Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone

Well, hello and good morning, Sunday! I have a shit ton to get done today (what else is new? Same song, next verse) but that’s okay; I feel good and rested and as long as I don’t get sidetracked today, I should be able to get a lot finished. The new heating system continues to make the Lost Apartment livable (it’s almost embarrassing to think how long we just accepted that the Lost Apartment would just be freezing cold when the temperature dropped, without questioning whether the system was actually working properly) and so we watched more Ozark last night; Laura Linney and the rest of the cast continues to kill it every episode. The new season of Apple TV’s bizarre but compulsively watchable Servant also has dropped, I believe, and some other shows we really enjoy are coming back soon. (I also want to get back to Peacemaker.) While I was waiting for Paul to get home last night after I finished my day’s work, I decided to finish watching the reboot of Gossip Girl, which, having now binged the entire original, I can say with complete confidence–the new one is terrible. Too earnest, too determined to be socially conscious in a ridiculously heavy-handed Nancy Reagan way; the writers/producers completely missed out on what made the original a guilty pleasure: the new show simply isn’t any fun.

I also saw on Twitter this morning that Stephen King has yet another book coming out this year, Fairy Tale, which further reminded me of how far behind I am on his novels. Gah. I don’t have the time to read as much as I would like–what else is new–and the books keep piling up. And with the recent release of this year’s Edgar and Lefty nominations, my TBR pile continues to ridiculously increase. Hopefully I will go on a trip soon, so I can get some more reading done. I am driving up to Birmingham in the first weekend of February to do Murder in the Magic City (Saturday) and Murder on the Menu (Sunday in Wetumpka); so I am hoping to listen to a book on tape while driving both ways; it’s about six or seven hours in either direction. Then of course in April I am off to Albuquerque for Left Coast Crime, and later that month (hopefully) to New York for the Edgars–so that’s a lot of time on planes and in airports, so I should be able to get some reading done on those trips. I’m still planning on Sleuthfest in Florida later this summer, and Bouchercon in Minneapolis in October; whether those trips will actually happen remains to be seen.

Heavy heaving sigh.

But the good news is I don’t feel lazy this morning–which is a lovely change of pace; maybe because I made myself get up when I woke up rather than lounging in the comfort of my bed–so maybe, just maybe, I can get everything I need to get done this morning/afternoon. This is the first week where I have to go in four days per week (ugh) which hopefully won’t be a regular occurrence; someone supposedly wants to take over my Mondays, which would be rather lovely if and when it happens. (I am not holding out hope that’s actually going to happen, by the way–it’s something I’ve been told–and I am also expecting to be very tired on Thursday this week)

I am also trying to stay focused and not look beyond the immediately important; which means no thinking about other books I want to write the rest of this year, no more thinking about short stories and/or essays I want to write, no more character inventions or story ideas until this book is finished and emailed off to the publisher. This doesn’t mean I don’t still get ideas or thoughts or stop being creative–I have creative ADHD, after all–it just means that I write the idea down and get it out of my head and go back to work on the book. I have three chapters at least to get done today, and if I can manage that I should be close to being back on track for getting it finished on time (extended deadline by two weeks).

And really, getting up just an hour earlier today than I did yesterday has made a significant difference to my day and the productivity factor–well, that remains to be seen, of course, but when I reached the point yesterday that I almost was finished with the blog it was nearly eleven; and then I had errands to run and by the time I was finished with all of that I was hardly in the mood to do much writing after getting everything put away and the dishes taken care of and all that jazz. It was also much easier to convince myself that I could stop working when I hadn’t reached the day’s goal–which means I have to finish yesterday’s goal as well as get today’s done. (I knew I’d regret quitting early yesterday, but I am always about immediate gratification and tomorrow’s stress be damned–ninety percent of my problem, really.

And on that note, I should probably head into the spice mines for the rest of the day. You have a lovely and restful Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow morning.

My World Is Empty Without You

So, the HVAC guys came yesterday to fix our heat. We got a new system last year after the old one finally died just before the Fat Tuesday Freeze (the coldest I’ve ever been in my life, and I lived in Minneapolis for a winter), but we’d never needed to ever use the heating aspect of it once it was installed; the weather changed in mid-February and it wasn’t needed again. When it got cold last week, I turned it on, it ran for a bit, then kind of coughed and stopped working. Within an hour of them getting it running yesterday, the house was not only bearable but temperate. The old system never warmed the downstairs and inevitably turned the upstairs into a sauna; this one actually moderates the temperature based on the floors so that doesn’t happen anymore. I don’t even need to wear my slippers because the floor isn’t too cold for stockinged feet. This morning it is thirty-seven degrees outside but I am not wearing layers or slippers inside the Lost Apartment this morning and it’s kind of lovely.

As I said to Paul last night as we started watching the final season of Ozark, “clearly, we’ve needed a new system since we moved in here, and this is how everyone survives the cold spells in New Orleans.”

I had often wondered, frankly. I’ve even written about it, convinced that heating these old houses in New Orleans wasn’t truly possible…and now I know I was wrong, all along.

Which is kind of embarrassing, really.

It’s weird to be sitting here at my desk, shivering and cold. It’s also nice.

As always, this is a Saturday where I must get lots done. I am behind still on the book, and of course the place is a disaster area and I have to run errands out in the cold at some point–which I am really not looking forward to. Tomorrow I have a goal of going to the gym and working out again for the first time in months; this should be interesting but I also know it’s going to feel amazing to be going to the gym fairly regularly again; fingers crossed, right? And now that it’s no longer cold in the apartment, I have no excuse for not getting anything done; when it’s cold I am too cold to function and all I want to do is huddle in my easy chair under a blanket. Well, don’t have that excuse anymore in a temperate indoor climate, do I? Which is a good thing. I didn’t have any it’s warm here in the bed and cold out there thoughts about getting up this morning–I still stayed in bed longer than I probably should have, but what can you do? Lazy’s going to lazy, I am afraid, but the fewer excuses I can give myself, the better.

I heard about a new anthology I am excited to submit a story for, particularly because I already have a story ready for it. I don’t remember what I originally wrote the story for, but it was for a submission call but I cannot remember which anthology it was for; it wasn’t taken, and I’ve played with the story off and on over the years. Now that I know it’s got a potential home, once this book is finished and turned in, I can get back to it and put the kind of detail into it that will make it sing and stand out; it’s a bit ghoulish, really; but I really liked the story and its potential; I had always intended to get back to it, maybe for my next short story collection (This Town and Other Stories; not sure when that will eventually see the light of day, but I am getting a lot of stories into print and once this current book is finished will be sending out more to other markets and hopefully getting some more traction with the stories, as well as writing others to fill it out. I am actually very excited about getting this collection together this year, frankly).

I also saw the final draft of the cover for A Streetcar Named Murder, which had a mistake on it, which is why I am not sharing it with you, Constant Reader; I should have the final cover design early next week and I cannot wait to share it. It’s gorgeous and perfect and I love it. Now I just have to finish writing it…

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Will check in with you tomorrow and let you know how the day went, Constant Reader. Have a great Saturday yourself, okay?

Everything is Good About You

Friday morning and all is quiet in the Lost Apartment.

It’s in the thirties here this morning and very gray outside, which is not typical unless it’s raining. Rain is in the forecast today–yesterday’s dramatic thirty degree temperature drop was supposed to be the result of rain but we never really got much, in all honesty–but it also doesn’t feel as cold as it should at this temperature, if that makes any sense? The last time it was in the 30’s here a week or so ago it was bitterly cold inside the Lost Apartment, but it’s not that bad today. Maybe because I knew it was coming so I layered when I got up this morning and turned on the space heater next to my desk? (Our heat is still not working.) Regardless, I don’t feel as miserable today as I did the last time it was this cold, so I am taking that as a win.

Paul has been buried with work trying to get the programs for the festivals finished, so I’ve been at loose ends in the evenings this week. I’ve been very fatigued every night, and with Scooter sleeping in my lap (not affection, he’s cold–don’t get me wrong, he is affectionate, but I can tell when body heat is the driving factor in his affection; it has to do with how he cuddles when he’s cold), I’ve found myself dozing off in my chair while I watch some documentary about history (last night, I learned how and why Hanover and Great Britain went their own separate ways; about Queen Barbara Radziwill of Poland; how Catherine de Medici earned her horrible reputation and was it deserved; and how the curse of the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar is often given credit for the extinction of the main line of the Capetian royal family in France–some of these things I already had some knowledge of, but it’s always nice to learn more. Sometimes these documentaries are intended for people with absolutely no knowledge of history or the time period being discussed; I find that ones that originated with the BBC, National Geographic, or the Youtube channel Kings and Generals often have interesting little nuggets of information I didn’t know before; I was just thinking last night how much more interesting French history is than English–no offense to the English, of course; the French are just more all over the place). Barbara Radziwill was an important player in the sixteenth century, which was what sucked me into that video; as Constant Reader is already aware, I’ve always wanted to write a popular history of the sixteenth century by examining all of the powerful women of that century; it was one of the few times in history when women rose to power regularly and across Europe, and naturally the title would be The Monstrous Regiment of Women, taken from the misogynistic tome by John Knox and about that very thing: women in power.

I did manage to work on the book last night, which was nice–I was starting to worry about it, frankly–and I did get some other work done that needed doing. Today I am data entering for the day job most of the day, as I shiver a bit and try to figure out if I actually want to leave the house today (I am leaning towards not, frankly) before digging back into the manuscript. I also need to consult my to-do list to make sure I am following it despite not looking at it–and I suspect I will be horribly disappointed in myself when I finally get to it and see how there’s nothing to be crossed off from it. Heavy heaving sigh. But avoiding the list is also avoiding the tasks, so the list must be faced.

So many things must be faced this morning. My email inbox is getting more under control, so that’s always a pleasant thing and a big surprise, but there are emails that need responses that I haven’t gotten to yet–which just reminded me I had a DM on Facebook I need to reply to; please don’t ever contact me there if you want a response because I get a lot of junk DM’s there and so things tend to get pushed down and not get answered unless I remember to go looking for it (that is today’s PSA of how to reach me and get a response).

I also managed to proof my story “This Thing of Darkness” for Cupid Shot Me, which will release on Valentine’s Day (natch). It’s always lovely to get another short story out there for people to read; I love short stories and I love writing them–I do find them much harder to do than writing novels, for example–and it’s also an excellent editorial exercise for me: why is this story not working? Sometimes I can figure it out, sometimes I can’t. I just got asked this morning about writing for another anthology, which I even already have a story ready for; which means I need to take it out and reread and revise it. Yay!

And on that note, tis time to return to the spice mines. That data ain’t gonna enter itself, alas. Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader, and have a wonderful Friday.

Moonlight and Kisses

Thursday and I have the day off for a doctor’s appointment later. I slept very well last night–wasn’t sure how that would go, actually–and feel more rested and centered today than I have. I think I actually know what day it is today (I did keep thinking yesterday was Tuesday all day), and it’s not cold today, which is odd. New Orleans weather bipolarity at its best–it’s going to rain today and the rain is going to bring very cold weather behind it. Tomorrow is supposed to be very cold–30’s!–and I am, naturally, dreading it.

I have to work today of course; the to-do list progress belies the success of me making to-do lists, and so today must buckle down and get work done. The house is, as always on a Thursday, a horrific mess that belies, at a glance, that anyone has ever cleaned here; there’s a stack of filing to be done; and of course I haven’t even unpacked my backpack from yesterday. When I got home from work last night I was very tired and so just dropped off the backpack where I always do (next to the two shelf bookcase next to my desk) and unpacked my lunch bag and just kind of settled in for the night. I had also fully intended to start rereading Joseph Hansen last night, but my brain was fatigued and I couldn’t focus, so naturally I went down a Youtube wormhole–seriously, having access to Youtube on my television hasn’t been the best thing to develop for me technologically lately; it’s become yet another way for me to waste time and distract myself, but I also know that when my brain is fatigued as it was yesterday it’s useless to try to make it do anything, whether it’s read or write or anything productive. My mind also generally tends to wander when I am watching these videos–and they are slightly entertaining on some levels–and so sometimes I solve problems with things I am writing or dealing with in regular every day life while I am mindlessly, brainlessly watching a video about how Naples and Sicily had one of the most enlightened cultures of the Middle Ages during the Norman rule of the region in the twelfth century, and how they integrated Greek, Arab, and European culture and education into one, fusing them into a very enlightened society with equality for all and freedom of religion.

Plus, education by osmosis. I’d known that already, of course, but not in great detail and it was interesting to me intellectually. (The post Roman Empire history of Italy is actually incredibly interesting.)

Anyway, today I am going to try to get dug out from under my emails (knowing, of course, that emails always beget emails) as well as work on the book; I also have some housekeeping to manage on the Bouchercon anthology front–that, while incredibly tedious, needs to be done–and of course, a sink full of dishes and loads of laundry to tackle. Yesterday was pay-the-bills-day, and I of course only paid the immediately due rather than everything that falls due before the next Pay-the-Bills Day, so at some point over the course of this weekend–so much work to do–I need to go ahead and get those out of the way as well. (It’s always so depressing.) But I feel like, daunting as everything may seem, that I can get it all done if I focus on the job at hand and start working my way down the list, everything will get done and it’s much easier, after all, to focus on one task and disregard the others until you can give them your full attention. That has always worked before, and has always put me in good stead.

And so, on that note I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will catch you on the other side.

Whisper You Love Me Boy

I am so messed up this week. I literally had no idea what day of the week it was for most of the day and had to keep reminding myself it was Tuesday and not Monday. It was very annoying and terribly irritating, as I am sure you can imagine. And it kept messing with me the entire day. I kept thinking oh two more days in the office despite the fact that there was actually only one (I have a doctor’s appointment on Thursday so have taken the day off) and I couldn’t wrap my mind around the notion of it being Tuesday all day. I certainly hope today isn’t going to another disorienting don’t know what day it is kind of day.

So far so good this morning, really. I feel more awake and a lot less discombobulated than I did yesterday, which is definitely a plus. It also doesn’t feel as cold today as it did yesterday, which I am also taking as a win; Friday is supposed to be miserably cold, but I’ll deal with that when that comes around (note to self: look for other space heaters this evening when you get home from work); hopefully it won’t cause the “cold paralysis” I sometimes experience–when it’s so cold I can’t do anything but huddle for warmth under blankets. Our heat isn’t working again; I turned it on last week and it came on…but then it turned off and hasn’t come back on again since. I really hate our new system because I cannot grasp how it works, and it seems to be so incredibly sensitive to everything that anything even just the tiniest bit incorrect will shut it down completely and we have to call the guys out again. I don’t even know if Paul has bothered mentioning it to our landlady this time, to be honest. It seems like having a working HVAC system is simply not in the cards for us.

Yesterday I got some lovely new editions of Joseph Hansen’s first four Dave Brandstetter mysteries in the mail, which is very exciting. It’s been decades since I read Hansen; and frankly, I am not entirely certain I read the entire series–but that’s lost in the murk of the past; I cannot imagine I didn’t if they were in print, and I do distinctly remember some lovely paperback editions I picked up at Tomes and Treasures in Tampa…but I don’t recall reading them all. So I have decided that I am going to reread Hansen’s novels again–it’ll be interesting to see what my take on them is now that I am also twenty years into a mystery-writing career as opposed to the mystery-writer-wannabe I was when I originally read them (I also seem to recall picking some up at the Borders in Minneapolis at the corner of Lake and Hennepin). Hansen isn’t nearly as remembered as he should be, frankly; I think it’s a disgrace he was never an Edgar finalist or named Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America.

I got the cover art and the proofs for an anthology I contributed a story over the last few days: Cupid Shot Me: Valentine Tales of Love, Mystery and Suspense, edited by Frank W. Butterfield. This is the place where I finally found a home for my nasty little story “This Thing of Darkness”, which was inspired by a visit to New Orleans a few years ago from someone I went to high school with–I met him at Tacos and Beer, which is just around the corner from my house, and of course while I waited for him and watched the crowd there, I started writing a nasty little story in my head that began precisely that way: the protagonist meeting a friend from high school he hasn’t seen in forty years for dinner in New Orleans at Tacos and Beer (which just goes to show–a writer will take inspiration from pretty much any-fucking-where), and as I wrote the story in my head while I waited it took a much darker turn. I was working on the Kansas book at the time (yet another draft of it) and here I was seeing someone from high school back in Kansas…so it really took a dark, nasty turn. I had been doing some research on, of all things, the nuclear missile bases scattered across Kansas (there was one near our high school) which led me into another Youtube wormhole about the TV movie The Day After…and also made me think about an entire book that could be built around one of the abandoned missile bases…anyway, after dinner I went home and started writing this story. It wasn’t originally called “This Thing of Darkness” (which is from Macbeth, by the way); I don’t remember what I originally called the story, but “This Thing of Darkness” was originally the title for the story in Unburied, “Night Follows Night”, but was too good of a title to not use, so I switched whatever the title of this was out for it.

I do like the story, twisted as it is, but it also got me to thinking about patterns in my short stories and how I write them–which I would talk about it here but the thought is still completely unformed, which has never stopped me before, of course, but it is so unformed that I would embarrass myself writing my way through exploring it, and I am not entirely sure that I actually regularly do what I think I do–following the same story structure in all of my stories–so I would need to reread more of them at once to determine whether that is something I actually do with my work…

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines.

Thank You Darling

Mystery Writers of America Announces 2022 Edgar Allan Poe Award Nominations

January 19, 2022, New York, NY – Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce, as we celebrate the 213th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, the nominees for the 2022 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2021. The 76th Annual Edgar® Awards will be celebrated on April 28, 2022 at the New York Marriott Marquis Times Square.

BEST NOVEL

The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen (Amazon Publishing – Lake Union)
Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby (Macmillan Publishers – Flatiron Books)
Five Decembers by James Kestrel (Hard Case Crime)
How Lucky by Will Leitch (HarperCollins – Harper)
No One Will Miss Her by Kat Rosenfield (HarperCollins – William Morrow)

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR

Deer Season by Erin Flanagan (University of Nebraska Press)
Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian (Harlequin Trade Publishing – Park Row)
Suburban Dicks by Fabian Nicieza (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins (Penguin Random House – Riverhead Books)
The Damage by Caitlin Wahrer (Penguin Random House – Viking Books/Pamela Dorman Books)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL

Kill All Your Darlings by David Bell (Penguin Random House – Berkley)
The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke (Penguin Random House – Berkley)
The Album of Dr. Moreau by Daryl Gregory (Tom Doherty Associates – Tordotcom)
Starr Sign by C.S. O’Cinneide (Dundurn Press)
Bobby March Will Live Forever by Alan Parks (Europa Editions – World Noir)
The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell (Penguin Random House – Penguin Books)

BEST FACT CRIME

The Confidence Men: How Two Prisoners of War Engineered the Most Remarkable Escape in History by Margalit Fox (Random House Publishing Group – Random House)
Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green (Celadon Books)
Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away by Ann Hagedorn (Simon & Schuster)
Two Truths and a Lie: A Murder, a Private Investigator, and Her Search for Justice by Ellen McGarrahan (Penguin Random House – Random House)
The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade by Benjamin T. Smith (W.W. Norton & Company)
When Evil Lived in Laurel:  The “White Knights” and the Murder of Vernon Dahmer by Curtis Wilkie (W.W. Norton & Company

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World by Mark Aldridge (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper360)
The Unquiet Englishman: A Life of Graham Greene by Richard Greene (W.W. Norton & Company)
Tony Hillerman: A Life by James McGrath Morris (University of Oklahoma Press)
The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science by John Tresch (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock: An Anatomy of the Master of Suspense by Edward White (W.W. Norton & Company)

 BEST SHORT STORY

“Blindsided,” Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by Michael Bracken & James A. Hearn (Dell Magazines)
“The Vermeer Conspiracy,” Midnight Hour by V.M. Burns (Crooked Lane Books)
“Lucky Thirteen,” Midnight Hour by Tracy Clark (Crooked Lane Books)
“The Road to Hana,” Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by R.T. Lawton (Dell Magazines)
“The Locked Room Library,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Gigi Pandian (Dell Magazines)
“The Dark Oblivion,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Cornell Woolrich (Dell Magazines)

BEST JUVENILE

Cold-Blooded Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Workman Publishing – Algonquin Young Readers)
Concealed by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Scholastic – Scholastic Press)
Aggie Morton Mystery Queen: The Dead Man in the Garden by Marthe Jocelyn (Penguin Random House Canada – Tundra Books)
Kidnap on the California Comet: Adventures on Trains #2 by M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman (Macmillan Children’s Publishing – Feiwel & Friends)
Rescue by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Scholastic – Scholastic Press)

BEST YOUNG ADULT

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (Macmillan Children’s Publishing – Feiwel & Friends)
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (Macmillan Children’s Publishing – Henry Holt and Company BFYR)
When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris (HarperCollins – Quill Tree Books)
The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur (Macmillan Children’s Books – Feiwel & Friends)
The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe (Penguin Young Readers – G.P. Putnam’s Sons BFYR)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY

“Dog Day Morning” – The Brokenwood Mysteries, Written by Tim Balme (Acorn TV)
“Episode 1” – The Beast Must Die, Written by Gaby Chiappe (AMC+)
“The Men Are Wretched Things” – The North Water Written by Andrew Haigh (AMC+)
“Happy Families” – Midsomer Murders, Written by Nicholas Hicks-Beach (Acorn TV)
“Boots on the Ground” – Narcos: Mexico, Written by Iturri Sosa (Netflix)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD

“Analogue,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine 
by Rob Osler (Dell Magazines)

* * * * * *

THE SIMON & SCHUSTER MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD

The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet by Katherine Cowley (Tule Publishing – Tule Mystery)
Ruby Red Herring by Tracy Gardner (Crooked Lane Books)
Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara (Soho Press – Soho Crime)
The Sign of Death by Callie Hutton (Crooked Lane Books)
Chapter and Curse by Elizabeth Penney (St. Martin’s Paperbacks)

* * * * * *

THE G.P. PUTNAM’S SONS SUE GRAFTON MEMORIAL AWARD

Double Take by Elizabeth Breck (Crooked Lane Books)
Runner by Tracy Clark (Kensington Books)
Shadow Hill by Thomas Kies (Sourcebooks – Poisoned Pen Press)
Sleep Well, My Lady by Kwei Quartey (Soho Press – Soho Crime)
Family Business by S.J. Rozan (Pegasus Books – Pegasus Crime)

Back in My Arms Again

Tuesday morning and it’s dark and cold outside. I’ve got my coffee keeping my hands warm and the space heater is on. I did try to turn on our new heating system the other day, to no avail. It’s currently thirty-eight degrees outside, which means it’s probably about that inside. I didn’t want to get out of the bed, obviously–warm and comfortable and layers of blankets on top of me–but I have to get back to work today at the office and frankly, it’s a bit weird. I lost track of my days several days ago, and hopefully, going back to the office will put me into a place where I can get a better grasp on the days of the week and the dates of the month and so forth. It’s been very disorienting not knowing what day it is.

And this is an odd week anyway; I have taken Thursday off for a doctor’s appointment, so I am only in the office two days this week as it is; I am not sure if that will help or not. But getting readjusted to the week is going to be a part of my to-do list this week; easier said than done. I am hoping my mind will snap back into place once I get to the office this morning. I do sometimes think the structure the day job forces on me is a good thing in keeping me on track and requiring me to pay closer attention to everything; I have to plan to get everything else done that I have to do structured around seeing clients and being at the office for slightly more than eight hours per day on the days when I go into the office.

Gah.

One thing that definitely has to be gotten under control this week is my email. My email has been out of control for quite some time–hard to believe as recently as the first of the year that the ole inbox was almost empty. The trouble with email is it’s very similar to tribbles–it just keeps multiplying no matter what; sometimes it’s even worse to actually answer it all rather than just letting it sit there; as emails beget more emails. Emails are like those old phone calls where no one would hang up because no one wanted to be the first to hang up; it’s like no one will ever let the conversation die on an email chain for some reason. And of course, my personal betê noir: the “reply all” person (mine are all set to simply “reply”; I have to manually switch it to “reply all” because i don’t ever want to be the person who becomes the “reply all guy”) who replies to every email on the chain so suddenly you have over fifty emails, and then the person he replies to replies all and on and on and on it goes…

And yes, I am mentioning it because this is what I saw in my inbox this morning when I looked at it….like checking your email first thing in the morning isn’t traumatizing enough without seeing a number well over 100 next to “Inbox” and having to start praying that it’s all spam.

The book got a couple of weeks extension, which of course is the worst thing that can happen to a writer on deadline because you immediately think oh there’s more time and slow down the frantic pace you were working at that would have gotten it done on time–well, a few days late, but the deadline was the Saturday of a holiday weekend and no one would have been in until Tuesday at the earliest anyway so why not ask for an extra few days and voila, two extra weeks were in the offing. This does relieve some of the pressure, but not really; the pressure is still there and there are other things I need to be doing, so instead of having this out of the way I still have to work on it and still have the other things that need doing, so here we are this morning.

It’s in the forties.

Jesus.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you tomorrow.

You Don’t Have to Tell Me

There really is nothing quite like a good read, is there?

Alafair Burke has become one of my go-to’s; an author whose every book I preorder and start salivating when I get the shipping notice. I’ve not read her extensive backlist as of yet; I was late to the Burke party and began with The Ex. I do possess most of the backlist and it’s all in my TBR pile, but I’ve gotten so addicted to reading the new ones when they come out I never think to go back to the shelves to get one of the older titles–which is something I clearly need to do; and never have I felt that pull more than while reading her latest.

You see, she wrote a series about a New York cop named Ellie Hatcher–and Ellie comes back as part of the ensemble cast of Find Me, and what I saw of Ellie made me want to go back and read more about her. Well done on that front, Alafair! (This is something that I absolutely love when authors do; like how whenever Laura Lippman needs a Baltimore private eye, she brings in her old series character Tess–which is always a welcome joy whenever it happens….and maybe something I might be able to do with Chanse at some point. Hmmm.)

But I was very excited when Find Me was delivered into my hot little hands, and yesterday, while I was freezing inside the Lost Apartment, I grabbed a blanket and repaired to my easy chair, intent to read for an hour.

I didn’t stop until the book was finished.

Hope Miller shifted her gaze from the gas nozzle to the pump. When the gallon counter hit twelve, she scolded herself for not filling up before her trip into the city. She couldn’t risk an empty tank.

The nearest customer leaned against his green Jeep, sharing her same awkward wait, watching the digital numbers tick by. She noticed him looking at her. When he noticed her noticing, he flashed a practiced grin. She didn’t smile back.

That phrase, “It takes more muscles to frown than smile?” She had googled it once. Turns out, facial descriptions are subjective. Smiles, sneers, frowns, and smirks are all in the eye of the beholder. And the so-called facial nerve controls forty-something muscles, but some people have all of them, while others are missing almost half.

But scientists did agree on one thing–that smiles are innate. Reflexive. And viewed across cultures as a sign of friendliness.

A single man smiling at a single woman alone at a gas station at night?

Pretty great opening, isn’t it? The entire opening chapter is an exercise in suspense: is the woman imagining that this man isn’t just some stranger at a gas station? Is she being paranoid, or is this just the start of an innocuous encounter encapsulating the micro-aggressions directed at women by men on a daily basis? I understand that paranoia myself a bit–I experience it every time I travel throughout the deep South and have to stop for gas or to get something to eat; I am always on high alert during these times, paying attention to any and everything around me, and especially the people. I’ve stopped for gas and noticed someone staring at me before, and then following me back onto the highway, my heartrate increasing and adrenaline pumping through my veins as every mile ticks off on the odometer; I will often deliberately slow down to force the suspicious vehicle to eventually pass me…and this happens more regularly than it probably should. Anyway, I can relate to the main character’s paranoia; this is masterful suspense writing by the author, because now I have been pulled into the story and I am worried about the main character.

The book is mostly set in the Hamptons, with some scenes taking place in New York City; there’s even a detour to Wichita (KANSAS!!! It keeps popping up everywhere lately!). The main character of the story is NOT the paranoid young woman in the first chapter (and I cannot explain to you, Constant Reader, how wonderful that first chapter is; everything in that first chapter, every tiniest detail–everything she feels and thinks and remembers–is crucial to the story), but rather her sort-of adopted sister, criminal defense attorney Lindsay Kelly. The young woman in the first chapter, Hope Miller, is already, in and of herself, a mystery. She was found some years earlier, as a teenager, thrown from a wrecked vehicle with no memory of who she is, where she came from, or how she wound up in New Jersey. (The car had Indiana plates and was reported stolen.) Eventually, she takes the name Hope Miller and moves in with the Kelly family–a woman without a past that Lindsay somehow feels responsible for; more so than as a friend or as a sister. Hope is damaged, obviously, and has only recently decided to take control of her life and start over somewhere different than the small town in New Jersey where she’s been living since the Kellys took her in–she wants to go somewhere where everyone doesn’t know her as “the mystery girl with amnesia.” Hope disappears, and Lindsay is desperate to find her; has her true past finally come back to haunt Hope? Who is she? And what, if anything, does she have to do with the murder of a local charter fisherman who was murdered around the time she disappeared? Is she dangerous?

The search for Hope soon draws in some more characters–including, as mentioned earlier, police detective Ellie Hatcher from Manhattan–and there are multiple stories going, all of them tied together, all of them leading back to Hope’s mysterious past, and there’s also a potential link to a serial killer Ellie’s father investigated back when she was a girl. The characters are all well-drawn and developed enough to be real enough to draw the reader in to root for them; Burke is also masterful at pacing and when is the right opportunity to play yet another card that will either further confuse or enlighten the reader as the story continues to take shape out of the amorphous confusing mist entangling the characters.

Juggling all of the subplots and keeping them tied into the main story is also not an easy task for a writer, but Burke manages to do so, tidily winding up every loose end to leave the reader, as they close the book, smiling and satisfied with the experience.

Baby, Baby, Wo Ist Unsere Liebe

Congrats to the Lefty Award finalists!

Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel. The nominees are:

  • Ellen Byron, Cajun Kiss of Death (Crooked Lane Books)
  • Jennifer Chow, Mimi Lee Cracks the Code (Berkley Prime Crime)
  • Elle Cosimano, Finlay Donovan Is Killing It (Minotaur Books)
  • Cynthia Kuhn, How To Book a Murder (Crooked Lane Books)
  • Raquel V. Reyes, Mango, Mambo, and Murder (Crooked Lane Books)
  • Wendall Thomas, Fogged Off (Beyond the Page Books)

Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel (for books set before 1970). The nominees are:

  • Susanna Calkins, The Cry of the Hangman (Severn House)
  • John Copenhaver, The Savage Kind (Pegasus Crime)
  • Naomi Hirahara, Clark and Division (Soho Crime)
  • Sujata Massey, The Bombay Prince (Soho Crime)
  • Catriona McPherson, The Mirror Dance (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Lori Rader-Day, Death at Greenway (William Morrow)

Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel. The nominees are:

  • Alexandra Andrews, Who Is Maud Dixon (Little, Brown and Company)
  • Marco Carocari, Blackout (Level Best Books)
  • Zakiya Dalila Harris, The Other Black Girl (Atria Books)
  • Mia P. Manansala, Arsenic and Adobo (Berkley Prime Crime)
  • Wanda M. Morris, All Her Little Secrets (William Morrow)

Lefty for Best Mystery Novel (not in other categories). The nominees are:

  • Tracy Clark, Runner (Kensington Books)
  • S.A. Cosby, Razorblade Tears (Flatiron Press)
  • Matt Coyle, Last Redemption (Oceanview Publishing)
  • William Kent Krueger, Lightning Strike (Atria Books)
  • P.J. Vernon, Bath Haus (Doubleday)

Nothing But Heartaches

It’s cold again on this Martin Luther King Jr Day here in the Lost Apartment, and as always when it’s cold and I don’t have to get up, I malingered in my bed much longer than was absolutely necessary. I won’t apologize for not wanting to get out of a warm, comfortable bed and from under a pile of warm blankets to brave the cold, either. Our new system came on briefly the other day when it was cold, and since then–nothing. I don’t know what I may have done wrong with switching it from cool to heat, but as usual, the guys are going to have to come back out and reset it or do something to make it functional. It’s not that big of a deal–the cold never really gets to the point where it is so incredibly unbearable (like last year on Fat Tuesday) that I am not functional, but it sometimes skates very close to that edge.

Yesterday came dangerously close, frankly. I was freezing all day to the point where I needed to use the heating pad underneath my blankets in my easy chair, which finally made me feel close to comfortable. I did manage to finish reading Alafair Burke’s marvelous Find Me (which you should also read), and then we finished watching the second season of Cheer–which sadly kind of limped along to the end, and by the season finale, poor Monica was simply a wreck; I think the show’s producers might have hit the “cost of fame and how to handle it” a little bit harder than they intended; but that message did come across fairly clearly, so maybe that was their intent. Dealing with the fallout from the scandals that arose in the wake of the first season–especially in the case of the breakout star who was accused of sex crimes with young boys–certainly put the producers (and the cast) into an awkward position: how do we deal with this? The episode that did deal with it did a fairly good job, and it’s also sad to see that abuse of children is just as rampant in cheerleading as it is with other sports at this level (gymnastics, figure skating, wrestling, football).

We always hear so much about how “children” need to be protected from books and ideas almost every day–and yet protecting them from sexual and physical abuse doesn’t seem to be as big a priority with people. Hate to break it to you, but a book never sexually assaulted a child.

The sun is out this morning and I feel much better than I did yesterday morning. I overslept yesterday, if you remember, and felt sort of unable to engage my ignition yesterday and get the Greg started, if you know what I mean. I did make some notes yesterday and I did clear out the spam from my email inbox, but today I actually do have to get work done since I didn’t do much of anything yesterday. Today I am going to work pretty hard on the book, and I am going to try to read a Laura Lippman short story later on as a kind of reward for getting work done. My kitchen this morning is in pretty good shape overall; I do have a load of dishes to put away and some laundry to do around the writing schedule today. But I feel this morning like I can actually get stuff done tonight and not be derailed or distracted…probably because it’s not as cold this morning as it was yesterday (and believe you me, I am dreading getting up at six tomorrow morning). But I am going to get this finished, work on a review of the new Alafair Burke while drinking coffee and folding clothes and putting away clean dishes, after which I am going to get cleaned up and dive back into my manuscript.

I feel more like me today, if that makes any sense. It’s been a hot minute, frankly; I don’t know if it was subconscious depression over not being able to go to New York or something, but today is the day I would have been home–I was flying back yesterday–and so maybe my mind/subconscious was depressed and/or mourning the loss of the trip? I think I probably slipped into an alternative mindset/reality the moment the trip was cancelled and it’s taken me until when the trip would have been over to get over that loss, if that makes any weird kind of sense. Maybe I navel-gaze too much, but I know I can tell when the chemistry in my brain is off, and it always affects everything in my life. But the point is I can look at my to-do list and not be concerned about it to the point where I panic and think I’ll never get that all done but rather, “one task at a time gets all the jobs done”–which is kind of where and how I am feeling this morning. This is, of course, a good thing. I will admit that I had some ideas last night while watching Cheer (reading Alafair’s book helped in that regard as well) about other things to write and other things i need to get done. I also have edits on a short story I have coming out in an anthology next month–quick turnaround, what can I say?–but I have to say my year is getting off to a good start–despite the cancelled trip to New York.

Fingers crossed the year continues to remain not only on track but continues to get better rather than worse. But one can never tell these days–if we’ve learned anything from the last five years it’s not to constantly be optimistic that things will inevitably get better as we continue to move along.

And on that note, it’s time to drive right back into everything and get my act together once and for all for today. I will check in with you again tomorrow, Constant Reader.