My World Is Empty Without You

So, the HVAC guys came yesterday to fix our heat. We got a new system last year after the old one finally died just before the Fat Tuesday Freeze (the coldest I’ve ever been in my life, and I lived in Minneapolis for a winter), but we’d never needed to ever use the heating aspect of it once it was installed; the weather changed in mid-February and it wasn’t needed again. When it got cold last week, I turned it on, it ran for a bit, then kind of coughed and stopped working. Within an hour of them getting it running yesterday, the house was not only bearable but temperate. The old system never warmed the downstairs and inevitably turned the upstairs into a sauna; this one actually moderates the temperature based on the floors so that doesn’t happen anymore. I don’t even need to wear my slippers because the floor isn’t too cold for stockinged feet. This morning it is thirty-seven degrees outside but I am not wearing layers or slippers inside the Lost Apartment this morning and it’s kind of lovely.

As I said to Paul last night as we started watching the final season of Ozark, “clearly, we’ve needed a new system since we moved in here, and this is how everyone survives the cold spells in New Orleans.”

I had often wondered, frankly. I’ve even written about it, convinced that heating these old houses in New Orleans wasn’t truly possible…and now I know I was wrong, all along.

Which is kind of embarrassing, really.

It’s weird to be sitting here at my desk, shivering and cold. It’s also nice.

As always, this is a Saturday where I must get lots done. I am behind still on the book, and of course the place is a disaster area and I have to run errands out in the cold at some point–which I am really not looking forward to. Tomorrow I have a goal of going to the gym and working out again for the first time in months; this should be interesting but I also know it’s going to feel amazing to be going to the gym fairly regularly again; fingers crossed, right? And now that it’s no longer cold in the apartment, I have no excuse for not getting anything done; when it’s cold I am too cold to function and all I want to do is huddle in my easy chair under a blanket. Well, don’t have that excuse anymore in a temperate indoor climate, do I? Which is a good thing. I didn’t have any it’s warm here in the bed and cold out there thoughts about getting up this morning–I still stayed in bed longer than I probably should have, but what can you do? Lazy’s going to lazy, I am afraid, but the fewer excuses I can give myself, the better.

I heard about a new anthology I am excited to submit a story for, particularly because I already have a story ready for it. I don’t remember what I originally wrote the story for, but it was for a submission call but I cannot remember which anthology it was for; it wasn’t taken, and I’ve played with the story off and on over the years. Now that I know it’s got a potential home, once this book is finished and turned in, I can get back to it and put the kind of detail into it that will make it sing and stand out; it’s a bit ghoulish, really; but I really liked the story and its potential; I had always intended to get back to it, maybe for my next short story collection (This Town and Other Stories; not sure when that will eventually see the light of day, but I am getting a lot of stories into print and once this current book is finished will be sending out more to other markets and hopefully getting some more traction with the stories, as well as writing others to fill it out. I am actually very excited about getting this collection together this year, frankly).

I also saw the final draft of the cover for A Streetcar Named Murder, which had a mistake on it, which is why I am not sharing it with you, Constant Reader; I should have the final cover design early next week and I cannot wait to share it. It’s gorgeous and perfect and I love it. Now I just have to finish writing it…

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Will check in with you tomorrow and let you know how the day went, Constant Reader. Have a great Saturday yourself, okay?

When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes

As I mentioned yesterday–these blog post titles taken from the Supremes discography sometimes feel a bit off as I do some Blatant Self-Promotion about my new soon-to-be-released novel #shedeservedit.

I got my first ignorant comment on one of those blog posts yesterday; someone posted a link to a video about “toxic femininity” and how it’s “as bad if not worse” than “toxic masculinity.” Needless to say, I not only didn’t approve the comment but marked it as spam and blocked the user from commenting/reading my blog. For those of you who are new here–I don’t engage with trolls, not do I permit them the energy or the oxygen of allowing their ignorance to be seen by anyone here. This is my blog and I pay for it; therefore I will curate the content here and if you want to troll me, well, it’s just going to earn you a comment marked as spam and get you blocked, so don’t waste your time or energy on me. You may, of course–I cannot stop you, but I won’t engage with you nor will I allow Constant Reader to see your ignorance, so there you have it.

I wrote yesterday, and it felt good to get another chapter down. I only have two more to go and the revisions, and I have to say, pantsing this thing on a tight deadline hasn’t been the easiest way to write this book, but it’s working. I’ve got the plot all worked out now, who the killer is and why, and now all I have to do is cram the resolution into the last two chapters and we are finished, done, ready to go off to the editor with prayers that she likes what I’ve done and doesn’t require a complete overhaul, which is also entirely possible and within the realm of probability–one of the reasons, frankly, that I’ve not signed. a contract to dive straight away into another book when this one is finished; I thought it best to leave my time free just in case. (I am going to start working on Chlorine and Mississsippi River Mischief while waiting for my edits; there’s always something to write, after all–I can also work on the revisions of the novellas in the meantime as well.)

There’s always something…

Today’s BSP is going to focus on writing about small towns, rather than what I’ve been covering (toxic masculinity). The first book I remember reading about a small town that really stands out to me–as an examination of small town dynamics, rather than merely a setting for the story–was Ellery Queen’s Calamity Town, which was, if you are an Ellery Queen fan, the first Wrightsville story. There were several of these novels–the second, I believe, was The Murderer is a Fox–and I enjoyed them all; Queen clearly loved writing about Wrightsville, since he kept returning to the scene of the crimes, as it were, but the best, the true standout for me, was the first: Calamity Town. This book–published well over a decade before Grace Metalious scandalized the world with Peyton Place–also covers the same territory as Peyton Place: scandal and hypocrisy and the paralyzing power of gossip in small town America. Calamity Town remains a favorite mystery novel of mine to this day; I should reread it. It’s plot is ingenious and entirely rooted in human psychology, and it also contains one of the best and most clever misdirections in crime fiction history. It was Calamity Town that made me first start thinking about how small town society is actually a microcosm of American society as a whole, all encapsulated in a small package, and also that made me realize, for the first time, how claustrophobic small towns can be; where everyone knows everyone and you can’t really do anything without someone knowing; and how secrets kept can become very damaging over time. Queen is, at first, struck by the apple-pie Americana of Wrightville…and then he begins peeling back the layers.

Peyton Place, which I found to be far less scandalous than either General Hospital or All My Children by the time I got a copy at a secondhand bookstore in Emporia when I was seventeen or eighteen, also showed me again how claustrophobic small town life could be. Sure, there’s some bad to the point of laughable writing in the book (“your nipples are hard as diamonds”, anyone?) but other than those brief moments, overall it’s a very well-constructed book and a damning indictment on the hypocrisy of American small towns. I also read Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street around the same time for an American Literature class (I still think we should have read Elmer Gantry instead, or It Can’t Happen Here, but I was not in charge of the syllabus), which is also about the falseness of keeping up appearances and worrying what the neighbors think. I find it interesting that “small town American values” are frequently–particularly by conservatives–pointed out as what is the backbone of our country and so on and so forth (part of the entire “cities are BAD” thing we have had going on culturally for decades, if not centuries), but when that veil is peeled back, there is just as much rot and decay as in any “wicked” city. As I pointed out on Susan Larson’s radio show the other day, the vast majority of the soaps were originally set in very small towns, rather than urban centers.

Nobody does small towns quite like Stephen King, and the first time he really addressed small town life was in ‘salem’s Lot–although it can be argued he did a masterwork on small town life with Needful Things–and it was in his tale of small town Maine being overrun by vampires, he also did an incredible job of painting the town, it’s working class citizens and the minutiae of their lives; how circumstances trapped some of them and killed their dreams–and how others never had any dreams to be killed in the first place. The way he interweaves the lives of his small town characters, their relationships and histories and how everything is interconnected is masterful; has anyone ever done a critical analysis of King’s work with small towns? It also falls into this group; what King does with Derry is just as exceptional as his work on Castle Rock and Jerusalem’s Lot in the other works.

I based Liberty Center on Emporia, Kansas, geographically; my town is loosely laid out the same way Emporia is; there’s a small college there, as in Emporia, and there’s a meat packing plant on one side of town that reeks of death and stale blood on the south side of town, and of course, the waterfall on the river on the way out of town heading south and the park that goes with it. Other than that, it’s memory and invention; I’ve not set foot in Emporia in nearly forty years and have no plans to ever do so again. (Likewise, when I write about my fictionalized county in Alabama–it’s loosely based on where my family is from, but I haven’t been there in thirty years and will most likely never go visit again, so it’s all memory and invention for me.) I don’t know if I will write another novel about Kansas–I have some other ideas, of course, don’t I always–but it seems weird to create another fictional small city so similar to Liberty Center, but at the same time it seems even weirder to set another book there after having already done so (although i should probably revisit Sara sometime and see how I did it–and what I called the towns in Kahola County–before deciding one way or the other).

Heavy sigh.

Today I need to write another chapter, and I also need to work on revising a short story as well as writing a promotional article–and of course, there’s the horror that is my email inbox which needs to be dealt with this week once and for all (it’s all relative; answering everything and emptying it out inevitably means generating more emails there; my email responses will trigger emails in response which turns it into a Sisyphean task without end), and today is the men’s US figure skating championships, which naturally I plan to watch so I need to get my writing done before then, don’t I?

So on that note, I head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

A Breathtaking Guy

It’s very strange to be writing blog posts that are Blatant Self Promotion (BSP) about a book that is about toxic masculinity, while including photos of hot men in the post and giving the posts titles that are questionable at best (my titles are always song titles; for those who are unaware of how I do this–if you don’t care skip ahead to the end parenthesis–I am now going down the discography of hits/recordings by the Supremes in all of their iterations; my OCD kicks in and refuses to allow me to vary from this routine no matter what; it’s one of those things I fear will end up being the string you wind up pulling that eventually unravels the entire fabric of modern civilization. I never said it makes sense to anyone outside of my brain, really; which is a good thing because I am quite sure this is one of those weird things that get you side-eye from strangers as they slowly and carefully back away from you).

I mean, yes, the Supremes have great song titles, but are they appropriate titles for blog posts about a book centering toxic masculinity? Am I sending a mixed message here, which is always possible?

Anyway, this had been a week. I started writing this yesterday morning but since I’d overslept, other stuff had to take priority. I was exhausted last night–this fucking week, seriously–but now it’s Saturday and that week is in the past and my work is done. I took last evening off after working on the book for a little bit and started writing a new short story with an old title (“The Rosary of Broken Promises,” which was a story I had already started but changed the name of already, so this one was available…but it’s going to be tricky keeping the version straight and renaming files, which I will have to do today and should do today so it won’t be tricky keeping the versions straight) and then took the rest of the evening off, to watch the LSU Gymnastics team and the the US Figure Skating Championships (I’ll be watching more of that today as well, whenever it is on). Today I need to work on my email inbox, I need to write write write, and there are, as always, chores to be done around the Lost Apartment. My kitchen is an utter disaster area yet again, and of course it needs to be gotten under control before I can focus on writing, of course.

As always. Like always.

I try to always “clean as you go” (my first job was McDonalds, after all), but as the week progresses and I become more and more tired and less and less energetic, I tend to let things begin to pile up around the kitchen thinking meh I’ll get to that later when I’m not so tired. Needless to say, it generally takes until Saturday for me to stop feeling so tired that I have the energy to do any of it. That’s the one thing I’ve noticed about getting older that is truly the only thing about it I truly regret–the loss of energy, the needing to ration what energy remains in my battered old body. I inevitably get about eight hours of sleep on the nights when I have to get up early the next morning; on the nights I do not have to get up early I generally sleep for nine hours. Yesterday morning I literally slept until almost ten, which never happens, and I stumbled up to bed between ten thirty and eleven. I was clearly exhausted; Thursday was a draining emotional rollercoaster of a day, and by the time I was finally able to get through it all–and a few episodes of the quite marvelous Yellowjackets–I went to bed completely drained and exhausted.

And probably the biggest disaster I need to clean up is my email inbox. I’m not sure precisely when it got so out of control, but it is definitely that now. (My back-up hard drive files are also an enormous mess, but I worry if I try to get into that before I do my writing, I’ll get sucked into a black hole of reorganizing files and photos and before I know it I have wasted yet another day.) So the goal for today is to write this, clean the kitchen, get cleaned up myself, and then settle in for a lengthy afternoon of writing before the skating starts–although with the magic of streaming services, we no longer have to watch it live or try to DVR it; we can watch it whenever we feel like it. I’m not sure if Paul is going into the office today or not; he usually does after seeing his trainer, which leaves me home alone all day, which is quite lovely and helpful when it comes to productivity. I think I am going to start trying to go workout again either today or tomorrow; it’s time to kickstart my working out again now that I know I am not going to New York next week after all (heavy heaving sigh) so that trip won’t throw me off the schedule. I know it will make me feel physically better, and will help me sleep better, and who knows? At some point my muscles might even start growing again and I might even drop some fat weight.

I know, right? STOP THE INSANITY.

So, yes, I must write today to try to get caught up on things. I need to clean and organize and listen to music and do all kinds of things. At some point this afternoon I am going to make potato-leek soup in my crockpot–it’s the right weather in New Orleans now for hot soup–and try to make it through my emails in some kind of way that isn’t distracting but gets the inbox cleaned out.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines for me. May your Saturday be lovely and charming, Constant Reader.

Run to the Sun

Monday morning, huzzah.

It was a good weekend, really, overall; I’m just inevitably always sad when Monday morning rolls around and that horrible six am alarm goes off, ripping me out of the comfortably deep sleep I generally finally achieve shortly before it’s time to get up. I don’t think I will ever live long enough to reach the point where the alarm won’t annoy the fuck out of me every morning, or that I won’t resent having to get up to one. Alarms are my bête noire, I suppose, and always will be.

I did manage to get through the edits of the first two-thirds of #shedeservedit this weekend; I’m still waiting for the final third to look over, and then next step will be the page proofs. As I reread the book, it’s much better than I remembered it being–in all honesty, I know I am my own harshest critic, and all I see whenever I go over something I’ve written is all the flaws rather than what is good about it; I really wish I hadn’t been trained from earliest childhood to be so hyper-critical of myself and everything I do because it is incredibly difficult to shake that training as an adult, you know? But Bury Me in Shadows is getting a pretty decent reception, as best I can tell, and that makes me really happy. I think both books actually might be my best work to date, which isn’t (ah, the joys of self-loathing!) saying an awful lot. But it’s nice to have a book out in the world that I am actually proud of, and another one coming along shortly thereafter that, when I am going over the edits, I think to myself this is actually really good.

We spent most of yesterday watching Skate America, followed up by the world men’s gymnastics finals for the all around and then event finals; we eventually gave up to watch the most recent episode of The Morning Show, whose story this season has really taken a turn we didn’t see coming. I also like how they chose to time this season–in the time leading up to the pandemic, so even watching as the pandemic begins and starts spreading throughout the world slowly (and isn’t really seen as anything to be concerned about) as well as everything else that was going on at that time…my God, 2020 was a chaotic year, wasn’t it? 2021 doesn’t seem to be a whole lot better, in all honesty; it’s kind of been a shit show of a year, too, really; every year of the last decade was kind of a shit show, to be honest, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to turn around any time soon (Paul and I often grimly joke to each other after watching the news, “well, at least we’re old and don’t have children”–grim to be sure, but also 100% accurate.

I finished reading Paul Tremblay’s marvelous Disappearance at Devil’s Rock yesterday; after a slow start, it took off like a train afire and I couldn’t really put it down. I do think Mr. Tremblay (this is the third novel of his I’ve read) may be one of our best writers currently publishing; I’ve loved everything I’ve read that he’s written. I think I only have one more of his books, and it’s an ebook edition at that, of Survivor Song; and I think before he switched over into paranormal stuff he wrote crime fiction; I could be wrong, but I am definitely going to be going back and rereading his back list when I can. I am going to read Scott Carson’s The Chill next, for one last shot at Halloween Horror; I cannot believe Halloween is this coming Sunday, and suddenly it’s November, you know? Crazy ass shit, the way this year has flown by (2020 seemed to last decades; this year seems to be flying past…but then again, January seems like a million years ago, doesn’t it? So it looks like I will only have two horror novels read for the Halloween season, which is enormously disappointing, but seriously, isn’t almost everything these days? Anyway, the book was fantastic and will get its own entry at some point this week.

I have a lot to get done this week, as always, but at least I am not feeling tired this morning. I also think the procedure last week might have actually lost some more weight for me? It’s not surprising, really, giving the “purging” aspects of the preparatory stuff I had to do. (I just checked and yes, I lost about seven pounds–not a recommendation for that as a weight-loss option, however) I’ve not been to the gym in over a week now–I didn’t go the weekend before the procedure, and I certainly didn’t go this past week or weekend–so I need to be getting my ass back in there. I’ll be traveling a bit in November–the New York/Boston trip, with a later drive to Kentucky for Thanksgiving)–which is going to make keeping up with the training harder, but I will get back on track, goddamnit. I am not going to go months without working out again, unless something terrible happens to prevent me from doing so.

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

Stop!

It’s Sunday morning in the Lost Apartment and slept relatively well again, if a bit late; my body clock is now all messed up and tomorrow morning’s waking up at the crack of dawn is going to be harder than usual.

Not that it’s ever easy, frankly.

LSU played terribly yesterday and lost, as expected, to Mississippi 31-17 (first loss to them after five straight wins) but I managed to finish reading Not All Diamonds and Rosé while it was on, and also read some more in Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, which is, as all books by Paul Tremblay, very well done–but I am not deep enough into it to have an idea of what’s going on. It focuses on the disappearance of a thirteen-year-old from a state park outside of Boston; it opens with his family–along with everyone else in the community–finding out he is missing and dealing with the emotions and fears that come along with a kid gone missing; but something out of the ordinary has already happened (no spoilers, sorry) which means there’s more to this than just your average child gone missing story.

Which, given it’s written by Paul Tremblay, was always going to be the case in the first place.

After the LSU game, we spent the rest of the evening watching Skate America; we used to be (still are) big figure skating fans, but the Internet and so forth has kind of ruined figure skating, really–when you know what the results are before the competition airs, it’s not nearly as exciting or suspenseful; so the only way to recapture the way it used to feel to watch something pre-recorded is now to watch live, which Peacock (NBC’s streaming service) does now provide. (I also think the new scoring system has a lot to do with it as well. Sure, the old 6.0 system had serious flaws and corruption in its judging, but I am not convinced that corruption still isn’t there and now the scoring system is so mysterious and complicated that it’s almost impossible to tell anymore if anything untoward is going on. The great irony is the scoring change, claiming to be more fair and to rule out bias, simply made it harder for viewers to see it for themselves.) There’s also tension brewing in the ISU this year as well, as a Russian judge and coach has made horrifically homophobic comments about French ice dancer Guillaume Cizeron (who came out last year) and his partner Gabrielle Papadakis. They have a silver Olympic medal (it would have been gold had Papadakis not suffered a costume malfunction in the original dance) and are three time world champions. It was an obvious attempt to smear them in an Olympic year and potentially influence future judging pools at upcoming events, only making it all the more disgusting….particularly since Russia couldn’t even officially compete at the last summer Olympics because of widespread doping and cheating. This piece of shit Russian essentially said that since Cizeron is gay they cannot “convincingly portray romance” the way the top Russian team can; to that I say, “hey, you homophobic needle-dicked piece of shit, if you want to see a gay man convincingly play a romantic lead, watch Pillow Talk some time and tell me Rock Hudson didn’t deserve an Oscar. And by the way, go fuck yourself and drink bleach.”

I am so fucking sick of this shit. Seriously.

I did manage to get some things done yesterday, but I am still looking for my old journals. I cannot for the life of me remember where I stored them; I know sometime over the past few years I found them in a box, but now I don’t remember what I did with them. It seems unlikely I would have simply shoved them into another box and stored them somewhere; but I can’t seem to locate them anywhere inside the apartment, which makes it appear that must be what I did with them. Generally I don’t go back and read my old journals very often–I don’t really like to see how much of a mess I used to be, written down plainly in ink on paper–but I kind of need to because I am writing a novella set in the summer of 1994 and I kind of need to go back and see what I recorded back then about music and pop culture and so forth. One of the hardest things about doing research on gay life in the past is so much of it is hidden, or wasn’t recorded anywhere, really–like there’s no listings anywhere on the Internet of “what dance songs were popular in gay dance clubs in 1994?” and my memory banks simply are not substantial enough anymore for me to summon those answers up out of the muck and mush my brain is slowly turning into as I age. That summer I went out dancing a lot, but I honestly don’t remember anything much about the music other than there were a couple of Pet Shop Boys songs that were really popular that summer–“Go West” and “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing”, and Erasure had a great remix of their song “Always”, but beyond that I have no memory of much.

Today I am debating as to whether I actually want to go run errands; making groceries is kind of necessary but I really have no desire to leave the house and go out in public. There’s not a Saints game today–they’re on Monday Night Football this week–and next weekend is LSU’s bye week, so I don’t really need to spend Saturday watching football (despite it being the weekend of Georgia-Florida and Auburn-Mississippi), so here’s hoping I can get some serious writing done today and this coming weekend. Stranger things have happened..and I am definitely running out of time to get this book written, which is incredibly stressful for me, as always. Heavy heaving sigh.

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

World in Motion

Ah, Sunday.

Last night I kept waking up, even though it felt like I was getting good rest, if that makes any sense. I finally got tired of trying to get some more sleep and went ahead and got up before eight–around quarter till, to be precise–because I have work to do and the deadline is ticking. I made some excellent progress yesterday, and have a lot more to do today. I am hoping to get the final chapters of the book completely refinished and rewritten today; so I can do mop up the rest of the week–and there will be lots of mopping up to do. This is maybe the ninth draft of the book since I wrote the first draft in 2015–but in complete fairness, all those revisions were of the first half of the book rather than the second; this is the third draft of the second half–I was struggling to find the right voice, to find the correct tense, and really, trying to figure out who my main character is or was. Most of this work has been, since I first wrote the first draft six years ago, scattered and disorganized and, in retrospect, primarily a case of me not trusting myself or my abilities and be intimidated by what I was writing about–with the occasional dose of imposter syndrome thrown in for good measure.

We watched the ice dancing final last night, and remain completely mystified by the results. Perhaps we’re partisan, but we simply failed to see the same magic in the routine by the Canadian team that resulted in them placing second in the free dance, and capturing the bronze medal somehow. But ice dance has always been controversial, and the judging has never made much sense. The Russian team that won was clearly the best in the competition; no question about that–but I also felt the second place Russian team, that finished fifth, was also better, more athletic, and more artistic, than the Canadians. But yesterday afternoon I also took some time to watch the men’s final, and it was delightful to see Nathan Chen make a comeback from a fall in the short program to win it all, his third world title in a row–the first American to do so since Scott Hamilton–and if he wins the Olympics and a fourth world title next year, he’ll be in even more elite company. The women also managed to earn the US three Olympic spots, which I wasn’t expecting to happen, so at least we’ll have as full a team as possible; I think Nathan winning automatically earns us three men for the team–but the rules may have changed, and I must confess I don’t pay nearly as much attention to figure skating as I used to. I hate this new points system; always have since it was implemented, and I don’t believe it forestalls arrangements between judges the way the old system did–not to mention the guarantee of anonymity so no one knows how any judge scored any competitor; I fail to see how this will stop collusion, but I am not the ISU.

The humidity has been ruinous on my sinuses lately; it’s so weird for it to be so hot and humid already this year. My windows are covered in condensation this morning, which is unusual for this time of year–that new HVAC system clearly works extremely well–an I am going to head to the gym later this morning for my weekend workout. The rain kept me from going earlier in the week, so for the last two weeks I’ve only had two workouts per week; not goo, but better than one and much better than not going at all. I need to get some new workout clothes, though; I haven’t bought workout shorts in well over ten years and thus they not only don’t fit properly but are also a little on the worn out side, and the more hot and humid it gets the less likely I am to want to wear sweat pants to the gym. I found some T-shirts in my T-shirt drawer back from the days when I could squeeze into a medium (I now wear extra large) and so I disposed of them as well. I really would like to get this book finished and turned in on Thursday the 1st (this week!) so I can spend my three day Easter weekend cleaning out books and going through my clothes.

I’d also like to spend some time finishing The Russia House. I read another chapter yesterday and greatly enjoyed it; I am really looking forward to spending more time with LeCarré. I also want to start reading more of these books that I keep buying and adding to my TBR pile, which is mostly out of control these days–I also need to recognize that many essays I have wanted to write about books and authors I enjoyed won’t ever happen because I will never have the time to write them, nor will I ever have the time to go back and reread the books; there simply isn’t enough time for all the reading I want to do, and I have to be more realistic. Some are simply too long–much as I loved Anya Seton’s Green Darkness, Arthur Hailey’s Airport, and Herman Wouk’s Youngblood Hawke, there’s simply no way I can (or will) ever find the time to reread those books; let alone anything by Michener (I’ve been wanting to reread my favorite Michener, Centennial, for quite some time, but probably will never happen).

And once I have this book finished and turned in, I have to do some revisions of Bury Me in Shadows by May 1; I don’t think it’s anything major, really; a much more thorough copy edit, an additional clarifying sentence here and there, and then it will be finished, and then comes the first draft of Chlorine….at long last. There are also some submission calls I want to write for as well; we’ll see how that turns out, won’t we? But I think my stories “Death and the Handmaidens”, “The Blues Before Dawn”, and “Le Feu Follet” might actually have homes I can try to get them into; and there’s another call for a humorous mystery I’d like to take a shot at as well; my stories always seem to turn out to be darkly comic anyway.

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

Weirdo

What a lovely night’s sleep I had last night. I’m not sure what’s been up lately, but my sleep hasn’t been as good as it could be (or should be) but yesterday I got my order of pillow spray from This Works (I’ve used it before; my friend Lauren recommended it to me years ago. It’s what they give the first class passengers on British Airways flights to spray on their pillows to help them sleep during a flight; it does work…it’s just not inexpensive. I ordered two bottles with my stimulus check and they arrived yesterday–and last night I slept deeply, restfully, and well–and through the night.) I woke up at six–thanks, early mornings–but was able to go back to sleep for a few more hours. This is a very good thing, as I have–outside of some errands to run this morning–to spend the entire day working on my book–the same with tomorrow. It’s due on Thursday–but I may take the next weekend to go over it one more time.

I finished reading Gore Vidal’s Lincoln yesterday; it’s been quite a voyage. I’m not sure, frankly, how long it’s taken me to read it–I think I started it sometime last year–but I was reading a few pages a day rather than curling up with it. I love the way Vidal writes–he uses a weirdly distant, almost but not quite omniscient third person point of view–and the characters he follows are interesting choices. I’ve read another one of his chain of books Narratives of Empire (Empire) and rather enjoyed it; I’ve enjoyed most of Vidal’s work that I’ve read (Julian the Apostate is a particular favorite) and now I suppose will seek out others in the series; 1876 sounds kind of appealing, if for no other reason that it is a little-known but incredibly important year in American history. I’ll do an entry about Lincoln at some point, but I did really enjoy this, and do recommend it.

It’s very weird feeling so rested this morning–it makes me realize all those other mornings when I thought I was actually rested, well, I was wrong. It was just an improvement over insomnia, I guess.

It’s sort of gray outside again today–my windows are covered in condensation, which means it’s very definitely humid outside this morning. I am going to drop off two boxes of books at the library for their sale this morning and I need to stop at Whole Foos–I’ve been carrying a gift card valued at $25 in my wallet for nearly two years at this point, and as horrific as the Whole Foods on Magazine will be on a Saturday with all the uptown Karens out with their yoga pants or tennis skirts with a latté in hand will inevitably prove to be, I may as well make use of the extra trip uptown. I made groceries yesterday already, so I am just going to check out their berry situation as well as see if they have blackened catfish at the prepared food bar–it’s been a long time since I’ve had that, and Whole Foods’ is pretty good–and then head home to hibernate. Tomorrow all I have to do is work on the book and go to the gym–I am also doing some cleaning around the house, when I need a break and to clear my head–and hopefully, will be able to make some great progress on the book. We shall see, shan’t we?

The World Figure Skating championships are also currently going on in Stockholm–spoiler! I just checked results and Nathan Chen made a comeback from third place in the short to win the free skate by enough points to win the gold medal by a decisive margin–he hasn’t lost since the Olympics in 2018–which makes him the favorite for the Olympics next year. Pretty cool. We may win two medals in the ice dance, which finishes later–and the ladies finished fourth and ninth, so we can send three women to the Olympics next year as well. Our best pairs team finished seventh–not bad, since they’ve only been skating together for less than a year, and they are probably the best pairs team we’ve had in decades; they certainly have the potential to be at any rate. I just wish we could get another ladies’ champion again….particularly when you take into consideration we won two medals (gold and bronze) in 1992; a silver in 1994; gold and silver in 1998, and gold and bronze in 2002 (also a silver in 2006; the last time an American woman won an Olympic medal in figure skating).

The Tennessee Williams Festival also comes to a close this weekend, and I will shortly have my marriage back. Paul was actually home last night in time for me to make dinner–the Festival is virtual, so he doesn’t have to live at the Monteleone this weekend and can actually come home and watch things as they air on his computer–so we actually had dinner together for the first time since Valentine’s Day, really; and even that dinner together was an outlier. I’ve barely seen him for several months now, and perhaps that’s part of the reason I slept so well last night; because it was also a return to some semblance of what passes for normal around here; we ate dinner together and watched the rhythm dance competition.

It was kind of nice, actually.

I also reas Sara Paretsky’s introduction to a new edition of Dorothy B. Hughes’ Ride the Pink Horse. Hughes is one of the great crime writers of the past, probably best known for her In a Lonely Place, which is certainly stellar; but I’ve never been disappointed by a Hughes novel, just as I never have been with anything written by her contemporaries Charlotte Armstrong and Margaret Millar. I got a cheap ebook edition of Dorothy Gilman’s The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, which I remember enjoying tremendously–I loved the early books in the series, but in one of them Gilman gave her a love interest whom she also married, and I felt the books weren’t really the same after that and I stopped reading them. I reread the first two pages of the book last night and was instantly charmed, just as I had been decades ago when I read it for the first time (I honestly don’t know why I picked up the first one in the first place), but the idea of the CIA hiring a widowed grandmother as a courier because no one would suspect the nice elderly American lady always has entertained me tremendously. It also occurred to me, as I set my iPad aside to come make dinner, that I am currently reading John LeCarré’s The Russia House..another novel of spies and international intrigue, and that I should perhaps read the two books back to back, comparing and contrasting them; spy thrillers coming from such vastly different perspectives…and voices.

Ah, my coffee tastes marvelous this morning. My brain is shaking off the vestigial fog from the sleep and my body is waking up. I am going to take this delicious cup of coffee with me to my easy chair, where I shall spend the next hour reading LeCarré, before doing the dishes and then venturing out to get my errands completed. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow.

Hellbent

It has been raining pretty steadily since yesterday afternoon, perhaps even earlier; I only noticed around one o’clock. It was pouring when I drove home yesterday–I got soaked walking to my car from the office and then again getting from the car to the Lost Apartment. I decided not to walk to the gym in the pouring rain during a flash flood advisory–there were two yesterday, from 1-4 an then again from 6-10–and last night’s rain came from some intense thunderstorms; some of the longest peals of thunder I can recall. It’s still raining this morning–everything I can see outside my windows is slick and wet–which means getting to work this morning will be interesting, to say the least. No one in New Orleans knows how to drive in rain, which amuses and irritates me at the same time. How can you live in a city where it rains as much as New Orleans (let alone floods) and not know how to drive in rain? It would be like living in Minneapolis and not knowing how to drive in snow…although every day it rains I am grateful I learned how to drive in a state that has seasons, so I learned how to drive in all weather conditions.

I managed to get a lot done yesterday–made some serious progress on the inbox, if not enough on my book–and did a lot of picking up and straightening up around the Lost Apartment. I started watching a Netflix documentary series, The Lost Pirate Kingdom, which is a non-fiction historical account of the Bahamas/Nassau piracy community (which was also fictionally depicted in Black Sails, still a favorite show of mine and one that hasn’t achieved nearly the attention and praise and audience it deserved), and it was very interesting. I did start futzing around with my iPad during the second episode, which I finally turned off when I realized I wasn’t really paying as much attention as I should, so I will probably come back to the series and rewatch episode two at some point. I’ve always wanted to write a gay pirate adventure set in the early eighteenth century (whoa! That was some major lightning, and the thunder lasted nearly thirty seconds….it’s still dying off now)…it was swirling around in my head again last night while I watched The Lost Pirate Kingdom, and scribbling down notes and ideas was what originally led to my distraction during the second episode. I also made a note to reread The Deep by Peter Benchley; I reread it again a few years ago and wasn’t as impressed with it as I had been when I first read it back in the 1970’s.

I just checked the weather and we are in a flash flood advisory thru Thursday; heavy heaving sigh. New Orleans floods whenever we get a lot of heavy rain in a short period of time (tropical climate, remember?) and it’s always enervating; you have to worry about your car being parked in the right place and hope you don’t have to cross through any deep water on your way to work and so forth, not to mention hope nobody is driving like an idiot (and in New Orleans, you encounter that in the best of weather and driving conditions). Heavy sigh. It’s also going to be weird at work–heavy weather usually means a lot of cancellations and no-shows on our schedule, plus wondering if the city is flooding…

At least tomorrow I am working from home. I can make condom packs or do data entry while cuddled up under a blanket in either the bed or my easy chair while listening to the rain…how comfortable would that be? I certainly didn’t want to get out of the bed this morning. There’s just something so…snug and comfortable about being underneath blankets while it rains outside…I should probably go to the gym tonight, depending on how hard it’s raining, I suppose. It was pouring yesterday and continued to pour, which was why I decided not to go–not to mention the walk there would take me through low-lying areas that often flood during rains like we were having last night (this morning it doesn’t seem so bad–overcast with thunder and lightning, of course, but the rain isn’t coming down like someone opened a spigot, the way it usually does when it pours here.

And of course this weekend is the World Figure Skating Championships! Woo-hoo!

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.

Everything’s Gone Green

My memory has truly become amazingly awful and limited as I grow older. Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me just how bad it’s become–and how rarely I follow through on plans I make.

I started writing about Kansas when I was a teenager living in Kansas, and I wrote a long, messy manuscript by hand that was essentially a kind of Peyton Place tip-off, with tons of characters and plots and subplots that meandered about and never really had one cohesive central story. Over the years since that handwritten, almost a thousand page first draft was finished, I came to the realization that as a single novel itself I would need to cut out a minimum of fifty percent of the characters and even more of the subplots while tightening it into one cohesive story. The name of the town changed multiple times, as did the names of the some of the characters, while others remained the same from beginning to end. I had no idea at the time of how to write a novel, or how to structure one…but since it already existed, I began mining it for other novels and short stories, pilfering names and subplots and so forth (the murder story in Murder in the Garden District, and the Sheehan family in the book, were directly lifted from this old manuscript; I changed the family name from Craddock to Sheehan). My young adult novel, Sara, also had a lot of story lifted from this same old manuscript–even characters’ names–so when I started building this iteration of what I’ve taken to calling “the Kansas book” over the years, I knew it was possible I was repeating names from the old original, and at some point I would have to check Sara at some point to get the character names from it, to not repeat them. The Kansas book was also intended to be set in the same world as Sara–Sara being primarily set in the county and the small grouping of three small towns consolidated into one high school; with this book set in the county seat, the small city/large town I called Kahola. Kahola never really sat well with me for the town name; it’s perfectly fine for the name of the county as well as the lake (there actually is a Lake Kahola; it’s where we went when I lived there and “went to the lake”), so I decided to change it to Liberty Center (which I got from Philip Roth’s When She Was Good, so it’s also an homage) and Sara geography be damned. So, yesterday while the Saints played terribly and ended their season (and possibly Drew Brees’ career), I was scanning though the ebook of Sara and pulling out character names–even minor ones– as well as place names and so forth.

I am very pleased to report that there is only one character name that traveled from the original manuscript to Sara and finally into this new iteration of the Kansas book, and obviously that needs to be changed. I am not willing to change the name of the county seat back to Kahola; it never really seemed to fit, and Liberty Center works much better on every level, but I can change the name of the character in #shedeservedit to avoid confusion…not that there would be much, since Sara is my lowest selling book for some reason I certainly don’t get, but it would unsettle me, so it cannot be. As I was pulling names out of the ebook, and place names and places of interest, I also began remembering other things.

I had originally intended for all of my young adult novels to be connected in some way, kind of how R. L. Stine had done his Fear Street series, where all of the books take place in the same town and high school, and a minor character in one would become the hero of another. I was reminded of this because Laura Pryce is mentioned by name in Sara; she was the protagonist of Sorceress, and she was from the same rural part of Kahola County and went to the same consolidated high school. Sorceress tells the story of how Laura goes to live with her aunt in a huge house outside the California mountain town of Woodbridge; Woodbridge is also the setting for Sleeping Angel, and characters overlapped from Sorceress to Sleeping Angel. The Chicago suburb in Sara where Glenn is from is the same suburb that the main character in Lake Thirteen was from; it is the same suburb where Jake’s father, stepmother, and half-siblings live in Bury Me in Shadows; and of course, this latter is set in Corinth County, Alabama–which is where my main character in Dark Tide was also from. As I was picking out the character and place names from Sara, I was also reminded of other books I’d wanted to write, and I had introduced some of these characters in this book intending to revisit them again at another time in another book or story–books and stories I have since forgotten about completely, and yet there are the characters, crying out to me from my Kindle app for me to write about them.

Having triggered my brain into the creative mode yesterday by doing this chore during the Saints game (I started during the men’s finals at the US Figure Skating Championships; congratulations to our world team o Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou, and Jason Brown) I also began remembering other things I was working on–like “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and “To Sacrifice a Pawn,” two stories I started for a submissions call I didn’t manage to make; or some of my pandemic story ideas (inspired by the pandemic or during it) like “The Flagellants”, “The Arrow in the Cardinal’s Cap”, and “The Pestilence Maiden”; amongst so many, many others. This is why I despair of ever writing everything I want to write during the limited time I have on this earth; I could spend the rest of my life trying to write every story and novel idea I already have and would never be able to finish them all.–and I have new ideas, all of the time; it’s almost ridiculous.

I already know I am most likely going to revisit Corinth County in Alabama again–it’s basically where my already-in-progress novellas “Fireflies” and “A Holler Full of Kudzu” are set, amongst many other ideas for short stories, novellas, and novels. I will undoubtedly return to Liberty Center at some point as well; I have ideas for other Kansas books and stories, too; I’ve revisited Kahola County, Kansas in my short stories numerous times already as well. I’ve also got my own parish in Louisiana–Redemption Parish, which I wrote about in Murder in the Arts District, The Orion Mask, and some other short stories. I’ve also already invented a fictional town on the north shore–similar to Hammond–that showed up in Baton Rouge Bingo and will undoubtedly turn up again in my work, although perhaps not under my own name.

I spent some more time with Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and am thoroughly enjoying the ride. King’s authorial voice is so strong (and reminiscent of the late great Elizabeth Peters) that I cannot wait to read more of the Mary Russell series–it’s so different from her Kate Martinelli series, which I also love–and intend to spend some more time with it this morning with my coffee as well; I see a new tradition for non-working days developing; reading with my coffee in the mornings, which is simply wonderful. I recently acquired Alyssa Cole’s thriller When No One Is Watching, which I am also looking forward to, and I have added both Stephen King’s The Stand and Faulkner’s Sanctuary to the reread pile…and I’d also like to get back to the Short Story Project at some point….and of course there are all those ebooks piled up in my Kindle as well.

We also spent last evening after the Saints’ loss getting caught up on The Stand, which I am enjoying, although it’s made some choices I find questionable. I’m okay with everything having to do with the plague and the characters making their way to either Boulder or Las Vegas being done entirely in flashback, but the focus on the character of Harold Lauder–whom, while important to the story, was at best a supporting character in the novel and the original mini-series–is an interesting choice. They’ve certainly spent more time with him than they have with any of the people who were the novel’s protagonists–Stu, Larry, Glen, Frannie–so the focus of the mini-series seems a bit off to me….but props to them for casting the delightful Alexander Skarsgard as Flagg; his beauty and charisma–so evident as Eric on True Blood–playing perfectly into the role of the dark leader of the other side. Over all, the series is well done and well cast (Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abagail doesn’t quite work for me; in the book she was old and frail and Whoopi is many things but frail is not one of them; I’d have gone with Cicely Tyson or any of the other gifted Black actresses who are older now) and I am a bit more forgiving than most when it comes to adaptations, I think–especially since the key part of the word is adapt. (I saw some more Hardy Boys enthusiasts bitching about the Hulu series somewhere again yesterday; honestly–I really have to center a book and a mystery around a kids’ series’ overly enthusiastic fans) We still have the rest of the first season of Bridgerton to watch, and season two of Servant has dropped on Apple Plus–do NOT sleep on this creepy-as-fuck show; you will not regret it–and I am also anticipating the release of Apple Plus’ adaptation of Foundation, starring Jared Harris, and we’ve also got a second season of The Terror somewhere to watch, and the second season of Mr. Mercedes on Peacock as well…so we seem to be set for things to watch for a good while.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Today is going to be mostly spent reading Laurie King this morning, and then the rest of the day spent with my manuscript as I try to work out the kinks and figure out what else needs to go into it. Have a happy holiday Monday, and do try to remember Dr. King’s message of equality, unity, and freedom for all.

Superheated

And now it is Sunday in the Lost Apartment. I trust everyone had a most lovely and delightful Saturday? I did; I spent most of it cleaning and reading and watching figure skating and making groceries and running errands and doing all sorts of things that didn’t involve writing. I’m not entirely sure again why I am avoiding writing–yesterday methinks it was primarily due to the hangover of the final push to finish the short story, as well as trying to purge it out of my brain. Part of the joy of being a writer apparently is the absolute guarantee of self-doubt and second guessing everything once you’ve turned the story/manuscript in. I spent way too much time yesterday wondering “maybe I should have done this” and “maybe I should have done that” and on and on it goes–with the occasional second thoughts about the novel I turned in two weeks ago as well. Enormously lovely, you see.

But the figure skating was fun to watch, as always, and congratulations to our national champions (the men’s title will be decided today, with Nathan Chen most likely becoming the first US man to win five consecutive national titles in a row since Dick Button’s post-war dominance, winning seven in a row and two Olympic gold medals (a feat unparalleled until Japan’s Yuzuru Honyu won the last two Olympics). It’s also interesting to me how strong the United States has become in the ice dancing discipline this century, after decades of not being up to international snuff. The Saints also are playing today in the play-offs; playing Tampa Bay and Tom Brady for the third time and hoping to pull off the hat trick.

Today is going to be mostly spent reading and cleaning, methinks; I need to focus on my reread of the Kansas book manuscript and make some decisions about where it’s going to go, how to clean it up, what can be kept and what can be discarded. The manuscript currently sits somewhere around 75000 words, give or take; I need to add some more to it while taking other stuff out; strengthening some bits while underplaying others. I am also still greatly enjoying Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and am looking forward to spending some more time with Mary Russell…although I must confess that I am going to have to be very careful with reading more Sherlockian fiction, whether it’s actually Conan Doyle’s or pastiches, because revisiting the Sherlockian universe makes me want to write some more about my own Sherlockian universe. The period of time in New Orleans history where I have put my Holmes has already been written about by David Fulmer, in his series beginning with Jass, and I may have to revisit those novels–it’s been a long time since I read them, and I also remember enjoying them. Anyway, I am digressing, as always, from the original point: writing that Sherlock story has given me the bug to write about him some more, and as usual, I am thinking not only in terms of a short story but of a novel as well…with the full knowledge that actually Sherlockians will undoubtedly see my own feeble attempts as an abomination and heresy.

I’ve also been reading Gore Vidal’s Lincoln in dribs and drabs. I am enjoying it, but the lovely thing about Vidal’s writing is it isn’t like reading a thriller or a good mystery; you can put it down at any point and walk away from it, not missing it until you pick it up again. I am a fan of Vidal’s, even though he seems as though he would have been a horrible person to know–a snob both intellectually as well as in terms of class–but he also was fiercely intelligent and witty, and he looked at the United States with a jaundiced, unsentimental eye. I don’t think I’ve really read much about Lincoln as an adult–I of course read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals back in the day, but don’t really remember much about it. Yesterday I also started reading through my copy of The Black Death by Phillip Ziegler–I have a vague idea for a murder mystery, most likely a short story, set during the plague years in Florence; I don’t think there is much modern fiction set during that time, so of course I am interested in it. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year reading plague histories and fictions (yet somehow not rereading Stephen King’s The Stand) and I still would like to get back to my story “The Flagellants,” which I was having a lot of fun with last spring.

I’m also seeing conversations on-line about whether authors should include the pandemic in their fictions or not, which seems kind of counter-intuitive; did New York writers pretend 9/11 didn’t happen? Did New Orleans writers pretend Katrina was a near-miss? In both cases the answer is no. You may not want to write fiction set during the pandemic, but we cannot pretend the pandemic didn’t happen–particularly since it’s on-going. It’s hard to write about something–even harder to read about it–when you are still in the midst of it because you don’t know how it’s going to end. By the time I started writing Murder in the Rue Chartres it was already apparent New Orleans was going to come back from the flood, even if what the new city would look like was still being debated, was still uncertain, and up in the air. I’ve never written about Scotty’s experiences with Katrina, rather choosing to pick up his story several years later with the flood, the evacuation and everything else entailed in the destruction of 90% of the city in the rearview mirror. I get that readers might not want to read about and relive this past year plus; but I don’t see how you can write honestly about an America where it never happened. The last four years of this administration–including the sack of the Capitol–also cannot be entirely ignored either. So what to do? I suspect history isn’t going to be terribly kind to the insurrectionists nor the anti-maskers (deservedly so), particularly since they are the ones who politicized public health and safety because they believed the Mammon they’ve worshipped like a cult for so long; their own golden calf, as it were–despite all the warnings in their Bible. Ah, the dilemmas we modern writers face!

I do sometimes wonder if writers during the Civil War wondered if they should write about the war or not in their work.

And on that note, tis time for me to start mining spice here on Kessel, so it’s off into the mines with me. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!