Male Writer, Female Protagonists

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It’s something I do. In short stories like “Liminal” (from Baltimore Noir) “Custom Sets,” (The Prosecution Rests) and the forthcoming “Jaguar” (forthcoming in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine), and in my novel Diamond RubyI place quiet, modest, seemingly powerless young women at the center of the plot. And then I let the fun begin.

Why do I keep doing it? I have my reasons, as I explain in this blog post, written for EQMM’s blog, “Something Is Going To Happen.”

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BOOKSTRUCK Event: Monday, June 9th!

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What book–or books–did you read as a teenager that became part of you forever? We know there was at least one, and if you’re anywhere near Pleasantville, NY, on the evening of Monday, June 9, we’d love to hear all about it. Stop by the Marmaduke Writing Factory and join a big, sprawling conversation among us factory workers and the audience, with everyone (including those of us who haven’t been a teenager for quite awhile) going home with a list of new books to check out…and reminders of old favorites, too.

It’s free! Refreshments (including chocolate-chip cookies baked by MWF’s own Joe Wallace) will be served. All ages welcome.

Hope to see you there!

Bookstruck-Logo

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The Bestseller That Never Was

cookbookIn 1981, when I was twenty-three, I quit my job at a legal publisher in NYC and decided to chase my dream of being a writer. At first, unsurprisingly, that involved many long days writing queries to magazines and struggling with a novel. And plenty of free time.

Sharon was working long hours as an editor at a small magazine, and after about three days she came home and said, “Explain something to me. I’m at work all day, you’re here, and I’m STILL expected to make dinner. Why is that?”

I was horrified and embarrassed to have fallen into that sexist habit, but she was right…I had no explanation. The next day I went out to Womrath’s Bookstore nearby and bought an Indian cookbook (photo attached), and then down to the East Twenties for supplies.

I’ll never forget all those long afternoons I spent in our tiny kitchen in our apartment on East 91st Street (at the time, amazingly, a “frontier”), music blasting, working my way through that book. I felt like a mad scientist (Turmeric! Cumin! Garam Masala!) and despite plenty of fiascos, I felt like I was accomplishing something. Learning. I still love cooking Indian food.

Well, I was just telling this story today, and someone said, “You should have written a memoir! It would have been a bestseller.” And I realized: He was right. I could have been Deb! Julie! Orangette! That could have been my splashy introduction to a writing career, instead of my long, slow slog to where I am now.

Alas for 1) the Internet not existing yet and 2) my not recognizing the niche right in front of me.

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In Great Buggy Company

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I love this “Bugs of Literature” flow chart created for Book Riot  by Jenn Northington, events coordinator at WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn and Jersey City, New Jersey. I especially love that Jenn included Invasive Species as one of the chart’s endpoints, alongside everything from The Hobbit to The Once and Future King to Dracula.

Sometimes the Internet brings a little unexpected joy to a writer’s life.

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The INVASIVE SPECIES Book Trailer That Wasn’t

How could have I missed this gif?! It could have been Invasive Species‘ second teaser, while bestowing the coveted Oprah Endorsement on the novel as well!

(Well, not really. But a writer can dream, can’t he?)

Click here or on the image below to see what I mean:

Oprah Bees

 

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Where I Am, Where I Came From

Mysterious BookshopThe best thing about Tuesday’s launch of the anthology Ice Cold at The Mysterious Bookshop on Tuesday: Getting to see Laura Lippman, Sarah Weinman, Reed Farrel Coleman, all of whom were so supportive of my first forays into writing fiction. They know how important to me they’ve been.

But there was also a grace note for me: Near the end of the event, I spotted the author Robert Crais across the room. Bob and I had known each other only via the AOL Hardboiled Board fifteen years ago. But back then, when I only dreamed of a fiction career, he too was very encouraging. His confidence helped give me the nerve to take the leap.

I was able to go over, shake his hand, and thank him in person. It was something I’d been waiting a long time to do. And it only made me realize again how surreal this journey has been to me. How fortunate I am to have kept writing, kept trying, and to find myself here today.

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Lessons from Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One Hundred YearsThe magnificent, Nobel-Prizewinning writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez died yesterday. You can read a fitting tribute to him by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times here.

It’s rare for me to be able remember where I was when I read a novel, even a favorite, but I remember exactly where I was when I finished One Hundred Years of Solitude, Garcia Marquez’s first masterpiece. That memory remains intertwined with my memories of the book itself, which now serves as a kind of window to a time when I felt as if one book could change my whole view of the world.

It was 1978, spring break of my junior year of college. My English professor had assigned One Hundred Years of Solitude in Gregory Rabassa’s outstanding translation, and I’d just finished the book’s breathtaking final passage. I will never forget lying in my bed at my parents’ house in Brooklyn at 3:00 AM, staring at the ceiling, my heart pounding so hard I could hear the blood moving around inside my body. I knew I wouldn’t sleep again that night; I wondered if I’d ever sleep again without experiencing dreams as vivid as the ones Garcia Marquez had conjured up in his novel.

I can’t say that Garcia Marquez inspired me to be a writer;  before I knew his name, I dreamed of writing my own novels. But One Hundred Years…., along with Love in the Time of Cholera, Innocent Erendira, and his other works, showed me how much joy and humanity writers can pour into creating worlds, universes, if they hold nothing back. But that was the key, the lesson I would never forget: Hold nothing back.

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