So I was going to write a long post about how 2010's NoirCon was a surprising blast of fun in an otherwise draining year, and how I'm looking forward to returning to Philly next week for another round, and how I wonder what it'll be like...but then I thought "Fuck it, I'm busy," and will just post a bunch of NoirCon pics to Facebook and here when I get home.
So this half of the week and into the weekend, I'm wearing a pomade called Pompage (from Pomp's Not Dead, a great little company), which is coffee-scented and also a tribute to the band Descendents. I'm loving it so far. Feels good, looks good. Shiny and makes me smell coffee all day long.
My Spring class on Horror Films & Politics was approved. Awesome. That'll be fun.
I estimate that I've got about 10K words left to write in order to bring WORM to a close (the first draft, anyway), which is only about 10 days worth of work, and yet...I'm procrastinating badly. Why? No clue. I mean, I've had a cold that's drug on for weeks, but I'm feeling better now. Why am I still stalling? I've got a couple of Lafitte books I want to write. I've got a bad itch to do it. But I need to finish WORM. Man, th' hell am I whining about, right?
You read that right. I have part of the fourth Lafitte novel written, and I'm dying to get back to it. And now, there's this guy's voice in my mind. A guy who's been through a helluva lot, and he's starting to whisper this story to me about how the books get the story wrong and how he's the only one who knows the truth. Scary guy, short and muscly, half-biker, half-dead man, half-bad-ex-cop. And I'm writing down what he has to say. And that will be Lafitte #5, folks.
Who's coming to Philly next week? Who's getting to the airport about 5PM on Wednesday so we can share a cab?
I'm trying something new this weekend, a medium-hold pomade called Orange Blossom Special by this cool cat Ben March (Mr. March's Pomade). Now, what he tells me is that the OBS is formulated after Johnny Cash's favorite pomade, and yes, it smells like orange blossoms. So I tossed some in as soon as it arrived and will rock it for at least the first half of the week.
So far, this is great!
This guy's stuff is raw, man. Home-brewed and full of attitude. He sent me some sample of his other stuff, and I'm already dying to try the Cold Duck, which just knocked me out with the menthol smell. I'm not a big "mint" fan when it comes to the taste of mint, but the smell really gets to me. Nice. But for now, the Orange Blossom Special.
He's got some labels coming for those tins (I've seen em. Excellent art), but in the meantime, it's very cool to get the stuff with the Sharpie work. Seriously, that's just raw right there.
And here's how it's looking right now. I like it. A nice small pomp. Smells great, looks slick.
I think I've found a definite winner. And the Cold Duck, I've got my eye on that for mid-week.
If you buy some this month and next, some of the money goes to support both an autism and diabetes charity, for reasons very personal to Mr. March. Since I'm a diabetic now, well, if cool pomade will help fun a cure, I'm all over it.
In a few days, I'll write a post about NoirCon, how I'm eager to get back after being away for so long. So yes, a non-hair related blog, can you believe it?
So now that I'm back home and feeling better (man, I'm still ill, like a warmed-over turd covered with snot), I decided it's time to try the real grease.
Last week, I used Layrite Deluxe. I love it. The smell, the look, and the feel. It's a gel/water-based pomade, and very easy to use. I'll definitely get more down the road. I also tossed in Teddy Boy Original on Wednesday, and that stuff is amazing. Water-based, but nothing like a gel. All the hype is true, and I will show you some of that during Noircon week, when I take it to Philly with me.
So onto the grease. Anchors' Teddy Boy Slick. Waxy and oil-based. Luckily, it smells all mentholy, too, which is good for my sinus infection today.
Some notes: I need a haircut (and a shave). I know some of you OG's like the sides long, but not me. Also, I'm still learning to style, thus the crappy pomp. I'm working on it! But this was a little harder to work with. I didn't know if it was me or the grease. Probably me. It feels nice on my head, though.
Take a look:
Blurry camera today. Sorry about that.
In non-pomp news, I'm hoping to get back to WORM this weekend after some time away. So close to the finish line! I want it done in October so I can then make the next Lafitte my NaNoWriMo project. Likely won't finish it, but it would be fun to try and write it faster. The story is in my head, just dying to get onto the page. VROOM! VROOM!
It's a cool world, this pomade trade. Some really sweet stuff out there that is making men's hair care new. I admit, after getting rid of my 80's "like-hair-metal-but-too-suburban-to-commit-to-the-full-Eddie-Van-Halen-look" mullet, I really didn't care. Give me the cheap shampoo, no conditioner, and a moderately middle-of-the-road haircut. I'm an adult, I'm a man, and I don't give much of a shit. Some three-dollar Suave for Men gel? Works for me.
Then I became a crime writer, and there was something about the Forties and Fifties-era dudes with the pomade and the hats that was kinda cool. And I already loved rockabilly. So as best I could with the gel I could buy at Wal Mart, I tried to brush that shit up and back. And it was...okay. It never held on one side, so it was always this wavy, droop at the tip look. Meh. So I would cut it off and just forget about it.
Then I had a heart-attack. That part sucked. But it also woke up the part of me that thought, "Why the fuck do I go through life making-do with *meh* hair when I'm lucky to be 41 and blessed with this thick mane of awesomeness?" I wanted a long top to brush back, and short sides and back kinda like Grandpa had. I bought some American Crew pomade, which just kinda sucks. Smells bad, feels bad, and I didn't really know what the hell I was doing with it.
Thankfully, the internet exists. So I looked up pomades, and was stunned to see what I had been missing. And I learned a shit-ton from this guy, The Pomp, over a long weekend, until I was ready to jump in and try some. And holy crap, there are so many that look like cool stuff! I love the artwork and design, I love the different colors and textures, and I was thrilled to finally get a couple to see what they smelled like--both were awesome.
I started with Layrite Deluxe, which is one of the larger, well-known brands with a decent price, and they had a strong reputation. I figured that would be the best place to climb on-board.
I also got Anchors' Teddy Boy Slick. That's the old-fashioned oily/wax sort of pomade. I'll get into that when I get back from New Orleans. It takes a bit of commitment to put the oil stuff in your hair, so not going to try that while out-of-town. (And I've also got Anchors' Teddy Boy Original on the way because I've read tons of great things about it being a "game-changer")
I'm not going to review them. Just use them, see how they make me look, and post a few old-fashioned photos now and then.
So here's my first real try at pompin' with Layrite. Cool.
They've done it again, my publishers. I'm lucky to be with a company that keeps picking books by other authors that are incredible *and* they send them to me to read for free! Suck on that, losers with money!
So. Gerard Brennan's latest, Undercover. Pure Thriller. This is the sort of action novel people should be reading instead of that shitty "Jack Reacher" or whatever he's called. Nailed it from the get-go. I loved Undercover, can't you tell?
And since I'm notoriously lazy when it comes to this blog (thus the bullet points), I decided to let Brennan have the floor...but without me having to do much research.
Anyway, here's him doing the One-Word Questions Interview thingie.
GB: Thanks for having me here, Prof. You're a good lad.
GB: You want more compliments...? Oh, wait, aye. The book. Cool of you to let me talk a little bit about my new cop thriller, UNDERCOVER.
GB: Because you have more readers than I do and I want to borrow some of them.
[Ed. Note: I don't, but, sure, borrow away. Just be sure to pay them after so I get my cut.]
ANS: Football? (Soccer?)
GB: I call it soccer too. Where I come from the word football also describes something called Gaelic. That's the breed of football that isn't anything like the NFL one, but you are allowed to pick up the ball with your hands so long as you kick it once in a while. You get points for kicking said over the bar as well as under. The players need to maintain full-time jobs, but they become local heroes. I never showed any real talent for it.
However, some people from where I come from also call soccer football, which isn't confusing at all. It's also great sport to watch with friends and beers. And people get really passionate about it. Like REALLY passionate. Because tribalism is fun, and it's possible for anybody to make money from it, because we can gamble on sport legally on this side of the pond. But, somehow, the richest people have much more luck with gambling than the less rich.
GB: I know, right?
GB: The hub of Northern Ireland (if you're not from Derry). WEE ROCKETS' stomping ground. My father's home city, a place I lived for many years in adulthood before retiring to a peaceful town within commuting distance of the big wee city, and a wonderful place to set crime fiction. It's a colourful spot. Well, the people and the flags (we have more than one in NI, y'see) are colourful. A lot of the architecture is pretty drab.
ANS: Fuckin' kidding me? (Sorry, too many words)
GB: No, man. I don't joke about architecture.
[Ed. Note: He fucking well doesn't.]
GB: Are my favourite. So much so, I have the words FIREPROOF HEATHEN tattooed to my inner left arm. Real close to my heart. The FIREPROOF bit is a reference to one of my other novels published by Blasted Heath, by the way.
GB: Only when people ask about it. The religious types don't have the same sort of power they once had on the island of Ireland, but still. A person of a certain persuasion might bless themselves after asking about the tattoo. Or sneer.
And upwards. Towards another bunch of books. I feel a bit awkward telling people that UNDERCOVER is the first in a new series when part two hasn't been written yet. This isn't through want of trying, mind you. I'm just one of those arty types who likes to have something to worry about. Oh, and I have to put a lot of time into a PhD I'm working on. And some other projects as a frustrated stage and screenwriter. And my family depend on me for money and stuff. You get the idea, right? But there will be more Cormac Kelly adventures, more standalone novels and more of anything else that might tickle my fancy.
ANS: Thanks, buddy.
GB: Thank YOU, ye talkative fecker.
At this point, you should be clicking to beat all hell. Buy UNDERCOVER now.
Regardless of how "stressed" I feel these days, especially aware of it after the heart attack in March, I still hear how "stressed" everyone is and I think, "Really? Or is it just an excuse?"
I think of all those 18th and 19th century stories, these English dudes living an already seemingly leisurely life, but the slightest thing would stress them out and they'd be all "I must go out to the country for my health." I thought, "Ninnies." Now I think, "I get it."
So, are we just lazier than people have been before? Are we actually busier? Why are we so tired all the time? Is it real?
I mean, my dad was a welder and electrician, and I'm a university professor. When he came home tired after a day of welding navy ships together, I understood. But, seriously, how come a bunch of meetings set me so on edge that my bad heart vein chose the middle of a shitty semester to go "Clog this, motherfucker" and nearly give me a Widowmaker?
Was it because in my job, I felt that a lot of other peoples' jobs kind of depended on shit that I was doing? Was it because I was trying to make sure the English Dept. plan got the admin off our backs?
After the heart attack in March, which happened during an intense period of negotiations between the admin and faculty over budget cuts, I had a few weeks to get myself back in working order before heading back to the office and classroom. Those three weeks were.....gloriously stress-free. It was when I was least worried about my health. And I was excited to get back to the job, but still, it felt like a weird anti-reaction. Out of the hospital, ordered not to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds, on a bunch of meds, forced into doing exercise at the hospital cardio ward, and it was kind of liberating.
I biked all summer. I went out into the woods a couple of times. I wrote. I drank orange juice. And then it was time for Fall semester.
Now, I teach, I chair the department, and I write novels. The year before, I was working with the union as treasurer and Exec Committee member. I looked at what had caused me the most stress--the union gig, definitely--and said, "No more of that."
Still, there are just days where I feel my teeth grinding, my neck hurting, and I am on a fight to settle the fuck down. I mean, Chair/Teach/Write are the things I love doing, so I juggle that alongside Exercise/Relaxation/Home. And the key is to find the balance that works best. I haven't found it, but I'm trying.
Had a tough week this past week. So I headed up into the woods (at the in-laws country place) to settle the fuck down (STFD, from now on).
I'm using the Fall semester as a STFD tester, trying to find the class-to-office hours-to home balance that works best, but taking it a little easier than I had last year, for instance.
And I feel a little stupid sometimes, because I grew up in a working-class home where a hard days work was hard, goddamnit. Hard physical work should cause neck pain, not committee meetings.
But, you know, that's not true. My neck was killing me for weeks before the heart attack.
There's not really a lesson to be learned here. No epiphany. No One True Thing. Just, hey, stress is a thing. Maybe we work too hard. Maybe the things we think are important are not as important as we think. Still important. Still very important. But not so important that when your body says, "Hey, STFD, you," you go, "No, they need me to do this thing over here. This very important thing." And your body says, "They can't use you to do that if that thing kills you." And then you laugh and say, "I can handle it," and then your body kills your stupid ass. Or tries to.
I'm in the woods, getting ready to head home to a calendar committee meeting tomorrow. Last year, that was a tense one. Tomorrow, I'm gonna lay down the law--compromise and GET OVER IT.
I've got Herman in my lap, and I just finished reading a Walter Mosley book (and then moved on to Sandman Slim), and I'm listening to the psychobilly channel on Pandora.
So I'm reading BITE HARDER, the sequel to the batshit insane HARD BITE, and it's even more so. Like, hipposhit insane. There's just something about the way Anonymous-9 tells a story that winds you up and lets you go like a toy mouse. Wham, Bam, Thank You, You Hipposhit Insane Book, you!
Liked it so much, I just had to interview Anonymous-9 for the blog. But I was so wiped-out from the experience of reading it that I could only manage one word questions. Here goes:
A-9: Exactly. Why not? I was going to let HARD BITE go right where it ended. But it was a hit and people liked it and especially they liked Sid. Figured I could give it another go and pick up the story right where it ended.
A-9: The first draft was a complete misfire. I sent it out for reads and basically had people come back shuffling their feet and staring at the floor. They were embarrassed to say it didn't grab them.
A-9: So I had a long night of the soul. My deal with Blasted Heath was for two books. If I turned in a mediocre follow-up that would be it: all washed up. After 24 tearful hours saying to myself, "I'm tired, this is too hard, etc etc" I accepted that a lot more hard work was required. I had worked so hard already that I actually debated what else I could do. But there was no escape--there's nothing else I want to do. So I sat down the next day and ripped the thing apart and rewrote half of it. Again.
A-9: Sersly. In total I wrote 102,000 words and threw away 52,000.
ANS: Goddamn. (Not a question. Just an interjection)
A-9: Then I sent it out for fresh reads and the real feedback started coming in.
A-9: I sent it to beta readers that I'd met on Twitter and through my Amazon reviews and on Goodreads. Genuine readers that had no vested interest in blowing smoke up my butt. If it wasn't good they'd just melt away.
A-9: I sent the ms to Blasted Heath December 15, 2013. And they scheduled it for September 1, 2014 release.
A-9: Yes, Allan Guthrie and Kyle MacRae run the company out of Scotland. Having Allan behind HARD BITE was crucial for me because when you're launching "something completely different" it helps to be under the wing of a "tastemaker" who says, "Yeah, it's different but I think it's good." I needed a stamp of approval and Al generously gave it to me. So did T. Jefferson Parker. Those two breathed credibility into my work.
A-9: In a couple of months I'm launching a novelette called CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS about a washed up rock star on the verge of an underage sex scandal. It's not the way it looks, it's not what everybody thinks, and in this day and age it's a man's worst nightmare. Beta readers have given two thumbs up. It would make a series too.
ANS: That's them.
A-9: Yep, that's them. Thanks for having me, Neil.