Friday, June 26, 2020

A Happening is Happening!

Join me and the other authors from the FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK: AN M/M MYSTERY-ROMANCE ANTHOLOGY this Saturday for Footsteps in the Bar. We'll be reading from our stories, drinking, and chatting books and publishing with whoever manages to show up. I hope that will be you!

**Time: Jun 27, 2020 01:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Meeting ID: 884 3109 7465


LB Gregg
SC Wynne
Dal Maclean
CS Poe
Meg Perry
Nicole Kimberling
ZA Maxfield
Yours Truly

Friday, June 19, 2020

Baby Steps, Baby

Secret at Skull House is out in audio at all the usual places!

iTunes (eventually, I guess)

After his former flame disappears following their loud and public argument, Ellery seems to be Police Chief Carson’s first—and only—suspect.

I think Matt Haynes does a terrific job with these. I have a feeling his is a voice you either love or hate. I happen to love it and think he's the perfect narrator for these slightly quirky, unexpectedly gentle mysteries.

So that's the first bit of news.

The second bit of news is  as I'M WRITING AGAIN.

I mean, I was still writing, but without any real focus or aim. For example, drowning is technically a kind of swimming, but it's not typically what we're going for when we jump in a lake.

So yes, I'm writing. It's just a little oddball short story. I was going to put out the next collection of short stories--oh! Look at my nice cover...

And I realized I was about two stories short. A couple of stories I had been counting on are actually novellas. So. I asked my patrons for some ideas and they came up with a number of possibilities, several of which I'm folding into a story called Requiem for Mr. Busybody.

“Maybe you’ll be next, Mr. Busybody!”

 From well-respected investigative journalist to resident busybody.

When former journalist Michael’s elderly friend Maurice suddenly disappears, he fears the worst. But Michael is unable to investigate and no one is taking his suspicions seriously—least of all, Todd, Maurice’s too-slick, too-smooth, possibly guilty boyfriend.

The only person Michael can think of who might listen is Leonard Drake, now a Lieutenant Detective with NYPD.

In fact, this excuse to contact his ex might just be what Michael has been waiting three years for.

What I like about short stories--what I find helpful in my current state of mind (or lack of state of mind)--is the tight structure. There really is no wiggle room in a short story. There is no waffling. You have to stay precise and on point. And that's really good for my agitated cricket brain right now. 

So we'll see what happens. I'm not putting it up for preorders. If I finish in time, it will drop at the end of the month. And if I don't, it won't. 

Fingers crossed. 

Friday, June 12, 2020


THE MOVIE-TOWN MURDERS, final book in the Art of Murder series, is now listed for preorders on Amazon--and only Amazon.

That doesn't mean the book will be launched in KU or anything like that. It means, I'm simply getting my ducks--i.e, my Amazon preorders--in line. The book is listed for June 2021, but I'm assuming it won't take me that long to write. Frankly, I'm terrified of missing any more deadlines, but preorders are kind of vital to my financial success, so this is my compromise.

I'm listing preorders (for now only on Amazon) at a reduced price, and pushing those release dates out a year. That gives me plenty of breathing space. I will be listing the books everywhere shortly, but it's not an urgency because I'm really not writing much at the moment. GULP. Maybe we take a second out on our house. Maybe I pull myself together in time. I just don't know. I don't like knowing. But hey. That's our life right now, right?


ENYWHOOO. The wonderful Johanna Ollila did the cover--she's done all but the first cover in the Art of Murder series--and I think it's gorgeous!

You can read more about the book here.

Friday, June 5, 2020


New in Audio:

BLIND SIDE (Dangerous Ground 6). FINALLY.

Adrian Bisson returns to complete the series.

It’s a good problem to have: more business than they can comfortably handle on their own.
But with resources already overstretched, the last thing former DSS agents and newbie security consultants Will Brandt and Taylor MacAllister 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.

Sure, Will has always known Taylor had a wild past, but he was kind of hoping he’d never have to sit down and have a beer with it. But golden boy Ashe Dekker believes someone is trying to kill him, and Taylor is determined to help, no matter the cost.

It’s a bit of a jolt to have Taylor for once totally disregard his feelings, but Will is equally determined that “the cost” won’t be their relationship—or Taylor’s life.

Available through Audible, Amazon, et al.

Also new--well, newISH--in Audio:

MURDER AT PIRATE'S COVE (Secrets and Scrabble 1). 

Matt Haynes is narrating what I plan on being an eight book series. In fact, he's just completed work on SECRET AT SKULL HOUSE. Granted the way Audible is moving these days, it could be three months before the book goes live. :-D 

Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, Scrabble champion, and guy-with-worst-luck-in-the-world-when-it-comes-to-dating, is ready to make a change. So when he learns he’s inherited both a failing bookshop and a falling-down mansion in the quaint seaside village of Pirate’s Cove in Rhode Island, it’s full steam ahead!

Sure enough, the village is charming, its residents amusingly eccentric, and widowed police chief Jack Carson is decidedly yummy (though possibly as straight as he is stern). However, the bookstore is failing, the mansion is falling down, and there’s that little drawback of finding rival bookseller—and head of the unwelcoming-committee—Trevor Maples dead during the annual Buccaneer Days celebration.

Still, it could be worse. And once Police Chief Carson learns Trevor was killed with the cutlass hanging over the door of Ellery’s bookstore, it is.

Available through Audible, Amazon, et al. 

Friday, May 29, 2020


Since I'm having trouble staying focused creatively, I've been trying to catch up on a bunch of other things--I'm taking more audio titles wide, I'm doing more print single titles through Amazon, I'm outlining and charting books for the backside of this year and the front side of next year. Trying to be productive as best I can.

I'm also forcing myself to do a few things that I typically don't do. Live interviews, book readings, zoom chats.

I thought you might enjoy checking out a couple of those efforts. ;-)

Here's the interview I did last weekend for the Gay Mystery Podcast with Brad Shreve.

And here's The Thrilling Detective Website's Noir at the Bar (I read from Snowball in Hell)

Thank you so much to everyone who turned up for the Noir at the Bar. I wasn't sure about the protocol, so I was backward about giving a shout-out to anyone, but I appreciated it so much. So great to look out and see your names and faces and scenic backdrops. NEXT TIME I WILL DO BETTER.

Friday, May 22, 2020


Again, although this is going to pop up on Amazon with a publishing date of SAME TIME NEXT YEAR, that date will almost certainly move forward.

Here we have BODY AT BUCCANEER'S BAY (Secrets and Scrabble 5)

Cover Reveal: SCANDAL AT THE SALTY DOG (Secrets and Scrabble 4)

As you may have noticed, I was having trouble hitting my deadlines even before the pandemic (wow, that is still such a WEIRD phrase, isn't it?) and because I heavily rely on preorders, losing that option at Amazon is painful.

I mean, it all evens out in the end, and preorders actually cut into your sales rankings, but I've become so dependent on those big chunks of cash in the beginning of the book's life cycle that I'm kind of afraid to go back to selling the old way.

Right now Amazon is showing some humanity and restoring preorders to those of us--which turns out to be a lot of more authors than I had imagined (and is it wrong to be relieved by that?)--having trouble creating on cue right now. So while I've got my preorders back--and not knowing what the future holds--I'm hedging my bets and listing several books for preorder WAAAAAAAY out there. As in for this time next year.

Will it really take me until the end of May 2021 to write The Movie-Town Murders? I don't think so. I sure hope not! But life--as well as art--seems uncertain right now. So I'm just guaranteeing myself a few preorders over the coming year, just in case.

Which is a long way of saying, DON'T FREAK OUT OVER THESE DATES WHEN YOU SEE THEM. I'm not really going to give up writing for a year. I'm just extending those lead times as long as I can. I can push them forward without penalty--and I will!--but pushing them back is where the trouble begins.

Anyway, here's one of the new covers for the Secrets and Scrabble series. This one is for SCANDAL AT THE SALTY DOG.

Friday, May 15, 2020

It's Twelve O'Clock Somewhere

In the name of research for the Secrets and Scrabble series, I've been trying to create a cocktail called the Upside Down Pirate--and I'm having mixed results. (No pun intended.)

It started out as mix of Pineapple Upside-Down Martini and a Wrecked Pirate. Basically, I'm trying to sub vodka for rum and add blue curacao to the PUD (which is one of my all-time favorite martinis).

I think the secret might be cake flavored syrup? Or would that be too sweet?

Anyway, it's Friday night and I'm about to Zoom my bestie, and therefore it is cocktail hour. The SO is going to grill fake brats while we drink and catch-up. Drinks, a nice meal--he brought me roses the color of "bittersweet." It's a summery evening, but not warm enough for a night swim. Life goes on, and it's good. Different, but good.

I hope you're having a lovely evening--and will have a delightfully socially distanced weekend.

OH. Here's my recipe so far!


2 parts spiced rum
1 part coconut rum
2 parts pineapple juice (OR--tonight--I'm experimenting with coconut-pineapple juice)
Splash Blue Curacao 
Splash of cake-flavored syrup (IS THIS A MISTAKE???)
Fresh Pineapple garnish
Maraschino Cherries garnish

Add 1 cup ice to a shaker.
Add the rums, Blue Curacao, juice and syrup. Shake well. Pour in a martini glass. Garnish with pineapple and cherries.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Five Binge-worthy Television Shows

A lot of my fiction is inspired by real life crime. Not that I lift cases wholesale, but I'll pick a murder from here, a motive from there... But there's nothing like a familiarity with true crime to teach you how often real life has to be toned down to create believable fiction.

Since so many of us are still stuck home with 57 channels and nothing on (I'm assuming you've already seen Tiger King -- SHE DID IT, SHE TOTALLY KILLED HER HUSBAND!!!!!)  here are some of my favorite true crime documentaries, guaranteed to keep you entertained, and possibly amazed at the perfidy of your fellow humans.

The Imposter - I've recced this film a few times on this blog BUT YOU STILL HAVEN'T WATCHED IT, HAVE YOU? It strongly influenced my own Stranger on the Shore, although it's quite a different story. This one is sad and creepy and completely fascinating.

Don't F**k with Cats - The hunt for an internet troll turns into something very different and alarming for a team of online amateur sleuths. WARNING there's some truly disturbing cruelty to animals in this, but it's well worth watching (although I advise closing your eyes at those scenes).

The Jinx - HE DID IT, HE TOTALLY KILLED HIS WIFE!!! The documentary of the case that the Ryan Gosling film All Good Things is based on. This is another weird and creepy story that will have your scalp prickling when you're not actually gasping out-loud.

Soaked in Bleach - SHE DID IT, SHE TOTALLY KILLED HER HUSBAND!!! Documentary/Docudrama exploring the possibility that Courtney Love murdered Curt Cobain. Unsurprisingly, not everyone is persuaded by investigator Tom Grant's conclusions, but he makes a credible and convincing witness, in my humble opinion.

Amanda Knox - I CAN'T TELL IF SHE DID IT!!! Previous to watching this film, I didn't have much of an opinion about this case. I like to assume the police usually get it right, though familiarity with true crime docs have shaken that innocent confidence. This was a really alarming example of what happens when investigators go in with their minds already made up.

Do you have any fave documentaries you want to rec to our viewing audience? ;-)

Saturday, May 2, 2020

The OFFICIAL Secret at Skull House Blog Tour! ;-)

I rarely do blog tours for book releases but hey. Everything old is new again, so just to kind of spread the word a bit, I'm doing a tour with Silver Dagger Book Tours for Secret at Skull House!

I'm REALLY out of practice with this stuff, so I'm not even sure if I offered giveaways or prizes. OOPS. Maybe I should have? Maybe at the end of the tour I'll give something away here--like I'll do a drawing from everyone who commented on every stop along the blog tour?
What should I giveaway? Hmmm. I'll have to think of something fun that can be global without involving a lot of packing or shipping.

But anyway! The book is live and I'm really happy about that.

Oh. I read in a review that the next installment is not out until next year. GULP. WHAT DOES THAT REVIEWER KNOW THAT I DON'T? SOMEONE TAKE MY TEMPERATURE. I'm actually working on the next installment now. I'm not setting it up for preorders, but that doesn't mean it's not coming out this year--I'm not setting anything new up for preorders for the foreseeable future. At least, not at Amazon.

I'm planning EIGHT of these books by the way. So...yeah.

I also read in ANOTHER review that cozy is a new genre to me. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Wait. What??? YOU LEARN SO MUCH ABOUT YOURSELF IN REVIEWS.  So no. Actually,  this is a homecoming for me. I cut my mystery writing teeth in the mainstream cozy genre.  I had reasonably successful cozy series with both Pocket and Berkeley.  I was a Mystery Guild Alternate Selection, for chrissake. And I am really loving writing cozy again. FOR NOW. I'm not giving up the FBI thrillers or the angsty standalones or my beloved bewitched and bewildered series, but I do find cozy is what works for me right now. It's...comforting.

But cozy is not for everyone. (Well, nothing is for everyone.) And that's okay. These are not going to be hugely romantic, although there is a slow but definite romantic arc. They are not going to be hugely angsty. They are not going to be hugely suspenseful. They are not going to be HUGELY ANYTHING because the whole point is to be light and diverting and reassuring that all is still well with the world. 


Nah, I'm kidding. I hope.

Anywhoooo. Here's the tour--and thank you so much to everyone taking part in it!

May 2

May 3
ISM Books   - REVIEW #1

May 4

May 5

May 6

May 7

May 8

May 9

May 10

May 11

May 12

May 13

May 14

May 15

May 16

May 17

May 18

May 19

May 20

May 21

May 22

May 25

May 26

May 27

May 28

May 29

May 30

May 31
Bayou Book Junkie   - REVIEW BOTH

June 1
Drops of Ink   - REVIEW BOTH

June 2

Tuesday, April 28, 2020



Wait. That was me. All last week.

But it is done, and it is live--except at Kobo, where I will try to get it uploaded today.

SECRET AT SKULL HOUSE: AN M/M COZY MYSTERY (Secrets and Scrabble 2) is now available most everywhere.

It's light and fun and hopefully provides a couple of hours of comfort and amusement. I *think* it does all that? And maybe a bit more?


Ellery Page is back—and in hot water again!

Unlike everyone else in Pirate’s Cove, Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, reigning Scrabble champion, and occasionally clueless owner of the village’s only mystery bookstore, is anything but thrilled when famed horror author Brandon Abbott announces he’s purchased legendary Skull House and plans to live there permanently.

Ellery and Brandon have history. Their relationship ended badly, and the last thing Ellery wants is a chance to patch things up—especially when his relationship with Police Chief Jack Carson is just getting interesting. But then, maybe Brandon isn’t all that interested in getting back together either, because he seems a lot more interested in asking questions about the bloodstained past of his new home than discussing a possible future with Ellery.

What is Brandon really up to?

Ellery will have to unscramble that particular puzzle posthaste. Because after his former flame disappears following their loud and public argument, Ellery seems to be Police Chief Carson’s first—and only—suspect.

You can read more on my website. :-)

You can buy it pretty much everywhere--and yes, it is coming in print and audio! Absolutely.



Friday, April 24, 2020

COVER REVEAL: Mystery at the Masquerade

So hey. I have no idea what book is coming next after Secret at Skull House. I have so much admiration for those writers who are inspired or energized to keep writing through a pandemic. But hey, then again, it's not MY first pandemic.


It's probably not any of our last pandemics. But that's kind of a dark thought for a gorgeous sunny morning. So let's let that go.

Mystery at the Masquerade is coming this year, although, again, I have no idea when. I'm not bothering to list it as a preorder yet. Not least because I'm about to lose preorders at Amazon--Bell, Book and Scandal has been pushed to October. And even that is fingers-crossed.

But anyway, here's what I'm kinda sorta working on soonish maybe. ;-)

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Happy Easter!

Now that I'm past the age of Easter bunnies and egg hunts--and my nieces and nephews are past the days of Easter bunnies and egg hunts--Easter has mostly meant a celebration of spring and family.

Usually my family would be getting together today for Easter dinner. There would be drinks and talk and more talk and more drinks and a very delicious dinner. We all live about five minutes from each other, so it is beyond weird not to be able to be together today.

The SO and I haven't prepared an Easter dinner in years--actually, never. My middle sis does Easter. My youngest sister does Christmas and Christmas Eve. I do Thanksgiving and 4th of July. But today we're cooking. And today we're resting and relaxing and focusing on being grateful for all that we have--and not dwelling on what we don't. We are keeping a good thought for the spring.

I hope you have a lovely day, whether you celebrate a particular holiday or not, and that the spring brings you a bundle of joyful days and happy moments.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down

Actually, I LOVE rainy days.

That said, right now I feel better when it's warm and I can swim. I go for walks with the SO and the dogs every couple of days, but I find it stressful because the SO does not--in my humble opinion--keep enough social distance between us and anyone we happen to meet. He lets the dogs put things in their mouths THEY SHOULD NOT BE PUTTING IN THEIR MOUTHS. He does not understand the point of a retractable leash.

In short--hahahahahahaa (sorry but Spenser is currently chasing his tail in front of me...  He's started doing this again, although he's now six months old and should really know better).

Where was I?

Oh. Right. It's stressful going for walks with the SO. That's the long and short of it. It was easier when it was warm enough for me to swim and I was working my tension out that way.

Don't get me wrong, I am grateful that I have the SO and the dogs to keep me company--and presumably they feel the same. Actually, the SO even said so the other night. "If I have to be in quarantine with someone, I'd choose you."

And they say romance is dead. :-D

I'm worried but not unduly. At least, I don't think it's undue. There's plenty to worry about. But so far we are healthy. There are, as of this moment, 79 cases in our city. Which means that's more like 700, but that's out of a population of 475,000. We have enough food, we have a lifetime supply of fiction, we have streaming services, we are warm and comfortable and so far still able to pay our bills (fingers crossed).

I'm still having trouble working. I can't lie. It's really hard to focus. Really hard to write light-hearted, fun stories about mystery and romance. But it would probably be harder to write something serious. It's not about the work itself, it's about the level of concentration required to create what amounts to a dream state for other people. Because when you get down to it, that's what fiction is. You are creating a dream for others to live in for a few hours. Whether you're a "good" writer or a lousy writer, it demands an incredible amount of extended focus to do that. Right now I have the attention span of a five-year-old during a fire drill.

I'm okay with the isolation. Up to an extent. I mean, I'm a writer so I'm used to working at home, I'm used to being chained to my desk. But I'm also used to walking with my sister and having coffee a couple of times a week, I'm used to getting massage for my back and wrists, I'm used to having my dad over for lunch and a movie (he's really, really struggling with this enforced stay-at-home-order). I'm used to being able to go out for the occasional dinner or to grab something at the market or to meet a friend for lunch... NOT THAT I DO THESE THINGS A LOT. But I could. That's the difference. :-D

I discovered Zoom the other day! The SO did a Zoom get-together for some book-world friends, and I joined in. It's pretty cool! So I think I might do Zoom with my Patreons? I have to figure out the logistics, but it seems to have real possibility.

What else? I tried out Instacart this week! That's a wonderful service. The SO was going out to grab whatever we needed in the way of fresh produce and dairy, and I started to panic because he's high risk. So, to his disgust, I tried out Instacart and it's great. Even so, I couldn't stop him from running out to get celery this morning. HE CAME BACK WITH BAGS OF GROCERIES AND THEN ADMITTED HE HAD TRIED TO GET WATER AND HAD ALSO GONE TO THREE OTHER STORES.


He brought me flowers, which I suspect is his method of keeping me from yelling at him.

It was only partially successful.

Anyway, God bless the essential workers who are keeping us all glued together. Granted, some of us are better glued together than others.

I'm trying not to watch the news, but here I am watching the news again...

(LOL. Does Trump really expect us to rejoice that he's managed to keep oil prices high? :-D Given the profit margin of oil companies? I'm sorry, I just can't cry too much over the idea of an oil company executive having to take a smaller bonus. Because that's what it's really about. They're not going to preserve jobs. They never do. It's always about the profit margin. ALWAYS. Speaking as a former evil corporate overlord. It's always about the PROFIT margin. Let me reiterate: profit MARGIN.)

But I don't want to veer into politics today. It's Good Friday and I'm grateful to be alive and healthy--and grateful that my loved ones are still alive and healthy. SO I HEAR. I'm grateful for many, many things. Really, in the big picture, California always needs rain, so even the rain is something to be grateful for.

I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos on grooming because... Well, no more facials, no more hair salon, no more nails, no more... Did you know there's a whole world of beauty blogging??? I have learned many interesting things. Like how to perm my eyelashes. Yeah, I'm not kidding!

Anyway. The books are coming along. Slowwwwwwwwly but surely.

I'm reading a lot of vintage mystery right now. What does it say that WW2 seems more comforting than current events? Here's what I've got on my nightstand.

How are you doing? Are you hanging in there? What are you reading?

Friday, April 3, 2020

Love in the Time of Cholera

OR choose your pandemic.

It's true. Crisis really does bring out the best--and worst--in people. Which is why it's good to watch the news, but you have to guard against overload. California has now been locked down since March 19th, and glued-to-the-television is kind of a default.

At first I was watching the presidential briefings, but my screaming and cursing was terrifying the dogs, so I now skip them entirely. I know I'll be watching the recap all evening long as news commentators try to make sense of things like...the government shipping PPE to warehouses WHERE VENDORS WILL THEN SELL THOSE ITEMS FOR PROFIT TO THE VARIOUS STATES--OR EVEN OVERSEAS. 

Yeah, you got that right. That much-needed PPE might not even stay in the States if overseas bidders can pay more.

Jesus Christ.

Nothing like making a profit on pandemic.


Not to politicize things, but politics are kind of why we're in the fix, we're in.

I'm writing, but it's slow going. It's much easier to tackle stuff like audio compilations and sorting through old manuscripts and reformatting books.

That said, Secret at Skull House will come out at the end of this month. Haunted Heart: Spring will come out probably mid-June. And Bell, Book and Scandal is being moved to the fall, likely Halloween.

According to Amazon--whose preorder policy was apparently designed by a disgruntled schoolmarm (IN MY DAY WE DID OUR HOMEWORK ON TIME OR WE GOT A PITCHFORK IN OUR BACKSIDE!!!)--all my preorders have now been canceled. I can't tell if that's accurate or not. I can still see the pre-order numbers, but that could just be a record of what was there. Maybe if you pre-ordered Secret at Skull House, you can check to see if your order is still live.

They did sort of make allowances for COVID19, but not really. They'll waive the losing-preorders-for-a-year penalty ONE TIME ONLY, but if you've got a number of pre-orders stacked (as I do) it doesn't actually help. Once you miss a deadline, it's the domino effect. Whatever. Amazon wants authors to do pre-orders, but they're so inflexible and impractical in their set up, that I'm actually okay losing them. I compared numbers year to year, and it turns out the years I had pre-orders were no higher in earnings than the years I didn't.

HOWEVER, that cancellation does create a huge inconvenience for readers who think they've ordered the books, think they're coming any minute, and then find out their order was deleted. I'm truly sorry--I did speak on three separate occasions with Amazon, and they just won't budge.

On the bright side, if you pre-ordered elsewhere--or you're in my Patreon group--you're covered.

OH. On the OTHER bright side, Bank of America finally figured out the mysteries of my personal checking account. OH. BUT NOW THEIR WEBSITE WON'T ALLOW ME TO UPDATE MY BUSINESS ACCOUNT INFO. hahahahahahaahaha. I mean... Honest to God. You have to laugh or you'll start hitting your head against the wall.

But I mean, the good thing about a pandemic is it really puts all this other nonsense into perspective. So far my family is still healthy. So far we have a roof over our heads. So far we have enough to eat. So far I have a job. (A job I love.) So far we can pay our bills. It's one day at a time.

In fact, in some ways, it's weirdly relaxing to know you CAN'T go anywhere, can't do anything but stay home and deal with all the things there are to deal with in your own backyard. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Ten Things You Can Do to Make Yourself Feel Better Now

Hey there, boys and girls!

Like you, I'm worried and uncertain. I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home, and in theory, so long as I'm able to work, I should have a paycheck.'s hard to work right now. The kind of focus and prolonged concentration it takes to write good fiction is similar to that required of an accountant at tax time. It's mentally exhausting, and right now...

My adorable stepdaughter is currently working with COVID19 patients in Quebec. My nephew (youngest of the beloved kidlings) has just been hired to fight wild fires. My mom and dad are in their 80s and in not tip-top health. And on and on my list of worries goes: the SO, my B-I-L, my niece... Heck, ME. The girl who spent all of last year catching every cold and flu circulating. :-D I'm not worried really for myself, but I am so frightened for the people I love, it's hard to catch my breath sometimes.

But you know what? One day at a time.

So here are my Top Ten Things You Can Do to Make Yourself Feel Better Now

1 - Get informed. Ignorance may be bliss, but it will also get you killed. If you think this is all a hoax or being blown out of proportion, okay, but I'm guessing that's because you haven't bothered to actually get informed. You're suffering from Preconceived Ideas. Why not take a few minutes to check out a neutral news source and then see what you think? It's not going to hurt to look, right?

AT THE SAME TIME, if you're glued to your TV, watching the numbers mount, STOP. I'm now limiting my news watching to first thing in the morning--I want to know where we are when the day begins--and the Rachel Maddow show in the evening. And Rachel is not the last thing I watch at night.

You don't want to go to sleep with death and disaster on your mind.

2 - Go outside.
Go for a walk. Work in your garden. Sit on your balcony. YOU CAN DO THIS AND STILL MAINTAIN SOCIAL (PHYSICAL) DISTANCE. You need fresh air. You need sunlight. If you can't go outside, pull back the drapes, open the blinds, open a window for a few minutes. At the minimum, LOOK out the window for a few minutes. I go out in the garden every day and do ONE thing, one chore. Maybe it's straighten out some tangled lights, maybe it's re-pot a plant, maybe it's feed the roses. One little thing. Ten minutes, tops.

3 - Bathe. Groom. Change your clothes.
Hey, you don't want to be dragged off to the ICU looking horrible, right? But seriously, you'll feel better if you make an effort to preserve appearances (I love that phrase: preserve appearance). Play with makeup. Try on clothes you haven't worn for a while--what a great time to clear out your closet. I have learned to do the perfect silver smoky eye--and I have two boxes of clothes to donate.

Speaking of which...

4 - This is the time to tackle all those Home Improvement chores you've been putting off.
I've been meaning to reorganize my bar area and my secondary bedroom closet and the laundry room cupboards and my office. This is a good time for that. (Although, to clean out my office may require the length of two pandemics).

5 - Use your good china.
I made lasagna last night. I don't do a lot of cooking, but I've committed to doing the cooking at least once a week now. It gives the SO a night off--well, two nights off because we're also doing Door Dash once a week to help out our favorite restaurants--and it allows me time to get creative in the kitchen. I served dinner on our good china, crystal, silver... I mean, what AM I preserving all this for if not for us to enjoy? We are eating yummy meals, drinking wine, having dessert, using items that are beautiful and that we love.

6 - Indulge in candles, flowers, reed scent diffusers.
Create a sanctuary for yourself as best you can. I have a fireplace in my bedroom, and I'm using it for an hour or so every night. I'm burning Jo Malone candles. I'm playing soothing music. I'm treasuring my moments of quiet calm. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself some attention. You deserve it.

7 - Stay healthy.
Exercise. Eat right. Take your vitamins. Exercise again. Expand your lung capacity. No, none of this will keep you safe from the virus, but if you're in better health, you have a better chance of beating it without developing secondary infections. This virus is a respiratory illness, so the stronger your lungs, the better for you. As tempting as it may be to eat every cookie in the house, you want to make healthy choices right now.

I mean this literally and figuratively. Read new things. Watch new things. Cook new things. Try something new. Open a coloring book. Fill your brain with new images and new ideas. Hey,  why not take the opportunity to learn about something you're curious about or something you wish you knew how to do. This is the perfect opportunity for armchair travel.

9 - Give to a worthy cause.
Instead of giving into the temptation of retail therapy, I've been donating to various charities or organizations I support. I can't sew or I'd be making masks. But what I can do is donate to the causes I believe in. Like No Kid Hungry. Doing something for someone else is a sure way to make yourself feel better.

10 - Keep a good thought. 
It's scary out there, yes, but you know what never changes a damned thing? WORRYING. For most of us, the most helpful thing we can do is Stay Home. Stop the Spread. Try to make the most of this time. Try to stay positive. Not in a gosh-it-can't-happen-here! kind of way but in a Make Every Day  Count. A lot of what is happening is outside our control. The one thing we can control is our attitude. So let's keep a good thought for ourselves and for each other.

Friday, March 20, 2020

What Do We Think of Fanfic Now?

A conversation between Dal Maclean and Nicole Kimberling

Good morning, Gentle Readers! 

I have a special treat for you on the blog today. Two of my favorite writing buddies are here to help promote Dal Maclean's new release Blue on Blue, but instead of doing the usual HEY, IT'S HERE, PLEASE BUY IT approach, Dal and her editor Nicole Kimberling (who happens to be one of my fav mystery writers, by the way) thought it would be a lot more interesting for you (and them!) to know...CHAT about stuff. In this case, about Fanfiction, which is where I first met Dal (The Professionals fandom, for them what cares to know).

And honestly, I love that idea because--let's be honest--we're all starting to blend into the white noise of a million authors trying desperately to hawk their wares at the same moment. More and more, I think that old school approach of personal connection and actual conversation, might ultimately serve us all better.

What do you think?

Anyway, without further adieu, my writing pals Dal Maclean and Nicole Kimberling!

NK: So, DM, when I was in the process of acquiring your first novel, Bitter Legacy, we exchanged several letters about your style, inspirations and approach to fiction writing in general. One thing you mentioned at that time was that you were drawing your inspiration from a “fanfiction tradition.” I thought it was fascinating that you had identified fanfic as having its own style and specific goals so that even when a person was writing original material, such as your novels for Blind Eye Books, it could be said to be derived from the aesthetic of fanfic. This was in 2015, when participation in the fanfic community was still considered déclassé and I found it refreshing that you’d represent for that writing community so boldly. So for the benefit of Josh’s followers can you run down your basic concept of the fanfic aesthetic?

DM: Well… I’m a big admirer of fanfic, and it’s where I started out. As you say it’s always been looked down on  a bit and mocked, maybe because it’s such a  female space, maybe because it’s by definition ‘amateur’, maybe it’s the ‘fan’ bit.  But I suppose I think of it as almost pure in its ethos of creativity for the sake of it - and actually I suppose, a bit culturally subversive in the way it takes an official, sanitized narrative and makes it what it wants. It can definitely be invasive, it can cross too many lines, but I think my basic concept of the fanfic aesthetic is freedom. It’s kind of red in tooth and claw, often reeking with angst, untrammeled by rules or ‘thou shalt nots’. Like a literary wild west with vanishingly few sheriffs.

It used to be that ‘kink shaming’ was one of the worst things anyone could be accused of in fanfic and as a result fanfic erotica went to some incredible places. As I understand it, commercial M/M was sort of the love child of slash fanfic and conventional MF romance and maybe that fanfic legacy explains the popularity of shifter and MPreg in M/M?  In fanfic that was everyday stuff for a long time. This all sounds very idealized and we all know there is some truly, truly terrible fanfic. But some is glorious, and all produced from and for love.

I think the marriage of slash fanfic with MF romance though probably brought the Romance Rules to ‘slash’ and with that, several lines that can’t be crossed by writers. I’m definitely in tune with some of that -- for example I love HEAs because I personally really disagree with the idea that good writing somehow requires unhappy endings).  But I also adore the fanfic attitude to angst and emotional/romantic challenge and redemption. Characters in fanfic are allowed to have genuine flaws and behave badly (in and out of their relationships) for whatever reason, and still remain heroes who can be redeemed. I think the fanfic audience tends to factor real and flawed heroes into the equation from the start, perhaps because the original characters showed flaws.  

Anyway, that–recognizable coherent character imperfections, and genuine mistakes which have to be overcome to reach the HEA, have always been, I admit, catnip to me as a reader and then as a writer. Angst and genuine redemption and none of the ‘but darling she’s my sister’ (full credit to Josh Lanyon for that perfect encapsulation of what fanfic would see as copping out on dramatic conflict). I think the love of a genuinely hard road for characters created partly by their own mistakes and natures, not just external obstacles or ‘misunderstandings,’ comes from the fanfic aesthetic.

I think M/M romance though even with its fanfic antecedents increasingly wants unflawed, perfect characters and chafes against heroes who fuck up or aren’t always ‘heroic’ in the strictest sense? Maybe those heroes break the Romance contract?

NK: I think the trend toward the utterly blameless romantic leads comes from the rise of YA, tbh. It’s putting that classical ethically unsullied YA hero/ine into an adult storyline. YA as a genre is really about coming to terms with (or violently rejecting) the moral ambiguity of adulthood. The reason that those sorts of characters can become tedious in romance is that romance is about learning compromise in order to find adult partnership and proceed to build forward into the world. In traditional het romance that’s manifests as having children and building the next generation.

I’d argue that MPreg is a simple extension of that first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage progression. A softer version of this can manifest as a chain of mentoring where, say, the primary couple in book one of a series rotates into parental “established couple” mode to help the romantic leads from book two get together, and so on, eventually knitting together large, extended families of choice.

In other M/M romances you’ll see the proverbial baby carriage replaced with teaming up to create something different, like a business, or sports championship  or to seize the crown of a fantastical realm or gain leadership of the shifter pack—or whatever. J

DM: Interestingly I once read advice from a (mainstream) author that out of all the pieces of advice I saw, stuck with me: if there’s a bad situation in your story and you have the chance – *always* make it worse.  Always up the ante for your readers. That’s a fanfic dynamic and I do sort of miss it.

NK: Sure—I mean it’s a dynamic of good storytelling in general. In fanfic though you’re allowed to jump the shark in spectacular ways that—even when kinda dumb—can be really enjoyable on a, “woah, you really went there . . . bold move, my friend!” level.

DM: Of course with fanfic you’re playing with other people’s toys in a ready created universe which your audience already knows and loves which is a different starting point to original fiction. But I think that – writing fanfic - does give you the drive to know your characters inside out, and that moves on to the ones you subsequently create. In fanfic you’re using characters you already know inside out – other people did the work on that - so you have a fair idea what they’d do in any situation. Maybe that helps drill fanfic writers to prioritize character integrity over plot because a fanfic audience will always know what each character would do in a given situation? Or maybe I’m romanticizing it? I think its good training anyway.

What do you think as largely a non fanficcer? Do you see anything left in M/M romance of fanfic antecedents?

NK: I think the main thing I see is the urge among fanfic writers to humanize flat, one-dimensional or perfunctory characters, especially characters who are presented as villains. That’s come through very strongly into M/M where we see characters who are much more morally ambiguous than we’d normally see in mainstream romance.

DM: That’s a really good point. Often the characters that fanfic authors start out with have potential that isn’t realized in the original work. Or those morally ambiguous characters or complex bad guys can be the ones that capture the imagination of writers and make them want to probe deeper and expose new layers to them, like… The Penguin and The Riddler in Gotham for example? Or Chevalier de Lorraine and Monsieur in Versailles – morally complex.

NK: God, I loves me some good nygmobblepot  fan art . . .

* drifts away briefly to search the hashtag on Tumblr for new stuff *

Er . . .  ahem . . . anyway, back to fanfic: what do you think An Archive of Our Own’s recent Hugo win means for fiction writing going forward?

DM: Well… I don’t know. I mean I think it’s a brilliant achievement . And its mainstream recognition for the power and reach of fanfic, but maybe that’s not what fanfic’s about. I think what MM has shown is that the mainstream embrace *can* overwhelm what fanfic is, rather than the other way round.  

Do you think it’s a good thing – that it increases respect or credibility for fanfic?

NK: Well, the Hugo is awarded by a popular vote so what it shows is that fanfic participation has grown to actually BE mainstream—at least in the speculative fiction community. We all have either written fanfic or had a dozen friends who did.

Fun Fact: the first piece of fiction I ever edited was a K/S slash piece for the “First Time” zine. So in a way I got my start in fanfic too, just as an editor, rather than a writer.

DM: Robin Hood!!!! I remember reading those!

NK: Yeah, I was pretty terrible at constructively communicating then—I had yet to develop my charming bedside manner. (lol)

DM: Well you’re bloody good now. And your bedside manner is just what this fanfic dilettante needs to whip her into shape. Actually… that sounds a bit fanficcy.

NK: Now that you’re an author and you have fans of your own pitching ideas for your characters has your perspective changed?

DM: I honestly can’t think of anything more flattering as an author than creating characters or a universe that readers love and are inspired by sufficiently to want to write about them or draw them.  I don’t think there can be a greater complement than that as a writer.  It's certainly what spurred me to write fanfic – and write creatively for the first time – falling in love with certain characters and universes, and becoming frustrated by having their story limited to what was handed down by the writers and actors.

To answer your question properly, a couple of people who read Blue On Blue early on and understood that the story as I told it was now largely over instantly came up with some amazingly clever storyline ideas for some of the side characters. Not least a fizzing start of a fic with Pez (from Object of Desire) and Mark Nimmo (from OOD and Bitter Legacy). I absolutely love all that.

But then some (usually very big) authors do get upset by fanfic. Can you understand that? I’m asking because I struggle to.

NK: I think probably its because there are fan writers who overstep or even reverse the intention of a story. And because there is a tendency among fanfic writers to equate fanfic that is based on a television show which has several writers, in addition to producers etc., and is therefore already a shared-universe kind of model, with stories written by a single author for a single intent.

After bearing the burden of single-handedly creating those hundred thousand words or so, it can be insulting to have somebody show up and essentially say, “your version of your story was okay but look! I made it better by undoing what you did!” (Especially if the fanficcer is particularly tacky or lacks social skills in the first place.)

And there is the ever-enduring question of ownership of a fandom, as we’ve seen played out in the Star Wars universe and more recently the Harry Potter fandom.

But I think that most fanfic is written from a place of admiration and a desire to participate in an author’s world. So, if an author cringes at the notion of another person impuring their undiluted concepts and vision with fan stories, fan art, video homages, mood boards, character alignment charts and the like, then that author must ask themselves whether they are ready to participate in public storytelling. Because if you have success, you will have all these things in addition to reviews, criticism and even . . . the dreaded specter of editorial input.

DM: Ha! Yeah that sounds fair.

NK: So, Gentle Readers, do you have thoughts about fanfic? Please comment below! We’d love to have a chat with you!


Dal Maclean comes from Scotland.  Her background is in journalism, and she has an undying passion for history, the more gossipy and scandalous the better. Dal has lived in Asia and worked all over the world, but home is now the UK. She dislikes the Tragic Gay trope, but loves imperfect characters, unreliable narrators and genuine emotional conflict in romantic fiction. As an author, and a reader, she believes it’s worth a bit of work to reach a happy ending. Agatha Christie, English gardens and ill-advised cocktails are three fatal weaknesses, though not usually at the same time. Her first book, 'Bitter Legacy' was a 2017 Lambda Literary Award finalist (Mystery), and was chosen by the American Libraries Association for their 2018 Over the Rainbow Recommended Books List.

Nicole Kimberling is a novelist and the senior editor at Blind Eye Books. Her first novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award. Other works include the Bellingham Mystery Series, set in the Washington town where she resides with her wife of thirty years as well as an ongoing cooking column for Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. She is also the creator and writer of “Lauren Proves Magic is Real!” a serial fiction podcast, which explores the day-to-day case files of Special Agent Keith Curry, supernatural food inspector.