In Which French Poodles Polhemus and Fiske Interview Author Randee Dawn at Length or Until It's Time For Walkies
The scene: French Poodles Polhemus and Fiske have demanded suggested invited author Randee Dawn to their shared apartment in Brooklyn, owned by one Maude Allocard (who is reading quietly in the other room). All settle in to discuss important matters, none of which appear in "Polhemus and Fiske and Maude (and the Mayor) in Elizabeth Crowens' New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst, out October 25, 2021. Polhemus is gnawing on a rawhide chew as Fiske turns to their so-called "author."
Fiske: Is it true you can't hardly smell anything?
Randee Dawn: Way to get to the important questions first. My nose is as good as any human's, but compared to yours I don't get a whole lot of information, it's true. But if I don't bathe for a few days I smell in a whole different way.
Polhemus (looking up): What's she babblin' on about, Fiske?
Fiske: I have no good idea. Moving on: I understand you are what is called a "writer." What does this mean?
Randee: I'm two kinds of writer: the one who makes stuff up, and one who writes non-fiction. The non-fiction is in the form of articles for online and print outlets like Variety and The Los Angeles Times and Today.com. I understand you can read so –
Polhemus: Yeah! I read that stuff you said about whether Benson and Stabler would get together on Law & Order: SVU and –
Fiske: Try to stay focused, Polly; we both know Randee co-authored a book called The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion. Ms. Dawn, what is this "making stuff up" you refer to?
Randee: I use my imagination, or – in the case of your story – inspiration from a photo to come up with a tale that –
Polhemus: A tail?
Fiske: I believe she is using a homophone. Do continue.
Randee: A tale that is often fantastical, sometimes downright scary. Plus, I've got this funny fantasy novel that marries TV shows with mythical creatures coming out in 2022 called Tune in Tomorrow. I've had stories published as podcasts in Well-Told Tales, and in anthologies like Dim Shores and Horror for the Throne: One-Sitting Reads. In that last one I had a story called "Cat Person."
Fiske sniffs. Polly stops gnawing.
Randee: If it helps, things don't go well for the cat.
Fiske straightens and nods once in approval.
Fiske: Yes. Well. I see there is a list of potential questions to ask you, so – what sort of dogs do you allow to own you, the way we own Maude?
Randee: I'm Birdie's pet. She's a West Highland Terrier, age about 9 – we got her as a rescue – and she came with that name. She's more of a throw rug than a crazed barking high-strung Westie.
Polhemus: Sounds boring.
Randee: Well, she gets away with a lot for being cute. There's a photo of her with me in the upcoming book. I grew up with terriers – two Cairns, and now a Westie. They're just the right size for me and my husband, and you cannot deny that they have the cutest faces.
Polhemus: I deny it! I have the cutest face.
Fiske chuckles beneath a paw.
Randee: Er, yes. You have the cutest poodle face.
Fiske: I understand that in addition to writing, you know how to read. We are also literate – we were self-taught.
Randee: I know. I put that in the story.
Polhemus: So whatcha readin' lately?
Randee: Let's see. Right now I'm in the middle of Chuck Wendig's The Book of Accidents and recently I finished Derek DelGaudio's Amoralman. I'm a big fan of Jonathan Carroll, Shirley Jackson and John Wyndham, who always take me to unexpected places. DelGaudio's actually a performer and magician, and created the In and Of Itself one-man show that was filmed for Hulu. Overall, I tend to prefer plot-driven stories – character is important, of course, but I want the story to go somewhere and take me with it. I tend not to read a lot of so-called literary fiction, which often gives me the sensation of sitting in an idling car.
Polhemus: Chasing cars is amazing. Ones that don't go nowhere are useless.
Stirrings from the other room; Maude has put down her book and is puttering around with shoes and her purse.
Fiske: Alas, we are running short on time. The call of the Walkie will not be denied. What advice do you have for writers who'd like to be published?
Randee: Well, keep at it. Seriously. You will write far more than you will ever publish, and you'll have to usually write it over and over and over again. Don't be afraid to share the work, and learn (through trial and error) what kinds of constructive criticism is right for your story. I'm very fond of Neil Gaiman's words: When people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. Flex your muscles, keep writing, and try to separate your ego from the final work – easier said than done. I've been writing since I was about eight, and it's taken decades to really get anything published. That said, everyone's story is different.
Polhemus: I wrote something! A Poem!
Fiske: You did not. You cannot hold a pen and your paws are too clumsy for keyboards.
Polhemus (pouting): Well, I did. It's in my head.
Randee: Will you share it?
Polhemus: You bet! (Cocks head at leash rattle.) Goes like this: There once was a dog from Nantucket, with a tail so long he could –
Fiske: Polhemus Q. Poodle!
Polhemus: What? What?
Fiske: We will adjourn for the day. Thank you, Ms. Dawn. Where can dogs and their pets find out more about you?
Randee: I'm at RandeeDawn.com
, and on both Twitter
at @RandeeDawn. And if you sign up for my newsletter
, you'll get a free e-book of short stories! Thanks, you two! Now, who wants a belly rub?
New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst
Presented by: Elizabeth Crowens
October 25 - November 19, 2021 Virtual Book Tour
An Anthology and Celebration of the Big Apple
I'm an unabashed, unapologetic lover of New York City, my hometown, and New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst is right up my dark, deserted alley. New York's at its best when you sneak up on it, glance at its sideways, or let it glance sideways at you. The pros and photos in this collection all show New York's best, even when they purport to be showing its worst; in NYC, that's how we roll. A fine addition to your New York bookshelf, a collection to savor.
~ SJ Rozen, best-selling author of The Art of Violence
Genre: Coffee Table book of Photography with Short Stories
Published by: Atomic Alchemist Productions, LLC
Publication Date: Oct 25, 2021
Number of Pages: 150
ISBN: 1950384136, 9781950384136
Purchase Links: Amazon | BookBaby | The Mysterious Bookshop | Goodeareads
Read the Intro:
It is daunting to be asked to say something about New York City that hasn’t already been said with more eloquence than I could muster. As with many of the writing gigs I’ve accepted without carefully considering the consequences, I suppose I would have been better off letting someone else tilt at this windmill. With all due respect to Don Quixote, here goes.
My initial inclination was to do something about how New York City, because of its geography, is fated to be a place of stark contradictions: of churning and yearning, of inclusion and exclusion, of acceptance and denial. Unlike other cities, New York cannot expand outwards, only upwards. While that sounds great and may make for glorious postcards of a majestic, everchanging skyline to send to the folks back home, it leaves out New York City’s most valuable commodity—its people.
I could have written about the unknown or unseen New York, the scores of little islands—some populated, some not—in Jamaica Bay, in the harbor, in the East River, in the Hudson. Places like Ruffle Bar. Ruffle Bar? Google it. Places once home to psychiatric and typhoid quarantine hospitals. Buildings abandoned or demolished. Islands whose only residents are the dead buried there and forgotten. Interesting, certainly, but again it would have left out the thing that makes New York City what it is.
As a crime fiction author who sets much of his work in New York—largely in Brooklyn and Manhattan—I have done countless panels and interviews about the city. My friend and award-winning colleague, Peter Spiegelman, says that setting is the soil in which you grow your characters. He is so right. Ask any author worth his, her, or their salt, and they will tell you that a book that can be set anywhere isn’t much of a book at all. A book must be of its place. So too must a person.
New York City isn’t one place. It is a thousand places, ten thousand places. And because it is all those places, its people are different neighborhood to neighborhood, sometimes street to street. Certainly, house to house, apartment to apartment. Do we shape the place or does the place shape us? Instead of doing an overview, a sort of general discussion of this question, I think it better to talk about one place—Coney Island—and how it shaped one person—me.
I grew up in the shadow of Coney Island Hospital, about a mile or so away from the amusement park. I was right on the border of Brighton Beach, Gravesend, Sheepshead Bay, and Coney Island. I could explain how each of these neighborhoods differ, how, for instance, Sheepshead Bay is, for all intents and purposes, a fishing village. But no, not here, not now. At one point in my life or other, I have claimed to be from all these places. Yet it is Coney Island that resonates.
When I was four, my dad—a bitter, blustery, and angry man—was diagnosed with an aggressive bone sarcoma which he battled to a standstill for thirty plus more years. After his initial round of surgery and treatment, he was instructed to not do any activities that might jar or adversely affect his leg. Yet on summer Sundays, he would tell my mom that he was taking me for a car ride. We took car rides, alright, straight into Coney Island.
He would put me on the kiddy rides, take me to Nathan’s Famous, buy me pistachio soft serve. Then, in one of the few acts of true defiance I ever saw from him, he would get on the carousel and grab for the brass rings. On one of these Sundays, he pointed to the Parachute Jump. The “Jump” rose into the air two hundred and sixty feet. All orange steel, it looked like a cross between the Eiffel Tower and the skeleton of a giant umbrella.
“When that ride opened up,” he said, “my best pal Charlie and me got on it. The parachute dropped a few feet and then … nothing. We were stuck up there for forty-five minutes just hanging in the air. It was great.”
Of course, by then, the Parachute Jump, once part of Steeplechase Park, had been closed for years, its parachutes and rigging long gone. That day, those days, have stayed with me ever since. And when, as a teenager, I would go back to Coney Island with my friends, get high and ride the Cyclone, I would always look up at the Parachute Jump. It came to symbolize my dad to me. Mighty, impressive, but abandoned, and powerless. I loved my dad because I could see past his bluster. He let me see past it. All because of those few Sundays in Coney Island.
As if by osmosis, Coney Island began imposing itself in my work. My series character, Moe Prager, worked in the Six-O precinct in Coney Island. Scene after scene in the nine Moe books take place there. Even twenty-plus books later, in my new series, I cannot escape the gravity of Coney Island. It calls to me in a way I cannot explain other than to say it is romance in the way the Romantic poets understood it.
In my Edgar Award–nominated short story “The Terminal,” I wrote this:
“…He liked how Coney Island displayed its decay as a badge of honor. It didn’t try to hide the scars where pieces of its once-glorious self had been cut off. Stillwell Avenue west was like a showroom of abandonment, the empty buildings wearing their disuse like bankrupted nobility in frayed and fancy suits. He had come to the edge of the sea with the other last dinosaurs: the looming and impotent Parachute Jump, the Wonder Wheel, Nathan’s, the Cyclone.”
I could never have written those words in that way had I grown up in Washington Heights or Rego Park. New York City poets and writers are shaped by their families, yes, but shaped as much by where as by who. That is the magic of New York. This book will shine a light on the rest of that magic. By the way, my children and I have slightly different tattoos of the Parachute Jump: My son and I on our forearms; my daughter on her triceps. In those tats my dad and the Coney Island that was will live on.
Introduction from New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst by Reed Farrel Coleman. Copyright 2021 by Elizabeth Crowens. Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Crowens. All rights reserved.
About New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst:
Writer and photographer, Elizabeth Crowens is one of 500 New York City-based artists to receive funding through the City Artist Corps Grants program, presented by The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), with support from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) as well as Queens Theatre.
She was recognized for New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst, her photo-illustrated anthology, which brought her published book along with ten other authors to Mysterious Bookshop in Lower Manhattan at 58 Warren Street on Monday, October 25, 2021 at 6:30 p.m. for an in-store event and author signing along with a simultaneous Facebook Live presentation and recording for Jim Freund’s WBAI program Hour of the Wolf.
Author contributors include:
- Reed Farrel Coleman, New York Times bestselling author of over 31 award-winning mystery and thriller novels, including the Jesse Stone series for the estate of Robert B. Parker. Called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan.
- Charles Salzberg, former magazine journalist, crime novelist of the Shamus Award-nominated Henry Swann series, founding member of the New York Writers Workshop.
- Tom Straw, Emmy and WGA-nominated writer-producer, credits include Nurse Jackie, Night Court, Grace Under Fire, Whoopie, and the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Crime novelist under the pen name of Richard Castle.
- Randee Dawn, Entertainment journalist for Today.com, Variety, and the Los Angeles Times. Co-editor of Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles and The Law & Order: SUV Companion, and speculative fiction writer of the upcoming Tune in Tomorrow.
- Barbara Krasnoff, Reviews Editor at The Verge, over 45 published short stories, Nebula Award finalist, author of the “mosaic” novel The History of Soul 2065.
- Steven Van Patten, TV stage manager by day, horror writer by night. Co-host of the Beef, Wine and Shenanigans podcast, winner of several African American Literary Awards.
- Triss Stein writes mysteries that all take place in Brooklyn.
- Marco Conelli, former NYPD detective, consultant to Mary Higgins Clark, and Silver Falchion award-winner for young adult mysteries and the police procedural Cry For Help, taking place in The Bronx.
- R.J. Koreto, historical mystery writer focusing on New York during the Gilded Age.
- Richie Narvaez, award-winning mystery author of Hipster Death Rattle, Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco, and Noiryorican.
- Elizabeth Crowens, over 25 years in the entertainment industry, member of the International Cinematographers Guild as a Still Photographer (Imdb.com credited: Sheri Lane), award-winning writer of novels in the Hollywood mystery and alternate history genres. Recipient of the Leo B. Burstein Scholarship by the NY Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Editor and photographer for New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst based on her Facebook Caption Contests. elizabethcrowens.com, @Ecrowens on Twitter, and Elizabeth Crowens on Facebook!
Visit the stops on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, and guest posts from our hosts and authors!