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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Long Con: The Muscle


A true protector will guard your heart before his own.

Hunter Rutledge saw one too many people die in his life as mercenary muscle to go back to the job, so he was conveniently at loose ends when Josh Salinger offered him a place in his altruistic den of thieves.

Hunter is almost content having found a home with a group of people who want justice badly enough to steal it. If only one of them didn’t keep stealing his attention from the task at hand….

Superlative dancer and transcendent thief Dylan “Grace” Li lives in the moment. But when mobsters blackmail the people who gave him dance—and the means to save his own soul—Grace turns to Josh for help.

Unfortunately, working with Josh’s crew means working with Hunter Rutledge, and for Grace, that’s more dangerous than any heist.

Grace’s childhood left him thinking he was too difficult to love—so he’s better off not risking his love on anyone else. Avoiding commitment keeps him safe. But somehow Hunter’s solid, grounding presence makes him feel safer. Can Grace trust that letting down his guard to a former mercenary doesn’t mean he’ll get shot in the heart.

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So, I've made no secret of taking a lot of inspiration from the heist genre movies that I love so much. I'm gonna tell y'all right now--Hunter is an homage to Elliot from Leverage. 

No, not everything is the same. For one thing, I don't think Hunter had nearly the need for redemption that Elliot had when Leverage started, and for another, Hunter doesn't mind guns--and he doesn't cook. And Elliot doesn't have Hunter's magic Kevlar lined leather coat that so fascinates Grace, either!

But I wanted a tough guy who treated his body like a weapon--and who understand that human nature is more than just a predictive tool to find a mark. Someone who could have patience with Dylan Li and work to understand this highly unpredictable creature, someone whose emotional reactions are specific and unique, and whose attachment to Josh Salinger, while platonic, is every bit as important as his attachment to a lover.

Elliot gave me that feeling--and part of that is, of course, because of the actor, Christian Kane, and part of that is Dean Devlin (the producer of the show) and his ability to give us archetypes we cling to with our needy, greedy little hearts. So Hunter is an homage to that archetype, the mercenary with the heart of gold, the gentle soldier, the scary guy who takes the wild card under his wing and protects him with all his skill. 

And as for Grace?

As Goddess is my witness, my inspiration for Grace is my daughter's wayward cat, Nebula.

Nebula, who can leave a bird head in the middle of Squish's room and lick his paws in a litter of feathers, asking us why we seem so excited. Nebula who purr-attacks faces in the morning, finishing up with love bites and drool. Sometimes into our mouths. Nebula, who has stalked every animal in the house and pounced on it, then sat back and tried to make friends.

Nebula, fearless, graceful, adept at stealing, be it yarn, small objects from Squish's room, or (sadly) baby birds from their nests. 

And Nebula--kind, affectionate, playful, and beautiful, who deserves to be worshipped and adored, but will only ever have one true human who can do that in full force.

That's Nebula--and that's Grace. Except for the bird heads and the drooling into the mouth--but there are equivocal behaviors in Grace, I think you can spot them.

I'm on the fourth book of this series (Carl, the suit, and Carmichael Carmody--Michael--whom you will meet in the next book.) I have listened to podcasts, watched and rewatched heist movies and series, and fallen in love with the genre all over again, and I think I've nailed down what appeals to me.

We see--again and again and again--people in power who abuse the little guy. They are usually greedy and humorless and insist that everybody obeys the rules but them. To see people who don't want fame or even money use their own unique skills to bring those people down--that's satisfying. To see them do it with humor, kindness, a sense of play and all those things that those of us on the bottom of the food chain use to make our lives comfortable, bearable even--that feeds our souls. Somehow, we are getting the better of things. The angry assholes at the top of the food chain will never know that as awful as they are--and as much harm as they do--they're being laughed at. Those of us who enjoy our everyday lives with snark and banter and whimsy--we don't get them at all. We can win without making the rest of humanity miserable. I think that's what heist stories--modern trickster tales-- do for us. They give us equality in an unequal universe.

Danny tells Stirling that in the first book of the series. I hope I can make that idea play through until the end.

Monday, July 26, 2021

A whole other place...


I feel bad.

The package arrived a week ago, right after we got back from the ocean, and I was SO excited, but there were other things to do.

I don't blog like I used to, and before I knew it, a week had gone by and I hadn't yet celebrated what was an extraordinary compliment--for me, and accomplishment--for the artist. 

I feel like I need to do that now. 

For those of you who have read my Little Goddess series, you should recognize this. It is, after all, replicated down to the tiniest detail. 

I wish I was better at pictures--behind the bench with Adrian's face on it (and the magical color-changing cushions!) is a wall with tiny stones, and flowers. There are ladybugs in unexpected places, and eyes as well. Remember--anything might be sentient on Green's Hill. The tiny basket of knitting is really knitted. The roses have no thorns. And the words to the song our heroes sang to bind the hill and the spell to their love are written along the edge of the sculpture. 

Tiny blue flowers dot the landscape, and snapdragons abound.

It's glorious.

I have been presented with some beautiful fan art--and it always brings me to tears.

The book with my logo etched in the pages. *holds hands to heart*  

The yarn felted dragon, when that was--briefly--my logo. *eyes grow bright and shiny*

Yarn, specially spun or dyed for me. Tiny bags meant for knitting socks. A scarf, handed to me spontaneously from a friend.

All of these gifts--and there are so many more I'm not giving justice to. 

And this one--this one brought me to my knees.

My children--Squish in particular--lost their minds. I was explaining what each detail meant, and Squish looked at me and said, "You thought of this?"

"Well, yes! But Devony created it."

"But you thought of it!"

I did. A very long time ago. And to know it still lives makes me cry all over again.

Thank you, to everyone who has written me a letter or sent me a card or given me a gift because I've moved you.

You let me know that my words will live a while yet.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

You Might Be a Noir Character If...

 Okay-- so it's been a while since I blogged. I keep wondering, "Should I keep the blog?" and then, a thought hits me, or a week I want to talk about, and yes, I'm back on the blog again.

Well, it IS a fifteen year old habit, and that's hard to break.

Anyway--I've been RIPPING through audiobooks, and I tend to go in binges by author. At the moment, my binge of choice is the acrid, smog-soaked, nicotine stained literary legacy of Harry Bosch.  I admit--I was lured here the same way I was lured into Longmire--but a shot-gun worthy TV show, but, unlike Longmire, in which the books were FAR superior to the show, the books are are... well, they're hitting their stride. 

I think the author had to have the same realization that the Cure had fifteen years into their career. Only a very small percentage of their audience had ever fulfilled the dark promise of their songs, so they should probably lighten up a little and give people hope.

It's easy to see this happen in increments in Connelly's work--in the first Bosch book, for instance, Harry doesn't eat. I think Connelly figured that it really is impossible for a guy in his late 30's to live on cigarettes, coffee, and beer, so by the next book, he had dinner once in a while. I, for one, was greatly relieved--I was worried about his digestion, no joke.

Nevertheless, I have a friend's audiobook held in reserve just in case the unrelenting LA noir of Connelly starts dogging all my steps like a black mist and I find myself buying a trench coat in the middle of a Sacramento July. As I told my friend, "I get romantic suspense, but this is so dark it makes Batman's terminal depression look like fuzzy humping bunnies in the park."

And since I like to dissect my genres and sub-genres, I decided that, looking at Lisa Gardner and Michael Connelly, of course, I'd do a little bit of analysis on what makes a good noir hero.

And it turned into this:

You might be a NOIR HERO if...

You dine on coffee, cigarettes and beer, and feel as though the beer made you bloated.

You hear the sound of children laughing, and it makes you sad.

An FBI profiler says you're one step away from crossing the line, and you look him dead in the eye and tell him to draw another line.

If you actually have a win, it's going to cost you the only friend who understand you.

It never surprises you that your hookups turn out to be the bad guy. Ever.

If you dare to be a dick, you'll get someone killed and carry that weight for the rest of your life.

You're always one step away from lighting that next cigarette.

You get a little thrill when you land a new case, because now you have something to do on a Saturday night.

You're always right, but who needs credit. Politicians, that's who, and you're not a fucking politician.

You have exquisite taste in artwork--as long as it depicts lonely people and those being tortured in hell.

You like obscure jazz on vinyl. All other music need not apply.

You've stared into the abyss so long, it's stared back, fell asleep listening to jazz, and you've blown it away.

And oh, there's more...

But at this point, I feel like I need to write a list like that for characters in all other sub-genres, and, well, that would be a another shitty craft book...

Excuse me... I've got an idea...

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Night Visitors

 So yes--we went on a short trip to San Francisco--and had a blast.

Mate and I went down Friday, had dinner at a place called Max's in Burlingame, and generally enjoyed being adults, alone together. We had the television all to ourselves--it was a stunning indulgence. The next day we met friends--Andrew Grey and Karen Rose. Andrew and his husband Dom had been staying with Karen and her husband by the ocean, and Karen was returning them to the airport. Since Mate and I don't live too far away, we made a day of it. A trip around the Bay on a tour cruise, a nice meal--and fantastic company. The next day we had brunch with another friend and his SO--and then, reluctantly, we returned home.

One of the first things I discovered when we got home was that the kids had ordered pizza instead of eating all the food I'd cooked before we left. *sigh* I mean, it was the weekend--pizza was to be expected. But still.

Anyway--that said, everybody has been the better for the time away and the breather--but appreciating my kids means appreciating their quirks. 

Such as...

Typing at night, absolutely dedicated to my project, only to sense a presence... not malign, just... a presence... behind me... just out of my line of sight. A hand reaches to my side, where I keep my water, and I gasp!

"Mom--just getting water. Love you, goodnight!" Squish (and I have permission to use that nickname again!) has made their nightly visit, and I can write in peace again.

Or can I?

Squish moves on delicate loaf-shaped feet, absorbing all sound. They're a ghostly presence, a sort of living specter, haunting the space behind my desk chair. 

Not so, ZoomBoy. 

In the depths of night, ZoomBoy emerges. The creak of his door opening is eclipsed by the flap-flap-flap of his hideous troll feet as they pound the floorboards... they're coming! They're coming! They're in the kitchen!  There is the rustle of paper, the creak of cellophane, the opening of chip bags and cookie cartons and then, a snorffling, a crunching, some great gulps, and a sigh of appreciation. 

I don't even want to look at the kitchen to see the carnage within. 

Instead, I stay focused on my keyboard, getting, if possible, even more motivated to keep writing. 

Behind me, the troll feet resume their punishment of the hardwood, and a muffled, "Gnigh'molm" is heard, followed by the dropping of crumbs as ZoomBoy retires to his lair, captures cookie boxes and chip bags in his clutches.

And I am left alone in silence, wondering if there is anything left of the trip to the grocery store I made before, and stalwartly concentrating on my word count for the night.

My night visitors are gone, and I can retreat into fiction once more.