dreams

Thunder only happens when it’s raining…

It’s Tuesday and I leave for Bouchercon tomorrow. Woo-hoo! Yay Bouchercon!

I am up early and not terribly happy about it, in all honesty. I could have gladly slept for another hour or so, but at least we don’t have to get up super early tomorrow. I think we have to leave for the airport around noon or so, so that will be nice. I have a panel at nine (!) on Thursday morning, which terrified me–I’ll have to get up early and go register for the event, for one, and then to try to be coherent at that hour is not exactly my strong suit. There are also a lot of incredibly smart and talented people on that panel, so I am not entirely sure why I am also on it, but there I am and there you have it. Friday and Saturday are my more busy days, so at least I kind of get to ease into it. I’ve not been to Bouchercon since 2018.

I am very pleased with the work I got done on the book yesterday. I said I had figured the book out at last, so yesterday afternoon I went back and revised chapters one and two, and ye Gods, I’ve finally solved the puzzle. Those two chapters are so much better, and work, and make sense. Sure they need to be revised and edited again a few more times, but at least I’ve gotten the primary plot of the book figured out–and we’ll see how it goes from here. I have a gazillion emails I need to read, respond or delete to at some point today to try to get a handle on things before I leave town tomorrow–heavy heaving sigh. And I still have to figure out what to pack. Ah, well, at least I have both tonight and tomorrow morning to worry about getting that part of it done as well as cleaning up a bit around here and cleaning out the things that will go bad in the refrigerator.

It was also kind of fun revisiting the first three books in the series–and it also helped with the decisions made to reshape the book into what it will (hopefully) turn out to be. It was lovely revisiting these little time capsules of my life–remembering what I was thinking as I wrote them, things I took out and the things that went in, clever turns of phrase and twists of the plots, and above all else, how much I really like the characters, and the affection that exists between my main three lead characters. All three will be present for the entire book–which is also a first; I never was sure how to juggle them all at the same time, so inevitably either Frank or Colin (or both) would be gone for most of the story and Scotty would be on his own to solve whatever crime it is he’s stumbled into again. I may keep rereading my way through the entire series, but I don’t know whether I’ll go ahead and write about them, to be honest; I don’t remember writing Vieux Carré Voodoo, for example, other than knowing I wanted to write a treasure hunt where a riddle must be solved in order to find the treasure (something I’ve always wanted to do). I also remember using The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins as a guidepost for the story (with a bit of a nod to one of my favorite Three Investigators cases, The Mystery of the Fiery Eye), but beyond that…I’m not sure I remember a whole lot about writing the book or how I made the decisions I made about the story and the plot. I’ll have to go back and revisit old blog entries, although I rarely talk about the creative process in detail when I am experiencing it.

I am getting very excited about traveling tomorrow! I just got notices from the airline and the hotel about how to check in and so forth, and I already have my parking spot reserved. As much as I loathe travel days for the most part, as long as they don’t involve getting up super-super early, I don’t mind them that much; I just prefer not to have to rush when I am tired, and even on travel days I don’t want to get out of bed that badly.

We watched the new episode of House of the Dragon last night, and I have to say, it kind of annoys me extremely that the entire succession “problem” was quite simple to solve: have the King’s daughter marry the King’s brother. It wasn’t like the Targaryens weren’t into incest; the Targaryens (per the source material) were even more incestuous than everyone’s favorite historical incestuous family, the Hapsburgs. This basic flaw in logic kind of is irritating for me and I can’t get past it. Last night i must have screamed “have Rhaenyra marry Daemon! It’s not this hard!” But with that simple solution, there is no plot. I also don’t understand this insistence of the King that she is his heir even though the new wife has given him a son. That also doesn’t make sense logically, given the rules of the Seven Kingdoms and the family, per the source material.

But….no plot without the succession struggle, which makes it contrived, and I despise contrivances in fiction. Literally despise them.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines and begin by making my list of things to pack. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Second Hand News

Labor Day Monday and I have a nice relaxing day ahead of me of writing and reading and who knows what else? We also leave for Minneapolis the day after tomorrow, which is also kind of exciting. I did make a small run to make groceries yesterday and had a small Costco order delivered. I also watched some tennis (Coco Grauff) and then we watched the LSU Game. Jury’s still out; they played very lackadaisically to me, it seemed; not quite gelled as a team yet, but lots of talented players with some kinks to work out yet. They ended up losing 24-23, could have tied and/or won the game at the end, and rallied from 24-10 down in the closing minutes, so that was promising. I am of course disappointed the comeback failed, but at one point it literally looked like we were going to lose 31-17, and that final drive went ninety-nine yards in sixty-five seconds. So, they could continue to improve and get better, which is a good sign. I impatiently was hoping this could be turned around in one year, but….it even took Saban an off-year before turning Alabama into what it is today. It was a fun weekend of football, to be sure, and I am always happier when it’s football season.

I mean, take away the two fumbled punts, the blocked extra point, and the blocked field goal, and LSU would be 1-0 right now.

I am curious to see how the rest of the season shakes out.

I skim-reread Jackson Square Jazz yesterday, and again, I was very pleasantly surprised at how well the book still reads, roughly nineteen years after release, and again–I really did do a great job with the characters. I am writing an entry about it, of course, and then started skim-rereading Mardi Gras Mambo, too. I really wish I could remember what the plot was in the first two failed attempts to write the book, but maybe it’ll come to me while I skim reread, but I rather doubt it; I forgot those original plots years ago. I am glad that reader asked me about the Scotty books, though. I had figured I’d talked about them often enough that Constant Reader didn’t really need me to write the backstories behind the books in this series, but I am having the most wonderful time revisiting the books and remembering the process that produced each one. And these first three are so far back in my distant past that it’s almost like reading new-to-me books; I always wondered if my own work would ever get to that point, and clearly, they have done so. I’m not sure how to feel about it, but I imagine Philip Roth didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about his first couple of books, nor did Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, or Erle Stanley Gardner. (Not that I put myself up there with those greats of crime fiction, but you know what I mean.) We write books and we move on from them to write other books, and the farther in the past those old titles get, the more distance I feel from them and the less I remember about them, which makes them much easier to read (at least for me).

And it’s really helping me get back inside Scotty’s brain and his voice, too. Always a bonus, you know?

Today I am going to take it easy but still get things done. I need to write–which I’ve done woefully little of this weekend–and I also need to overhaul the first three chapters of this book before I can move on with it, which should be taken care of today. (I started to do it yesterday but…Coco Grauff was playing!) I also have some other things to get done today–maybe I should make a list of what all I want to get done today; can’t hurt–including making my packing list for the trip (I checked the weather; I think I can get away with taking a sweat jacket with me rather than a coat; every night it’s supposed to dip into the 60’s, which, as we all know, is the dead of winter to me) and some other loose odds and ends. And the skim-rereading of my books is at least getting me to read again–just wait till Wednesday afternoon at the airport though; I’ll be tearing through that Gabino Iglesias novel like it’s going out of style. I don’t think I’ll finish reading the Iglesias, the King, and the Andrews on the trip, but I am taking a book in reserve just in case–A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren. I also need to prep myself for reading only horror in October, the way I do every year; I know there are some Paul Tremblay and Stephen King and Christopher Golden and some other great horror novels sitting there waiting in my TBR Piles. There’s also some great short stories I should read, too. I am sitting on a Daphne du Maurier novella–“A Border-line Case”–and maybe I should spend some time today reading that?

I do love me some du Maurier (reminder to self: reread My Cousin Rachel).

So, we’re basically sitting on today and tomorrow as interim days. I think the house is in good enough shape as is for us to leave without doing some more cleaning, but I always do some cleaning while I am writing. There’s a load of dishes that need doing, and some other picking up and things needing to be put away, but that’s always the case, isn’t it?

And on that note, I am going to make a to-do list, finish those dishes, and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Labor Day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

7

I’m So Afraid

Sunday morning and there’s an LSU game tonight (GEAUX TIGERS!). There’s no way of knowing how good LSU is going to be this year, so I guess tonight’s the night we find out. I watched some of the games yesterday–Georgia certainly looked impressive, and good for Florida and Ohio State winning their big games yesterday, but again, it’s also too early to know anything for sure. Were the two top-ranked teams from the PAC-12 (Oregon and Utah) overrated, or will they rebound (although that shellacking the Ducks got from Georgia had to sting) to make a play-off run after all? The only thing you can ever be sure of in college football is Alabama will be a contender.

Yesterday was a very good day. We had a downpour and flash flood warning for most of the afternoon, but fortunately I had already run the errand I had to run; this morning I have an errand to run as well, and then i am going to come home and order Costco for delivery (just a few things we need) and I intend to spend the day writing. I spent the day organizing and cleaning (which is always an incredibly pleasant way for me to spend the day) and cleaned out kitchen cabinets in order to throw away a lot of items that I had purchased for single, one-time use and had never used again. My cake carrier, for example; I bought that to carry birthday cakes I’d made to work. I used to make our nurse a red velvet cheesecake for his birthday every year–but he’s left the agency and it is highly unlikely I’ll ever make another cake that needs to be transported; if I do, I guess I can just get another one. I also was throwing away things I don’t use but take up space in the kitchen–the big metal salad mixing bowl, the big plastic salad container, muffin tins, etc.–and then reorganized the shelves and made more room for things. I also cleaned things off the tops of the cabinets. It now looks a lot less cluttered in the kitchen and when I open the cabinets.

There’s still some work to be done on the cabinets, but I feel very good about the progress made yesterday. I also did the floors.

I also spent some time revisiting Bourbon Street Blues yesterday. I didn’t give it a thorough read, more of a skim, but it had been a hot minute since I last read the book and…Constant Reader, it wasn’t bad. The book came out nineteen years ago, and I of course wrote it twenty years ago. It’s had to believe it’s been that long, isn’t it? I wrote it when we lived in the apartment on Sophie Wright Place after we moved back to New Orleans in 2001; it’s the only book I wrote there, because I wrote the next two after we moved onto this property and were living in the carriage house. I also realized that the reason I am so hard on myself when I read my own work is primarily because I have trained my mind over the years to read my stuff critically and editorially, with an eye to revision–and that doesn’t change once the book is actually in print. Bourbon Street Blues is not a bad book at all–there’s even some really clever lines in it. Someone had actually responded to one of my blog posts about the stand alone books that they’d like to see me do the same for the series book; I feel like I may have done that already, but it’s not a bad idea. I need to revisit the Scotty series anyway in order to write the new one (which was part of the reason I picked up Bourbon Street Blues yesterday) and since I have trouble focusing enough to read other people’s work at the moment, why not reread the entire series from start to finish? It certainly can’t hurt.

I have been bemoaning how bad the writing is for this new Scotty book I am writing and yesterday, as I cleaned and organized and reread Bourbon Street Blues, I began to see why precisely the work I’ve already done isn’t good and what precisely was/is wrong with what I’ve already done. The bones are there, of course, and it can be saved, which is what I am going to do today. I know precisely know how to make this book work, how to structure it, how to introduce the new characters and the plots for the book, and it’s a marvelous feeling. After I finish this–and then write my entry on Bourbon Street Blues–I am going to go run that errand, come home and get cleaned up, place the Costco order for delivery, and then dig into redoing the initial three chapters of the book and maybe even dive into another. I also am going to spend some time today with Jackson Square Jazz; I may bring the iPad with me so I can keep reading the Scotty series during Bouchercon–but then again, I have other things I am taking with me to read, too. But those are for the airport and the flights primarily; I can lug my iPad around in my backpack and then between panels or when I am sitting alone in the lobby I can pull it out and scan through another Scotty book quickly. It’s also not a bad idea for me to start working on (at last) pulling together the Scotty Bible I’ve always said I needed to pull together. (I also kind of need to pull together all the information on the Gregiverse; the world in which all of my books are actually set, from Alabama to New Orleans to California to Kansas to Chicago’s suburbs…)

I also have a short story submission I need to look over before sending it in for the blind read–next year’s Bouchercon anthology is the market–but I am not sure I’ll have the time or if I know precisely how to fix it.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. I’d like to have another productive day today, so…lots to do before the LSU game tonight.

And one last time, GEAUX TIGERS!!!

Warm Ways

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment and all is well in the world. Southern Decadence is raging in the French Quarter–if someone would have told me as recently as ten years ago I would have ever reached the point where I didn’t care about going down there and diving into the sea of mostly undressed gay men from all over the country I would have laughed at the absurdity, but one gets older and things and priorities change. Do I have fond memories of years of going and having an amazing time? Absolutely. Do I miss those times? Somewhat, but I am also aware that I am older and that kind of wild-ass partying is too much for my old body to handle anymore.

I slept really well last night, which was a delightful and pleasant surprise. When I got home from the office yesterday–running errands on the way home–I was tired, of course, but still managed to do all the bed linens, get the rest of the laundry done, and did two loads of dishes in the dishwasher. There are still some odds and ends around here that need to be taken care of, but other than that, the Lost Apartment is sort of under control. For now, at any rate.

College football is also back this weekend (GEAUX TIGERS!) with LSU playing tomorrow night in the Super Dome. Monday of course is Labor Day, Tuesday I have to go into the office, and then Wednesday it’s off to Minneapolis. Huzzah! As such I will probably get no writing done at all while I am gone–I’ll be too busy running around everywhere–so it would be nice to make some good progress on everything I am working on this weekend. Of course, the temptation to be lazy and simply spend the weekend relaxing is, of course, always going to be there–will probably win out more often than not–but that’s okay. I am done beating myself up for not working every minute of every day every week of every month of every year. Everyone needs down time, and it’s absurd to think otherwise.

My reading is all picked out for the flights/airport time: Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden, Donna Andrews’ Round Up The Usual Peacocks, and Gabino Iglesias’ The Devil Takes You Home, if I don’t finish it this weekend, with Nelson Algren’s A Walk on the Wild Side on deck. I’ll probably get some books while I’m at Bouchercon, too–the book room is always too big of a temptation for me to avoid completely–and I am pretty overall excited about the trip, and neither flight requires getting up at the break of dawn, either, which is lovely. We also got caught up on Bad Sisters last night, a fun show on Apple Plus–but the one I am really looking forward to is The Serpent Queen, as I love me some Catherine de Medici, and I have long wondered why this fascinating, complex and extremely intelligent woman has never been deemed worthy of a film or a television series (it would have been a great role for Bette Davis back in the 1940s; she would have chewed the scenery like nobody’s business and gotten another Oscar nomination).

This morning’s coffee, by the way, is da bomb. Delicious and hitting the spot, which tells me yet again that I slept incredibly well.

I am feeling particularly good this morning, which is also nice. It’s always nice when you feel rested. Oh! I’ve also been invited to speak on a podcast about Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel, which gives me an excellent excuse to reread it!

Alert Constant Readers will have noticed by now that I’ve been making posts about my stand alone novels over the last month or so (maybe just the last couple of weeks? I am not sure of anything anymore and I certainly don’t trust my memories); I am currently working on Timothy and The Orion Mask, after which I will most likely move on to some of the pseudonymous work I’ve done–the Todd Gregory novels, for example–but I should also, in honor of Southern Decadence, talk about Bourbon Street Blues this weekend; but I’ve already done plenty of writing and talking about Scotty and how he came to be, and how I came to write the book and where the idea for it came from, so I’m not entirely sure there’s anything left to say about Scotty and Bourbon Street Blues that I haven’t already said; I’m sure I just don’t remember everything I’ve written on my blog about that book. But it won’t hurt to revisit the book; I know there are some things about the books I’ve never talked about before. but we shall have to see.

And then should I do the short stories? The novellas? Why not? It is my blog, after all, and I can do whatever I please with it, can’t I?

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee before heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in again later.

Landslide

Friday and a three-day weekend looms. Huzzah? Huzzah! There’s football games to watch this weekend (GEAUX TIGERS!) as well as a lot of work I need to get done before I leave for Bouchercon next Wednesday. Which is fine, of course. I just have to buckle down and get my head back in the game, is all. I’ve been tired this week after work–part of that is getting up at six in the mornings, certainly–but it’s irksome to not be able to get as much writing (and good writing, not the horrible shit I’ve actually been writing) and reading in every night as I would like before I turn my brain to relax mode. Ideally, I will be able to get some things taken care of this weekend; writing and reading and cleaning and getting ready for the trip. We have a two o’clock flight out in the afternoon, and we have two hours (!) at Midway Airport–but there’s also a Home Run Inn pizza place at that airport (I noticed it when I had to change planes there last spring when I flew to Kentucky–a mistake I shall never made again) and so perhaps we could have some wonderful Chicago-style pizza for dinner on our way to Minneapolis. I think by the time we get to the hotel and check-in and all settled it might be too late in the evening to do much of anything other than unpack; I also have a very early panel on Thursday morning which means I will have to get up around seven.

I hope there’s lots and lots of coffee to be had in the hotel, else it won’t be pretty.

Yesterday was a tired day for sure. I didn’t sleep deeply Wednesday night–not restless per se, but I was in a shallow sleep for most of the evening, if that makes sense? Not that horrible if I open my eyes I will be awake but that half-sleep where you know you’re asleep but you’re also aware of everything? I hate that. So by lunchtime I was already running out of steam and trying to just hang on until I got off work. I was going to run errands on my way home but was too tired and just came straight home (I can stop by the mail and the Fresh Market tonight or go tomorrow). Once again I was too brain-dead to either read or write, but I did make progress on some chores before collapsing into my easy chair to be a Scooter pillow. I watched Venus and Serena play doubles–Paul was out having dinner with a friend–and then we watched Five Days at Memorial and Archer, and finally were able to watch last week’s episode of American Horror Stories–Hulu kept fucking up when we tried before; we’d get halfway into the episode than it would reboot back to the beginning; finally last night it worked–the weird Judith Light gets a facelift episode–and really, it wasn’t worth all that trouble. These stand-alone horror stories are really hit-and-miss, just as they were in the first season; sometimes they are interesting and clever, other times as satisfying as eating something with no flavor. And then it was bedtime.

I slept fairly decently last night and feel a bit of a sleep hangover this morning, which is fine–I’m assuming the coffee will wipe the dust off everything and remove the cobwebs from the corners of my brain–but today is a short day in the office, which is always nice before a three day weekend–and of course, I intend to run those errands tonight (so I don’t have to tomorrow) and I also need to start making a list of the things I need to pack. I know I am going to take Gabino’s book with me to read on the trip, along with the new Donna Andrews (Round Up The Usual Peacocks) and Laurie R. King (Back to the Garden) to read when I have time or at the airport and on the planes; I imagine I’ll finish Gabino on the way up and get started on the Andrews; which I’ll finish in Minneapolis in order to read the King on the flight home. I also have a copy of Nelson Algren’s A Walk on the Wild Side–a friend had posted on social media that they were going to watch the campy film adaptation with Jane Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck, and I thought wasn’t that a book first? It was, and since it’s a New Orleans novel–set in the French Quarter in the 1930’s–I thought perhaps I should read this? So I ordered a copy, and it’s rather well written–I’ve glanced through it a couple of times, always finding some sentence that makes me think wow this is either really amazing or incredibly overwrought and overwritten–which is a very fine line to walk. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not I think it’s amazing when I read it.

I had promised myself I wasn’t going to go down any Internet wormholes again for a while, the other day one of the New Orleans and/or Louisiana history pages posted about the murder of a Storyville madam (which I’ve always thought could be an interesting basis for a book) by her long-time live-in lover to whom she’s always been rather abusive, and it mentioned that her killer, although a common-law spouse, was only able to inherit a very small portion of her estate due to “Louisiana’s concubinage law” and well, how could I not go looking that up? Louisiana has some very bizarre laws, particularly when it comes to inheritance; but you also have to understand that up until the Civil War ended, Louisiana had some very bizarre customs. The “concubinage law” was actually passed to protect the dead person’s “legal” family as well as his “extra-legal” family from each other if there was no will, or even if the will cut out one family to the benefit of the other. It’s from plaçage, of course; that dreadful custom where a wealthy white man had a white wife and children, but also had a Black mistress and children with her.

The “concubinage law”, for the record, was on the books until it was repealed in 1987.

1987.

Jesus.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

World Turning

Wednesday and Pay the Bills Day yet again. Huzzah?

Whatever, bill BASTARDS!

I also woke up this morning to a lovely review of A Streetcar Named Murder in Library Journal; what a lovely way to start the morning even before I’ve had my first sip of coffee. I can’t remember the last time I was reviewed there, if at all; I think my Scotty books with Kensington (the first three, in other words) were reviewed by LIbrary Journal, but it’s also been a hot minute since the release of Mardi Gras Mambo–Fat Tuesday, 2006, to be exact–so I don’t think it’s too beyond if I don’t remember.

Yesterday was a very busy day at the office; we were short-staffed during walk-in testing to I had to pitch in and help out, which put me behind with my appointments and got me out of there later than I usually get out of the office. I’d planned to run uptown to get the mail, but I was pretty worn down by the end of my shift (oh, yes, everyone showed up for their appointments as well, which never happens; there’s always at least one no-show every day) and so decided simply to drive straight home, especially since there was inclement weather; the air felt like with maybe one more degree of humidity the air would turn to mist or water or something–which is par for the course in late August in New Orleans. I always forget, from year to year, how dreadful late August can be and that the heat/humidity generally doesn’t break until about a week after Labor Day. It’s been so miserably hot for so long already this year that it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the summer heat lasted all the way until October this year. I didn’t write at all yesterday either, because when I got home I was drained, as I said. I didn’t even have the energy to do the dishes or anything around the house–which of course made Scooter enormously happy, since i just collapsed into my easy chair and made a kitty lap-bed for him almost as soon as I changed out of my work clothes. I’d slept well Monday night–I did again last night–but like I said, sometimes my clients require a lot of assistance and yesterday was one of those days, so I was tired by the time I got out, and it was later than usual, too.

I like it when my clients require assistance from me. I mean, it’s my job, and I like knowing when the appointment is over that I’ve helped them in some way–whether it’s easing their mind, helping them strategize how to reduce their risk of infections, and giving them a plan for what to do if they think they’ve put themselves at risk. It was also a pleasant reminder of how and why I love my day job. Maybe one of these days I’ll talk about my day job; maybe on my next work anniversary, this coming January when it will mark eighteen (!!!) years of my employment there.

I did watch Rafa play his US Open match last night; having Serena retire after this tournament made me also recognize that soon he, Roger Federer, and probably Novak Djokovic as well as Andy Murray will all be retiring from the sport. It’s the end of an era–an era of giants in tennis. Will we ever have a span like this, with so many great top-tier players in the sport ever again? Between them all–Serena, Venus, Roger, Rafa, Djoker, and Andy–they account for over 100 grand slam titles since 1999. That’s fucking incredible, especially when you figure there have only been about 172 titles awarded in that same time period. That’s pretty fucking impressive.

But I slept very well last night, and feel rested this morning. I don’t want to jinx anything but I’ve been consistently getting good sleep pretty regularly now, and I think it’s changing my perspective. I know having COVID changed something in my brain–I know when I came out of it I felt more rested than I had in I don’t know how long, and my brain had kind of reset. My memory is still shot–I asked a co-worker a question yesterday that I already knew the answer to but had completely forgotten which resulted in a very weird look and you knew that already and of course, once I’d heard the answer I was like d’oh, you’re right, I did know that, sorry. But I feel better emotionally, if that makes any sense, and I feel like whatever malaise/funk or whatever you want to call it that I’ve been in since the pandemic shutdown was finally lifted after I actually had the goddamned plague.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

Mabel Normand

Saturday in the Lost Apartment and all is well–at least so far.

I ran errands last night on my way home from work so I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything today involving leaving the house, and I think I’ll go ahead and make groceries on-line today to pick up tomorrow; we don’t really need a lot of stuff but it must be done. There’s a part of me that feels incredibly lazy doing this for some reason–perhaps the more I do it, the less guilt I’ll feel about having someone else make my groceries for me. I guess that’s really what it is; getting used to a new service. I mean, even the Fresh Market will do this, too–but one of the things I like about the Fresh Market is, well, everything seems fresher than at the other groceries, and picking out fruit and vegetables isn’t something I am willing to trust to another person just yet. I like to see the fresh stuff I am buying and pick it (although I am still regretting not stopping at that roadside stand when I was on the North Shore last weekend and picking up some Creole tomatoes fresh from the field, especially since I’ve not seen any in stores since then).

It rained again most of the day, and of course we’re still under a flood warning through sometime tonight. There are two systems out there I’ve yet to check but probably will momentarily. It’s that time of year when we seem to be getting hit with a higher degree of frequency since Katrina–just before Labor Day–and I know there have been at least three more storms around this time that I can think of right off the top of my head (2008, 2012, and last year for sure). Well, I took a look and yes, there is still a system in the Caribbean near the Yucatan, and there’s another one developing in the eastern Atlantic (meaning there are now two out there) but at least we’re okay for now. Labor Day weekend, on the other hand, could be something else entirely. Last year’s Ida was more of a Labor Day thing, if I am remembering correctly, or at least its impact and aftermath lasted through Labor Day. (2021 is still kind of blurry for me.)

The sun is shining right now, and I rested really well last night. A good night’s sleep is always a pleasure on the weekends, of course, and I even allowed myself the indulgence of sleeping in a little later. I have some laundry to finish and a sink to clear in the kitchen, and some other casual cleaning up and household maintenance to take care of this morning before I dive back into the wonderful world of work. I did get Chapter One rewritten Thursday–still leaves something to be desired, but isn’t completely the shitty mess it was before–and I did get started revising Chapter Two, which is going to be trickier–and then I have to springboard into Chapter Three, which I still have to figure out. I also want to do some work on some other things I am working on (as always) and I want to dedicate some time to reading Gabino’s marvelous novel The Devil Takes You Home today and tomorrow. I’ve actually been better these last couple of weeks at not being completely exhausted when I get home, which has also enabled me to try, at some level, to keep up with the housework so I don’t have to spend the entire day today cleaning and organizing and filing–there will be some of that, of course, and I also have to spend some time revisiting older Scotty books; maybe one of the things I could do today is start working on the Scotty Bible? That would help me remember everything that’s going on in the family and refresh my brain about some other things (did I ever give Rain’s doctor husband a name, for one really strong example of bad memory) and of course it would never hurt to have all of that assembled in one place that is easily accessible. Heavy sigh.

We also are watching Bad Sisters on Apple TV, and am really enjoying it. It’s rather dark; it’s about five extremely close Irish sisters who lost their parents young and were all raised by the oldest sister, who now lives in the family home, is single and apparently unable to have children. One of the sisters is married to an emotionally abusive asshole named John Paul who apparently takes delight in torturing and being cruel not only to his wife but to her sisters. One decides he needs to die, and recruits the oldest to help her kill him…and then each episode details how another sister got involved in the plan. The show opens with his funeral, so we know they succeed at some point, but the story alternates between the past (the sisters slowly coming together to decide to kill The Prick, which is what they all call him) and the team of brothers who work for the insurance company who have to pay out the death claim. The brothers (half-brothers, actually; one is played by the same hot actor who played the escort Emma Thompson hires for sex in her most recent film, which we enjoyed and I can’t recall the name of now) don’t really get along either. The oldest is convinced John Paul was murdered, but the younger brother is really attracted to the youngest sister and they are starting to develop a romantic relationship. It’s quite cleverly written and plotted–and even before I was completely sold on the show, I realized I wanted to keep watching because I hated John Paul so much I wanted to see how they decided to kill him and how. But well into the second episode I had to confess to being hooked. I loved the dueling timelines (I have always been a sucker for stories that are told this way, both the past and the present, flashing back and forth; I’ve always wanted to do one that way, but it seems really hard. A good example of a crime novel using this technique is Alison Gaylin’s What Remains of Me), the writing is sharp, and the acting top notch. It also takes place in Ireland, with gorgeous cinematography. I’ll keep you posted as we continue to watch.

We also watched the latest episode of Five Days at Memorial, which was truly painful to watch. The first episodes didn’t really get to me, but episode five–the fifth day, when the decision was made that everyone had to be out of the hospital and whoever couldn’t get out would be left behind regardless of the consequences, was absolutely wrenching in a way the previous episodes had not been. My Katrina scars are as nothing compared to what a lot of other people experienced: I survived, I was able to get out before the storm arrived, and my scars, while still from loss, are from bearing witness by watching television and witnessing what I saw when I finally came home in October, as well as living in a nearly-empty, 90% destroyed city after my return. (Last year, when we trapped here as Ida came in, was bad enough; I cannot imagine how horrible it would have been to have been stuck here praying for someone to come rescue us. At least we were able, and had the means, to finally get out when we ran out of food and water.)

I’ve also found myself thinking a lot about my Katrina writing these last couple of days–my essay “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet”; my short stories “Disaster Relief” and “Annunciation Shotgun” and “Survivor’s Guilt”; and of course, Murder in the Rue Chartres. I was thinking about this book last night–partly because of watching Five Days at Memorial, because it reminded me that Rue Chartres wasn’t supposed to be the third Chanse book at all. The third Chanse book was supposed to be something else altogether, but obviously in the wake of Hurricane Katrina my plans for both the Chanse and Scotty series had to dramatically shift and change. Seventeen years ago was a Saturday, the Saturday we nervously watched the storm, having now crossed south Florida and entered the Gulf, intensifying and growing and taking aim directly at New Orleans. We decided to not leave just yet; every other time a hurricane had threatened the city after we moved here we watched and waited patiently, and were rewarded with the storm turning east before coming ashore and the city avoiding a direct hit. We never lost phone, cable or power during those other instances–we were nervous, still reassuring ourselves of the turn to the east before landfall but the reality that we would have to leave was becoming more and more real. It’s odd that this year the dates all on the same day they fell back in 2005, so it’s a reflective anniversary that mirrors the actual weekend it happened. I’m debating whether I want to watch the new documentary on HBO MAX, Katrina Babies–that might be definitely too much for me to handle. (I’m still surprised that we’re able to–and were willing to–watch Five Days at Memorial, to be honest.)

At least I know Paul won’t be shaking me awake tomorrow morning at eight saying, Honey, we need to go.

OH! I didn’t tell you. Yesterday my other glasses I ordered from Zenni arrived–the red frames and the purple frames, and I absolutely love them. I don’t think I need to order any more pairs, to be honest, but it’s so cool to have them! And to have options now. I never ever thought of glasses as anything other than utilitarian, to be honest; I needed them to work and that was all I cared about, and I also thought they were too expensive to treat as part of a “look” or to be more style conscious…but Zenni is so inexpensive; the three pairs I got are all cheaper than the pair I got with my eye exam, and using my insurance. Had I saved my insurance for use on Zenni, they would have been even cheaper.

Life. CHANGED.

And on that note, I am going to make some more coffee and dive back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

Blue Letter

Friday!

I’m not certain why waking up on Friday makes me happy–or as happy as one can be when going through the tedious process of waking up from slumber–but I am sure it has to do with a light day at the office and then two days at home that are free (well, free from the day job, at any rate; I work all weekends as it is), and of course I will have errands to run as always, writing to do, laundry and dishes to clean up, etc etc etc. I want to finish reading Gabino’s book this weekend, and of course I want to write and do some other things as well. It rained overnight–a quite marvelous thunderstorm–and it’s still rainy and damp this morning now that I have arisen. It felt rather marvelous to sleep last night. There’s really nothing like rain/thunderstorms to help one sleep when one is buried beneath a pile of comfortable and very warm blankets.

I did work on Mississippi River Mischief some last night–the first chapter wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was, but it needed some fixing and things and so I was more than happy to add about a thousand words to it as well as clean some of it up. I also recorded a video for an on-line conference for A Streetcar Named Murder. I had to clean off my desk and straighten up the kitchen in order to get it done, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be to do, and I didn’t even mind seeing myself on video or hearing the recording of my voice as much as I usually do. Which was nice, of course–the initial shock of seeing how much older I look than I think I look seems to not be as great as it used to be. Acceptance? A final loss of vanity? Who knows? But it wasn’t as big an ordeal or as terrible as I feared it would be (few things ever are as terrible as I worry they will be, thanks to my vivid imagination). It’s also interesting to start transitioning into promo mode for A Streetcar Named Murder, which should be kind of different and fun than what I am used to experiencing when it comes to book promo.

I’m feeling good this morning, and my coffee is hitting the spot, and everything feels right, which is always a little unsettling for me as I inevitably wait for the other shoe to drop that is going to fuck everything up. It has always been my experience in life that there’s always another shoe about to drop. We finished watching one of the Fyre Festival documentaries last night–the Netflix one rather than Hulu, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. As someone who has done event planning, and is married to someone who basically has been an event planner since 1998, oh my God, how we both were cringing. Sure, we had hindsight, but…as we watched as the disaster unfolded and the guests started arriving into the mess that had been created, one of the people involved with it kept talking about how, right up until the last minute, the guy in charge–Billy something, who actually turned out to be a sociopathic schemer–kept thinking and believing and convincing everyone that it would somehow all come together and work out at the last minute. I turned to Paul and said, “what’s really frightening about this is knowing I’ve been that person many many times, oh, it’ll all come together while not being entirely sure that it will but thinking that because it always has before. Have you ever felt like that?”

And he replied, “every weekend before the Festival starts I basically have a panic attack.”

No matter how many lists you make, no matter how much attention you pay, no matter how many reminder notes you scribble down somewhere, there’s always this fear that you forgot something important that’s going to rise up and bite you in the ass at the worst possible time. It always reminds me of that bit from The Shining about the boiler–“that what was forgotten” (although I knew in the beginning of the book, when the hotelier spent so much time explaining the boiler to Jack, that at some point it was going to blow the entire hotel to smithereens–SPOILER, sorry!).

In fact, I had completely forgotten that I had chaired World Horror Con in New Orleans whatever year that was; 2014? 2015? 2013? It really wasn’t terrible, but all those spinning plates…but I was cautious and careful and made sure nothing went awry, and overall it ran relatively smoothly. Funny that I had forgotten about that. Is it my age and getting older that has damaged my memory so badly? Or is it that the older you get the more you have to remember, so there’s limited room in my memory banks so things get stored deeper in my brain and aren’t as easily accessible? That’s better and easier to believe than my memory is faltering and synapses are no longer firing.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely and dry Friday, Constant Reader. I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

Belle Fleur

Wednesday and the middle of the week and the countdown to Bouchercon continues. I think we leave two weeks from today? I booked my parking at the airport for the trip reservation yesterday, so it’s starting to feel like it’s actually going to happen. I am looking forward to this trip–I can’t believe I’ve not seen some friends since 2018–even though it’s going to be completely and totally exhausting. We have to change planes in Chicago both directions (because that always makes trips more relaxing and less stressful, you know) and then of course there’s the to-and-fro with the airport up there and…no, I am going to focus on the fun aspects of the trip rather than the hassles and irritations that come with traveling (I am also in denial over my usual travel insomnia).

Yesterday was okay. I got tired right around lunch time, and ran my errands on the way home (I did, however, cut one errand out that will have to be run today after work). By the time I got home, my mind wasn’t in a focused place, so rather than trying to read anything I did chores–laundry, dishes, straightening up, filing–and when Paul got home we watched the finale of Only Murders in the Building, which was fun, and the final episode of that Woodstock 99 documentary we’d been watching whose title I can’t recall at the moment (we enjoyed it so much we might actually watch the documentaries about the other shitshow festival, Fyre) but it was enjoyable before we retired for the evening. And it was really nice getting up to a relatively clean kitchen this morning. Hopefully, tonight I’ll have the energy to do the floors before doing some reading and writing.

I realized last night the reason I’ve been so reluctant to go back and revise these first two chapters of Scotty (as well as fix the problems in the four chapters of the other book) has been primarily because I intellectually know that they are terrible and need a lot of work, and I haven’t really been in the mood to examine just how terrible of a writer I can be (hush, you there in the back) when I writing a first draft and the story is still gestating in my head. I also keep defaulting to Mississippi River Bottom as the title of this book, which it’s not–it’s Mississippi River Mischief. Mississippi River Bottom was the working title for Jackson Square Jazz, and that flashed back into my head this morning as I referred to the book as “bottom” rather than “mischief.” In JSJ, Scotty meets the young figure skater at a seedy gay strip club–which I dubbed “the Brass Rail”, and I’ve used ever since as a stand-in whenever I need a seedy gay strip club for either Scotty or Chanse or a short story or anything I am writing where I need a seedy gay strip club. Most people assume “the Brass Rail” is the Corner Pocket, but it wasn’t originally. There used to be a seedy gay strip club in the lower Quarter–I don’t remember exactly where it was–called MRB’s, that had a stage AND a pole, should one of their dancers be so inclined. When I was new to New Orleans, I asked someone what MRB’s stood for, and they replied, “Mississippi River Bottom”–which amused me to no end; what a perfect name for a seedy club! It wasn’t until later that I learned it actually stood for Mr. Boudreaux’, which makes more sense…but in my heart I always kept thinking “it’s Mississippi River Bottom”, and when it came time to write the second Scotty. I decided to use that as a title. My publisher didn’t like it and suggested I do something alliterative, to mirror the first, which is how the Scotty titles began. Most of the book centered on the Cabildo fire on Jackson Square, so Jackson Square Jazz made sense to me as a title, and the publisher loved it. I’ve kept using the Brass Rail since then–it played a pivotal role in Royal Street Reveillon–and it’s going to appear in the new Scotty as well. Continuity alert! When the Brass Rail made its first appearance in my fiction, like MRB’s, it was located in the lower Quarter…however, whenever I’ve used it since it migrated to the Upper Quarter; which, of course, is always possible–businesses in New Orleans change locations quite frequently, and certainly much more frequently than anyone might think. It’s going to remain one of those unremarked-upon continuity errors in the series–why bore the reader by trying to come up with a backstory for the change in location, especially when no one has even noticed?

*eye roll to infinity*

I’m also thinking a lot about the book lately. I have some odds and ends I really need to clear up this week, but I also have been thinking about the book and what its story should be and how to make it all make sense. One of the great stressors of my life is not being able to write as often as I would like; my spare time is becoming more and more limited, and there’s always something else I need to do–that has nothing to do with my writing, which I resent, and I am growing more and more resentful of the time I spend doing things besides writing, which isn’t a good thing.

And on that note, I need to make a to-do list, I need to start getting things done and cleared off my itinerary, so I am going to head into the spice mines. Y’all have a lovely day, okay?

Starshine

Tuesday morning and I am awake, swilling my coffee and trying to think of what all needs to be done this evening when I get home from work. The weekend wasn’t nearly as productive as I would have liked…but it was also my birthday weekend so I am cutting myself some slack here (I know, it’s like I don’t even know myself anymore). I slept well last night, which is lovely, and am feeling awake this morning and not in the least groggy; I could easily go back to bed (which was enormously comfortable this morning) and sleep for a few more hours, but this morning that’s simply not in the cards. I have to get ready for the spice mines here in a moment, but I am just going to sit here and enjoy my coffee for another moment or two here before getting going. My coffee tastes rather good this morning, always a nice sign that it’s hitting the spot, and who knows what this day will bring? I am hoping for the best, as always; a smooth easy day at the office where things go the way they are supposed to, and then a stop on the way home to get some incidentals at the Fresh Market. The office space is a bit of a mess, but hopefully it won’t take long for that to get rectified.

I am also at a crossroads with a couple of projects, where I am trying to resist the urge to go back and fix what I’ve already done so I can move on with the next chapters. I think I am going to have to just go back and fix those chapters because, at least with the Scotty, it’s definitely keeping me from moving into the next chapter. The opening of this book has to be just right, or else the rest of the book will not work. And maybe–just maybe–I should go ahead and do the prologue, which is usually one of the last things I write (primarily because I am having trouble right now giving backstory in the first two chapters which is kind of necessary–since the prologue isn’t written–but I also need to know how I do the backstory so I know how much (or how little) to say in the text of the novel itself. I was having a bit of despair over the weekend over the state of the book, but just talking it through here this morning is helping clear things up in my head a bit–you see how that works? This is one of the reasons I always say the blog is really, at its most basic, intended for me to talk about things and my life and talk them through and maybe get some clarity in my brain once it’s talked through.

Ugh, August in New Orleans. I don’t know if it actually does get nastier, weather-wise, here in August or if it’s just being tired of the excessive heat going on months now. It rained again yesterday and overnight, and literally walking outside the air is so hot, damp, and heavy it feels like sitting in a steam room. Just stepping out the front door sucks the energy and spirit right out of you. I did manage to run my errands yesterday successfully–I skipped a couple of the errands, like returning the library books and stopping by Fresh Market, which I pushed off till today for after work which I will undoubtedly regret when I get off work and it’s rush hour traffic as I drive uptown on Claiborne Avenue–but it is what it is, and really, yesterday I wasn’t in the mood to run all over New Orleans in the rain and/or the heat/humidity and said fuck it, tomorrow at least I’ll already be out of the house.

Probably not the smartest or best reason to make a decision about running errands, but don’t judge me until you’ve lived here through a summer.

But it’s Tuesday morning and time to go back into the office and handling my patients again, which is a pleasure; I honestly enjoy interacting with my clients, in all honesty, and while it’s not the same as it used to be back in the olden days, I still like to believe I am making a difference in their lives, helping them reduce their risks of getting an STI.

We started watching a documentary about Woodstock 1999–a shitshow if there ever was one; and of course, knowing what’s going to happen makes watching the episode about the planning and the first day and the bright and high-minded mentality of those who organized it (I forgot there had been one in 1994, also a shit show but everyone wasn’t on the Internet yet so it didn’t get as much exposure as 1999 did)–the mentalities of young people in 1999 were significantly different than those they had in 1969; the world, the culture, society and civilization were dramatically altered and changed during that thirty year period. To me at the time, I just remember thinking this is some nostalgia that needs to remain nostalgia–kids nowadays aren’t about tearing down the Establishment and peace and love and harmony anymore; all you have to do is watch MTV’s programming to see this is going to draw that spring-break, party party party fratboy mentality and that is a completely different vibe than 1969. I inevitably was proven correct, but we only got through the first two episodes last night and there’s one left–which is the “all hell breaks loose” episode.

(Writing this reminded me to check the Hurricane Center. There’s still a system out there in the eastern Atlantic, but still not anything to be concerned about. Late August is always a tricky, stressful time for hurricane season–partly because of the Katrina anniversary, but we’ve also had at least three other hurricanes right before Labor Day since then as well, including last year’s delight, Ida.)

I did read some more of Gabino’s book, but it’s so powerful and well-written that the pain and suffering literally comes alive viscerally on the page, and I literally can only take a chapter or so at a time before it gets so intense I have to put it down. The book is brilliant and sad and wise and heartbreaking, and I can’t help but think things for the main character are going to continue to get worse. I think this is probably going to be one of the best books of the year–the writing is gorgeous yet raw as an exposed nerve at the same time–but it’s probably going to take me longer to read it than usual.

And on THAT note, I should probably head into the spice mines and start getting ready for work. May your Tuesday be as joyous as it possibly can, Constant Reader.