The Next One, Cont.

My review of Pancake Money did get published, and I couldn’t be happier. I also got some great feedback from the editorial board for next time. It was about organization and flow, but they also said your review was well-written, thought-provoking, and insightful. I’ll take it.

As I told my editor, I think I was just too careful in a lot of ways, because I didn’t want to spoil anything. Writing a plot summary seemed like a bad idea, only because you never know which string you pull will unravel the whole sweater. It’s not that plot summaries are bad for any book…. just this one, and other thrillers like it. Something I think of as innocuous might lead the reader to figure out “whodunit” by chapter 2…. and Finn Bell did such a great job of intricately weaving this mystery that I’d be mortified to ruin it for someone else. See, what happens is…………………

The best part about the book is that pretty much anyone could be the murderer. There are clues that point you in all kinds of directions unless you are critically thinking and just trying to spoil it for yourself before the end; this is something I definitely do not recommend. As I said in the review, just enjoy the ride. You’ll know soon enough. Even then, you won’t want it to end. It’s a cool little world Bell has created.

I will say that the priests being murdered are killed with exquisite detail. It is quite grisly if you’re not used to reading these types of novels. I remember that I almost threw up while reading Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, because one of the murdered had earth shoved down his esophagus. Or, at least, I think it was A&D. Dan Brown’s novels all run together for me. It’s a formula that’s made him millions, though.

I’ve read so many thrillers by now that the queasiness is not the issue here, Dude.

It feels good to have another one under my belt. I’ve already got the next book picked, but I want to finish Dead Lemons (another by Finn Bell) first. It’s another thriller, so I’m thinking it will only take me a couple of hours to read it. When you are so high on adrenaline, pages turn themselves. The protagonist/narrator in Pancake Money makes an appearance, and I can’t wait to find it. Apparently, he’s had quite the career change, going from Detective Bobby Ress to Father Bobby Ress. How this happens, I’m not sure, and that’s part of the fun.

Please, please, please buy these books. I MUST BE ABLE TO TALK TO SOMEONE WHO ALREADY KNOWS WHO KILLED WHOM!!!! My editor hasn’t started reading, and I want to be all like, “CHRIST, WHY HAVEN’T YOU FINISHED IT YET! I HAVE NEEDS, WOMAN!”

But I won’t. I’ll just spend that time pining for a screenplay, because Pancake Money would be a very good movie if it was done right, and by that I mean the exact interpretation I have in my own head, and if it is not that, it will be a bad movie.

I have needs.

The Next One

I just submitted my review for Pancake Money. My editor and I reworked it a bunch, so I’m pretty sure it will be published. I am less interested in impressing the review board than I am my own editor, and not because I don’t care about them. It’s that my editor’s standards are much higher than theirs. If I can make her say this one looks good, then that’s a pretty solid guarantee I’m golden. I liken it to the law- going with the state that has the most conservative interpretation so it passes a liberal one easily. However, that does not mean that when I hit “Submit” my heart doesn’t drop into my stomach. It’s not that I’m worried. I just hate waiting. TELL ME NOW! I’m not so much with the patience.

I’ve also chosen the next book, a YA sci-fi in which a kid is thought to be autistic because he’s hearing voices…. but those voices are supernatural and end up giving him powers through touch. I’m really trying to choose a different genre each time, because I don’t want to get good at only reviewing one type of book.

I also like being introduced to a wide variety of authors. Finn Bell, the author of Pancake Money, is not only the best author I’ve read out of the books I’ve reviewed, but the best one I’ve read in probably a year.

I got in touch with him through his web site and told him that the book was so incredible, I thought getting it for free just because I was about to write a few measly words about it was stealing, so I bought it for my editor as well. He responded by saying he’d give me the next one in the series free for an Amazon review, and damn if I’m not completely hooked on that one, too.

It starts off at a Murderball game with a paraplegic protagonist. For the measly sum of six dollars, you too can have both of these books. I highly recommend dropping everything and buying them RIGHT NOW….. mostly because I want to discuss it with you and not worry about spoiling it….. LIKE I DID TO MY EDITOR in a complete #dumbassattack. I was so excited to talk to Finn that I forwarded her the conversation. What followed was a heart attack of an e-mail with a subject line in all caps that read “DO NOT READ THE CONVERSATION WITH FINN YET!” Luckily, I got to her before she opened it. Or, at the very least, she put my heart back into rhythm by lying to me. Whatever.

I’m having a bit of a hard time today, because I don’t think about the divorce that often, but today it’s eating my lunch. Dana and I worked together at an Irish pub for just long enough for me to know that our dance in the kitchen worked wonders. Every second in the kitchen counts, and we could have entire conversations with our eyes. Thus, St. Patrick’s Day is just a goat-ropin’ clusterfuck of memories that invade my conscious mind, when most of the time, everything that has to do with that relationship is buried. I need it that way. I’m not trying to disengage from my memories because I don’t care; it is quite the opposite. I care too much. I am reminded of Passover…. Why is this night different from all other nights? In a way, that answer is simple. I should be at “our old familiar place, you and I, face to face…”

What is it with me and Billy Joel references?

The part that’s complicated is “our” pub is 3,000 miles away. There’s no way I’d be there, anyway. It’s a moot point, so bothering to think about it is just taking away from being in the present. It, like all the other thoughts that drag me into the past, will pass. I just have to wait it out, time accelerated by the busyness of reading.

Onto the next one…….



Feeling Real

My second book review was published a couple of days ago, and it was satisfying to feel like the first one wasn’t a fluke- that I’m good at this. It helps to have an editor, and I definitely share credit with her. I tend to ramble, and she reins me in. I’m still laughing about the time I talked about a character without introducing her first, and she said, WHO EVEN IS THIS? I was also touched when she said, I’m betting your review is better than the book…. which, to my mind, is also a compliment to herself. If she didn’t mean it that way, she should.

I picked the second book based on the title and the fact that it was in the romance category…. when in reality, it turned out to be a lot like the first one. It was also about a female group of friends who overcome adversity through an activity. So, I chose the third book, and the e-mail to my editor is as follows:

I picked the next book. It’s about four women who overcome adversity through eating cheesecake.

Kidding- it’s about a psychotic murderer.

The book is entitled Pancake Money, and I have a funny story about it. For some inane reason, at first glance I thought the book was called Pancake Monkey. Just reading too fast, I guess…. anyway, Online Book Club has a search feature where you can add books to your bookshelves easily, and unsurprisingly, I had trouble finding it. So, I add the book manually and add my own screenshot for the cover, then hit “post.” Of course after I posted it I noticed my mistake. I wish I could blame it on not enough coffee, but this was yesterday afternoon.

I’ve been a little lax on the blogging train because reading and reviewing is taking a lot out of me. I want to write here every day, but after writing, getting feedback, going back to the drawing board, getting feedback again, and trying to decide whether I need to scrap the whole thing and start over or whether what I’ve already written is salvageable, I’m out of energy, especially for writing something else…. even though here, I can both write what I want without an approval board AND I like you people better than them.

I think. 😛

Today is going to be a good day for reading. It’s 37 F and supposed to snow tonight or tomorrow (no accumulation, just cold AF). I’m also really enjoying the book. Last night I practically inhaled the first three chapters. Reading all of these books is hopefully contributing to my own ability to write, but I have definitely learned that you always need an editor- and I’m not just talking about the one that looks for mistakes/what I could have done better in my reviews. Some of the books I’ve read lately (both from OBC and the freebies they give away with aggregators like Bookbub) have been self-published without a professional giving it a once-over, and the results are astoundingly poor. Stories that are really amazing have driven me up the wall with typos and grammatical errors. Content over grammar, always, but when something is wrong on almost every page, it’s hard to ignore.

I am a stickler for grammar, which is why I get someone to check my writing when it’s not stream-of-consciousness blogging. I make grammatical errors here all the time, and tpyos drive me ntus. Most of the time, I just write like I talk, which leads to an array of tense changes, subject/verb disagreement, and I still don’t know what the fuck a gerund is (kidding).

I’m a little rough around the edges today, as are most of us with the time change. This morning I actually looked at the clock and said, “wow- I slept later than usual.” Really, Leslie? REALLY?

So now it’s time to get some food in me and start reading again. My editor awaits.

The Sook and the Book

I am starting this entry at 0613, and it is currently 28º (F) in the nation’s capital. Opinions are mixed as to whether we’ll get any snow this week. Being the snow lover that I am, here’s hoping. If we do get any, Capital Weather Gang is saying it will be the last little bit. Spring is coming early, and the Cherry Blossom Festival is scheduled around St. Patrick’s Day.

As long as I’ve lived here (three years in Silver Spring, MD and, in 2001-2, 18 months in Alexandria, VA), I’ve never been. Perhaps I will brave the crowds this year just to take pictures. The Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial make an excellent backdrop for the flowers… so much so that there are plenty of photographers better than I am who’ll sell their images to the media for almost as much as an average IT paycheck. Maybe I’ll skip taking pictures and just “live in the now,” although my camera is an excellent way to be alone in the midst of a crowd.

Photography allows me to feel like I am floating above the fray, which is exactly the way I like it. I have a lot to do before I can think about pictures, though. As I’ve said, I’m now on my second book review. I’m not finished with the book yet, and I have to get a rough draft to my editor by Thursday. This book is also about a group of women, which I didn’t know when I offered to write about it. I was hoping for something completely different just based on the title. However, it is a little different in that the women are British and the slang doesn’t always translate well. Sometimes I can pick it up just from context clues, sometimes I feel dumber than usual. I also have no idea what any of the acronyms mean. I need to get in touch with an ABP,™ which in my own lexicon stands for “Authentic British Person.” That being said, I don’t have any friends in Manchester (I don’t think), and I don’t know how much of the language is regional. My go-to ABP is from Scotland, and I’m sure she’d help me out to the extent that she could, but I think I’ll actually finish the book and then think about reaching out.

I will say that the writing style is different and much more emotional. I got weepy yesterday, made worse by well, sometimes I get the menstrual cramps real hard… Quite frankly, this book makes my insides squish and I think about Argo intensely, because it’s about the kind of friendship we could have had if I’d not been so blind, fumbling around in the dark. I have others to fill the void quite nicely, but no one is her and it’s not like I can go to the Argo store and pick out a new one. The mold broke after she was made… and I’m betting she knows it. It’s pretty good odds. 😛

It also makes me think about Dana, but to a lesser degree. We did have that kind of friendship, but I have truly blessed & released her into the universe because we both broke each other’s hearts. In this case, we’ll never go home again. I am sure I have said this before, but because Dana and I had such a mutually assured destruction, I feel so much less guilt regarding her than I do about being such a loose cannon jackass to Argo. I “clicked off safe” and said things to her that I’d never say to anyone to their faces, so why I did it online weighs on my conscience heavily. It doesn’t work for everyone, but guilt, for me, was a powerful motivator to become a better person…. a constant reminder that I didn’t like that person and I never want to see her again, because she’s so mean……… often not even realizing it until the consequences arrive. Again, blind. Fumbling in the dark. Loose cannon jackass.

My actions remind me of the Billy Joel classic, Summer, Highland Falls……. they say that these are not the best of times, but they’re the only times I’ve ever known, and I believe there is a time for meditation in cathedrals of our own. I can’t tell you how many times I went to the Episcopal church in my neighborhood just so I could recite this specific excerpt from the prayer of confession and pardon:

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone

Those are the words that every week would beat me into submission, because I realized that although God might forgive me for these things, I couldn’t…. at least, not then. I’m doing much better with absolution now. I realized that I couldn’t beat myself up forever, because it was stopping me from moving forward. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you can’t make yourself put on boots in the first place.

But there are always going to be things that trigger me into the past, and I have to work hard not to stay there. I’ve always been this way. If someone sculpted me, they’d call it The Overthinker. Now, though, when rumination eats my lunch, I can find my way out… mostly through great music……

And books to review, because the rough draft is due on Thursday.

Maxwell House Max

This morning I am sitting in the sun room with a large cup of Maxwell House™ Max, a new product that has 1.75x the amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee. I have some errands to run and chores to do, so I don’t feel bad about front loading a lot of chemical fortitude. If I had to take a wild guess, brewed coffee is getting its ass kicked by energy drinks, and this is basically “shots fired.” I like it black with a good amount of Splenda,™ because there are a lot of chocolate undertones you miss if you add creamer.

Plus, it’s not very expensive. Coffee can just be a beverage again instead of a lifestyle choice. Even I can’t pinpoint the percentage of my income that has gone to outrageously expensive beans, but I guarantee that it’s astronomical. That being said, I do save a lot of money even with buying expensive beans, because it’s still cheaper than going to a coffee shop and paying for one cup at a time.

Sometimes I marvel at how we got here- that the market will bear $3 for a plain cup of coffee. I save a little bit at Starbucks, because people give me gift cards all the time, and because I’m a Gold Member, I get free refills on coffee & tea. Because of this, I have learned that Venti is Italian for “too lazy to get up.” Also, pro tip- SBUX coffee is so much better if you buy the beans and brew them in your own coffee pot… two reasons. You can make it to your own taste, and you know exactly how long it’s been sitting there.

I’d like to support my local indie coffee shops, but since I get gift cards to Starbucks, free coffee is too good to pass up. One $15 gift card will keep me in coffee for two weeks.

However, I am guessing that you don’t come to this web site to hear me extol the virtues of coffee… well, at least, not all of you. You want to know what’s been going on in my life, and I haven’t updated you in a while.

Samantha has signed up for cosmetology school at the Aveda Institute, which is 223 feet from the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop. She’d never taken public transit before, so she wanted me to go with her on a “dry run” to make sure she knew where she was going on the first day. It was absolutely adorable, really. I don’t know anyone who is better at “winning friends and influencing people,” so not only did we get where we were going fairly fast, on the way back we made friends with the bus driver… well, she did, anyway. I just sat back and interjected into the conversation, as I am wont to do. He told us that he was from Haiti, and he was about my age, so I asked him, you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, but did you come here to escape Baby Doc? He said, and this is a direct quote, how the fuck did you know that? Get off this bus. He made a big show of opening the door. It was a Slumdog Millionaire moment as I remembered that my dad was a missionary in Haiti in the ’80s.

Then, a couple of days later, we had a wind storm that sounded like a freight train, blowing the side door open at our house and blowing debris and branches all over the ciy. So far, I only know of one person that died, a six-year-old who was hit by a branch in just the right spot to cause his mortality. In terms of history, one of the trees that President Washington planted at Mount Vernon was knocked over, as well.

Everyone in our household stayed safe, and we didn’t lose electricity… even though the wind at National Airport reached 70mph. As Ron White so eloquently put it, it’s not that the wind is blowing, it’s what the wind is blowing. He was talking about a tornado, but the point is the same. You might be able to outrun the wind itself, but not the car bumper it’s carrying.

I am now reading my second book for review, an advance copy that’s not even on Amazon yet… I suppose you would say that I’m a beta reader, because this is far past first draft work. I’m not far enough along in the book to tell you if the story is better than The Reel Sisters, but I can tell you that the writing style is much more advanced and closer to the fiction I’ve enjoyed before I started reviewing professionally.

I’m hoping my editor sticks with me, because even though I can’t send her a copy of the book (I’m sworn to secrecy), she can at least tell me if the review is good enough for publication or to go back to the drawing board.

As I told her, no one in formal writing makes it on their own…. or they lie. When my first review got published, my e-mail to her said, we did it.

This web site is absolutely not formal writing. It’s just whatever I’m thinking that day… and the very next day, I might say the exact opposite. Sometimes I’ve changed my mind. Sometimes it’s just cognitive dissonance in which each idea is true to me and I carry them both.

I don’t have a problem with thinking two opposite things at once. It’s like love. You never forget that your partner is an amazing part of your world, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t occasionally fantasize about smothering them in their sleep and collecting the insurance money when they haven’t taken out the garbage like you asked them to do two days ago.

Because I’m single, I get the pleasure of being annoyed at myself for those things. I can’t decide if that’s better or worse. Probably better, because I haven’t broken up with me yet…. even on the days I wish I could, like when I’m really mean to me before I’ve had my coffee.


Fanagans’ Daily Briefing

Getting into the spirit of living in DC………

  • I can’t decide if I am more or less afraid of Donald Trump being impeached. There are just too many people we’d have to get rid of in the line of succession before we reached the legal definition of “a reasonable person.” The news that Mike Pence thinks we can end abortion in America is what did it for me, because he’s not going to make it happen by creating a social safety net for poor mothers. If Republicans were actually pro-life, they’d be lined up around the block with bottles and blankets for the children living in poverty right now. The classic line about not creating a government safety net is “that stuff should be taken care of by private charities.” It won’t, because charity donations are dependent on a good economy, and even then, there’s no guarantee that people will donate enough.
  • Jared Kushner having his security clearances revoked is the best news I’ve heard in a long time, because he never should have gotten them in the first place. That being said, it literally makes no difference because the president has no qualms about saying whatever he wants without a filter. Well, I guess it does make one difference. Bad things happen to people who leak Top Secret information to ordinary citizens, and it only has to happen once to get on intel’s radar. Additionally, I didn’t mean to or I didn’t know is completely invalid. Idiocy and malice are treated exactly the same way.
  • Since the idea of arming teachers has been tossed around, one has accidentally shot themselves in the classroom, and one has barricaded themselves into a classroom, waving a gun to keep the children out. This is obviously a brilliant idea, as is Florida’s idea to budget $67 million to give teachers hand guns. Thinking they should probably start with pens & pencils….. maybe some Crayons. If they want to get really crazy, why not raise teachers’ salaries to six figures, because without them, we can’t do anything else. Before you can run a Fortune 500 company, my guess is (and I’m just spit balling here…) you have to learn how to read at some point.
  • I’m starting to hope that Eli Pope and Jake Ballard exist.