Monday, October 15, 2012

My First Literary Love by Linda Rodriguez

It’s a Far, Far Better Thing I Do

When I was seven or eight, I read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and fell madly in love. The French Revolution, resurrectionists, Madame DeFarge’s vengeful knitters, sweet golden-haired Lucy, handsome French aristocrat Charles—all of these made it a book to dive into and lose myself within. But it was a sloppy, drunken, failed lawyer, Sydney Carton, with whom I fell In love.

Imagine! At that young age, already lusting for the bad boy.

And such a perfect bad boy! Sydney is a worthless drunk. He allowed his lack of discipline and his love of liquor and loose women to derail his once-promising career. Now, he shambles around in dirty, wrinkled clothes and rents out his still-brilliant legal mind to a lawyer who hasn’t half the brains Sydney does, but who’s retained the appearance of a respectable gentleman. Sydney wryly spits on respectable. What a guy!

Of course, behind the sloppy clothes, uncombed hair, and bad habits, Sydney is not only gifted intellectually and witty in conversation, but when his hair is combed and he wears a clean cravat, he’s the spitting image of Charles, much-loved aristocrat, even saving Charles from arrest through this perfect resemblance. Isn’t that enough to make the little girl inside you fall hard? (And if you’re a guy, too bad.) It gets better. Sydney hides within his snarky exterior an ardent but pure love for golden Lucy.

Oh! She could save him from himself! But that’s not to be. Lucy’s in love with shallow, dull Charles, and she marries him and has a golden-haired tot. Sydney hangs around and smolders. (Rather like a later bad boy, Spike, hangs around Buffy’s house in the shadows of the night, keeping watch—Joss Whedon as our modern-day Dickens?)

My heart ached for Sydney’s unrequited love. Then, Dickens broke it right in two. Charles is arrested in France and sentenced to the guillotine. Lucy and tot are desperate to rescue him but nothing works. Sydney sneaks off to the prison and with bribery manages to sneak Charles out as himself. But for this to work, Sydney has to stay in the prison as Charles and go to Charles’ death for the sake of the woman and child he loves.

But Dickens was never one to stop when he’d reduced you to a sodden mass of tears. On the way to the guillotine, Sydney Carton befriends a frightened, young girl, also condemned, who recognizes that he is not the real Charles. He tells her when she asks why he’s sacrificing himself—“It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. It is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.” Probably singlehandedly through the centuries imprinting millions of young girls with a predilection for unkempt, snarky bad boys.

Linda Rodriguez’s novel, Every Last Secret (Minotaur Books), won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. She reads and writes everything, even award-winning books of poetry and a cookbook, and she spends too much time on Twitter as @rodriguez_linda. She blogs about writers, writing, and the absurdities of everyday life at

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I Went to Cleveland to Play

My goal was to write a post each night after retiring to my room so that all of my thoughts could be fresh and fun and full of coolness. Yeah, whatever. Obviously, that didn't happen. I think I managed one photo... and a post about some activities I was planning to attend while in Cleveland. So I'll just share some photos and touch on a few things.

Let's see... I hung out with some great people, hugged a few friends, ate lots of goodies, watched roaches drop from the ceiling during panel discussions, and even managed to carry a roach in my book bag to the airport. I also managed to get my face on TV.   My weekend was full of awesome... including hugs from Andrew Grant and Tasha Alexander, meeting Martyn Lewis from England... and a kiss on the cheek from Lee Child... a kiss on the cheek from Lee Child! I was all excited about him knowing my name without me introducing myself, but as I'm typing this I just realized something... NAME TAG! *rolls eyes* Regardless, Lee Child rolling my name off his tongue was everything a girl could dream of. Let's see...  I sold some books and passed out buttons, attended Noir at the Bar Cleveland, and met up with the new editors of Shotgun Honey. I had a secret cupcake eating outing with Kent Gowran, helped with a book signing, snagged some awesome books for a friend,  signed a few books, myself --- yep, I did,  and managed to drop $225 dollars at a jewelry counter in the bookroom. Yeah... you read that correctly. Some lady managed to get a jewelry table set up in the bookroom... she totally suckered me with her cute pins and necklaces and skull things and change purses. *sigh* Hey, on the bright side... Christmas... some of this stuff can be used for Christmas presents. Yay! Where was I?  Oh... I ran to the hotel in the middle of a rainstorm with John Kenyon trying to hide under my umbrella, did multiple Random Acts of Cupcaking with the lovely, Erin Mitchell, and met, hugged, and adored the adorable Sara Blaedel. I shared a bed with Neliza Drew, wore some cowboy boots, and ate cupcakes and chocolate cake for breakfast at the Horseshoe Casino. I went to a Scottish Hooters (The Tilted Kilt) two days in a row for lunch, sat next to John Kenyon at the 4th Street Diner, and I snagged the very last Big Maria novel by Johhny Shaw for 20 big ones! I also had my photo snapped with Christa Faust. I think she even nicknamed me... SparkleButt! How cute is that? I also finally put my arms around Laura K. Curtis and Linda Rodriguez, not to mention the oh-so-lovable, Ben LeRoy (I need more hugs).  Sadly, my camera stayed in my purse most of the weekend so I'm missing proof of all of the above goodness. But it happened... all of it. It really did.
When can we sign up for next year?
The Beauty of Cleveland - one photo only
The gang listening to the wisdom of Johnny Shaw (photo by Eric Beetner)
Dan O'Shea reading at Noir at the Bar in his lovely jacket
Josh Stallings using his loud voice at Noir at the Bar (photo by Eric Beetner)
cupcakes and chocolate cake for breakfast
Friends at the Stuart Neville book signing
I see Stuart!
Sitting with Neliza Drew, Drew Smith... Nancy?
Me with John Kenyon and Thomas (Goofball) Pluck
I think it's way past our bedtime in this photo
I think this is the True Grit panel. I see Josh Stallings.
Breakfast photos... we added a new person to the table every time the waitress
would leave. She hated us, me thinks.
My favorite photo of the trip... Chris F. Holm signing books for Elizabeth A. White

 Me with the beautiful Sara Blaedel
Christine McCann, Elyse aka Pop Culture Nerd, and Lauren O'Brien
Me with the lovely Laura K. Curtis
The new Shotgun Honey editors, Joe Myers and Jen Conley
I love this photo! The gorgeous Christa Faust

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bouchercon Photo of the Day

It's Me with Christa Faust... I love this woman!

Bouchercon Crazy 2012

So I headed out to Cleveland on Tuesday to hit some crazy crime fiction conference where weird people in strange jackets and sparkly pants get together to play, have fun, hang out at a bar, and eat chocolate...

I'll be here through Sunday, and starting tomorrow me and Kent Gowran - Kent and me - will be selling copies of Shotgun Honey Presents: BOTH BARRELS. We also have some fun buttons to give away! Woot! 
After sitting through some awesome panels on Friday I'll be headed over to Noir at the Bar Cleveland, featuring Snubnose Press authors... Not only will it be AWESOME, Eric Beetner will have some crazy cute buttons for the crowd. Heh, crazy cute buttons... not really crime fiction-y, is it? 
And.... the lovely Erin Mitchell and Sabrina Ogden (Oh, wait... that's me) will be participating in the Random Acts of Cupcaking Project, with cupcakes generously donated by a lovely author who has request to remain anonymous. I don't have a picture of the cupcakes, but I'm pretty sure they're tasty and will be a miniature version of this  ----->>>>>
So, if you're here in Cleveland... find me and purchase one of these...
And then make sure to come to this....
Lots of *smooches*

Sabrina O.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My First Literary Love by Nigel Bird

My first literary love.  Isn’t that a beautiful title?

When Sabrina asked me if I’d like to take part in this, I was very  excited.  My thoughts bubbled like a pan of boiling water.  I had so much to offer on this one.  Or so I imagined.

My first literary loves as a reader arrived when I left home for London to study at Middlesex Polytechnic. 

For those of you who don’t know, a Polytechnic was like a University for those who couldn’t make the grades.

I was at the college for 4 years.  In that time I made precisely no new friends.  The weekly conversation, unless I hooked up with one of my home-town buddies in the city, was with the ladies at the supermarket checkout (and they were always ladies, then).

I’m not sure exactly why I didn’t make friends, but I think there were 3 main reasons.  The first was shyness.  I was crippled by it. 

The second was that I thought I had enough mates already.  I didn’t feel the need to move on.  Like I said, I wasn’t bright enough for university.

The third.  By the age of 18, I’d already given up alcohol (I was to make up for it in a big way, but that’s who I was then). I had no way of overcoming my serious inhibitions. 

Oh, how I’d like to give that young man a shake.

I was lonely as hell for the first year.

After that, I loved things. London was full of opportunities to experience my passions – music, film and people-watching. 

It also meant I had lots of time to read books.

So, like I said, my mind was full of bubbles when Sabrina asked me, bubbles catching the light and painting rainbows in the sky.

And then I wondered what I would write.

 ‘To The Lighthouse’ by Virginia Woolf.  I loved it.  Can remember the joy of each page.  Sadly, that’s about all I do remember.  A lady in a long dress, a remote husband and a lighthouse.  Not enough to write a blog about there.

‘The Plague’ by Sartre, tense and gripping.  A man is surrounded by dying people, pustules under their armpits.  Not much I could share on that one.

‘The Outsider’, Camus.  I could talk about Camus being in the French Resistance or an international goalkeeper.  Or mention that the song by the Cure, ‘Killing An Arab’ finally made sense (though I’d loved it even before it made sense).

‘The Great Gatsby’ by F Scott Fitzgerald.  I could mention the desire with which I wanted to be there.  Wanted with a real hunger to change the decade of my birth and my social standing.  I wanted to be Gatsby. And cocktail drinking.

‘The Catcher In The Rye’.  I can tell you about that because unlike the others, I’ve reread it several times.  My memory hasn’t let me down quite so badly.  But that’s even more obvious than the others.

‘Metamorphosis’ by Kafka.  I loved the picture of Kafka on the back of my Collected Works.  He’s such a frail and odd looking man.  A real outsider.  A genius.  Made me feel better about my own isolation and the way I felt so outside of any loops.  Like he’d been there before.  Understood me.  Was me.  I woke up many times after that as a beetle.  Many times my legs kicked at air.  What struck me was the way he managed to get me to buy into him being metamorphosed simply by stating it as fact.  What also struck me about Kafka was the way everything he said created a real physical response in me.  How repulsive that beetle was to the human.

‘Germinal’.  Emile Zola.  This was the first of a number of Zola novels.  He’s a master (I remember that much).  I read this at the time of the miners’ strike in the UK in what felt like a war between capitalism and the working class.  How beautifully Zola told the tale of the mines and the miners and the owners and managers.  How he made everyone human. Sticking in my mind, the reflection of the manager’s jealously at the free love-making of the working class, free from hang-ups and middle-class guilt – as you can imagine, having no mates meant having no girlfriends either, so I guess the weight of such ideas struck a chord.  Powerful in every way.

‘Junky’.  Oh the lengths a user will go to for a fix. And what romance associated with self-destruction when I read back then.

‘Crime And Punishment’.  Guilt.  More guilt. 

‘The Man Who Watched Trains Go By’.  Simenon’s Maigret is brilliant.  This is an entirely darker flavour.

‘The Grapes Of Wrath’.  How poor could people get?  And how much better could writing get?
‘Hard Times’.

Raymond Carver.  Richard Ford. Pushkin.  Jack Kerouac.  Hemingway.  Brautigan. Vonnegut.  A male dominated list indeed. 

‘New York Trilogy’.  Paul Auster.  This one made me sit up and take notice.  It was a contemporary novel. Imagine reading work by someone who still lived.  My brother got me into Paul Auster.  Many of my journeys I owe thanks to him and to my friends – not because they told me what I should be, just because they set such fine models to try and follow.  Geoff was studying literature.  He’d moved on to do a Masters. Wrote to Paul Auster and asked for an interview.  Paul Auster said yes.  So, when we went to see him in a Hampstead Waterstones, it was with full hearts. He was so broodingly handsome and with such a deep, alluring voice.  Dark hair, black clothes, pure literature. When he was done, and having utterly fallen in love with the man (not a sexual love, I’ll add for clarity), we hung around till the end.  I had my book signed and sat and waited.  While Geoff chatted and I fizzed with admiration and jealousy, I started to read the Auster’s next.  To my eternal shame, I slipped it under my funeral coat.  Kept it there until we left and got ready to sprint away in case the enormous loops at the door filled the air with screams when I went by.  It was the first and only book I stole (I think).  Waterstones, if you need me to, I’ll happily send you some cash now I’m grown up. Paypal? Which might be when I knew for sure that I wanted more than anything else to be a writer. And here I am, a man who writes.  No Paul Auster, but there can only one of those.  There can only be one of each.

My memory has let me down. 25 years is a very long time and the truth is that I couldn’t do much better with books I read 5 years ago. 

It means I can’t share detail, but not that I can’t remember the path.

My first literary love?  Was with literature itself.  The words.  The authors.  The lives and times.  The way they allowed me to grow without leaving my bedsit. The way they were my friends in parks, on buses, whilst drawing out cups of coffee to way beyond cold.  We may not be in touch the way I’d like to be, but they’re in my thoughts and always on my Christmas Card list.

Bio – Nigel Bird would like to have been so many of the authors mentioned above.  Instead, he has come up with his own ideas.  You can find them in his collection Dirty Old Town (And Other Stories) or his soon to be re-released novella Smoke.  He is also very proud to be able to call himself a novelist since the release of ‘In Loco Parentis’. You can learn more about Nigel at his website at