Monday, September 25, 2017

Annamaria's Day Jobs

Annamaria on Monday

Allow me to take the stand in my own defense.   Nine days ago, my blog brother Jeffrey Siger intimated that I had been a chef and a stripper.  While, in that post,  he gave to himself and to Caro actual past and present job experiences and personal virtues, he ascribed to me (libelously?) a fictitious activity, characterizing me as a woman of questionable virtue.  As luck would have it, that essay of Jeff's was widely read.  How can I stand idly by when now hundreds of his readers (perhaps thousand, maybe millions, gazillions of his devoted fans) will now think of my past as tarnished, rather than sterling.  Good grief.  How my fellow convent school alums must be wringing their hands (if not tittering behind them) at my fall from grace. When I objected and tried to get Jeff to set the record straight, he (the prosecutor) tossed off some negligible excuse for besmirching my until then untainted character.  He said he was talking about a different Annamaria.  A likely story!

If my own brother will not stand up for me, I am forced to stand up for myself.  Today I am reposting my blog from sixteen months ago.  The day before I wrote it, Zoe had written about writers' day jobs.  Here, reposted, is my follow on:  The truth of my checkered employment past, the only parts of which that had anything to do with my measurements were my tiny, teenage frame and my uncanny mental agility at calculating the square footage of real estate in Hackensack, New Jersey.  

So there!    

I cannot resist taking my whole blog this Monday to answer Zoe's question of yesterday.  She was able to list the day jobs of all of our blogmates,  but not mine.  Here is my report, lengthy because my day jobs have been many and varied: counter clerk in a  dry-cleaning establishment, stock girl in a haberdashery, soda-jerk, waitress, mail clerk in the Manhattan Shirt Company, machine operator in a plastics factory, calculator in a real estate tax evaluation firm, these all before I graduated from college.  Then I became a technical writer, training officer and later in charge of affirmative action at a Wall Street bank, then a consultant in management and leadership development to US and international corporations, and finally I retired in 2009 after ten years as the CEO of a small marketing firm.

But let me tell you about my most unusual job.

During the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I was a Magician's Assistant.  The magic man went to the same church as my family.  The spring when I turned sixteen, he came to our house one Saturday afternoon and found me weeding my grandmother's garden.  He wanted to talk to my mother about a job for me for the coming summer. I figured it would be as a babysitter.  I had quite an impressive local reputation in that field.  But no.  He was impressed with my tiny body.  I am 5 2 and 102 pounds in the photos you see here.  (Please no cracks about my current weight!  I prefer to brag that despite other changes I have maintained my--ahem--stature while many friends my age have begun to shrink.)

Magicians assistants have to be able to fit into very small spaces.  My neighbor didnt want me to take care of his kids.  He wanted to saw me in half.

He did.  And he put me into a box, shoved swords into it from every angle, and when he opened it, he had made me disappear.  He also turned me into the mind reader in the show because I was the only one of three of us who could memorize the meanings of the various clues he called from the audience.

It was a fun job, except for the part where I was forced  to stand statuesquely in a strapless evening gown with my arms extended and smile brightly while he pulled a score of pigeons from his hat and sleeves. He called them doves and made it look magical!)  He put the birds on my bare arms, ten on each.  I can still feel their creepy little feet on my skin.

We rehearsed on Saturdays.  We did our dress rehearsal for the neighbors at the parish hall that following May, and when summer came, we repaired to a theater in Asbury Park every Thursday afternoon.  There we did three shows a day on weekends.  He paid me $1 an hour for rehearsals and the same for my time on stage, and provided my room and board.  When we could, my fellow assistant and I went to beach and read books.

Many years later, in 2001, I saw Woody Allen's film The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.  In it, the main character, a magician puts a woman in a sword box almost identical to the one my magician had used.  The movie's background music for this trick was In a Persian Market.  That was exactly the music my magician played when I went into the sword box.  Even today, whenever I hear it, I think of sitting there with my folded legs under the false floor and my torso and head behind the mirrors, waiting for the audience to stop oohing and ahhing, and for him to open the top so I could leap to freedom.

Annamaria's Events

Bouchercon11-15 OctoberToronto OntarioSheraton CentreToronto, Ontario
My Panel: Read the World
Thursday the 12th

AND Tah-dah...

Dagger Awards Gala Dinner
Thursday 26th October
Grange City Hotel

Where our own Leye Adenle and our fellow HOT Writer Ovidia Yu are short listed for the short story Dagger Award.  Hooray for Sunshine Noir!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Write What You *Want* To Know: Sailing in the Greek Islands

Zoë Sharp

For me, doing the research is one of the most enjoyable parts of writing, although it can also be one of the most frustrating and time-consuming parts as well. Getting something authentic without going overboard on extraneous detail is a fine balance. I’m looking for realism rather than real.

After all, if we wrote truly authentic accounts of the lives of most private detectives, we’d be describing a lot of boredom combined with trying to get covert photos of cheating spouses and insurance claimants doing things they swear they’re now too injured to attempt. In real life, Detective Inspectors spend more time on paperwork than they do chasing murderers. Serial killers are still something of a rarity, thankfully, rather than popping up every other week, particularly in sleepy little English villages when elderly spinsters happen to be staying at the vicarage. Bodyguards, if they’re good at their job, will face few attacks they didn’t see coming and plan a way to avoid. Some soldiers have made it through entire conflicts without ever firing a shot, let alone seeing the whites of the enemy’s eyes.

I know some authors try to keep away from the lures of the internet while they’re writing, to avoid the distraction, but I find I have page after page of my browser open to check history, details, maps, and images.

And if those images are ones you’ve taken yourself, rather than relying on simply searching for pictures posted by others, they serve as a further aide de memoire.

So, for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been putting together my own aide de memoire of sailing in the Greek Islands, for a book I’d like to make a start on over the winter. And here's the proof.
Dog on the water. Watching how well dogs adapt to life aboard a boat is always instructional.
The smart harbourside at Agios Efimia.

Not every harbourside is quite as smart as Agios Efimia, but they all have their charms.

Plucky little dinghy lolloping along behind the boat.
The joys of monohull sailing, cranked over on your ear ...
In Greece, cats are everywhere. This one had staked her territory as the roof of this Seat, just below the balcony of a restaurant ...
Being in a constant saltwater environment does have its downside.
The number of larger yachts has grown considerably over the last few years. 
Sivota harbour, with one of the many catamarans in the centre. There are far more cats around than there were even five years ago.
ZS at the helm. Who put the horizon at that angle?
I'll be back from this trip next week, at which point I will try to make sense of my notes, and tuck away various of my Greek Islands photographs for when I sit down to write. Nice memories as well as useful information!

What do you like to research, whether for a novel or simply out of a sense of curiosity?

This week's Word of the Week comes from the boat anchored next to us as I write this. It's called 'Sempre Decanter' because, according to the owner, the definition of a decanter is 'a vessel filled with spirit'. Coupled with 'sempre' meaning 'always', as in the Marine Corps motto, 'Sempre fi(delis)', meaning 'always faithful'.

Coming up

When I return next week, I'm straight back into the thick of it, with a Noir @ The Bar at The Winter Gardens in Morecambe on Friday, Sept 29th, from 6-7pm.

The following day, Saturday, Sept 30th I’m taking part in the inaugural Morecambe & Vice Crime Writing Festival, also being held at the Winter Gardens. I’m on the panel ‘Local Legends—I Did It My Way’ with other local authors AS Chambers and Beth Jones, and moderated by Kevin Wignall. The event starts at 9:45am, and the Local Legends panel is on at 10:15am.

And early next month, I have a blog tour starting for the publication of the UK edition of the new Charlie Fox book, FOX HUNTER. Many thanks to Ayo Onatade for organising me so brilliantly.

Zoë Sharp Blog Tour dates

2nd October
Victoria Watson

3rd October
Crime Book Junkie

4th October
Liz Loves Books

5th October
A Lover of Books

6th October
The Book Trail

7th October
Rachel’s Random Reads

8th October
Anne Bonny Book Reviews

9th October
Blue Book Balloon

11th October
Crime Watch

13th October
Shotsmag Confidential

14th October
Hair Past a Freckle

15th October
Damp Pebbles

16th October
Jen Meds Book Reviews

17th October
Random Things Through my Letterbox