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February 08, 2006

Will Work for Cheese Straws

Will Work for Cheese Straws

by Susan, Spilling the Scoop on Last Weekend

Harleysue_1 I'm back from a weekend of murder and mayhem in Alabama, though I didn't kill anyone (and, surprisingly enough, neither did Harley).  What I did do, for the fourth time, was participate in the Murder in the Magic City mystery conference,  sponsored by the ever-gracious Southern Sisters and run by the amazing Ms. Margaret Fenton.  I felt nervous—unusual for me—because the diabolical Margaret had tapped me to moderate a panel called “Murder Plots on the Spot” with the fabulous but insane (and I mean that in the nicest way) Victor Gischler, Sean Doolittle, Harry Hunsicker, and Duane Swierczynski.  It would basically be a spontaneous, off-the-cuff, put-your-foot-in-your mouth type of thing, which could either be absurdly funny or breathtakingly stupid.  Gulp.

Anyway, my plane was late leaving St. Louis on Friday (as Sonny Gilmore of Crosshaven Books, aka my B-ham buddy/chauffeur, had predicted), so I was about an hour behind schedule with no chance to catch up in mid-air, considering we had to fly through skies as choppy as a bucking bronco.  Man, I haven’t experienced turbulence like that since I left the Deadly Divas!  (Oh, I’m kidding.)

When I finally arrived on firm footing and was scurrying toward Security where Sonny waited, I heard a man’s voice behind me saying—loudly—“Hey, woman, can’t you walk any faster?”  Or something like that.  I turned to see Sean Doolittle coming up from astern.  Funny guy.  Sonny was giving us both a ride to the hotel, and, of course, it was raining buckets as we dashed to the parking garage (clearly, where Sean’s smooth head comes in handy—water off a duck’s back, baby).

Friday night ended with dinner at Chili’s then back to the hotel where Victor Gischler was holding Boysinbar court in the lobby where the liquor freely flowed…and Duane, Jim Born, Margaret Fenton, Coco Ihle, Sarah Stewart Taylor, Jeff Shelby, Pari Noskin Taichert, et al, lolled around, getting boozed up before bed.  (Though the picture at right is from the sports bar on Saturday night...hello, Duane, Jeff, Sean and Steve!)

Noirboys I hit the sack before eleven, knowing I’d need sleep for my panel, which was first up in the morning (I know!  What was Margaret thinking???).  Let’s skip right to the opening festivities, shall we?  I was presented with a lovely wizard’s hat, Suehat since I’m now officially MMC’s “Author Mascot,” then the panel started off with my asking Victor, Sean, Duane and Harry very innocent questions, such as, “Do you outline?”  (No one but Harry, who is also a snappy dresser, which makes me wonder if outlining and dapper attire go hand-in-hand?)  “Do you write a crappy first draft without editing as you go along?”  (No, siree, Bob.  All are tweakers, if I remember correctly.)  “Do you know your killer from the start?”  (Impossible for Duane and Victor, who like widespread bloodshed rather than one self-contained murder.)

Finally, it was time to plot on the spot.  I’d brought my crib sheet with silly names for characters, odd settings, strange occupations; which I was glad to have as I got the ball rolling. I can’t even remember all the insanity that happened during the hour, as I was laughing too hard during most of it, but this is the book the Noir Boys spontaneously plotted (and, which I’m sure, will find a place in some daring publisher’s catalogue in 2007).

Type of Book:  Cozy Noir

The Protagonist:  Sarah Bellum, a former magazine editor in New York, who has shucked city life to fulfill her dream of owning a porn bookshop/scrapbooking shop in Monkey’s Eyebrow, Iowa.  She’s 38 years old, not married, and a former ice skater from Belgium who survived a horrible skating accident at the Torino Olympics.  She also suffers from a flesh eating bacteria but is on medication. Oh, and she smells like a lilac.  Her sometimes sidekick is her Auntie Bellum.

The Victim:  Jacque Strapp, the owner of a Christian bookshop next-door to Sarah’s erotic book shop.  Jacque’s partner in business is Woody Forest.  They claim to be “just friends.”  Jacque is 35 years old and has cats, which Sarah comes over to feed when Jacque and Woody are out of town (so she has a key).  Woody is the one who discovers the stiff, finding Jacque in the locked apartment, dead in his sleep, apparently of natural causes.  One of Jacque’s cats has been chewing on him, as SuevicSarah was supposed to have been feeding the critters (as Jacque and Woody were scheduled to be away that weekend).  She inadvertently stumbles upon the scene of Woody finding Jacque when she drops by to borrow a cup of holy water.

The Killer:  Neal DuPrey (pronounced, Do-Pray).  He’s the regional manager for Barnes & Noble, and he desperately wants to bulldoze both stores.

The Title:  The Cat Who Gnawed a Jacque Strapp.

It’s fresh, it’s hip, it’s cozy meets noir!  Wouldn’t you rush to the store to buy it?  If I were drinking heavily, by God, I would!  Thankfully, the panel was hysterical, and I only wish I had a videotape so I could watch it, as the time went by so danged fast. 

Vicsuebar I enjoyed the rest of the conference immensely, hanging out with everyone (thanks for the margarita, Victor!), yakking with Jan Burke and finding out what she'd been up to lately, watching the 15-minute film that Steve Hamilton brought on DVD, based on his short story, “The Shovel,” featured in the PLOTS WITH GUNS anthology.  Too cool.  Oh, and if you ever want to hear a truly funny story, ask Steve about his German book tour.  I think, "Pay him no mind," is going to be the catch-phrase of the conference!  And it'll make you realize any less-than-stellar signings you've ever had were NOTHING compared to Steve's tales of reading aloud to non-English speaking folks--including skinheads and drunks--in bookstores located in East German train stations. 

As Harley briefly noted in her post on Monday, the Wetumpka “Murder on the Menu” was really Suesteveharley delightful, including the ride down and back with Harry and Alison Hunsicker.  All the authors played musical tables, moving to a different group throughout a luncheon for 120 paid guests each time a bell was rung.  I missed Pari (PAR-ee!) demonstrating her Redi-Whip routine, so I made her do it Parirediwhip again several times so I could get a shot (albeit a blurry one).  So we ate lunch, chatted, did a few minutes’ stand-up comedy, and ultimately signed books.  I must say, Jim Born is a good egg.  For some reason, it was "Pick on Jim Born Weekend," which I hadn't realized beforehand; but it was easy to get into the spirit and tease him unmercifully.  He told me I was dead to him, and I was, like, "But we just met yesterday!"  (I believe I was forgiven when I inadvertently helped him out with something a few minutes later.  Phew.)  Our parting gift from Tammy's Book Basket and the Wetumpka Library was gourmet cheese straws, and Victor was nice enough to give me his box for my mom (she says “thanks,” dude!). 

I'm thinking “Will Work for Cheese Straws” has a nice ring to it.  Most authors I know will do anything for food.  Must be that starving artist thing.

Cheers,

Susan (wondering why it takes a week to catch up after being gone for three days…hmm)

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Comments

Thank you for that report. It sounds as if it was lots of, but not too much, fun.

You're welcome...but, um, I must not've described it well enough, as it really WAS too much fun, Josh. But the right kind of too much fun, if you know what I mean.

Better to have the wrong kind. The stories live longer.

As do the hangovers (of all kinds), eh, Josh?

I don't drink anymore for various health-related reasons (ask Sarah about that, offline, if you dare), so hangovers are a distant memory. I was thinking about other wrong kinds of fun, and drinking can, but does not have to, play a part.

Um, Josh, hello? Have you had your coffee? I was talking mostly about other kinds of hangovers that linger long after any alcoholic haze...and I think you know what I mean. Like a guilt hangover, dude, which can be quite long-lasting.

Never had one of those. My wife, now that's a different story.

Hey, Josh, put her on the line (or is that, online?). I'd like to hear all about it. Purely for, er, research for a book about, um, guilty people. ;-)

What great pictures!!! What great stories!!!! Did you find out about the lemurs?

OH, I wish I could have been there!!!!!!!!

Is there a blog post here? I'm still staring at that opening photo.

Aw, dang it, Cornelia! I knew I forgot something. Seriously, I had the question composed and ready to throw at Victor at the sports bar on Saturday night. Then my margarita appeared, and Jose Cuervo interrupted my thoughts. (He is a bad boy.) Maybe, if we're lucky, Victor will show up here and expound on his fascination with lemurs. One can only hope! And, Cornelia, you must come next year! I'll put in a good word for you with Margaret, okay?

My gosh, Rob, can we clone you and bottle you so each of us can keep your complimentary self around to use as needed? It only seems fair, and I'm sure your wife wouldn't mind. (Oh, hey, you should go to MMC next year, too!)

I blame Swierczynski...for everything...

Jeff, I'm shocked and stunned you're not blaming Jim Born!

"Woody is the one who discovers the stiff..." hehehe

But Susan, you left out the love intrest. I nominate Rusty Toole, the vibrator salesman and part-time coroner who helps Sarah find the critical clue (the victim had only eaten half the cheetos!) and expand her bookstore stock.

Oh, Daisy, that's perfect! Wish you'd been on the panel...maybe next time, eh? We didn't have time to get to Sarah's love interest, but Rusty Toole sounds like a match made in heaven. I like the critical clue, too. When some big-time NY house buys this book, you'll have to collaborate with me and the boys.

Susan, how come you didn't use the photo of us french kissing? Or french kissing Jim Born?

Susan- I wish I'd been there too; it sounds like a blast. Be sure to hold out for a big advance on the book- that thing is a sure-fire hit. (And just wait til you see what I've got for the denoument: Tetnus, anyone?)

Harley, the photo of us kissing...um, kissing Jim, I mean, is on his camera not mine. I'd love it if he emailed us both copies, though. Can you ask him really nicely for me, since I'm dead to him???

Ahem. As the resident Powerpuff Girls expert here (and, I imagine most places where the majority is over 8 years of age) I need to point out that Sarah Bellum runs Townsville, home of the Powerpuff Girls, the Professor and the World's not to brightest mayor. And lots of bad guys and monsters. most espeically Mojo Jojo the evil monkey who lives on top of the volcanic mountain in town. Miss Bellum is Aide to the Mayor - and power behind the comfy chair. So there's a permission that will be required. I'll do it, I'll do it!!! I'm sure I can just go talk to her and she'll be thrilled. Well, I'm not sure of that - one never see's Miss Bellum's face.

Erotic scrapbooking. I think my head just exploded. Did anyone else's?

Andi,

Oh yeah? If you are so smart, tell me how come the Girls could not do anything to the Ganggreen Gang when they were in kindergarten at Pokey Oaks, and then how the Girls took care of the situation? Or how the Girls used the Socratic Method to help the citizens help themselves (my favorite episode)?

Would it be terribly insensitive and sexist of me to observe that Harley Jane Kozak and Susan McBride are two STUNNING specimens of fine woman-flesh?

There is a fist fight going on around the printer right now. Me and the boys have found our new pin-ups. Out with the Playboys...bring on the Lipstick Divas.

That is a GREAT picture top of the blog. More, please!

Secret Admirer

I blame Jeff Shelby and Jim Born. True that, double true. (Right now, Shelby is cringing.)

yummmm cheese straws! Do they have those in other areas of the country or is that strictly a southern delicacy.. my partner's aunt makes them for christmas every year.. apparently it's a big secret family recipe which she will only share with her niece.. who can't even boil an egg..
Glad y'all had fun in Bama.. and congratulations on that wizards hat.. ya look fabu in it!
peace...

Wull, Josh, cuz, wull they were deferring to the adults at Pokey Oaks, trying not to interfere with the grown-ups like the (very scary) truant officer and Ms. Keane. They ARE only FIVE ya' know.. sheesh!

Secret Admirer...so Harley and I are such inspiring "specimens of fine woman-flesh" that y'all are tossing the Playboys? And we even have our clothes on in that photo, don't we? Wow. I think we should have you blurb our next books.

Duane, what's this I hear about you and Jim Born in each other's arms in the back of Jeff's car??? There's a story there, I smell it...at least, that's what I think I smell.

Elizabeth, I'm not sure if cheese straws are a Southern delicacy or if they're more widespread. I knew what they were, but I've lived all over (and in Texas, where I'm sure they have BIG cheese straws). Anyone know the origin of the cheese straw?

So I'm on the plane on the way home and I'm starving. I open up my bag, looking for a Cert or something to keep me from wasting away and what do I find? THE CHEESE STRAWS!!! I ate the entire box in about two seconds and the woman sitting next to me kept glancing over at me for the rest of the ride, as though she was afraid her arm was next.

Great to meet you in Birmingham, Susan. It was a rollicking weekend. And I like the description of all of us getting boozed up before bed. Next time I tell my husband he has to watch the baby so I can go do "important networking and publicity" I'm going to add,"And I need to go somewhere I can boozed up before bed."

Sarah, I am always happy to be of service. Should you need any other phrases sure to get you into trouble, you needn't go any further than here. I'm always full of 'em (or full of it, anyway). It was great to meet you, too! I think Betsy, the Cheese Straw Lady, should use you in an ad!

There are certain foods that are meant to be consumed in 2 seconds. Cheese straws are one of those foods. You were only doing what ANYone would do.
Recently received something that resembled cheeese straws with a touch of jalapeno in 'em. Trying not to devour the entire box in one sittng is hugely difficult stuff.

Susan--Shelby's just jealous, is all.

Okay, Duane, now I'm frightened, but at the same time very happy about this, um, bond you've formed with Jeff and Jim. It's very touching in a "Brokeback Mountain" kind of way. (And, no, really, I'm not laughing as I type this.)

Well, hello, Ms. Susan McBride! Yes, indeed, the Playboys got tossed. Not to disrespect Hugh’s girls or anything, but they are, after all, GIRLS, while you and Ms. Harley are WOMEN! Or Wimmins, as my old friend John Lee Hooker would say.

There’s something to be said about admiring well turned out WIMMINS who, in addition to being gorgeous and blessed with extraordinary sartorial taste, are smart AND great writers…

You see, all of us here at Secret Admirer HQ (and yes, we are plural – “My name is Legion” and all that…) sacrifice small animals (except in Harley’s case – we burn carrots in her direction in deference to her vegetarianism) to the Pagan Gods in hopes that SOMEDAY our chosen representative MIGHT meet one or both of you and fetch back to our sandy domain a scented item of clothing to be enshrined in a special place of honor with our war trophies.

Now, here’s a clue to our provenance, since you wimmins r mistery whiters: We’re Seriously Enthusiastic Athletic Lads, Christians In Action, Spoon Fed, Ardent Fierce Observers, Unusually Solemn Misguided Children, 82 Allied Boondoggling Ninnies….

And if you figure that out, then you get to hear the true story of how the Lipstick Divas came to the attention and garnered the undying admiration and support of a bunch of hairy chested Alpha Males who change guns the way you change shoes.

If you want to know, I mean.

Secret Admirer

Can there be a Silent Storm in the future,secret admirer?

"Alliance Is The Only Defense..."

Why sure, Susan!

www.silentstorm-online.de

We do spend some time with these.

We're a little more interactive, though. We're into high fidelity simulations.

A couple of our brethern were motion capture subjects for Sony in making some similar games.

If you believe in that sort of thing.

Have a happy!

Secret Admirer

Ok my guess, is Special Service USMC Seals with a San Francico mail address

or rather a SF APO

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