Books Cubed: Ep 15 Remembering Essayist James Grattan

(Corrections: Diana was in a martini glass and yes I do know the difference between comments and show notes!)

Good Adventures,

This week I have a special guest – my daughter Codie and I are reminiscing about my friend essayist James Grattan whom we lost to suicide in 2016.

If you were a friend of James, and I didn’t get the Diana Ross story at the end correct, please let me know in the comments. And if you’ve got James story, share! 

Links:

Buy Notes from an Aging Insomniac here

Rather listen to the Podcast version of the show? You’ll find it here. Or on sites like itunes, spotify, and stitcher. 

~~~

What do I write? Thanks for asking. Get the free prequel to my June Nash Misadventure series and find out why a monkey was wearing June’s bra. 

Or dive right in and get the full length novel, How to Sex Your Snake

Need to interview someone and want some great questions? Check out John Fox’s 50 Brilliant Original Questions to Ask an Author.

I’ll see you next time! Go read a good book,

Melissa

ps. Some of these are affiliate links to help support my never ending grocery habit

Books Cubed: Ep 2 Carrie Jo Howe

Good Adventures!

This week, I have an interview with Carrie Jo Howe, author of Island Life Sentence. We talk about Key West, my favorite place in the whole wide world, machetes, and questionable costume choices during Fantasy Fest.

Don’t forget to subscribe and say hello in the comments below.

If you prefer the podcast you can find it here or on many sites such as itunes, stitcher and spotify. 

Links:

Carrie Jo Howe’s books on Amazon 

The Key West Citizen on Facebook

Carrie’s Key West Crime Blog

The Key West blog I wrote from 2012-2014. Bars, happy hour, and lots of latex. http://twistofkeylime.blogspot.com

What do I write? Thanks for asking. Get the free prequel to my June Nash Misadventure series and find out why a monkey was wearing June’s bra. 

Or dive right in and get the full length novel, How to Sex Your Snake

Need to interview someone and want some great questions? Check out John Fox’s 50 Brilliant Original Questions to Ask an Author. You’ll find them here: https://bit.ly/2R7QQjU

I’ll see you next time! Go read a good book, Melissa

ps. Some of these are affiliate links to help support my never ending grocery habit

 

 

 

Books and Margaritas

Good Adventures everybody!

I’ve been hard at work on my next book, due out by the end of the year. (I keep saying late fall with crossed fingers) So, to help make my life easier, I thought I’d start a new project. Oh, naughty frozen margarita drinks and the ideas they give me. Here’s ep 1 of my vlog, Books Cubed: Reads, Reviews, & Rants. As you’ll find out, I forgot my own title in the intro! This week, I read from my new book. Next week, I’ve got a fun interview with author Carrie Jo Howe.

mikes frozen margarita

 

New episodes will be up on Thursdays. Have a listen. Subscribe. Leave a comment on youtube, or here. Buy the other book so I can afford more margaritas. Have a lovely day and write on,

Melissa

I ran a Marathon cause I’m lazy

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Catching Up

It’s been a crazy few months since I last posted. I’m working on two new books (one is just over a third done), I’m creating a playable novel (more on that later), I just finished a short Prequel for How to Sex Your Snake. (More later on how to get that), and I accidentally ran a marathon. 

My husband is the runner. I just tag along cause I like spending time with him. 

The race was the Space Coast Marathon and 1/2 Marathon up in Cocoa Beach on Nov 26. It’s a gorgeous course that takes you along the water as the sun is rising. And moving up over head. And setting behind your back. A marathon takes a hell of a long time to run. For some of us anyway. 

3…2…1…liftoff

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Starting point is a little park. You head south, turning around at around the 6 1/2 mile mark and come back to the park. That’s 13.1 miles. Anyone running the half stops there. Anyone running the whole, continues on past. They’ll run about 6 1/2 out then turn around and come back to the park for a total of 26.2 miles. But what happens if you sign up for the whole marathon but realize you just can’t make it? Well, at this race, there’s something called the ‘wormhole’. You take that path and it sends you to the half marathon finish line. It’s a nice out.

So, we’re approaching the wormhole and my husband says, do you want to take the wormhole? He did. I didn’t quite hear him and just kept running. If I’d of heard him and understood, I definitely would have peeled off into the wormhole. And as I ran the next few miles, I was wishing I’d have peeled off into the wormhole. 

I think I can…I think I can…I think…ooooo, booze. 

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Oops. A boat on it’s side. Kinda how I felt at about mile 18

But then a funny thing happened. I got into a rhythm. And lovely people had tables set up, along the way, with shots and snacks. (I stuck with beer) My husband made it to 21. Which was partly my fault. I’d knocked us off our training schedule, in part because of laziness and in part because of…no, totally because of laziness. It’s tough to get up in the mornings to run when it’s so warm and comfy in bed. So he was under prepared. 

Why did I keep going? Again, laziness. I was 5.2 miles from saying I’d run a marathon. If I’d have stopped, I’d have to run 26.2 more miles to say I’d run a marathon. Does that makes sense? 

And the crowd roars…

Well, for the winner maybe. Just not for me. By the time I finished, most everyone had gone home. I was just happy to see my sweetie cheering for me as I cross the line. 

In the end, I came in at 6:55:59. (The course is listed as a 7 hour time limit)img_1250

Cool. Now I’d run a marathon and I could go home and sit on the couch and get back to Glitch on Netflix. Which I did. And then Thursday came. And the email.

‘Are you ready for this weekend’s race?’

Huh?

Seems we’d sign up for a half marathon down in Key West. Mark couldn’t get the time off work so I headed down alone. I crashed at a friend’s place and went down to packet pickup point to grab my race bib and t-shirt. After they handed me my stuff, I asked I could just pick up my husband’s t-shirt. He’s not registered. He deferred to next year. 

Huh? 

img_1308Turns out, after we’d signed up for the race, eons ago and it was rescheduled at one point helping us truly forget about it. Mark finally figured out that he had decided that we should defer to next year. He had done that. (also eons ago) And I hadn’t. He says he reminded me many times. I’m no longer in charge of deferring my own races.  

Totally fine with that. 

Then before I left the packet pickup table, I looked inside my bag and discovered two race bibs. Turns out I was not only running the half, I was running a 5k the next day. My wobbly post marathon legs were not happy to hear that. But…that meant an extra day in Key West. The love of my life. (My husband doesn’t read this so he’ll never know he’s number 2)

In the end, over 8 day and three races, I ran 42.3 miles.img_1290

As I was sitting on a bench staring out at the ocean and eating my post race bagel on Sunday, my husband texted to see if I wanted to run a half this coming Saturday. I bet you can imagine what I told him. 

Rest well and Write On, 

Melissa

PS

I said no. And then I muttered a few of June’s favorite words.

PPS

Who the hell is June? You’ll have to read the book to find out and I can help you out with that. Here’s the first five chapters.

 

Free Summer Reads plus Crappy Video

(As usual, I suck at cell phone videos)

Yesterday, I wrote about our recent trip down to Key West. New book research, mojitos and the Hemingway 5K. You can read about that last part here. (and see more videos shot the wrong way)

We weren’t on the island for long, but I did have time to get in some last minute research on the new book in my June Nash MisAdventure series, followed by a meet up with my editor Lisa. And yeah, I hope to remember to turn my blasted cell phone sideways the next time I try to take video…. 

 

Free books and Previews

Work is progressing nicely on the next June Nash MisAdventure. More fun with Morgan, Cyrano, Dewzers and of course June and her bad decisions. I think it should be ready late fall/early winter. I’ll update that as things come together. In the meantime, how about a few free books for your summer reading lists?

Lose Yourself in Free Books

I’m excited to be a part of this very cool promo.  230 books and previews in 13 genres! You’ll find my first book in the June Nash MisAdventure series in the humor section. You’ve got 6 more days to get it for free, so don’t wait.

Until next time, Good Adventures (as June’s brother Dewey would say) and Write On,

Melissa

P.S.

If you download any of the books, stop back by and leave a note in the comments. What did you get?

 

Key West 5k

Just got back from Key West and the Hemingway 5k. It’s an evening run, start time 7:30pm. That’s me with my race shirt.

And this is the temperature. Kinda of. It was actually 89 degrees, feels like 89 thousand. I just noticed the song on the radio. We’d been hoping for temps in the 70s.

And this was us at race time.

Mojitos from the Rum Bar on Duval. Life is too short to be that sweaty.

Next time, I’ll share video from the Everglades National Park. (Give me a day to recover)

Until then,

Write on,

Melissa

The Big Swim

Waiting for Godot…err Diana

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Waiting….patiently…

It’s Sunday. Time for this week’s book update. Since my latest novel, a sequel to How to Sex Your Snake , takes place in Key West, and I’ve been immersed in research, I thought it would be fun to include some memories from my time on the island. Last week, we looked back at one of my favorite watering holes, the Bull and Whistle bar, which features 3 distinctive bars and with some iffy nudity. This  week, we’re outside, looking at some actual water. But first, the update. 

How to Square Your Grouper – A June Nash Misventure, Book 2

Premise: Following an embarrassing blunder, June heads down to Key West to hide out and accidentally becomes a drug runner.

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Captain Eddy rallies the troops

Genre – Adventure
New words this week –1239 (plus a few pages of handwritten notes)
Total word Count – 13,543 
Release date: Summer 2017

Goals last week: continuing my research, tightening up my outline

What I did: Mainly research. I spend the week reading up on the Coast Guard and some other things that will spoil the book if I mention them. The more I read, the less I feel like I know. I’m currently looking for someone who was actually in the Coast Guard. So, if that was you, drop me a note in the comments. Outlining – I realized I had two different outlines for the book. So, I’ve been combining both into a notebook. That’s my preferred method. I can take paper and pencil more places that I can take my computer. 

Goals for next week: finish up my outline sometime during the week. I’d like to start the actual writing around the 20th. (I’ve got a few pages here and there but it’s mostly in outline form) I’m still living in a delusional state thinking I will be able to hand the book to my editor around tax day. We’ll see. 

This weeks trip down memory lane:

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I spy with my little eye…

See the boats on the right? Diana Nyad is somewhere in the middle, about to finish her world record Cuba to Key West Swim. Mark and I happened to be biking down the southern side of the island, probably headed to Caroline’s for a cuban sandwich, when we noticed the news crews and the swarm of people on the beach. Mark checked the internet and Diana was still a few hours away, so we did our lunch thing, wandered Duval a bit and then headed back to Smathers. By this point, it was close enough that we decided to lock up the bikes and find a good spot. We lucked into a roped off section and ended up against the barrier. When Diana came ashore, we’d have a ringside seat as she emerged from the Atlantic Ocean. 

And then, of course, life happened. Later, Ms. Nyad said that as she was approaching Key West, she wasn’t sure where she was supposed to land so she just picked a spot. Which wasn’t anywhere close to where everyone was standing. Chaos ensued and people raced to be first to her new landing spot. Mark and I were separated and I quickly gave up. There was no way I was going to get close up to the action. I texted my husband, took my sandals off and headed for the sidewalk and our bikes. And got stuck in another crowd. I pulled out my phone to text Mark again and realized, almost too late, that Diana was on a stretcher being wheeled to an ambulance by EMTs. I hit video on my cell phone and held it up just as they went past. If you’re interested, you can read more about her historic record here. 

 

That’s it for this week. Next Sunday, we’ll reminisce about men dressed in tiny shorts pushing a bed up the street. Believe it or not, it has absolutely nothing yet absolutely everything to do with the time the tiny island of Key West succeeded from the United States.

Until then, keep your head above water, don’t drink too much rum, and Write on,

Melissa

 

 

 

Key West Quickie

The Rum is for Research

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The rooftop patio is clothing optional. And no, you really don’t want to partake. 

Last week, I was reading a blog post from one of my favorite tv writers, Ken Levine, and he talked about a director friend who wanted to make his next movie in Hawaii. Didn’t care what the movie was. He just wanted a few months in paradise. I totally get that. Why immerse yourself in something that doesn’t tickle your fancy?

 

That’s why I decided to set my next book, a sequel to How to Sex Your Snake, in one of my favorite places on Earth. The spot where I hung my hat from ’12 – ’14.

You can’t go home again…

Screw that. Sure you can.

For two years, the tiny island of Key West was home and I spent my days pedaling from sandy shore to quaint cafe to rowdy bar. Mornings strolling the stretch of surf on Smathers Beach, afternoons parked at a corner table in Sippin Cafe hammering out How to Sex Your Snake, evenings meeting up with my husband and/or friends for half priced happy hour munchies and booze.

What better place for June’s next MisAdventure?

While I know the island fairly well, there are always things I will need to double check for accuracy. Rather than spend all my time surfing the internet, I thought it would be a lot more fun to get my research the old fashioned way.  In person.

Two weeks ago, I was down, taking some preliminary notes and photographing spots where all sorts of delightfully horrible things would happen to poor June. As I continue to work my outline, more questions will spring up and I will probably head back down in about six weeks seeking answers. And a bit of rum. And maybe a morning of drag queen bingo.

As I continue to research and write the new book, I’ll post updates each Sunday, just like I did for How to Sex Your Snake. This time, though, since my setting is Key West, I’ll include favorite memories from my time on the island. Think rum, rebellion, ribs, sexy men pushing beds down the street, and eager tourists getting their drink on and letting their hair down. Fill out that little form in the upper right corner to follow along.

 

 

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They make an excellent Club Sandwhich

 

Onto this weeks update:

How to Square Your Grouper – A June Nash Misventure, Book 2

Premise: Following an embarrassing blunder, June heads down to Key West to hide out and accidentally becomes a drug runner.

Genre – Adventure
New this week – 0
Total Count – 12, 304
Release date: Summer 2017

 

 

Goals for the week: Continue my research and outline. Right now it’s all about the planning. The tighter my outline, the faster I’ll write the actual book.

This weeks trip down memory lane: See that photo at the top? That’s the Bull and Whistle Bar. It’s a three story establishment and a hopping spot for drunken sing alongs on the first floor, aka The Bull. Get there early. Most nights you’ll find a singer/s covering hits from the good old days along with original offerings. The bartenders are friendly, the featured performers get the crowds roaring along and you’re bound to make a friend or two. When your voice gives up, climb the stairs to the second floor , aka The Whistle, for a game of pool and a quiet drink while you watch the madness of Duval Street from a safe spot on the balcony. And when you’ve gotten your second wind, head to the stairs one more time and climb all the way up to the Garden of Eden, a clothing optional rooftop oasis. And while that may sound titillating, beware. For every beautifully firm co-ed grooving topless on the dance floor there are two pasty old naked guys sitting on towels at the bar. Unless that’s your thing. Then by all means, indulge.

And what about me? Did I ever find myself grooving in the garden? Sort of. We got a lot of company while we lived in Key West and visitors always wanted the full experience. And while my dancing never involved nakiditity I was known to sneak a peak or two at those  who did.

That’s it for this week’s update.

Keep your clothes handy and Write On,

Melissa

 

 

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

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Rum Induced Red Eye

 

The Yellow Brick Road

A few Saturdays ago, I got a birthday card from one of my favorite people, James. On the front, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion are gazing up at something wonderful. Probably Oz. Inside, James made a joke about pickings being slim at the Winn Dixie at one am. To me, though, the card was perfect.

Key West, where James lived and were I spent two wonderful years, was my Oz. I’d left the bleak brown desert of Arizona, crossed the country via the Yellow Brick Road (A.K.A. the Interstate Highway System) and arrived on Duval Street where the colors were brighter, the rum smoother and the smells smellier. By the time I left the island, twenty-five months later, I was a women who’d found all that her heart desired. Two amazing friendships and the best orange rum cake in the universe. (I already had true love)

When I opened James’s card that Saturday, it was late. I sent a quick message telling him that the card had arrived on my actual birthday, I loved it, and that somewhere over the rainbow there was lots of rum. He didn’t reply. I didn’t think anything of it. Sometimes we went days between replies.

The next morning, I woke up to an email from a mutual friend. James was no longer with us.

I had to sit up, read the message twice and then wake my husband. Did this really mean what I thought it meant? Sadly, it did. Sometime between mailing my card and my birthday, James had taken his own life. I can’t say I was completely surprised. There was a lot of sadness in his soul.

I can say that I was pissed.

And then sobbing uncontrollably.

And then pissed again.

When someone dies, it’s easy for the survivors to only remember the good stuff. James wasn’t perfect. He could be argumentative and exhausting and difficult. But he was also funny. And cheeky. And sarcastic. And above all else, fiercely loyal to those he called his friends. And that circle was wide and eclectic. In the days that followed his death, those friends began sharing their James stories. And so many of them began the same way. I saw him and I knew I had to be his friend. It was that way for me too. He had an intoxicating energy that you just had to be a part of.

Rolling a piano down the street and stopping to play for traffic. Strolling to the bar with two great danes and a parrot on his shoulder. Wearing a top hat to the grocery store, just because. Teaching a friend to embrace Madonna: take control, don’t be second best, express yourself. 

All hail Matti Makkonen, inventor of the text message

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oh that Lucy

For the last few weeks, my days have been filled with so many I need to text that to James moments.

There’s an I Love Lucy special being advertised on tv. Does he know? Is he going to watch? Oh my God, some toy company made wide eyed Joan Crawford and Betty Davis, Whatever happened to Baby Jane dolls. Has he seen the ad? The dolls eyes are amazingly creepy. That actor from that tv show has a bio out. Has he read it? The writing is the absolute worst. He needs to grab it from the library so that he can leave one of his scathing catty reviews. It’ll be so hysterical!

I pull out my phone. Poise my thumb over the keypad and then suddenly remember.

Did I text him that much during the four years that I knew him? Probably not. But knowing that he’s no longer there makes each lost moment feel devastatingly important. Something that only he would understand. And appreciate. And love.

Put it in Print

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scoping out a house that was inspiration for a setting in our book

James was a writer. That’s how we met. I joined a little critique group and there he was. He wrote essays. Sometimes they were gut wrenching; the loss of his beloved Great Dane left me in tears for days. Sometimes snort inducing; his annoyed take on the idiocy of organized meditation made me want to sign up for a class. Just for a laugh. We’d talked a lot about what he’d include in a second volume. It would have been good.

I’m crushed that he and I will never write the book we plotted out about a girl who steps off a cruise ship in Key West and meets a bartender who inspires her to rethink her life. We joked that it was our story.

 

Lady Sings the Blues

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Martini Me

James had a thing for Diana Ross. Her attitude. Her amazing voice. Her voluminous hair. Her attitude. I know I’m not the only one out there with a mix CD of her songs compiled by him for my specific needs.

And though he loved her best, it really wasn’t just Diana that did it for him.

The man simply loved music. It defined each moment in life. It set the mood. It lifted the spirit. It gave one the strength to go on. For a time anyway.

Not long ago, one of his dear friends, DJ Donna Flaggs of WHCP radio out of Maryland dedicated an entire show of smokey blues to James. If you’re not already a member of soundcloud, you can still listen with a free 30 day trial. He’d have thought the fuss was silly but I know he would have secretly loved the selections.

I’ll miss you the most, Scarecrow

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It’s only been a month. The urge to text James my every waking thought will probably go away soon. I’m going to finish the book I’m currently writing and then revisit the outline we wrote for our book. Maybe I’ll contact his sister about pursuing the story on my own. Maybe not. Right now, it’s still too soon. I’m thankful for the new friends I’ve found through James. They’ve made the loss bearable. I’ll be back in OZ, a.k.a. Key West in the fall and I hope to connect with many of them. We’ll talk about James and drink rum and probably sing some Diana Ross. And maybe I’ll text him about it.

 

Sing along and Write on,

Melissa

Key West State of Mind

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It’s raining. It’s 39 degrees. And I’d be miserable but I just got the first 19 chs of How to Sex Your Snake back from my editor. A quick look through tells me that I don’t have much to fix and I see lots of checkmarks. (for stuff she loves) Now I just need to get those last 3 chs perfected and forwarded. Fingers crossed that I will be able to send the complete manuscript off to my format and error checkers first week of May and that the book goes live sometime before June 1.

I’m still waiting on the cover from the artist but I’m told that I’m next in the queue.

135 days till my plane lands in Key West. It’ll just be for four nights but I plan on making the most of it and not sleeping till I’m off the island. The beach, Duval Street, the chickens, the little Jazz Room, and 7am happy hour at Schooner Wharf.  That’s my idea of perfection. What’s yours? Where do you head when you need a vacation?

Stay dry and Write On,

Melissa

p.s. I had a blog when I lived in Key West. It’s called, Twist of Key Lime. I think pretty much everything I wrote about is still there. I plan on adding as much to it as I can while I’m on the island.

p.p.s. cynthia kester – could you please drop me on a note at my work email – melissabanczak@gmail.com