Monday morning and we’re in a flash flood warning–which means it’s flooding somewhere. The phone advisory said (you know, the loud beeping warning at four a.m.) to not even try to go anywhere before eight….of course, I need to be at the office by seven thirty, so there’s that. Sigh. The storm seems to have passed–there was some amazing thunder and lightning I was aware of while I was sleeping comfortably in my warm bed and under my soft, comfortable covers–so I’m not sure if the gray outside is the predawn gray I see every morning, and from the storm. It’s supposed to rain heavily every day until Thursday; this is definitely the wettest spring I can remember us having since we moved here all those years ago.
Yesterday was a good day. I may not have gotten all the things done that I wanted to get done, but I spent a goodly portion of my afternoon answering emails (saving as drafts to be sent today) and my inbox is almost completely emptied out for the first time in I don’t know how long, and it feels pretty fucking marvelous, in all honesty. Emails often defeat me, frankly; there are days when I look at all of them sitting there in my inbox and just close it again. This morning, with an almost empty inbox and some serious energy–two nights in a row of good, deep sleep, in case you were wondering–and I am chastising myself thoroughly for ever letting it get to the point where I need to scroll down through several pages to get to the bottom of them all. OH, no worries–I am sure I will get to that point once again, and probably relatively soon–but being caught up on such a thing makes me feel accomplished this morning, and I am going to roll with that feeling.
I walked to the gym yesterday afternoon in the insane heat (it was in the nineties, but not really humid yesterday) and got in a really good workout. I wasn’t trying to hurry through it the way I usually do–although I did do it quickly–but the gym was deserted and I was able to do the workout the way I like to do it; supersetting exercises and pushing myself (obviously, the key to going to the gym on Sunday is not to go around noon but to wait until about one thirty) and adding weight to the final set. I pushed myself and it felt good, then I came home and filed and organized and cleaned the kitchen. We had started watching a show on Netflix Saturday night, Sky Rojo, which was crazy and fun and action-packed; it’s about three prostitutes in the Canary Island who finally rebel against the abusive pimp in the bordello they work in and make a run for it, being pursued by his evil henchmen, and it was highly entertaining. The episodes were also a lot shorter than I thought–maybe half an hour at most–and we finished it early evening. Then we started watching Jupiter’s Legacy, a superhero series on Netflix based on some graphic novels–we loved Watchmen and The Boys–and despite a rather dull, predictable, and tedious first episode, the show began picking up with the second and we started enjoying it. I’ve always wanted to do a superhero novel myself–it’s one of my bucket list items, along with writing a comic book–and as always, I started thinking about the idea I had for one back in the 1980’s, and have toyed with every so often ever since. (I always end up talking myself out of it, because it’s hard to do any kind of superhero story anymore that isn’t derivative, and isn’t the theme always with great power comes great responsibility? But seeing this, and The Boys..the key is to take something derivative and turn it into something original, which is a terrific challenge, and I like challenges.)
I still haven’t decided what to read next, but I am leaning towards Walter Mosley’s A Red Death; I’d like to get back to my attempt to get through his entire canon. The problem, as always, is there is so little time for me to read, to write, and to get everything finished around the house (chores etc.) around my full-time job and my MWA responsibilities. But it can be done–when I am tired, for example, like reading Summer of ’42 in a single afternoon this past weekend–and so I need to remember that sometimes one can read even when one is tired.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!
Well, I wrote the timeline for Bury Me in Shadows last night–lame as it was; I am waiting for my editor to write me back and say, um, you could have made more of an effort on this. But it’s done, and I am well relieved to be out of those woods–for now, at any rate. I am kind of mentally fatigued; two books back to back like this will tend to do that to one–although I used to do it all the time; book after book after book. But I also didn’t used to have to get up at six three days a week, either, nor did I ever have the insomnia issues like I do these days. Last night was another of those nights where Morpheus chose to not visit my bed, but I feel relatively okay at the moment, as I swill my first cappuccino. I am sure I will hit a wall later today. Tonight is also supposed to be a gym night, but…we’ll see how that goes.
I’ve decided to put aside the Thomas Perry novel for now. It’s very well done, but I am not connecting with it, which is more my problem than Perry’s; I am just not in the mind space right now for a hired killer thriller. I’ll come back to it at some point, I am sure; so it goes back into the TBR pile rather than into the donation box. I’ve actually gone on a tear with buying ebooks on sale (or for free) lately, and I’ve also gotten some wonderful e-galleys stored in my iPad–including this year’s titles from Laura Lippman and Alison Gaylin, not to mention some sparkling debuts and some wonderful classics. Yesterday I finally figured out how to sort my ebooks (I am such a Luddite) in the iPad by title, so I could see how many duplicates there were–and there were quite a few, so I deleted all the duplicates to free up space as well as make it easier to find things in there. I think when I go visit my parents, I may just take my iPad instead of books with me to read–although I am taking the hard copy of From Here to Eternity with me–that way I can read through take-off and landing…although I suppose one could just put the device on airplane mode but I still think they make you power it down. It’s been so long since I’ve flown anywhere, it’s hard to remember. I just ordered some more books with points from credit cards that should be arriving this week–yes, yes, I know; I shouldn’t continue buying more books when I still have massive TBR piles–but I’ve cleaned out so many books over the past few months that I thought why not use the points and get some new titles, as well as the Laurie R. King backlist. I am still planning on reading something else before treating myself to A Letter of Mary–I just haven’t decided what just yet. I am torn between She Who Was No More by Pierre Boileau (which Les Diaboliques was based on) and The Cook by Harry Kressing, which was filmed as Something for Everyone with Michael York and Angela Lansbury–a classic and bizarre queer film from the early 1970’s–it’s on Youtube.
Or…maybe something else.
We watched another episode of The Innocent last night; this show is so damned good and full of didn’t-see-that-coming plot twists! Of all the Harlan Coben shows on Netflix, this is my favorite so far–not really surprising, since Paul and I have fallen in love with Spanish-language crime shows (cannot WAIT for season 4 of Elite to drop)–we talked about this last night, and Paul said–and I agree–this particular show wouldn’t be as good in English, or if it was set in the US or England or France.
Of course, hot Spanish and/or Mexican actors might play a part in our thought process. Just sayin’.
I also have a story in yet another anthology that is dropping in June and can be preordered now: Unburied, edited by Rebecca Rowland, from Dark Ink Press. My story is “Night Follows Night”; which I wrote an original draft of years ago for an MWA anthology–I think–that didn’t get accepted. I revised and rewrote it a number of times, and when this call for submissions was forwarded to me by Felice Picano (thanks, Felice!) I thought, well, “Night Follows Night” loosely fits this call, and sent it off–and was very delighted to hear back from Rebecca that she loved it and wanted it. Yay! This was the same period last year where I sent off five stories in one day and sold three of them within 24 hours–which was exactly what I needed to have happen at the time, as I was going through one of my malaise periods…nothing like selling three stories in less than twenty-four hours to get you past that hump (the other two were rejected, but that was expected; they were long-shots to begin with).
And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. I hope I have enough energy to make it through this day–I was planning on going to the gym tonight, but the lack of sleep for two days running means that probably won’t happen….
Monday morning, and we had some amazing thunderstorms last night. I didn’t sleep great–I had hoped, being worn out from the gym, on top of the thunderstorms, would have done the trick but no such luck, of course. I don’t feel terribly tired or exhausted this morning–at least, not yet–but I am also not exactly bouncing off the walls or hanging from the ceiling, either.
Sigh. Just another day to get through, really.
I’m glad that I got the revisions finished and turned in–note to self: get timeline typed up and sent in today–and I think the book is fairly decent, not bad at all, really (I actually had worried my mind would change on that score after a day or two but no); and now on track for the fall release, which will be lovely. I also have an out-of-control inbox again this morning (as always) and am desperately going to try to get that under control again, or at least make it manageable, by the end of today.
I read The Butcher’s Boy for a while yesterday, but it’s not terribly compelling; it’s interesting, and I like Mr. Perry’s writing style, but at the same time it’s not really a page turner–or I haven’t gotten to the part where the story kicks heavily into gear yet; which is fine. I’d hoped to finish reading it over the weekend, but if I spend some time with it every night for a few hours, I should be able to dive into Laurie R. King’s A Letter of Mary without guilt this weekend. I am also going to try to get a short story revised and/or finished this week; I simply haven’t decided which one. Who knows? I may not ever even pick one–my mind is always such a sieve these days.
We started watching Harlan Coben’s The Innocent last night on Netflix, blowing through four episodes (halfway done), with episode four ending with a massive plot twist/cliffhanger. It’s a Spanish show, and the lead actor is incredibly, almost ridiculously good-looking (Mario Casas), and the show is very well-cast, well-written, and full of almost constant surprises. It’s much too complicated to try to do justice, but the lead, Mateo, accidentally kills someone in a fight outside a bar, goes to jail for manslaughter for four years, and then comes out and falls in love…flash forward a few years and his girlfriend has mysteriously disappeared, someone is trying to kill him, and a nun commits suicide….all of these disparate threads are inevitably connected….which is the big surprise at the end of Episode 4.
Cannot wait to dive back into it tonight.
Ah, the caffeine and the coffee cake are starting to kick in; the question remains how long will this last? Hopefully long enough to see me through this Monday. Can you believe, Constant Reader, that is already May? Where did the first third of this year go already? #madness. It just astounds me how endless 2020 seemed, and now 2021 is running through my hands like mercury. But I still hope to get my novellas and short stories and some other things done this year…FOCUS, Greg, FOCUS.
And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a fabulous day, Constant Reader.
Sunday and a gray morning here in New Orleans. We’re supposed to have thunderstorms (some severe) throughout the day; of course I have to make groceries and go to the gym at some point–which means watching the weather to see when I can make a break for it. But other than that, I have the entire day relatively free; I finished the revisions of Bury Me in Shadows and turned them in yesterday to my editor. I think I caught everything; it’s a tricky manuscript. But as I revised and edited yesterday, I was pretty pleased with it, overall; which is a switch from the usual. I also realized one of my problems with reading my work once it’s finished is that I am rarely, if ever, able to turn off editor-mode; because I generally read my work with an eye to editing and fixing and making it stronger–and I use that mindset when I go back and read things after they’ve been published. I don’t know if there’s a switch in my head I can flip to make that change, but here’s hoping.
Paul went to a party last night–I could have gone, but was a little worn down from finishing the edits, so I stayed home and watched a documentary series on the Smithsonian Channel called Apocalypse: The Second World War, which was quite interesting to watch. Almost all of the footage used in the series was shot either by professional documentarians or journalists covering the war, or amateurs…I never cease to be amazed when I see how young the American military were during this conflict. World War II is endlessly fascinating to me, because it was such an enormous turning point for the world and civilization; the world was a vastly different place after the Axis surrender than it was before the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. It’s been a while since I read any fiction about the war–when I was a teenager I read a lot of it, as well as a lot of post-war fiction–and I realized I’d rarely read any fiction from the point of view of soldiers actually fighting on the ground or in the air (other than The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw, for the most part I read things like Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War/War and Remembrance, etc.). I’ve never read Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead, for example, or any of the post-war novels that sort of glutted the market in the decades following. I got down James Jones’ From Here to Eternity–I bought a copy of the unabridged version, which was released by the estate sometime in the last decade, with all the parts the publisher originally removed restored–and I think I am going to take that with me to read when I go visit my parents later this month. It’s one of my father’s favorite books and movies–it’s also been a hot minute since I’ve seen the movie–and since my main character in Chlorine served, it’s probably not a bad idea for me to read it. I read the first couple of pages yesterday evening before I went to bed, and it’s actually quite good…so I am looking forward to reading it. After I finish the things I need to get done today, I am going to curl up and read The Butcher’s Boy with an eye to finishing it today, so I can dive into A Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King.
One of the more interesting things about having all these streaming services and apps is the ability to find treasures like the Smithsonian Channel buried inside of them. As Constant Reader has undoubtedly noticed, I love documentaries, and now that we have such a glut of streaming services we pay for, I am now searching through them for documentary channels and so forth, and have been enormously pleased with what I have found thus far. (I also took advantage of a special deal for Shudder yesterday–two months at 99 cents each, before reversion to regular pricing, so am going to up my horror game for a while) There’s really never a reason to be bored, is there, with the wealth of streaming services out there? I can certainly always find something, no matter how obscure–which is also why I refuse to “rent” something to stream–although I am thinking about biting the bullet and paying to stream The Last Picture Show, which I really do want to see again.
I cleaned and organized and filed yesterday as well, which has left the kitchen looking–well, if not tidy, certainly in much better shape than it had been in–and I also started another donation box of books. I also want to start clearing out the storage attic here in the Lost Apartment, which isn’t going to be easy, and will certainly make a mess in the living room–which still looks like a storm struck it–but I really do want to start getting rid of things we don’t really need anymore, and there are a shit ton of boxes up there of unnecessary things. Progress may be incremental, but progress is progress.
And I should probably, at some point, start revising and editing the Kansas book, but I think I am going to take this week off from novels.
I started writing a short story this past week–really, just the opening sentence and a second paragraph–which also came from a novel idea. The book idea arose from a joke with some writer friends about noir fiction and noir covers, with their scantily clad sex bomb femme fatales; I joked that someone should write a noir about a strip club in the French Quarter and call it Girls! Girls! Girls! so the cover could have poll dancers and so forth on it; which then of course started the wheels in my creative brain turning and meshing the gears. A character I introduced in the later Chanse books–who eventually got her private eye license and he took her on as a partner–had worked as a stripper in the Quarter to put herself through UNO; I liked her a lot (even though her name is escaping me at the moment) and had even thought about making her the main character in a series, with Chanse as part of her supporting cast. But this was different, and called for a different character–for a while, when thinking about this, I toyed with the notion of an undercover cop or FBI agent; but then thought, in this time, could a woman be assigned to go undercover as a stripper? Maybe, but it could prove problematic. And then I remembered an intern from years ago, when I worked at the Community Center, who worked part time at the Hustler Club as a “shot girl”–her job was walking around with a tray with shots in test tubes. When someone bought one, she’d place the test tube in her cleavage and have to lean forward to dump the shot in his mouth. She hated it–she was a lesbian–but the money was so damned good she only had to work two nights a week and made enough to pay the rent and the bills and so forth. Someone could easily go undercover a shot girl–which, while still demeaning, wasn’t as demeaning as stripping. But the other day for some reason I was thinking about this again, and the thing that made the most sense was that one of the shot girls gets picked up by Vice and is forced to become an informer….which would make her walk the line between the cops and her crooked, organized crime employers, as well as with her co-workers. So, when the opening occurred to me the other day, I wrote it down and saved the file as a short story called “Shot Girl” (thereby adding yet another file to the “unfinished short story” list). I think maybe this week I’ll work on one of the unfinished stories in the drawer.
And on that note, it’s time to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.
And here we are on Saturday morning. I slept very well, thanks for asking, but had some definitely strange dreams. It looks lovely outside this morning, but alas, I have to finish my revisions today, so after I get finished here and take a shower, I am diving back into the revisions so I can get them turned into my editor today. I foolishly took last night off from working on it–Paul wanted to get back into Line of Duty, which we indeed finished watching–and after a rather lengthy day of data entry and condom packing, my brain was a little bit fried and I thought it might be better to let my brain rest for an evening and then focus today. I am going to ignore chores and organizing and so forth; today’s entire focus is finishing. Paul is going to a party this evening for a festival donor, so I will have the entire evening free as well, if need be, with no distractions other than an incredibly needy kitty. I would love to get it finished today–it IS due today, after all–so I can spend tomorrow getting caught up on chores, filing, making a grocery run, and going to the gym.
I can’t believe April is already over and it’s MAY already. #madness
While I was making condom packs yesterday I couldn’t decide what movies to watch; I wasn’t in the mood for anything cynical, so 70’s movies were out, nor was I really in the mood for anything horror-related, either. I flipped through all the streaming services, considered rewatching something like Chinatown or one of the 1980’s teen movies (which have all aged so incredibly poorly), but finally discovered a documentary series, The War in the Pacific: The Eagle against the Sun, that I never finished watching, so I queued that up and watched–I only had about four episodes left, covering the battles of Midway, the Coral Sea, the submarine war, the reconquest of the Philippines and the Battle of Leyte Gulf (the largest naval battle in history), the conquest of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and of course, the inevitable atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The world wars have always been of interest to me, and I’ve always wanted to write about those periods somehow. I mentioned the other day that reading The Zimmermann Telegram has me thinking about writing another Sherlock-in-New-Orleans story; about German spies trying to provoke a war between the US and Mexico; and I’ve always had this idea about writing a murder mystery set in Honolulu that opens on December 8, 1941–as the Pacific Fleet continues to burn in Pearl Harbor and the entire island chain is paranoid and bracing for what they believed was an imminent Japanese invasion–while also exploring the racism and caste system the original American takeover of the islands created.
That also, of course, would mean research trips to Hawaii that would be completely tax deductible. Watching these documentary episodes also reminded me that my main character in Chlorine served in the Navy at the close of the war; so there’s some benefit to watching these for my writing as well.
I also had some ideas yesterday about a noir I’ve been wanting to write for some time about a mob-owned strip club in the French Quarter; the first line came to me last night, and I may write the opening chapter as a short story (“Shot Girl”). But I also have so many damned short stories to write, or finish writing…the last thing I need is MORE ideas! But I want to get some more stories written this month–as well as revise Chapter One of Chlorine and possible write another few chapters of it. I think I am going to dedicate June to getting the first draft of Chlorine finished, while spending May writing some short stories, some periodic here and there work on Chlorine, and revise #shedeservedit, to get that out of the way.
And read. I want to finish The Butcher’s Boy, and then I have so many books to read! I have the third Mary Russell calling my name, and any number of other wonderful books to read. I kind of want to dive into James Jones’ From Here to Eternity as well–it would help with the Hawaii idea, plus–mid-century military can help with the backstory for Chlorine, of course–and as always, there is so much to do….
And now to the spice mines to finish the revisions. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.
Last night was odd; there was some sort of power problem in our neighborhood–a problem I’ve never experienced anything like before. The living room had power; everything in there worked fine. The upstairs lights? Flickering, and out most of the time. Same with the kitchen and the laundry room; the refrigerator was barely on, and the HVAC wasn’t working at all; and this was only affecting our block. So, so weird–and then around eleven thirty we got all the voltage we could possibly want. I’ve never experienced “low” power before; didn’t even know it was a thing, to be honest. But at least nothing in the refrigerator spoiled–always a plus.
The Edgars went smoothly yesterday, and there were some lovely surprises. All the nominees were deserving–they always are–and it’s always fun to see the excitement of those who get the statue. Obviously, it’s way more fun in person–fingers crossed for next year–and yesterday morning as I made condom packs and broke down expired test kits for biohazard disposal (seriously, my life is just a non-stop thrill ride) I remembered past Edgar ceremonies I attended and deeply enjoyed. I inevitably drink too much–it’s the free wine, always a danger for one Gregalicious–but my favorite ceremony remains the very first one I attended, when I wore a kilt and then took the train with friends the following morning to Washington for Malice Domestic. As I have mentioned before, my memory–once sterling and dependable–is now in tatters, so am trying to remember that first ceremony and evening and am finding it difficult, to be completely honest. I think that was the year Charlaine Harris was MWA president, and Carolyn Hart and Robert Crais were named grand masters, but I could be wrong. I also don’t remember which year Stephen King won for best novel–but it was the year Sara Paretsky was president of MWA, because I have a great picture of the two of them together from the cocktail reception before the ceremony. The third and final time I went–I think I’ve only attended three times–was the year my friend William J. Mann won for Best Fact Crime for Tinseltown. I always enjoy the Edgars and Edgar week activities; missing out on a ceremony the last two years was disappointing. I am hopeful next year we will be able to have it in person again.
I also managed to get deeper into the revision of the book last evening before Paul got home and we settled in for three episodes of season 4 of Line of Duty–and Acorn loaded the fifth season yesterday as well.So, that’s the weekend pretty sorted. I also want to spend some time with The Butcher’s Boy,perhaps even finishing it–so I can dive into my next Mary Russell adventure. I am also currently reading Barbara Tuchman’s The Zimmerman Telegram–and it occurs to me that all the espionage and so forth that went on before the American entry into the first World War between the Germans and Mexico (trying to keep the US occupied and distracted from what was going on in Europe, as well as disrupting the supplying of the Allies) could make for a wonderful “Holmes in New Orleans” story. New Orleans was a major port (still is, actually) and fairly close to Mexico…hmmm. I was also thinking about the banana intrigues–seriously, that is one of the most fascinating times in New Orleans history!
We really are enjoying Line of Duty, which is an interesting take on your typical crime show. The heroes of the stories–each season is relatively self-contained, although there was an over-all arc that tied all the first three seasons together–are an anti-corruption division; so the good guys are cops, but so are the bad guys. It is chilling to see how easy it is for the cops (at least in the show; I don’t know enough to comment on reality) to corrupt and divert an investigation; falsify evidence and so forth; with no concept of how deep and how high up the corruption actually runs. Thandie Newton is the dirty cop in season four, and like the previous villains/guest stars of previous seasons, she is terrific in the role. Can’t wait to see how this one turns out.
Yesterday afternoon as I made condom packs, I watched North Dallas Forty. This is a 1979 film starring Nick Note and Mac Davis (!), and was adapted from Peter Gent’s novel. I had read the novel, but had never seen the movie; it came up on Twitter a week or so ago when someone asked people for the best sports movie (I said Brian’s Song, and stand by my answer). Laura Lippman brought up North Dallas Forty, which made me think of Semi-Tough, another pro football novel and movie from the same period (remember? I tried to reread it and the blatant racism was so horrific I put it in the donate box after rereading the first page?). I’d like to reread the Gent novel–it was very dark; painkillers and drugs and alcohol and rapes and sexual assaults and racism and all kinds of horrible behavior–but unlike Semi-Tough, the Gent took those issues seriously and didn’t try to play them for laughs. The movie takes the same tone as the book–dark–and Nolte is really good as the wide receiver whose years playing have battered and broken his body and left him needing painkilling shots to play and swallowing pain killers to get through the day, and the alcohol and drug abuse. Mac Davis is surprisingly good as his best friend, the quarterback–who eventually betrays him in the end to keep his own contract alive. The game scenes are particularly funny; even in the 1970’s professional football stadiums were better than where these scenes were filmed; the “stadiums” they play in look like high school football fields–and not even the better ones. It definitely fits into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival–it exposes the “team as a family” mentality as the crock that it is, and that the players are all just cogs in a money-making machine for the owners, and the coaches don’t give two shits about their players, either.
I still stick with Brian’s Song as the best sports movie, though.
And on that note, this data isn’t going to enter itself nor are these condoms going pack themselves, so it’s off to the spice mines with me.
Yes, that’s right–today Mystery Writers of America is presenting the Edgar Awards, live on our Facebook page. I always love when the Edgar nominations come out and when the winners are announced; I just think it’s really cool, and it’s also a connection back to the early days of the organization, back in 1945. The first Edgars were presented in 1946, making this the 75th anniversary of the presentation of the awards, which is also incredibly cool. I am a bit of a geek about this sort of thing; historical connections and so forth. I remember the first time I went to an MWA board meeting in New York–ten years or so ago (!!!)–and how awed I was when I walked into the meeting room. I could feel the ghosts of Erle Stanley Gardner and Rex Stout and Ellery Queen and the Lockridges and Dorothy B. Hughes and Anthony Boucher hovering in the room–even though it was certainly not the same room they all gathered in when they founded the organization.
I’m kind of silly that way.
Yesterday was a pretty good day; for one thing, it was Paul’s birthday. I stopped at the store on the way home from work and got a sampler cheesecake as a birthday treat (well, for us both) and we got dinner from Hoshun–what can I say, I love noodles, and Paul would eat shrimp for every meal if he could–and it’s kind of a nice, relatively inexpensive treat we both enjoy from time to time. We’ve been together for so long–this July will be our twenty-sixth anniversary–that our special days (birthdays, anniversary, etc.) have evolved into nice, quiet times where we prefer to just be with each other and enjoy each other’s company. It’s nice being married to your best friend, really.
There’s nothing I enjoy more than just kicking back with Paul and Scooter, having a nice meal, and watching something we are enjoying on television. (Yes, we finished the third season of Line of Duty last night, and it was quite excellent.)
I slept pretty well last night, and am looking forward to a nice day of working at home–I can watch the Edgar presentation while making condom packs–and while I may not have slept as deeply and well as I would have preferred last night (honestly), I feel pretty good this morning and keep looking around at my horribly messy kitchen and sigh deeply–I didn’t even make dinner last night–and the organizing and filing that needs to be done, and sigh. I did manage to get some work on the book done last night after Paul went to bed–I stayed up a little later, thinking I can’t let a day pass without making some progress on it–and I will probably do some more after work tonight. Bury Me in Shadows is starting to come together, and yes, I still think I was being much too hard on myself. The character and the story work; and the sentences/paragraphs are far easier to fix than character issues or holes in the plot, after all. I think it may just be something I’ll be proud of when it is finally finished.
I also picked up two books yesterday: Laurie R. King’s third Mary Russell novel, A Letter of Mary, and Christopher Bollan’s A Beautiful Crime, which was a finalist for the LA Times Book Award in the mystery category. I haven’t had a chance to dip back into The Butcher’s Boy, but once I finish and turn in the revision of my own book, I suspect my free Sunday will be spent reading. That would actually be my ideal for a weekend; spend one day writing and cleaning and doing errands, and then Sunday relaxing and reading.
A sixty year old can but dream…
And on that note, these condoms aren’t going to pack themselves. Have a lovely Thursday, all–and good luck to all the Edgar finalists today!
Well, we survived Monday, which is always an accomplishment. As you will recall, I didn’t sleep all that well on Sunday night and then woke up to misplacing my glasses–never a good augury–andI was thus irritable, tired and crabby as I began my day yesterday. But as the morning progressed and I tore through my emails, my mood began to improve–my lovely clients yesterday were an enormous help–and by the time I got off work, I was in a splendid mood, and the day seemed to simply fly past. I started inputting the edits and corrections to Bury Me in Shadows last night, and am pleased to report that it’s really not as terrible and awful as I had originally thought it was; that I was, in fact, being much too harsh on myself. And doing the clean up work is making it even better, so yes, I was being overly dramatic and beating myself up for nothing, really–something I have a tendency to do too much of and will seize every opportunity to do so.
I slept much better last night, which was lovely, and so far this morning there have been no mishaps. Fingers crossed that this is a good sign for a Tuesday. I think maybe realizing, as i started inputting changes last night, that the manuscript isn’t as terrible as I thought last week helped me fall asleep last night and rest better? Perhaps…at this point I have literally no clue as to why I can or can’t sleep at times. I just hope every night as I lay down that this will be a good night’s sleep and then leave it to Morpheus as to whether or not he will visit.
We started the third season of Line of Duty last night, and it’s also quite interesting. I highly recommend this program, if you like crime shows; it’s one of the most cleverly and intricately plotted shows we’ve seen in quite some time. The acting and writing are stellar, and it’s shot in an almost documentary-like style, which makes it all the more interesting. It’s on Acorn, which we get through the Amazon app on Apple TV. I didn’t have time last night to read more of the Thomas Perry I started on Sunday, and I expect I will most likely not get to read much until I get this final revision of the manuscript finished–which is fine. I’m also trying to get all my computer files better organized–but that can also wait until Sunday, after I turn the manuscript back in one last time. I can’t believe it’s almost May–it’s stunning how quickly this year is passing, after last year seemed to last a decade.
I do not miss last year, quite frankly.
And remain happy that it is firmly in the rear view mirror.
I am also hopeful that I’ll have both the energy and the desire to walk to the gym tonight after I get home from work. I’ve really been slacking on my mid-week gym workouts almost the entire month of April, which is not only a shame but kind of disgraceful, honestly. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to make myself go to the gym; but I am going to attribute that to this month’s malaise and lack of motivation. I also would like to get started cleaning out the storage attic this week, bringing down boxes of books and sorting through them before running them over to the library sale; the sooner I can get that attic cleaned out the sooner I can start cleaning out the storage unit and bringing those boxes home and storing them in the attic–after sorting through them, of course. I don’t think I am ever going to allow the book situation to ever get as out of control as it was before I started this latest decluttering project; henceforth each book is going to be read and donated or given away; which is perhaps the wisest course of action and what I should have been doing all along. (Plus, going to the library sale gives me a chance to look for more John LeCarre novels….)
And on that note, Constant Reader, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday!
Another wretched and vile Monday morning has yet to dawn as I sit here swilling my morning cappuccino.
The day did not get off to a great start, with me putting my glasses down while I washed my face and brushed my teeth and then spent ten minutes looking for them–think Velma on Scooby Doo Where Are You?–but I did finally find them, and all was again right in my world–at least for then. I feel a bit out of sorts this morning–misplacing my glasses is not an auspicious start to the day, ever, on any level–but feel relatively confident this day will sort itself out accordingly as it continues.
We didn’t watch the Academy Awards last night, choosing instead to finish the second season of Line of Duty, which is one of the best-plotted crime series I’ve seen in quite a while; full of twists and turns and constant surprises as it follows the Anti-corruption division of a police department in Wales. The firsts season was amazing, the second was even better than the first (a stunning performance by Keeley Hawes of It’s a Sin has a lot to do with that), and I do recommend this if you have Acorn. We’re looking forward to diving into season three tonight.
Yesterday was a lovely kind of day, really. I spent the morning getting the kitchen under control, and then went to the gym, which was a lovely feeling. It was a simply gorgeous day yesterday in New Orleans; the weather has been rather marvelous since that five day stretch of non-stop rain we had week before last, so the walk to and from the gym was rather nice. I then worked on getting even more organized–it’s really a non-stop process, actually–and while I didn’t get everything finished the way I had hoped (didn’t tackle the inbox, which is still stacked high with mail and folders and loose paper), it was a nice start. We get paid again on Wednesday–this is the paycheck when almost everything is due, so the money will go into the account and go right back out again–and then it’s May. YIKES. I need to start working on inputting the edits and corrections and changes to this manuscript tonight when I get home from work; with an eye to getting it all finished by Saturday so it can go back to my editor. I need to focus most of my energies on getting this done, obviously; but that doesn’t mean I can’t actually plan out Chlorine or scribble notes down in my journal.
I also started reading Thomas Perry’s Edgar winning debut from 1982, The Butcher’s Boy, yesterday afternoon. After writing about how I tend to not read a lot of crime fiction (or fiction in general) from straight white men, I started feeling a bit, well, guilty about making such a bald statement. There are, as a matter of fact, any number of straight white male crime writers whose work I really enjoy: Ace Atkins, Michael Koryta, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, Chris Holm, Lou Berney…it’s actually quite an extensive list. I will say, though, that a lot of the stuff published between the 1950’s and 1980’s I didn’t care much for, with some notable exceptions. But I had gotten a copy of the Perry after reading about it on one of those Crimereads list articles; I don’t remember what the list was about, and how this tied in with the other books on the list, but it’s been sitting on my TBR pile for quite some time and I thought, in my guilt-ridden state yesterday, why not give it a try? It did, after all, win an Edgar. And I am enjoying it–it appears to be about the investigation into a paid assassin/hit man; so far the point of view characters are a woman agent for the Department of Justice, for whom this is her first field gig, and the unnamed hitman. The book opens with a successful hit in Ventura, California; there is also a powerful senator who most likely is the next target. Am really looking forward to getting further into this one.
Reading has always been my escape from the realities of the cruel, cold world. As long as I can remember, I found solace in books–I could always open a book and escape from realities I didn’t want to participate in, or when the world became too much, there was always the comfort of a story about other people and another world where I could go to get away from it all.
When I was a kid, I was more interested in stories about women and girls than I was in stories about boys; I couldn’t really relate to boys as easily as I did to girls. This was, I think, a part of the strict gender divide in the society and culture I was born into; there were specific and clear differences between things for boys and things for girls. Girls played at housekeeping and mothering; boys were supposed to be outdoorsy and adventurous and active. I was not an outdoorsy, adventurous, active little boy; all I wanted to do was be left alone with a book–and the more my parents tried to get me interested in boy things the harder I stubbornly resisted. I never understood why it was so wrong that all I ever wanted to do was read.
I think that part of the reason I’ve always preferred books by and about women are because I can relate to them more, if that makes sense. As someone who never became vested in what society viewed as what masculine behavior is, those behaviors–not always necessarily toxic, but certainly steeped in it–inevitably make me lose interest in the character and their story.
Likewise, one of the reasons I preferred Mary Stewart to Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney (still love Holt and Whitney, though) is because her heroines weren’t passive; they didn’t sit still for being victimized or playing the victim but rather took charge of the situation and were just as capable as any man. This is why one of my favorite fictional series characters of all time were those created by the great Elizabeth Peters: Jacqueline Kirby and Vicky Bliss were also take-charge characters who didn’t suffer fools gladly, and of then there’s her creation who may be my favorite series character of all time: Amelia Peabody. God, how I love Amelia Peabody. Peters’ death was a blow for me; knowing there would be no more books with Peabody and Emerson and Ramses and Nofret and Walter and Evelyn and David….
But then I had the enormous good fortune to discover Mary Russell.
I sat back in y chair, jabbed the cap onto my pen, threw it into the drawer, and abandoned myself to the flood of satisfaction, relief, and anticipation that was let loose by that simple action. The satisfaction was for the essay whose last endnote I had just corrected, the distillation of several months’ hard work and my first effort as a mature scholar: It was a solid piece of work, ringing true and clear on the page. The relief I felt was not for the writing, but for the concomitant fact that, thanks to my preoccupation, I had survived the compulsory Christmas revels, a fete which ha reached a fever pitch in this, the last year of my aunts controls of what she saw as the family purse. The anticipation was for the week of freedom before me, one entire week with neither commitments nor responsibilities, leading up to y twenty-first birthday and all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. A small but persistent niggle of trepidation tried to make itself known, but I forestalled it by standing up and going to the chest of drawers for clothing.
My aunt was, strictly speaking, Jewish, but she had long ago abandoned her heritage and claimed with all the enthusiasm of a convert the outward forms of cultural Anglicanism. As a result, her idea of Christmas tended heavily toward the Dickensian and Saxe-Gothan. Her final year as my so-called guardian was coincidentally the first year since the Great War ended to see quantities of unrationed sugar, butter, and meat, which meant the emotional excesses had been compounded by culinary ones. I had begged off most of the revelry, citing the demands of the paper, but with my typewriter fallen silent, I had no choice but crass and immediate flight. I did not have to think about y choice of goals–I should begin at the cottage of my friend and mentor, my tutor, sparring partner and comrade-in-arms, Sherlock Holmes. Hence my anticipation. Hence my trepidation.
I first encountered Mary Russell last year when I read the first of her adventures with Holmes, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which took place over several years and was really a loosely connected series of different stories that showed the growing bond between the teenaged girl and the retired detective. Her wit, her style, her fierce intelligence–and her refusal to be a sidekick or passive made me fall madly in love with her–despite my long-held antipathy towards Sherlock Holmes. (I have since read more of Doyle, and find the antipathy I once felt fading; in no small part, I think, because last year I had to write my own spin on Holmes and Watson, which really changed everything I thought, felt, and believed about them.) I’m not sure what made me select the second Mary Russell to read recently; I do intend to read them all, of course, but there are sixteen or so (!) of them, and then there are King’s stand alones, and I’d also love to revisit her Kate Martinelli series, which is how I first came to read King in the first place. But I digress.
A Monstrous Regiment of Women is, of course, a terrific title; and I knew, of course, the source for it: the tedious Scot religious bigot John Knox’s 1550’s pamphlet primarily attacking Queen Mary I of England (aka Mary Tudor), “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women,” in which he blamed the sad state of Christendom at the time at the irreligious and unprecedented amount of women in power at that time in Europe–and, as I have said many times before, the sixteenth century had more powerful women running countries than any century before or since (and I’ve always wanted to write a history of that century, focusing on those women, and using that very same title King used here). So, going into the book, and knowing that Mary was studying theology at Oxford in the latter half of the first book, I assumed (correctly) that this book would have religion, and women, at its heart, so I sat down with the book rather eagerly.
It did not disappoint.
The book opens, as noted above, around Christmas time, just before Mary finally achieves her majority and comes into the inheritance her benighted aunt/guardian has been enjoying herself with since Mary’s family perished in an auto accident when she was fourteen. Rather the celebrate the holiday with her aunt and the aunt’s hangers-on, Mary escapes the house and goes in search of her old comrade, Holmes. This leads her to London and an encounter with a friend from earlier in her education at Oxford, which in turn leads her to the New Temple of God and its leader, Margery Childe–charismatic, suffragette, and also a religious mystic. (I was put in mind of Aimee Semple McPherson, who has always fascinated me and I’ve always kind of wanted to write about.) But there’s something unholy going on at the New Temple, and perspicacious Mary can’t quite put her finger on what’s wrong there–but it intrigues her and she gets deeper and deeper into what’s going on there.
There’s also a switch-up in the dynamic between her and Holmes in this book, but it is also to King’s credit that the groundwork for this was laid almost from the very beginning of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and it neither seems out of place or untoward, either for the story or the characters–and despite the awkwardness this change-up creates between the two of them in their all-too-brief encounters in the story (for make no mistake about it; this is clearly Mary’s story, and Holmes no more than a supporting player on this stage), it makes sense and it also answers one of the questions the first book aroused in me; how can King keep writing about this opposite-sex pair through an entire series without the question of chaperoning and so forth not coming up, or them simply remaining good friends while the deep and growing affection between them is so plainly right there on the page?
The writing is masterful and intelligent, and the story–with its interesting twists and turns, along with some exciting ventures along some of the more disreputable sections of London–is so well paced and plotted that you simply cannot put the book down. I was, quite literally, only on chapter three when I picked the book up again yesterday morning; within moments I was a captive of King’s magic and completely incapable of putting the book down–to the point that I resented having to take breaks to get coffee or go to the restroom or feed the cat. I had decided, when I sat down with the book, that I had to stop reading at noon so I could get back to my own manuscript. Noon came and went, and still I kept reading. At one I flipped to the back to see how many more pages were left, and decided that it was ridiculous and incomprehensible to stop reading so close to the end, and I wouldn’t be able to completely focus on my own while I was so worried about how Mary was going to escape the peril in which King had placed her. So…rationalizing if I don’t finish my own editing today I can always finish tomorrow I plowed forward.
And–without spoilers–I will say King did an incredibly accurate and chilling depiction of how drug addiction takes hold of people.
She also explores the question of women’s role in the Christian religion beautifully, weaving these theological questions and issues seamlessly into the narrative. Each chapter begins with a quote about just that–either from the Bible or the great Christian philosophers, exposing the vicious misogyny that has poisoned that faith almost from the very beginning.*
I loved this book, loved loved loved it, and am really looking forward to the next, A Letter of Mary.
If you’ve not yet started this series, wait no more.
*I also made note of these quotes so I can shamelessly use them myself!