Love is Alive

And so am I!

It’s Wednesday morning and it’s also pay day; which means I get to spend a goodly portion of my morning paying bills and watching my paycheck disappear. Huzzah! My desktop computer is currently updating its software–which, ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018, always gives me a little pause. I do always hold out hope that every time this happens since then that perhaps, just perhaps, this update will fix the problems that I’ve been having with the Mohave operating system since it launched; which is enormously frustrating. It does, however, work beautifully in my Macbook Air, which makes me tend to think the issue is some software conflict within my system–which probably means I need to take the thing back into the store and have it looked at/worked on/possibly repaired…none of which things bode well, I have time or patience for, and could prove to be enormously frustrating in the meantime. But I do have the Air and this HP Stream, so I do have back-up computers just in case.  The Stream is good, but neither as fast, intuitive, or user-friendly as the Air; but it’s a good computer and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an inexpensive laptop.

I told a friend yesterday, and this is how I’ve been feeling, that I finally feel like my life is actually my life again; I’ve been feeling unsettled and not quite right ever since the Great Data Disaster–but the off-kilter actually began before that; the Great Data Disaster simply brought everything to the forefront. I am, as I get older, someone who draws comfort from routine; last October our long-time office on Frenchmen Street closed. I’d been working out of that office since 2005, and before that I volunteered there. The room that housed my actual office had been my office since 2010. We moved in October to our new building on Elysian Fields on the lakeside of Claiborne Avenue, which meant a whole new routine of getting to work and getting home from work. That was, I think, the first step out-of-place in my usual routine; I had to change everything and my weekly schedule of when I pick up the mail, etc. I was just getting adjusted to the changes when I left for Kentucky; then I came back to have to start over adjusting, and then the Great Data Disaster happened right around the holidays…and then came Carnival and the Weekend o’Festivals and the death of my old Air and yeah–it’s no wonder that I’ve felt off for months now.

This week is the first week I feel like me again, and it’s actually quite lovely.

But despite feeling like me again–and feeling like I can get everything done that I want to get done; that I can handle anything and yeah motherfuckers bring it the fuck on, I am a little scattered still this week. I think, actually, that paying the bills this morning might actually help in that regard. For one thing, it’s a short work week as I had Monday off to recover from the weekend and to try to put the house back together after TERMITE ARMAGEDDON; and that has me rather confused every day as to what day of the week it actually is. But I am going to persevere. I am going to make a to-do list and start getting through that. I am going to get back to work on the WIP so I can have a clean, strong first draft in hand by the end of April. I am going to get to all those emails in my inbox that have been reproaching me in silent judgment for weeks now. (Okay some of them have been there for months.) Paul’s home at night now (rather than coming in at midnight or later) and so we can get caught up on the shows we’re watching.

Oh, and the books I thought I’d lost? I found them. They were in a different pocket of my backpack. Seriously. I feel like an idiot–but at least the books were found before  I bought new copies–which would have sucked, utterly.

So, I feel like Gregalicious again, and it’s a terrific feeling.

With that in mind, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a happy Hump Day, Constant Reader!

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All Night Long

Friday afternoon–gloomy and rainy and damp and chilly outside; the high for today was a mere sixty degrees. I went to work this morning, put in my half-day, got in the car and ran errands. Alas, all I wore today was a black V-neck T-shirt over jeans because, you know, it’s been like in the high seventies and eighties all week. Sure it’s cold now, I thought as I walked to the car this morning, but it’ll warm up later.

No, it just got colder with intermittent rain.

Heavy heaving sigh.

But I was home around two, am currently laundering the bed linens, and have already cleaned out a storage tub and put everything that was in it into this really cool wicker trunk the lovely couple who lived in our old carriage house apartment gave us when they moved out a few weeks ago (and yes, if you are thinking the enormous trunk has been sitting in our living room until today, you would be correct). I’m about to head upstairs and put away the load of laundry I did last night before bed, and then I’m coming back downstairs to do some more cleaning and organizing. At some point once this cleaning frenzy has worn itself out, I intend to retire to my easy chair with a glass of Chardonnay and Alafair Burke’s divine The Better Sister, possibly taking the occasional break to watch another episode of Netflix’ The Order. Is anyone else watching? I watched the first episode and was really intrigued by it; I wasn’t expecting it to be funny, for one thing, and it seems self-aware of itself to mock some traditional horror tropes–kind of similar to True Blood, but rather than being set in a small town in Louisiana, it’s set in a town dominated by an elite private university. I’m definitely intrigued enough to watch further, just as I am with Now Apocalypse.

And just now I learned there’s a true crime documentary series on Netflix about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

A veritable plethora of riches to be explored, verily.

So, when I tire of this haphazard method of wandering around the apartment from place to place, accomplishing a cleaning task which leads into yet another (and not necessarily in the same room; it occurs to me that my cleaning methodology is remarkably similar to my imagination–wandering, easily distracted, bouncing from one idea to another as I kind of go from putting something away in a cupboard or a drawer, frowning at the scattered mess contained, and start organizing it–forgetting about the books stacked on the coffee table that I was re-shelving, but if you come here regularly you’re probably aware of how scattered my mind is), I shall sit down and let the cat come curl up in my lap and have a nice relaxing evening. Paul is an absentee husband during the weeks leading up to the festivals; I am usually asleep by the time he gets home and I really only see him on the mornings I don’t have to go in early.

It’s my annual period of Festival Widowhood.

Usually I am working on something–a manuscript I am writing, or preparing, or in some sort of progress; I don’t think I can remember a Festival widowhood when I didn’t have some writing to do. Last year I was immersed in the short story project, which eventually turned into Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories–available for pre-order now!–and so, I find myself reading, watching television by myself, and my mind wandering a bit even if I am entertained and enjoying whatever I am watching. I am making lots of notes in my journal, so that’s something, but being home early like today and knowing the evening is stretching out in front of me for hours…yeah, I’m kind of all over the place.

And once this last load of bedding is finished, I can make the bed–and then I will undoubtedly get distracted by something that needs straightening upstairs.

It literally never ends.

Later!

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Sara

Sunday morning, and the time change has me bleary-eyed and irritated. I hate losing an hour, absolutely hate it, and would gladly give up that extra hour of sleep in the fall that makes up for it being taken away now. It’s always disorienting, and it’s been hard enough recovering from the one-two-three punch of the Great Data Disaster of 2018 followed by the weeks of Carnival followed  by the Laptop Death of 2019. Seriously, I am so not in the mood for this.

But I suppose it’s a sign that spring is on its way, with the blasting heat of the summer right behind. I need to get caught up on my homework for the panel I’m moderating–I did have a lovely experience yesterday at the car wash while reading Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister while I waited for them to finish cleaning my car. I spent most of yesterday being a trifle on the lazy side; I was worn out and the rest was kind of necessary, although I probably should have read more. I did do the laundry, ran the errands that needed running, and wound up back home extremely worn out, and made the perhaps not good decision to simply relax and rest for the rest of the day rather than doing anything constructive.

I watched American Graffiti again Friday night for the first time in decades; it’s available on Starz, and as I scrolled through the available options I thought why not? The movie itself, which was a huge deal when released, made a fortune, and got a number of Oscar nominations (including best picture), was one I remembered a bit fondly, and in all the hubbub of George Lucas/Star Wars, people tend to forget American Graffiti was the hit movie  that actually made him, and made Star Wars financing a possibility in the first place. I think he was even nominated for best director? I don’t recall. But American Graffiti was notable to me as a young teenager because it triggered a nostalgia wave for the 1950’s at the time; the soundtrack was hugely successful, and anthology albums of hits from the 1950’s became all the rage. (The irony that the film was actually set in 1962 was lost on everyone.) It’s actually kind of a dark film, really; while it reintroduced Chinese fire drills and cruising and sock hops and the music of the period to teenagers (the Beach Boys also came back to prominence; their double album greatest hits compilation Endless Summer was released during this nostalgia craze) rewatching the film now, the darkness is plain to see. Vietnam is on the horizon, and the ‘innocence’ of these teens, on the brink of adulthood, isn’t all that innocent, really. There wasn’t really a cohesive plot; it was just a mishmash of interconnected characters with their own stories sometimes bisecting others–very Robert Altman-esque in that way.

And as I said earlier, it did lead to a 50’s nostalgia craze, which eventually led to shows like Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, which also wound up starring Ron Howard and Cindy Williams, as the film did. Richard Dreyfuss also has a lead, and this was before Jaws and his Oscar for The Goodbye Girl and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The movie kind of launched quite a few careers. It was also one of the first “teen movies” to be quite so dark, a big change from the silliness of the Disney films for teens at the time or the beach movies of the 60’s. An argument could, in fact, be made that American Graffiti set the stage for the 1980’s teen movies that redefined the genre.

I’ve also always kind of thought that the kids from Graffiti who went off to college became the adults in The Big Chill, but that’s just me. (There was a sequel, More American Graffiti, that was made in 1979, but the less said about that the better.)

I also rewatched Play Misty for Me, which is also available on Starz. Play Misty for Me was the original Fatal Attraction, also was Clint Eastwood’s first film as a director (he also starred), and scared the crap out of me when I was a kid; we saw it as a family at the drive-in, part of a triple feature with another Eastwood film, High Plains Drifter (which I think is his best Western), and a really bad low-budget movie starring country singer Marty Robbins called Guns of a Stranger–which was so laughably bad it became kind of a benchmark/joke for my family for years. I’ve never seen Play Misty for Me again, and so was curious; I remember Jessica Walters played Evelyn Draper, the “Alex Forrest” of the movie, and was absolutely terrifying as the psycho woman obsessed with Clint Eastwood’s Carmel deejay (I also recognized a lot of the locations as the same ones used for Big Little Lies). It doesn’t hold up as well on a rewatch some forty years later, alas; it has a lot of “first director-itis”, and kind of has a “made for TV” feel to it, but it was a pretty adequate little thriller, and was groundbreaking in its way–it was really the first movie to deal with a stalker situation.

I seem to have also developed some kind of a strain in my right calf muscle; I’m not sure what that’s all about, but it’s not incredibly painful or anything; but I am always aware of it when I’m walking. Crazy.

So, I have lots of plans for today now that my coffee is starting to kick in; I’m looking forward to doing some cleaning today, writing some, and of course, reading. Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister is quite good, and I can’t wait to get caught up in it later today when I finish my chores and to-do list.

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

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Stand by Me

Friday; the last day of my work week and it’s a half-day, at that. How lovely.

Or it would be, but I have to go to Metairie to the Apple Store this afternoon. My laptop is acting funny, and I really really don’t want to replace it. Granted, it is eight years old, and it may not even be fixable, but it doesn’t hurt to find out one way or the other. Yesterday morning some long black lines showed up on the left of the screen, and the images beneath the lines were flickering. Heavy heaving sigh.

It never fails, does it? I was just starting to feel a little bit more comfortable. That’ll teach me, right? Plus this is throwing a monkey wrench into my plans for the weekend. Oh, okay, yes, I had only a two and half day work week, sure. But still. I was really looking forward to not leaving the house this weekend. Heavy heaving sigh.

Ah, well. It is what it is. The worst part of the trip to Metairie is going to be returning to the city during rush hour. Just thinking about it turns my stomach…heavy heaving sigh. Now i am also thinking I should have made the appointment for Saturday and kept my Friday as originally planned.

Paul and I started watching You on Netflix this week, and I have to say I was most impressed with it. At first I was like, oh, okay, a stalker story where the girl falls in love, unknowingly, with her stalker. I’ve seen this before, thank you very much and thought I’d give it an episode or two…but then the first episode took a much darker turn that I didn’t see coming and that woke me the fuck up. I am looking forward to watching the rest of the show now…alas, with the festivals looming on the horizon, Paul is terribly busy so leisure watching isn’t really a priority for him these days.

I am still feeling a little bit out of it this morning; like my life is something I’m watching on television and not actually participating in. Needless to say this is a bit disorienting. I’ve not been doing as much creative thinking this week as I would have preferred, but this entire week has been an exercise in “just make it through till the weekend”; I’m not sure why that is, but it has been. I also feel very disconnected from the world at large; Carnival always has this weird tendency to separate us here from the rest of the country and the rest of the world and what’s going on out there, and these days the news moves so quickly that it’s impossible to get caught up on what’s happened during the parades.

I did do some creative thinking yesterday, about the long-abandoned and pushed to the side used-to-be-WIP. I had already decided to do one last revision of it and turn it in to my publisher; it’s what I am going to do once I finish the first draft of the current WIP. I also am going to start doing my research on the next Scotty; I suppose that makes it kind of official that I am going to do a ninth one. But don’t get too excited, Scotty fans; I am going to have to finish these other two first and there’s another first draft I want to write before I get to the Scotty; a gay noir I’ve been wanting to write for quite some time. That would be Muscles, and over this weekend one of the things I want to get done is pulling all of the material I want together (that I already have on hand) for the next three manuscripts. I am also going to go over Royal Street Reveillon one more time; one final read and copy edit before it finally is turned in for good.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines for me.

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Heartbreaker

Adjusting to normality after the madness of Carnival is never an easy thing to do.

Fortunately, it always involves a short work week–three days–and before I know it the weekend will be here and Monday will be when things really get back to normal around here.

In other exciting news, my own Mardi Gras Mambo was included in a round-up of crime novels set during Carnival, along with noted writers whom I admire, such as Bill Loefhelm, James Sallis, James Lee Burke and Barbara Hambly, among others. (You can check out the entire list here.)

Isn’t that lovely? It’s always nice–and a bit of a surprise–when I find myself on lists like this, whether it’s “gay crime writers” or “books about New Orleans” or “New Orleans crime writers” or pretty much anything, really. I must confess, whenever I see a list where I could be included and am not, it always stings a little bit; I suppose that’s something I will never get used to…and I always wonder, is it because I’m gay? Do queer writers not count? Of course when it’s a list of queer writers it can be a bit maddening, but if you let things like that derail you or hurt your feelings…you’re in the wrong business.

You have to not let the exclusions bother you and celebrate the inclusions…which isn’t easy.

Yesterday was a day of utter discombobulation as I tried (and failed, really) to adapt back to my work schedule, which means I did go to work but the rest of my life floundered around the edges. I didn’t even get around to answering emails yesterday, which was a priority, or paying the bills. But this morning I paid the bills (which is always a crushing blow on pay day) and have another hour or so before I have to get ready for work–so the goal is to tear through my emails and get as many answered as possible.

Fingers crossed, at any rate.

I also started rereading Bury Me in Shadows last night; and yes, the first chapter is, as I feared, a total mess–but it’s fixable, and I am going to continue rereading those first ten chapters this week and work on fixing them before moving on to the rest of the book. I just need to get past this weird feeling leftover from Carnival, where I don’t feel like I am actually a part of my life but am kind of drifting alongside it, observing but not participating in it, if that makes any weird kind of sense.

But I am hoping today will sort that out. The kitchen is a mess–I did the dishes when I got home last night, but there still is a mess everywhere in here and the floor needs to be done–and get some more things sorted and organized. I slept really well last night and didn’t want to get out of bed this morning; tomorrow is a get up at the crack of dawn morning but it’s also only half-a-day, so I am going to try to get all my errands done tomorrow afternoon on the way home from work so as to be able to, once again, not leave the house this weekend.

I find that I really do enjoy those weekends when I don’t leave the house.

I also managed to read another short story last night, from Norah Lofts’ Hauntings: Is There Anybody There?, titled “The Bird Bath”:

Opening her door for the first time to Mr. Mitson, Mrs. Pryor felt a sense of recoil. He looked like a tramp of the kind not often seen nowadays. He had a very red face, sharp red-rimmed little eyes, and a week’s growth of beard. He wore a dirty old army greatcoat, made for a bigger man, and a hat which had long ago lost its original color and shape. He smelled strongly of beer.

Nearby, however, actually in her tiny drive, stood a reassuring sight, a white pony, plump and shiny and with the placid look of a well-treated animal. Attached to the pony was a small cart, bearing in white paint the words–J. Mitson, Dealer. This morning J. Mitson was dealing in firewood.

Over the next few days, as the widowed Mrs. Pryor settles into her new home–having returned to England after years abroad with her husband–in East Anglia, Mr. Mitson keeps coming back and selling her things…with the final thing he sells her being a strange bird bath; a plinth with a wide open space at the top.

And that’s when things get interesting.

Another enjoyable, Gothic style, softly whispering ghost story. I love that Lofts isn’t into outright horror or jump scares, but like The Turn of the Screw and The Haunting of Hill House, her whispered stories make the hair stand on end and the skin crawl.

SO glad I got this book!

And now back to the spice mines.

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Deja Vu

Ash Wednesday!

Carnival is over for yet another year, and today it’s back to work and farewell to the flesh and all of that. We separated and sorted the beads last night, clearing off the coffee table, and now have several bags I’m going to drop off at the library donation spot this Saturday. Today is about heading back into reality; vacation is over along with Carnival, and today is about getting back on that horse. Heavy sigh. Obviously, my preference would be to stay home.

Yesterday was a day off for me; no social media, no emails, nothing. I spent the morning, after writing yesterday’s blog, reading Lori Roy’s superb Gone Too Long, which I am still digesting. There’s a review to come–the book isn’t released until June or July–but I want to spend some more time digesting the book and thinking about it before I write anything about it. It’s fantastic, as all Lori’s books are, but this one–and I hesitate to say this about books as a general rule–is important in some ways. I do think it’s probably going to be one of the year’s best; again, that usually is the case with any Lori Roy novel.

I also started reading Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister, which is off to a rousing good start. This is part of my homework for the panel I am moderating for the Tennessee Williams Festival this year, and what a curse to have to read some fantastic books this month, you know?

I also scribbled notes in my journal for the WIP and a future Scotty, along with some notes on short stories and so forth. This most recent rejection of a short story has made me realize the stories have to dig deeper, and that’s what I am going to do with the next versions of the stories–I need to figure out who the characters are in my stories and build the stories outward from there. Usually, when I write a story, it begins as a fragment of some sort–an overheard conversation, a sentence defining who a character is–and then I build from there.  I think what I need to do going forward is branch out and write the story from its original kernel, and then break it down into its separate parts.

It’s always a learning process, isn’t it?

I also read another story from Norah Lofts’ Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? 

The story is called “Pesticide”:

“And what about Jennie?” It was an old problem and the question made a kind of chorus through my life. My sister Angela was ten when I was born; my brother Bill, twelve, Margery almost fifteen. My mother had actually resumed work and I can imagine that my arrival caused her considerable inconvenience. Inconvenient–though far from unloved–I had remained; too young to share pastimes, interests, holidays; “a drag” as Angela had once said when Mother urged her to take me on a picnic.

Now, in June, as I was recovering–rather slowly–from having my tonsils removed, both my parents, archaeologists, were invited to join a “dig” in Turkey; Angela was perfecting her Italian in Perugia; Bill was doing a stint of good work with the Labrador Mission and Margery’s exact whereabouts were unknown. The last communication was from Libya, where she had a job as secretary-interpreter to a Dutchman who had a firm in Tripoli. It was a postcard of some splendid Roman ruin and it said, tersely, “Shall not be here long. will write.” No letter had arrived; nobody worried. As a family we were happy-go-lucky as well as cosmopolitan. But even my parents jibbed at the idea of leaving me alone in the house.

Several ideas were discussed and discarded for this reason or that; and then Mother had an inspiration. “I wonder if Effie could have her.”

Effie, it turns out, was the live-in housekeeper/nanny/cook/babysitter who left the family before Jennie was born; she married and moved away. So Jennie now is sent to stay with Effie and her new husband–who is a monster of the worst sort, making Effie completely miserable and Jennie–a rather precocious ten year old–decides to take matters into her own hands.

Not really a ghost story, but it’s definitely Gothic and very chilling.

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Drivin’ My Life Away

We left the Orpheus parade last night when it started raining and the wind picked up. It was already cold out there, but that weather shift was going to take it from merely unpleasant to intolerable pretty fast, so we skedaddled back to the Lost Apartment and called it a night.

But Orpheus is a beautiful parade, and the floats simply breathtaking.

And there’s nothing like Carnival to make me remember why I love this city so much. Carnival is pretty much unavoidable , no matter how hard you try, and there’s no point in resisting it because it isn’t going away. Even those who hate Carnival (which I don’t understand, unless they are also the people who kick puppies and so forth) have to ride the wave until it’s over. Today is the last day of my Carnival related vacation, and it’s been absolutely lovely. Did I get everything done that I wanted to get done? Of course not. I never do. But I did do some thinking, and thinking time is often in short supply. I’m looking forward to getting back to work on the WIP–I may go back and revise the first ten chapters to weave in the threads that are missing before writing the second half of the book–and with any luck, I can have a decent draft of it finished by the end of March.

Fingers crossed.

It’s very cold this morning for a Mardi Gras Day, and I kind of am glad Paul and I don’t do Fat Tuesday anymore. Not that it wouldn’t be fun, but all the costume planning and so forth, and I doubt seriously I could drink all day anymore and still make it to work on Ash Wednesday and be functional. Sigh, the pleasures of getting old. But I always feel like my time is borrowed, and the life I have is a gift I never thought I would see. So there’s that, you know?

I do have some cooking to do today; I need to make bacon for lunch sandwiches and I am going to make the chili today–thank goodness it’s cold, right? I am also going to go ahead and make chicken salad for Paul’s lunches this week.

I am trying to decide what I want to write next, if I do another Scotty. There’s an amorphous idea boiling in the back of my head that’s been back there for quite some time–Hollywood South Hustle–which would combine two stories I’ve been pondering for a while (I am leaning toward this one as the next Scotty because the other two–Bywater Bohemia Bougie and Redneck Riviera Rhumba–don’t have even an amorphous story dancing in my head other than the titles. I think Redneck Riviera will have to have something to do with Frank’s wrestling career and the other has to do with gentrification, but that’s all I’ve got. Hollywood South on the other hand has two different plots I want to write–one about a film industry scam that actually happened here in New Orleans, and the other about the victim of a vicious assault, twenty years later. It’s just about trying to figure out, really, how those two plots roll into each other and can run parallel to each other in order to make a cohesive story. Plus there’s another plot element that needs to be wrapped up, carried over from the current, and I think this plot can accommodate that story pretty well. This is kind of the Scotty book I originally intended to write as the fourth book in the series, but Katrina pretty much buried that, at least for a while. (I’ve already spun part of that original plot into Murder in the Rue Ursulines; but since it was a Chanse book it changed a lot; enough so that using the original idea as a Scotty would absolutely work.)

But…it’s nice to have another idea for Scotty lingering in my head, on the back-burner. Maybe I’ll even get to it later this year.

Stranger things have happened.

I also want to work on Monsters of New Orleans. I’ve not done any short story work in a while, and I kind of miss it. I had another story turned down by Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, but that’s only whetted my appetite to try to get something else published in there. There’s a long story, novella-length, called “Never Kiss a Stranger” that I’d also like to get back to work on, but on the other hand, I’m wondering if the story might make for a better novel than long-form story. I suppose I should finish a draft before making a decision, one way or the other.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines for me. I was thinking about working on some stuff today, since I’m not leaving the house, but I think I’ll just read instead.

Happy Mardi Gras, everyone.

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