Lucky Star

New Year’s Eve, a time to look back on the past year and reflect on goals either achieved or missed; to look at what was accomplished and what wasn’t, to think about and make plans for the future year.

So, what kind of year was 2017? I didn’t achieve many, if any, of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. I intended to write more short stories (which I sort of did) and publish more short stories (which I didn’t really do); I intended to start my search for an agent (which I did); but I didn’t seem to get much else done. I didn’t start working out more, but I did lose weight–so that one’s kind of a toss-up; I weigh 15 pounds less than I did a year ago. I did buy a new car, which was also a goal, and I’ve not regretted it once, despite the impact on my finances. I also didn’t write nearly as much this year as I had hoped/wanted to; there were no new novels published under my name this year; which is the first time I think that’s happened since 2005. That doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it did in 2005, to be honest; my self-worth and identity as an author apparently no longer requires me to write and publish at the insane pace that I used to keep.

I read a lot of good books in 2017, discovered a lot of great new-to-me writers, watched some amazing television shows and movies, but creatively I spent most of the year in stasis; just kind of getting through the day every day and then watching as those days turned into weeks and then months. I started a number of short stories that I either didn’t finish, or finished but didn’t know how to fix. The WIP, the manuscript I am shopping to agents, needs some more work. I had started sending it out in the fall, but I am going to hold back on it for a few more months as I revise and polish it some more. I always felt it was missing something, even though I thought it was a good manuscript, and I’ve recently figured out what that something is; and I’ve also realized part of the problem I had with the manuscript and fixing it has to do with my own stubbornness. It’s starting point needs to be before where I start the book; I flash back to the beginning of the story and that kind of is not only a cliche but also steps on the action. Also, where I start the book itself is kind of hackneyed and cliched. There’s another subplot or two that needs to be woven into the story, and I  need to develop my main character more; and there are things about him that know that are kind of crucial to the story that don’t actually appear in the story, and some of the relationships between the characters need to be developed and deepened, more layered. It’s a very basic story right now, and it needs to be more complex; and it needs to go deeper into its theme.

So, that’s something, at any rate.

I also had a good year in that I was nominated for a Macavity Award (Best Short Story, “Survivor’s Guilt”) and an Anthony Award (Best Anthology, Blood on the Bayou). Both were completely unexpected surprises, and enormously gratifying.  As Constant Reader knows, I struggle with short stories and have very little to no self-confidence when it comes to them. So, to get nominated for a Macavity Award for a short story I wrote? That was probably one of the most meaningful things to happen to me in my career thus far. And I was nominated against some amazing writers–I read all the stories–and wasn’t in the least surprised when Art Taylor won; any of the other nominated stories were award-worthy. It was such an honor.

I was so certain I wasn’t going to win the Anthony Award that Paul and I booked our plane tickets home from Toronto for Sunday morning; I was boarding my flight to New Orleans when I started getting texts and tweets and Facebook messages that I’d won. It, too, was an incredibly lovely surprise, and I was extremely happy for the contributors, and thankful to them for their amazing stories.

I also realized this year that something I used to do when I was writing–something that was highly effective, and I don’t know why I stopped doing it–was write about whatever I was working on in long-hand in notebooks. I started doing that again this year, in these last few months–and it proved incredibly helpful with a couple of things I was working on at the time. So, I am going to make that a goal for the new year; to return to buying a blank book to carry around with me at all times, to use for notes and questions I have for myself, for developing characters and things. I think I stopped using the blank books because I started keeping physical files, and it was easier to use a spiral notebook for notes that could be removed and put in the files. There’s no reason I can’t stop doing that, either; but the point is that I need to start doing things like that in long-hand again. It was an excellent way of brainstorming and free-associating that I’ve sadly gotten away from over the years.

Despite getting off to a rough start, LSU also had a great season, one with lots of highlights and excitement, and wound up 9-3 on the year, with a chance for a ten-win season with a bowl win. The future also looks fairly bright for the Tigers going forward; the Saints are also having a great season. Back in September this football season was looking really bleak; who could have foreseen that both of our teams would have such a remarkable turnaround?

I had a lot of fun this past year. Last January I did two library events in Alabama, which were way fun, and was invited back again this year; I also spoke at an event at the University of Mississippi as well as at the Alabama Book Festival (both events were in teh same week, so I was driving around the deep South quite a bit then), and of course, Bouchercon in Toronto was a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to this year’s event in St. Petersburg, and I am also looking forward to a trip to England this spring.

We’re having lunch later at Commander’s Palace; our annual New Year’s Eve meal with Jean and Gillian, which is always a lovely way to ring out the old year. I’ve started reading John Hart’s Redemption Road–I greatly enjoyed his The Last Child and Iron House, so am greatly looking forward to this one. Next weekend I am appearing at Comic Con at the Convention Center every day; that should also be a lot of fun.

And so, I should get some things done before it’s time to go to lunch. The spice mines are always calling me, so here’s one last hunk for 2017, Constant Reader, and have a lovely and safe and happy new year.



Post-Christmas, and it’s gray outside. I have to work today; it’s a late night so I don’t have to go in until later. It’s gray and chilly outside, and the Lost Apartment is a disaster area. I don’t feel quite so ill today; in fact, I feel better today than I have in over a week. Dare I hope that whatever it is I was contaminated with is finally over? I think so. I am not coughing, I don’t feel feverish, and I don’t feel dizzy nor weak; how lovely to get over my illness in time to go back to work! I do have a three day weekend upcoming, but we are having lunch at Commander’s on New Year’s Eve, seeing I Tonya that evening, and of course, the LSU bowl game is that Monday. And the next weekend is Comic-Con, at which I will be exceptionally busy. Heavy heaving sigh.

I also now have to figure out what I need to get done. I’ve been in the fog of illness for so long I don’t remember what’s due and to who anymore.

I slept most of yesterday. I woke up early, put the turkey in the slow cooker, tried to do the dishes and some straightening up, and then Paul and I binge-watched The Night Manager, which was remarkably good. I kept dozing off during it, though, missing almost all of episode 3,  as well as significant chunks of 2 and 4, but I did see all of 5 and 6. I’d never really seen Tom Hiddleston in anything before–not counting Thor–and I see why he is such a big deal. Handsome and talented and extremely charismatic, and those eyes! We then watched an old BBC miniseries with Daniel Craig, Archangel, and I also slept through most of it. Then I went to bed and slept like a stone. I think the sleep was a desperately needed part of the healing process, to be honest; the illness kicked off with an inability to sleep for three consecutive nights, which continued through the illness. So, finally being able to sleep well, and get some rest, was something I greatly appreciated and clearly needed. My mind does seem clear this morning, even if the disaster area that is the apartment is defeating to look at. But I must persist, because cleaning the apartment is long overdue, and it’s tragic how quickly it can get out of control.

I am delving more deeply into Joan Didion’s Miami every night before I go to sleep, and the book is simply fantastic. I’m amazed at how she wrote; the way she effortlessly creates a mood with her word choices, which are clever and insightful and spare at the same time. I’ve also decided to make the month of January “Short Story Month” again, perhaps extending it into February as well, since I have so many marvelous anthologies and single-author collections to choose from. And really, how difficult is it to read a short story every day? Not very.

And so, on that note, it is back to the spice mines with me.


Break My Stride

The regular season came to an end for LSU last night with a 45-21 win over Texas A&M, and I am going to miss the seniors and the guys the team will lose to the NFL draft. It’s been a pleasure watching you all play for the last few years. I also want to shout out to Danny Etling, who has never really gotten the kind of respect he earned over the last two seasons. He’s not Eli Manning, but he was a cool, competent quarterback who made some big plays and only threw two interceptions this entire season. That’s pretty amazing. And considering where the team was at one point, it’s no disgrace to take pride in how they closed out the season, winning six of their last seven games–including a win over Auburn, who went on to win the West division spot in the conference championship game by beating Alabama yesterday–the second CFS Number One team they defeated in three weeks.


I also continued working on the Scotty Bible yesterday–found some discrepancies that may not be able to be corrected, at least maybe not right away–but the ones I can’t correct are easily explained away; and I can correct things like the fact that Storm apparently had children in the first two books that completely vanished from the series later. Oops. (I’m not sure if they disappeared or just were never mentioned again; I don’t think I ever said Storm didn’t have children; I just never mentioned them, and that is kind of weird, really; why wouldn’t Scotty or his parents ever talk about his nieces and nephews? Although it might be kind of fun to bring them into the story at some point….hmmmm. Also, I mentioned in one book that Frank’s parents lived in Chicago and then in a later one that they were dead. I think I can correct that in the earlier book; let’s hope.

Obviously, I should have done this years ago.

But I have only one more book to go through–Garden District Gothic–which is incredibly exciting, and then I can create the Scotty Bible, which….is not so incredibly exciting. Ah, well. I have a lot to do today, so it’s probably best to get to it.

Here’s how it looks so far:



Talking in Your Sleep

My God, that Saints game. My God. There I was, watching the game as I went about my business of the day–I’ve learned not to solely focus on the Saints games, as I can hardly handle the stress–and thinking, well, seven in a row is still pretty damned good, and this loss doesn’t mean the season will end prematurely because we can still regroup. Can I be blamed for moving into the “acceptance” phase? We were down by fifteen points with about three minutes left in the game. BLAM! The Saints move down the field and score, and it’s 31-23. Yeah, sure, but we have to kick-off and the defense hasn’t exactly played well all day, right? And we’d need a two-point conversion to force overtime, on top of that. But you know–that glimmer of hope was there. And then sure enough, there it was–a great stand on fourth down and the Saints get the ball back. Paul had fallen asleep on the couch somehow, and I woke up him up when I shrieked when the Saints got the ball down to about the fifteen yard line for a first down–so he was awake to see the next play; that insane juggling catch for Alvin Kamara that he took in for a touchdown. And sure enough, there it was–the two point conversion. Tied, 31-31, with about a minute left in the game. Still plenty of time though for the Redskins…but it was not to be. OVERTIME. The defense forced a three and out and the Saints marched right down the field and kicked the winning field goal.

I still can’t believe it. 8-2. Eight in a row.

I turned to Paul and said, “remember back in September when we wrote off this football season?”

At that point, the Saints were 1-2 and LSU had just lost to Troy. Troy. TROY. We were looking at probably the worse LSU season since 1999, and the Saints weren’t looking much better. “Oh, well, we had a good run,” I remember saying to Paul. “It’s been a long time since both the Saints and LSU were bad at the same time.” (I distinctly remember one weekend a while back being very excited because both LSU and the Saints had won on the same weekend.) Now, the Saints are 8-2, LSU is 8-3 and, with a win over Texas A&M next weekend and a possible bowl win, could have a 10 win season.

And people are talking Super Bowl for the Saints. I think that’s a tad premature, but it’s kind of exciting all the same. It’s been awhile since the Saints have won eight in a row–probably going back to the year we DID win the Super Bowl.

And…LSU is looking really good. The game this weekend, a 30-10 win over Tennessee, was sloppy; but the weather was insane and hey, a win is a win. It’s almost as though that loss to Troy woke LSU up; when we went to the season opener against BYU in the Dome I wasn’t impressed with this year’s Tigers. They seemed to sleepwalk through the game, and the same again the next week when we went to the home opener against Tennessee-Chattanooga. Then came the embarrassing loss at Mississippi State, the sluggish win over Syracuse–and the horrible embarrassment of losing to Troy. But that loss seemed to snap the Tigers out of their season malaise; as though they finally realized they couldn’t just show up and win. They’ve only lost once since then–to Alabama, and hey, they’re only undefeated and ranked number one in the country, and the Tigers weren’t humiliated; it was a much closer game than the 24-10 would indicate. The win over Florida at their stadium, 17-16, was the start of Florida’s slide that got their coach fired; and good Lord! That come from behind win over Auburn? We watched the first half and the first drive of the second in our hotel room in Toronto; we had to leave to go meet friends for drinks and then dinner. I followed the game on my phone and could not believe they came back. I shouted in the Sheraton club lounge when my phone told me the game ended. (And Auburn trounced Georgia, when Georgia was undefeated and ranked Number One, setting up their Iron Bowl showdown with Alabama next weekend with the SEC West and the play-offs on the line; kind of similar to that year of the Kick Six. Auburn lost to LSU that year, too.)

Next year could be an awesome year for LSU….and this season could be an awesome one for the Saints.

Lesson learned; never count out those Louisiana teams after September.

Oh, yes, I am also in Facebook jail for seven days. I probably waste too much time on there anyway, so without that distraction maybe I can get everything done that I want to get done this week. We shall see, shan’t we?

And now back to the spice mines.

Here’s Charlie Hunnam, flipping off Facebook and Zuckerberg.




I’ve Got a Rock and Roll Heart

I wish the time would change already. I don’t know why it was moved back another week or two, but seriously.

I didn’t get as much done yesterday as I needed to, but that’s okay, you know. Any progress is better than no progress, and I am inching closer to the finish line. Yesterday I started doing a line edit of Jackson Square Jazz, but decided that it would be easier now to just do an electronic edit–there’s a lot that needs to be fixed and changed (I cannot believe what a messy manuscript I turned into Kensington all those years ago!) and so instead I am rereading it and making an outline from it, as well as making notes on continuity errors that need to be checked against later volumes in the series…you so rarely get a chance to correct them from the beginning, you know? I really shouldn’t let this opportunity to correct the continuity mistakes in the Scotty series go by; plus I also see this as an excellent opportunity to finally get the Scotty concordance/Bible done, so as to avoid these problems in the future. But it’s a lot of work, seriously, and I do wonder if I am using all of this as an excuse not to work on the new one.

In fact, I am wondering if I am using this as an excuse to not work on many things, if I’m going to be completely honest.

In other exciting news, we’ve got tickets for LSU-Arkansas. Huzzah!

But I did start rereading the Scotty WIP last night and started making an outline for it. I’m also going to slowly start revising it, based on the notes I’ve made, and keep going forward. I’ve not heard back from any agents, but I am going to focus on Scotty this week and then spend the weekend and the next week to tweak the book I am submitting for representation. Another young adult novel that i wrote a while back and put in the drawer because I didn’t know how to fix what was wrong with it–of course, last night it came to me how to fix it, so I am now trying to figure out when to squeeze working on THAT into my already busy, hectic writing schedule.

Sigh, life as a Gregalicious is never easy or for the faint of heart.

And now back to the spice mines.

Here’s a hunk for your Tuesday:


Pass the Dutchie

Bouchercon next year will be in St. Petersburg, Florida. It will be hot and sticky, but there will be lovely gulf breezes and a sun shower every afternoon right around three o’clock.

Last night we watched LSU beat Ole Miss 40-24; we’re on a three game win streak now and bowl eligible. There’s a bye next week, and then LSU has to play at Alabama. Heavy sigh. I don’t know if I’ll even watch that game…I know I will, but it’s going to be hard to watch. LSU hasn’t beaten Alabama since 2011, and it’s not very likely they will this year. The fan in me is hopeful; the realist in me isn’t.

I did manage to finish reading Anna Dressed in Blood yesterday. I’m not going to review it, though–it was okay; I can see why it appeals to tweens and young teens, but it doesn’t really work on an adult level. I think maybe if I hadn’t watched all eleven or twelve or however many seasons of Supernatural there are, I might have enjoyed it more; but it was too reminiscent of the show for me. The main character’s name is even Cas…and of course, there’s a Cas on Supernatural. Apparently the author, Kendare Blake, has turned it into a series, and that’s terrific. I doubt I’ll read another. I only knew of the book because a tween reviewer raved about my own Sara and compared the two to each other favorably; she also compared it to Pretty Little Liars, which I also appreciated. I started my reread of The Haunting of Hill House last night as well, and also finished reading Craig Pittman’s Oh, Florida!, which I also enjoyed. It reminded me a lot of childhood summers spent in Florida, and even inspired me to drag out an old short story set in the Panhandle, “Cold Beer No Flies,” which I’ve been sort of working on since getting back from Toronto. I do recommend the book highly; while it doesn’t fully explain the weirdness that is Florida, it is very informative, at times funny, and I enjoyed it tremendously.


It’s even got me thinking about writing a new series set in Florida, if you can believe that. But that’s how my mind works. I’ve been toying with a couple of ideas for noir novels set in Florida for a long time–I also have an idea for a funny noir style novel set there as well–and the lovely thing about having this book on my shelf is I can always take it down and reread a section to get my inspiration jump-started.

I also need to get that damned copy edit of Jackson Square Jazz finished this week. That’s my goal; get the copy edit done, start the final revision of the WIP, and do two chapters of the new Scotty this week while writing some short stories. It’s lofty, but I think I can get it all done.

And on that note, t’is off to the spice mines.

Take Me to Heart

Being an LSU fan is not for the faint of heart.

Saturday afternoon in Toronto, after my panel, Paul and I retired to our room and flipped on the television to see if we could see the LSU-Auburn game up there. There was a CBS station from Buffalo, so we were able to do so; the primary problem being that when we turned the game on, it was late in the first quarter, the score was 17-0, and Auburn had the ball.

We both sighed resignedly and collapsed onto the bed.

I was raised on college football. My dad’s family are Auburn fans, my mother’s Alabama. I’ve had relatives play for both teams; bestselling author Ace Atkins also played for Auburn, and we bonded many years ago over our lifelong fandom of the Auburn Tigers. The rules in my family were very clear: we rooted for Alabama when they played everyone but Auburn. I always liked LSU, though–I thought the whole “Death Valley” thing and having an actual live tiger mascot was kind of cool, and of course I’ve always loved the colors purple and gold. After we moved down here to New Orleans, Paul started watching college football with me on Saturdays, and he started rooting for LSU; the same way we both rooted for the Saints. I followed the same rules I’d grown up with: root for Auburn, root for Alabama when they play everyone else but Auburn, and added root for LSU when they play everyone else but Auburn and Alabama.

Paul, of course, always rooted for LSU.

I remember one night a year or so after we moved here, we were out with friends at Lafitte’s and I happened to notice that the Clover Grill’s television was tuned into the LSU-Florida game. Florida was riding the nation’s longest winning streak, hadn’t lost an SEC (Southeastern Conference) game in a couple of years, and was ranked Number One in the country; LSU wasn’t given much of a chance. I wandered across the street with my beer to watch the kick-off and was stunned as LSU jumped out to an improbable 14-0 lead early in the first quarter. I only walked back across the street to get more beer or go to the bathroom or when it was half-time; I watched that entire game without sound through the Clover Grill’s windows and improbably, upstart LSU managed to hang on and win the game 28-21. It was probably the biggest upset in LSU football history, and Death Valley went crazy–I could also hear people yelling around the Quarter every time LSU scored.

Everyone knows about the great Halloween game between LSU and Ole Miss back in 1959, when LSU was ranked number one and Ole Miss number three, and LSU won on the great Billy Cannon punt return, 7-3. I watched the Auburn-LSU game in 1988, when LSU upset 4th ranked Auburn 7-6 on a last minute touchdown and the fans were jumping up and down so much it registered on the LSU’s geology department’s Richter scale (my cousin was playing for Auburn then, and in full disclosure–I wasn’t thrilled to see that Tommy Hodson pass completion). That game is now known as the Earthquake Game, and clinched a tie for the SEC title that year for LSU with Auburn.

I switched fully over to LSU after Hurricane Katrina, during the evacuation and the return, watching the LSU games because watching those games was something about Louisiana that was normal; when everything else seemed to be disrupted there were the Tigers playing in Death Valley. I didn’t have the Saints that year because they weren’t playing in the damaged Superdome, and there was talk about them being moved to San Antonio. Tiger Stadium had been a triage center as FEMA and the Coast Guard and the Marines air-lifted people out of New Orleans; many of the players were from the city and had relatives and friends and neighbors crammed into their apartments with them. LSU and the campus were instrumental to the rescue efforts, and essentially, a life-line for the city I loved so much. That year LSU moved to Number One in my heart, and they have stayed there ever since.

And the games! My God, LSU games are nail-biters almost always. and from 2005-2007 LSU seemed to almost always pull the game out at the end with some kind of insane end. LSU won the national championship in 2007; the only time a two-loss time did so, and were the first team with more than one loss to be able to lay claim to the national title in over forty years. There were so many great moments that year–including the insane come from behind win over Auburn. With time running out and the ball on the thirty yard line, one point behind…quarterback Matt Flynn threw a pass to the end zone that was caught to win the game 30-24 with one second left on the clock.

There have been many games like that since–the Tigers don’t always pull them out, but they do more often than they don’t. Last year’s Auburn game was the same–a touchdown pass completed to win the game as time ran out, only to have the officials rule the ball was snapped after time ran out and nullified the touchdown.

Coach Les Miles was fired after that game.

This year’s LSU team hasn’t looked good. Paul and I went to watch the lackluster win over BYU in the Superdome to start the season; we went to the season opener in Baton Rouge to see another lackluster win over a second-tier team. LSU was blown out at Mississippi State, but still managed to stay ranked….until they lost two weeks ago against Troy in Tiger Stadium; the first loss for LSU against a non-conference opponent since 2000. Somehow they managed to upset Florida 17-16 the next week in Gainesville…but this weekend, Auburn was ranked Number 10, rolling over everyone they played. Mississippi State, who had beaten LSU by thirty points, lost to Auburn 49-10. No one had high hopes…even though Auburn hadn’t won in Baton Rouge since 1999.

That year, after beating LSU 41-7, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and some of his players walked out onto the field to the tiger eye at the fifty yard line to triumphantly smoke cigars. It was an insult no one here has forgotten….and Auburn has lost every time they’ve played here since.

After forcing Auburn to kick a field goal to go up 20-0, LSU scored to make it 20-7. Auburn managed another field goal, but LSU scored in the closing seconds of the first half to make it 23-14, and were getting the ball back first in the second half. A comeback wasn’t out of the question….but on that first possession they had to punt, and despite keeping Auburn from getting a first down, a stupid penalty gave Auburn another set of downs and it was time for us to go.

I was certain the game was over.

I checked my phone later in the lounge as we ate hors d’oeuvres and drank wine in the lounge while waiting for it to be time for our dinner reservation–and lo and behold, the score was now 23-21 with about ten minutes left. I kept hitting refresh and BOOM! LSU kicked a field goal to finally go ahead 24-23.

They held on, kicking another field goal with just seconds left in the game to go up 27-23…and somehow pulled it off.

I still can’t believe I missed seeing it.

Geaux Tigers! I hope to see a replay of the game at some point.


Death Valley: where dreams come to die.