Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves

So we had a major thunderstorm yesterday afternoon, complete with street flooding and thunder and lightning and all the fixin’s. This naturally led me to wonder, as the lights flickered at the office and Elysian Fields (the street, not the Greek afterlife) filled with water, whether or not to wait until the advisory was lifted (in theory at 5:45 pm), or head home when my work day was complete? One can never be certain where and when parts of the city are going to flood; and the last thing in the world I need–being this close to having the car paid off–is to risk flooding it out and possibly ruining it.

Sigh. It’s never easy living in New Orleans.

Getting home was a challenge; Claiborne Avenue’s low-lying areas were filled with water, water was pouring down not just from the clouds but from the I-1o high-rise, and I decided to risk going through the CBD, never the best option, but potentially even worse than usual since the Plaza Tower started falling apart and

And now for some blatant self-promotion, The Queer Crime Fiction roundtable I participated in for Crime Reads can be found here. And my brief appearance on Writer Types recommending queer crime writers can be found at this link right here.

Thanks again to Lisa Levy for the roundtable, and to Eric Beetner for inviting me onto his podcast. Both were a lot of fun, frankly, and it’s always fun for me to have the chance to talk about books and writers and make recommendations of books and writers I admire and enjoyed. I really missed that during the pandemic.

We got caught up on Lisey’s Story last night–we were both dismayed to see that it hasn’t all aired yet, and so no new episode until Friday–and then went on to the second chapter of The Underground Railroad, which was equally as disturbing as the first, but in a completely different way; I do remember, reading the novel and thinking, my God, so many different ways white people have found to punish and hurt black bodies and souls throughout our history. The show, being a visual medium, is even more disturbing than the book, because my imagination wasn’t quite strong enough to erase the imagery from my head I had grown accustomed to throughout a lifetime of privilege, that kept elbowing the stark realities Colson Whitehead so poignantly and beautifully wrote about in his book, out of the way; the show does not allow this, and the beautifully way it is filmed so poetically reflects the beauty of Whitehead’s language, even as the subject matter in truly an abomination.

Laura Lippman’s Dream Girl drops today, and so those of you not fortunate enough to get an advance copy can now indulge yourselves in reading a truly marvelous book by a great thinker and a terrific writer. I need to get back to reading; Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow needs to be finished, and on deck I have Bath Haus by PJ Vernon, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, Arsenic and Adobo by Mia Manansala, and several others. So much reading; I really need to focus on getting my reading done and caught up. Now that I’ve finished the novella I can take a look at duMaurier’s “Don’t Look Now” again, as well as her “Ganymede”; I already know, from doing some post-writing research today that there are some major adjustments that need to be made to my novella, and it may wind up being longer than than 20, 430 words it sits at now–not the least of them the days of the week, and so forth. I also have to figure out some way to make the story work a little better, more suspenseful, than it sits right now; but that has a lot to do with figuring out the story as it went. I also want to start pulling together the next short story collection–madness, I know–but I do love when I am basically overwhelmed with projects; so I always have something to be working on if something stalls out or I just don’t want to work on something in particular.

I also took some time and started plotting out another Scotty; yes, I know–I really need to dive into Chlorine again, but I had also decided that I was going to do that in July; it doesn’t hurt to have the Scotty’s various intertwining plots planned and mapped out. I generally don’t do this with Scotty books, primarily because the writing inevitably takes me in much different directions than I had planned, and thus inevitably all the planning turns out to be waste time. Also ironically, despite having any number of possible and potential titles on hand, none of them seems to fit this story–and since I can’t ever really work on anything without a title, and knowing that the title can be eventually changed–I am calling this one, for now, Mississippi River Bottom, which was actually the working title for Jackson Square Jazz. My editor didn’t like Mississippi River Bottom (which I rather thought was a clever play on words) and asked me to change it. I also know that this working title doesn’t really fit the alliteration patterns of the rest of the series, and thus will inevitably have to be changed. Perhaps while I am actually writing it, the title will come to me; stranger things have, indeed, happened before.

Last night’s sleep was terrific–there were strange dreams, of which I’ve been having a plethora of lately; last night was me working at Target for some reason–but I again feel terrific and rested this morning; everything looks wet outside, so I am assuming the rain continued over night. It must not have been terrible or dangerous, as we never got one of those horrible WARNING alerts during the night on our phones. Tonight when I get off work I’ll go uptown and get the mail before heading home and to the gym. The Tuesday night workout is somehow always rushed, with me skipping things–more to do with too many people being there than me being lazy, really; the free weight area is always so crowded I inevitably skip the two exercises I used free weights for–and then it’s back home to watch some television and possibly do some writing. This weekend is going to see weird; I have a broken tooth that needs to be extracted, and I scheduled that for Friday afternoon. That inevitably will mean a strange diet of soft food over the weekend and pain killers; but better that than the dull throb and swollen gums I’ve been dealing with since the molar broke. Ah, the endless saga of Greg and his bad, bad teeth. One thing I definitely envy in other people is good teeth…I also want to get to work on “The Sound of Snow Falling.” I am assuming I’ll be incapacitated this weekend after the tooth extraction, but I am hoping I can at least sit in my easy chair and edit.

And yesterday, the first active roster NFL pro football player to come out came out! Yay, and welcome to the team, as it were. I’m old enough to remember when David Kopay came out in the 1970’s; the first former NFL player to do so.

And on that note–writing ADHD, my bad teeth, NFL player out of the closet–I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely and winning Tuesday, everyone.

What Have You Done For Me Lately

So, yesterday I finished the first draft of the novella!

It was around 1200 words when I started working on it again about a week or so ago; for some reason Venice was haunting my imagination, and so were my two poor gays in the majorly dysfunctional relationship gone there for a holiday. To be honest, I’ve been having so much trouble finishing anything since I turned in the last book manuscript (which needs more work) that I was beginning to think I wasn’t going to be able to get anything finished ever again, ever. I couldn’t even finish short stories (in fairness, I’ve always found the shorter form to be harder than the longer, which I also am very aware makes little to no sense except in my warped brain); despite having made some amazing starts and having some amazing ideas. And yet, when I started working on this novella again, BAM! Words started pouring out of me, and even though I had no plan for the story (I knew the end, that was it) it just kept going, new scenes and twists and turns coming to me as I wrote. It’s sloppy, I know, and there needs to be more of a pay-off for a subplot (which I allowed to peter out like a wet firecracker), but I am also certain I can easily repair it with a vigorous edit…after letting it sit for a while and rise like yeast.

But yeah–I wrote close to 20,000 words in just over a week; usually getting anywhere fro three to four thousand done in a sitting–and those sittings were generally around two hours, give or take.

Not fucking bad at all.

I also got the web copy done before I started work on the novella, too, and then with everything done I wanted to get done, I left for the gym. I had a lovely workout–and while I was there, it rained pretty hard for a bit, but was it was all over by the time I finished. I walked home a different way than I usually do, wanting to document my neighborhood some more on Instagram, and thinking, I should take a picture of the Norwegian Seaman’s Church on Prytania, since it was a pivotal part of the part of one of the Scotty books. But as I aimed my camera (well, the phone) at it, I realized all the signs marking it as the Norwegian Seaman’s Church were gone, and it looked…well, renovated. This bothered me a little–the Norwegian Seaman’s Church had been there for 112 years! But while it sort of IS a gentrification issue, it’s not one as bad as I might have feared; turns out in 2018 the Norwegian government stopped funding this churches around the world, and without a funding source, they had to close the church and sell the property. The new owners are turning it into an accessible wellness center–I didn’t know there was a pool!–and I am curious to see how that’s going to work out. I wouldn’t mind doing some yoga–my flexibility as I am now aged has become a concern, and as we all know, flexibility is one of the three measures of fitness (and the one everyone ignores).

So many changes to the city, seriously. It’s part of the reason I’ve felt so disconnected from the city for so long–between my job and everything else going on–not the least of which is my office moving from Frenchmen Street to Elysian Fields and Claiborne–I don’t really feel like I know the city as well as I used to. I think–once the weather gets back to something resembling bearable again–I am going to have to take a few trips down to the Quarter to explore and see how things look now. What if the Nelly Deli is gone? YIKES! How can I write another Scotty novel without knowing what’s going on in the Quarter?

I can’t, that’s how!

And I really cannot imagine moving Scotty and the boys out of the Quarter. But…everything changes, doesn’t it?

I slept fairly well last night, inevitably having to get up groggily a few times because I always drink a lot of water on gym days. I am a bit groggy this morning–which the cappuccinos are helping with–and am actually looking forward to seeing what I can get done today. We started watching Lisey’s Story on Apple Plus last night., and are pretty absorbed into it. I don’t really remember much of the book, to be honest–I enjoyed reading it, as I always do with Stephen King novels (the only ones I didn’t like were The Tommyknockers and Dreamcatcher)–but I don’t remember much other than her dead husband was a writer, there’s a psychotic fan, and a different world her husband was somehow able to slip away into from time to time–and he’s left clues behind for her to somehow slip into that world looking for something. I don’t remember her having sisters in the book–although Jennifer Jason Leigh and Joan Allen are killing it in the adaptation–and I am actually kind of glad I don’t remember the book well, to be honest; it makes enjoying the series that much easier. I do remember, reading the book, that King does a great job when he centers women in his books–Delores Claiborne was also exceptional–and it’s a great part for Julianne Moore, who is one of our finest actresses.

It’s also very cool that television productions of high quality are there so terrific actresses can continue to do great work once they’ve reached that age where film roles become sparse because they’re considered too old; sexism is still rampant in the film world, despite #metoo and #timesup, alas; while sexual harassment and the casting couch were addressed (though probably still a reality) the sexism and ageism (which only applies to women) has not…

And now to make a to-do list for the week. I am hoping to get caught up on my emails and maybe finish “The Sound of Snow Falling” this week; perhaps do some edits on another story, and revise the first chapter of Chlorine. Again, very ambitious plans, but definitely do-able….as long as I continue to get sleep every night and nothing untoward drops into my lap. Have a great Monday, Constant Reader!

Who Do You Think You Are

Sunday morning is here, and along with it sunshine and no doubt smothering humidity–later today I will be heading to the gym for the beginning of this week’s workout schedule and also trying to get some other things done today. I have to finish the web copy I promised to do today, and I am itching to get back to my writing. Yesterday was a very good day on every level–I was highly functioning for a change, and it felt wonderful, more like the kinds of days I am used to having, or rather, got used to back when I was regularly highly functioning. I did sleep very deeply last night–I did have some very strange dreams, though; all I remember is they involved Taylor Swift and losing teeth–but I woke up very well rested this morning and ready to go. I am awake and not sleepy-tired, my muscles don’t ache or feel tired, and we watched some amazing television last night.

And I actually started writing another Scotty book yesterday–nothing like creative ADHD, right?

But the opening scene for this book has been in my head for quite some time now. One day recently as I was toying with an idea for the next Scotty book, this line popped into my head: “I’m really worried about Taylor” (those who have read Royal Street Reveillon will understand) and then another sentence came to me recently: It was the Monday after Mother’s Day and the termites were swarming. I’d initially thought the swarming termites line was the opening for a short story, and yet…couldn’t figure out a story for it to go along with. The other day it hit me: the two sentences go together, and are the perfect opening for the next Scotty. Yesterday when I sat down to write, these two sentences were swirling together in my head and I thought, why not go ahead and put it down on paper, so it’s there when I’m ready to go back to work on another Scotty? I don’t even know what I am going to call this one yet. I had already–because of these openings, and knowing they wouldn’t work for the next Scotty I had planned to write–so I decided to push Twelfth Knight Knavery back in the Scotty schedule to be the one after this one. I am going to leave it as “untitled Scotty book” for now. I have two stories I want to weave together into this one, and another subplot, but I’ve not taken the time to actually map any of that out or anything as yet. But hey, I wrote nearly twelve hundred words before turning my attention back to “Festival of the Redeemer,” and I am going to take that as a win.

And “Festival of the Redeemer” is now sitting at over seventeen thousand words. Not too bad, really; I’d estimate that I wrote well over four thousand words between the Scotty (around 1200) and the novella yesterday. The story also took an incredibly dark turn, too–I’d always intended it to, of course, but still–the turn was so much darker than I’d planned it even kind of caught me a bit off-guard. I do like it, though–it is a first draft, and as such is very sloppy and slipshod and is going to need some serious revisions and edits, but I am pleased with it. This twisted tale seems so perfect for Venice–and it may turn out, after revisions and edits, to be much longer than the original planned twenty thousand; but word counts are inevitably goals, anyway, and more a measure of progress than anything else.

Have I ever mentioned how much I actually love writing? It makes me so happy to be writing, and it’s so satisfying; there’s really nothing like it, and I can’t even remember the last time that I derived so much pleasure from actually doing it; I don’t remember going into the zone the way I have been lately–I feel like it’s been years since I went into the zone where the words just flowed out of me and I lost track of time and word counts and so forth; which is probably why I’ve been having so many concerns about burn out and losing my ability to write–always a fear for me, always–and yet here it is back again, and I feel centered again. I feel like the last malaise last forever–at least for years–and now I am past it, and even if what i am writing is not anything I should be writing… but if I am going to publish a collection of novellas I have to actually write them, don’t I? And this one is really going somewhere–even if that place is somewhere incredibly dark…and you know what? HUZZAH FOR SOMEWHERE INCREDIBLY DARK.

But when I get this done–I think I may even get this first draft finished today or tomorrow-I am going to get that short story draft finished next and then I am going to get back to Chlorine. I need to get that first chapter revised and rewritten; a good task for this week, I think, and then I am going to work on that other proposal I want to get turned in to see if anything comes of it. Hey–you never know, right? You never know until you put it out there.

I also managed to clean the kitchen yesterday and worked on the filing, The area around my desk is a lot more neat and tidy than it has been, and my inbox is almost completely emptied out. This feels like a major accomplishment, and it’s nice to look over there and see just a few loose papers in there–which I may even get rid of today.

It’s amazing what I can do when I’ve slept, seriously.

We finished watching Elite last night, and it was terrific–perhaps not as good as the earlier seasons, which is a very high bar to reach; but with a cast reshuffle and an effective reboot of storylines, not surprising. We had three seasons to get to know the original cast, and with half of them gone (oh, how I miss Lucrezia!) and their replacements coming in, the story had to go into a bit of overdrive to get them involved with the original cast, and there were times it felt a bit forced and like it went too far too fast. The ending of the season was satisfying, and the next season–with two more characters being added–is now really well set up.

We then moved on to Apple Plus, with Rose Byrne’s new starring vehicle Physical, and I really enjoyed it–the three episodes that had dropped already, at any rate. Byrne plays a dissatisfied housewife whose own gifts and talents are being subsumed by that horrific housewife trope of the time–and even her supposedly “progressive” husband subscribes to that old patriarchical notion of what women’s value was in the progressive movement–they were there to fuck, feed, and clean up after the men; the men did all the thinking and the women did all the work. Then she discovers an aerobics class at a mall…and finds it incredibly empowering; rediscovering herself and who she is through the class. She’s not completely likable–she has a horrible inner monologue voice that is snarky and bitchy and judgmental (if funny at time)–but she’s understandable, and Byrne brings her charisma and likability along with everything she does. It will be interesting to see how the show develops.

After that, we switched over to Amazon Prime to watch the first episode of their mini-series adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, a book that I loved and thought was absolutely brilliant. Here is slavery in all of its degradation, abuse, and horror–the Georgia plantation depicted here isn’t the prettified Tara of Gone with the Wind, and these slave owners and overseers aren’t the genial paternalistic Gerald O’Hara the Lost Cause movement insisted were the reality. It was incredibly difficult to watch, but necessary; my own discomfort in watching, I kept reminding myself, was nothing compared to what the enslaved people endured, and my white fragility needed to look the reality directly in the face and deal with it. These are my ancestors; and even if the family legends my grandmother told me when I was a child was mythology and lies, they certainly believed enough in this horrible system to fight and die for it.

And if I learned anything from Hurricane Katrina, it’s that no matter how terrible something looks and appears on television, the reality and its scope is a thousand times worse. The show is beautifully shot–the cinematography is stunning; and the beauty of the production, and the care taken, only adds to the horror of what the viewer is witnessing.

I kept thinking, the entire time I watching, heritage not hate, huh? Fuck all the way off.

And now I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, everyone.

The Winner Takes It All

All is calm outside my windows this morning. Claudette’s eye has passed–to the east of my neighborhood, leaving us on the dry side–and while there are reports of heavy rainfall and flooding on the north shore and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we remained here pretty unscathed. The flash flood warning for New Orleans has been cancelled, but we remain under a tropical storm warning, with the possibilities of high winds and heavy rainfall still there. Inevitably, it’s always a relief when we are merely struck a glancing blow, but there’s something untoward, for me at least, about being grateful somewhere else got hit instead. But that’s the nature of hurricane season–wishing to be spared means wishing disaster on someone, somewhere, else.

I didn’t get much writing done yesterday after all; perhaps about two or three hundred words on “Festival of the Redeemer”–after I finished my work yesterday I was feeling tired again, both mentally and physically, and was actually rather pleased with that minuscule output, honestly. I slept extremely deeply and well last night–the occasional odd dream was there, but this morning I don’t really remember much of them other than some weird communal living situation Paul and I found ourself in, trying to insist on our privacy as others came in and out of our living space while at the same time allowing their cats access to it, thereby traumatizing poor Scooter. This led me to wake up around six in the morning–I always seem to wake up around that time, thanks to my three-days-per week early mornings–but had no problems whatsoever falling back asleep again for another two hours, which was lovely. Today I intend to make more headway on the Lost Apartment and perhaps make a final push to get this novella’s first draft completed and out of the way; I’d also like to make another strong push to get my story “The Sound of Snow Falling” completed, but I’m not entirely certain what the possibilities of managing both, while getting that web copy written, are.

I also need to get my inbox cleared at some point this weekend as well.

Work, work, work. And perhaps make some time to read; we’ll see how that goes.

Last night I also made a second attempt at making a dirty vodka martini, and was much more successful this time around. I took a co-worker’s advice (she also bartends) and simply swished the dry vermouth around in the glass before dumping it; adding the vodka, shaken with ice and then the olives and juice. I can certainly see why excellent vodka is called for; since the drink is almost entirely vodka (it’s really just a big chilled vodka shot, with garnishes), and I had found an old bottle of Rain, leftover from the days of the Iris parties, and I was quite pleased with how it turned out. I had one in honor of Season 4 of Elité dropping on Netflix, and we binged six episodes last night. There are only two left, and I have to give the show props–they lost nearly half the cast, so had to introduce new characters as well as terminate relationships between characters who remained and those who left; and it would be incredibly easy to simply make the new characters carbons of the old. They didn’t do this, and while these new characters are mostly unlikable, the old characters had three seasons, for the most part, to make us care about them. There is a crime–the show is following the former pattern of the previous seasons–flashing back between the present and the past to show the build up to the crime; but as Paul said, “some of these relationships feel a bit forced.” He’s not wrong–but as I said, this is the most new characters they’ve ever had to add into a season before, and weaving them into what is basically a reboot season isn’t as easy as adding in new characters, scattered amongst the established cast, was in previous seasons. I am enjoying it, and it’s still everything I loved about the previous seasons–sexy, lots of queer representation, high production values, interesting twists and turns; but sadly, characters like Lucrezia and Carla (played brilliantly by Danna Paola and Ester Exposito) are incredibly hard to replace. But, all things considered, they are doing a great job with season four.

I feel, of all things, oddly settled this morning, and calm–like it is outside. I’ve been feeling off-balance for quite some time now; something I hadn’t really noticed until this morning, since I seem to have stopped rocking back-and-forth for now and feel rested. (I think rested is truly the key word in that sentence; I am not feeling tired this morning–physically or emotionally or intellectually–which is quite a marvelous feeling, frankly. I have things to do, as is always the case, but I also feel no stress about any of them; today I feel like I can conquer the world, which is a pleasant feeling and one I’ve not had in quite some time. But really, it’s lovely to be in a good place. I am writing an being very productive at it; I’ve sorted out some issues in my head that have not been easy to get through; and while this year has been a bit tough–writing two books at the beginning; dealing with burnout and some other issues I won’t bore you with–I feel pretty good right now. That may vary– I could wake up tomorrow feeling like something the cat dragged in–but for now, I am doing great and that’s all that really matters right now.

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

Just the Two of Us

So, “Festival of the Redeemer” is now over 10,000 words. Yup, the hole in the page opened and I fell into it (to paraphrase Stephen King’s Paul Sheldon in Misery) and the next thing I knew I’d written over four thousand words. SURPRISE! I certainly was. It’s been a really long time since the days when I used to be able to write over three thousand words at a time; I’d actually begun to think I couldn’t do it anymore, or was incapable. How lovely to know that it is still possible. The question, however, does remain–was that a fluke, or is it a return to my enormous productivity capabilities?

Also, writing about Venice and a deteriorating relationship that is going to turn very dark is a lot of fun, I have to say. Venice is considered, after all, one of the world’s most romantic cities–and setting this kind of story there is so much fun. It’s also very fun to not care how likable the main character is.

And I am enjoying writing, which is really the best part. I am not worrying about how long it is, or whether it needs to be edited down or if I have left parts out or if I am just blurting out too much or if I am just vomiting garbage up on the page. The most important thing here is that I am having a great time writing this, and I am having a great time writing, just in general. Maybe my batteries have been recharged or something, but I feel like I bursting with ideas and simply–as always–don’t have the time to write everything that I want to write. I need to take some time to sit down and sketch out what I am going to do for the next Scotty, and once I get this novella finished I am going back to Chlorine.

Plus…it’s really fun to revisit Venice. I have always been sorry we weren’t able to spend more than twenty-four hours there; I loved it there. I loved Italy and hope to return someday; Florence and Tuscany….sigh, Italy. I also reread what I have already written–all 10,167 words of it last night, and for a first draft, it’s not bad. Sure, there’s some clean-up and tightening necessary, but it’s really going the way I want it to go and the tone is right and the character’s voice is perfect…I am actually pleased with something I am writing!

*waits for earthquake or lightning strike*

Last night I stayed up past my bedtime (yay for being old and having to get up early!) to do a mystery panel for the San Francisco Public Library, moderated by Michael Nava (one of my heroes) and including Cheryl Head, Dharma Kelleher, and PJ Vernon–writers whom you should all be reading–and it was really fun and interesting. I love talking about writing and books with fellow queer writers, and I always learn something from listening to other writers. It’s always nerve-wracking for me–that social anxiety thing–but after my contribution to a technical glitch (I really cannot be trusted with computers or technology), I was able to relax somewhat. It was also fun because yesterday was the launch day for PJ’s second book, which was also his first book to center queer characters. (My copy of Bath Haus arrived yesterday; great cover and great opening–I peaked–and I think I am going to bump it up on my TBR list to follow Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow. But I also somehow managed to have a terrific night’s sleep–deep and wonderfully restful, AND NO DREAMS (that I can remember, at any rate), so this morning I am rested and awake an ready to go. It’s also my last day of the week to go into the office, so I don’t have to get up quite so early tomorrow–and all of our shows’ next seasons are dropping, it seems, this month and next (Elite season 4 drops on Netflix on Friday night, HUZZAH!).

I am also looking forward to the gym tonight after work; the book I requested from the library (Sarah Schulman’s ACT UP in New York history, Let the Record Show) is in; and while there is the chance of a tropical depression coming through New Orleans this weekend, I am looking forward to just being able to chill out, relax, clean, and get some writing/reading/working out accomplished.

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

Angel of the Morning

Tuesday morning and we here in New Orleans are in the midst of a heat wave of sorts; I gather from my social media accounts that it’s pretty widespread nationally. It’s often difficult to tell here whether this year is hotter than previous years; it’s always, to borrow a lovely phrase from the Brits, bloody hot here in the summer (technically, it’s not even summer yet–not until June 20th–but summer always seems to arrive in New Orleans around Mother’s Day in May; which is also when the termites start swarming) and one always questions one’s self as the heat descends upon us in all its blazing fury: was it this hot last summer? Surely I would remember, wouldn’t I?

Ah, the joys of selective memory. Again, why I will never write a memoir.

I slept very well last night, but was yet again plagued with some seriously bizarre and strange dreams; which is becoming a nightly occurrence. I don’t remember said dreams this morning, which is more normal than those from the previous two nights–which I did remember; but I remember having them, which is also not ordinary for me. I o feel rested–although I would have gladly slept the rest of the day away. Last night after work I also was interviewed by Eric Beetner for his Writer Types podcast; although I guess the correct way of saying that is that I was a guest on a taping of a future podcast, along with the always delightful Dharma Kelleher. (She and I are also going a ZOOM-type panel tonight for the San Francisco Public Library, moderated by my personal hero, Michael Nava, along with fellow panelists Cheryl Head and PJ Vernon, whose Bath Haus is releasing today; my copy should be delivered sometime today and YAY!) Doing those sort of things is always draining for me, and of course, with the time differential, this will be wrapping up tonight past my bedtime, which may mean I am not at my best as I will undoubtedly be drooping–but Cheryl is on EST, so it’s even later for her, so I need to fasten my seatbelt, sit up straight and participate. I just figure it means I will sleep even better tonight than I did last, frankly.

Today looks to be another hot one–but we’re getting thunderstorms later this week, so that might bring the heat down a little bit. When I went out to get into my car after work yesterday, it was literally like opening the oven door. I reached in, put the keys in the ignition and started the engine, reaching down to turn up the a./c, waiting for a bit before getting inside–but even then, the steering wheel was too hot to touch and the seat belt buckle was also pretty rough and nasty. I think I need to have my windshield tinted at some point–the direct bright sunlight can’t be good for the dashboard, and it’s certainly not good for me, personally.

I also intended to write some more on “Festival of the Redeemer” last night, but by the time the podcast was over–always a delight; I really enjoy Eric Beetner a lot, and Dharma is always lovely to talk books with–I was tired. I was already tired before signing into the podcast–spotty sleep Sunday night–and the drive home included a stop for groceries and the heat is so draining…I was worried I’d be deadly dull, and am not entirely sure I wasn’t anyway. But when we were finished, I needed to do some dishes and laundry before finally plopping down into my easy chair. I do need to get back to writing it, though–maybe tonight, since the panel is so late for me, I can do some since I won’t be able to get sucked into the television, watching something. I was going to go to the gym, and then rethought that–heat, lifting weights, losing lots of fluids; probably not the best idea and I can always go tomorrow night after work–so yeah, getting some things done and some writing under my belt is probably the best way to go with that.

We watched the first episode of Loki last night, and I wasn’t really impressed with it. Tom Hiddleston, of course, is always wonderful, and I think the premise might be interesting, but it just seemed like a lot of set-up was being done and there was a lot of backstory being recapped to set the series up, so for me, it wasn’t terribly involving. It wasn’t terrible by any means, so I will keep watching–I always try to give a show a few episodes before abandoning it entirely–but I found myself more than a little disappointed, and my mind wandered a lot.

This next scene I am writing for “Festival of the Redeemer” is also a rather hard one to write, in which a lot of complex feelings must be dealt with, as well as the deteriorating relationship between the two main characters, while they are having a lovely, romantic dinner at a restaurant on top of a hotel along the Grand Canal with a magnificent sunset view of the Serenissima; and it occurs to me that’s why I’ve been hedging about writing it, frankly–which is dumb (and I do this all the time; a scene or chapter that’s going to be difficult so I delay writing it because I forget it can always be revised, rewritten and edited BECAUSE I AM A MORON!).

And on that note– calling myself a moron is always a lovely spot to stop–I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Rapture

Wednesday and pay the bills day; which hasn’t been depressing in a while but I suspect will be by the time I am finished with this always odious chore. After a sleepless night on Monday, last night’s sleep was much better. I was horribly tired all day yesterday–the combo of no sleep and the workout Monday night; tonight I will be heading back to the gym again after work–and as such did no writing last night. I did write yesterday–in my head; I finally came up with the perfect concept for a story idea I’ve been toying with for quite some time, “Murder on the Acela Express”, with an assist from a very good friend, so I did scribble that down and made some notes in my journal. I also had to proof the final draft of this year’s Edgar annual, which also took up some time Monday evening and on breaks at work, so it’s not like I have been slacking this week. But I really want to get back to “Festival of the Redeemer,” and at some point I want to look over “The Sound of Snow Falling” and see what to make of it; I have figured out the story at last–I knew who the characters were, the set-up, and the setting; I just didn’t now how to write the crime and end it, which I do know now.

So, progress of a sort, right?

There was also exciting news at the day job this week–my position has been funded again by the CDC for another five years, which will actually take me all the way to retirement. While it was always unlikely that the funding would ever be pulled with the concomitant loss of my job, every time the grant is up for renewal it always rather hovers in the back of my mind like a slightly sore tooth you can’t help but worry with your tongue even though it hurts. I also got a raise (the entire staff did), which was a pleasant surprise, and we were also given two extra vacation days, with the agency closing down on a Friday and Monday in August to give us all a long weekend–and it’s the weekend before I turn sixty; my birthday will also be on a Friday this year, which is generally a work-at-home day for me (if that still holds after we go back to full operations again) so I can stay home, watch movies, and make condom packs all day, which will be kind of nice. And then Bouchercon is the very next weekend, and then the next weekend is Labor Day and Southern Decadence–which I am not entirely sure is going to happen, or what is going to go on with that at all. And my car will be paid off come January, which will be even more lovely. So there are things to look forward to, certainly; and I am getting a little bit excited. I generally don’t look too far ahead–there’s always so much to do to keep me occupied I don’t think about the future much–but maybe I need to start doing that a bit more; although there is something to the idea/notion that looking ahead is sort of wishing your life away, which is why I try not to do that unless of course a deadline of some sort is involved.

Although I seem to tend to do that a lot every week by looking forward to the weekend and wishing it would arrive faster.

The summer humidity has returned after all the rain of May; this morning my windows are covered in condensation as the sun is rising, and I feel very rested and alert this morning, which is lovely. I did a load of laundry last night, which I need to fold before getting ready to head into the office this morning; I suspect I will be very tired tonight simply from working, stopping at the grocery on the way home, and then going to the gym–plus we have the last episode of season one of Blood on Acorn to watch, and another episode of Cruel Summer should be loaded on Hulu–the show is surprisingly compelling, and watching it unfold over three different timelines, each one a year apart but on the same day–is a story device I’m really liking a lot more than I thought I would. I know it can be done in a novel–Alison Gaylin’s What Remains of Me did a dual timeline, and Laura Lippman’s After I’m Gone bounced around in time like that, and I think it did have three time periods–and it’s something I think I would like to try at some point in the future. I think part of the reason I’ve been in the doldrums about my writing is because I’ve not been pushing myself to try new things, to experiment and play with the form of story-telling, and I’ve been feeling stale….which isn’t a good place to be when you fancy yourself a writer.

And I think that has been a lot of the malaise I’ve been feeling lately–the last few years with my writing, really–that sense of writing by rote, on automatic; and not pushing myself and trying new things. I will say that the short story writing has been really terrific in that regard, getting to explore themes and ideas and form in a shorter medium (I have published several short stories recently that, ironically, have been reviewed with the note: should have been longer, like a novella–which is always the problem with writing short stories for me; I always feel like there’s more to the story, and apparently that is indeed the case with some of them; but I am trying not to turn short story ideas into longer forms of fiction anymore…which is also kind of why i am experimenting with the novella form). I will say I enjoyed the hell out of Royal Street Reveillon because I was really pushing myself by juggling plots and subplots; it also felt more like a Scotty book than the ones previous–mainly because the plots were more simple and linear. I was having a lot of fun writing it–I do remember that–despite the headaches of juggling so much plot and story-lines.

Aaaaaannnnnndddddd….I think I know what the next Scotty is going to be. I am going to start making notes on it today…we’ll see how it goes.

(Just Like) Starting Over

I am always a bit disconnected from my life whenever I return from a trip, and the older I get, the harder it seems to settle back into my usual reality. The lack of sleep for weeks before hand (and during) certainly didn’t help much, but I was very pleased to finally have the prescription refilled last week and I have had some absolutely marvelous nights of sleep ever since. I also feel somewhat more centered, and more in control of myself than I have in weeks. I decided to take some time for myself as well once I got back, and focus on cleaning the house and staying off social media as much as possible, and it’s really been lovely; I think that going forward, I may continue doing that. Over the three day holiday weekend I found myself with so much more time than I usually have, and not feeling rushed about anything–and the feeling of being behind on everything, of needing to rush and hurry through everything, inevitably leads to stress and anxiety and that inevitably leads to insomnia and…yeah. Self-care is something that I really need to focus on, and stay focused on, going forward for what little may be left of my life.

I spent a lot of the holiday weekend cleaning and organizing–always cathartic–and getting the Lost Apartment back into some sense of order. It was rather horrifying to see and realize how out of control everything around here had gotten; I started with the laundry room and made my way into the kitchen (we really need to get a new vacuum cleaner, and a good one; these cheap ones I’ve been getting cease operating well even with maintaining them the way the instructional manuals say I should, which is enormously frustrating). I cleaned out and reorganized drawers in the laundry room and in the kitchen, and the counters were so filthy I literally cannot remember the last time I actually took the time to wipe them down (obviously, it was before the trip, but still-what the fuck was I doing on the weekends before I left for Kentucky?). My printer also died over the weekend and needed to be replaced; while I was annoyed at the suddenness of an unexpected new expense, I then realized the printer was at least five years old and hey at least it happened at a time when you could absorb the cost without it seriously hurting. The new one is cheap, but it’s also a Canon like the last one and I don’t really use it all that much; so even if it proverbially shits the bed in a short period of time, at least I’m not out that much and it served its purpose briefly.

See what a difference that prescription makes in my life? Had this happened before, I probably would have had a meltdown of some sort.

Better living through chemistry indeed.

I am still not really back completely on track with my life as yet; I was thinking yesterday between clients that I don’t really remember what I was working on before I went away to Kentucky, and of course, my memory is still shit–the self-care and relaxation hasn’t changed that at all–but I really need to make a to-do list and start going through everything on my desk and in my inbox to figure out what needs to be done and what else I need to get a handle on. I know I need to start getting back to the gym–which is now open it’s old, normal, non-pandemic working hours again, which makes it more accessible for me and lessens the pressure about needing to rush off to the gym–because my muscles can tell they haven’t been worked and stretched properly in weeks, and I also got the martini glasses and the cocktail shaker I ordered in the mail finally; so tonight perhaps I will experiment with my first dirty vodka martinis with extra olives. I also need to do some more work on the apartment–it’s ridiculous how quickly it gets disheveled looking around here–but perhaps tonight when I get home from the office I can finish the laundry and put the dishes away and start filing and emptying out the inbox and so forth.

I know I had started a story in Kentucky called “Beauty Sleep,” which has a wonderful opening (there’s a part where a Goth girl reads a poem at a salon in the Quarter, and she unironically calls herself Joan of Dark) but I wasn’t really sure where to take the story from there; one of the problems I have with stories when I have an interesting opening is that I inevitably always try to force them into the crime story box, and maybe, just maybe, that isn’t what the story is actually supposed to be. I’ve decided, more or less, to open June working on short stories and novellas, rewriting the first chapter of Chlorine, and rethinking the work I need to do on the Kansas book; I really need to make my writing more of a priority in my life these days.

So, on that note, I am heading to get ready to work and will start pulling together a to-do list. Have a great day, Constant Reader.

Last Train to Clarksville

Tuesday and I have survived yet another Monday, which I am putting in the “win” column.

It was a grim, gray, rainy Monday yesterday in New Orleans, and all I wanted to do was curl up under a blanket and nap. But I managed to get quite a bit done yesterday, which is always a joy–I actually had my email inbox down to almost completely empty at one point–and didn’t start getting sleepy until after lunch, when the caffeine from my morning cappuccinos wore off.

Meh, it happens.

It’s raining again–it started last night while I was sort of sleeping (yes, another one of those nights again)–and parts of the city are in a flood warning; eastern New Orleans, which I assume means the East (but then again, compass directions are so completely useless here) and frankly I’m really not looking forward to going out to the car this morning, or the drive to work; rain makes the horrible New Orleans drivers even worse than they normally are…which is pretty fucking bad. I’m also having dinner with a friend in from out of town tonight after work–hoping it doesn’t get canceled because of this weather–but on the bright side, my car will look pretty clean thanks to this non-stop downpour.

We got caught up on Mare of Easttown last night, and my, what an intense and twisty episode this was! Certain shifts and twists we certainly didn’t see coming; and then it was over, all too soon. Kate Winslet and Jean Smart are killing it in this (Smart is also killing it in Hacks, I don’t think it’s going too far out on a limb to predict two Emmy nominations for Smart, one for each show; she could quite easily win both as well–although the actress who played Liza in Halston is going to be hard to beat), and the writing is quite extraordinary. It’s the best crime show I’ve seen in quite some time that isn’t based on a novel.

Speaking of writing, I’ve not been doing any lately of note. I think I’ve started a couple of short stories, as well as a personal essay about being a sixty-year-old Swiftie; but there’s simply no motivation there. It’s entirely possible I’ve fried my writing machine by writing two books back to back; I also know there are more revisions to come on Bury Me in Shadows as well as the initial ones for the Kansas book, so perhaps my subconscious knows better than for me to get going or involved in writing something else before those are completely out of the way. But it’s frustrating as well as worrisome; although I did at least get the outline of the first act of Chlorine written last week. I know I won’t get any writing done while on my trip this week–hopefully From Here to Eternity will engage my mind and keep me entertained; I think I am going to take the iPad with me as well so I have access to all the ebooks I own in case I either hate the book so much I stop reading, or it engages me so much that I tear through it till the end. I’d rather not take another hard copy with me on the trip, but I’ll probably end up doing so because I always need options for reading when I travel. The question is what to take? I certainly don’t want to be at the mercy of the airport bookshops.

Oh yes–Stephen King’s Fever, his latest work for Hard Case Crime. That should do nicely; and I’ve not read any King since I finished the Hodges Trilogy, which is kind of strange for someone who is such a big fan of King’s. I’ve somehow managed to fall way behind on his books–still buying copies, of course–but they are so big and long and daunting I’ve not been able to face one of his big books with my addled, short attention span brain lately–and most of his books are extremely long these days. Perhaps I should make getting caught up on King a project for the summer; after all,. reading King is always inspiring to me; I love how he creates characters and relationships; I don’t think I have ever been bored reading a King book–because he just draws me into the world he creates so easily and effortlessly.

Last night as I was lying in bed with my eyes closed in the dark listening to the rain, my brain dredged up yet another memory of a horrible writing experience I had in college–it really is astonishing how little I was encouraged, and how hard my writing professors tried to extinguish the desire to write in me. I took the basic English course all incoming students take my first semester; it was an hour and a half every Tuesday and Thursday. On the first day, we had to do one of those incredibly tedious writing assignments: if you had to spend the rest of your life on a desert island, what three things would you take with you? or something along those lines. I don’t remember what three things I took; but I can assume they included music and books–because quite frankly I could easily go the rest of my life without human contact if I had both of those and a computer (there were no computers in 1978, obviously, so that wasn’t one of my three things). When I went back to class on Thursday, the professor pulled me aside and told me the assignment was really for him to assess our writing abilities, our grasp of grammar and paragraph construction, etc. etc. etc., and that my skills were too advanced (at sixteen!) for his class and he feared it wouldn’t challenge me enough; he had talked to an Honors English professor, showed her my essay, and she agreed to allow me to enroll in her class late. So after class, he and I walked to the Admin building and effected the shifting of classes, and you can imagine how thrilled I was at this turn of events–a college professor thought I was a good writer!

Unfortunately for me, I was not to experience that feeling again for many years–at least, that was the way I remembered it….

The Honors English class wasn’t hard, but the professor was horrible, absolutely horrible. There were only ten of us in the class, and we all bonded over how awful we thought she was. She had no sense of humor, and we had to construct our essays only in the way she believed essays must be written; she was constantly assigning us to read boring, uninteresting essays “so (we) could learn how to properly write one.” She never gave me higher than a C on anything I wrote for her, and she seemed to take particular relish in ripping my essays apart in class as an example of what not to do for the others. Lord, I despised that woman. The other students would often grab me after class for a soda or coffee or something and try to make me feel better; that is how awful she was. I was just grateful to get out of that class alive with a passing grade, but alas…the second semester of Freshman Honors English wasn’t much better. The professor was much nicer than the first, but she had absolutely no qualms with letting me know how bad of a writer I was–and clearly felt there was nothing to be done about it. Towards the end of the semester, as we had one final paper to do for the class, she called me into her office and told me she was regretfully going to have to fail me. “The only way you can pass this course is if you get an A on your final paper, and frankly, I don’t believe you can do that. But if you retake the class in the fall, it will erase your F for this semester–or I will sign off on you dropping the class.” I had already selected Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes as the subject for my paper, so I told her I was willing to take my chances and write the paper anyway. She was clearly not happy–I will give her credit, she clearly hated failing people and didn’t want to fail me–but I was determined.

I wish I still had a copy of that paper. It was brilliant, if I do say so myself. I had read a biography of Bette Davis (Mother Goddam), and the author actually used her films as a way to write her biography and even gave her the opportunity to comment on her performances. It was a great biography–I’ve always thought that was the best way to do one of a film star, if the star was still alive and able and willing to participate–and Davis had played Regina in the film version of the play (and was nominated for an Oscar). I had never seen the film, but I had read the play and the biography, and Davis’ insights into who Regina was served as the launching pad for my essay.

I got an A on the paper, and the professor actually wrote on it, “Well, I’ll be damned if you didn’t pull this off. Congratulations.”

But given this past history, and my psyche’s uncanny ability to keep the negative and not remember the positive, is it any wonder I have little to no confidence about writing essays? But now I do remember that I finished Honors English with an impressive triumph–the highest grade in the class on the final paper–and with that knowledge, perhaps I will be a little less hard on myself when it comes to writing essays in the future.

And on that note, I need to take a shower and head for the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Thieves Like Us

Day three of severe thunderstorm watches yet again–there was a tornado watch on the lake shore yesterday afternoon–and outside my window this morning is that eerie grayness, everything is wet, and while it isn’t raining at the moment, it only recently stopped. Oh my God, how well did I sleep last night? I took one of Paul’s sleeping pllls, and oh my God, what a difference that chemical compound made. I, alas, cannot get both my Xanax (alprazolam) prescribed by my doctor along with any kind of sleeping pill (I think Paul’s are lorazepam); and it’s probably best for the world that I continue to take Xanax to even my moods out and lessen my anxiety. But wow, after last night’s sleep–the best I’ve had in I don’t know how long–the temptation is there, seriously, to switch. I also feel level and calm this morning…so maybe, maybe, I should switch. I don’t know, but I’ll definitely talk to my doctor about it the next time I see him.

We finished watching Jupiter’s Legacy last night, which started getting much better as it headed towards the season finale. I still question the storytelling though; while I appreciate the back story of how they are got their original powers back in the 1920’s, it didn’t really tell us anything applicable about the present day characters; it was just here, you need the back story and we need the filler to get ten episodes out of this. But it was enjoyable enough, just not nearly as well done as Watchmen or The Boys–but seriously, there are so many tropes when it comes to superheroes and there are only so many names and so many powers, that in writing these you are always, inevitably, being derivative in some ways.

We then watched the first episode of the Kate Winslet HBO series Mare of Easttown, which has a great cast–you can never go wrong with Winslet or Jean Smart, who plays her mother–but the show is incredibly bleak. But really, whenever I watch something like this and it makes me squirm a bit uncomfortably, it also makes me reevaluate my own work and my own prejudices. I didn’t grow up poor the way my parents did; but we were very definitely working class when I was young–watching every penny, my mother always keeping an eagle eye out for sales to stretch her budget even further while trying to not do without anything, buying less expensive off-brands rather than the ones we’d see commercials for on television–and as an adult, I don’t think I’ve ever been financially stable–or if I ever was, it was a condition that didn’t last for long. Maybe that’s why I’ve avoided writing about characters in dire financial straits; my two private eyes both are incredibly financially stable (Chanse has a gig as a security consultant for a major oil company; Scotty has a massive trust fund), which is also not very realistic (not that private eye novels are ever realistic; private eyes rarely, if ever, are involved in murder investigations where it’s their job to find the killer–if they are ever involved in such a case, they are usually working for an attorney representing someone accused, and they are employed to help find reasonable doubt for the jury–and now that I think about it, that very perspective would be a great approach for a Chanse short story or novella–I am still resisting writing another novel for him). I know I despise and hate monetary stress; which is one of the reasons I am loath to write about characters in dire financial straits.

Then again, it’s not like I am writing anything at the moment, despite my best intentions. I do want to get the outline for Chlorine started this week, and I’d like to get a short story worked on–whether it’s finishing writing one that was already started, or revising one that is already in a completed draft–and I also need to get my computer files whipped back into some sort of shape. (I have a tendency to just toss things into the files and not sort anything…which makes finding things a bit challenging.)

And on that note, tis time for the spice mines. May your Wednesday be lovely and bright, Constant Reader–and we are very close to the weekend!