Enchanted

Thursday and I am really looking forward to the three day weekend.

And yes, I am well aware of how lazy that makes me sound but I don’t care.

I slept relatively well last night. Paul got home late, so we watched an episode of Why Are You Like This? which is funny and interesting at the same time–I’m also not entirely comfortable with finding it funny, to be honest; the characters are all so blatantly awful in so many different ways that I am sure I would not be amused by them in reality–but there you have it. Guilty as charged. It was also incredibly hot yesterday; the heat index was well over a hundred for most of the day, and when I got in the car after work, it was 100 degrees, according to the temperature gauge in the car. I went to get the mail (my copy of the Fire Island book arrived) and stopped at the bank before heading home. I was, as expected, rather tired when I got home and Scooter demanded a lap to sleep in, so I collapsed into my easy chair and took the evening off for most of the night. I did write for a little bit on “Never Kiss a Stranger”–which I am starting to develop imposter syndrome about (how I’ve missed that!)–and I am actually hoping to get it finished this weekend over the course of those lovely three days off, and maybe even get started on Scotty #8.

Number Eight. Wow. Who knew?

I really need to focus.

The heat hasn’t really helped much in that regard, and yes, I know New Orleans is always hot and humid, but this year it’s much hotter and more humid earlier than it usually is–or else my memory is completely shot. I don’t ever remember having heat advisories in June before, or it getting to be 100 degrees this early–remember, summer doesn’t even start until June 21st, so yeah, it’s still spring with the heat index hitting over 100 daily for the past week.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I was thinking last night (always dangerous) while Scooter slept in my lap about how much queer rep there has been on my streaming services lately, and it has definitely been a mixed bag. I kind of want to watch Fire Island again, to see what I missed the first time (a second viewing of anything like this is practically de rigeur for me, especially if I want to write about it) and that led me to thinking about Elite and Heartstopper again, as well as Young Royals, Sex Education, and Bonding, to name just a few. I was thinking about Heartstopper last night–which is how this entire line of thought began–and how adorable the show was; and part of that was because the actors were actually age-appropriate for the roles; and that changed how I perceived the show–I kept thinking oh these kids are so cute, whereas in shows where the teenagers are played by actors in their early to late twenties–which always seems to be the case, so that the drinking and drugs and sex in shows like Elite or Gossip Girl doesn’t seem as distasteful or wrong as it would be if they were actually using kids (one of the few times in television/film history where an actual teenager played a teenager who was having sex and getting into all kinds of trouble was Genie Francis as teenaged Laura Webber on General Hospital back in the 1970s) who were age appropriate; there’s an entire essay about older young adults playing sexualized teenagers and “who’s grooming who” in our culture that it struggling to take form in my mind…which is yet another reason I want to rewatch some of these shows.

I’ve also been thinking about Queer as Folk’s reboot since we binged it last weekend, and I am still not decided on what I think about the show; it might bear a rewatch as well so I can be certain that I am remembering things correctly and/or didn’t miss things that were relevant to the characters and the story being told…but I will say again–New Orleans looks beautiful on the show.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Y’all have a great Thursday, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Groove Me

And now it’s Sunday in the Lost Apartment, and I didn’t even go outside yesterday. Seriously, and it was lovely. I spent yesterday morning doing some organizing and planning and chores, and then dove into my edits. I emerged from the edits, bleary-eyed and more than a little bit tired, about five or six hours later and adjourned to my easy chair for some “be Scooter’s nap lap for a while” time and watched some videos on European royalty and some who were royalty-adjacent (Ivan VI of Russia, Diane de Poitiers, Elisabeth-Charlotte d’Orleans, duchess of Lorraine, and so forth) until Paul came home, and we streamed for the rest of the evening, which was nice and relaxing. Today I am going to finish the edits so it can be polished tomorrow before turning it in once and for all–huzzah!–and then the rest of the week I will undoubtedly have the “just finished a book for good” hangover and won’t get much else done. But I am already starting to feel that release of having a book finished; and my stress/anxiety levels have gone down significantly. I slept very well last night, which was also very nice and lovely, and I hope to do so again tonight–it’s been really nice getting all this sleep lately.

We watched Fire Island last night on Hulu, and I wasn’t horribly disappointed by it. I’ve seen few gay films–written, directed, produced and starring gay men– that weren’t disappointments; even the ones that come from traditional Hollywood inevitably I don’t care for very much. I never made it through Call Me by Your Name, for one example, and do not get me started on Philadelphia, In and Out, and To Wong Foo. But I enjoyed Fire Island, despite thinking I wouldn’t. I’ve actually never been to Fire Island–although I was invited to go for my birthday one year; their big Morning Party was actually on my birthday–but I was timid and shy and didn’t know how to get there from Tampa, because it involved trains and ferries and things, and I was also always broke in those days, and so I ended up not going. I’ve regretted it ever since…especially when I was writing Wicked Frat Boy Ways, which had a segment actually set on Fire Island. Anyway, I am digressing. I went into Fire Island kind of expecting it to be the same old gay story about Fire Island–I’ve read enough gay literary fiction either written or set in the 1970’s to have formed a strong impression about Fire Island–but the movie wasn’t what I was expecting. I was kind of expecting…I don’t know, another movie about beautiful and rich gay men with ripped bodies that didn’t go very deep, even if it was billed as a rom-com (I mean, a rom-com set on Fire Island?). But it was a lot more than what I was expecting; the characters the movie followed (a group of friends who all bonded and became kind of a family when they all worked at a horrible restaurant in Manhattan with “bottomless Mimosas”–that flashback scene might only be hilarious to former waiters, but it made both Paul and I laugh knowingly) were not rich for sure; the only reason they can afford to be there is they have a friend–a lesbian who won a lawsuit and got a shit ton of money and bought a house on the island, played by Margaret Cho–and there’s definitely some class issues played out in the movie, as well as issues of race. It was also nice to see some frankness about gay male sexuality. I won’t spoil the movie, but it wound up being deeply satisfying, had some really funny moments, and Bowen Yang is the emotional center of the movie–and he kills it. Fire Island may not be for everyone, but Paul and I really enjoyed it a lot more than we thought we would, and the island itself looks beautiful. I am far too old now to “do” Fire Island…but you can’t always do everything you want.

My, how philosophical I am after one cup of coffee this morning.

We also started watching a Spanish language show called Merli: Sapere Audi (Dare to Know), which is a sequel to a show called Merli about a philosophy teacher and ran for three seasons. This show focuses on one of the teacher’s best students, Pol, who is now studying at the University of Barcelona and is played by a really beautiful young actor named Carlos Cuervas, Pol is still in a relationship with Bruno, the son of his old teacher, and is still struggling to come to terms with his bisexuality (or homosexuality; I am not sure which it is), while developing a new relationship with his philosophy professor, who is played by Maria Pujalte, whom we have seen in numerous other shows; she is always great. It’s entertaining enough, and we’ll probably go ahead and finish it tonight. (I laughed because the opening shot of the show has Pol in the shower, with that shot being a close-up of his lovely ass. “Spain understands the gay market,” I laughed as we watched.) I’m not sure what we’ll watch when we finish this, but there are five more episodes so that will be a question for later this week, no doubt…I think the new, New Orleans based and filmed Queer as Folk will be dropping soon on HBO MAX, and we’ll probably watch that and Obi-wan Kenobi on Disney.

And we still haven’t watched all those Marvel shows, either.

I’ve been thinking–always a dangerous thing–lately about trying my hand at writing a gay romance. I’ve always avoided the genre because of it’s commitment to heteronormativity (which actually came up during Fire Island, which was kind of a knowing wink at the audience), but even before watching Heartstopper (I actually think Patrick/Ivan on Elité was when I first started thinking about it.). I even (of course) have a title for it, and was thinking it might be kind of fun to bring Jake from Bury Me in Shadows back and toss him a romance sequel. (I think my next Alabama may focus on his boyfriend Beau from Bury Me in Shadows….if I write another Alabama book. One never really knows.) But writing another book about Jake, or one about Beau would be kind of lazy since I already created them….but I also couldn’t write another book set in Corinth County and not acknowledge Beau…who was a cousin of the main character from Dark Tide, which did get mentioned. I don’t know. But as I put the finishing edits on my cozy mystery, I am thinking it might be fun and interesting to try something–a romance novel–that is completely outside of my wheelhouse. Sure I have to write Mississippi River Mischief, Chlorine and another project first; there’s all those novellas I have to finish as well as all those short stories; and of course, the essays.

Christ.

No wonder I am so tired all the time…

My goal has been to write a first draft of Chlorine in May, and then a first draft of another project (Muscles) in June, spend July writing the short stories and novellas, and then move on to Mississippi River Mischief in August. I’m now thinking–inspired by these edits–that what I really need to do is spend the rest of this month working on the short stories and novellas as well as getting MRM started; it would be great to have a first draft of MRM completed by August 1, and then spend the next two months writing first drafts of the other projects before returning to MRM to finish by December 1. I think that’s not only workable but doable, but I also have to stay focused on the goal and not allow myself to either get lazy or distracted. I really also want to get back down to 200 pounds before Bouchercon; that may not be entirely realistic, but I can at least change the way the weight is distributed on my body somewhat by then–although back in the day, I generally started working on my Decadence body (ah, the days when it mattered so much to me to be in shape for certain weekends of the year!) around June…but my body has aged and changed since those days, and the metabolism has completely slowed down. But my body also craves exercise and stretching–I may do some stretching when I finish writing this, and before I start putting stuff away and cleaning prior to diving into the edits–and it certainly cannot hurt for me to start trying to make it to the gym three times per week again.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Never Can Say Goodbye

Today is the day: New York bound in a few hours for the Edgars. I dread the traveling part–the drive to the airport, the waiting for boarding at the gate, claiming luggage and finding the car service, the ride into Manhattan–but later today I will be in the city for something truly exciting. Paul’s birthday is the night of the Edgars, and then we are flying back home on Saturday. Last night wasn’t bad. At first I was stressed and anxious and freaking out a little bit–the norm the night before a trip–but at some point I decided to stop being ridiculous and relax. I made a list of what I needed to pack, and gathered everything and then packed the suitcases. When Paul got home he packed. And I just relaxed, didn’t stress about anything, and then went to bed. I didn’t sleep well last night–of course, which I assumed was excitement about the trip as well as my mind punishing me for not getting anxious and letting my anxiety take over and make me completely miserable. It was actually lovely to not be stressed about the trip; likewise this morning I am relaxed and calm and not allowing myself to get stressed about getting to the airport and taking Scooter to the kitty spa and so forth.

I wonder how long this will last…but it’s lovely, frankly.

I am still obsessing about Heartstopper; I am not prepared quite yet to blog about both the show and the graphic novels (both of which I absolutely adored) as I am still processing it all. I may watch the show again once we get back from New York; it really was that good and enjoyable, and all eight episodes add up to about four hours of television. I’ve also fallen in love with Heartstopper Mixtape playlist on Spotify, which is essentially the soundtrack of the show (which really used music perfectly; I particularly love the song “What’s It Gonna Be” by Shura; it’s the song that plays during the rain scene–and there’s a lyric that keeps running through my head: if you let me down let me down slow. I suspect that’s going to wind up being a story title or the theme of something I write in the near future; there’s just something about the heartbreak in that line that touches something inside of me the same way the lyric “promises in every star” from ’til Tuesday’s song “Coming Up Close” haunted me for years before I wrote a story with that title). I mean, it really is the sweetest show; it even moved my bitter brittle heart, and I happy cried a few times watching it–no small feat to pull off, right?

I did finish my CV yesterday and it wound up being eleven pages long. I’ve written more novels than I’ve been giving myself credit for, as well as more short stories. The articles/columns/essays section is underreported; it ends in 2001, and I know I’ve written a lot more pieces than what I’ve recorded in the CV; someday when I get a wild hair (or want to avoid writing) I’ll go up into the attic and get the file box with all my copies of the articles/columns etc. and get it filled in, which will be kind of fun. It’s just nice to have the damned thing finally caught up with the fiction, frankly (eleven pages! JFC!) and it’s nice to have on hand. I should update it every once in a while when I think about it; but I certainly am never going to let it go fifteen years between updates (and to be fair, when I originally started putting it together back in 2007, I never completed it in the first place, so having it in some sort of order now is enormously satisfying) again.

I’ll take my victories where I can get them, you know?

I feel very calm this morning, which is unusual, and I think it’s because I am not letting myself get freaked out or anxious or stressed about this trip. It’s kind of nice, actually.

And on that note, tis time to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will probably check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Amos Moses

Sunday morning and I slept in again, which was marvelous. I fell asleep in my chair last night while watching television, which makes me think that no matter what time I arise, ten is now my bedtime, and I am not really sure how I feel about that, to be completely honest. I welcome the good sleep, though, and the rested and refreshed feeling I’ve been experiencing in the mornings. Yesterday was a good day; I didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted, but c’est la vie; such is life, and I did get things done. I worked on the kitchen, did some cleaning, working on my CV a bit more (more on that later), and laundered the bed linens (clean bed sheets and blankets always make sleep feel better for some reason I choose not to question). I did a load of dishes, cleaned some things out of the refrigerator that needed cleaning out, and organized some.

We rented Spider-Man: No Way Home yesterday and yes, I do think it was the best live action Spider-Man film (barring Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, which was animated). The young cast (Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalan) are absolutely pitch-perfect; the concept of the story was actually good; and it was a sweeping epic that caught us up in the narrative. I hate to think this might be Tom Holland’s last go round as Spidey, frankly; I adore the kid, and have ever since his Lip-Sync Battle performance doing Rihanna’s “Umbrella” (that was what got me into the theater to see Spider-Man Homecoming, which I didn’t care much about seeing before that clip won me over, and these three Tom Holland outings as my friendly neighborhood Spider-Man are my favorite Spidey live-action movies), and I hope this isn’t the end of this cast in these roles. I don’t know how the franchise can go on now, given the events of the movie, but in some ways it’s very true to the original comic books–Peter being alone and friendless. Tom Holland is also one of our best young actors; I’ve loved him in everything I’ve seen him in, even if the film itself was flawed. I’m sure he’s destined for a long and successful career, and he certainly has the money and success to focus only on projects that interest him as an actor; kind of like Daniel Radcliffe and the other kids from Harry Potter.

It would be a lovely place to be in as an actor, I would think.

After that, we switched over to Netflix to watch Heartstopper, a young adult gay romance series from Britain (with Olivia Colman in a very small party) and coming on the heels of season 5 of Elité, it was marvelous to see a love story between gay teens actually played by teens who weren’t perfect looking and beautiful. We deeply enjoyed this show, which was just incredibly sweet and adorable; how can you not fall in love with main character Charlie? How can you not empathize with him being mocked and bullied, yet despite this remaining first and foremost an incredibly kind and caring young man who loves his friends and wants to protect the people he loves from suffering the way he has suffered? It was apparently a graphic novel first, which was a bit of a surprise (I may have to go looking for it now; I definitely would read the novel if there was one) but a very pleasant one. It didn’t have any of the falseness or inauthenticity of other queer young adult fictions I’ve read and/or seen before; there was also lesbian representation as well as a very well rounded and developed trans character. It was so remarkably well done…I cried a couple of times. Rugby star Nick’s struggle to understand what he was feeling, and how to express himself in ways he’d never learned or thought about was also remarkably touching to see. I defy anyone to watch Heartstopper and these wonderful teens and not want to do everything in their power to protect them from hate and bullies–of which there is far too fucking much in the world, and has roared back lately thanks to the right wing hate machine. (It’s also been horrific watching people who consider themselves “allies” betraying us at every opportunity and turn…I’d forgotten how that felt, and frankly, I’ve cut people out of my life for far less than this…more on that later; I have been trying to compose a Julia Sugarbaker entry for several weeks now about the vicious political attacks on my community lately, but it’s not easy to do so without swearing vociferously and shredding people–mind you, they deserve it with both fucking barrels, but reason and logic is the best way to battle bigotry and hatred and garbage human beings.

I reserve the right to experience righteous anger and express it, though, because sometimes it is absolutely fucking necessary.

It’s weird that we’ve spent the weekend with superhero films, watching The Batman on Friday night and Spider-Man last night; we also started watching Severance last night, which I was also enjoying–my falling asleep during the second episode was more a result of my being tired more than anything else; I am going to rewatch it this morning while Paul sleeps–and there are several other shows I want us to get watching. We leave for New York on Tuesday, though–tonight and tomorrow night will be more about me packing and getting ready to head for the airport on Tuesday more than anything else; our flight is around noonish, I think–I need to double check, especially since I have to check us both in tomorrow–so we have time to drop Scooter off at the kitty spa before we have to head for the airport. (One of the things I need to do today is make sure I have everything I need, paperwork wise, for the trip–the car service from LaGuardia, the discount parking coupon for USPark, the confirmation number for the flights and the hotel)

Today I need to work on my story some more, do some more things, and get everything together that I need to get together before we leave town.

I’ve been updating my CV lately (something I’ve not done since 2009, and it wasn’t even really complete then) because I am doing a favor for a colleague (whom I also consider to be, at the very least, a friendly acquaintance) which requires me having an updated CV. As I was adding short stories, essays, articles, books and anthologies to the list, I began to realize why precisely people refer to me as prolific (which I always just smile and shrug off). The damned thing is already seven pages long, and I’ve not included everything–old books reviews, author interviews, columns, etc.–and there are some things I wrote for websites that I am no longer able to locate or remember (if it’s not in print, the chances I won’t remember it expand exponentially) and really, it doesn’t need to be that exact for this purpose; but it does make me think I really do need to, at some point, make sure every single thing I’ve ever written is included in my CV. I mean, it already looks impressive; I can only imagine how long it will be once it is as complete as I can make it. I mean, I wrote a fitness column every two weeks for IMPACT News and later for Window Media, for at least four years. That’s well over a hundred columns right there…not to mention all the book reviews I used to do. I think I have produced millions of words over the course of when I first started writing professionally all the way back in 1996 in Minneapolis, which was really when my writing career began; so I’ve been at this now for over twenty-six years, which is kind of amazing, really.

And perhaps it’s best for me to head into the spice mines now, so I can get a jump on the day. Have a happy Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will chat with you again tomorrow.

Bad Weather

Monday morning and I am awake. Scooter has taken to sleeping with me, as I’ve noted, since Paul moved into the hotel and now I understand why it’s so difficult for him to get up every day when Scooter is cuddling with him. It’s interesting to me how pet-owners are always so reluctant to disturb their pets when they are sleeping–like they won’t go back to sleep or don’t spend most of their time sleeping–and that is exactly what happened to me this morning. I woke up to find him curled up next to my shoulder, his little head resting on my arm, and not only dead asleep but purring. I smiled and went back to sleep. I was finally able to get up when I woke again and he was no longer purring. I shifted a bit, he woke up and moved to the laundry basket, thus freeing me to get up. Insane, isn’t it? All he would have done was get up and go to sleep in the laundry basket, and yet…well, it’s also nice to be cuddled with him, too.

I stayed off social media for the most part yesterday, and I think that my plan from now on is to do precisely that on the weekends. Did I feel a bit remote and isolated and disconnected? Sure, I did–but at the same time, it was also kind of fucking lovely, if I am going to be completely honest. It really was. And not checking in on social media or doing the repeated doom-scroll we all seem to do in order to pass time was actually quite lovely. I didn’t really feel like I was missing anything, and I managed to get a lot accomplished yesterday–a lot more than I usually do on a Sunday, and I feel like that says quite a bit about social media and its toxic influence on our lives. I had already started cutting back on it–only checking in here and there throughout the day, rather than obsessively–and it’s helped me focus a lot more on getting things done that need to get done. I think when historians write about this time in our history–provided the world doesn’t end in the meantime–they are going to be very curious and fascinated by our obsession with social media, as well as the damage it’s done to civility and personal relationships…

I finished editing the manuscript yesterday (huzzah!) so will be sending that off to the author this morning. I also did a lot of cleaning yesterday, and did a lot of brainstorming about the story I am working on and the next Scotty book. I also spend some time with Alex Segura’s Secret Identity, resisting the urge to ignore everything else and tear through it as quickly as possible and instead taking my time with it, so I can savor the reading experience. I am greatly enjoying this visit to the 1970’s comic book world, and seeing a look at New York during that same time period; when the city was grimier and grittier. (I was actually thinking about how differently New York looks in older movies–like Pillow Talk–as opposed to 70’s movies like The French Connection, Taxi Driver, and Midnight Cowboy. Granted, the old movie code inevitably had something to do with that, but the evolution of depictions of New York on film would make for an interesting essay for someone with more knowledge of film to write; I know I would love to read something like that.) But I am, as I said, loving every minute of Secret Identity, and am glad I decided to go slow and enjoy the story and what Alex has done here in the book. Bravo, Alex!

I have some errands to do today, data to enter and work at home duties galore; I also would like to spend some time getting my emails handled and under control–I’ve let them slide during the focus on finishing editing the manuscript–and of course, still some odds and ends of cleaning to get done here in the Lost Apartment as always. (I do feel better about some of the progress made this weekend, however; I’m starting to feel like the apartment is finally getting under some kind of control. Not that there still isn’t a lot to do, but headway has been made at last.)

Pretty cool, actually.

And on that note, I am going to dive into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)

Another good night’s sleep here in the Lost Apartment, which was lovely. I woke up before six again this morning, but stayed in bed a while longer. It’s cold in New Orleans this morning; currently it’s thirty nine degrees with a predicted high in the low fifties, probably later this afternoon. It is also the day of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in uptown, so I am not leaving the house. Errands would be impossible with streets closed and blocked off anyway. I guess a horrible snowstorm is heading to the northeast, so I hope everyone up there is prepared and ready and stays safe. I have to say I do not miss living in that kind of weather. It may be cold here but at least the sun is out and we have a clear azure sky overhead.

Today I have a lot to do (surprise, right?). I didn’t get nearly as much done yesterday as I needed to as the day kind of blew up around me–it happens sometimes and can’t be helped–with the end result that I didn’t get everything finished, or worked on at least, the way I had planned. Which is fine–no sense crying over spilt milk, the only thing to do is clean it up and get on with it. We had a massive thunderstorm last night (poor Paul had to walk home through it) and then we watched the LSU Gymnastics meet against Utah (LSU triumphed, despite some absurd high-scoring of the Ute gymnasts), and then I kind of relaxed for a bit before going to bed. The latest Scream movie is now available to stream, so I am kind of hoping Paul comes home tonight early enough so we can watch it (yes, I know I could watch it without him and then watch it again, but…) I also managed to get a lot of my chores done last night while I waited for Paul to come home, so I don’t have as many to do today, which means hopefully I can do some new chores that I never get around to (those shutter doors to the laundry room! Those ceiling fan blades!) usually.

The mystery of the banning of The Postman Always Rings Twice continues. I reached out to another friend with a lot of knowledge of the history of crime fiction, with an emphasis on both hard-boiled and noir, and she didn’t think it had been banned in Boston; although it was banned in Canada. And yet, right there on it’s Amazon sales page is this:

First published in 1934 and banned in Boston for its explosive mixture of violence and eroticism, The Postman Always Rings Twice is a classic of the roman noir. It established James M. Cain as a major novelist with an unsparing vision of America’s bleak underside, and was acknowledged by Albert Camus as the model for The Stranger.”

It really would be interesting if that turned out to simply be a marketing gimmick with absolutely no basis in fact, wouldn’t it? I spend some more time skimming through the Hoopes biography and still have found nothing about the banning or an obscenity trial for the book; it does make me wonder somewhat if the banning of Serenade somehow became conflated with Postman over the years; Cain was banned in Boston, just for a different book. A bold claim, to be sure, but it’s beginning to look that way…and I do think it’s an interesting perspective for an article or an essay. As I become more and more obsessed with finding out about this, I also realize I bet this is how a lot of non-fiction writing gets started, isn’t it?

And anything I find on-line listing “books banned in Boston” does not include Postman. Like I said, interesting.

My heel feels better this morning, but I think it’s best to keep letting it rest before over-exerting it again. I am going to try to return to the gym on Monday, depending on how my foot feels, but I’m not even aware of it this morning as I walk back and forth between my desk and the coffee maker. (Okay I was paying attention just now as I got another cup, and there’s still a bit of discomfort but unnoticeable unless I am paying attention, so that means it’s getting better and I probably shouldn’t push my luck.)

And I think on that note I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and stay safe from inclement weather.

Where Would I Be Without You Baby

Thursday morning at last, and the last day of the week in the office for Gregalicious. I didn’t have the greatest sleep last night–I seemed to wake up or be half-asleep a lot–but I don’t feel tired or sleepy this morning. I’m quite delighted by this, but we’ll see how I feel later this afternoon during that “day coming to an end” stretch. I also seem to have injured my foot yesterday. I don’t know how, and it doesn’t make any sense. Best I can figure I had my shoe insert not properly placed and walked on it till the heel bruised slightly, so I started limping yesterday afternoon. I reset the insert–I don’t understand how I didn’t notice that my heel was getting bruised until it was, it seems insane to me this morning–and that made it easier, but this morning it still hurts. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Now I have to stay off it as much as possible until it gets better, which means no walking to the gym in the meantime. Sure I could drive, but that just seems kind of silly, since the gym is actually so close: yes, my gym is about a ten minute walk from my house but I drive to work out instead.

Yeah, not a lot of sense there.

The editing continues to go rather smoothly and am still making progress. I hope to have the whole thing re-edited by Saturday at the latest, and it’s a much stronger book now I think than when I turned it in. I also managed to get a lot of other work done yesterday–this has been actually a very good week for productivity–and I think I am close to being back on track and back to my old self (which always seems to jinx it, doesn’t it?). Yesterday I came dangerously close to zero email in my inbox; I am hoping to make that a definite reality come this weekend.

I got a copy of Cain by Roy Hoopes, the definitive biography of James M. Cain (one of my writing idols) for a project I had in mind–with books being banned and laws being passed to get books removed from libraries or access from those under eighteen, I thought it might be a good time to do a little research into the obscenity trial (attempted banning) of Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, which is not only a great (if incredibly short) book, but incredibly influential for many modern day crime writers. Cain is one of my favorite writers, even if I don’t talk about him much, but I do; I love his work. Imagine my surprise to not be able to find out much information on the Internet about this banning; I believed it was “banned in Boston” (does anyone else remember that phrase? Just me? okay then). I found ONE link to a website discussing it, so naturally I reached out to my friends who are either aficionados or steeped in the history of our genre. The book arrived yesterday, and so I started looking through the index. Nothing. But there was a chapter about two court cases involving Cain that happened around the same time: an accusation of plagiarism from a woman who claimed he stole Mildred Pierce from her, and an obscenity trial for Serenade. And this morning I was able to find some things on line about the trial for Serenade…which also reminded me that I couldn’t believe Serenade hadn’t been controversial at the time it was published; I remember even thinking how did Postman get banned but this one didn’t? I just figured the failed attempt to ban the one resulted in the other getting a pass.

But I also have to say I am a lot more interested in researching the banning of Serenade than I ever was about the banning of Postman. Stay tuned!

So, today I get to come straight home from work (yay!) and I can do some chores around the house so I don’t to have to worry about that this weekend. The Lost Apartment is starting to look better–still messy and there’s still a lot of touching up to do–but if the more overall macro stuff gets done on the weekdays, on the weekends I can do the touching up. I really need to do the shutter doors to the laundry room and the ceiling fans (I hate to do this because I hate ladders and the fans hang so far down from the ceiling you can’t really use one of those long-reach blade cleaners because it inevitably makes them swing and I am afraid one of these days I will put the whole fucking thing down), and of course the windows around my desk need to be done again.

Heavy heaving sigh.

But on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader! And I wil check in with you again tomorrow morning on my work-at-home Friday!

In and Out of Love

Monday morning and it’s a weird new work thing for me; I now work at home on Mondays and go into the office on Thursdays instead; it’s going to take me a little while to get used to this. I woke up at six this morning, and just kind of drifted in and out of sleep until around eight, when i finally rose. I feel very rested this morning, but have a daunting day ahead of me. I have my work at home duties, of course, and then when I am finished with those I have some things to get done for me personally. I have one more chapter to write in the book, and then some final revising, before it’s finished. (I am at the point where I keep thinking but does this make sense? How do I make this part make sense? Does changing this make this confusing? which means I am in the final stretch of finishing it.) I have some writing to do for a friend’s website, and I have some MWA things to get done. But if I keep my head down I should be able to get everything done–and then once the book is out of my hair, things should open up for me.

Pressure. I should have named this blog entry “Under Pressure.” Maybe that’s what i can call my memoir.

I did get work on the book done over the weekend and it is very close to being finished–so close it’s almost kind of scary, really. It’s been a lovely challenge–it’s completely out of my wheelhouse, but as always, anything that forces me to write in a different way or pushes me out of my comfort zone is precisely the sort of thing I should be writing. I do worry about getting stale; I know I’ve mentioned finding patterns in my work, whether it is character arcs or story structure or themes I return to again and again. When I took the contract break in 2015–and then made the decision to never sign a contract without a complete first draft at least on hand (a rule for myself that I broke with this one I am finishing; which is also reminding me of why I went this way in the first place, as the stress and pressure of finishing on an <extended> deadline has really had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown for the last month or so) in order to try to better manage my stress AND my writing habits–I decided to keep writing and doing things that push and challenge me. Royal Street Reveillon was an attempt to get back to Scotty and how I originally wrote him; the last few books had much more simplistic A to B to C plots, and I wanted to get back to those insanely complicated, twisty plots I dreamed up for him in the first three books in the series. The end result was that RSR was one of my favorite Scottys in a very long time to write; it felt like a return to form that had been lost or forgotten in those amorphous, nebulous years that followed Hurricane Katrina; and I felt like I was challenging myself with the writing again. RSR was the make-or-break Scotty title–how it went and how it turned out would determine whether the series would continue.

Reader, it will continue, probably later this year. I do want to get a Scotty done this year, but I also want to get a strong first draft of Chlorine done first. If all goes according to plan, Chlorine will be finished no later than the end of April and I can start working on Mississippi River Mischief over the summer. Fingers crossed, Constant Reader. I also plan on getting the novellas finished as well as get another short story collection pulled together this summer. The essay collection will have to be punted until next year, undoubtedly; I don’t see how I would have the time to start pulling it together this year, especially when I don’t know what all I have on hand that is ready to go and what I need to write new and what I need to finish writing that is already started. Heavy heaving sigh.

It kind of feels like I’ve been in the weeds with this book since the beginning. I remember getting the contract offer right around Hurricane Ida–I remember desperately communicating with the publisher via email with my spotty cell service those horrible hot days without power–so all told, from contract offer to finished book to turn in was about five months, give or take. Pretty quick, really, especially for a book that only had fifty pages written on spec and had an entirely different setting for the key to the series. But there will be plenty of time to bore you to tears with A Streetcar Named Murder, Constant Reader; I probably should still be shilling #shedeservedit but it’s hard to focus on that while stuck finishing another book.

And on that note, I am going to have some more coffee and head into the spices mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

Whisper You Love Me Boy

I am so messed up this week. I literally had no idea what day of the week it was for most of the day and had to keep reminding myself it was Tuesday and not Monday. It was very annoying and terribly irritating, as I am sure you can imagine. And it kept messing with me the entire day. I kept thinking oh two more days in the office despite the fact that there was actually only one (I have a doctor’s appointment on Thursday so have taken the day off) and I couldn’t wrap my mind around the notion of it being Tuesday all day. I certainly hope today isn’t going to another disorienting don’t know what day it is kind of day.

So far so good this morning, really. I feel more awake and a lot less discombobulated than I did yesterday, which is definitely a plus. It also doesn’t feel as cold today as it did yesterday, which I am also taking as a win; Friday is supposed to be miserably cold, but I’ll deal with that when that comes around (note to self: look for other space heaters this evening when you get home from work); hopefully it won’t cause the “cold paralysis” I sometimes experience–when it’s so cold I can’t do anything but huddle for warmth under blankets. Our heat isn’t working again; I turned it on last week and it came on…but then it turned off and hasn’t come back on again since. I really hate our new system because I cannot grasp how it works, and it seems to be so incredibly sensitive to everything that anything even just the tiniest bit incorrect will shut it down completely and we have to call the guys out again. I don’t even know if Paul has bothered mentioning it to our landlady this time, to be honest. It seems like having a working HVAC system is simply not in the cards for us.

Yesterday I got some lovely new editions of Joseph Hansen’s first four Dave Brandstetter mysteries in the mail, which is very exciting. It’s been decades since I read Hansen; and frankly, I am not entirely certain I read the entire series–but that’s lost in the murk of the past; I cannot imagine I didn’t if they were in print, and I do distinctly remember some lovely paperback editions I picked up at Tomes and Treasures in Tampa…but I don’t recall reading them all. So I have decided that I am going to reread Hansen’s novels again–it’ll be interesting to see what my take on them is now that I am also twenty years into a mystery-writing career as opposed to the mystery-writer-wannabe I was when I originally read them (I also seem to recall picking some up at the Borders in Minneapolis at the corner of Lake and Hennepin). Hansen isn’t nearly as remembered as he should be, frankly; I think it’s a disgrace he was never an Edgar finalist or named Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America.

I got the cover art and the proofs for an anthology I contributed a story over the last few days: Cupid Shot Me: Valentine Tales of Love, Mystery and Suspense, edited by Frank W. Butterfield. This is the place where I finally found a home for my nasty little story “This Thing of Darkness”, which was inspired by a visit to New Orleans a few years ago from someone I went to high school with–I met him at Tacos and Beer, which is just around the corner from my house, and of course while I waited for him and watched the crowd there, I started writing a nasty little story in my head that began precisely that way: the protagonist meeting a friend from high school he hasn’t seen in forty years for dinner in New Orleans at Tacos and Beer (which just goes to show–a writer will take inspiration from pretty much any-fucking-where), and as I wrote the story in my head while I waited it took a much darker turn. I was working on the Kansas book at the time (yet another draft of it) and here I was seeing someone from high school back in Kansas…so it really took a dark, nasty turn. I had been doing some research on, of all things, the nuclear missile bases scattered across Kansas (there was one near our high school) which led me into another Youtube wormhole about the TV movie The Day After…and also made me think about an entire book that could be built around one of the abandoned missile bases…anyway, after dinner I went home and started writing this story. It wasn’t originally called “This Thing of Darkness” (which is from Macbeth, by the way); I don’t remember what I originally called the story, but “This Thing of Darkness” was originally the title for the story in Unburied, “Night Follows Night”, but was too good of a title to not use, so I switched whatever the title of this was out for it.

I do like the story, twisted as it is, but it also got me to thinking about patterns in my short stories and how I write them–which I would talk about it here but the thought is still completely unformed, which has never stopped me before, of course, but it is so unformed that I would embarrass myself writing my way through exploring it, and I am not entirely sure that I actually regularly do what I think I do–following the same story structure in all of my stories–so I would need to reread more of them at once to determine whether that is something I actually do with my work…

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines.

Ask Any Girl

Sunday morning and I wish I was coming down.

But a cold spell has descended upon New Orleans overnight, and its chilly in the Lost Apartment this morning. I overslept–much later than ever–and didn’t rise until ten this morning; obviously, all that “outgoing energy” I spent on the MWA ZOOM board orientation drained my batteries completely. That, and the cold, I suspect, combined to make me not want to get out of bed this morning–in fact, I could just as easily go straight back to bed and probably could fall asleep for a while. I am sure that has more to do with the cold than anything else; all I really want to do is get underneath a blanket and stay warm–so when I finish this I am going to go sit in my easy chair under a blanket and read some more of the new Alafair Burke novel before diving into this morning’s writing. I am going to do my best to pretend my email inbox doesn’t exist today and solely focus on resting, reading, and writing.

We finished watching Murders at Starved Rock last night, which was actually kind of annoying; the entire premise of the documentary is the man who served over forty years for the murders might be innocent, and yet they finished filming before the DNA tests came back (due in 2022)? I mean, sure, they can always do one more episode later, but come on–you left the audience hanging? Why put the documentary together and release it now? Paul and I found this to be terribly irritating and annoying. We then moved on to Season 2 of Cheer–I had wondered if they would do another season, given how incredibly popular the original was back in those early days of the pandemic; I actually think it may have come out before the pandemic–it’s so hard to remember these things now. I had wondered how they would do the second season–given how successful the first was–and I have to say, the decision to focus on how the sudden fame has affected everyone there at Navarro College and the town, while still trying to get prepared for the next Nationals–and taking a look at their arch-rival from Trinity Valley as well–was a very wise choice. The Trinity Valley coach also makes a good villain, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. So far so good; will keep you posted as we get further into the season.

We haven’t even gotten to the part where one of the breakout stars is arrested for inappropriate behavior with an underaged boy yet–although I am not sure I am all that keen on watching how that plays out, really, other than in a “can’t look away from the train wreck” kind of way. And isn’t that really the allure of reality television in the first place? The opportunity to be voyeurs without judgment? (Hmmm, that would be an excellent jumping off point for an essay, wouldn’t it? Hmmm.)

But I need to write today; reshaping and revising my manuscript so that it’s ready to go to the editor, and everything else I have to do is going onto the back-burner to simmer for a little while longer. I have been thinking also a lot about a couple of stories I need to get finished, “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and “Solace in a Dying Hour,” and I need to go over “The Sound of Snow Falling” one more time. I was also very pleased to see the Cincinnati Bengals won their play-off game yesterday (I don’t really care about the NFL outside of the Saints, but I, as an LSU fan, am also a huge fan of both Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, who are now killing it at the professional level so I follow the Bengals a bit; I also pay attention to the Chiefs more than I ordinarily would because two favorite LSU players are also on their roster.)

And on that note, I am getting another cup of coffee and retiring to my chair to read some more of Alafair’s new book before diving back into mine.

Have a happy Sunday, Constant Reader!