The Rose

Good morning, first Saturday of the new year, how you doing?

It was cold yesterday in New Orleans; in the forties when I woke up, and I felt ill pretty much most of the morning. I ate breakfast and felt somewhat better, but the rest of the day was pretty much the same–one minute I’d feel fine, then the next I’d feel bad again. This was unfortunate because our office holiday party (delayed) was also last evening; I wasn’t able to have anything to drink because I didn’t trust my stomach and I wound up leaving early to come home. I was also very tired all day; my sleep was restless and wretched, which undoubtedly had a large part in the not feeling well. Last night I managed to sleep for almost eleven hours…so yes, I must have been terribly tired, and this morning, while it is cold again in the Lost Apartment, I feel rested and much better than I did yesterday.

My blood sugar–which I was concerned about yesterday as well–seems to be okay this morning as well. I guess the blood sugar thing–which was a concern yesterday–wasn’t really anything to be concerned about. It’s so lovely getting old; such a myriad of things to run through your head when you don’t feel well, you know?

As such, when I got home from the holiday party I gratefully sank down into my easy chair and finished watching Great Greek Myths on Prime; the Oedipus myth in particular is gruesome and horrible and grim. Poor dude; and none of it was his fault. The episode filled in the back story of his parents, King Laius and Queen Jocasta, and all the horror that happens to Oedipus is because of something his father did before he was even born. Truly horrible, right? Those Greek gods…now I want to find my copy of Edith Hamilton and reread it; it’s been years. (Shameless Greek mythology plug: read Madeline Miller’s Circe! It was one of the best–if not the best–book I read last year. And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.)

Today I am mostly going to hang around the house and clean/write/edit. I’m going to go to get groceries tomorrow; Paul has errands and appointments today, so I am going to take advantage of the quiet and still around the house to get things done as well as be productive with my own stuff. I also want to finish my reread of The Shining, which I am enjoying and appreciating more than I did before. I am also figuring out why I didn’t care for it as much as I did before–which I always assumed was based on the holes in the plot (why would anyone build a luxury hotel in the Rocky Mountains that can’t be used for winter sports and is closed for the winter season? AND WHAT PARENTS WOULD TAKE THEIR SMALL CHILD SOMEWHERE SO REMOTE AND CUT OFF FROM MEDICAL HELP?) but I am also starting to understand that it triggered some things in my subconscious that made me predisposed to not enjoy it; I am not a big fan of small children in peril, particularly if the peril is from one of his/her parents. But it’s terrifically written and structured; the shifting POV from all three members of the Torrance family is particularly ingenious as it helps create a strong sense of claustrophobia within the enormous hotel. The book also serves as a marvelous kind of time capsule; The Shining probably couldn’t be published today because readers would have little-to-no sympathy for Wendy. But in the 1970’s, while certainly becoming more common-place, divorce was still enough of a taboo that women wanted to avoid it and make their marriages work no matter what the cost–even after her husband breaks her son’s arm. (The story would end there today; corporal punishment and spankings and so forth were still considered fairly normal in the 1970’s….but today Jack would have been talking to the police after Danny’s arm was set.)

But one thing that is particularly stellar about the book is that sense of impending doom. The reader knows, obviously, that the Overlook is a bad place and going there for the winter is an enormous mistake for the Torrances; but King also does a really good job of showing their desperation and that this winter job is the last chance for them to make it as a family. But you can’t help but hope they’ll somehow survive the winter, and one thing I think the film missed out on completely was how the book showed Jack. Yes, he is a terribly flawed human being with a horrible temper and an alcoholic, and a lesser writer would have simply allowed Jack to become the villain of the story, which he kind of is…but King creates him as a complex character and shows all sides of him; and he clearly loves his wife and son even if he is a fuck-up. The real villain in King’s novel is the hotel itself, a bad place, and how it exploits Jack’s weaknesses. The way King shows his psychological collapse, and how the hotel’s evil influence slowly starts to take control of him, is masterful…particularly given how early in his career he wrote this book.

And so, once I post this, I am going to get cleaned up and start laundering the bed linens. I want to also clean out some of the books–another purge–and perhaps some light cleaning while I read and edit and get the things done today that I need to get done today. I feel very rested (thank you, long night’s sleep) and use this day to get organized once and for all. I started getting things organized that I am working on yesterday morning, despite feeling like shit, and I feel much better about things, quite frankly. But organized is always better than disorganized, and it’s unfortunate and sad how often I allow laziness to let me slip into disorganization and being scattered.

It’s just wrong.

And something I should work on.

But then again, what isn’t?

And now into the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Saturday, all, and Happy Epiphany Eve!

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O Holy Night

The last day of 2018. I can hear the garbage trucks outside getting the trash, which means I’ve actually woken up at a relatively decent hour. Today is our annual lunch at Commander’s Palace with Jean and Gillian, which means very inexpensive martinis and all that entails. I also registered for Dallas Bouchercon yesterday and booked my hotel room. So much getting things done! I also worked on my technology issues yesterday–yes, they continue, Mojave is the stupidest thing Apple has ever done as an operating system–and have also been trying to update my phone, which doesn’t seem to be working. I really don’t want to have to get a new phone, but it seems as though this is what Apple is pushing me to do, which is infuriating.

But the desktop seems to be working the way it’s supposed to. Hmmm.

I read a lot of books last year, but I also judged for an award so I really can’t talk much  about any books that were actually released in 2018; which is unfortunate. I really enjoyed The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young (for a book not published in 2018). I also read a lot of short stories. The Short Story Project was originally inspired, and intended, for me to read a lot of short stories and work as kind of a master class for me as far as writing short stories are concerned. As a project, I originally began it in 2017, but didn’t get very far with it. As a result, I decided to give it another try in 2018 and was much more successful with the project. Not only was I reading short stories, I wrote a lot of them. Some of those stories were actually sold; “This Town” to Murder-a-Go-Go’s, “The Silky Veils of Ardor” to The Beating of Black Wings, “Neighborhood Alert” to Mystery Tribune, “Cold Beer No Flies” to Florida Happens, and “A Whisper from the Graveyard” to another anthology whose name is escaping me at the moment. I also pulled together a collection of previously published and new stories, which will be released in April of 2019 but will be available for Saints and Sinners/Tennessee Williams Festival, Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories. I also wrote another Scotty (I really need to finish revising it), which will also be out in the new year I think but I don’t have a release date yet. That was pretty productive, and I also managed eight chapters of a young adult novel, the current WIP.

Not bad, coming from someone who wrote practically nothing in 2017. So, on that score, I am taking 2018 as a writing win.

I also edited the Bouchercon anthology for the second time, Florida Happens, and read a shit ton of short stories for that as well. I was very pleased with how that book turned out, in all honesty, and it looks absolutely gorgeous.

I also published my first ever Kindle Single, “Quiet Desperation,” and also finally got the ebook for Bourbon Street Blues up for Kindle. At some point I do hope to have a print edition for sale as well, but I am happy to have the ebook available. I also have to finish proofing Jackson Square Jazz so I can get that ebook up as well.

So, writing and publishing wise, 2018 was a good comeback of sorts; I managed to get back into the swing of writing again, and started producing publishable work, which was absolutely lovely. I started to say I got my confidence back, but that wouldn’t be true; I’ve never had much self-confidence when it comes to  my writing. I also started writing in journals again in 2017, which was enormously helpful in 2018. (I actually went through my most recent one last night–the one I am currently using–and found a lot of stuff that I thought I’d lost in the Great Data Disaster of 2018; things I shall simply need to retype and of course will back-up immediately.

Yesterday, while electronic equipment repaired itself and made itself usable again–we’ll see how usable it is as the days go by–I watched two movies–The Omega Man and Cabaret on Prime, as well as the documentary Gods of Football (I highly recommend this one for eye candy potential; it’s about the shooting of a calendar in Australia to raise money for breast cancer charities, starring professional rugby players in the nude, and yes, the eye candy is delectable). I watched a lot of good movies and television shows over the course of the year–The Haunting of Hill House and Schitt’s Creek probably the best television shows–so it was a very good year for that. (I have some thoughts on both The Omega Man and Cabaret, but will save those for another post at another time.)

I also got my first New Orleans Public Library card this past year, and began reading New Orleans histories, which were endlessly fascinating, which led me into another project, Monsters of New Orleans, which is another short story collection about what the title says, crime stories based on real cases in New Orleans but fictionalized. And there are an incredible amount of them. I read the introduction to Robert Tallant’s Ready to Hang: Seven Famous Murder Cases in New Orleans, and while I am aware that Tallant’s scholarship is questionable (I figured that out reading Voodoo in New Orleans), his books are always gossipy, which makes them perfect for New Orleans reading. What is real, what is true, and what is not is always something one has to wonder when reading anything about New Orleans history; some of it is legend, which is to be expected, and unprovable; some of it is very real and can be verified. Some of the stories in this collection, which I am going to work on, off and on, around other projects, will inevitably be complete fictions; but others will be based on true stories and/or legends of the city, like the Sultan’s Palace and Madame LaLaurie and Marie Laveau. It’s an exciting project, and the more I read of New Orleans history the more inspiration I get, not only for this project but for other Scotty books as well…which is a good thing, I was leaning towards ending the series with Royal Street Reveillon, but now that I’m finding stories that will work and keep the series fresh…there just may be a few more Scotty novels left in me yet.

My goal of losing weight and getting into better physical condition lasted for only a few months, and didn’t survive Carnival season–it was too hard to get to the gym during the parades, and between all the walking, passing out condoms, and standing at the corner, I was simply too exhausted to make it to the gym, and thus never made it back to the gym. I began 2018 weighing 228 pounds, the heaviest I’ve ever been, and have managed, through diet and portion control, to slim down to a consistent plateau of 213. This is actually pretty decent progress; not what I would have wanted to report at the end of 2018, but I am going to take it and put it into the win column, and we’ll see how 2019 turns out.

The day job also had some enormous changes; we moved out of the Frenchmen Street office, after being there since 2000 (I started working there in 2005) and into a new building on Elysian Fields. This also caused some upheaval and change in my life–I’m not fond of change–and it wasn’t perhaps the smoothest transition. But I’m getting used to it, and making the necessary adjustments in my life.

Now we are on the cusp to a new year. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about new goals for the new year. It is, of course, silly; it’s just another day and in the overall scheme of things, a new year really doesn’t mean anything is actually new; but we use this as a measure of marking time, and new beginnings. I’ve always thought that was rather silly; any day is a new day and a new beginning; why be controlled by the tyranny of the calendar and the societally created fiction of the new year?

But it is also convenient. If you set new goals every new year, you then have a way of measuring success and failure as it pertains to those goals. I am not as black-and-white as I used to be with goals–which is why I use goals instead of resolutions, as there is also a societal expectation that resolutions are made in order to not succeed–and a goal is merely that, a goal, and not something that is fixed in stone. The endgame we all are playing with these goals and resolutions is to effect change in our lives and make them, in theory at least, better. So, any progress on a goal is a way of making your life better.

I didn’t get an agent this year; that was on my list of goals yet again. I am not certain what my own endgame with the agent hunt is; I need to come up with a book idea that is commercially viable for an agent to want to represent, and that isn’t easy. Most of my book-writing decisions were made, not with an eye toward the commercial, but with an eye toward I want to see if I can write this story. Was that the smartest path to take as a writer? Perhaps not. I don’t know what’s commercial. The manuscript I was using to try to get an agent never worked as a cohesive story for me, and in this past year I finally realized why; I was trying to make a story into something it wasn’t. If I ever write what I was calling the WIP but is in reality ‘the Kansas book’, I have to write it as I originally intended it, not as what I am trying to make it into. And that’s something that is going to have to go onto the goal list for 2019.

On that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a happy New Year, everyone.

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Winter Wonderland

I overslept this morning–which I don’t mind, I was extremely tired last night, as well as completely over it–and it’s dismal and gray and cold outside the windows. I didn’t get as much done as I had wanted last night because I was dealing with yet another Mac problem; my computer wanted to update it’s operating system so stupidly I agreed and clicked yes….and when the computer restarted it again didn’t recognize my phone, so I had to go through that entire nonsensical process yet again. Fortunately I had just backed the damned thing up again, so the “restore from most recent back-up” was at least current this time. But once the phone was finished “restoring” my computer started acting wonky again; the desktop icons never showed up and I tried restarting it again, only to come back and find it was still acting wonky. I restarted again, then collapsed into my easy chair, where I watched a BBC series, The Plantagenets. There wasn’t anything really new in it, other than the idea that the deposition of Richard II “cursed” the family–that deposition/usurpation led to the Wars of the Roses, and also made the sacred person of the King no longer so sacred–which meant deposing kings and crowning new ones was now an established precedent, and this mentality eventually led England down the path of constitutional monarchy. Which is true, and not something I’d read or thought about before, which is always fun when reading or watching history.

Although I probably should have read a book instead.

Today I have some errands to run, and I also need to get the revisions/edits in those stories I did this week entered into the documents so I can also get that finished manuscript turned over to my editor. I should also do some cleaning (there’s never an end to it, really) and work on revising the Scotty. And there’s other stories to write and finish, and I also want to work a bit on Bury Me in Satin this weekend. I’d also like to get to read The Shining again; I’ve been thinking about rereading it for quite some time now and it’s been a very long time. I think I am going to close out this year by rereading some Stephen King novels and reading short stories for the Short Story Project. Next weekend I have a four day weekend–two weeks in a row, woo-hoo!–and I have a lot of cleaning up/tying up of loose ends to get done before the end of the year.

And while I’ve written a lot this year, I’ve also started a shit ton of projects and short stories that I’ve not finished; which is quite despairing to think about. I’m also really annoyed at how out of it the Great Data Disaster of 2018 has made me; I am trying hard to recover the momentum I had before it happened. I am still feeling excited and positive about writing, but discombobulated about where I am and what I am doing and what I should be doing and what the next step should be.

Heavy heaving sigh.

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

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Good for Me

The LSU game on Saturday was not pleasant, alas; it’s never fun to lose, particularly when it’s to a hated rival. I was far too tense during the game, and realized that it was because of pent-up nervous energy. I correctly diagnosed that if I got out of my easy chair, turned both the upstairs and downstairs televisions to the game, and used the time to listen–occasionally watching–while cleaning and organizing, I could remain calm and cool and not get overwrought. I love football, but I don’t love the anxiety and stress that comes from total immersion in a game…so I think from now on I am primarily going to listen while cleaning the house.

And when the game was over and LSU had lost, I had a clean apartment and had done several loads of laundry and several loads of dishes. So that counts, at least for me, as a win. I also started another book purge; recognizing that some of my justification for hoarding some books (“someday I’ll write a non-fiction book about blah-blah-blah”) was just that: justification. Rather grimly, as I started pruning books off my shelves I told myself, you’d only ever have time to write that non-fiction book if you reached a place where you could support yourself solely by writing. And if that is the case, you can always buy another copy of the book.

The Saints didn’t play yesterday; rather they are on Monday Night Football playing the Washington Racist Stereotypes Redskins, which means getting home from the main office tonight will be a chore–which means I have to go the long way to avoid the Superdome and the Central Business District. Yay. It also means Paul will have to walk home from work, but I am sure he is already expecting that outcome.

Yesterday I didn’t feel well; a fever that kept coming and going, runny nose, congestion…very unpleasant. I couldn’t focus because I had sick head; my mind couldn’t focus. I tried writing for a while and finally had to give up on it. Instead, I curled up in my easy chair and finished reading Alice Bolin’s Dead Girls.

 

 

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If You Asked Me To

It’s Friday! I made it through my first week home after Bouchercon! Huzzah! Huzzah!

I kind of need this weekend, to be honest. I am still kind of discombobulated, out of it, wondering where and what I need to get done and when I need to do it by. I know I need to make a list, but I don’t even know where to start. It feels like whatever I was focusing on or doing before I left for St. Petersburg has been lost forever in the ether of my mind.

A scary thought, is it not?

But I’m working on a new story, and I have another idea for a book that I am noodling around with this week, and we’ll see how much I can get my life reset this weekend.

Yay, weekend!

I’ve also been watching the documentary series Bobby Kennedy For President on Netflix, and enjoying it–if you can say watching the history of a life and the potential for greatness snuffed out too young enjoying–but it has made me think about a lot of things. (I also highly recommend CNN’s documentary series The Fifties and each decade series that followed; we have such a tendency in our country to forget even our most recent history, and this lack of knowledge is at the heart of so many things wrong with our present day world….it makes me sad.) I remember 1968; I remember the night Bobby Kennedy was murdered. I remember the sense that, with all the rioting and murders and lawlessness seemingly running rampant in the country, that the noble American experiment in self-rule was coming to an end; that these seismic social convulsions would end with the downfall of the country and result in an uncertain future. I didn’t know much about Bobby Kennedy before watching this documentary; I know more now, and watching him in action, his speeches and what he believed in and what he was fighting for leaves no question in my mind that had he not been murdered in Los Angeles that fateful night he had a very good shot at becoming president that year. How different would our country, would our history, be had we not suffered through Vietnam until 1975; had there been no Watergate investigation and presidential resignation; had Spiro Agnew not been vice-president when his past crimes as governor of Maryland surfaced in 1973? But then again, who knows what would have happened had Bobby Kennedy not been shot in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel, or what his presidency would have been like. It’s hard to imagine, though, that the next eight years would have somehow been worse.

When I read Taylor Caldwell’s novel Captains and the Kings in the early 1970’s (it was also made into a mini-series) it was fairly apparent to me that she based the Armaghs on the Kennedys; one would have to be an idiot not to realize that, particularly when she wrote, in an afterward, about how she had warned President Kennedy not to go to Dallas. Caldwell, a conservative and a staunch Catholic, believed in what is generally known as a conspiracy theory involving a coalition of incredibly wealthy and powerful men around the world who decide elections and the future of the world, based on how it will impact their wealth to the positive. In her roman-a-clef about the Kennedy family, originally the patriarch was one of those “captains and the kings” who controlled world events; his ambition, however, for his son to become president eventually overrode his loyalty to the cabal, with the end result that his son is assassinated. The family matriarch believes the family to be cursed; there has always been talk of a curse on the Kennedy family as well.

Given the cruelty of fate to the Kennedy family–one has to wonder. So much death, so many young lives cut short. Awful.

I do recommend the documentary series. Kennedy haters won’t like it, but it’s a nice introduction to who Robert F. Kennedy was, and why he was so important to so many people in that terribly turbulent time.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Walk This Way

Yesterday was a good day.

I slept really well Friday night (again last night, but not as well as Friday) and I ran my errands and went to the grocery store. I even went to the gym and lifted weights. I had every intention of doing some writing when I got finished with all of that, but got sidetracked into cleaning and decided to just kind of relax for the day and spend today doing the writing and so forth that I need to get done. (This is the trap, you see–now I have to write today. I don’t have a choice, but trust me, after I run my one errand today watch and see how I rationalize not writing today!) I started reading Lori Rader-Day’s The Day I Died yesterday, and I watched some interesting things on the television–including a short documentary on Studlebrities, hot guys who have big followings on social media and have managed to parlay their looks and followings into cash. It’s an idea, after all, for a story or a book; not sure which. But I do find the whole gay-for-pay/social media famous for their looks thing to be an interesting and fascinating subculture, and something that would probably make for a terrific noir or crime novel.

Yesterday also saw the release of the rave Publisher’s Weekly review of Florida Happens. It’s a great review, with shout-outs to some of the contributors, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Yesterday I started watching the film version of Phantoms, a novel by Dean Koontz which I remember fondly. It had an interesting cast–Rose MacGowan, Liev Schrieber, Joanna Going, Peter O’Toole and a very young Ben Affleck–and it got off to a really good start…but I gradually grew bored with it and stopped watching. I decided to finally watch it because I’d watched another adaptation of a Koontz novel, one I hadn’t read, on Friday night, called Odd Thomas, which I really enjoyed.

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I became a Koontz fan with the first novel of his I read, Lightning. I bought the paperback at a Sam’s Club in Houston; I went there with my mother on a visit. I’d heard of Koontz and seen his books everywhere, and I was in my I want to be a horror writer phase. Lightning was both clever and brilliant and smart, I thought, and I tore through it in no time flat–particularly enjoying the big twist that came in the middle. Basically, it’s the story of a woman who becomes a very successful writer, who has an ‘angel’ who shows up to save her in pivotal moments in her life–when her life is in danger. But it’s a lot more complicated than that…and it really is a great read. From Lightning, I went on to read the others than I consider his best: Phantoms, Watchers, Strangers, Midnight, and the ones that are probably lesser. I started reading his books when they came out in hardcover, but ironically, when he started writing the Odd Thomas series was when I stopped reading him. The novels had become more hit-and-miss for me; and the switch to writing a detective series–despite my interest in crime fiction–didn’t interest me very much at the time. I hadn’t enjoyed Peter Straub’s switch to crime fiction–Mystery, Koko, and The Throat, collectively known as the Blue Rose trilogy–which, while well-written, just didn’t gel for me. (I have occasionally thought about going back and rereading them; I might appreciate them all the more now.) Anyway, this Odd Thomas series didn’t interest me very much, and so I never read it.

Watching the film changed my mind.

Don’t get me wrong–the film is flawed–but it really is enjoyable to watch, and the mystery element of the plot is quite interesting and surprising and unpredictable. But the strongest part of the film, what holds it all together, is the late actor Anton Yelchin, in the lead.

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Yelchin is best known for playing Chekhov in the reboot of the original Star Trek movies; he was tragically killed when his car rolled down the driveway, pinning him against the gates to his home and he suffocated–his lungs were crushed. (What a horrible way to die, really.) He was good in the Star Trek movies, and kind of cute, but he really shone in Odd Thomas, where he basically carried the film, and his charm and charisma absolutely worked. The role didn’t really require a great deal of heavy lifting from him as an actor–basically, he simply had to be likable, but he really pulled it off. He had that indefinable thing we simply refer to as charisma or star quality; and again, what a shame he died so young.

I think he probably would have wound up being a really big star.

And maybe I’ll go back and read the books.

And now back to the spice mines.

Baby Love

It’s Friday, and the weekend. New Orleans continues to swelter and drip in the midsummer heat, with August just around the corner. August is usually worse than July; the peak being around Labor Day; after which the temperatures starts to drop a bit and the humidity seems to lessen. But it’s hot everywhere; even the UK is, or was, having an intense heatwave. That’s why I am always puzzled by questions about how I stand the heat in New Orleans in the summer time; it’s hot everywhere. The places that aren’t humid are even hotter–and that oh it’s a dry heat really only means the difference between a sauna and a steam room; and the damp heat is better for your skin.

You don’t need to  use moisturizer if you live in New Orleans.

We continue to enjoy Castle Rock, and why did I never notice, ever before, how insanely beautiful Bill Skarsgard is? The resemblance to his brother is there, of course, but he is quite handsome all on his own. I mean, those eyes…eyes are always, to me, the sexiest feature; I am a sucker for someone with gorgeous eyes.

I slept better last night than I did the night before, but still woke up several times during the night, which means I am going to have to shake up what I do before I go to sleep; I’d been reading in bed for a half hour or so before going to sleep and it looks like I might have to go back to that again. I want to finish Martin Edwards’ The Golden Age of Murder, which is currently my bedside reading, and I also need to get started reading the Anthony finalists for Best Paperback Original, since I am moderating that panel at Bouchercon.

I am sooooooo behind on my reading.

Also: I am very tired. I had intended to go to the gym tonight after getting home from work, but no…that’s not happening. I think I may even be too tired to read. I think I’ll go watch a documentary.

Yeah, that’s the ticket. What an exciting life I lead.

Have a lovely evening.

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