Change of Heart

It’s now Tuesday, and bad news to be had all around, alas.

I won’t be attending Bouchercon this year. If you will recall, I’ve not been operating at 100% since I went to the LSU-Florida game. Turns out I am ill–nothing serious, nothing life threatening, nothing more than a damned inconvenience–and as such, am not allowed to travel. Yay. One of the few things I look forward to every year, missed due to illness.

I am NOT happy about this turn of events. But it is what it is, and now I have to figure out who all and what all I have to do to let people know so my moderating slots are covered. Paul, however, pointed out a potential silver lining, re: the Anthony Awards: “You never win when you’re actually there, so maybe this will increase your odds of winning?” Which is true–if you overlook the fact that I’ve also lost when I’ve not been in attendance at an awards presentation.

Ah, well. At least I’ll have the time off from work to try to keep shoveling down antibiotics and taking care of myself–I’m going to keep my vacation days; just not going anywhere. Heavy heaving sigh.

I slept well again last night, which is two nights in a row when I had to get up early where I pretty much slept all night long–I did wake up once or twice; the only time I distinctly remember being right before the alarm went off–and again, like yesterday morning, I feel very rested, despite the darkness outside my windows. Paul went to a show last night, so wasn’t home before I went to bed; I spent the evening after getting home from the office watching an ESPN college football history special about Notre Dame last night before retiring. I probably should have cleaned the kitchen or something, but I was tired, and hey–I have tomorrow off, so it can probably wait at least another day, right? If I continue waking up early–which I hope will become a thing again; I used to get up every morning like clockwork at seven am, thanks to Skittle–I can start using my mornings to be a lot more productive than I have been lately. Mornings before work used to always be my most productive time; I always worked all morning on my days off and into the early afternoon, usually calling it a day around three. Social media has disrupted that, of course; I need to learn to keep my browser closed while I am writing and maybe–maybe–keep up with social media when I need a break by looking at my phone. Glancing around even now, I am thinking that there’s definitely some filing that needs to be done, and maybe, around doctor’s appointments and the visit to the specialist this week, I can maybe even clean out my cabinets and do the windows and filing and who knows what else I can get done? Maybe even move some boxes to storage, and clean out the attic. There is neither an LSU game nor a Saints game this weekend, so outside of watching the Georgia-Florida game, there’s no need for me to even bother watching football games this weekend….which means more writing time and more cleaning time. I don’t think I’m going to finish Bury Me in Shadows before the end of the month; I did get another chapter finished last night, though, and maybe can get through another tonight. Tomorrow I’ll dive in headfirst and see how much I can get finished.

And maybe I’ll be able to finish reading Certain Dark Things.

I do have a lot of writing to get done, so maybe this unexpected ailment is for the best, the universe’s way of telling me hey dude you really need to get your shit together rather than going to Dallas and having fun and drinking too much for five days. This is the first Bouchercon I will miss since I started attending again in Albany back whenever that was; it was Albany, Raleigh, Long Beach, New Orleans, Toronto and St. Petersburg, so I guess that would make it 2013. YIKES, that feels like a gazillion years ago.

I started reading Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street this week as my non-fiction read of the moment; the book is a history of the street–which, oddly, had never really been done before–against an overall backdrop of the city’s history, and am really enjoying it thus far. I mean, I’m still in the part where the city is being founded and built by the French in the early eighteenth century–and of course, from the very beginning the city was fraught with criminality; John Law’s Louisiana Company operated from a sense of fraud and eventually collapsed, but the city continued to grow and thrive along the river after the initial founding.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me.

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Sign o’ the Times

Monday morning rolls around yet again, and a new week dawns. I slept pretty decently again last night, which is unusual. The alarm went off this morning and I hit snooze, despite being awake, because the bed was so comfortable. Sigh.

The Saints won again yesterday, and with the season LSU is also having, it’s been a pretty good football season for Louisiana football fans thus far. LSU undefeated, the Saints with a single loss? The big test for LSU is the Alabama game a week from Saturday–not sure when the Saints will be tested; but the day after the LSU-Alabama game the Saints are playing the hated Atlanta Falcons. So, yeah, that’s kind of a big weekend for both teams, and both have a bye this weekend–so no football in the Lost Apartment this weekend, alas.

We watched the new Meryl Streep movie on Netflix last night, The Laundromat, and weren’t terribly impressed with it. The story rather lacked cohesion, and there were times when I was frankly bored with it. I guess the idea was to expose and talk about the ways companies and the wealthy avoid paying taxes by setting up off-shore trusts and holding companies. but the examples given with how that affects people wasn’t particularly affecting? It was disappointing. Streep was good, but just not given enough to really work with.

I read some more into Certain Dark Things yesterday, which I am also really enjoying now that I’m getting deeper into the story. It’s very well written, and I like the structure of the narrative, as well as the entire mythology of vampires in the new world that Silvia Moreno-Garcia is creating here. It’s pretty good, and I do highly recommend it. I am hoping to get finished reading it sometime this week. I want to read one more horror novel before the end of the month and Halloween; although I’m not certain Moreno-Garcia’s novel really fits into the horror genre. The book isn’t scary, but it is about paranormal creatures, and an entire world and society of them. Similarly to Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, she imagines a world where vampires are “out of the coffin,” and people know they exist. The fallout from this has resulted in Mexico City establishing itself not only as an independent city-state, but also as a vampire-free zone. I also like the characters she’s exploring–Atl, the modern-day female vampire, descendant of a line of vampires going back to the Aztecs, and Ana Aguirre, a female police detective in the city investigating a murder obviously committed by a vampire. So in some ways Certain Dark Things can also be considered a crime novel, which is very cool.

I love when the two genres overlap, to be quite honest.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Monday, everyone.

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Will You Still Love Me?

Sunday morning. LSU managed to remain undefeated yesterday, squeaking out a 23-20 nerve-wracking win over Auburn and looking like LSU of old. It was a very tense, stressful afternoon here in the Lost Apartment, believe you me. But they did pull out the win to move to 8-0; with Alabama on the horizon in two weeks in Tuscaloosa. They will most likely be ranked 1 and 2 at the time of the game; the winner takes the lead in the division, becomes the favorite to win the SEC, and make the playoffs. There’s some talk, already, that even if LSU loses to Alabama they might still make the playoffs; Oklahoma’s shocking loss to Kansas State opening that door still wider. There are a number of good one loss teams in the SEC already–Georgia and Florida are about to play next week in a battle of once-beatens to determine who will win the East division, and a shot to play the winner of LSU-Alabama in Atlanta in December.

Likewise, it also wouldn’t be the first time Alabama lost to LSU and got to play for the national title.

I was emotionally spent after the game, so I spent the rest of the evening finishing reading Robert Tallant’s Ready to Hang: Seven Famous New Orleans Murders. Tallant isn’t the best writer, and he’s also, as they say, a product of his time; but I found his retelling of famous New Orleans murders quite entertaining. The last three chapters (“Let the Poor Girl Sleep!”, “The Axman Had Wings”, and “Fit as a Fiddle and Ready to Hang”) were quite interesting, and I can see easily how to translate those real life true crimes into fiction, particularly the last one–about a handsome young man who wanted to be a singer and went around killing older men with money. The book was written and published in 1952 originally, and so the story of Kenneth Neu, as written by Tallant, skirted around what was patentedly obvious to me at any rate–he flirted with older men to see if they might be interested in his looks, and then killed and robbed them. (When he was tried eventually, he was only tried for the murder he committed in New Orleans; a previous crime in New Jersey definitely involved homosexual activity, and they didn’t want to try him for that one in case the jury sympathized with him killing an older gay man…so obviously, the prosecutors in Orleans Parish successfully kept any possibility of homosexuality out of his trial.) Neu is an interesting character to me; originally from Savannah, served in the military, and extremely charming and good-looking. Even throughout his trial he was cheerful, trying to charm people, even singing and dancing for the audience in the courtroom during breaks in the trial. He’s almost like something out of Patricia Highsmith; there’s definitely some Ripley in Neu. And obviously, he would make for a fascinating character in an old time New Orleans noir.

I’m also working on a short story–have been for some months now–called “A Little More Jazz for the Axeman,” which will go into my collection Monsters of New Orleans should I ever finish it; I’d also like to send it out for submission. It’s a Venus Casanova story, and while I got off to a relatively good start on it, it kind of stalled on me–primarily because I didn’t know the particulars of the true Axeman murders. I’d read some of it in Empire of Sin, but Tallant covered it a bit more thoroughly. I do need to come up with a timeline of the original Axeman murders, which should be relatively easy to do now, and see how I can work with that for my Venus short story.

I do intend to write today, Constant Reader, after two days of meaning to but never getting around to it. But the time has come, and I really must stop procrastinating. I don’t know what time the Saints game is today, but regardless, I have to sit here and at the very least finish off Chapter Twelve, whose rewrite has been in stasis now for over a week. I only have thirteen more chapters to go before the damned thing is finished–and while I know I’ll be holed up in a hotel room in Dallas for five days this coming week, well, I also know it’s Bouchercon and I won’t get any writing finished. I won’t even read much, except for the airport coming and going and the plane ride itself. I do want to finish Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things this week as well; hopefully in time to get another horror novel read by Halloween. I’ve really fallen down on my reading lately–I also have some terrific ARC’s on the pile, including Elizabeth Little’s Pretty as a Picture and Alex Marwood’s The Poison Garden–and I really need to get back to dedicated reading again, rather then falling into Youtube rabbit holes every night. Reading also inspires writing, so there’s that, too.

I think the next non-fiction book I’m going to read is Richard Campenella’s Bourbon Street–as I continue my deep dive into New Orleans history.

And on that note, I think I’m going to get another cup of coffee and sit with Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things for awhile before i head back into the spice mines.

Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

 

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Hip to Be Square

GEAUX TIGERS!

Yes, today is the LSU-Auburn game, in Tiger Stadium, with implications for the division, conference, and national title picture for both teams. Auburn already has one loss–to Florida–and LSU is currently undefeated and getting a lot of press and attention for how well they’re playing, in addition to Heisman talk for our quarterback, Joe Burrow.

They call the rivalry the Tiger Bowl, because both teams are the Tigers (but Auburn doesn’t have a real tiger, like LSU does–their live mascot is an eagle, which is also kind of cool; I love when it soars around the stadium before landing on its trainer’s arm down on the field. SEC football rules.), and it’s become kind of a rivalry game…although it seems almost every game in the SEC West is turning into a rivalry game. There have also been some great, classic games in the series–with tight, last minute wins for both sides, and the occasional blowout. These games have a tendency to become named: the Earthquake Game (last minute pass to beat Auburn 7-6; the crowd reaction registered on the seismograph across campus and the game has become a part of SEC lore); the Night the Barn Burned (one year the old athletic center next to the Auburn stadium burned to the ground during the game, which was televised); the Interception Game; and so on. My favorites were the last second, insane touchdown pass that beat Auburn 30-24 in 2007, the comeback in Tiger Stadium in 2017 27-23 (the 20-0 lead Auburn enjoyed was the biggest lead they’ve ever had in a game they wound up losing), and of course, last season’s Cole Tracy field goal as time expired to win 22-21. Both of those last two were huge upsets and turnarounds for LSU’s season. Paul and I were also at the insane game in Tiger Stadium in 2015 that LSU eventually won 45-21, when it was so insanely hot in Tiger Stadium that they cut the cost of water to a dollar at first and by the third quarter were giving it away–I don’t think I’ve ever been so hot in my entire life.

It was fun, tho. And that season, like this one, started out 7-0. Today’s game will go a long way to determining the rest of the season for both teams…I’m nervous as always before a big game. GEAUX TIGERS!

Olga rolled through last night–I woke up to torrential downpours and extreme winds several times during the night–but while it’s gray out there this morning it seems pretty calm. There’s debris all over the walk outside, indicative of the wind and the rain, but the sun is trying to come out from behind some clouds. Apparently there are fifty thousand homes without power this morning in the metro area. At least it’s not hot…

Yesterday I didn’t get much writing done. Mostly I spent the day trying to get the Lost Apartment back in order; you know, cleaning–the thing I always do to try to avoid writing as much as I can. This morning I need to finish the floors and maybe do some more book organizing, and then I can sit down and comfortably work on something…although I should probably work on something first and then do the cleaning–or do the cleaning after the LSU game–it starts at two thirty.

Or…I could just take the day off to relax and think and read…see how easy it is to talk yourself out of doing any work?

Well, I’m not getting anything done just sitting here, so I think I’ll finish this off and head back into the spice mines for the rest of the morning. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

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Touch Me (I Want Your Body)

And here it is, Friday once again.

We are in for some nasty weather today; thunderstorms and possible flash flooding–and since our neighborhood has started flooding apparently, I’ll need to be keeping an eye on my car. It’s parked around the same area it was where it was too high for the water to get inside last time, but still. You never can be sure, and the last thing I need to deal with is a flooded car.

I don’t have to go into the office today–my hours worked out so that I have the day off, which was a pleasant surprise I hadn’t realized was going to happen until possibly Wednesday. I’m still not completely over whatever it was I’ve been dealing with the last few weeks, so it’s nice to be able to stay home today and get caught up on things around the house. So many things to get caught up on. Heavy sigh.

I woke up this morning to a thunderstorm and a downpour, but it’s stopped for now and is just kind of gray outside. I don’t think we’re going to have much sun today–or tomorrow–as there’s some sort of tropical thing going on in the Gulf that’s heading this way, but the cold front we’re having is supposed to dissipate it and turn it into lots of rain. I’m not how that bodes for tomorrow’s LSU-Auburn game, but there it is. I’d like to get that pesky proposal finished today, do some cleaning, and try to get caught up on Bury Me in Shadows–my plan to have it all done before the trip to Bouchercon is clearly coming to naught; I doubt that after watching the LSU and Saints play this weekend I’ll have the energy or wherewithal to do any more writing. I’d also like to finish reading Certain Dark Things this weekend as well.

Lord have mercy, the Lost Apartment is a pigsty.

In other exciting news, we have a new outdoor kitty. Double Stuff and Shadow vanished a while back–I’m still not sure what happened to them, but I just tell myself that someone in the neighborhood took them in, or it was the loudness of the construction of the new condo building down the street going into the two vacant lots that drove them away, but we’ve missed having the three outdoor kitties (Tiger hasn’t gone anywhere). Earlier this week when I was leaving for work I saw an absolutely adorable orange and white cat–the same markings as Bubba, who I think moved around the corner because I sometimes will catch a glimpse of him through a fence or in the Burger King parking lot–that is adorable and quite young, peeking out from underneath the front porch. I told Paul I’d spotted possibly another stray living here, but Paul still hasn’t seen him. I didn’t see this new kitty again until last night; John from the apartment up front knocked on our door and asked about the new kitty, who was on our steps now. I gave him some food and petted him, and after he hung out for a while he went exploring back under the house. I just am not sure what to call him. I was thinking Creamsickle because his coloring looks kind of like one, but it’s not really a terrific name for a cat. I guess he’ll just have to be Outdoor Kitty until he’s been around long enough for a name to come to me.

All right, I should probably get started on the spice mine work today. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

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Little Lies

Thursday, or as I prefer to call it, Friday Eve.

Yesterday was a lovely mail day. I received my contributor’s copy of Detecting the South In Fiction, Film & Television, edited by Theresa Starkey and Deborah E. Barker. It’s from LSU Press, and I think this might be (I could be wrong, my memory is a sieve) my first appearance in an academic-type tome. I can’t wait to start reading the other essaysm, but especially the ones by Ace Atkins and Megan Abbott, two of my favorite writers as well as two of my favorite people on the planet. My essay is titled “Down These Mean Streets (Whose Names No One Can Pronounce)”, and I’ll also have to reread it–I don’t remember a damned thing about it (see: sieve-like memory). Theresa, one of the co-editors, is also the person who invited me up to Ole Miss to speak at the Radical South event either last year or the year before; when I was completely charmed by Oxford.

I still might set a book there. The campus and town are gorgeous–although I would, obviously, have to fictionalize both.

I slept fairly well last night. I had dinner with a friend, and after a pre-dinner glass of prosecco followed by another glass of Chardonnay with dinner–apparently that was enough to send me off into the arms of Morpheus to my best night of sleep of the week thus far. Dinner was lovely–we went to Saba, a Middle-Eastern place on Magazine Street in Uptown, and the hummus was magnificent, as was the lamb kebob. Conversation was lovely–gossip as always, and catching up, and lots of laughter. It was quite lovely, and then I came home to watch this week’s American Horror Story: 1984, to see how far off the rails it was going this week. The answer: pretty far. It no longer makes the slightest bit of sense, and I’m not even sure what it now has to do with anything that happened earlier in the season. I’ll keep watching, primarily out of curiosity more than anything else–to see where it winds up going finally.

And wonder why I ever worry about my plots not making sense.

I’ve not written anything fictional this week, which is, frankly, disgraceful. But between this annoying low-level whatever it is that is still wrong with me–my throat is still sore, my sinuses are completely in revolt, my nose is rubbed raw again, and I’ve been achy most of the week–and being so tired and distracted the majority of the week, yeah, it’s no wonder I fell behind yet again on my goals. But I did get some of my other writing finished, including a short interview with Crime Reads (again about being an Anthony short story finalist, for which I am getting a lot of attention and more traction than I did as an anthology finalist two years ago–not complaining, just an observation…writing versus editing are pretty different), and I got my Sisters column finished. Also, as I said to my friend at dinner last night, I’ve been getting some positive reinforcement about my writing lately–lovely reviews and compliments, emails about the most recent book, compliments on my nominated short story–and that’s been really lovely. I actually sat down and skimmed through Royal Street Reveillon the other night as well–Paul got home late from the office that night, and while I waited I started reading it over again. As I always do when I reread published work I questioned decisions I made with both language/sentence choices, as well as plot decisions, but overall, I was pretty pleased with it when I finally set it aside. Someone did direct message me while they were reading it a few weeks ago, asking me how many car accidents has Scotty been in?, to which I replied, why do you think he hates driving so much? Scotty of course not only gets into a lot of car accidents, he also gets kidnapped or taken prisoner pretty frequently as well, to the point that it’s almost an in-joke between me and the reader.

But hopefully I’ll be able to get back to writing this morning, and tonight after work; so I can get back on track and get things back under control–some sort of it, at any rate. And hopefully, around the LSU and Saints games this weekend I can get almost completely caught up.

One can hope, at any rate.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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Don’t Mean Nothing

Well, I got up early this morning–with an assist from Needy Kitty, who has apparently decided this week that after getting fed really early in the morning two days in a row, that this should become a regular thing. It’s okay, actually, I was already awake when he climbed on me in bed and laid down. And it doesn’t kill me to get up early anyway, now does it? Today is my half day, Wednesday, which means running by the mail on the way to the office and I get off early enough to meet a friend for dinner. Huzzah!

I’m getting things done this week, even if it feels like I’m just treading water. I always have so much to do, you know, that it sometimes feels like I never make any progress; it seems like every time I cross something off the to-do list, something else rears its ugly head, you know? Or two something elses, sometimes three. Heavy heaving sigh. But I suppose it’s better than having nothing to do, or being bored, or something. One thing I never have to worry about is being bored–unless I am watching something boring, or am bored by whatever I’m reading.

As Bouchercon looms on the horizon, I should probably start doing some planning, or at least figuring out what I’m going to be doing, and when I’m going to be doing it. I also should talk some more about the Anthony nominees for Best Short Story, of which I am one, for “Cold Beer No Flies.” It’s lovely to be nominated for awards–it really is, no humility about this, folks, I fucking love making short-lists–and it’s a real joy to be nominated with writers like my fellow nominees: Holly West, S. A. Cosby, Barb Goffman, and Art Taylor. Not only are they talented writers but they are also really awesome people. That’s one of the things I love about being a part of the publishing community, really–the vast majority of people in it are pretty awesome. Sure, there’s the occasional dirtbag asshole, but for the most part? A fun group of people. Can’t wait to see them all next week!

My email inbox is ridiculously full again; I feel sometimes like Sisyphus pushing that rock every time I look at it. Heavy heaving sigh. But all I can do is put my head down and keep clicking them open and responding to them, hoping against hope that each one I answer won’t engender yet another response to answer. Oh, well, it could be worse: I could get no emails except junk. Or ones from political campaigns. I wish I had a dollar for every email I get asking for money for a political campaign–I could leave the spice mines behind for good and relax in my hammock on the white sand beach while sipping a margarita.

I finally finished reading Norah Lofts’ short story collection Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? I really enjoyed them; they were more Gothic than straight up horror, and (breakthrough alert) I realized after finishing the book that perhaps the reason I am so bad at writing horror (I’m more of a fan than a horror writer) is because I like Gothic-style horror more than anything else. Oh, sure, I read all different styles of horror (I’m really enjoying Certain Dark Things), but when it comes to writing it, I tend to go more along the line of Gothic, which is more creepy and unsettling than scary. Bury Me in Shadows is a Gothic-style novel; I’d love to have a parody Gothic style cover with my cute teenaged gay boy running away from a big creepy house with one light on in a window, looking back over his shoulder…which is, now that I think about it, a really good idea.

I read a lot of Norah Lofts when I was a teenager; primarily her fictional biographies of royal women. She wrote about Eleanor of Aquitaine (Eleanor the Queen), Katherine of Aragon (The King’s Pleasure), Anne Boleyn (The Concubine), Napoleon’s stepdaughter Hortense de Beauharnais (A Rose for Virtue), George III’s sister Caroline-Matilda (The Lost Queen), and Isabella of Castile (Crown of Aloes). She also wrote Biblical fiction, with Queen Esther and How Far to Bethlehem?, and a lot of what was classified, marketed and sold as historical romances–but they weren’t really romances. They were dark stories about lost love and hopelessness and her women rarely had happy endings; Nethergate was one of those. She was an excellent writer with a good eye for details and character, that made her creations come to life–but she also wrote some Gothic horror, which included this collection of ghost stories. I don’t remember how it came to my attention or who reminded me of Lofts, but I ordered a copy of the Hauntings from a second-hand bookseller, and as I said, I really enjoyed it. I’d love to revisit some of her other work that I enjoyed, to see how it holds up and if my evolving and maturing tastes have altered how I read them, but again–my TBR pile continues to grow every day and I am never going to read everything I need and want to read.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me.

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