This past month, friend and fellow author Carl Brown passed away. Although we’d lost touch over the years, he’s someone I’ll always remember, and I wanted to share these memories.
I first met Carl shortly after moving to Louisville, Kentucky from Wisconsin. A then-mutual friend asked if I wanted to go to a party Carl was hosting. I said why not, and we went to a house in the Highlands I would later learn Carl called Sanctuary. I don’t remember if I was nervous about attending a party where I didn’t know anyone, but Carl made me feel welcome.
For Carl, Sanctuary was more than a name. He was bipolar and open about his diagnosis. His living room/office walls were covered with charts depicting his mood swings. Depression seemed the most prevalent, and he would take to bed, spending the time sleeping and reading.
He didn’t let that stop him from seeing I suffered from depression and urging me to get help. I’m much better, and while I probably resented him initially, I see where he was coming from and am grateful he cared.
Carl had two loves: judo and chess. A judo instructor, he achieved the title Shihan (Master Instructor). He was also a master at chess. I think we came to a draw one time in the few times I played the game with him.
He obtained a law degree from Vanderbilt University and was a Jefferson County Commissioner. Carl used his experience as a lawyer and martial artist to pen articles in Black Belt Magazine and write The Law and Martial Arts. His fiction included Bethlehem Baby and Blackstone: The Antichrist (which included Bethlehem Baby), both religious fantasies. While not a church-going Christian when I first met him, Carl would eventually find his way to Highland Baptist Church in the Highlands. Before then, his Sundays were filled listening to the soundtrack for Jesus Christ, Superstar. I wonder if he saw the John Legend version this past Easter Sunday.
He also wrote a column as “The Plain Brown Rapper” for LEO Weekly, Louisville’s alternative newspaper, and hosted The Plain Brown Rapper interview show on then-cable station TKR’s public access channel. About ten years later, Carl was back on local TV, this time with Carl Brown’s Reality, a show we worked on together. It aired on then TV station WYCS. He interviewed local politicians, artists, advocates, among other members of the Louisville community, and I videotaped and edited each episode. We even worked on a short film, “The Art Thief,” that would later be compiled on a DVD of short films included in the book $30.00 Film School (2nd edition) by independent filmmaker Michael Dean.
Carl Brown in "The Art Thief"
Carl’s friendship has meant a lot to me over the years. He was even instrumental in my meeting my husband, James. Carl was a witness, along with James’s son, at our wedding at the Hall of Justice. (We were married in a judge’s chambers.)
I can’t speak for other people’s experiences, but for me, Carl Brown was one of the nicest, most helpful people I’ve ever met. His loss is a tragic one. Requiescat in Pace.
This past Saturday I attended the 8th Annual Kentucky Authors Fair in LaGrange. The Authors Fair originated in Madison, Indiana, and was an outdoor festival before the change of venue. Approximately 80 authors sold books ranging from YA to mystery to romance. It was good to see old friends and meet new ones. I'm looking forward to next year, and will hopefully have one or two new books to sell.
Excited to announce my paranormal suspense novel, The Judas Dilemma, will be published by MuseItUp Publishing. No release date yet. This will be my second publication with Muse, the other being a short dark fiction story, "Family Tradition," that was a finalist in the EPIC EBook Awards 2014.
Judas Dilemma is one of my angel paranormal suspense (not romance) novels that also includes Cathedral Girl (currently a revise/resubmit with another publisher), the Raguel series, and the Malake Habbalah (the angels of punishment) series, along with a couple of others in the works. While Judas Dilemma is currently the only contracted book, my hope is to release the aforementioned in the next few years.
For the past few months, I'd been trying to come up with a plot. I had two homicide detective characters, but no crime. A scroll down my Facebook page advertised a mini video course in writing a cozy mysteries. Why not? I'd been wanting to write a cozy for a while, having written a police procedural crime drama screenplay. I enjoyed reading cozies, as well as other subgenres of the mystery/thriller/suspense genres. Only problem? While I had a title in mind, I still had no plot. But I downloaded the three short videos and gave them a view.
First, although the videos were an introduction to a more detailed course, they were informative and well-done. And, not only that, they inspired a story idea. Soon after finishing the third video, I was jotting down my plot, the main characters, and notes I needed for research. The story is inspired by silent films and by an actress who grew up in the same area as my mother. (They didn't know each other, this actress being eighteen years older and already having moved to Hollywood.)
Of course, I won't be using the actress's name or description, as the story is not about her, but only inspired. Most of this month will be spent doing research. Hoping to write it in April during the bi-annual writing challenge I participate in, the other being in October.
Since then I've been at home recovering, so February is pretty much a write-off. However, it's been very cold while I've been off, so it's not been a bad time to be stuck indoors. And by the time I go back to work, which I hope will be next week (pending doctor approval) it will be daylight when I leave the house.
That said, there are a few things to report this month.
OUT NOW/COMING SOON
I'm pleased to announce that my story 'Morgan's Father' is included in the Women in Horror edition of the SIREN'S CALL e-zine. This issue is completely free to download as a PDF and is chock full of horror stories by women, so download your copy now.
In other news, we don't yet have a release date for OUTPOST H311, but the onus is on me at the moment since I've had the edits back and I'm working through them. And it's taking rather longer than I was expecting. Partly that's due to being on sick leave. For the first two weeks following surgery I couldn't really do much except lie about reading or watching TV. No concentration for anything else. However, this week I've been making progress with the edits, so hopefully there'll be more news on this next month.
I contributed to Mark West's Stephen King mixtape, which appeared on his blog on 26 February. This was a post including a long list of writers talking briefly about their favourite King story. I chose 'The Breathing Method'.
WORK IN PROGRESS
I haven't worked on any WIPs for a while, what with surgery getting in the way and all. So the current status is unchanged. There are two current works in progress:
A WHITER SHADE OF PAIN: a crime thriller set in 1967 which is a collaboration with my husband. We plotted the book together, then I wrote Draft 1 and he started on Draft 2. The latter isn't finished yet, but I've taken it back to make further changes to the amended chapters. So I suppose it's currently on Draft 2.5.
DEADLY SUMMER is the fourth Shara Summers novel, which takes my intrepid sleuth to New York City when she gets a job in a US soap opera. I am about a third of the way through the first draft. I halted work on this when I started writing OUTPOST H311, and I haven't got back to it yet.
That's all to report this month. I anticipate that by the end of next month, spring will have sprung. But you can never tell, with British weather.
This post is a bit late coming, given that we're already halfway through February.
Every year I set up a 'Goodreads' challenge to read so many books in a year. On average it takes me about a week to read one average-length novel. Most of this is down to my long commute - I spend the best part of 3 hours a day every working day on public transport, travelling to and from work, and I use most of that time to read. I am also quite a fast reader, especially if the book is exciting, and I find myself turning pages faster to find out what happens next.
In 2017 I set myself a goal of reading 68. Happily I exceeded that goal and a read a total of 70 books last year. Six of those books I gave a five-star rating to, and this my criteria for the 'best books of the year' list.
In no particular order, they are:
Pet Sematary: Stephen King
Heart-Shaped Box: Joe Hill
Behind Her Eyes: Sarah Pinborough
X: Sue Grafton
Bones Never Lie: Kathy Reichs
Soul Music: Terry Pratchett
No real surprises here - these are all authors whose books I enjoy, and three of my four all-time favourite authors - Stephen King, Sue Grafton and Kathy Reichs - are in this list. The only one who isn't is Sara Paretsky, and that was only because I did not read her 2017 release (though I bought it, at Bouchercon in Toronto) last year.
More details about these books and why I enjoyed them can be found below.
Pet Sematary: The first time I read this book was over 25 years ago. I had to re-read it last year for my horror book club, and I had forgotten just how good it is. This is an almost-perfect horror story that contains all of the characteristics of King that made him my inspiration.
Louis Creed, doctor and Ordinary Guy moves his family to rural Maine when he takes up a job as resident physician on a university campus. The road outside the house claims the lives of many pets, so many that a pet cemetery has been set up by local children. But there's something much darker lying beyond the cemetery, and Louis' descent into madness is creepy and downright disturbing.
I got to meet Joe Hill at Fantasycon in Scarborough a couple of years ago, and end up buying a few books of his which he signed. This was one of them. It involves a fading, self-absorbed rock star with a fascination for collecting macabre items who ends up buying from the internet a suit that allegedly has a ghost attached to it. The suit turns up in a heart-shaped box and the promised ghost does indeed come with the suit, but as always the story is far more complex and it soon takes a sinister turn.
Though not in the same league as his famous father, Stephen King, Joe Hill is still an accomplished horror writer in his own right, and this is a creepy and rather disturbing tale.
Behind Her Eyes: I know Sarah Pinborough personally through both the crime and horror convention circuits, and I am always impressed with both her versatility and her writing style. The author of 20-plus published novels, this is the one that seems to have moved her up into the big leagues, and well deserved that move is to.
'Behind Her Eyes' starts out as effectively a love triange between David, Adele and Louise. David is a doctor, Adele his apparently fragile wife, and single mother Louise his secretary. But she meets him in a bar and shares a kiss with him before she starts her new job and realise that he's her boss. Meanwhile Adele offers a hand of friendship to Louise and she finds herself getting closer to Adele, whilst feeling guilty about carrying on a relationship with David. Alternating between Adele and Louise's point of view, it soon becomes apparent that this is not a typical psychological thriller, and it has an ending that will blow you away.
I was not to know, at the time I read this book, that it would be Sue Grafton's penultimate novel and she would tragically leave us before getting to the end of her 'alphabet' books. I have been with Grafton's couragious female PI since 'A is for Alibi'. Kinsey Millhone isn't married and doesn't seem to be able to commit to relationships, has no kids and no desire to have any, doesn't cook and doesn't play particularly well with others. I think she's wonderful. In 'X' Kinsey ends up crossing paths with a particularly vicious villain, and the encounter will have long-term repercussions for her.
I am aware that Grafton's writing style, and her character, has influenced my own crime series. Sue Grafton is the only one of my favourite crime writers I never got to meet, and I wish I could have
. Bones Never Lie:
Kathy Reichs is another one of my favourite crime writer, and one I've had the privilege to meet. Forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan shuttles between Montreal and North Caroline, uncovering murders in her examination of bones, and with a long-standing on-again off-again relationship with Montreal cop Andrew Ryan. She also has a daughter, Katy, whose chronological age marks the passage of time in the series, though by now Katy is grown up and off doing her own thing.
This one was very typical of Kathy Reichs' style. But I freely admit I love the formula, and I found this one a proper page-turner.
Soul Music: I've been re-reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld series for a while, and I expect it to take me quite some time yet, since there are over 40 books in the series and this is #16. And eventually I will get to books I haven't read before, since I didn't get through them all the first time around.
My favourite books are the ones about the witches, but Death comes a close second and this one features the latter. In this chronicle of the fantasy world, the inhabitants discover Rock Music, and the spirit of teenage rebellion it inspires. Pratchett's books are always entertaining, and are always a good thing to read when I need my spirits lifting.
So there we have it for the best books of 2017. For 2018 I've decided to play it safe and set a goal to read 70 books. Nearly 7 weeks in I have read 7, which puts me a bit behind schedule. But I am sure I shall catch up!
And if anyone is on Goodreads and wants to link up there, this is my profile page.Best