Stoned Soul Picnic

In a bizarre blog twist, my entire entry about Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, other than the opening paragraph, has completely disappeared from here, which is very strange. I don’t know how that could have happened; and it’s disappointing, as I made some very strong points about racism and the erasure of the brutality of slavery from our history. I did wonder why it, as opposed to so many of my other entries, wasn’t getting ‘likes’ by anyone, and now I know why–it’s not that it offended people, but rather that the entry is now simply, mostly gone.

How fucking annoying. And, of course, I always write the blog directly here, rather than using Word and cutting and pasting. So, it’s simply vanished into the ether, gone forever. Heavy heaving sigh. As for as writing losses go, it’s pretty low on the scale but at the same time…it hurts to lose any writing. Ever.

Heavy sigh.

I spent some more time reading Stephen King’s Finders Keepers yesterday between doing some cleaning (I never did get to the windows, but will today) and relaxing. I got caught up on Riverdale, ran some errands, cleaned the living room thoroughly (although I needed the ladder to do the ceiling fans and the windows, it was upstairs and so when I moved upstairs to I cleaned up there before bringing the ladder down, and by then I just wanted to relax and read), and did sit in my easy chair thinking about things I am working on. Today, I am going to do some straightening up around here, the windows and the ceiling fans in the living room, and I may finish cleaning upstairs. I don’t know, quite frankly; I am also feeling the lure of Finders Keepers, which I am really enjoying. It’s the middle book of his Bill Hodges trilogy, which began with the Edgar-winning Mr. Mercedes, which I also greatly enjoyed. I am almost halfway finished with the book, and King’s ability to create great characters the reader can understand and even empathize with, no matter how awful the characters may actually be, is on display here.

I also cleaned out some books for the donation pile, which is always a lovely start. I need to stop buying books, really, is what I need to do, but it’s a lifelong problem, and at almost fifty-six, I’m not sure I can effect behavior change anymore, but it’s certainly worth a try. I am also going to go to the gym later on today as well; and lift weights. If I go back to the old system–let’s face it, I am never going to motivate myself to do cardio–of what I did when I lost weight originally–go to the gym, do a full-body workout with more reps and lighter weights, and do some stretching–in addition to eating healthier, I should be able to get rid of that pesky fifteen pounds and get back down to 200. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get back to 180–my oddly shaped frame would make finding clothes that fit properly an issue (the ten pounds or so I’ve already lost has made all my pants too big in the waist, but they are still tight in the legs, and the small waist and big quads/hamstrings has always been an issue for me with pants), so I don’t know that I’d want to get back down that far. A flatter stomach and more definition is all I really want, anyway, so that I can at least get to the point where I don’t mind going to the beach, as I would really like to get tanned again. And going to the beach is always lovely, anyway.

Apparently it’s going to rain today, so doing the windows is out. Heavy sigh. It does look gloomy out there. There’s always next weekend.

Friday I am driving up to Montgomery for an appearance at the Alabama Book Festival, and driving back to New Orleans for a day before heading up to an event at the Sarah Isom Center for Women at Ole Miss in Oxford. I am very excited, if a bit nervous, to do both events. It’s so lovely having a new car so that I don’t have to worry about the driving, though. I love my new car; and almost three months after I bought it, it still has the new car smell.

I’ve also figured out how to revise “Quiet Desperation”, which is something I’d like to get to work on this week. My work schedule is sort of normal for the week, despite a late night on Thursday. As I start getting back into the groove of writing and rewriting, I am hoping to get a lot more done from now on. I also no longer have to get up ridiculously early for work on Tuesdays anymore–I don’t have to be at the office until 11 henceforth–which makes the week a bit more palatable for me; I won’t be tired and sleepy from Tuesday on anymore. Here’s hoping.

I want to kick my writing up a notch or two, push myself harder. Fingers crossed.

Here’s an Easter Sunday hunk for y’all.

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I Wish It Would Rain

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment and it looks lovely outside. I may clean the windows today. I have to get the mail, pick up some prescriptions, make a grocery run, and I also want to get the car washed, and of course, as always, there is laundry to do. I also want to spend some time reading today, and cleaning the kitchen and living room. Yes, I am feeling rather ambitious today; we shall see how it turns out.

I forgot my book (The Nest) at the office on Thursday night; I worked at the other office yesterday and it’s French Quarter Fest, so getting down to Frenchmen Street would be a nightmare and would make me tired and cranky, so I decided to just start reading another book–Ben H. Winters’ Underground Airlines, recently named a Thriller Award nominee for Best Novel. I’d always intended to read The Underground Railroad and Underground Airlines back-to-back for comparison sake; I forgot and started reading something else when I finished reading the Whitehead. The Winters book was controversial when it was released; it, like the Whitehead, is sort of magical realism/alternate history; Winters’ premise is that the Civil War was never fought as yet another slave-owner appeasement compromise was reached in 1860 that prevented secession and the war; and other compromises were reached over the years since. It’s an interesting concept, and at the time the book was released there was some controversy; the main character is a free man of color who works as a slave-catcher. I’m not very far into it, but it’s well-written and I’m enjoying it thus far.

I also got a lot of work done on “Quiet Desperation” this week; the story is now well over four thousand words. I stopped working on it the other day (Thursday, to be exact) because I felt that I was getting impatient and rushing the ending, so I decided to pull back from it for a few days and then get back to it over this weekend. I also think the story may have meandered a bit. The goal is to finish it and the chapter of the new Scotty I’ve been working on, so I can really get going on both the Scotty book and another short story next week. Ambitious goals, yes, but do-able.

And I want to get to the gym tomorrow morning.

A truly ambitious plan for the weekend, no?

We’ll see how it all works out, won’t we?

Here’s a hunk to see you through your Saturday.

Perfect Illusion

Hello, Monday.

I feel rested from a lovely weekend of sleeping late and reorganizing, which is absolutely lovely. The parades, of course, start this weekend, which means getting things done over the next two weekends is going to be complicated, to say the least. Friday night Oshun and Cleopatra roll, which means I’ll have to take a streetcar named St. Charles to work and walk home, and there are five parades Saturday (Pontchartrain, Choctaw, Freret, Sparta, Pygmalion) and four on Sunday: Femme Fatale, Carrollton, King Arthur, and Alla.

Madness.

But I love Carnival. I just hope this lovely weather maintains all the way through.

We started watching Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix last night; as always, Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant are appealing and likable; they have the sort of charisma that shines off the screen. The concept of the show is also funny, not to mention how they try to accept and rationalize their new normal. The conceit of the show is they are a married couple with a daughter living in a suburban cul-de-sac when something happens to the Drew Barrymore character in the first episode and she becomes what we, as a culture, wrongly call a zombie; no longer alive but still living somehow, and in need of first, raw meat, and then human flesh. It’s funny, but it’s also satire–how very American that her need for human flesh to stay alive means they have to rationalize killing people; their need for her to stay alive justifies them crossing a line. Very sly and clever there, Netflix!

Because, as I so often say, you can rationalize anything if you try hard enough.

I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do next, which is kind of fun. I’ve been note-taking a cozy series which I think would be a fun thing to write–not to mention an enormous challenge– and I also have a stand alone idea I’m looking at, and of course I intend on doing another Scotty at some point this year. But right now I get to play around with things, maybe work on some of my short stories, write an essay, figure out what the hell I want to do next.

Maybe I’ll take some more time off. Who knows? SO many options.

Here’s a hunk for today:

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)

So I turned in the essay yesterday, and now I have nothing hanging over my head as far as deadlines are concerned, which is kind of lovely. Oh, sure, there are edits and revisions that are bound to come; and then page proofs and all of that, but this is the first time Ive not had a deadline in I don’t know how long. Seriously. I am visiting my family this week preparatory to doing Murder in the Magic City this weekend in Birmingham and Wetumpka, so I may or may not be around much until I am safely back in New Orleans Sunday evening.

The drive took about eleven hours–maybe about ten minutes over, and considering that Google Maps said the drive would take eleven and a half hours, I think I made great time, stopping a total of three times (twice for gas, once to eat). The car handles wonderfully, and the ride is very smooth as well. All in all, I am very pleased with my purchase–which, given how much I spent (and will spend) on it, is an enormous relief. It would be terrible to spend that kind of money on something and not like it, you know?

As I was packing and going through my bookcase, looking for books to bring along to read on the trip, I realized, much to my shock, that my bookcase contained a Laura Lippman novel I hadn’t read; it must have come out in a year when I was judging a book award or something, and so it went onto the shelf and by the time I was able to read again, she must have published another book–or something like that. It is inexplicable to me, otherwise. But what a find! Here I was thinking I was going to have do without a new Lippman to read until 2018.

They throw him out when he falls off the barstool. Although it wasn’t a fall, exactly, he only stumbled a bit coming back from the bathroom and lurched against the bar, yet they said he had to leave because he was drunk. He finds that hilarious. He’s too drunk to be in a bar. He makes a joke about a fall from grace. At least, he thinks he does. Maybe the joke was one of those things that stays in his head, for his personal amusement. For a long time, for fucking forever, Gordon’s mind has been split by a thick, dark line, a line that divides and defines his life as well. What stays in, what is allowed out. But when he drinks, the line gets a little fuzzy.

Which might be why he drinks. Drank. Drinks. No, drank. He’s done. Again. One night, one slip. He didn’t even enjoy it that much.

“You driving?” the bartender asks, piloting him to the door, his arm firm yet kind around Gordon’s waist.

Laura Lippman is one of those authors who never disappoints. I always say that the best authors are the ones who write books that make me think, make me reevaluate how I write and create, and make me want to do better. One of the reasons I decided to go off contract and no longer have deadlines was a sense that I was rushing too much; that my work might be better if I wasn’t pressured to do it in a set amount of time, and that I could explore doing different things if I had more time to polish and rewrite and think about the book at hand; and part of the reason I think that way is because of reading amazing writers like Lippman.

The Most Dangerous Thing is a fine novel, and while there is a core crime at the heart of the book, Lippman uses that crime to explore her characters, and how that crime affects and changes the course of their lives, how they interact with each other and how people can become locked into perceptions, not only of themselves but of other people–and how reality can be so very different from what you perceive it to be.

HIGHLY recommended.

I’m Your Man

It rained all night, and I was awakened a couple of times by the sounds of the deluge. The sun appears to be out, but there are still clouds. I think it’s supposed to rain all day; I’m not really sure. (In checking, we are in a Flash Flood Watch until midnight tomorrow night.) I stayed in bed far too late; I should have gotten up early. And no, I didn’t get up yesterday to go to the grocery store, either. I forgot to set my alarm and slept until ten again, just like I did this morning.

Sigh.

I basically took yesterday off; I was more than a little tipsy when we got back from our annual lunch at Commander’s Palace to see you the old year–I had a dirty vodka martini before eating and two Bloody Marys during the meal–and so the rest of the day was kind of a waste.

Dirty martini:

Shrimp and tasso appetizer:

Bloody Mary:

Beef tournedos, main course:

Strawberry shortcake, dessert:

As you can see, I was overloaded and definitely needed a day of rest afterwards.

We watched the LSU game before we went to Commanders, and then recorded it to watch when we got home, lackadaisically watched Alabama and Clemson win, and then finally watched the last two episodes of The Exorcist, which was a lot better than I thought it would be, and then went to bed. I have to write today, and all day tomorrow (plus go to the grocery store in the morning; I have already set the alarm for tomorrow morning so there won’t be any more of that oversleeping shit), but I do feel a bit out of it this morning. Definitely need some more coffee before I clean/organize the kitchen, start the laundry, and by then I should be awake enough to write.

Here’s hoping, any way.

2016 was a pretty shitty year, overall. Beyond everything awful that happened last year on a macro level, there was also a lot of shit I, and people I know and care about, had to deal with on a micro level. I don’t know if 2017 is going to be better, but you never know. But some good things definitely happened for me in 2016, so I am choosing to view those things.

Here are some of my highlights of 2016:

Publication of Garden District Gothic

Hard as it is to believe, I’ve now published seven books in the Scotty series. I hadn’t realized how long it had been since Baton Rouge Bingo, and I had kind of wanted to do a Scotty per year once I renewed and revived the series. That didn’t happen because time always seems to slip through my fingers, no matter how hard I try to stay on top of things. Retyping Bourbon Street Blues (I eventually had to hire someone to do it for me) also reconnected me to Scotty and how I originally envisioned him and his family; which made writing this one a joy, even as I groused and bitched about it while I was doing it. I want to do at least ten of this series in total; I am hoping to get Crescent City Charade finished in 2017 for a hopeful 2018 pub date. I know of at least two more books in the series I want to do, and there’s also the possibility of doing some spin-offs–a Colin stand-alone is definitely something I want to try–and maybe even a new adult with Taylor. We’ll see–but I am not ruling anything out for Scotty and the gang.

Editing Bouchercon anthology

I hadn’t edited an anthology in a while, and had also pretty much decided I wasn’t going to do anymore. My heart wasn’t really in them anymore, and while I was still producing some high quality anthologies, I wasn’t really interested in doing any more of them. The opportunity to do the Bouchercon anthology was something, though, I didn’t want to pass up–it was my first non-queer anthology, and it was a lot of fun to do, and different. I think Blood on the Bayou turned out really well, and I was quite pleased with it. Whether I will do another anthology remains to be seen.

Bouchercon in New Orleans

I served on the host committee for Bouchercon in New Orleans as well this past year, and as always, it was a pleasure to work with the incomparable Heather Graham and Connie Perry. The event itself was one of the best times I’ve had at a conference. It was so delightful to see so many people I absolutely adore in my home town, and it was also fun meeting other colleagues and making new friends. I also think I drank more those five days than I had the preceding five years.

Two short stories published, “Housecleaning” and “Survivor’s Guilt”

It was both a thrill and an honor to have two short stories published in mainstream anthologies: “Housecleaning” was in the wonderful Sunshine Noir, and “Survivor’s Guilt” was in Blood on the Bayou. The reception to both stories from readers after the books were published was also lovely. I am not confident about my short story writing, and this was a tremendous boost, as was another sale I made in the latter part of the year that I am not allowed to talk about publicly as of yet. Great Jones Street, a new phone app for short stories, also republished my story “The Email Always Pings Twice,” which was also lovely.

Getting my finances in order

My finances had kind of gotten out of control over the last few years; unexpected expenses combined with a very deliberate cutback in my writing/editing work (read: income) had made money worries a major hassle. This past year, I focused and made a plan, with the end result I wound up paying off over half my debt with a clear plan to finish the rest of it off this year. The good news is this has done wonders for my credit, and that, combined with an unexpected windfall and some other financial planning, has me prepping for new car purchase this month, which is terribly exciting.

Personal and professional growth

I feel that, over this past year, through some of the work I did and a lot of the reading I did, I grew as a writer. I figured out why I was having so much trouble with the writing of short stories, and also determined some steps I can take to make sure the novels I write are better.

So, I bid thee adieu, 2016, and promise to try to remember the good you provided as opposed to the bad.

The Edge of Heaven

The end of the year is nigh.

I have a lot to do (of course, as always) over the next few days. I am already tired, just thinking about it, of course, but hey–such is life. I have to work late tonight again, and really should have made a grocery run this morning but I overslept, so there’s that. There is, of course, still time, if I get my act together and get moving, but right now that doesn’t sound particularly appealing. Heavy sigh.

But–probably better to get it done today than to try over the weekend. Nothing will be open on Sunday because of the holiday, and I can’t imagine that Saturday morning before out lunch at Commander’s Palace would be any better. Possible to do, but still most likely a madhouse.

Although Monday is a paid holiday for me, and apparently Costco will be open. Hmmmm. If I can do the grocery store this morning, and Costco on Monday…

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men.

Anyway, I feel confident I can get the errands run I need to this weekend around writing and football games….although to be honest, I don’t really care about the bowl games other than LSU’s this year; I may watch some to kill some time or while reading, but other than that–meh.

I am going to read George Pelaconos’ The Way Home next, and then I am going to start trying to get caught up on series I have fallen behind on–I’m looking at you, Ranger series by Ace Atkins, in particular–and of course, January’s goal is to read and write about a short story every day, so I am gathering my short story collections and anthologies close. I don’t want to write about a story I’ve already read and written about (alas, “Don’t Look Now” by Daphne du Maurier will have to be excluded from this as I’ve talked about it ad nauseum; but a reread of “A Rose for Emily” is definitely in order), so the idea is to read stories that are new to me, and then write about them.

And now, I need to get ready for work and mine some spice.

Here’s today’s hunk:

Faith

I feel very good today; working late last night apparently was a good thing as I was able to sleep really well and get up this morning feeling very well rested and a-rarin’ to go. Which is a good thing, as there is a lot of spice to be mined today. Woo-hoo!

Let’s see how long this lasts, shall we?

I am also thinking about my goals for the year 2017. As you know, Constant Reader, I don’t make resolutions, I set goals. Unfortunately, the goals I tend to remember from year to year are the one I make no headway on: being healthier (eating better, doing more cardio, going to the gym more regularly); writing more short stories; getting an agent; and organizing my time better. I suppose I shall set some of the exact same goals this year, but hopefully this year I will be able to get going on those and doing something about them. I’ve already decided to no longer sign contracts for books as yet unwritten; write the book and see if someone will publish it is my new mantra, and in a worst case scenario, I can always (shudder) do it myself if need be.*

*I don’t have anything against self-publishing, I just know it’s a LOT of work, and I don’t think I have the time to self-publish, self-promote, self-market, etc.

Time management is the really important thing here; being able to get work done without allowing laziness to take over, or allowing myself to be quite so easily distracted, is key. It frightens me to think how much I could get done if I actually stopped wasting so much time–and justifying the waste of time as ‘thinking’ or ‘plotting’ or ‘planning’; which is something I also do. Of course, I am now fifty-five years old. What are the odds of making significant life/lifestyle changes at this point? I do think the healthy thing could happen; I used to be able to manage the gym a minimum of three times per week, and again, it’s a scheduling thing. If I can manage to stop wasting time, I can get to the gym and do some extra weights and cardio in addition to my time with Wacky Russian. And I know, from experience, that cutting back on my food intake while increasing how much I exercise will trim excess fat from my body–even now that I’m older and my metabolism has slowed, it’s simply a matter of taking longer than it did before.

And frankly, I can live with that. It’s a process, not an instant gratification.

And hey, I also managed to get my finances under control in 2016, which was one of my goals for the year–so it wasn’t all failure. 🙂

Okay, I have spice to mine.

Here’s a hunk for you, Constant Reader: