Back in September I asked you all to suggest a topic for my newsletter, and a reader said they wanted to know what my fears are. Well, number one on that list is a fear of my cat taking over my newsletter (and based on the number of emails I got, Guff has a lot of new fans. Also, many of you said you prefer his writing to mine).
I actually get asked about my fears from time to time. I write psychological thrillers with heaping doses of creep and paranoia, and readers want to know if I write about things that scare me personally. Hell yes! And in writing about my fears through my characters, maybe what I’m actually doing is confronting my own fears in a safe environment.
Judging from my assorted writings and in no particular order, these must be the things that scare me most:
- Losing my mind. This is a biggie. The theme of insanity, of what-is-real-and-what-isn’t, of deep, gut-wrenching paranoia is a thread through many of my books. No question a large part of this is having watched my father suffer though and succumb to early-onset Alzheimer’s. Your mind is what makes you you. It controls you. And you can’t run away from it. There is nothing in the world more trapping than one’s own mind.
- Something happening to my kids. Ugh. No question about this one. I’ve had some pretty terrible things happen to kids in my books, but never a child of a protagonist. I don’t think I would want to explore that emotion on paper, powerful as it might be. There are some shadows I need to step around.
- Knives. Who knew? I had a fantastic knife collection as a kid—everything from delicate 19th-century blades to Bowie knives. Never really thought of knives as scary, but good God do they make some gruesome appearances in my works. There’s something so personal and visceral about a blade. The responsibility associated with stabbing rather than shooting. You’ve got to actually use your own force to make a piece of sharp metal effective as a weapon. Especially if you have to work through bone.
- Losing someone I love. This shares thematic elements with #1 and #2 above, but the idea of losing a loved one horrifies me. I’ve had more than one character lose people close to them, leaving them to fend for themselves. That gut-twisting sense of loss can’t be tossed aside. It will eat your mind until its full, leaving a lesser version of you in its wake.
- Finding out someone close to me is actually evil incarnate. OK, odds are better I’m that person to somebody else, but who isn’t scared at the idea of someone they love and trust actually living a secret, evil life? The idea of having everything you thought you knew about someone yanked away in seconds is terrifying. It speaks to the vulnerability in us lying just millimeters beneath the surface. But no, just to set the record straight, I’m no Dexter. He has much more lustrous hair.
- Being watched. Not that this weighs on me constantly, but it does come up often in my writing so I’m thinking I have a deeply rooted fear here. A character finding out they are being watched is a powerful way to showcase true fear and paranoia in your story, and with today’s technology there are more ways than ever for voyeurs to know just about anything they want about someone. Now that I think about it, just writing out my list of fears in a newsletter is providing strangers with intimate details about my psyche. Damnit.
Making It Up
Newly added episodes of my conversation series Making It Up are out!
This month I chatted with bestselling author Katie Sise (Creative Girl), fiction writer and social worker Carla Damron (The Orchid Tattoo), and Jennifer Givhan, a Mexican American writer, activist, and author of four full-length poetry collections (River Woman, River Demon).
All episodes are available on my website, my YouTube channel, and wherever you get your favorite podcasts.
What I’m Watching
The White Lotus, Season 2 (HBO, 2022) .
From HBO: “Mike White’s Emmy®-winning series returns for Season 2, following various guests over the span of a week in the White Lotus’s Sicily location. While a darker side of the picture-perfect travelers begins to emerge, the hotel’s professional but prickly manager tries to keep two young locals – each striving to get ahead by different means – out of her luxury establishment.”
Meh. I really loved season one of The White Lotus, but found season two disappointing. I didn’t think the character stories were nearly as compelling, and this season was so sex-centric that it soon became tiresome. The most interesting storyline concerned Tanya’s (Jennifer Coolidge) questionable friendships with a group of wealthy ex-pats. But I will say Jennifer Coolidge is fantastic in the show, and it’s almost worth watching just for her.
What I’m Reading
The Fireballer, Mark Stevens (Lake Union, January 2023)
I’ve known Mark for some time (he was on Making It Up last year) and was thrilled to get an early release of his book. Man, this is a good one. Here’s a blurb I wrote up for it. Check it out!
“Mark Steven’s THE FIREBALLER is one for the ages. The subject matter is compelling: a tour de force Major League pitcher struggles to survive the world’s attention while battling demons of his own tragic past. But a story is only as good as its words, and Stevens unleashes a master class in narrative prowess here. This is lyrical, sumptuous, visceral writing. You will feel every nuance of Frank Ryder’s angst just as surely as you will hear the crack of the bat at the bottom of the ninth. And don’t be fooled thinking this is a story about baseball. It’s a story about the long road to redemption, and how to reconcile doing the thing you love when that same thing might destroy you. A must read.”
Photo of the Month
A sunrise view of my backyard after a December snowstorm.
Update from My Kids
Sawyer is a senior in high school, so it’s college application time. He and I spent a week touring some schools in the south, and during our trip I impulsively bought us tickets to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. Go Dawgs!
Update from My Cat and Dog
Well, it’s been about 5 weeks since I brought lil’ Scully home. She’s great! Sure, there are the typical puppy challenges, but she really is a sweet little girl. Guff and Scully are definitely playful with each other, but of course “playing” for Guff really means “eviscerating.” Here’s a moment of pet zen when they were at (temporary) peace together.
Humor of the Month sent to me by a friend
Book-Love Instagram Post of the Month
My favorite part of this is the reader has an advance-review copy of Mister Tender’s Girl, which actually featured a different cover than the final release. And I love the spider ring!
That’s it for now! Until next month…