Cruisin

FRIDAY.

It was an interesting week, as I try to readjust to the new realities of my life. The older I get the longer it seems to take to make those necessary adjustments, but I eventually do make them. Change is good, for the most part; I often find myself in a comfortable rut that makes things seem easier–but ultimately hinders creativity and adaptability. And for a writer, things that hinder creativity and adaptability are not good things.

It’s funny,  my career has gone on so long now that I can barely remember the time before I was a published author, and my memories of those pre-Katrina years as a new author are hazy and scant. For some reason, last night I was thinking about those days for some reason–I think it had to do with the Saints being the number one seed in the play-offs, and the first game coming up this weekend; I started reading old blog entries from the season the Saints won the Super Bowl, and I started remembering back then…like how we watched the Return to the Dome Game on Monday night football while we were living back in the carriage house on a tiny little black and white television while the Lost Apartment was under construction, and how I used to always say Life is material for your writing.

It’s kind of crazy. This month–January 20th, to be exact–is the anniversary of the publication of my first novel, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, and it’s been sixteen years since it came out. It is no longer in physical print, but sixteen years later the ebook still sells. It was a completely different world back then…my first book will be eligible for a driver’s license in nine days! Madness.

I am hoping to somehow be productive this weekend, around going to see a movie tomorrow and the Saints game on Sunday. Regardless of whether the Saints win or not, it’s been a great football season for us here in the Lost Apartment; LSU was only projected to win six games at most yet wound up 10-3 and in a New Year’s 6 Bowl game, and ended up ranked Number 6 in the final polls. The Saints are currently 13-3 and had some absolutely amazing, heart-stopping wins (kind of like the season when they won the Super Bowl); and, as I said, hold the Number One seed so all their play-off games will be in the Dome. We also need to finish watching Homecoming, and I want to start watching Titans on DC Universe.

The reread of Pet Sematary is coming along nicely; it’s really a well-written book, and there are some amazingly keen insights into relationships and marriage in these first 100 pages. I remember hazily that the book’s primary theme is about death and how to face it, how to deal with it; one of the reasons it bothered me on so many levels. I know, I know, I always hold that mystery and horror fiction are two sides of the same coin; that both genres are about death, but Pet Sematary deals with it on such a micro-level, worming its way into the reader’s thoughts and memories. The death of a pet, the death of a sibling, the death of a child; King takes on all of these horribly human experiences, confronts them, and puts an all-too-very-human face on all of them. I am glad to reread it, because I am really appreciating the genius of it this time through.

And now, back to the spice mines. Today is only a half-day for me, as was yesterday, and while yesterday I’d intended to get a lot done last night, I procrastinated and didn’t get anything done; I cannot allow that to be the story of this day.

Have a great Friday!

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Cars

Thursday already? This new year sure is zipping by–oh, wait. 

I cannot believe it’s almost Twelfth Night and another Carnival season–and a rather long one, at that–is almost upon us. YIKES.

I managed to get another three thousand or so words written over the last two days, so I am calling that a win. I usually try to get three thousand a day, and see anything less than that as a failure. But averaging fifteen hundred a day isn’t bad, really, and if I only do fifteen hundred words a day this first draft will be finished by the end of January, as hoped and planned. So, I am looking at it as a positive, and putting it in the win column.

Welcome to Greg’s Bizarro World, where writing three thousand words a day is considered to be the standard by which all writing days are measured; where any day where the word count falls below that is considered a disappointment; where standard also means minimum, so even a standard day can be considered a disappointment and a crushing failure.

I also started editing the Scotty last night. It’s not as bad as I thought, but the manuscript is pretty sloppy. If I commit, I think I can get that taken care of by the end of the month as well. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to start doing this work, you know? Once I start, it’s never as bad as I thought it was going to be and never seems to take as long. I want to be a lot more meticulous this time, though–it would be lovely to get a relatively clean manuscript turned in that doesn’t require much more work.

I am up way too early this morning for work. I have to be there relatively early to make up the hours I lost over the holidays; so here I am up while it’s still dark outside and drinking home-made cappuccinos and hoping that I’ll be fully awake by the time i need to get in the car and drive.

Stranger things have happened!

We finished watching the first season of Killing Eve last night, and really enjoyed it. It was so much better than the previews ever showed–which left Paul and I with no desire to watch (although the raves from friends and people whose opinion I value had me curious)–and Sandra Oh was fantastic, as was the entire cast. I’d like to read the books now–because I have nothing else to do–but I am going to definitely add them to the list while we wait for another season.

So, the new year seems to be going pretty well for me so far; how’s about you, Constant Reader? I was very pleased with LSU’s season (most people had them forecast to be, at best, 6-6 or 7-5 on the year; 10-3 and probably ranked in the final Top Ten is no disgrace, and at least the three teams that did beat us–Alabama, Florida, and Texas A&M–were all really good teams) and am very excited about next season. And of course, the Saints, just like in the season they won the Super Bowl, have the number one seed and home field advantage for the play-offs. Another trip to the Super Bowl for the Saints may be in the offing; how exciting would that be?

Oh! You can also preorder Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories from my publisher right here at this link.

Seriously, it’s a wonder I have a career.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Coming Up

Happy New Year!

I chose to take a break from the Internet yesterday; no checking social media, no checking email, no hassling with anything on-line at all. Sometimes I think we forget how much the Internet has taken over our lives in the last ten years or so–at least, since the smart phone changed everything along with social media. It was, quite frankly, lovely to just relax and pay no attention to the rest of the world. I worked on the WIP for a good while yesterday, and thought about the fixes Scotty needs; I watched the LSU game (GEAUX TIGERS!) and some of the later bowl games as well. We’ve finally started watching Killing Eve, which we are loving (we might always be late to the party, but we always are most enthusiastic once we arrive). I wonder–has anyone read the books the show is based on? I might have to add them to the TBR pile.

Which, of course, is enormous.

I am hoping to finish my reread of The Shining this week; it’s a short work week, of course, because of the long holiday weekend, and I am working my usual half-day on Friday. We then work two full weeks before yet another three day holiday weekend for Martin Luther King Day, and of course, Carnival begins on Sunday with the arrival of Twelfth Night. I am going to have to take vacation time for the parades, because I can’t get to and from work with my car on parade days, so for the first time in years I can actually enjoy the parades without being exhausted from everything entailed with getting to and from work and passing out condoms in the Quarter. Plus, it will be a lovely little break as well, as well as not having to plan my days thoroughly to make sure I can get all the errands in around street closures and so forth.

Which is an enormous relief, quite frankly. I’m getting too old for all that stuff.

It’s also amazing how much email can pile up in your inbox when you take a day off to unplug. I think I might have to make that a Saturday or Sunday thing every week, to be honest. It was most lovely.

I also managed to re-initialize my old back-up hard drive that ceased working during the Great Data Disaster of 2018. Much as I hated seeing all that data and work lost, most of it had been reconstructed by now anyway and so whatever is gone may as well be gone forever; there was no guarantee the Apple Store would have been able to retrieve any of the data and I think that the loss wasn’t really that big of a deal. I no longer feel discombobulated by the loss of data, and I think I’ve finally reached the place where I can focus and get back into everything that needs to get done without worries or feeling disconnected from everything. It’s kind of lovely, really; I’ve felt so out of it ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018 that I wasn’t certain I was ever going to get to a place where I would feel organized again.

And with me, organization (and being on top of things) is vitally important otherwise I won’t ever get anything done.

And it’s a new year, the one in which I turn fifty-eight. Huzzah! I am still feeling like I can achieve all my goals this year; I just have to stay focused and practice self-care.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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The Coventry Carol

New Year’s Eve Eve, and all is quiet in the Lost Apartment this morning. Scooter has been fed and given treats, so  he’s gone back to bed; Paul is curled up with him upstairs. I overslept again this morning, not as late as yesterday but still–I woke up just before ten. Obviously, I need the rest, but at the same time it becomes a little frustrating because I generally do my best work in the mornings.

I did some work yesterday but not much. I got sucked into the college football vortex after going to the grocery store and picking up the mail, and wound up mostly just reading The Shining most of the time. I finished reading the first part, which is all set-up; we meet the Torrances (Jack, Wendy, Danny) who are point-of-view characters and learn about their background–Jack’s drinking and violent temper; how he broke Danny’s arm in a rage and almost destroyed the marriage; Wendy, who still loves him but isn’t sure she should be staying with him, and young Danny, with his unusual talent and desperate love for both his parents and wanting them to stay married. This is also the tale of how they came to stay at the Overlook Hotel over the long, remote, brutal winter; one of the things that has always been a flaw to me with this book is the idea of a luxury hotel in the Rocky Mountains that is so high up in the mountains that it has to close for winter sports season. But King presents it as a fact; it is a necessary one for the story to work–the Torrances have to be completely cut off from civilization, and that again makes The Shining a novel of its time; even today there would be wi-fi service all winter up there; Jack would be able, undoubtedly, to look up all kinds of information about the hotel on-line (probably would have before taking the job) rather than having to dig through the stuff in the basement. But I am enjoying this reread, and I am also enjoying recognizing why some of the issues and problems I had with this book come from a personal place; I don’t like, for example, stories where children are in danger–whether from supernatural forces or from their parents or from anyone or anything, really. And that is also an interesting thing to unpack: why do these stories bother me so much, get under my skin, make me recoil from them?

I am really looking forward to my reread of Pet Sematary.

So this morning I need to finish cleaning and organizing. I may write today after the Saints game–none of the main players will be in the game, as they’ve already clinched the Number One seed and home-field advantage during the play-offs, so why risk your stars getting injured in a game that doesn’t matter (and games that don’t matter is another thing I dislike about the NFL; all games should matter) so I don’t know how intense the game will be or how wound-up in it I will get. But probably not very; since the game doesn’t matter.

We had a deep-dish Chicago style pizza from That’s Amore last night and it was everything. Everything. It is seriously my favorite pizza in New Orleans, but it’s so thick and heavy you can’t have it regularly; it’s perfect as an occasional treat. We hadn’t had one in months, so having one for dinner (and the second half of it today for today’s dinner) is probably the smart way to go. We are having our annual lunch at Commander’s Palace tomorrow–which will be wonderful–and I am going to simply make baked potatoes for our evening meal tomorrow night; Tuesday I’m going to make Shrimp Creole in the slow-cooker for dinner, and we’ll probably cook out for lunch for the LSU game (GEAUX TIGERS!).

Tomorrow morning’s blog will be my year recap; it’ll be curious to go back to my New Year’s Day blog from last year and see what the 2018 goals were, and if I made any progress on any of them (unlikely). It was an interesting year, to say the least, and one that I’m not in the least bit sorry to see ending. One of my year-end goals is to clean out my various email inboxes, as well, and to henceforth try to stay on top of these things.

We shall see how that plays out, won’t we?

I took some awesome pictures with my phone last night on the walk to pick up the pizza at That’s Amore. I’ll post them on Facebook at some time today.

And now, I am going to dive headlong back into the spice mines. I want to revise another chapter of the WIP and I am going to reread those last five chapters of the Scotty during the Saints game.

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(They Long To Be) Close to You

Correction to yesterday’s new books announcement: I forgot to mention I also got a copy of Jeff Abbott’s The Three Beths.

My bad! Looking forward to it, Jeff!

If I ever get a chance to read again. Heavy heaving sigh.

My flashdrive has disappeared again; I’m hoping it’s either in my car or I left it at the office. It isn’t a big deal–some things, yes, but not as much as one might think. I’ve been trying to use the Cloud to move things around, and back things up to as I work on them, and it seems to be working. So, this wouldn’t be a complete and total and utter disaster–although I do believe the entire Scotty book is on it, and may not necessarily have backed up (but I already turned it in, so my publisher has an electronic version I can simply ask for; and for that matter its probably in my sent mail), but as parenthetically explained, I’m not overly concerned. Bury Me in Satin is safe, and I think I’ve backed up almost everything else at some point or another in the last month or so. Finding things might be a challenge, but they should be there somewhere.

Sigh.

I did work on Bury Me in Satin a little yesterday, around running errands and doing things around the house (I washed the bed linens, made white bean chicken chili in the slow cooker, re-organized some cabinets and drawers, did some filing, paid some bills) and then watched the Georgia-Alabama game, which was quite intense, and then Paul and I watched some more episodes of Schitt’s Creek, which is amazing.

Today, I have to make a grocery run and make a birthday cake for a co-worker, and I hope to do some more cleaning in the living room area. Of course, Paul is also leaving for a week on Wednesday, and so I’ll also be doing a lot of cleaning around that time as well. I need to buy his Christmas presents, so they’re here and wrapped by the time he gets back.

That would be smart. Maybe I’ll even get the holiday cards done while he’s gone.

A boy can dream, can’t he? Especially a fifty-seven year old one.

All right, perhaps I should get back to the spice mines. This stuff isn’t going to get done on its own, after all.

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I Can’t Make You Love Me

GEAUX SAINTS!

So, it’s another chilly Sunday here in the Lost Apartment. It’s sixty degrees now outside, but it dipped into the forties overnight, so it’s going to take awhile for the Lost Apartment to recover–if it ever does. Today I need to pack up for the trip tomorrow morning. I’m not taking the MacBook Air with me, so I am not entirely sure how I’ll be able to crosspost the blog–should I write any entries–to Facebook and other social media because cutting and pasting on the iPad confuses me.

Don’t judge me.

The LSU game last night was a romp; never in doubt from the first snap, and ending with a 42-10 score. It was 28-3 at half-time and was never in doubt. As such, there was very little-to-no tension on my part, so I was able to sit in my easy chair like a millennial, scrolling through apps on my phone while also taking some time to read. I stopped by the Latter Library yesterday to pick up another book I’d reserved (Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Daniken–more about that later) and also renewed Bibliomysteries Volume 2 for another week. I am taking both books with me to Kentucky, and am also taking A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin; I think it’s time I got started writing A Song of Ice and Fire, now that the end of the television series is in sight with this past week’s announcement that the final season will begin airing in April.

I took yesterday as my day off for the weekend; I didn’t clean anything, nor did I organize or file or edit or write. I was basically just a lazy slug, sitting in my easy chair and flipping between football games while reading. I’m still rereading ‘salem’s Lot but have now reached the end game, the final section of the book called “The Empty Village,” and the tracking down of the vampires concluding with Ben and Mark running away to Mexico while Ben writes his book isn’t as interesting to me as the opening of the book; as I said when I discussed the reread initially, I am more interested in how King depicts the town more than anything else, which was the impetus for the reread. And how much do I love this sentence, which opens section 2, “The Emperor of Ice Cream”:

The town knew darkness.

It’s very Shirley Jackson-esque, and the passage that follows is perhaps my favorite part of the entire book.

I also think I am going to give The Shining  a reread; The Shining is, for most fans, critics and readers, King’s best work. I couldn’t get into it when I first bought the paperback, with the boy’s head with a blank face drawn on a shiny silver cover. I picked it up again a few years later and tore through it in one sitting; but as creepy and horrifying as it was, and how nasty the Overlook Hotel was…it was one of the few I never reread completely. I’ve picked it up and started it again, flipped through it and read sections, but I’ve never read it from beginning to end. I think the complexity of Jack Torrance as a character cut a little too close to home for me, but now that I have over fifty books out there with my name (or a pseudonym) on the spine…I don’t have to be too stressed about the failed author character being too close to home for me anymore.

At least one can hope so.

Tomorrow is the dreaded twelve hour car ride through Mississippi, Alabama, a bit of Georgia, and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. I need to go get the mail before I leave town and possibly stop by the bank, so I am going to be getting a later start than I would have perhaps wished, but a twelve-hour drive is a twelve-hour drive no matter when you get started, and I am most likely going to shower and go straight to bed when I arrive in Kentucky. I am still trying to figure out what digital book to download and listen to in the car–who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?–but none of A Song of Fire and Ice are available as audiobooks from the library, and the library’s app isn’t as intuitive as I would like (translated: I’m too old to figure out the easiest way to use it). I wanted to start Charles Todd’s brilliant series set during the end of the first world war, but the first book isn’t available from my library (BASTARDS!!!!) and so I have to choose something else. I’ll spend some time on there today–maybe on the library’s website, which is easier for a Luddite like me–and perhaps the second Louise Penny Inspector Gamache novel might do the trick.

Or maybe The Shining. Ooooooh.

Most of today is also going to be spent on odds and ends. I may get some writing work done, or I may not. I think after the Saints game we are going to watch either Love, Simon or Call Me By Your Name; both are available for free streaming on one or another services I pay for now. I also am assuming I’ll finish watching Knightfall while I am in Kentucky, as my parents both go to bed early every night.

And yesterday I also managed to read “The Gospel of Sheba” by Lyndsay Faye, from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

Letter sent from Mrs. Colette Lomax to Mr. A. Davenport Lomax, September 3rd, 1902.

My only darling,

You cannot comprehend the level of incompetence to which I was subjected today.

You know full well I never demand a private dressing room when stationary, as the very notion implies a callous disrespect for the sensitivities of other artists. However, it cannot pass my notice when I am engaged in a second class chamber en route from Reims to Strasbourg. The porter assured me that private cars were simply not available on so small a railway line as our company was forced to book–and yet, I feel justified in suspecting the managers have hoaxed their “rising star” once again. The reek of soup from the dining car’s proximity alone would depress my spirits, even were my ankles not confined one atop the other in a padlock-like fashion.

I do so loathe krautsuppe. Hell, I assure you, my love, simmers with the aroma of softening cabbage.

Lyndsay Faye has twice been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel (for The Gods of Gotham, which I adored, and for Jane Steele, which is still in my ever-growing and enormous TBR pile), and she is also a delight to know in addition to her enormous gift for writing. Lyndsay is an enormous Sherlock Holmes fan (Sherlockian?), and even her first novel, Dust and Shadow, was a Holmes tale; she recently published an entire collection of Holmes short stories. “The Gospel of Sheba” is sort of a Holmes story; both he and Watson do appear in the story, but it’s primarily told from the point of view of a sub-librarian, Mr. Lomax; he is married to a professional singer who at the time of the story is currently on a tour–her presence in the story is either through her husband’s point of view or epistolary; we get to see occasional letters from her. Her husband’s point of view is seen through diary entries where he talks about the mystery of the Gospel of Sheba, a grimoire a member of a private men’s club with an interest in the supernatural has discovered and that makes anyone who reads it ill. One of the things I love the most about Faye is she writes in the formal style of the nineteenth century, but it always reads as organic and never forced. There’s never a sense from the reader of Oh I see what you’re doing here or from her as the author of see how clever I am? She’s somehow modernized that formal style, breathed fresh life into it, and uses it to help set the mood and the time and the setting. You can almost hear the hiss of gas in the lamps, and see the flickering gaslight. This is a terrific story, and reminds me of why I loved The Gods of Gotham so much, and also reminded me I need to dive back into her backlist.

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

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Bennie and the Jets

What a lovely weekend this past one was, seriously; the Abomination in College Station aside, and even that was more of a seriously? than anything else.

I got back to New Orleans around seven pm on Friday night; there’s a time zone change going and coming, but it always seems like because of that I make better time coming home than going. It’s a mental thing, obviously; same amount of time, same amount of miles (slightly less than 1500 round trip), and yet…it seems to go so much faster. I always think–and I know this makes literally no sense–that since I am driving south and going from a higher elevation to a lower one, that it’s all downhill.

said it didn’t make sense.

I also somehow managed to wrestle with some ideas and projects-in-progress while I was gone; whether those solutions to the problems will work (or if the problem is a real problem in the first place) remains to be seen.

But Saturday morning I had coffee with my friend Pat, preparatory to my Costco run; it was actually a most productive meeting. She helped me with some great info for a short story I am writing, and she also gave me some tips on how to do my New Orleans research (and also thought Monsters of New Orleans was a great idea). The Costco trip wasn’t as bad as one might have thought the Saturday after Thanksgiving; I assume everyone burned out on shopping on Black Friday. But Costco is never an ordeal, even when it’s crowded; which really says a lot about their management philosophy and how well they treat their employees. Everyone is always so nice and friendly and polite; compare that to the staff at, let’s just say Wal-mart, and you see what I mean.

This actually set the mood for a rather lovely weekend. I relaxed and recovered from the trip, while getting caught up on things around the house–grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, etc. It was quite lovely. I actually finished reading End of Watch during the Abomination in College Station, and one benefit of spending time at my mother’s house? I really think my house needs a deep thorough cleaning and reorganization; i.e. my kitchen could be more efficiently set up. I also need to clean out kitchen and bathroom drawers, and as for my TBR pile–well, if I have had it for more than two years and haven’t read it, time to donate it. And if, later, I decide I want to read it…well, I guess I can buy it again if I want to read it that badly. (I’m talking big, but I know once I start going through the books I am my book-hoarding tendencies are going to re-emerge.)

I know myself all too well.

I also read  “The Book of the Lion” by Thomas Perry,  from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

Dominic Hallkyn played back the voicemail on his telephone while he took off his sport coat and hung it up to dry in the laundry room. The smell of rain on tweed was one that he knew some people might say was his smell, the smell of an English professor. The coats–tweed or finer-spun wool in the winter and seersucker or summer-weight fabrics in the late spring or early fall–were his work uniform, no different from a mechanic’s coveralls. He wore them to repel the skepticism of the young.

The first couple of calls were routine: a girl in his undergraduate medieval lit course has been sick, so could she please hand in her paper tomorrow? Of course. He had plenty of others to deaden his soul until that one arrived. Meg Stanley, the Department Chair, wanted him to serve on a Ph.D. oral exam committee. Unfortunately, he would. Reading the frantically scribbled preliminary exam and then asking probing questions in the oral would be torment to him and the student, both of them joined in a ritual of distaste and humiliation, all of it designed to punish them both for their love of literature, but it was part of his job.

Thomas Perry is another luminary of the crime fiction world whose work I’ve neither tasted nor sampled until now. One of the lovely things about anthologies, such as this, is that you can get a taste of an author’s work, a feel for their writing style, without the commitment to reading an actual full-length novel, and you can then decide whether you wish to add the author to your must-read list. “The Book of the Lion,” a tale of academic/rare book intrigue, certainly got Perry added to my list of authors to explore. In this story, our stuffy professor Hallkyn receives a mysterious phone call from a man who claims to have discovered a rare copy of an even rarer work; Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Book of the Lion,” a romantic history of Richard Couer-de-Lion that has been lost to the ages. The value of such a book, of course, would be in the eight figures at the very least; it’s worth to literary scholarship perhaps even higher. It’s a sort of historical treasure hunt story–this reminds me of William Martin’s Harvard Yard, which involved the search for Love’s Labour’s Found, a long-lost Shakespearean play–and also had several delightful twists.

So, yes, Mr. Perry has been added to my list.

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