Bleed to Love Her

Monday morning and all is well in the Lost Apartment as I swill coffee and brace myself for the day (and week) ahead.

I returned from Kentucky on Friday. Both the voyage up and back–despite their great length and the brittle stiffness of my aging body–didn’t seem quite so bad or to take as long as they usually do. I did make great time in both directions, while listening to two audiobooks (Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 on the way up, Carol Goodman’s The Disinvited Guest on the way back; both are superb and highly recommended) but of course once I got home on Friday night I was quite exhausted. I spent Saturday trying to get caught up on the apartment itself while football games played in the background (more on that later). I did a lot of laundry, a lot of dishes, ran errands and made groceries, before finally settling in to watch the LSU/Texas A&M game, which was disappointing (more on that later). Yesterday I got up early (I’ve been getting up early a lot lately) and chose to stay off-line for the most part. I did clean out the junk out of my inbox, wrote up the books I read while on my trip for blog entries, and wrote another blatant self-promotion post for A Streetcar Named Murder while also trying to get a handle on everything I need to get done for this coming week. I felt very well-rested yesterday at long last. I didn’t have as much trouble sleeping while I was away as I usually do, which was cool–I found another sleep-aid that seems to be working very nicely–but Friday night I didn’t sleep as well as I thought I would, given how worn out I was from the drive. Saturday night’s sleep, however, was quite marvelous.

Ah, the Insomnia Chronicles. How I long for the day when my sleep isn’t of concern (or at least as not as much interest) to me.

The weather was also kind of terrible when I got back–raining and humid, but cool; the kind where you aren’t sure if you need to turn on the heat or the air, and yesterday there were tornadoes and high winds in the river and bayou parishes outside of New Orleans. Yesterday however was beautiful; sunny with blue skies with the low in the mid-sixties and the high in the mid-seventies. Not bad for Christmas season, is it? It’s also hard to wrap my mind around the idea that it’s Christmas already, to be honest. I got a great Kindle deal on a collection of Christmas crime short stories, which I am really looking forward to digging into–perhaps a story a day for the season? The Christmas Murder Mystery project? (You know I love me some projects to work on.) It’s also weird that it’s the holiday season again, which means Carnival is also right around the block. YIKES. This also means I need to start planning around the parade schedule and when I need to leave work and so forth. Ugh, much as I love Carnival, it’s always stressful and exhausting, if fun and delightful.

It was an interesting weekend of college football. The Mississippi-Mississippi State game on Thanksgiving was a lot of fun, right up to its crazy end; South Carolina somehow managed to beat Clemson; and of course, Michigan blew out Ohio State in Columbus. This kind of set the stage for the LSU game on Saturday night–I had a very queasy feeling about the game, partly because it seemed as though everyone was looking ahead to next week’s SEC title game with Georgia and the possibility of a play-off berth for the Tigers; but Texas A&M always plays LSU hard, no matter how bad their record is, and for some reason they’ve decided LSU is their big rivalry in the conference. The game looked awful; LSU was playing very sloppy on both sides of the ball and my heart and spirit continued to flag with each missed tackle and each missed opportunity. It was disappointing, to be sure, but on the other hand, I am thrilled to death with how the season went. No one gave LSU a shot at having a winning record, let alone beating Alabama and winning the West division, so I am choosing to be grateful for a wonderful winning season after two seasons of mediocrity and looking forward to an even better, more glittering future for the Tigers. I have faith in Coach Kelly, I have faith in what he is building there, and who knows? In a year or two we may win it all again. GEAUX TIGERS!

In other blatant self-promotional news, I also appeared recently on Alexia Gordon’s The Cozy Corner, which was a lot of fun, and I also appeared on Dru’s Book Musing, and how lovely that she gave me such a wonderful view. Thanks to both Dru and Alexia, both being lovely people who have gone out of their way to be kind to me and A Streetcar Named Murder, for which I will always be eternally grateful. It’s hard to believe the book is going to be published soon! And don’t worry, there will be plenty more blatant self-promotion to come.

PLENTY.

I also spent some good time with the book yesterday and it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it might be, as I feared it would be. Yes, the first half needs some work, but not nearly as much as I had thought and I also went through and made a character list as well as outlined the first half. Tomorrow I am going to work on the edits and finishing the outline for the rest of the book; and I am also going to write in and ask for more time. I never finish on time, do I? But the book is good, there’s lots of material for the second half, and I am kind of excited about getting this one completely under control at long last. Huzzah!

We also binged 1899 yesterday; it’s from the same people who did the superlative German series Dark, and had the added bonus of having one of our favorite actors from Elité, Miguel Bernardeau, in the cast as well. It’s delightfully creepy and strange, and you never have a very good sense of what is going on (like Dark), so of course we were glued to the set the entire time. It’s quite good, actually; I’m not sure how I feel yet about the final episode other than curiosity about how that is going to lead into a second season–because the finale raised more questions than it answered (like a good finale), but I’ll be happy to continue watching.

I feel rested this morning, though, which is lovely. I am sure by the middle of the week I’ll be tired and short of temper again, but for now, for this morning, I am going to just enjoy myself feeling rested and relaxed in the meantime. I have, as always, an insane amount of work to get done this week, but right now I am going to enjoy the peace and quiet of this morning before I have to start getting ready to leave for work; I even got up earlier than I usually do on Mondays.

And on that note, I am heading headfirst into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday morning, Constant Reader, and I’ll chat at you again tomorrow morning.

My Little Town

It is quite impossible to have heard of every writer and every book, even in a subgenre; there are simply too many books published in the past, with new ones coming out every day and new ones getting signed for future release every day. When it comes to my own reading, I like to draw from a wide and deep pool of styles, genres, and authors. Most of my reading is generally confined to the crime genre–and I do confess that I need to broaden that pool even further. I need to read more literary fiction, science fiction, horror, romance, and fantasy; more true crime and biography and criticism; and even within my own crime genre I tend to not read as much of some sub-genres as others.

I’ve always liked cozies, and have never understood why they get so much grief and are so readily dismissed by those who neither write nor read them. I don’t read enough of them, to be honest, but again, there are so many terrific cozy writers and there’s only so much time. But recently in a review of my A Streetcar Named Murder, the reviewer mentioned that it was perfect “for fans of Katherine Hall Page.” This intrigued me, because I didn’t know her nor was I familiar with her work. I quickly checked in with some cozy writer friends, who all assured me it was a great compliment, so I decided to check out her Faith Fairchild series.

Faith Fairchild, recently of New York City, paused to catch her breath. Benjamin, her five-month-old son, was sound asleep, securely strapped to her chest in his Snugli. Her aching shoulder blades and the fact she has been focusing on the own path beneath her feet instead of the autumnal splendor to either side reminded Faith that Benjamin was definitely getting a bit too chunky for this mode of transportation. She straightened up and looked around.

It was New England with a vengeance: riotous orange and scarlet leaves beneath enormous, puffy white clouds suspended in a Kodacolor blue sky. A calendar maker’s dream. And of course brisk, clear air as crisp as a bite of a McIntosh apple just off the tree.

Faith hated McIntosh apples.

She walked up the Belfry Hill path a bit farther to a small clearning, which gave her an unobstructed view of the Aleford village green far below. She sat down and sighed heavily.

Her life was becoming terribly quaint, Faith thought. Time was when “village” meant “the Village” and “town” was up or down. And when did she start using phrases like “time was”? She let another sigh escape into the pollution-free landscape and longed for a whiff of that heady combination of roasted chestnuts and exhaust fumes that meant autumn to her.

It didn’t take me very long in reading the book to realize just what an incredible compliment that comparison actually was.

I pointed out in one of my entries about cozies–probably a blatantly self-promotional entry, if I recall correctly–that often-times there’s a “fish out of water” element to a cozy series; the main character is often someone from the big city who has, for whatever reason, found him or herself in a new small town environment that has its charms but at the same time they miss their big city. Faith Sibley Fairchild is no exception to this. Born and raised in Manhattan as the child of a minister and a wealthy heiress, Faith has her own trust fund and her interest in food led her to start her own, hugely successful catering company, Have Faith. But she has since fallen in love with a small-town minister, married him, temporarily shuttered her business and moved to pastoral Aleford in Massachusetts, having now had a baby and is trying to adjust to small town life as the minister’s wife. (I was reminded frequently of the Vicar’s wife in St. Mary Mead in Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage; the younger woman whom the villagers aren’t quite sure what to make of other than she’s not like any vicar’s wife they’ve ever known.)

On this particular morning she is heading up to the town belfry to just relax and have a little picnic with her baby son–only to discover the body of Cindy Shepherd, a perfectly awful young woman whom no one in the village of Aleford likes very much. Suspicion immediately falls on her long-suffering fiancé, who doesn’t have much of an alibi–and Faith finds herself intrigued by the case and starts asking around. She found the body, after all, and as she starts asking questions and bouncing from villager to villager, she finds herself learning more about her town and the intricate yet almost invisible threads that tie everyone in Aleford together–and soon finds that not only was Lucy unpleasant, she was an outright villain, who only cared about herself and was not above using whatever means at her disposal necessary to get what she wants. The investigation itself is also an excellent way for Page to introduce Aleford (as well as Faith’s own backstory) to the reader in a very organic way that is not only easy to follow but keeps the reader turning the page. Ms. Page also has a lovely, easily accessible and slyly witty voice that engages the reader, and you can’t help liking Faith and rooting for her–as well as looking forward to your next visit. There are currently twenty-six volumes in the series–daunting, to be sure–but I’m excited about that lengthy canon; I won’t be running out of Katherine Hall Page novels to read any time soon.

Destiny Rules

Sunday, Sunday. It feels cold again outside this morning–you can tell, even inside; the downstairs floor is always the giveaway–but I slept really well last night and feel very rested this morning. I have so much to get done today it’s almost daunting, but I think with the good night’s sleep and feeling rested I should be able to plow through everything I need to do today before leaving tomorrow. And there is a lot. I did make great progress yesterday and did get a lot done, not enough, but progress was made. I avoided the television for the most part–it was one, so I could sit in the living room and see what was going on, but I managed to never allow myself to settle in and get sucked into the games. It was a crazy college football day in which the top four all barely managed to win their games, and then of course Number 5 Tennessee got blown out of the stadium by South Carolina last night. Paul went to the office yesterday and when I knocked off for the day I started watching that game because the LSU game started later, and wow, who saw that coming? Or Arkansas blowing out Mississippi? LSU played well despite poor weather conditions and managed to beat UAB 41-10 for their ninth win of the season, with Texas A&M all that is left in the regular season. LSU could have a rare ten win regular season for the first time since 2019, which nobody saw coming, with an extremely outside shot at the play-offs–which would require beating Georgia for the SEC title, and I don’t think that’s going to happen. But what a marvelous turnaround season for my Tigers. Who knew?

I have groceries to pick up, writing to do, need to pack, need to air up the car tires, and have all kinds of things on the list to do today. Yikes. I cannot let Paul distract me or suck me into a Saints game or anything either before six pm this evening; I have to get everything done in that time frame because that’s when I am calling it a day and taking the rest of the evening off. I don’t want to have to get up super-early tomorrow, but the good news is I don’t think I need to get up at six unless I do so organically, which is, of course, entirely possible. I have to make sure the books I am listening to in the car are downloaded and ready to go when I pull away from the curb tomorrow morning, and I need to pay a bill or two today as well.

I also managed to get better organized yesterday–still not completely there, or as organized as I should be, going forward–but it helped to have the book research and my notes and everything all pulled together into one place for review. I am most likely going to close my browser when I finish posting this for the duration of the day; although I am going to want to spend some time later composing emails to send tomorrow morning before I leave for the trip. It’s never ending being a Gregalicious, I have to say. But this was a good weekend; I feel like I’m getting my head back together and back into the game, and it feels functional again, which is saying something. Maybe it’s just because I feel rested this morning, I don’t know and can’t really say for sure, but it is very nice to wake up and feel rested and relaxed and have my mind working completely.

I hate feeling tired more than anything, really.

But my coffee tastes marvelous this morning and I feel terrific. There’s still some serious cleaning to do as well–isn’t there always? There’s a load of dishes needing to be put away and another load ready to go inside of the dishwasher, too–the endless cycle of use and clean, use and clean, ad nauseum ad infinitum. Will this last and will I get everything off my to-do list before six this evening? It remains to be seen, but I do know that right now I feel great and hope this will last through the day. We’ll see how it all goes, but I am optimistic right now and that’s always a plus, really.

And on that note, I am going to get another cup of coffee and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I’ll chat with you again tomorrow.

Everybody Finds Out

Saturday!

I allowed myself to sleep in later than usual this morning–despite waking at seven as I inevitably do–but it felt warm and comfortable and cozy in the bed, and I knew it was a cold morning. It’s temperate inside the apartment–I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to being comfortable inside during cold weather, but the floor is cold beneath my socks here in the kitchen, so I need to put my house shoes on. I can also feel a bit of cold from the windows, and it’s not sunny outside but kind of overcast and gray. LSU plays its final home game of the season tonight against UAB, which will be a nice way to cap off the evening before bed tonight. Yesterday was yet another exhausting day, but last night we finished the season of American Horror Story: NYC–not entirely sure how I feel about it, to be honest–and then started the new season of our favorite show, Elité, on Netflix. Not entirely sure where the season is going, but I am here for it. There are, I think, too many new characters (kind of like how uneven season four felt, with the change in cast for over half the show; again, the rest of the original cast departed after last season so again, there were new characters to add and new cast members) but it might work. I like they’ve added a transman to the cast, with an actual storyline–I am curious as to how transpeople feel about the story they’ve given Nico, but I will say this–I’ve never seen the transmasc experience depicted in this much depth. And of course, everyone is stunningly beautiful.

And of course, I am completely vested in the Iván/Patrick relationship as I was last season.

Today is going to be a work day. This morning as I wake up and drink my coffee, I will finish the kitchen and the filing before diving headfirst into my book. I am behind as always, but am hoping that I can make some decent progress this weekend. The story is whirling around in my head and starting to come together, but a strong push this weekend, some work over the week while in Kentucky, and another strong push next weekend means I could possibly actually make the December 1 deadline–or at least take yet another weekend to finish it off that first weekend of December. But I am much more hopeful and confident about it than I was to begin with–just last weekend, in fact–and so today I am going to start pushing my way through to the next part of the book.

I also want to do another BSP post for Streetcar, since I probably won’t have the opportunity to post much from Kentucky. So, so much to do.

And I think I am going to treat myself to a cappuccino this morning. I love my new electric Moka pot–I liked my old espresso machine, but it was too much work, frankly, and it takes up a lot of space in my cupboard, so I decided to get a different style espresso maker, and seeing that Moka pots (which so many people swear by) now come in electric versions (so you don’t have to use the stove, which always made me nervous) kind of made up my mind, so I ordered one and now can have a relatively easily made cappuccino whenever I so choose. I definitely will be taking one in the car with me Monday morning as I set out for the Great Cold North.

I also need to order groceries this morning for pick-up tomorrow. Like I said, soooo much to do before I head out on Monday morning. I just hope that I have time to get to everything, because my preference would be to leave relatively early on Monday morning, but it will also depend on when I feel like waking up. Leaving at seven makes the most sense, despite having to get up so fucking early, but that would get me there around eight pm their time, which would get me through Chattanooga and Knoxville outside of rush hour–both are nightmares when it comes to rush hour–but do I want to get up at six on what is sure to be a very cold Monday morning? Decisions, decisions.

And on that note, I am going to make my cappuccino and head into my day. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in again tomorrow morning.

Running Through The Garden

Friday morning work-at-home blog!

I have data to enter and things to do today, Constant Reader. I’m leaving on Monday for Kentucky and will be gone for a week, so I have to seriously buckle down over the course of this weekend and get things done. It was cold here last night–in the thirties–and this morning the downstairs floor is cold beneath my feet, and the chilliest spot in the entire Lost Apartment is here at my desk. Heavy sigh. But that’s okay, I can deal with it. I have a load of laundry in the dryer, need to empty the dishwasher and refill it again–and of course the entire place from top to bottom is a complete disaster area. Hopefully I’ll be able to get the house under control as well as get all my work finished that I need to get finished not only today but over the entire weekend. Yesterday I was, not surprisingly, very tired when I got home from work. I did get some laundry folded and another load going, and yes, I loaded the dishwasher last night and stumbled around a bit in my tired state, but eventually Paul came home and we were able to watch the season finale of Half-Bad or The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself or whatever the hell you call it, which felt kind of anticlimactic, to be honest. I enjoyed the show, love the concept and the actors are very appealing–I am especially fond of Gabriel, the pansexual witch, to be honest–and we also watched a new episode of American Horror Story: NYC, which was kind of odd and weird, with a kind A Christmas Carol feel to it. I don’t know, it just seemed more like filler than anything else to me, and of course the AIDS allegory isn’t exactly subtle (why not just make it AIDS? The plague in the 1980s wasn’t horrible enough for a season of American Horror Story? Although AIDS in the first two decades would have been better suited for a season of American Crime Story….) but it is unsettling.

I’ve been doing, if you’ve been paying attention, the occasional Blatant Self-Promotional (BSP) entries for A Streetcar Named Murder, which has been kind of fun. I’m not sure what the next one will be–I’ve done the character, the store, and the neighborhood she lives in; I suppose the supporting cast should be next. I’ll figure it out at some point, I am sure; it’s not like the book drops until December 6th or anything–although I’ve been seeing pictures of already delivered copies on social media, which doesn’t make sense, but I’ve learned to not question things like that. It is what it is, and if people are already getting copies several weeks of release date, who am I to wonder the reasons why? Publishing is one of those businesses you never can completely figure out…because once you think you have a handle on something, it changes almost immediately.

I’m also looking forward to getting a handle on the current Scotty. I’ve been too tired from work this week to get as much done as I needed to get done, so this weekend is going to result in a big push. I have of course all the data to enter for my day job today, and I need to run some errands once I am finished for the day, but I remain hopeful that my energy won’t flag and I’ll be able to dive headfirst into the book this weekend without either having to force myself or for it to be like pulling teeth. As I have mentioned, the LSU game isn’t until the evening and it’s not really a big one; non-conference opponent, and of course I want them to win, but it’s Alabama-Birmingham (although I suppose completing the trifecta of beating Auburn, Alabama and UAB would make LSU state champions of Alabama again) and so there’s not the same urgency as there will be when we play Texas A&M the Saturday after Thanksgiving. What a wild, crazy and all-over-the-place college football season this has been…certainly nothing like I expected.

But I think the cold helped me sleep better last night than I have all week. I didn’t wake up super-early either; wide awake at seven, which is something I absolutely can handle, and feel very rested this morning. I did do one of those “oh you’re getting so old now” things this week–in which I turned my torso to do something here in the kitchen but did it at precisely the right angle to aggravate or irritate something, so now I am vaguely aware of some stiff soreness in my upper body. I can’t describe where exactly it’s located or how it feels, but it’s kind of like how when you have a respiratory thing going on and when you try to take a deep breath it feels tight? It’s kind of like that but not in my lungs, if that makes any sense. I’ll probably try to use the heating pad and the massage roller to work whatever the hell it is out before I leave on Monday morning.

I suppose the clock is ticking on Twitter, but I can’t really muster up enough energy to care much one way or the other. I use it, of course–I remember setting up the account because co-workers suggested that I should have one–and I go there periodically, primarily to waste time when I’m in line at the grocery store or the pharmacy or wherever; or when I am sitting in my easy chair at night with a purring cat in my lap while I am waiting for Paul to come home and I am watching Youtube videos on autoplay. Last night it kind of felt like high school graduation, as people were saying goodbye to everyone and it all had a touch of “signing the yearbook my senior year” to it all. I know a lot of people love Twitter, and I certainly had a lot of fun there over the years–primarily interacting with my friends and readers, mostly–but it’s also a horrific hell-scape with trolls lurking everywhere and nastiness for the sake of nastiness popping up every now and then. I find myself writing horrible responses to horrible people all the time before deleting them, and in some instances it’s too late–yes, you can delete tweets, of course, but that also seems kind of cowardly to me and besides, the Internet is indeed forever; I screen cap bad takes (aka “receipts”) all the time to save them just in case…and as I typed that even now I was thinking just in case? For what? In case I need to remind someone I don’t know of a bad take they had a few years ago? I have little to no desire to learn how to use a new social media service, so I am not migrating to another platform or any such nonsense; perhaps I will if and when the Twitter universe comes to a crashing halt. But while I’ll miss the interactions with my friends–and the opportunity to post that picture of me with the shocked look on my face everyone loves so much–I think I’ll somehow manage to survive.

And on that note, the dryer just stopped so I need to fold some laundry. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you tomorrow.

Valerie

Seriously, how could I not love this cover?

It literally has everything I love (well, most of it, at any rate): the St. Charles streetcar, Scooter, and all kinds of fun antiques and artifacts–and so brightly colored and beautiful. They even slipped in a strand of beads cleverly disguised as pearls! It is one of my favorite covers, and not just because it doesn’t have a shirtless man on the cover–I know, I know, it’s been awhile since I actually had one–certainly it’s been since Royal Street Reveillon–oops, no, Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories is post Royal Street Reveillon, so I guess it’s just the last two young adults and this one since then. And as I said, I really love the color scheme. I may have to have this blown up into a poster and have it framed–that’s how much I love it.

So, who is this Valerie Cooper and why did I decide to write about her and from her point of view?

I’d written from a female perspective before–under pseudonyms–and since I generally relate easier to women than I do to (straight) men, most of my reading is from a female point of view. I’ve always wanted to do a series from this perspective; on the rare occasions I’ve written from a straight man’s point of view (usually in a short story, although occasionally under a pseudonym for a novel) but not as often. I had thought about trying to write a cozy series from a male perspective (I have a great idea for one that I don’t think anyone would buy or want, but I love the idea and may try to do something with it sometime) but eventually defaulted to a woman. Most cozies are told from the feminine perspective (there are exceptions), and so it felt more right to have a female protagonist. I learned from the Paige series being marketed as cozies (which they weren’t) that the strong, sarcastic, borderline bitchy doesn’t play well within that subgenre, and so since I knew I was specifically writing a cozy this time, I knew to follow the rules.

One of the things I had noticed in the cozy series I read is that usually the first book in the series follows a transition of sorts for the main character (Mia P. Manansala’s flopped in the big city and returned to her small hometown; Raquel V. Reyes’ character has just moved back to the Miami area from New York, so she’s happy about it but concerned on others–read the book, you won’t be sorry; others have just gotten divorced, walked on a cheating partner, etc. etc. you get the drift), and I wanted to do something a little softer and less jarring–so I went with her being a youngish empty nester. Married young to a handsome fireman several years older (six, to be exact) she is left a widow when he is killed on the job to raise their twin sons by herself. She’s not worked outside the home since she was a teenager, and now the boys are off to LSU and she’s home alone in the big Victorian house she and her husband bought as a fixer-upper and then renovated while raising the kids. The house is done, her husband is dead and her kids are at school–so she is now finding herself at loose ends and not really sure what to do with herself. She dropped out of college after her marriage when she found herself pregnant–not planned, but not a disappointment, either–and now is considering going back to get her degree at UNO, or maybe finding a job–but what can she do?

I did worry about her not having finished college and just being a stay-at-home mother. It didn’t seem very pro-woman to me, but then I chastised myself. My sister was a stay-at-home mom, and I remember that when she finally was given the choice, my mother was one as well…and I realized I was falling into the wrong mindset about Valerie to begin with–there’s nothing wrong with a woman deciding to be a stay-at-home mom and not ever really working outside the home; the point of feminism is that women should be able to choose what they want rather than have limitations placed on their decisions (which a lot of non-feminist women do not understand), and why not write about a stay-at-home mother now finding her own way in life? I also wanted to surround her with friends and support–so she lives next door to her best friend (they became friends after the woman moved in next door) and is also close to Stacia, a divorced lawyer who lives down the street. The gay couple next door in a double shotgun, Michael and John, are also friends, as is John’s mother, who lives in the other side of the shotgun. Her own parents have retired to the Gulf Coast of Florida, and she is very close to her late husband’s family, the Coopers.

Her name is Valerie because I’ve always liked the name (it’s one of my favorite female names, along with Laura), and I picked Cooper because it’s a friend’s maiden name. I decided to make her be an actual local; born and raised in the city–but her parents are not from New Orleans; they moved here for the father’s job. So she was born here, but she wasn’t born into any of the many striations of social class here. Her parents weren’t connected to old-line New Orleans, they didn’t belong to any Mardi Gras krewes, and Valerie herself–while going to Sacred Heart–never got involved in any of the Carnival stuff, preferring, as she says, to participate by going to parades and catching throws. She’s also an only child who thinks of her late husband’s older sister Therese as a kind of replacement older sister since she didn’t have one.

I wanted to upset Valerie’s tame, placid, almost boring life with a series of shocks that upend everything about her life and what she believed she knew about her life, her house, her late husband–and what better way than to have her realize, thanks to someone else–that the notice she got from the city about the house being reappraised for taxes and didn’t think too much about could actually become a big catastrophe for her. The house they bought so cheaply and renovated could now be worth vastly more than she and Tony paid for the house (I named her husband Tony because I’ve always liked that name for a man; Scotty was almost Tony) because their neighborhood, sketchy and dangerous when they moved there, has been gentrified (as so much of the city has been) and when someone she knows and doesn’t like (a very thin line there I was worried about crossing by introducing that character–toning it down to a Valerie level of dislike was something I really had to pay attention to) lets her know what the market value of her home might actually be–Valerie instantly goes into financial panic mode. If the house is worth ten times what they paid for it, wouldn’t that mean the tax assessment would also got up times ten? She’s run into the woman while picking up fresh shrimp at Big Fisherman Market on Magazine (right there by what used to be the A&P and now I can’t recall what chain went in there? BREAUX MART. Whew, was getting a bit concerned there about my brain working) and walking back home, turning it over and over again in her mind as she reflects how much the neighborhood has changed since she and Tony first moved in–and then when she gets home, she finds out a registered letter from a lawyer has arrived for her.

And nothing in her life is ever the same again.

Essentially, the letter lets her know that she and her sons have received an inheritance from an uncle of Tony’s she never knew even existed, and it includes Rare Things, an antiques business on St. Charles Avenue in the lower Garden District, and the story is then off and running.

I do really like Valerie. I hope readers do, too–because I’d like to keep writing about her.

When It Comes to Love

If you follow me on social media you will know already that I got my box o’books of A Streetcar Named Murder this week. The book looks stunningly beautiful, seriously; I couldn’t be more pleased with everything about the book’s packaging. The cover is gorgeous; and stacked up together they look especially gorgeous, as you can see in these delightful images from my kitchen counter.

So, Greg, why did you write a cozy mystery?

The same reason I write anything–primarily because I wanted to, and to see if I could, you know. actually write one. I’ve always liked them–I love traditional mysteries, always have–and have always admired how authors pull off the crime aspect of the story. Sure, there’s a bit of an imaginative stretch required to read a series–how realistic is it that an every day citizen will continually get involved in the solving of a crime, through no fault of their own? But…no one bats an eye about the realism of private eye series, and let’s face it: private eyes involved in murder investigations are just as rare. They spend most of their time on insurance claims or, you know, infidelity. Likewise, police investigations are often very straight-forward, without the usual twists and turns and surprises a writer needs to include to keep the reader turning the pages. The Scotty series–despite him actually becoming a licensed private eye, fits more into the cozy genre than it does the private eye; for one thing, it’s funny, and for another, Scotty is never hired, he always stumbles over a body somehow–to the point that it’s almost a running joke in the series.

I had always wanted to write a mainstream series centered around a straight woman, to be honest. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve done that queer mystery, both series and stand-alones, and I always like to keep my work fresh and interesting for me–I cannot imagine the hell writing something that bores me would be. Early on, before I sold my first book, a major figure in the crime fiction world told me that every so often she wished she could write something else, but “all anyone wants from me is *series character*,” but very quickly added, “But I’m still grateful people want that.” I always remembered that–obviously, I still do–and so while I would be eternally grateful were I ever to achieve that level of great success, I tried to always diversify my writing so I’d never get bored. The Chanse series was very different from the Scotty series; the stand-alone novels are rarely set in New Orleans; and so on.

I’ve tried spinning off my Paige character from the Chanse series into her own series; I always liked the character and thought she was a lot of fun and could carry her own stories quite nicely. I still think so, but audiences didn’t respond to her when I did finally give her those own stories–but there could have been any number of reasons why that didn’t work. The books were marketed and sold as cozies–which I think was a mistake, because I didn’t write them as cozies. Sure, Paige was a single woman, working for Crescent City magazine and a former crime reporter for the Times-Picayune, which gave her some credibility as an investigator, but Paige was sharp-tongued and foul-mouthed. Had I known that the books would be marketed to the cozy audience, I wouldn’t have used Paige–she was too centered in my head as who she was for me to change her significantly in her own series–and would have simply come up with someone new. The books were also electronic only, and oddly enough, my readers tend to prefer to read me in print hard copies.

I had actually tried writing a cozy series before–I had this great idea for one, about an English professor at a university in a fictional Louisiana town on the north shore (based on Hammond); I called it A Study in Starlet and wrote a strong introductory chapter, trying to channel my inner Elizabeth Peters/Vicky Bliss; sarcastic but not bitchy, but it never got anywhere. I actually became rather fixated on my fictional Hammond (which I called Rouen, pronounced “ruin”, and I did want to call one of the books The Road to Rouen), which I may still write about at some point–I never say never to anything–but I am digressing. But I always had it in the back of my head that I should try writing a mainstream cozy at some point in my career. And this came about in a very weird way–it’s a long story–but I wound up pitching the idea I had to Crooked Lane and they offered me a contract, which was quite lovely. (Incidentally, I signed the contract electronically on the Friday before Hurricane Ida; the last email I got from Crooked Lane that Friday afternoon after signing the contract said you’re going to be getting some emails from the team next week so keep an eye out for them and welcome aboard! So, of course the power went out on Sunday morning…)

I originally was going to write about a costume shop. There’s one across the street from Paul’s office that has a showroom and an enormous warehouse; they do a lot of costume work for film, theater, and television, which seemed like a great backdrop for a series with all kinds of potential stories for the future. Crooked Lane didn’t like that, and asked me to come up with something else, so I walked down Magazine Street writing down the kinds of businesses I saw. An antique shop was one of them, and that was what they liked. My working title for the book was Grave Expectations, because it involved an inheritance, but they didn’t like that title either, and I reached back into my archives for a title for the original spin-off idea I had for launching the Paige series–I wrote like 100 pages of the first Paige book in 2004 and it never got used–and grabbed the title from it: A Streetcar Named Murder, and hence, the title was born.

And…I had three months to finish the book, as they wanted it by January 15th. And of course there was the power situation in New Orleans, and…

Heavy sigh. I will leave the rest of the story for another day and time.

I slept really well last night; woke up again at five and since it wasn’t the alarm yanking me out of the clutches of Morpheus this morning, I feel rested. I was very tired last night when I got home; I hit the wall around three yesterday afternoon and when I got home it was the easy chair for me. We watched more Big Mouth, and then I retired to bed around ten. I am working at home tomorrow, so am hopeful this will be a good weekend for writing. I do want to watch both the LSU-Arkansas and Alabama-Mississippi games this weekend–as they could determine who wins the SEC West for the season (and I cannot believe that LSU is in the driver’s seat; I was hoping for an 8-4 season and feared that was unlikely), but I also need to get caught up on my writing and everything. Yikes.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!

Miranda

Monday morning and it’s very bright this morning. The time change–I’d forgotten that it means getting up in the light and coming home from work in the dark. It’s also interesting how much that changes in one day. It was already getting dark before four yesterday, and was completely night by five. I don’t like the change, to be honest; it doesn’t help me get up in the morning and it makes me feel like the day’s been wasted by the time I get home because there’s no more daylight. It’s another one of the reasons I don’t like winter, to be honest, but at least down here in New Orleans it never gets super cold or snows, which does make it somewhat more bearable. I still don’t like coming home after dark, though.

Yesterday wasn’t a great day for me. I was very tired all day, despite sleeping really well, and never really felt like I had any energy. I tried to write for a while yesterday morning but got nowhere with it, which is causing me more than a little bit of stress today, and so I ended up watching a lot of television. We finished off the first season of Interview with the Vampire (more on that later), the first season of The Serpent Queen, watched the most recent Andor, and got caught up on American Horror Story. We also watched a movie called Nobody with Bob Odenkirk, which was interesting and a bit of a different approach to the usual “Dad gets vengeance” movie before finally toddling off to bed. I didn’t sleep especially well last night either–I kept waking up and had trouble falling back asleep, but it was a better night’s sleep than Saturday’s, so I will take it.

I think I had trouble sleeping Saturday night because I was so emotionally caught up in the LSU-Alabama game; I was a bundle of nerves and raw energy and anxiety the entirety of the game (which I still can’t believe we won; who would have ever thought we’d beat Alabama this year; everyone is very high, obviously, on Coach Kelly now). And now, of course, that we’ve actually beaten Alabama (first time in Baton Rouge since 2010) people are talking about LSU running the table this year and making it to the play-offs as the first-ever two loss team to get that far. One thing for sure is that LSU could certainly mess things up for the play-offs this year; who do they take if LSU does the improbable and hands Georgia its first loss of the season and wins the SEC? One loss Tennessee, who lost to Georgia and didn’t win their division? Georgia, defending national champion with one loss but didn’t win the SEC and lost to LSU? A two loss SEC champion LSU that lost to Tennessee? How do you decide between the three of them? And if you take two, as has been done occasionally in recent years, which two? This year is very reminiscent of the chaos of 2007–when a two-loss LSU team won the BCS title over Ohio State; the only two loss team since 1960 to be crowned national champions, and the only one of the championship game era (Georgia also only had two losses that year, and were highly ranked; they had a good argument but losing their division and not playing for the conference championship ruled them out–although both Alabama and Georgia have both won the national title without being SEC champions). It will be interesting. I am that Doubting Thomas still; certain we can win out the regular season by staying focused and disciplined, but I don’t know if LSU could match up with Georgia. I still think it likely that both Tennessee and Georgia are the most likely two to go to the play-offs, if the SEC winds up with two; but I also didn’t think LSU would beat Alabama this year, either.

Which shows how much I actually know, you know?

I wasn’t able to finish this before leaving the house for work this morning–I told you, the time change, combined with some insomnia and low energy days, have really messed with my mind; I was so tired this morning I even considered hitting the snooze button a third time–so here I am on my lunch break, trying to get it finished and posted so I don’t miss a day. (Being a completer can sometimes be a real problem, you know?) After I get off work today I have to run uptown and get the mail as well as pick up some groceries from the store–nothing much, just a couple of things, but might as well stop and get it over with, you know? I also hope to get some serious work on the book done tonight as well. I hate having lost the weekend, but low energy is low energy.

I did manage to read some of Wanda Morris’ new book this weekend (at the rate I’m going I won’t finish it until probably my trip to Kentucky), but also managed to read a new-to-me Daphne du Maurier short story, included in the collection Not After Midnight and Other Stories (it also includes, as every du Maurier collection does, “Don’t Look Now” and “Not After Midnight”). I’d gotten the book from eBay after finding out that it included “A Border-line Case”–which I enjoyed–as well as two other stories I’d not read, “The Way of the Cross” and “The Breakthrough.” This weekend during Georgia’s mauling of Tennessee I read “The Way of the Cross”, and really liked it. It’s long, as all du Maurier stories often tend to be, and it’s actually quite a nasty little story that spins out over the course of a twenty-four period with a small group of British tourists visiting Jerusalem and the Holy Land, most of them from a small village. Their vicar was supposed to be their tour guide for this visit; but he was taken ill and another available minister-type, who doesn’t know any of them and isn’t really completely comfortable taking over, has been asked to fill in. It’s one of du Maurier’s nastier little stories, but the reason it is so nasty is because of its brutal, unflinching honest view of the characters, none of whom really come out of the story well. What is particularly interesting is how illustrative this story is of du Maurier’s own cynical view of humanity, but her gifts make the characters so absolutely real it feels like the reader is literally looking inside their souls. The characters all have definite opinions of who and what they are; as well as their own histories. What happens throughout the course of this story is everyone is gradually humbled and made to take off their own rose-colored glasses and inevitably are forced to look at themselves and their lives very clearly–usually by overhearing two of the other characters talking about them. It’s a terrific story, and one I will definitely be revisiting at some point. (I also like they are visiting the Holy Land but definitely are not very Christian…)

And now it’s time to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader–and oh yes, for the record: the reaction to Jayden Daniels’ overtime touchdown and later, the two point conversion did, indeed, register on the seismograph on campus. So, it, like the 1988 Auburn game, qualifies not just as an “earthquake” game but a double earthquake game.

GEAUX TIGERS!

Behind the Mask

Saturday here in the Lost Apartment and Paul is coming home tonight. Huzzah! Also a big day in college football down here in the South, with Georgia-Tennessee this afternoon and LSU-Alabama tonight (and the good news for Florida and Texas A&M fans is one of them has to win the game, so one team’s losing slide will temporarily stop). I have things to do this morning, lots of things to do and many miles to walk before I sleep. Last night I was very tired when I finished my day’s work; and so repaired to my easy chair with Scooter in my lap and watched Low Country, a documentary series about the Murtaugh family crimes in South Carolina. Ironically, I started watching it because I vaguely remembered hearing about the story–wife and son murdered, father shot and wounded, etc.–but I did not know the back story to all of it, which this series provides a small window into; it really only covers the recent crimes, not the criminality of the family going back almost a hundred years–but as I watched, I started seeing similarities to the book I am writing now (powerful corrupt wealthy family that basically rules a rural area as their own duchy), and ideas and things to make my own book better started riffing through my mind. One thing that urban people never get about rural areas is how much of that sort of thing goes on, especially in the South. I am really going to have to go back and dig deeper with what I’ve already done, but I am confident I can get that all worked out this weekend and then get to work on the second half of the book next week.

I slept really well again last night. I started falling asleep in my chair once I finished watching Low Country–again, worth the watch, and yes, very shocking that rural counties in the twenty-first century are still so feudal, so undemocratic, so twisted that any one person or family can be so above the law that they essentially control the justice system in the region, to the point that they get away with murder–and so went to bed early. Scooter has started sleeping with me at night, purring and cuddling, and that also helps me sleep (Paul and I have agreed that Scooter’s super power is the ability to put anyone to sleep by cuddling and purring) and I woke up feeling very settled and relaxed and rested this morning, which is terrific since I have so much to get done today (as always). But I am going to do some cleaning this morning while I do some computer clean-up and so forth (ugh, my files are such a scattered and disgusting mess, it’s not even funny; I would be better about this, of course, if Macs didn’t have that search function) and don’t plan to go anywhere today. I’ve ordered groceries to pick up for tomorrow–I also have to air up one of my tires–and other than that, I don’t plan to leave the house tomorrow either. I need to get caught up and reorganized and all of that–the usual stuff I complain about on here every day. The week went by relatively quickly, too. I read some more of the new Wanda Morris novel, which I took to bed with me but I didn’t stay awake long enough to read more than a few pages–which were fantastic. I can’t begin to talk about how delighted and exciting it is to see new perspectives, new voices, and new stories from marginalized authors. I’m just sorry it took so long to get us to this point, but this was exactly what our genre needed.

My book’s official release date is rapidly approaching, and I am trying not to get over-anxious and/or nervous about it. I need to start pushing the book more, but I am not really certain how or what to do, to be honest. I’m excited about it, of course. The reviews have thus far been pretty favorable–other than that snarky Kirkus one, but even it didn’t bother me at all, and besides, they’re known for being snarky in their reviews and always have been; I guess that’s growth of a sort. Bad reviews don’t get under my skin the way they used to when I first started doing this, you know. I tend to stay away from Goodreads and Amazon reviews–therein lies the path to madness–but my skin has thickened a lot over the years and I know what my reactions will be and why put myself into a position of any kind that might emotionally unbalance me? God knows I don’t need any help in that direction, for sure.

I also watched another documentary about gay porn, Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story which was very interesting. Holmes was Falcon Studios, one of the bigger and more successful brands in gay porn for a very long time, and it did give me some ideas for future projects. I will probably, most likely, keep writing Scotty books until I die (for those of you who were wondering; the next one will probably be another Carnival mystery, French Quarter Flambeaux), but I may not write anymore young adult novels. It’s not that I don’t want to or have a lot of ideas for them, but my time is limited and I want to explore other writing options and genres within crime fiction. I really am feeling the desire to work on my queer historical noirs–beginning with Chlorine–and then moving on to cover other parts of queer history from the second half of the twentieth century. Obscenity would be about gay porn; Indecency would be built around Joey Stefano’s arrest in Tampa for public indecency…and of course there would be more but that’s the original trilogy I’d want to write. They wouldn’t be connected stories–the only commonality would be the fight against oppression and repression–but I think they would be a lot of fun. I have titles for others–Beefcake, Peplum, Physique–but don’t have stories to go with those yet (although I do introduce a Bob Mizer-like character in Chlorine who could drive one of them; Peplum would be, in some ways, a sequel to Chlorine–but it wouldn’t have to be, since I’ve not really decided on the end of that book yet, but one of the possibilities does leave the path open to a sequel.

And on that note, I am going to get to work on the chores and get cleaned up and get this party started. Have a lovely Saturday, and GEAUX TIGERS!

When the Sun Goes Down

Work-at-home Friday has rolled around again, and today I get to do data entry and quality-assurance on forms until my eyes cross. I have a couple of errands to run this afternoon–but other than that, I am looking forward to a nice, peaceful day at home doing my work-at-home duties and my chores. Later on, I hope to get some good work done on the book before I repair to my easy chair with the latest Wanda Morris novel. It was a tough choice between that and the new Donna Andrews, but I am thinking since Dashing Through The Snowbirds is a Christmas tale, I may save that for Christmas reading this year–it makes the most sense, and since I generally don’t watch any Christmas movies or specials anymore (I do sometimes watch A Charlie Brown Christmas–it’s my favorite), maybe I could read Christmas-themed books and stories this year in December; maybe call it “The Twelve Reads of Christmas” or something like that. Hmmm, it’s a thought.

It really is amazing what a good night’s sleep will do for you after a few days of insomnia and exhaustion/fatigue.

Last night I didn’t sleep as deeply or as well as I did on Wednesday night. I kept waking up, partly due to Scooter’s restlessness and sometime need to let me know his outrage about something, but was always able to fall back asleep. I had to have bloodwork done this morning; I got an email from the lab telling me I had lab orders waiting for me, so I scheduled it. I got there this morning and checked in–mind you, I needed to fast, so I didn’t eat last night or have anything to drink or eat this morning before leaving the house–only to find out they didn’t, in fact, have lab orders for me. Hilariously, I am terrible about remembering to do the labs after my doctor appointments, so this last time in July I made the appointment for Labs the same week as my doctor appointment and had them done. Once they told me I didn’t have orders in, I looked in the app and saw that I had, indeed, had them done back in August. So, no need to fast overnight, no need to not have coffee before leaving, no need to leave, in fact. Heavy sigh. But I did start reading Wanda Morris’ new book while waiting to be told I didn’t really need to be there, and it’s quite marvelous already. I knew it would be–her debut novel was superb–and it’s such a delight, as always, to see exciting new voices grow and become even stronger as their career progresses.

Last evening as I relaxed before heading to bed I watched another documentary about the history of gay pornography–I’ll probably watch another one later today–which of course put me in mind of writing about that history. I really do need to focus on getting this Scotty book and the next thing I have to write finished so I can get back to Chlorine; my goal for the rest of this year and 2023 is to get these two books finished, finish two other in-progress projects, and wrap up some other things that are unfinished but need to be finished so I can cross them off the list. I may do another short story collection; I’m not sure but I think I have enough sold and/or published for another collection to actually be possible. This one, when it materialized, will be called This Town and Other Stories, because the strongest story I’ve done since the last collection was “This Town”, which was in Holly West’s anthology Murder-a-Go-Go’s. At least in my opinion, although The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy and Other Stories would probably sell better…

And of course, tomorrow is a big day for the Southeastern Conference, with division championships on the line. LSU can actually get a leg up in the West by accomplishing the gargantuan task of beating Alabama in Baton Rouge for the first time since 2010–but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Sure, it’s possible–anything is possible in college football on any given Saturday; I am sure no one would have thought Kansas State would shellack Oklahoma State the way they did last weekend–but despite all the hype chatter, I’m not getting my hopes up terribly high. Yes, I want the Tigers to win–but I don’t have any expectations, just as I really haven’t all season. I’m just delighted the program seems to be on the rise again after the last two horrible years. I certainly would have never thought LSU would be coming into the game with Alabama tied with them and Mississippi for first place in the division. And earlier in the day Georgia and Tennessee will play for the leg up in the East–which again, no one would have seen coming before the season started; no one really give Tennessee much thought as the program has been moribund since at least 2007, the last time they won their division (which also happened to be the year a two-loss LSU team won the national championship–see how you can see omens and portents in everything?). I am not a Tennessee fan by any means–I rooted for them during the Peyton Manning years because I thought he was a phenomenal athlete plus I despise Florida with every fiber of my being, but that was about it. I only root for them in non-conference games and bowls, but I am happy for their fans–just as I was happy for Georgia fans last year as they finally beat Alabama and won the national title; I always think back to what a glorious ride 2019 was for LSU fans, so it’s always nice to see a long-starved fan base finally get something they can be excited about. Pundits and fans are already comparing 2019 LSU and 2022 Tennessee…but it’s really not even the same. Sure, no one thought LSU would be as great as they were in 2019, but they were also coming off a 10-3 season. Tennessee was 7-6 last year, so it’s an even bigger turnaround for them on that level. I plan to get my writing and my errands and chores finished tomorrow morning well before the 2:30 Georgia-Tennessee kick-off, so I can spend the rest of the day nervously cleaning with the games on in the background. Paul also comes home tomorrow (yay!) so I am going to need groceries, too.

And my kitchen, as always, is a disaster area on a Friday morning, so it’s perhaps time for me to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you later or tomorrow.