule I've been working (seriously). Saturday I'm on the floor from 8 until 6, presenting one workshop, appearing on one panel and moderating three others.

Good thing I'll have new teeth. At least temporary ones. Hint: don't guzzle a gallon of fresh-squeezed citrus juice every morning for years. Apparently the enamel of your teeth can't stand up. On the other hand, neither did all the Florida orange and grapefruit groves that are now office buildings. Try to find fresh-squeezed juice from an orchard anymore--I think your teeth are safe.

Saturday night I drive away to Iselin, New Jersey and present two workshops the next day, Sunday, March 25th. If I'm still able I'll drive back to New Hampshire that night, otherwise its hotel time. Stay around NH for a few days, then drive through the wild flats of Canada to Minneapolis for the 31st Anniversary event at Once Upon a Crime Books from mid-morning on.

And then, because there's no such thing as too many miles, or anything worth doing is worth over-doing, or hey, I haven't blown an engine in decades, I'll drive to Florida and see to a couple of things that need seeing to, like writing more of the next book and watching sunsets sink beneath lakes. Or maybe the Gulf of Mexico.

Wait, I just realize--then I'll have to drive back to New Hampshire, about 31 hours. And have another marathon (get it?) session with the dentist. I better have a better time in Florida than I'd planned.

How much trouble can you get in when you're on a soft food diet?

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

If Time Flies, When Will It Land?

I can't think of a time the past few years where I haven't been crying in my soup over not having enough time to meet my obligations. I've stated here in the past that one of the pieces of advice I regularly give to writers is to "find ways to say 'yes.'" On the other hand, I haven't found the answer to the question of what happens when you say yes so often you can't weather any bumps in the road.

Last year I broke my wrist. Could have had surgery. Should have had surgery. The doc put me in a cast, said I'd be able to type. Nope. That was seven months ago. I've been able to type the past couple of months but not only am I so behind, I'm going to PT twice a week, I'm supposedly a year out from "recovery," and at the same time the second surgery on my left knee (fourth total! Yay!) still has me literally limping along.

I was so bulletproof until I was twenty-seven. I could take a punch, I could fall of a truck going down the highway in Nassau, I could jump off upper story balconies at the U of M, I could jump down flights of stairs rather than walk them, spit out crowns after hard parachute openings... there was no limit to the stupid things I could do and walk away without apparent lasting damage.

Then one day, there came a day, some bony apparition came calling with its hand out, and took, and took, and took, and keeps taking. By the way, it's easier to write this after a therapy session after lunch and a dose of painkillers and muscle relaxants. Just saying.

I desperately need to update my website and put up 2018's calendar dates. There are going to be a lot of them. Seems like the Noir @ the Bars are drying up a bit lately. They take a lot of work and from time to time new people need to step up. I just hope they don't die altogether.

I'll be doing more conferences this year than in years' past, and I'll also be presenting at least three workshops. If anyone wants particular information on those, let me know ASAP. All three are in March, one is in Baltimore, and two others will be in New Jersey.

Lastly, a few years ago I wrote about a movie depicting the life of artist Jackson Pollock. Here is a link to more information about Pollock, his life and his art. Pretty cool stuff. It defies a quick once over, probably as most good art should, though "good art" will always be relative to us common folk.

"Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is."
-Jackson Pollock

Look for that website update but if you have any questions in the meantime, don't hesitate to shoot a carrier pigeon. Or shoot me an e-mail.