The last time I was in LA, this was the first photo I took. I’m coming back in a month, and I hope to spend less time running after this goofball and more time hanging out with you. Let’s make plans.

You know, Poirot, there’s a bit more to this modern art than you might think. It isn’t just that they don’t know what they’re doing, even if it might look like it. A pal of mine was telling me that what they’re trying to do is to show all the sides at the same time. Save us the trouble of walking around the back. It’s quite a clever idea, in a way. I mean, take this fellow, for instance. I mean, that bit might be his front and his back as well, if you get my meaning. It’s all quite scientific, really. The trouble is most of the time, they’re half mad with booze and drugs, so what they see isn’t all that reliable. It’s the artistic temperament. That’s the problem.

Mystery

While I’ve been on my couch and not writing, I’ve been watching British mystery dramas. I grew up with David Suchet’s Poirot. I’ve watched Midsomer Murders through as many casting changes as Law & Order. I missed Inspector Morse the first time around, but I love the spinoffs, Lewis (the future) and Endeavour (the past). There’s so much comfort in knowing, at the end of the show, the detective will solve the crime.

My parents read mostly Agatha Christie and Colin Dexter, but not me. I read Enyclopedia Brown and the occasional Sweet Valley Twins Mystery, but it was pretty quick that I switched to coming-of-age stories and literary non-fiction. I read a lot of memoirs when I was a teenager. I tried to find myself in other’s life stories.

Mystery novels weren’t–still aren’t–my thing, but I love mystery dramas. Even the annoying one like Poirot, where the clues are never laid out for the audience, where the final twist is hidden until revealed in the drawing room, where Poirot is only the smartest person in the room because he won’t share with the class.

It’s the comfort which comes from knowing there’s a “right” answer, and even more, that it’s someone else’s job to figure it out. Even when I get a rush of pride and achievement when I figure it out first (often in the final moments before the star detective figures it out, but first!), I know it’s not my job.

There’s no “right” answer in a romance novel. The reader may not HOW they’re going to get together, but we know WHO will get together. That’s the opposite of a mystery. We get to see most of the HOW before the detective even shows up. We see the murder happen, and we must figure out WHO. In a romance, we see the WHO and must figure out HOW they’re going to make it work.

And that’s not about famous detectives, veteran inspectors, or rookie constables. That’s just people.

Release

I spent most of 2012 trying to write a novel. I wrote 65k words, and some of them are great, but I’m still not sure it’s a novel. I’m still not sure it’s any good. But finishing it, putting that many words in a row–beginning, middle, and most importantly, end–was the best part of my year. I used to be a short story writer. Now I have a novel.

In November, I sat down with a word count, a deadline, and an outline, and I wrote the thing that became Country Messes in 11 days. As soon as I finished, I wrote the thing that became A Great Rough Diamond. It took a little longer, about two weeks.

Before that month, I had barely written a story longer than ten thousand words. Now I have two novellas out there, published, being read and rated and reviewed. I struggled for a long time, looking for a place short stories belonged. I struggled because I thought I should be a novelist, but I couldn’t write a novel. But I could write stories. I just hadn’t found my ideal form.

Not my only form. I still write short stories. I still have plans for another novel. But I love the novella. And it’s so fitting that my first published works should be such.

Thank you to everyone who’s read the books, shared them with friends, and written a review. I hope you’ve enjoyed my stories, and I hope you’ll stick around for more.

Laid up

On Tuesday, I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle, the same ankle I wrecked so many years ago now (playing running games in party shoes on a concrete playground) that sometimes, I can sprain it walking on flat ground. This time, I really did myself in. I’m stuck on the couch with an ice pack, and I’m hobbling around on crutches. Still, I can move my fingers. Why can’t I write?

I was supposed to spend Tuesday finishing up a story and sending it off. I was supposed to spend Wednesday celebrating the new book. Instead, I’ve spent the week laying on a couch, my foot on ice and up. Everything hurts, and nothing is comfortable. I was on painkillers the first day. I was trying to figure out how feed and clothe myself while hopping on one leg the next day.

It’s the kind of thing that fucks up your whole life. It throws all your carefully prepared plans on the floor and stomps all over them. So, I didn’t finish that story for that deadline. I’ll finish it and find somewhere else to send it. Once I figure out how to finish it.

I don’t have writing rituals. Some things I write in Scrivener, in nvALT, in Google Docs, in my notebook, on my phone. I know myself too well to let myself buy into rituals, so I work hard to stay away from absolutes. I really can write anywhere, at any time, whether I have an internet connection or not. I wasn’t counting on a sprained ankle to come along and screw up my week. But that’s what life does; it screws up your week.

Mostly, I just wish I could find a comfortable position. I think that’s life, too.

Country Messes extra

His Fairy Tale
by Paula Cabral
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – November 7, 2014

The rain let up for a magical hour last night, long enough for the Pacific Coast Music Hall to roll out the red carpet for the opening night of His Prince, a new musical. Written by Louis Stricker, and directed by Nelson Fong, this queer re-telling of your favorite fairy tale tropes puts an earnest spin on life and love, but don’t worry: there is a happy ending (and a pot of gold) waiting at the end.

The stars, Michael Newman and Jackson Yu, arrived together, though they had to tell each reporter on the line that, no, they aren’t dating. ““My boyfriend hates this kind of thing,”” Yu said. “"He’d rather stay at home.”"

The prince and his prince wore matching boutonnieres, tiny pink carnations, on the lapels of their tuxes. Also spotted on the red carpet were pink rubber bracelets for all the chorus children, and the good queen wore a floor-length pale pink gown. Charlene Cavallo explained it was the theme of the night. ““Lou told everyone to wear a little bit of pink.””

The writer himself wore a hot pink dinner jacket with white trousers and white leather shoes. He didn’t stop smiling all night, though whether it was the opening night or the new man on his arm, Stricker wouldn’t say. This is the first show in six years for Stricker, who saw his senior year thesis project move from the university stage to downtown Seattle theater row. After a few successes and one very public flop, Stricker is back with a new take on an old idea.

When asked if it was the man in his life who inspired the new musical, Stricker wouldn’t say. All Stricker would say was that the man’s name is Matthew, and he isn’t an actor. Quieter than Stricker, happy to hang back while the photographers flashed and the reporters called out their questions, the mysterious Matthew was dressed all in black—–suit, shirt, and tie–except for a tiny pink heart pinned to his lapel. When Stricker reached back to grab his hand and pull him to the ropeline, they made a beautiful pair, in white and black and pink.

Everyone with a ticket to the show ducked inside only moments before the rain started up again, saving their beautiful clothes and fancy shoes. The fairy tale of the two princes was inside on the surreal stage, set to songs you will be singing for days afterwards. But it seemed last night that Louis Stricker is already living his fairy tale.

His Prince, words and music by Louis Stricker; book and direction by Nelson Fong; at Pacific Coast Music Hall, 303 Pacific Ave; Wed-Fri, 8PM, Sat-Sun, 2PM and 8PM.

So Many (Country) Messes

So Many (Country) Messes

The book! It’s out!

Matthew loves his dog and his garden. He doesn’t love the club scene. But just when he’s decided to stop looking for love, Amie drags him away to her grandparents’ beach house, where they discover Louis, her cousin, has been hiding out all summer. He’s there trying to write a musical; Matthew is trying not to make a fool of himself in front of his three best friends.

It’s summer savory which brings Matthew and Lou together, in the garden, near the beach, on the last weekend before summer comes to an end.

Country Messes is now on sale at Torquere!