What You Can Do When You Don’t Turn on Your Computer

On June 18, I didn’t turn my laptop on. At all.

I got out of bed, trekked up to Central Austin for a mammogram, came back home, picked up a book, and read from roughly 11:30 a.m. till midnight. The mammogram was nothing to speak of, but the rest of the day was lovely. I hadn’t spent an entire day reading for a long time.

While unplugged, I finished Terry Shames’ latest mystery, A Reckoning in the Back CountryIt’s a good book, as are all of Terry’s mysteries.

I did a brief review of her first, A Killing at Cotton Hillhere–actually, it’s a review of a sentence I fell in love with–and later wrote more about the book.

A digression: I am honored that one of my stories is in the crime fiction anthology Lone Star Lawless (see cover picture on sidebar) along with one of Terry’s.

All right. That’s my self-serving plug for the day.

Tomorrow, I’ll write more about Juneteenth.

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for the universe to cough & the #ROW80 report

Earlier this evening, I had an idea for a post. I knew the first line. I was confident I could write the middle without too much suffering. I didn’t know how it would end–I never know the ending when I start out–but I believed what I’d already written would lead to an appropriate close.

I opened WordPress to the Add New Post screen and put my fingers on the keyboard. And wrote–nothing.

Brain 1
Brain 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d forgotten everything: topic, first line, the whole shebang. I think the topic had to do with a comment on a post novelist Terry Shames put on Facebook, but I’ve forgotten which comment. Re-reading her post didn’t help.

I stared at the blank screen for a few seconds, then moved on. Obsessing over memory lapses guarantees the thought won’t return. It’s more effective to go on with life and wait for the universe to cough it up.

As to the #ROW80 report, only one day late: I ate refined sugar (but not too much, not every day), didn’t write, didn’t visit and comment on Writing Wranglers and Warriors and #ROW80 blogs every day, or visit Malvern Books.

I added a few words to the WIP (work in progress) but then realized the ending I’d planned will not do. So far I haven’t worked out an alternative ending, but that’s all right. The universe will cough one up when it’s ready. If the universe doesn’t, Austin Mystery Writers will. That’s what I keep them around for.

I did

  1. finish reading Mark Pryor’s mystery novel The Paris Librarian.
  2. have a blast visiting with Kaye George at this week’s Austin Mystery Writers meeting.

The Paris Librarian is on my list of 20 Books of Summer. It’s a pretty good book. That’s pretty good as in I-sat-up-until-two-o’clock-this-morning-reading-because-I-had-to-know-who-done-it. So there’s one I can check off my reading list.

In addition to The Paris Librarian, since June 1, I’ve read Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue ThreadSarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells, and Isabelle Allende’s The Japanese Lover. I began Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing but set it aside in favor of Librarian.

At MysteryPeople, BookPeople’s store-within-a-store, for a signing last week, Mark told two stories behind the writing of the mystery. They’re well worth reading. Find them on his blog, D. A. Confidential.

Silver Falchion Award
Silver Falchion Award

Concerning #2 above, I had a blast visiting with Kaye George at the BookPeople coffee shop last Thursday. Conversation meandered through a number of topics, but we kept coming back to (more Blatant Self-Promotion) Austin Mystery Writers’ Murder on Wheels and the Silver Falchion award it won for Best Fiction Short Story Anthology at the Killer Nashville conference. To those who’ve read about the Silver Falchion before, I apologize for bringing it up again. The excitement hasn’t worn off yet.

Kaye is the author of four popular mystery series. She writes the Immy Duckworthy mysteries, the Cressa Carraway Musical mysteries, and the People of the Wind mysteries under her own name. She writes the Fat Cat series under the pen name Janet Cantrell. For more about our visit with her, see Gale Albright’s post on the Austin Mystery Writers blog.

To sum up my progress on the earlier #ROW80 buffet, I’ll say this: I did what I wanted and not much else.

August 29 #ROW80 Buffet 

  1. Read James Ziskin’s Heart of Stone
    Another book that cut in line before Homegoing
  2. Finish reading Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing

If I read both books, I’ll have finished seven of the twenty I set out to read by September 5. Of course, I didn’t really set out to read twenty. I got a late start and set out to read what I could. Seven, or six, will be what I could. I fear I’ll not have Mark Twain’s Autobiography and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex read before Monday, but Tuesday is another day. I read The Second Sex in graduate school. It’s worth reading again, but not this week.

And so ends this post. As a writer who forgot what she intended to say, I think I’ve done well.

###

Read more #ROW80 posts here.

Book Not-Quite-Review: Terry Shames

Back in my teaching days, I handed a student a copy of T. H. White’s The Once and Future King and told her I thought she might like it. She did. So much, in fact, that she volunteered to write a review for the school newspaper.

The review went something like this: I loved this book. It was just so…Guinevere was terrible. She was just so… It was so sad…It’s a wonderful book. I just love it.

Unfortunately, the review was never published, because instead of turning into ideas and thence into sentences and finding its way onto paper, it remained a clump of molecules of emotion lodged somewhere in the vicinity of the student’s corpus callosum. Only a few tiny bits escaped as babble.

The reason was no mystery: The writer was too close to her subject. She lacked distance, detachment. She needed, as Wordsworth said when defining poetry, to recollect her powerful emotion in tranquility.

Lack of detachment is a common condition. I’ve suffered from it for weeks.

IMG_2814Several days ago, I posted part of a paragraph from Terry Shames’ first novel, A Killing at Cotton Hill, and illustrated it with a photograph of four white-faced Herefords. That was all.

That’s still all. I’m too close to the book. I wouldn’t dare try to review it now.

If I did, it would come out like this:

I love this book. It’s just so…There’s this wonderful sentence on the second page about hovering cows…That’s exactly what cows do…I can just see those cows…The person who wrote that sentence knows cows…And the dialogue…It’s just so…I just love it.

As soon as I saw it, I fell in love with that cow sentence.* I’ve read well past page two, but I can’t erase hovering cows from my mind. So I’ll say no more about A Killing at Cotton Hill.

I can report that yesterday evening I attended a reading at BookPeople celebrating the release of Terry Shames’ second book, and the second Samuel Craddock mystery, The Last Death of Jack Harbin.

Terry spoke, read an excerpt from the book, and finished up by taking questions from the audience. To prevent the possibility that this part of the post turn into babble, I’ll simply list some of the notes I jotted down:

  • Terry is from Lake Jackson. She graduated from the University of Texas and then worked for the CIA. [KW: I have your attention now, right?]
  • Both of Terry’s books were finalists for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award.
  • The Last Death of Jack Harbin is about a veteran who comes home from war damaged in body and in spirit. The book is about what people do with their guilt.
  • Library Journal gave Jack Harbin a Starred Review. [KW: And they don’t hand those out to every book that comes along.]
  • Scott Montgomery, BookPeople’s Crime Fiction Coordinator, says Jack Harbin “subtly works on you”–that you don’t realize its depth until you’ve finished–and you’ll still be thinking about it a week later.

Because of the hour, as well as my lack of detachment, this is as far as my not-quite-review will go. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed Terry’s reading, that I love A Killing at Cotton Hill,** and that The Last Death of Jack Harbin has gone to the top of my To Be Read list.

For more about Terry Shames and her books, read Terry’s “What’s Next for Samuel Craddock” and “MysteryPeople Q&A with Terry Shames,” both on the MysteryPeople blog.

_____

* The sentence isn’t really about cows. It’s about Samuel Craddock. But I am fond of white-faced Herefords, and the image Terry painted is so vivid, the cows overshadow the protagonist, at least in my mind.

** I forgot to take my camera to the reading, so I’ve illustrated with a photograph I took myself. The fur on the right of the book shouldn’t be there, but it was easier to just take the picture than to move the cat.

Enhanced by Zemanta

A Pitch-Perfect Paragraph–For Readers Who Know Cows

English: Herefords, The Park, Ashford Carbonel...
English: Herefords, The Park, Ashford Carbonel. The light coloured bull calf (1 month old) belongs to the cow on the right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) “Herefords, The Park, Ashford Carbonel” by Richard Webb is licensed under [CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
I head into the house for my hat and my cane and the keys to my truck. There’s not a thing wrong with me but a bum knee. Several months ago one of my heifers knocked me down accidentally and it spooked her so bad that she stepped on my leg. This happened in the pasture behind my house, where I keep twenty head of white-faced Herefords. It took me two hours to drag myself back to the house, and those damned cows hovered over me every inch of the way.

~ Terry Shames, A Killing at Cotton Hill

Enhanced by Zemanta