You Thought

One of the things I loved about Go-Go’s music was it was high energy and danceable; and it didn’t matter if you had no rhythm, didn’t know how to dance, or were clumsy and awkward. Go-Go’s music was so good that it just didn’t matter–people who would never think about getting out on the dance floor would just dash out there and start bouncing around once the deejay put one of their records on the turntable.

When I basically invited myself to be a part of this anthology, many of the songs were already taken, but editor Holly West gave me a list of three to choose from. I looked up the lyrics of each…and one thing that struck me, right between the eyes, was how dark the lyrics were. The songs, played with a bouncy, danceable beat and catchy, ear-wormy lyrics with Belinda Carlisle’s oh-so-cheery voice and the lovely harmonies, were really, if anything, kind of noir…all those years of dancing and singing along with the records, I’d never really paid attention to what the lyrics were saying.

I don’t know that I’ll ever look at the songs in quite the same way again, frankly–but that’s not a bad thing; the songs have much greater depth than I’d ever thought, which is my failing, not the Go-Go’s.

Susanna Calkins’ story is the next up in Murder-a-Go-Go’s. Serendipity brought Susie into my life in 2018; her story “Postcard for the Dead” was selected for Florida Happens (and has also made the Agatha shortlist for Best Short Story) and we also worked together on another project. We met in person at Bouchercon in St. Petersburg, and I hope that 2018 was the start of a terrific new friendship with this talent.

Her story is “You Thought.”

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Alison tightened her hand on her husband’s arm as they followed their real estate agent up the stone path to the 1920’s Craftsman bungalow. They’d waited so long to be shown a decent house within their limited budget. Finally, this one had come along and Sheila, clad today in an impossibly bubble-gum pink pantsuit, had reassured them it was a mustsee. “Perfect for a young couple,” she’d promised. “A steal at this price. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.”

Now, they gazed at the house in front of them. “Oh, Charlie,” Alison said, a catch in her voice. “Look at the front porch. We could sit outside after dinner. Enjoy the sunsets.”

Overhearing, Sheila smiled over her shoulder at them. “The house is charming, isn’t it? Did I mention there’s a basement? Just look at the yard! What a lovely place for children to play.”

Alison glanced up at her husband. Children! Perhaps that could happen now since they were finally settling down. After seven apartments in as many years, she could barely stomach the thought of another impermanent home. But she didn’t want to press him on that dream, at least not yet. “The begonias are beautiful, don’t you think?” she said instead, pointing at the pinkish-orange flowers in front of the house. “We could have a garden!”

There is nothing quite as stressful as making a major purchase that’s a lengthy commitment. I bought a brand new car in 2017, and I cannot even begin to tell you, Constant Reader, the agonies of indecision that went on for the weeks before I finally decided to bite the bullet and head to the dealership. I cannot even begin to imagine the stress involved with buying a home–particularly for the first time.

That is the beating heart at the center of this tale; Alison and Charlie are buying their first-ever house after seven years of marriage and seven years of moving from apartment to apartment; Alison falls in love with this house being shown to them by their realtor, Sheila. They end up in a bidding war that ends with them paying more than they can afford for the house, and once they move in…they soon learn that their realtor wasn’t really to be trusted.

I love the way Susanna takes the American Dream of home ownership and digs into it, exploring how home ownership can also be a trap as well as an investment into the future, and how financial distress can drive people to extreme measures.

Our Lips are Sealed

As Constant Reader is already aware (primarily because I can’t stop talking about it), I have a story in the upcoming anthology Murder-a-Go-Go’s, edited by the sublime Holly West and featuring an intro by the fabulous Jane Weidlin. As a huge fan of the Go-Go’s from the very first time I heard “Our Lips Are Sealed” on the radio of my car (I immediately bought their first album, Beauty and the Beat, on my next pay-day; it remains one of my all-time favorite albums. I also liked Vacation, just not as much…but Talk Show is also brilliant.

Another thing that is exciting for me about being in Murder-a-Go-Go’s is who I am sharing the table of contents with! Some of the best writers in the genre today! Woo-hoo!

And first up in the table of contents is Lori Rader-Day. Lori is currently an Edgar Award finalist for her Under a Dark Sky, and she was nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark award for her first three novels (The Black Hour, Pretty Little Things, The Day I Died); winning for Pretty Little Things. She has won the Anthony Award twice, and been a finalist for the Macavity and the Barry Awards. A most impressive resume, particularly given there are only four novels to her credit thus far. I personally enjoy Lori’s work; which probably would be best classified as domestic suspense, but I’m not sure that’s an accurate classification. Her works are, like Megan Abbott’s, about the darkness inside women and their friendships.

And her story was inspired by “Our Lips Are Sealed”!

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When the credits for the movie the girls weren’t supposed to be watching started to roll, Colbie went to check that her mother was asleep, stamping down on the hand of her sister, Alexa, on the way out. Alexa sat up and sniffled into her fist but kept silent with effort. On the floor, Jane and Patricia picked white flecks of popcorn out of the kernels left at the bottom of the bowl. Nori slipped into the bathroom with her pajamas balled up in her fist.

Jane watched her go. “I usually sleep naked.”

“Bullshit,” Patricia said. Jane was older, by almost a full year, already thirteen. But Patricia was taller. If she needed to, she would hold Jane down and force her to say she was a liar.

Colbie returned to the doorway with a six-pack of soda cradled in her arms. “My mom’s either dead or she took one of her pills. Where’s Nori?”

“Peeing,” Jane said. She picked at the chipped blue nail polish on her big toe, leaving a patch of paint on the pink carpet of Colbie’s room.

“Why didn’t you invite boys over? I went to a boy-girl sleepover when I was at my old school—”

Patricia snorted. “For church? That doesn’t count.”

“Let’s do something else,” Colbie said.

“Not a lock-in, bitch,” Jane said. “A sleepover. With boys.”

Patricia rolled her eyes at Colbie. Everything seemed to have already happened to Jane, but out of sight, at her old school, in her old town. She sometimes wanted to ask Jane why she didn’t just go back if everything was so great there. She was sure Jane would say she couldn’t because she was a kid. Which, for once, would be the truth. They were all stuck where they were, being who they were. Patricia turned to Colbie. “What should we do?”

Nori opened the bathroom door an inch. “You guys?”

And seriously, is there anything more noir than a tween girls sleepover? Lori does an excellent job here playing with the power dynamics in a group of girls; girls who are just starting to become women and how they deal with the changes in their bodies and how they relate to each other.

Definitely a great start to the book!

You’re Only Lonely

Monday, and this week parades start–this Friday, to be more precise. I think it’s Oshun and Kleopatra; perhaps Alla as well? I’ll have to check my handy-dandy Mardi Gras Guide to be certain.

It’s raining this morning, which means it will be colder than I thought it would be; I didn’t bring a coat or wear an undershirt beneath my sweater, which might be problematic much later in the evening. Ah, well.

Yesterday I managed to revise four chapters of the Scotty, so that revision is going very well. Once again, I am at that point where if I do a chapter every day, the book will be finished by March 1. My goal, however, is to get more of it done per day, so that I can let it sit for a couple of days before looking at it one last time. We shall see how that goes.

I also read more of Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long, which is, frankly, a master class in crime writing. JFC, she’s so good, peeps! I still have two of her backlist to read–which, as is my wont, I am hoarding against the day when there may not be another Lori Roy left in my TBR pile (which would be a horribly sad day indeed). I also read another short story in Norah Lofts’ Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? I will, of course, talk more about it later; but one of the things I love about these Lofts stories is they aren’t necessarily scary; they tend to be more Gothic and creepy more than anything else.

I also downloaded season 3 of Versailles last night, and now, alas, the show has finally decided, in its final season, to be completely a-historical. It’s still great fun, and the palace is actually finished now…so they are using the actual exteriors–or CGI, or something. And it’s even more breathtakingly beautiful than it was in previous seasons. In the first episode of this season, the Hall of Mirrors was completed finally and Louis showed it off to an important visitor, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold. I am not certain that this is the correct Emperor for the time period, and it’s also very vague as to what year this is taking place…but it’s certainly not as a-historical as The Tudors was, or The White Queen. 

Or the mess that was Reign.

I do wish someone would make a series about Catherine de Medici. There was NEVER a period in her life that was dull…

She fascinates me; I’d say probably she and Eleanor of Aquitaine are at the top of my list of favorites Queens in history.

And on that note, this manuscript ain’t going to revise itself. Back to the spice mines with me!

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Rise

Sunday! Yesterday I braved the AT&T store and upgraded my phone. It’s kind of cool. I wanted a red one, but had to settle for silver as they were out of red. Maybe next time.

I didn’t really want a new phone, but since it’s a lease–which I really am not sure I understand how that works, but whatever–it was overdue for a replacement. Other than the lengthy wait–and the usual irritating length of time it always takes for Apple operating systems to load and so forth–it wasn’t that bad. And now I have a new phone.

Now I need to get that pesky brake tag, and I’ll be all set. DON’T JUDGE ME.

I also put some books away in storage, and filed away the last few editions of manuscripts I’ve worked on over the last year. I still have to figure out where that extra seventy dollars in my checking account came from, do my taxes, and clear out all my emails…heavy heaving sigh.

But despite the limited progress on anything of merit yesterday, I am refusing to berate myself as per the usual. I work forty hours a week, after all, and write around my job. I don’t quite have the energy I used to have, so recharging a bit on the weekend is necessary and also kind of the only time I have to do it. So, having a low-energy not get a lot of writing done day is kind of work; I need to recharge in order to get the work done.

I also began reading Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long and once again, I am completely blown away at her mastery of language. She truly has mastered what I think of as Southern Gothic, and when I am reading her work I am always reminded of Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. Gone Too Long has also come along at precisely the right time in my reading; it’s about the Klan in Georgia. One of the things I love about Roy’s work is how patiently and deftly she plays her cards, never letting you know anything you don’t need to know until you absolutely need to know it; there’s also a haunting, dream-like quality to her work that I wish I could figure out how to do myself, quite frankly. I am savoring the book, and not wanting to rush through it. I read some more this morning with my second and third cups of coffee; and now am reluctantly putting it aside in order to get the work done I didn’t do yesterday.

Had I done the work yesterday, I could spend more time today reading Gone Too Long.

Which is yet another shining example of not putting off till tomorrow what you can do today because you will definitely regret it.

On the other hand, if I get everything done that I want to get done today, I can go back to reading it. I also want to finish reading a short story from Hauntings: Is There Anybody There?

Always so much to do, so little time in which to do it, and very little desire to get it done.

But I also got up early this morning, so there’s no excuse. If, for example, I buckle down and start writing now, I can be finished in a few hours and have the rest of the day to enjoy this book.

We also started watching Russian Doll last night, which is holding our interest–more so than The Umbrella Factory–and so we’ll probably delve into another episode of that this evening as well.

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

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Cool Change

Saturday morning and I slept late, which felt positively marvelous. I feel rested and ready to kick some ass and take some names–at least for now, at any rate. Paul is going to be out of the house most of the day–appointments and going to the office–and therefore I have the Lost Apartment to myself for most of the day and no excuse not to get a lot of things done. I am still planning on walking over to the AT&T store to replace my phone–who knows how that is going to go?–but other than that, my day is pretty much set for cleaning, revising, and reading.

Last night, we started watching the new Netflix show The Umbrella Academy, based on the Dark Horse comic series–and while I didn’t madly love it, I am curious enough to continue watching. For one thing, it has both Ellen Page and Tom Hopper (who I’ve been crushing madly on since his days as Billy Bones on Black Sails), and it has an interesting premise. We will be continuing with it tonight, I think. I had just started reading Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long when Paul got home last night, and then was distracted by getting caught up on How to Get Away with Murder and then The Umbrella Academy.

And I’ve been dealing with yet another Apple upgrade issue that has fucked with my desktop, laptop, phone and iPad since last night. Now the cloud drive is missing from both my desktop and my laptop (I managed to resolve the handheld device issues last night) and so am trying to get that resolved this morning. Seriously, Apple–when you update/upgrade your systems, is it absolutely necessary to fuck up everything for your customers? 

Seriously, Apple. Do better.

So I am trying to resolve all this before scheduling a call from Apple Support…which I also don’t understand; you used to be able to do this in an on-line chat, but now of course they make you take a phone call. Why, precisely? And how able-ist is this? What about those of us who are hard of hearing, or those who are deaf? Seriously, fuck you in the ass without lubrication, Apple. HARD.

Thank you for allowing me to vent about these issues, Constant Reader. It’s helping me reduce the future body count.

This week I got a copy of Kyle Onstott’s bestselling Mandingo from the 1950’s. As Constant Reader is aware, I’ve been trying to diversify not only my fiction reading but to learn more about the horrible history of race in North America. Part of this has taking an amorphous shape in my head around a lengthy essay, tracing revisionism of slavery and the Old South and civil rights from such novels as The Clansman (which was filmed as Birth of a Nation) to Gone with the Wind to To Kill a Mockingbird and The Klansman, which I recently reread. As I was scrolling through Amazon Prime looking for something to watch the other night, I came across the late 1970’s film Mandingo, and remembered that it was also a novel. I bought a copy from eBay which arrived this week (I wasn’t able to get far in the movie because it was just incredibly bad; not even campy bad, like Showgirls, just bad.) The book arrived this week and….just looking at the note from the publisher in the beginning was horrifying. Yet Mandingo might just be the only novel about slavery and the Old South that actually tears the veneer of respectability and gentility away and exposes the true horror of what the “peculiar institution” was actually like. (Even John Jakes’ dreadful North and South series never delved deeply into the actual horrors; Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad was one of the first novels to truly explore this that I’ve read.) Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series, set in New Orleans before the Civil War, also does a terrific job of exploring how deeply entrenched and horrible racism/slavery were.

This essay I am thinking about would probably wind up, should I ever have the time to read the books and write it (it would, for example, require a reread of Gone with the Wind and it’s over eleven hundred pages, as well as some in depth reading of actual history) would probably be a part of Gay Porn Writer: The Fictions of My Life…which is a project I really do want to work on someday.  Mandingo takes on an aspect of slavery and the South that is rarely, if ever, touched on in fictions: the sexual abuse of the female slaves by their masters (come on, like it never happened. Really?) as well as the breeding of actual slaves for better, more valuable stock, as well as raising them for fighting–kind of a human version of cock-fighting or dog-fighting. Is it more likely that never happened, or that it did? Slavery, as Harriet Beecher Stowe repeatedly explained in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, debases both slave and master; are we really supposed to believe that slave-owners didn’t abuse their ‘property’?

Given how people of color–theoretically free and equal in the eyes of the law in the twenty-first century–are treated in the present day, I’m not buying the notion of the kind, gracious slave owner.

Take, for example, this passage from the Publisher’s Note to the movie tie-in paperback edition which I just received in the mail:

From today’s vantage point,, almost a hundred years after the cataclysm, the developing situation may be viewed objectively. Actually, the finger of blame should be pointed at no one geographical group of people. Although the factions that promoted the abolition of slavery were ethically in the right (emphasis: mine), Southern planters in general are shown to have been victims of circumstance rather than diabolical tyrants as they have sometimes been painted. (again, emphasis mine.)

Doesn’t get more apologetic than that, does it? Those poor planters. (massive eye roll)

And is it any wonder that we still have so many societal problems of racial injustice today?

And on that note, back to the spice mines.

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All Out of Love

Wednesday, feelin’ fine.

Yesterday I didn’t really want to get out of bed–but not really out of a sense of being tired or not getting enough sleep; rather, it was more along the lines of it was raining and in those situations, I would always prefer to stay in bed with my blankets. Here’s hoping it rains this weekend, when I can stay in bed.

I’ve decided to go with my library book as my next Diversity read, White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig. It’s due next Friday, the first day of parades (!!!) on the St. Charles Avenue route, and so it makes more sense to go ahead and read it now and get it out of the way. That makes it sound like more of an odious chore than I intended it to sound, quite frankly; it isn’t an odious chore at all. I had a lovely time reading his first novel, and I am quite certain I’ll enjoy this one as well. There’s no reason I wouldn’t; but I also need to steer myself into reading short stories. My collection is coming out on April 1, and around that same time the anthology I’m in, Murder-a-Go-Go’s, is also coming out…so I am going to start talking about the stories in both, and I should probably get a jump on that.

The best-laid plans of mice and men…

Yesterday during the revising I was stopped cold by an enormous hole in the plot that threw me off my game. I blinked at the computer screen three times slowly, and as how to fill the hole, or patch it up, as it were, started coming to mind and I began filling said plot-hole with new words, I got exhausted suddenly, very tired and drained…so I stepped away from the manuscript, knowing that trying to force it when I’m tired would just mean having to redo it anyway, so why not just think about it, solve the problem thoroughly in my head, and reserve the energy? A good night’s sleep and a fresh start in the morning would be the most wise course to follow. And I did have a good night’s sleep last night! I feel amazing this morning–rested, awake, energized and ready to go. So, hopefully I can resolve this plot problem this morning, and get another chapter done, as well. Huzzah! I also have to pick up a prescription this morning on the way to work, so I’ll need to leave earlier than I usually do.

I also got an ARC of Lori Roy’s new book, Gone Too Long, in the mail yesterday, so I am most likely going to shunt the Diversity Project aside momentarily in order to read it. Every new book by Lori is kind of an event; her resume of awards and great reviews rather speaks for itself. And the cover copy makes this one sound terrific…and her books usually surpass the cover copy. Huzzah!

I’m in a pretty good mood this morning, no doubt due to the terrific night’s sleep I just enjoyed, and feeling better about my manuscript–despite the plot hole. I’m still on-target to get it finished by the end of the month, and I really am looking forward to getting back to work on the WIP…I may even start doing some revision work/rereading of it this weekend; we shall see. I would really like to get the Scotty done long before the end of the month, but again–we’ll just have to see how it goes, won’t we?

And of course, one of my favorite reality shows, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, returned last night, so I spent a rather blissful hour last night watching rich women setting up ridiculous drama that will carry the show through this season. My enjoyment of these shows is starting to wane a little; so a good season of this one and New York is really necessary or else I may stop watching entirely.

We started watching PEN15 on Hulu the other night, and it has potential. We’ll have to give it another episode or two before we decide whether we want to continue with it–but it currently looks very promising.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

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Against the Wind

Yesterday I only managed to revise one chapter, but I am chalking that up as a win. I figured if I do one chapter a day it’ll be done by the end of the month, and there will be days when I’ll revise more than one, which will put me further ahead of schedule. This weekend I managed to get caught up–I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but what I did get done caught me up again, and that’s really what I needed to have happen. And it did. So, that’s a win.

I don’t know why I am so hard on myself.

Seriously.

I’ve not decided what to read next. I checked Caleb Roehrig’s White Rabbit, a queer y/a, out from the library, but I kind of also want to read either Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett or Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things, which is a vampire novel set in Mexico City and comes highly recommended by my horror peeps. I’ve got an entire pile of diverse books, including John Copenhaver’s Dodging and Burning, Kristen Lepionka’s The Last Place You Look,  Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths, Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go and Cotton Comes to Harlem, Frankie Bailey’s The Red Queen Dies…so many wonderful diverse books–and there’s even more than that. I know I have a Rachel Howzell Hall book on the shelves somewhere, and it might not, actually, be a bad idea to dive into some New Orleans/Louisiana history…decisions, decisions.

There are, frankly, worse things in life, to be honest, then being unable to decide which book you want to read next.

I think my sleep schedule is finally stabilizing. I slept very well on Sunday evening and as such, wasn’t tired even after a twelve hour shift yesterday when I got home. We’ll see how tired I am tonight when I get home from work after day two of twelve hour shift; but instead of working straight through, I have a doctor’s appointment in between testing shifts so I’ll be doing that instead…and since I’ll be over in that part of time, am going to treat myself to Five Guys for lunch. Huzzah for Five Guys!

One can never go wrong with a delicious burger. And Cajun fries to go with it. YUM.

Ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018, I’ve felt disconnected in some ways to all the projects I was brainstorming before it happened…which is why I think reading some local history might just do the trick of reenergizing me with the Monsters of New Orleans project. My life is so defined by said Data Disaster that I can hardly remember what was going on before it happened, and I’ve felt, as I have said numerous times, disconnected, and not just from Monsters of New Orleans, but from everything, and when I try to get everything back on track, it just seems like all those things are adrift in fog and I can’t quite get my hands on them again.

Which, obviously, sucks. But it’s life.

I had all kinds of plans for the future before a little disruption called Hurricane Katrina came along, too. And the time before the evacuation seems like it was a million years ago, and I can barely remember the time evacuated or the time after I returned, or that first year back in the carriage house. My memory is a sieve–and I used to have the most insane memory! I could remember all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys titles in order, and could even tell you the plots. I used to be able to remember details about every book I’d read, including plot and characters and scenes. I used to be amazing at Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit. Not so much anymore, sadly. I like to think I am forgetting things now because there’s so much more to remember, and some things are getting crowded out by new memories…but I think it’s more a symptom of being older than anything else.

Sigh.

And now back to the spice mines.

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