Friday, May 26, 2017

A Rage On My Bookshelf, or The Reclamation of Chester Himes

How do books you love stack up to their film adaptations?

For me to come out of a bag on A RAGE IN HARLEM (1991 - Miramax Films) is to risk the ire of a generation of African-American filmgoers who prize the work as a marvel of hilarity. Back when movie audiences were bifurcated along racial lines (pre-GET OUT's paradigm shifting phenomena) the film stood as a considerable achievement in the ability of black storytellers to take a black author's property and bring it to the big screen, albeit with a white fella from within the system as their producer (the great Stephen Wooley, responsible for everything worth seeing from Neil Jordan among others.)

Except the necessity of creative invention produced a film that only slightly resembles the novel upon which it was based: FOR LOVE OF IMABELLE, authored by none other than the great Chester Himes, who wrote boldly and dangerously of the reality of black American life, consequently depicting the hypocrisy of the America who thinks of itself along racial and economic lines.

Himes was at his best when he was at his most caustic. In fact, this was what earned him his fame, and eventually the ire of the publishing establishment: he was just too damned good at putting the world on blast for its bullshit. Unfortunately, what was written as a fast-moving, intricate and searing crime novel, which revealed societal contradictions around every one of its twists and turns, became a frickin' laugh riot filled with cameos of every black actor of note that was either working at the time or hard-up for a role so they could keep their SAG card. Danny Glover, Zakes Moake, Badja Diola, Samm-Art Williams, Stack Pierce, Helen Martin, T.K. Carter. Hell, they lured George Wallace off the Vegas casino comedy circuit to actually deliver a performance that, along with Stack Pierce, makes you wish someone kept The Harlem Series adaptations going, if only for their portrayal of Coffin Ed and Gravedigger.


The basic plot is still there: Jackson, a hapless milquetoast, meets and immediately falls in love with the beautiful and deceitful Imabelle and is promptly conned out of a load of bread he pilfers from his undertaker boss. Her main thang Slim is the leader of a ruthless gang of black country bumpkins. Jackson's con-artist half-brother Goldy gets involved, and as he is an informant to none other than Harlem Detectives Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, the crew comes to pay the price for runnin' game in the biggest of big cities.

Unfortunately, aside from some glossing over of elements of black-on-black crime, corrupt policing and black female empowerment (particularly well-crafted in the performance of the underrated Robin Givens as Imabelle,) the film distances itself from addiction in all its forms (gambling, sex, drugs, alcohol,) black female sexuality and sexual aggressiveness, and, most disappointingly, the multi-racial reality of Harlem debauchery in all its depraved sustenance. Of course, the Hollywood of the 80s and 90s wouldn't allow such aspects to make it onto the screen, what with Spike Lee's DO THE RIGHT THING driving studio executives to risk management meetings. Still, FOR THE LOVE OF IMABELLE just as well could be filmed as an edgy thriller (maybe even a horror show,) yet it was framed for investors as a comedy geared toward African Americans. Not as the adaptation of a crime fiction classic that deserves to be held in the same esteem as any of the works of Chandler or Hammett.

Speaking with the BBC back in 2006, Stephen Wooley broke on the approach during filming, including an anecdote about Bill Duke that no one who has been in the room with the brilliant veteran would disbelieve:

...[A]bout halfway through we were looking at a scene, and I turned to Bill [Duke] and said 'You know [pause] that wasn't quite as funny as it was in the script. And I don't know why. And he said to me , 'We're not making no god-damn comedy.' I'd raised the entire money for this film on the base that it was a comedy. It was Chester Himes, it was supposed to be funny. And a shiver went down my spine...I hoped that Bill was joking. But I realized he thought we were making Porgy and Bess.

And there it is. To finally get Chester Himes to the big screen, they had to neuter the book and turn it into some sort of all-star comedy. Reviewing the film for The New York Times, Vincent Canby called it "painless, occasionally funny" but with a "heedlessly incomprehensible plot…" No one who worships at the altar of Himes would ever associate his work with such disparagement, including the "occasionally funny" bit. Although it pulls laughs out of readers, Himes' work isn't comedic. Ain't really nothin' about it funny, same as how black life in America ain't funny, though we wring laughs from it as well.

A film so removed from the visceral thrust of its source material could only be created by writers and producers who are disconnected from the wealth of the author's work. I exempt Bill Duke, as he is regarded as an artist of compromising vision. Also, he's bigger than me and I have an even-money chance of running into him at some Diversity in Hollywood gathering or something.

If you don't relate it back to FOR LOVE OF IMABELLE (retitled as A RAGE IN HARLEM, to take advantage of post hoc awareness of Himes' genius) it holds up. It's a damned good film. Its laughs and tears are well earned. For years, I looked past its flaws, if for no other reason than I have to cape for black folk who succeed in the Sysisphean quest of getting a film to market. Back then, the achievement was just too remarkable not to hold it in that light.

Yet now we are in an age where, once again (and for about the one-hundredth time) Hollywood is realizing that great films made by African American creators aren't, by default, only for black audiences. Tragically, this is occurring at the same time the achievements of the great Chester Himes are lost on so many of my fellow crime fiction scribes, including those who owe him a debt. I have to accept that, no matter how noble this somewhat-masterpiece may be, it still leaves us a lot of work to do, if not a lot to be desired.

- dg

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My debut novel, A NEGRO AND AN OFAY, is a work which is decidedly in conversation with Chester Himes, who led the way with crafting crime fiction that deals unguardedly and fearlessly with race and class in America. It is set in the same period and hopefully achieves for Chicago what Himes' depictions did for Harlem, New York. It's available from Down & Out Books. As always, I deeply appreciate your support.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mission Possible

by Alan

How do books you love stack up to their film adaptations?

I love Lee Childs’s Jack Reacher books, so, naturally, I was excited when I first heard that a Reacher movie was in the works. Then I learned that Tom Cruise was slated to play Reacher. For those of you who don’t know, in the books, Reacher is a big man (Maybe 6’5” and 250 pounds—I don’t remember exactly). For those of you who don’t know, Tom Cruise is not a big man (I don’t know his measurements exactly, but you wouldn’t confuse the two in a dark alley).

Now, I happen to like Tom Cruise (as an actor). I’ve seen a lot of his movies, and I think he does a pretty good job in most of them (Risky Business? Top Gun? A Few Good Men? Rain Man? Classics!). But could he pull off portraying the imposing Reacher? When the announcement came out, there was a lot of buzz within the crime-writing community, most of it disbelief. Being a Cruise fan, I reserved judgment until I actually saw the movie.

Verdict: I liked the movie. I’m not sure how closely it hewed to my vision of the Childs books (not only Reacher’s physical characteristics, but the whole movie’s worldview). In other words, if the main character’s name hadn’t been Reacher, I’m not sure I would have recognized it as coming from the books.

But in the end, I wasn’t disappointed with the movie. I haven’t seen the second Reacher movie yet, but I plan to.

For more of my thoughts about book-to-film adaptations, see an earlier blog post HERE.

One last note: I loved reading Clifford: The Big Red Dog books to my kids. I never saw the movie (and I understand a new Clifford movie is scheduled to be released at the end of the year), but I did have the pleasure of meeting Cliffy at this past weekend’s Gaithersburg Book Festival. (Clifford’s the one on the right.)

 

Me and Clifford

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

From the page to the screen

How do books you love stack up to their film adaptations?

by Dietrich Kalteis

I think of chapters as scenes in a film when I write them, so it’s alway interesting to see a film adaptation based on a novel that I read. One shows the story, the other tells it. One delivers the action with images and sound, the other goes deeper into the reason behind an action. One comes with popcorn … Well, maybe it’s not fair to compare them at all, although one does represent the other. 

Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men is a great example of a terrific novel turned into a film of equal caliber, the Coen brothers delivering a tight adaptation — a story that has a western feel with a serial killer on the loose, a compressed air tank and bolt gun as his weapon of choice. 

Over twenty of Elmore Leonard’s stories were made into film, and the tighter the film stuck to his original words, the better the film. Both screenwriter Scott Frank and director Barry Sonnenfeld kept true to Leonard’s terrific characters and trademark dialog in Get Shorty, a tale of a Florida shylock making a career change into the movie business. One of my favorite crime novels and films.

Rum Punch is another good example of Elmore Leonard’s work translating to the screen. A twisting crime caper with the quirky characters and dialog typical of a great Elmore Leonard novel. Quentin Tarrantino did it justice in the film version called Jackie Brown. Then there are the two versions of 3:10 to Yuma.

Elmore Leonard sent his manuscript for Raylan to the series creator Graham Yost and told him he could strip it for parts. And that’s just what Yost did, keeping true to the rich dialog and story lines for the series. It’s a terrific series based on one of Leonard’s favorite characters, Raylan Givens, a one-time coal miner, now deputy marshal, going back to Kentucky. Leonard readers will also remember Raylan character from the stories Pronto, Riding the Rap and Fire in the Hole.

Another great one: Nicholas Pileggi’s best-selling book Wiseguy chronicles the true story of Henry Hill, a guy who worked his way up in the mob and turned informant. It went on to become Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas, Ray Liotta delivering a powerful performance as Henry Hill, and Joe Pecsi winning a best-supporting Oscar for his portrayal of Tommy DeVito. Both the book and the film are intense and realistic, the classic tale of life in the mob. 

Richard Stark’s Parker character has been portrayed a number of times in film by Lee Marvin, Michel Constantin, Jim Brown, Robert Duvall, Ana Karina, Peter Coyote, Mel GIbson and Jason Stachan. Of all the Parker adaptations, the character’s name was changed for all but the one Stachan played in Parker. It was Stark’s novel The Hunter that was made into Point Blank in 1967 starring Lee Marvin, and as Payback in 1999 starring Mel GIbson. Got to love Parker.

Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer, and the film starring Matthew McConaughey were equally good. And there have been a number of Stephen King’s stories that made their way to film. Among my favorites: The Shining and it’s film adaptation by Stanley Kubrick both cranked up the creepy. Also The Shawshank Redemption and the film starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman; Misery with James Caan and Kathy Bates; Dolores Claiborne, also starring Kathy Bates; The Green Mile with Tom Hanks; and Hearts in Atlantis with Anthony Hopkins.

Other favorite novels that I thought made great films: The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris and the film starring Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey, and the film starring Jack Nicholson. James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential and the film starring Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe. Mystic River by Dennis Lehane and the film by Clint Eastwood, starring Sean Penn. The Untouchables based on the autobiographical memoir about Elliot Ness, co-written by Oscar Fraley, and screenplay by David Mamet.

I loved both Midnight Cowboy by James Leo Herlihy and the film starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voigt. Waldo Salt did a great job on the screenplay and also wrote the one for Serpico, another terrific film starring Al Pacino, directed by Sidney Lumet, based on the novel by Peter Maas.

Dog Day Afternoon was also directed by Sidney Lumet, starring a young Al Pacino, based on the novel by Patrick Mann. And although it had a great plot, I think the novel Mute Witness by Robert L. Pike had a hard time keeping up with the screen adaptation of Bullitt. Those car chase scenes were the best ever on film, with McQueen ripping through the streets of San Francisco in the late sixties.

For some vintage black and white stuff you can’t top To Kill a Mockingbird — a classic either way, the 1960 novel by Harper Lee and the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck. One won a Pulitzer, the other won three Oscars. 

And there’s Truman Capote’s non-fiction In Cold Blood, brought to the screen by Richard Brooks. The story also inspired a couple more films: Capote, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman who won the Academy Award for best actor for portraying Capote’s experiences in writing the book; And Infamous starring Toby Jones. The book was also made into a two-part miniseries in 1996.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, published in 1939, and its 1946 film adaptation with Bacall and Bogart at their best. And there’s Strangers on a Train, the novel by Patricia Highsmith, film by Hitchcock.

There are many more that could be added, and there are a lot of good books out there that haven’t been made into films yet, but have that potential. And what author wouldn’t want to see one of their own stories up on the screen and watch scenes unfold that he or she created. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Good, the bad and the not so bad


By R.J. Harlick

Sorry, people, I thought I would be able to write a blog in my rush to head out west, but I’m afraid I have run out of time. So I thought I would resurrect a blog I wrote a few years ago.  By the time you read this I will be winging my way to one of my favourite cities, Vancouver.

Do you read reviews? Reply to them? Review the works of other writers?

Even though this was written three years ago, my views on reviews still very much apply. I see them as an integral part of my writing. They along with book sales and fan mail are the only measure I have on how well or not my books are received. They help to reinforce the worthiness of the many lonely hours spent creating and honing the stories. I read them, good or bad.  I don’t hesitate to broadcast good reviews to my readership via Facebook or on my website and other promotional material.

As we authors know, reviews are one of the key tools for attracting readers to our books. Objective reviews by reputable reviewers are often the main tool libraries and booksellers use for book ordering.  I would hazard to guess that more copies of my last book, A Cold White Fear, appeared on library and bookseller shelves than would’ve otherwise after receiving a good review from Publishers Weekly. 

I have sold books at store signings by simply mentioning that my books have been reviewed by a well-known Canadian reviewer. The type of review didn’t seem to matter. What was important was that the book had raised the interest of the reviewer enough for her to put the time in to review it. Keep in mind, reviewers receive hundreds of ARCs and rarely have time to review all of them, so they have to be selective.

Reviews have more than proven their worth on book tours. On one particular tour, my publisher had arranged for a review to appear in the respective local paper of each store signing. I had numerous people come specifically to buy the book after reading the review.

I value all reviews regardless of whether they appear in traditional media outlets such as newspapers and magazines, on review websites, in personal blogs, online bookseller sites or Goodreads. They are equally important.  I won’t however pay for a review.  Remember what I wrote earlier. A good review gives me a sense of accomplishment. Paying for one wouldn’t give me this, because a paid review is ipso facto a good one.

I also use reviews to help me hone my writing.  If a reviewer has objected to something in my book, rather than pulling my hair, I will keep it in mind when writing my next book. I have been known to send a reviewer a short thank you note. I don’t dwell on whether it was a good or bad review, but use it as a way of thanking the reviewer for their time spent in reviewing the book. I also want them to remember me next time one of my books appears in their pile.

Although the question is oriented to reviews, I mustn't forget the value I place on reader ratings that are offered on the various online bookseller sites and on Goodreads. I am sure I'm not the only author who finds them valuable. So if you enjoyed a book don't hesitate to let the author know by giving it a rating regardless of whether you have time to prepare an actual review.

As for reviewing other crime fiction books, I rarely do it. The crime writing community, particularly in Canada, isn’t all that large and many are my friends. I feel that if I reviewed one book I would have to do them all. And if I did that, where would I find the time to do what I really want to do, write crime fiction.


Speaking of reviews, my next Meg Harris mystery, Purple Palette for Murder is coming out in October. It will soon be available on Netgalley.  Printed ARCs are also available. If you would like one, please let me know. My contact information is on my website, rjharlick.ca.



Monday, May 22, 2017

The Film Adaptation

Terry Shames and the Film Adaptation



No, my Samuel Craddock series has not been snapped up for a film or TV series. That title was just a come-on. Since my first book came out four years go, I must have been asked forty times who I would imagine starring as my protagonist, Samuel Craddock in a TV series or movie. It has been the object of long discussions at dinner parties. At first I felt like this meant I was on my way to a film adaptation, soon. I kept waiting for the call from Hollywood. Little did I know that this is a party game most authors get to play with their friends. It doesn’t mean a damn thing.

But when I think of the film and TV adaptations that have been done of some of my favorite books, my desire to see Craddock on the screen diminishes. It’s the rare film that does justice to a book or a series character. And rarer still does a film illuminate the book. I’m not sure I want to see Samuel twisted to fit a filmmaker’s version. Okay, I’ll take the money and run, but since it isn’t on offer, I don’t have to worry about that—yet.

I do enjoy some adaptations. In particular, I usually enjoy the movie and TV versions of Jane Austen books. It’s probably the costumes that grab me. But one in particular, Persuasion, is not only my favorite Austen adaptation; it’s one of my favorite movies. That’s because instead of lush female actors and drop-dead gorgeous male actors, all the actors in that particular movie look like every day people. Instead of pristine courtyards for the characters to elegantly move through, the houses are surrounded by muddy yards where chickens run freely.

One of my biggest disappointments in TV adaptations of current fiction was the Thomas Lynley series by Elizabeth George. In the books Barbara Havers is a homely, dumpy, frumpy woman who is always unhappy. In the TV version, she’s a babe with a quick wit. For me it steals the pleasure of watching the two main characters struggle to reconcile their numerous differences. To a lesser degree, I grew impatient with the Longmire series. Craig Johnson’s books are thoughtful, philosophical, and beautifully written. The TV show depends too much on pretty scenery, sexy women, and uneven story lines, no matter how hunky Robert Taylor is.

On the other hand, the fabulous Justified series took a short story by Elmore Leonard and ran with it. Every season was grounded in Leonard’s gritty action, outrageous characters, and clever dialogue. It worked beautifully for those of us who like their violence leavened with snappy dialogue and rough-hewn characters.

I’ve been watching the Bosch series based on Michael Connolly’s series and I like it fine (except for the terrible dialogue in this year’s season—why are they trotting out ever cliché ever spoken?), but it doesn’t bear much resemblance to Connolly’s Bosch. (Oddly, the only character in the TV series that reminds me of the books is the character of Jerry, Bosch’s partner.) That works in its favor. I don’t have to compare it to the books because they are so different.

Why are so many of the adaptations so different from the original? Someone I know who was in the film industry for many years said that movies and TV shows are all about the story line. The characters have to fit in. The best novels are the opposite: Characters get themselves into situations and have to work their way out. The way they do it depends on who they are as characters rather than who wrote the script.

All that said, I’m waiting for Hollywood to call! And wondering who would be the best actor to play Samuel Craddock.









Friday, May 19, 2017

This is my Brain...

How do you keep the balance between that little world in your head and the real one?

by Paul D. Marks

The simple answer is, I don’t. And I don’t care as long as I don’t call someone by one of my character’s names. Hasn’t happened yet, like it did when I called a girlfriend by another girlfriend’s name. That was not a good day…

And the best answer is what Susan said on Monday, “What? You mean the one in my head isn’t real?” I don’t think I can top that, but I gotta say something, so here goes:

Mostly it’s not a problem, see I actually know the diff between the real world and the world in my head…at least most of the time. The problem’s actually more acute, as opposed to cute, when I start to say some little silly thing to someone that isn’t my wife. Because, like many married couples we have our own way of talking and cute little things we say to each other. And sometimes some of those have started to pop out, but I think I’ve caught them all ahead of time. And the same goes for stories and characters, they’re always in there running around, percolating. So sometimes I might start to say something out of a story, but so far nothing’s actually escaped my lips.

And the reality is the inside of my head is like some Rube Goldberg contraption. Lots of pulleys and levers and slides and random junk everywhere, kind of like space junk in outer space, just floating around. So trying to get that little ball from one point to another can be a problem. The ball being the finished product, a story or novel.

The other reality is that as writers we’re working all the time, so it truly is hard to keep those little critters – our characters – out of our heads and out of our mouths. Everything we do, everything we hear, every conversation we have and everything we see is fodder for a current WIP or a future work.

As writers, I believe we’re often daydreaming, off in other lands. Sometimes it’s more fun to be in those worlds of our own making. Maybe more exciting than our humdrum everyday lives. Except mine ’cause my day job is as a super hero.

I do some of my best thinking while driving or walking the dogs or even in the shower. Actually, a lot of vexing writing problems have been solved with hot water running down my back. Something about that environment clears the mind. At least this mind. (I know, I know, some people think my mind has been too clear and empty for too long…) So there’s times and places to get lost in the world in our heads and times to be in the real world. But some day I might just go over the rainbow and stay in that other world forever. Of course the world over my rainbow is a dark night with rain-slick streets, glaring neon and venetian blind shadows everywhere.



***

And I want to congratulate everyone who was nominated for an Anthony earlier this week. I know a lot of you and you’re all terrific. I wish you all the best of luck!

***

And for something a little different: For the International Day of Families, my wife, Amy, did a piece on what it’s like to be a writer’s wife at the other blog I write for, SleuthSayers. If you haven’t read it you might find it interesting. So check out “Until a Split Infinitive Do Us Part” at: http://www.sleuthsayers.org/2017/05/until-split-infinitive-do-us-part.html 


***

And now for the usual BSP:

My story Twelve Angry Days is in the May/June issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magaine, on sale at newsstands. Or click here to buy online.



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I'll be at the California Crime Writers Conference in Culver City, June 10th and 11th. I'm on a panel called "The Long and Short of It: Short Stories and Novellas vs. Novels" with William Kent Krueger, Kate Thornton and Travis Richardson, moderated by S.W. Lauden. Hope to see you there!
http://www.ccwconference.org/


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Balance? Moi?

"How do you keep the balance between that little world in your head and the real one?"

by Catriona

At the risk of sounding like Lady Catherine de Bourgh, if there was only one it would be a skoosh. Not that Lady Catherine ever used the word "skoosh" but she said - of piano-playing: "If I had ever learned I would be a great proficient" and she always comes to mind when someone, me included, makes a baseless claim.
Fictional house
The thing that gives me trouble is keeping my little fictional worlds apart. It's easy to remember whether a shop, house, beach, street or town exists in the world of Dandy Gilver or in a standalone. Roughly, if people drive Morris Cowleys and everyone's got a hat on, it's the 1930s. If people walk into lamp-posts while checking Facebook (and failing to get off my lawn) it's the 21st century and a standalone.

actual house where I lived - totally different
But trying to match character names and locations to individual books when all the names are suitable for working-class contemporary Scots and all the locations are in some bit of Galloway . . . that's where things fall apart. Not while I'm writing. While I'm writing, I could tell you where the plug points are in every fictional room and where the nearest postbox is to every fictional street. And as to the characters, every one of them has a face and voice, a wardrobe and a job, a childhood and a retirement plan, and - basically - a 40ft shipping container full of back story that never gets onto the finished page.



It can make for a lot of affronted spluttering when your editor says - as mine just did - that two characters introduced in the first three chapters are merged and need work. "They're nothing like one another!" I want to retort.  And, in my head, that's true. But on the page, two brothers, two years apart, both a bit sweary and sarcastic, are just a big double-headed blob.

Noisy neighbours
As to the real world, it can come as a bit of a surprise to look up - either from the breakfast room of a friend's stately home in the Highlands or from the check-out queue of the Dumfries Tesco - and see blue sky and brown grass, jack rabbits and crested quail, prickly pear cactus and persimmon trees. Oh yeah, I think. Remember that time you moved to California.



Some of California has seeped in deep, mind you. The last few years I've needed to write IT"S RAINING on a post-it note and stick it to my lap-top during first drafts, just to keep the possibility of actual weather alive in my mind.


Quite hard to find a pic of rain, but here's a tardis in a warm scarf.
But between 2010 and now, there's been no real danger of confusing my inner reality with the reality outside my head (see above: persimmon trees). However. I've started writing about California as well now. Specifically about a college town in contemporary northern California. And things are beginning to go a bit strange. When I drive under the railroad bridge at 1st St in Davis, I do kind of expect to see a cop shop, a run-down motel and tomato fields instead of an In-and-Out Burger, a Safeway and a suburb. And I recently mixed up the name of the real newspaper  - The Davis Enterprise - with my paper  - The Cuento Voyager - when I was looking for a real story online.

The town of Davis is rich with weirdness just begging to be dusted with a bit of fiction-glitter and plopped into a mystery plot. Here are just a few high spots for starters:

Not a sign you see every day, right?

The public art is mainly vegetables

Then there was that time they moved those houses

And whatever this was all about
I foresee more mingling and less balance in my future.








Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Head out of the clouds? by Cathy Ace



How do you keep the balance between that little world in your head and the real one?

Gabby not caring if I'm off in my own little world
Honestly? Not terribly well. This is something of a drawback when I’m doing something requiring my full attention – like driving, for example – so that’s when I do my best to clear my head of the made-up places I inhabit, and focus on the real world about me. (I’m sure everyone on the road will be glad to know that!). 

Poppy ignoring me
But even then – yes, even then – there’s a little part of my brain that won’t turn away from whatever it is I’m working on, and I have been known to have “Ah-ha!” moments when behind the wheel. Of course, I need both hands to operate my vehicle, so writing a quick note to myself isn’t possible. My solution? I phone myself (hands-free, of course) and leave a message. Yes, that’s the only way I won’t forget what – at the time – I believe to be possibly the best idea I’ve ever had. 

Usually, whether I’m working through the day or night, being in the world I’ve invented is not a problem; the dogs at my feet don’t seem to care, and the dishes in the sink can wait a while. I especially enjoy driving my tractor mower, slicing the top off our acres of grass, while I ponder the regions of my fantasy world, and weeding? Oh weeding is wonderfully soothing when I’m plotting.


Me on my mower!
When I’m spending time with my family I do my best to not stare off into space for too long, because then then know they’ve lost me…and that’s not fair to them. We all have little enough time together as it is, so I owe them my mental as well as physical presence when we’re able to enjoy each other’s company.

Usually, therefore, I live a life in which the balance is allowed to be “off” – where I’m able to constantly and fully inhabit my make-believe world. And the mental gymnastics I perform to be able to give myself, fully, to my family – and friends – is as nothing, compared with the enrichment I get from my infrequent interaction with real human beings. 

Cathy Ace is the Bony Blithe Award-winning author of The Cait Morgan Mysteries (#8 The Corpse with the Ruby Lips was released on November 1st) and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (#3, The Case of the Curious Cook, was released in hardcover in the UK on November 30th and in the USA & Canada on March 1st).  You can find out more about Cathy, her work and her characters at her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter with news, updates and special offers: http://cathyace.com/