MISS DEMEANORS

Devil in a Blue Dress

This spring semester, for my Gotham Writers novel class, I decided to use Easy Rawlins for our character study. Usually I use Jane Eyre, who I love, but I figured I might branch out. Devil in a Blue Dress was published in 1990, and set in 1948 Los Angeles, but really could be set today. Easy Rawlins is a World War II veteran, who fought for the U.S., came to Los Angeles to get a job, was fired for not being respectful enough of his white boss, and winds up getting a job working for a really dangerous man. One of the things that becomes clear as you read the book, is that racism is a daily indignity. Easy almost gets killed when a young white girl starts up a conversation with him. He tries to back away from her, but she’s relentless, and clueless. At another moment he goes to an office to talk to the white man who’s hired him, but when he’s asked who he’s looking to see, he starts to stutter. “It was a habit I developed in Texas when I was a boy. Sometimes, when a white man of authority would catch me off guard, […]

Read More

From Kellye Garrett

This is my week to manage the Miss Demeanors blog, yet I’ve found myself struggling to find words. Or the right words. Yesterday I read this post by Agatha, Anthony, Lefty and IPPY award winning author Kellye Garrett. I thought it so profound, and she was kind enough to say that I could repost it. My Guide for Non Black People Upset about Racism and Prejudice in America. This is all my opinion. I don’t represent all black people. I guarantee there will be black people with a different opinion. So I’ve been getting a few messages of support from nonblack people. And though I know you’re doing it with good intentions, there are other ways for you to handle what’s going on and deal with your own feelings about it. I’ve been black in America for almost 42 years now. Assume I’m upset about what’s going on and feeling overwhelmed. If you truly are upset and truly want to see change, instead of apologizing to your black friends, there are things you can do to truly help. Speak up. This happens to me personally a lot when I speak up on crime fiction issues. I get people who privately […]

Read More

Finding words

I planned to devote my time on Miss Demeanors this week to writing about words that intrigue me. But in the wake of last week’s tragedy and violence, I found my words failing. But then I happened upon a Facebook post by Cate Holahan, a founding Miss Demeanor and fabulous writer, and she kindly agreed to let me re-post. So here’s what she had to say to her children: A few days ago, I pushed homeschool by a couple hours to have a hard conversation with my daughters about racism and White privilege. My girls are a quarter Black but they are perceived by most people as White because they came out fair, blond, and blue-eyed. We talked about how the way they look would make some people more likely to trust them or give them preferential treatment. We discussed how they had to be vigilant to make sure that they were never used to further anyone’s racist agenda and that they never took advantage of their privilege by allowing themselves to be unfairly elevated over another person. We talked about the woman in Central Park, George Floyd, and institutional racism. My youngest kept telling me, horrified, that some individuals […]

Read More

Thank You Notes during a Pandemic: Dear Nurses, Doctors, Lab Technicians, EMT’s, Hospital Workers

This week I will be writing thank you notes inspired during the solitude a pandemic brings. Dear Nurses, Doctors, Lab Technicians, EMT’s, Hospital Workers, I’ve waited until the end of the week to write a thank you note to the medical heroes who have served us during the Pandemic, not because you are less deserving, but because I really can’t find the words to do it justice. I’ll confess that in my earlier professional life, I was a nurse for ten years. I always worked in the community, rather than on the front lines in a hospital. It takes a very special person to work with acutely ill persons. I am not made of that stuff and have the utmost respect and admiration for those who do even in the “old normal,” as opposed to the “new normal” we are looking to enter. Most of us witnessed the accounts of doctors and nurses describing the challenges of being thrown into the coronavirus crisis with little warning. How they managed to report for work day after day for shifts that are long even under normal circumstances is unimaginable to me. Leaving your own loved ones to give direct care to people […]

Read More

Thank You Notes during a Pandemic: Dear Grocery Store, Pharmacy Workers, and all Unseen Essential Workers

This week I will be writing thank you notes inspired during the solitude a pandemic brings.   Dear Grocery Store, Pharmacy Workers, and all Unseen Essential Workers, Before I thank you for your selfless service during the Pandemic, I need to offer a sincere and profound apology. I barely noticed you until recently. I’m sorry for my ignorance, which clearly reflects the privileged life I have led. Although I worked as a cashier in the quick checkout aisle in the now-defunct First National grocery chain when I was in high school, I apparently learned very little about what it is like to be invisible in a job. Forced to think back now, I can remember the occasional abuse and rudeness of customers and the disgusting feel of the liquid that would get on my hands from packages chicken I had to pack in bags. I admit I was terrified when I first went to the grocery store and my local CVS after fully comprehending how communicable the Coronavirus was. I wanted to dash into the store, grab my purchases, and checkout in minutes. I no longer sauntered up and down aisles exploring items I might incorporate into a recipe. I […]

Read More

Thank You Notes during a Pandemic: Dear USPS, UPS, and FedEx

This week I will be writing thank you notes inspired during the solitude a pandemic brings.   Dear USPS, UPS, FedEx, and Couriers everywhere, I want to thank you for your service to the people in our country during the pandemic crisis. When the realization that the Coronavirus sweeping the world had managed to penetrate the often impermeable borders of the United States, most Americans took heed. We donned masks and gloves, and against our grain, we stayed home. The implications were unimaginable. You, however, did not get to stay home and home school your children and experience the joys of baking sourdough bread. There was no binge-watching any of the series you’ve missed because you were working from dawn to dusk, reporting to warehouses to load trucks full of merchandise to deliver to people like me so I wouldn’t have to risk going to a store to buy toilet paper and be exposed to coronavirus. So thank you for the paper towels, peanut butter, puzzles, and books. But even more, thank you for allowing me the freedom to make decisions about my own personal safety that you do not get to enjoy. As a person of a certain age […]

Read More

Thank You Notes during a Pandemic: On Memorial Day

This week I will be writing thank you notes inspired by the solitude a pandemic brings. Dear Soldier, Sailor, or Anyone Who Has Served Our Nation, Today we remember those who lost their lives serving our country and so I wanted to write you a thank you note. It’s a tiny gesture when compared to the sacrifice you made for me and the generations before me and those to come. No parade, no flag display, and no wall of inscribed names can ever acknowledge the loss of you and your loved ones. We commemorate you on a single day in May that most years gets lost in cookouts and parades. It takes a pandemic when we are at a minimum confined by social distancing, to force us to focus on what the day was intended to be. Hearing the staggering numbers of the lives lost to the Coronavirus makes us wonder how we ever became numb to legions lost to war and duty. A single day can never be enough to acknowledge the loss of so many human lives. Those fallen are denied the fullness of a life the rest of us often take for granted. Their loved ones are […]

Read More

Fueling Wonder for 40 Years

What fueled wonder for you when you were a kid?  I just had a Twitter discussion with my friend Don Bentley (check out his debut release! LINK: Without Sanction) about C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, specifically the first book in the series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He’d shared how he’d scoured his grandma’s house for years looking for a wardrobe. I was the same! Hoping to find a doorway to another world of color, adventure, and dreams. Another one of my wonder-decisions was from a commercial where Juicy Fruit Gum grew on trees. I of course planted a piece of Juicy Fruit Gum, hoping desperately that in the morning there would be a large Juicy Fruit tree grown taller than our house with thousands of packs of gum hanging off the branches. I bet there were millions of pieces of gum planted throughout the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. (You can see the actual commercial in link above. Note of caution: you WILL be singing the song all day). On a scary scale, when I was a child, we had painting in our dining room of a girl who looked like a young, but beaten down servant. Her […]

Read More

My Favorite First Chapters – The Big Finish

I’m a huge Joseph Finder fan. Technology is featured prominently in most of his books, interwoven seamlessly. It’s not a big surprise, given his background in intelligence. When I want a refresher on describing technical topics in a reader-friendly manner, I read Joe’s books. He’s who I want to be when I grow up. One of my favorite first chapters is from Joe’s recent standalone, Judgment. The subtext is so thick you can cut it with a knife. We’re steeped in time, place, and the protagonist’s internal conflict with a subtle but growing undertone of menace despite a situation that doesn’t seem all that dangerous. I was left with a delicious sense of dread but I didn’t know why. That’s the very definition of a hook. This first chapter is what other first chapters aspire to be. I started reading Judgment on a flight from New York to San Francisco. By the time the plane landed, I had finished the book. Every chapter was a grabber that built on the chapters before it. I tried to put it down a couple of times to catch my breath and to savor the experience. Maybe watch a movie. But I kept going […]

Read More

My Favorite First Chapters – Day 3

I’m often asked about authors or novels I think best tackle techie topics without making me cringe. There are two standout authors to me, in this respect. Each take pains to get it right but make it look easy. They both are adept at adding touches of timelessness without sacrificing accuracy. That’s why I love them. First up is my friend and hero, Lisa Gardner. The first chapter of Never Tell is a perfect example of an author who embraces the influence technology can have on a story. Like it or not, our online lives leave breadcrumbs that sometimes provide insights to the darker side of our personal truths. The opening of this book hooks us with the damage wrought by just such a collision of what a character thought she knew to be true and conflicting digital information. By the end of the chapter, we know all is not as it seems and the truth lies in the ether. The cloak of foreshadowing is draped in technology while the word “computer” is mentioned only once. After reading this first chapter, I knew I was buckled in for a great ride. Never Tell takes us on a journey through the […]

Read More

Search By Tags