Smells Like Teen Spirit

Well, we got tickets for this Saturday’s LSU game: GEAUX TIGERS! It’ll be fun to watch them play live, and of course, a good time is always had in Tiger Stadium. The Tigers are playing Louisiana Tech, and coming off a big win at Auburn they have to be careful not to have a letdown; the secondary Louisiana universities, like so many secondary university football teams in the South, are a lot tougher than most people give them credit for. SO, it could be what’s called a trap game, a game that on paper the better-known team should win easily, but could be easily lulled into thinking it will be easy and therefore not be as prepared as they should be and be surprised and lose–kind of like Troy last year (Troy also knocked off Nebraska this year, so look out for Troy, people.)

Last night we watched another episode of Ozark that was incredibly tightly written, beautifully shot, and exceptionally acted; as it came to an end I said to Paul, “where on earth do they go from here?” We’re only about half-way through the second season, and this season has been crazily intense, and Laura Linney’s brilliance is really starting to shine through. Dark, Gothic and at times startlingly funny and scathingly witty, I absolutely love this show, and even though we haven’t finished season two, I am already starting to miss it, and hate the thought of it ending.

I worked two longish days this week already–but the rest of the week should slide into the weekend fairly easily. I have an eight-hour shift today, but tomorrow is only a half-day and I have to go see my doctor in the morning; Friday is another eight hour day and then it’s the weekend. Huzzah!

I haven’t had a chance to do much writing the last couple of days; I am still trying to get caught up on all the email that accumulated while I was gone–and this is my second week back at work. Bouchercon really knocked me off my game this year, but hopefully I’ll be able to get back to writing this morning or this evening. I really want to make some detailed progress on the Scotty book, and I thought about ways to improve my story “Never Kiss a Stranger” last night.

I feel disconnected from my writing; the Bouchercon break kind of did that, other than the Scotty. I feel like there’s something I’m not finishing, that I should be working on, but all I can remember is the Scotty…I kind of hate when that happens. OH! Yes, of course, how could I forget my story “A Little More Jazz for the Axeman”? I’ve really been enjoying my excursions into New Orleans history lately; I feel like there’s so much I don’t know about New Orleans and its rich and varied past that could be fodder for so many stories and/or novels. I really am thinking it might be a smart idea to write a series set in the past in New Orleans; I know so many experts on New Orleans and Louisiana history, as well as so many people who work in research collections and archives, that it should be fairly simple to actually connect with people and get their help to find the materials I need to write something new and spectacular and different.

It’s a thought, anyway.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Come and Talk to Me

Well, that Saints game on Sunday was hideous, but I will take the W. Strange how both LSU and the Saints literally came down to the last second of the game to come away with the win this weekend.

In other exciting news, I started the revision of Royal Street Reveillon at long last, and while I know I am just getting started, it was all so easy and worked so well and flowed so nicely that I really have high hopes that this might actually go quickly and easily, provided I stay motivated and energized. Fingers crossed, people. I’m actually kind of excited; Scotty’s voice is very clear in my head, and I know exactly what I want this book to be about and how I want it all to happen. This could be, with all self-deprecation aside, the best of the Scottys.

At least I certainly hope so.

I’d hate to think I’d already peaked in the series….because if that’s true, then I should end the series.

And I don’t want to end the Scotty series yet, I don’t think.

The second season of Ozark is even darker than the first, which I didn’t think entirely possible. I love this show; the acting and writing are stellar, and you never can see what direction the show is going to go; things just seem to keep getting worse and worse for the characters in every episode. There was also some pretty amazing sleight-of-hand worked by the writers; the show and the main family were not what they seemed to be in the very beginning; as the layers continue to be peeled back, as we get to know them and see their faults and flaws, we know them better but at the same time they become more complicated and complex and harder to know.

Not an easy thing to do.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Masterpiece

 How bout them Tigers?

I’m still aglow from yesterday’s big upset win over Auburn, and I have to say, LSU not only gave me a heart attack yesterday, but impressed me quite a bit by how well they played. They raced out to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter–and it could have been worse–only to make some mistakes and fall behind 21-10. I am completely ashamed to say that at that point in the game, I honestly thought well, this is going to be a blow out. What happened? They were playing so well. 

You’d think I’d know better by now. LSU came back, and the final score, 22-21, was reached by transfer kicker Cole Tracy putting a forty-two yarder square through the uprights to give the Tigers the win as time ran out and silence a stadium full of people. The LSU-Auburn rivalry, almost always played in September, has resulted in a lot of classic games that went on to be named: the Earthquake Game, the Night The Barn Burned, etc. There have been some blowouts along the way–LSU’s 2011 and 2015 pastings of Auburn come to mind; as well as the 2014 31-7 LSU loss. This is only the third time LSU has won at Auburn this century. Auburn has come back from losing to LSU before–in 2013 Auburn lost 35-21 at Tiger Stadium and played for the national title; last year they lost at Tiger Stadium 27-23, wound up winning the West and playing for the SEC title–and along the way beat both teams that played for the national title (Alabama and Georgia) in the regular season. In fact, Auburn played three of the four teams in the play-offs during the regular season, losing only to Clemson…they played Georgia twice, playing them again and losing in the SEC title game. So, it’s early in the season; far too early to make much of this win–LSU has games against Alabama and Georgia themselves to look ahead to this season; and Mississippi State and any number of SEC games that could rise up and bite them in the ass….but for now, we can relish the likelihood of a Top Ten ranking and showing all the nay-sayers you can’t ever count the LSU Tigers out.

A lot of broadcasters and experts are eating their words this morning, I would imagine.

I think I am back to normal at long last this morning; yesterday I did some chores and dug myself out of most of the mess in my kitchen; filing, making files, putting things away, and working on the laundry and cleaning the living room. There’s still work to be done, of course, but progress was made, and I also made some progress with my writing yesterday. I know, I know, who am I and what have I done with Gregalicious? But I am pretty excited about some things, and I am really excited to get back to work on the Scotty book, as well as the short stories I’ve been toying with for some time. I like the concept of the new one I am working on, “A Little More Jazz for the Axeman,” which I think has a lot of potential; and of course I’m still playing around with “The Blues Before Dawn,” and “Never Kiss a Stranger,” of course; and I need to get organized to keep track of my life again.

And Madeline Miller’s Circe continues to enthrall.

So, for today, I need to take the suitcase back to storage and I need to put air in the tires of the car; and then it’s back home to get some things done before the Saints game, which starts at noon. Then again…it’s always easier to do things out of the house during the Saints game, when tumbleweeds roll in the wind down St. Charles Avenue and the city turns into a ghost town. I also need to get the last few touches of some things done around the house, and perhaps today I can begin the deconstruction of the manuscript I’ve been putting off for quite some time now.

But it’s nice to feel like I fit into my own life again. It really, really is.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Giving Him Something He Can Feel

GEAUX TIGERS!

I think I have finally, somehow, managed to come back into myself as a Gregalicious, after the long, drawn-out malaise of this past week. Everything conspired against me; I never felt mentally rested,  always felt slightly out of it or disconnected from my everyday life, etc. Bouchercon, and other literary events like it, have that effect on me, but it usually doesn’t take this long to start feeling Gregalicious again. I love my day job–it’s absolutely perfect for me, I can’t imagine doing anything else–and I am very lucky that at least I have a day job that neither makes me crazy nor that I hate.

And having had every shitty job imaginable (or so it seems), this is quite lovely.

I hope that today–since I awoke feeling rested and like myself for the first time this week–will result in me getting a lot done today, around the football games. The LSU-Auburn game this afternoon will be an interesting tell as to how good LSU actually is this year (how good Auburn is as well, for that matter) and has important division implications as well as national ones. The season is young, though, and the Murderer’s Row section of the schedule (Florida, Ole Miss, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi State, Texas A&M) is yet to come. And after the Saints stunk up the Dome last weekend…GEAUX TIGERS.

We got caught up on Castle Rock, which actually took an incredibly interesting turn that I didn’t see coming, and so now I am really curious to see where it’s going to go from here. (I also continue to be blown away by the ridiculous beauty of Bill Skarsgaard.) We also watched the premiere episode of American Horror Story: Apocalypse, which also is off to a terrific and interesting start–but almost every season started off interesting, and so many of them wound up going off the rails (we never finished watching Hotel, for example) that we can never be sure what we’re going to get with the show. We also finished watching Sharp Objects, which was terrific (I see Emmys in the future for Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson), and there are so many other shows now to watch, and movies released to Netflix and other streaming services, that it’s hard to believe just a few weeks ago we didn’t have anything to watch. I also want to finish reading Circe.

But the house is a mess, and I need to run the suitcase back to storage, and the car tires need air–but other than that and cleaning and writing, I have the weekend relatively free. Paul is going out shopping and running errands with our friend Lisa today–he has some ideas about turning the area outside our stairs into a sitting area for when the weather is better–and they are launching that project today.

It does feel nice being myself again, and I can spend the day doing some reading and cleaning. I am writing a new short story, and I need to read up a little bit on New Orleans history in order for the story to actually work. We shall see.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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If You Asked Me To

It’s Friday! I made it through my first week home after Bouchercon! Huzzah! Huzzah!

I kind of need this weekend, to be honest. I am still kind of discombobulated, out of it, wondering where and what I need to get done and when I need to do it by. I know I need to make a list, but I don’t even know where to start. It feels like whatever I was focusing on or doing before I left for St. Petersburg has been lost forever in the ether of my mind.

A scary thought, is it not?

But I’m working on a new story, and I have another idea for a book that I am noodling around with this week, and we’ll see how much I can get my life reset this weekend.

Yay, weekend!

I’ve also been watching the documentary series Bobby Kennedy For President on Netflix, and enjoying it–if you can say watching the history of a life and the potential for greatness snuffed out too young enjoying–but it has made me think about a lot of things. (I also highly recommend CNN’s documentary series The Fifties and each decade series that followed; we have such a tendency in our country to forget even our most recent history, and this lack of knowledge is at the heart of so many things wrong with our present day world….it makes me sad.) I remember 1968; I remember the night Bobby Kennedy was murdered. I remember the sense that, with all the rioting and murders and lawlessness seemingly running rampant in the country, that the noble American experiment in self-rule was coming to an end; that these seismic social convulsions would end with the downfall of the country and result in an uncertain future. I didn’t know much about Bobby Kennedy before watching this documentary; I know more now, and watching him in action, his speeches and what he believed in and what he was fighting for leaves no question in my mind that had he not been murdered in Los Angeles that fateful night he had a very good shot at becoming president that year. How different would our country, would our history, be had we not suffered through Vietnam until 1975; had there been no Watergate investigation and presidential resignation; had Spiro Agnew not been vice-president when his past crimes as governor of Maryland surfaced in 1973? But then again, who knows what would have happened had Bobby Kennedy not been shot in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel, or what his presidency would have been like. It’s hard to imagine, though, that the next eight years would have somehow been worse.

When I read Taylor Caldwell’s novel Captains and the Kings in the early 1970’s (it was also made into a mini-series) it was fairly apparent to me that she based the Armaghs on the Kennedys; one would have to be an idiot not to realize that, particularly when she wrote, in an afterward, about how she had warned President Kennedy not to go to Dallas. Caldwell, a conservative and a staunch Catholic, believed in what is generally known as a conspiracy theory involving a coalition of incredibly wealthy and powerful men around the world who decide elections and the future of the world, based on how it will impact their wealth to the positive. In her roman-a-clef about the Kennedy family, originally the patriarch was one of those “captains and the kings” who controlled world events; his ambition, however, for his son to become president eventually overrode his loyalty to the cabal, with the end result that his son is assassinated. The family matriarch believes the family to be cursed; there has always been talk of a curse on the Kennedy family as well.

Given the cruelty of fate to the Kennedy family–one has to wonder. So much death, so many young lives cut short. Awful.

I do recommend the documentary series. Kennedy haters won’t like it, but it’s a nice introduction to who Robert F. Kennedy was, and why he was so important to so many people in that terribly turbulent time.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me

Thursday morning, and my quest to readjust to, ahem, civilian life is getting there gradually. I no longer feel like my batteries need to be recharged–at least, not for the moment–and there is some semblance of order to my kitchen. There’s a load in the dishwasher that needs to be put away, and once again there are dishes in the sink, but the situation is neither as dire nor extreme as it seemed the other day. I’ve still not finished catching up on my email, nor have I had the mental fortitude to get back to reading Circe (which is killing me), nor have I written a single word of fiction this week…but I will. I am almost to the end of my latest journal, which means I’ve been carrying around two with me this week–the almost-finished, and the new one–which means I need to make sure that ideas and story fragments inside of it must be marked or retyped or scanned or something, so as not to be forgotten.

I came up with the idea for a hilarious Nancy Drew type spoof one morning while hanging out with Dana Cameron; actually it’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the easiest way to describe it, which I happily scribbled away about in my journal, and I also came up with an idea for a crime short story which I am interested in exploring at some point; I have the WIP to work through, and the rewrite of the Scotty manuscript as well. I need to buckle down, don’t I? But I think that this week of readjustment and recharging my brain is necessary. I am inspired and I want to work hard on my writing again, I just haven’t the energy or creative strength to do it this week.

I have to run errands this morning; I don’t have to be at work until later this afternoon.

I am just fascinating this morning, aren’t I?

I am also toying with the idea of writing a supernatural-style series; it’s been on my mind for a while, and while I was in St. Petersburg I thought of a way to make it work, and combine some of the short stories I’ve written about that area of Louisiana already (and yes, The Gates of Evangeline helped with that). I am also becoming more and more interested in the history of Louisiana, and the possibility of a historical series, maybe New Orleans in the pre-WW1 era, or the 1920’s. I can’t decide.

But even though I am not putting words down, I am thinking, and that kind of counts as working, doesn’t it?

And now back to the spice mines.

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Live and Learn

Trying to settle back into the mundanity of every day life again. Dishes piled up in the sink, a load in the dishwasher that needs putting away, books and files and papers and note cards and silverware, bottle caps and letter openers and my checkbook scattered about with reckless abandonment and no discernible pattern other than a concurrent lack of desire and energy and interest to do anything about it. Clothes are strewn across the floor of the laundry room while books gather dust on top of the dryer. For yet another day, I allowed myself to wallow in the malaise aftermath of a writerly weekend; a foot back into the swirling and comforting waters of my writing career. At some point–most likely tomorrow morning–I shall rise and make myself some coffee, answer the seemingly insurmountable amount of emails that have clustered in my various in-boxes, organize electronic photos downloaded and stolen from various social media sites to further document the weekend, and generate emails of thanks and gratitude. But tonight, realizing I didn’t even post a blog entry today, I chose to simply sit down as my tired mind and exhausted body wind down for bed and compose a start to tomorrow’s blog in an effort to maximize efficiency and leave more time in the morning for making lists and figuring out what needs to be done and what needs to be worked on, prioritizing and reordering and stepping full-time back into the day-to-day existence of going to work and running errands and cleaning and writing and reading and trying to stay on top of things and at the very least tread water rather than losing more ground.

Traveling does this to me, and especially traveling for writing; each time I am immersed full time into the writing/publishing/reading community it always takes me a little bit longer to pull back from it, to stop missing it, and get back to the business of being Gregalicious again.

One of the loveliest things about traveling, for me, is being able to read. I don’t know how people travel by air and don’t read, to be honest with you. The time just flies past and you can forget that you’re in a busy airport with some people who don’t care about clipping their toenails or other such horrific things in public, or hurtling through the air in a long metal tube thousands of yards above the ground through the theory of lift, a Physics principle I wish my father the engineer had never explained to me because now it creeps into my head every time I fly. I was not only able to finish reading The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young as our flight taxied to the gate in Tampa; and I started reading Madeline Miller’s brilliant Circe on the way back and cannot wait to finish it.

But The Gates of Evangeline was truly a stunning work.

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The sky is a dismal gray when I finally go to remove my son’s car seat. It’s raining, a cold autumn rain that feels both cliche and appropriate for a moment I’ve spent more than three months avoiding. I stand by my Prius, peering through the rear window at the empty booster seat, wondering for the hundredth time about the thin coating of mystery grit Keegan always left behind. And then I do it.

I don’t give myself time to think, just proceed, quickly and efficiently. Loosen the straps. Dig into the cushions of the backseat and unhook the metal latches. One tug, and the car seat lands with a thunk on my driveway.

They never end, all these little ways you have to say good-bye. I turn my face toward the drizzle.

The summer has gone, slipped away without my noticing it, and somehow October is here, flaunting her furious reds and yellows. Squinting, I take in the houses of my neighborhood their wholesome front yards: trim lawns, beds of waterlogged chrysanthemums, a couple of pumpkins on doorsteps. And leaves, of course, everywhere, blazing and brilliant, melting into the slick streets, clogging gutters.

These are actually not the opening paragraphs of the novel, but rather the opening paragraphs of Chapter One. I chose to not use the opening of the prologue to share, primarily because, while the prologue is extremely well done and gripping, it primarily serves to set the mood for the story, rather than introducing the reader to the main character, Charlotte Cates–whom everyone calls Charlie–and Charlie is the driving force of the novel; its success with the reader entirely depends on how you feel about Charlie, as a character, as a person, as a woman, and as a mother. That is key to the novel; if you don’t like Charlie, you aren’t going to enjoy the book.

Which is a shame. The plot of the book is powerful, an interesting mystery about a missing small boy of wealth and privilege who vanished from his room on the palatial family estate of Evangeline in Cajun Country, Louisiana. Charlie is a successful career woman, managing editor of a Cosmo-like magazine, divorced her husband for cheating, and was raising her son on her own. Her parents died young and she was raised by her grandmother; her parents were, as we say down here, “pieces of work.” But then her young son dies suddenly of a rare aneurysm, casting her down the road of grief, pain, blame, and horror. Whatever flaws she might have, Charlie is grieving, and her grief is so real and palpable that you start rooting for her as she leaves her job and drives to Louisiana to write a true-crime book about the disappearance of Gabriel Deveau. Many mysteries haunt the plantation, and Charlie has to navigate those while digging into what happened to Gabriel. The book is beautifully written, and how Charlie begins to slowly come out from under the dark cloud of her own grief, through her interactions with the others at Evangeline and the local people she becomes involved with, is even more powerful than the mystery she is trying to unravel. Charlie also has psychic visions she doesn’t understand, sometimes seeing the past and sometimes seeing the future; and one of those visions–of a boy being taken, rowed into a swamp by someone who has sexually abused him and plans to kill him–is the impetus that gets her to shake off her grief and head to Louisiana in the first place. The visions, which easily could be used to move the story along, etc., are intertwined into the story instead in such a way that seems organic and never seems manipulative.

I greatly, greatly enjoyed this book. As I said, it’s a crime novel but it’s really about coming to terms with grief, accepting tragedy, and moving on. I cried at the end. I will say I had a couple of quibbles, but over all, a great read.

There’s apparently a sequel, which I will definitely seek out.