Sara Smile

Well, I slept much later than I usually do; I did wake up at seven but through nah, too early and went back to sleep, not awakening again until nine-thirty-ish. And yes, that is late for me, but I also stayed up later than I usually do because Paul and I got sucked into a marathon binge of season three of Santa Clarita Diet, which dropped this week. We have three episodes left to go–which will probably be watched this evening–and then we have to decide which of the shows we’d already started we want to finish–either Umbrella Academy or You. There are also some other shows we need to finish, others that look like possibilities, and Netflix also added some great classic films I’ve been wanting to watch again; namely Bonnie and Clyde, All the President’s Men, Deliverance, the reboot of Friday the 13th, and the Will Smith version of I Am Legend. I also intend to start reading Steph Cha’s Follow Her Home, kicking the Diversity Project back into gear, and I also want to finish reading Murder-a-Go-Go’s for the Short Story Project.

I also need to start doing some sort of promotion for Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, but I’m not exactly sure what and how and…you get the picture; again, I don’t really know how I have a career.

I was thinking about the Diversity Project the other day, and I want to make it abundantly clear that I don’t think it’s right that I have to turn reading diverse authors into a “project” to make diversifying my reading happen. Even saying The Diversity Project makes it sound effortful, as though if I didn’t make a point of it I wouldn’t do it. And that’s clearly wrong on every level. And I’ve been failing miserably at it thus far this year, no matter how many excuses I want to make for it. This of course has me examining my own prejudices. I’ve bought the books, of course, which is an important first step and every sale helps, but I also need to not only read the books but talk about them. Here it is April and the only one I’ve talked about is Walter Mosley; what kind of an ally am I to minority writers, of which I am one?

Apparently, not a very good one.

I had already softened the project’s goal from focusing on only reading minority writers to interspersing them with others; so if I read a book by a non-minority writer the next one I have to read must be by a minority writer. That hasn’t worked overly well, either; part of it has been due to my own, I don’t know, weird ambivalence to this year–something that’s been going on since around the Great Data Disaster of 2018. I’ve also realized, just this past week, that the Great Data Disaster wasn’t really where it all started. My life has been in an almost constant state of upheaval of some sort or another since late October, just before Halloween. My day job moved from the office where we’d been located since I was hired back in 2005 (the office actually opened in 2000) into a new location, which required all sorts of adaptation. For almost the entire first month of the existence in the new office we didn’t do a lot of testing, which is what my job is, which meant I was working a weird (to me) early morning to late afternoon shift–say, 8-430ish. This freed my evenings and I was going to town on writing and revising Scotty in those free evenings, because the Festivals were also kicking into high gear and Paul was coming home late. Then came December with a readjustment to working a new schedule all over again, followed by the Great Data Disaster, the Christmas holidays, and then Carnival. During that time period I was also working on finishing up my job as a book award judge and diving into a new task for this year, also involving award judging but not actually having to read anything (I really can’t say more than that about it; but it’s a big endeavor and I will leave it at that)I don’t think I ever really got a handle on anything, which is why I felt like my life was happening and I was not actively participating in it.

And softening the goal also makes me question myself and my internal, subconscious prejudices and biases. Yes, I had to read three books to moderate my panel at the Tennessee Williams Festival, which wasn’t easy and really involved a lot of cramming at the end. Why do I automatically reach for a book by a straight white writer when it’s time to chose another book to read? Why will I justify taking that book out of the stack rather than reaching for a book by a minority writer? It is these unconscious biases and prejudices that need to be ripped out by the root and plowed under with salt so they won’t take root again; and  not just in reading, but in life. 

I think I do a better job with my life than I do with my reading, quite frankly.

I also had thought, when I started on this, that I would expand the project outside the bounds of crime fiction and include other genres as well. I’ve always believed that reading more widely outside of one’s genre will make one a better author by exposing you to different styles of writing, different stories and different characters. Horror is always my immediate go-to when it comes to reading outside of mystery, but I also need to read more fantasy, science fiction, romance, and literary fiction. I also don’t want to stop reading women crime writers, either.

The exposure to other voices, other thoughts, other mindsets, will not only make me a better writer but a better person. What better key to understanding experiences outside my own is there than actually reading books outside my own experience, and to see the common humanity?

My first thought on rising so late this morning was well, you’ve shot your day to hell. But that isn’t true. I can still get things done today as long as I don’t allow myself to bog down on generalities or give up on the day. It would be ridiculously easy, you know, to simply write the entire day off and do nothing, but I really don’t want to waste the day. I’d like to get another chapter of the WIP finished, for one thing, and I’d like to work on this proposal I’m putting together. The kitchen needs work and there’s always filing that needs to be done, and there’s a lot of mess around. I also need to make a quick run to the grocery store as well.

So, on that note, I am off to the spice mines. Happy Saturday, Constant Reader.

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Fly Robin Fly

I was awakened about seven o’clock by the loudest crash of thunder I’ve heard since–well, since the last major thunderstorm rolled through Orleans Parish. There was a lot of thunder and rain for a while there–we’re supposed to  have severe weather all day, which is not pleasant for me, since I have to go to work and stop at Rouse’s on the way home…but it’s also a half-day for me, so there is that. This week seemed to simply fly past–but it also was only a four day week, and since I had Monday off it kind of felt like I was off by a day.

I kept thinking yesterday was Tuesday, for example.

But today is Thursday and I have things to get done before the end of the week, and as I said, I am feeling a little bit more myself these days. I started working on a proposal yesterday for a book idea I have; I’m probably going to work on another two of them this weekend, just for shits and giggles, while I work on the WIP. I have a lot of random thoughts about all three projects, all of which feel kind of amorphous, and that’s why I want to write the proposals–because it will force me to achieve some clarity about these manuscript ideas.

I’ve also discovered that part of the problem with my desktop computer has to do with a lack of RAM; I think the operating system update just kicked the problem into high gear. I did some on-line research yesterday about the problems I’ve been having, and have found some solutions that I am implementing. They seem to be working–the computer is operating a lot faster than it did, but it’s also probably going to take me most of the weekend to get it all done. But that’s okay; it’s certainly more than worth it to have an operational, functional computer again that isn’t driving me insane with the spinning wheel of death.

We finished watching Shrill finally last night, which was really excellent. It made me think–which is something I always enjoy when I watch or read something–as well as re-examine my own thoughts and attitudes. I’m not always the best person–hell, that’s most of the time, if I am going to be warts-and-all honest–and am always constantly amazed at how I sometimes take terrible things for granted as just the way things are and don’t question those terrible things; where did they come from, where did I learn it, and how quickly can I unlearn it. Shrill is a terrific show, and I encourage people to watch and learn from it.

Now Apocalypse is also a strange show, but oddly absorbing. There’s a lot of simulated sex and real nudity on the show–Paul said it was basically soft-core porn, which is true–and we’ll probably keep watching. I also want to get back to You.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines on this rainy, horrific weather day. Happy Thursday, Constant Reader!

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Love Hangover

Tuesday morning and I am up before dark. Today I return to the day job after the Weekend o’Festivals and TERMITE ARMAGEDDON. I didn’t get nearly as much done yesterday as I would have liked; but I retrieved Scooter from the spa, made groceries, picked up prescriptions and the mail. I continued putting the house back together–didn’t get nearly as much done as I would have liked, but there is now stuff for me to do this weekend as far as that is concerned.

Digging back into the WIP is my top priority for this month (well, that and getting my taxes filed by the 15th, if possible), and I see no reason why I shouldn’t have a strong first draft finished by the end of the month. I also need to start my return to the gym this month. At my check-up on Friday I’d lost another three-to-four pounds to weigh 208; which is another milestone for me. I’ve broken the 210 barrier–although the last time I weighed myself it was 211, and three pounds is probably a fairly accurate weight fluctuation–but I like the idea that 208 is now the low end of the fluctuation. The lower the low end goes, the better I like it–the more progress it shows. But going back to the gym is a vital part of this struggle–because, you see, the Tennessee Williams Suite we stayed in at the Monteleone has a massive, gorgeous, wonderful bathroom….that is almist entirely mirrored. So, every time I showered or shaved or anything, I could see my entire body reflected back at me in the mirrors, from every side and every angle.

And no, I do not see the appeal of a room full of mirrors.

In other exciting news, the three books I’d thought I’d lost turned up! Yes, I must have been really tired, because they were in the front pocket of my backpack, which is absolutely delightful news. I am also going to try to finish my library book this week–it’s due on Friday–and it’s part of the Diversity Project. Now that my TWFest homework is over, I can get back to the Diversity Project and the Short Story Project. Which is good, because I have my own short story collection dropping officially on April 10th this month. I also have to figure out Paul’s birthday present–his birthday is at the tail end of the month–and hopefully, now that the festivals are over, our lives can get back to what passes for a semblance of normal around here.

And Scooter–who is always a sweet cat–was so loving and affectionate after I got him home yesterday. It took him a few hours to forgive me for taking him to the spa, but once he was over it, he just kept crawling into my lap (no matter where I was sitting), curling up and going to sleep while purring his head off.  And yes, it is completely adorable.

So glad we got lucky and found Scooter eight (!) years ago.

And now, I have to get ready for work. It’s only been four days, but it feels like I haven’t been there in forever. There’s also basic stuff I have to get done as well–paying bills, the checkbook, etc.

Heavy heaving sigh.

Guess it’s time to dive back into the spice mines.

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Broken Hearted Me

So, in my desire to have a productive morning yesterday and rush home to start setting things to rights after Termite Armageddon, I thought I had a reading at one and a panel at two thirty; at nine am I thought  I can rush home, get started and then Lyft back to the Monteleone.

Then, while taking a break at eleven and thinking I’ll jump in the shower in a minute I checked the program to see who I was reading with and…my reading was at 11:30.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I think this might be the second or third time in twenty years of doing this that I’ve missed something I was supposed to do, so there’s that. Three times in twenty years isn’t bad, yet at the same time…oy oy oy.

Well, the good news was–lemons into lemonade– I had time to go make groceries and still had plenty of time to get cleaned up and Lyft down there for two thirty.

Heavy heaving sigh.

Hopefully, the next time the Weekend o’Festivals rolls around, we won’t be having to deal with a TERMITE ARGAMEDDON, so it won’t be as insane of a weekend. But the Lost Apartment feels very strange to be Scooter-and-Paul-free. When I get back I am going to continue cleaning and organizing, knowing that I can’t possibly get everything done that I want to get done. I think I need to take another stay-cation and clean the fuck out of this apartment, including cleaning out the cabinets (I found a lot of expired food stuffs yesterday morning that went into the trash) and I also need to check myself on the food hoarding thing. I mean, some of this stuff expired in 2015.

2015. Yeesh.

But, TERMITE ARMAGEDDON aside, it was a lovely weekend, as the Weekend o’Festivals tends to be. As always, I come away from it–despite everything–energized and excited to get back to writing again. I told a friend yesterday afternoon that I feel connected to myself again, in a way I hadn’t since the Great Data Disaster of 2018; I don’t know if it was being in the Quarter, or just being around writers and readers and people who love both, but it’s true. It kind of felt like a fog lifted, or I finally woke all the way up, if that makes sense? I have plenty to do this morning–I have to run to the office to get the stuff from our refrigerator that I stored there; I have to get Scooter; I need to get my brake tag and pick up some prescriptions and do another, minor grocery run and get the mail. I have some writing to do today for a website freelance project that is due today, and I would also like to work on the house some more and perhaps–perhaps–do some work on the WIP. I also bought some lovely books yesterday, but when I got home yesterday (I took the streetcar) I discovered my backpack had come open, and my copies of The Woman Who Fed the Dogs (Kirstien Hemmerechts), All Grown Up (Jami Attenburg) and King Zeno (Nathaniel Rich) had vanished at some point between the hotel and the Lost Apartment. Disappointing, but I can repurchase copies and hey, they get another royalty. But my copies of Frank Perez’ Southern Decadence in New Orleans, Jason Berry’s City of a Million Dreams: A History of New Orleans at Age 300, Constance Adler’s My Bayou: New Orleans Through The Eyes of a Lover, David Holly’s The Moon’s Deep Circle, Christopher Castellani’s Leading Men, and Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy, all made it home safely, and I clearly have some fabulous reading in my future. I am very excited about this.

And I am very excited about getting back to both the Diversity Project and the Short Story Project.

I also feel well rested this morning, and like I can conquer the world. It’s been awhile, but it’s lovely to have a Gregalicious feeling again.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Love Machine

Ah, Monday of the week that ends with the tenting and the Weekend o’Festivals. Just thinking about getting through this week and this weekend makes me tired. Very tired.

We started moving perishables and other things that could be poisoned by the termite gas over to the carriage house yesterday; even as we did so, I kept remembering and finding more things that need to go over there. I’ve never experienced termite genocide before, that oh-so-uniquely New Orleans experience that so many others have before multiple times. It’s got me thinking about the possibility of murder by termite tent, of course–although I am pretty certain I’ve read a book where that happened, I think it was by Elaine Viets.

Murder-a-Go-Go’s officially releases today as well, so those who preordered it should be getting it delivered to your electronic reading devices and those who ordered hard-copies should be getting them soon. Huzzah! I love book birthdays; my own for Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories is soon to come; April 10th, officially. Order, order, order! And don’t forget, the first ever Chanse MacLeod short story is in this book!

I reread my story for Murder-a-Go-Go’s again yesterday, primarily because another idea came to me yesterday, which I shared on social media: Someone really needs to write a spring break noir called WHERE THE BOYS DIE and I would read the hell out of that. I do think that’s a terrific idea; is there any better setting for a noir than a small beach town taken over by tens of thousands of partying college students? (I also had another idea for a book, based on an actual brutal murder that took place over spring break several decades ago; hat tip to Scott Heim for reminding me of that murder) I had always wanted to do one over the course of Southern Decadence weekend as well; I still might do that one. Anyway, I’m digressing. So, on my post about Where the Boys Die some suggested I write it, others that it sounded like an anthology, and then Jessica Laine said, you already wrote this story for MURDER-A-GO-GO’S, and I loved your story. 

The thing about being a writer is that all-too-often you don’t remember things about your work once it’s finished. “This Town,” my story for Murder-a-Go-Go’s, is one of my favorite stories that I’ve ever written, to be honest; I think it’s also one of my best. But, when I read Kristopher Zgorski’s lovely review and he singled out my story as one of many for individual praise, and then seeing Jessica’s lovely comment, I decided I should probably reread the story since my recollection of what I actually wrote was so vague…and there it was. Constant Reader, it’s good. I then pulled up my story “Neighborhood Alert,” which is going to be published in Mystery Tribune, and it, too, is good. This was revelatory for me; as I may have mentioned, another story of mine was recently rejected by Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and that had, of course, put me into a bit of a tailspin as far as my writing of short stories was concerned…astonishing at how easy it is to have one’s confidence in one’s own work shattered, isn’t it?

And that also got me to thinking about the second Chanse short story, “Once a Tiger,” that has tragically been stalled for so long. Short stories are actually more intimate than novels; in that you have much less space to develop a story and less room for characters so it has to be scaled back some. “Once a Tiger” is struggling because, quite simply, there are too many characters in it; how does one investigate a death at a fraternity house on a college campus when there would have to be well over a hundred brothers and pledges? That was where I struggled with the story; even the police would have trouble sorting all of this out, so imagine the trouble Chanse would have with it, working alone as he does. I still want to write a murder mystery set at Chanse’s LSU fraternity, where Chanse has to come back and solve the crime, but I just don’t–at the moment–see how that can be done as a short story. Maybe now that I’ve said that it will come to me–just like the other day, how to weave the two plots for the next Scotty book came to me from out of nowhere.

I love when that happens.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Mercenary

As I have said before, reading Murder-a-Go-Go’s indirectly led me to Spotify, which led me to rediscovering the magic of the Go-Go’s again after many years, and then led me on to rediscovering other 80’s music I loved, like the Cars and, just Friday, Josie Cotton. Josie Cotton is probably best known for her her cover of the Go-Go’s “Johnny Are You Queer?” (which could never be released or recorded today, but at the time was kind of in-your-face and cool) as well as fronting the band playing the prom at the end of the terrific teen movie Valley Girl (which also should have been a much bigger hit than it was; but calling it Valley Girl was an attempt to cash-in on Moon Zappa’s novelty hit “Valley Girl”, but the movie was actually so much better than that; it was one of my favorite teen movies of the 1980’s and also starred a very young and beautiful Nicolas Cage in what may have been his first starring role). I was listening to two of her albums Friday night and yesterday (Convertible Music and From the Hip) and marveling that she wasn’t a bigger star than she was; she certainly had fun, upbeat music with lyrics that bit down hard, and she also had a terrific sense of personal style that should have caught on in the age of Cyndi Lauper and Madonna.

Go figure.

Which leads me to the next story in Murder-a-Go-Go’s, Bryon Quertermous’ “Mercenary.”

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“They asked for my dental records,” Lodi Meyers said, “so they can identify my body if he kills me.”

Andre Taylor sat across from her at a diner on the outskirts of downtown Detroit. “You really want to talk about this now? With me?”

“I don’t have any other options,” she said, tears giving way to an angry flush across her cheeks. “They’re putting together this moronic safety plan for me while insisting there’s not enough evidence to keep him in prison.”

Andre flexed the fingers of his beefy, gnarled hands and picked up his coffee cup without taking a drink. The bleached white of the cup contrasted with the dark black skin of his hands, which were shaking enough to splash a bit of the freshly poured coffee onto the table.

“I’m really not the person you should be talking to about this.”

Lodi reached her hand across the table and clutched Andre’s wrist. “That’s exactly why we’re talking.”

Andre put his coffee cup down and stood up. “This was a mistake.”

Lodi grabbed his wrist again, this time more aggressively. “There’s a reason you showed up even though this is a terrible idea. You want to make sure I haven’t told any- one what you did.”

Bryon Quertermous has published two novels–Murder Boy and Riot Load–which are kind of hard to classify. They’re noir and hard-boiled, but there’s a twisted, slightly demented sense of humor about them that reminds me of Victor Gischler’s work (which you should also read).

“Mercenary” is a terrific tale, built around two people–a woman and a man–who are tied together by the weirdest connection (saying anything more would be spoilerish); she’s a former pain clinic manager and he’s a bail bondsman. Her husband is about to be released on bail–and plans to kill her. The rest of the tale, as she tries to convince the bail bondsman to help save her life, plays out as we find out more about their connection, why the husband is in jail, and see just how far Lodi is willing to go to protect herself and her daughter–who is in a coma. There’s a lot here, and Quertermous tells his story sparingly and carefully, with fewer words than most would have used, and yet I can’t help but feel there’s even more to be mined here; this easily could have been a novel. Instead, it’s an enormously satisfying dark tale with a sardonic sense of humor that was quite fun to read.

Breakdown Dead Ahead

Friday, and we made it through another week, Constant Reader–and a full week of work at that, on top of the Daylight Saving Change madness. This weekend is St. Patrick’s Day, which means the obligatory parade (and traffic congestion, complete with closed roads) in Uptown, which also means I need to get everything requiring driving finished and out of the way today. Fortunately, today is a half-day and I get off work at one, so I can cruise uptown and do all those errands and hopefully be safely inside my apartment by two-thirty.

My new MacBook Air arrived yesterday, and I’ve already gotten it all set up and taken care of so that it is usable, and I absolutely love it. I still have an issue with connecting it to the cloud, so this afternoon when I get home I’ll go on-line and talk to Apple Support and get that taken care of, after which it will be absolutely good to go. It’s very fast, has a lot more storage than my previous Air, and it’s rose gold–I didn’t specify a color so it defaulted to that, and it’s actually rather pretty.

I also intend to spend the rest of the day–after getting home–laundering the bed linens and devoting the day to finishing reading Alafair Burke’s superb The Better Sister, which hopefully will mean a review over the weekend. I’m also behind on reviewing the stories in Murder-a-Go-Go’s, so I need to get caught up on that as well.

As for my weekend plans, I need to get the Lost Apartment back into some sort of order. The house is being termite-tented later this month (scheduled while we’re staying at the Monteleone for the Festivals, and Scooter will be off to the Cat Practice for boarding and grooming and so forth), and I also intend to spend the weekend rereading the first ten chapters of the WIP and planning out the rest of the book. If the weather is nice–which it probably will be; the last few days have been spectacular–I may take a walk with my camera and take pictures of the Bead Trees of St. Charles. I think we’ll be getting a pizza from That’s Amore for dinner on Sunday as a treat for ourselves, and I do want to get a lot of cleaning and organizing and so forth taken care of this weekend.

And yes, I may start doing some research for the next Scotty book. I have an amorphous idea–I want to have the boys hired to investigate two different cases that end up being linked (the old Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew trick), but the trick is how to link the cases. I have a vague idea of how to do it, but am still not completely certain it’ll work, but the title will most likely be Hollywood South Hustle. I really like the idea of a local case juxtaposed against a case involving a film production scandal…

And on that note, ’tis back to the mines of spice before I head to the office. Happy Friday, Constant Reader!

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