Come See About Me

Tuesday morning and all is well in the Lost Apartment, if a little tired/tiring.

Georgia won the national championship last night! I had to go to bed at the start of the fourth quarter, when the score was 13-12 (Alabama had first and goal inside the five, and had to kick a field goal to pull within one) and I thought to myself, Georgia might actually win this–something I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to, quite frankly–Alabama being, well, Alabama–but I can only imagine how wonderful it felt last night for the Dawg fans to finally beat Alabama and win a title–of any kind (and yes, I can completely relate–I still savor memories of LSU’s win over the Tide in 2019 for the first time in eight long years). This is the third time in the last decade an SEC team has won the national title without winning the conference (Alabama has done it twice already); the third straight year a different SEC team has won the national championship (LSU, Alabama, Georgia); and the first time a team from the SEC East has won a national title since 2008 (Florida)–as well as Georgia’s first since 1980 (!). FIVE SEC teams have won national titles since the turn of the century (LSU, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, and now Georgia)–which should definitely bring the SEC haters out of the woodwork for sure.

And for the record, haters, only Alabama has won more national titles this century than LSU.

I was tired last night by the time the game actually started–I had the time wrong, and tuned in at the end of the first quarter, just before Georgia tied it 3-3–because I’d been doing the Bold Strokes Book-a-thon promotional reading with four other writers with new books out this month, which was a lot of fun…but coming as it did after an hour-and-a-half television interview that came on top of rushing home from work to get there in time for the call…yeah, by the time I settled into the easy chair and opened up Hulu I was worn out. I managed to revise/edit a short story yesterday during my lunch break and while the other authors were reading–I am nothing if not a multi-tasker–and also finished another blog post for the Bold Strokes website. I also managed to get most of my email answered yesterday; there’s no telling what’s in there this morning as I haven’t really had the heart to look, to be frank. (I just did–nothing really other than spam, huzzah! At least for now.) It’s also only 41 degrees this morning–small wonder I didn’t want to get out of bed, really–so that means a sweatshirt under my T-shirt for work this morning and a lot of bitterness on my part. But at least I am on vacation starting tomorrow (this would have been my travel day to New York) which means I don’t have to get up tomorrow and I can dive into the final revision of the book. It’s technically due on Saturday and Monday is a holiday, so I’ll be checking with them to make sure it’s okay if I send it in on Monday (probably really late that night), but I am assuming it will be since most publishers don’t work on weekends or holidays).

Fingers crossed!

I am kind of looking forward to this staycation, despite the enormous disappointment in not going to New York. I have a lot to do–as long as I stay focused–and I am hopeful I will be able to get most of it taken care of since I have been so productive lately. Last night’s interview went well, as did the ZOOM reading, even if that much extroversion exhausted me. I want to get back to reading again–I stalled out on the last book I was reading, and have decided to alas cast it aside and choose another; returning that one to the TBR pile for another shot later…sometimes a book just doesn’t click with me when i try to read it, so I always try to give said book a second chance later. If it doesn’t take on the second try…that’s when it goes into the donate pile. I probably shouldn’t give books a second chance–given the status of the tottering stacks of books in the living room–but there have been any number of books that really grabbed me the second time I tried (The Stand is actually one of these, and there was another one in the pandemic times that I picked up and tried again with the end result that I absolutely LOVED it; I wish I could remember which one it was…) and so I am hesitant to deny myself even the possibility of missing out on a chance to read something fantastic.

But I also need to do something about the books. I also need to stop buying more until and unless I actually get rid of some that I have on hand–or at least until I can clear out some space in the storage attic to move some of these to…but that again shows the hoarder mentality–I will never go digging through boxes in the attic to find a book that’s stored up there; I would just buy another copy. So…maybe just clear them out and if I want to read them at some point in the future just suck it up and buy another copy, or get it from the library?

I don’t know.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and congratulations again, Georgia fans!

I’m In Love Again

Monday.

I was supposed to leave for New York on Wednesday, but thanks to anti-vaxxers and maskless wonders, our in-person board orientation for Mystery Writers of America was cancelled for the second consecutive year, which is annoying. I could cancel my vacation requests, but…am kind of hoping that I can use the time to get caught up on everything and my book is due soon, so….extra time certainly can come in handy about right now. So I only have two days in the office this week, and since next Monday is a holiday, I have essentially a week off from work, which is lovely.

I worked on the book yesterday–huzzah!–and now have only one chapter left to do and the revisions. The revisions aren’t going to be easy–but at least with the New York trip cancelled I’ll be home on vacation starting Wednesday, which should give me some breathing and working space in the meantime. Huzzah? Huzzah. At least the cancellation of the trip has a good side effect in one manner. Tonight after work I have to rush home to do a phone interview and after that, the January Bookathon for Bold Strokes Books; so it’s going to be a rather long day for me. I need to try to edit my short story and try to finish/edit the article I have due today between clients–which won’t be easy–so overall, it could very easily be a rather stressful day for me; long at any rate, and will undoubtedly be very tired when it’s finally comes to an end this evening, about an hour or so before I have to go to bed so I can get up early tomorrow morning…but then I have Wednesday off, so we’ll see how it all goes. Wednesday I definitely am going to have to spend writing and revising my butt off….Thursday and Friday as well. Sigh. But I like the book and think it is going to turn out okay, which is always pleasing for me–the crippling self-doubt will inevitably come later. It’s been a fun challenge working on this book; I am relatively certain by the time Monday rolls around I’ll be quite over it by then, in all honesty. but it’s a fun little book and I hope that the revision process develops it into the nice little read it has always intended to be (my brain is feverishly working on how it all turns out and how to get to that place in the story).

We got caught up on Yellowjackets last night, and have come to the sorry conclusion that this is merely season one and not a self-contained mini-series last night; I see no conceivable way they can wrap this all up and all the mysteries with a single hour episode–and I also suspect we are probably not going to get the answers we want and need, either. Which is fine; we certainly have been enjoying the ride thus far, and the writing and acting are pretty pinpoint sharp, too. We also started watching the new Harlan Coben Netflix show, Stay Close, which is also quite fun if a bit confusing. I still don’t understand how all the disparate storylines all come together or what is going on, but as always, it’s just fun to sit back and enjoy the ride with Harlan’s shows.

I also need to get back to reading once I finish this book; I’ve not been able to focus on doing any reading lately because I’ve been focusing what little energy I have on writing the book. I was on quite a roll there for a while, and it would be very nice to get back to reading again. The TBR pile continues to grow, and it’s past time for me to do another living room book purge. I’d intended to get another box down from the attic this weekend but…book and cleaning focus prevented that; I may be able to get to this whilst I am on vacation this week. (I suspect I am planning to be overly ambitious again this week with my time off, and of course a gazillion other things will pop up in the meantime that will distract me from getting everything finished that needs to be finished–as always–but hope will always spring eternal.)

Seriously, just looking at my inbox gives me the hives.

But recoiling away from it isn’t going to solve the problem, so it’s best for me to grit my teeth, put on my helmet, and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

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.

Let Me Go The Right Way

A question I’ve been hearing a lot lately, when it comes to my new book. is why do you question whether you are the right person to tell this story?

It may entirely be a side effect of the long psychological disorder (one of many!) I possess that is more commonly known as Imposter Syndrome; but over the last decade or so there have been so many questions about who can tell what story that I don’t really think it’s so surprising that I would be concerned about my right to the tell the story of #shedeservedit that I chose to tell. It’s a book about toxic masculinity in a small town that manifests itself in a rape culture that devalues women, especially the girls, at the local high school; that toxic masculinity culture was created by the town’s worshipful devotion of the high school football team. Fans derives from fanatics, after all, and living in the South (and being Southern) has exposed me to the ‘football fan mob mentality’ that I was trying to recreate in my story. I’ve seen, for example, LSU fans rise up in righteous fury and indignation at the questioning of whether it’s animal cruelty for them to have a live tiger mascot with an amazing habitat on the campus; I’ve seen them rise up in defense of the administration and the players when players have been credibly accused of any number of crimes (not the least of which sexual harassment/assault of female students); and there are any other number of examples here I could cite–and that’s just LSU.

But in a story about toxic masculinity in a small town, I also centered a teenaged boy in the story; we see it all through his eyes, not that of any of the girls. That’s really the primary concern I had about how this book would be received: how could you put a boy at the center of a story about rape culture?

And I guess my response should be why wouldn’t I?

Because, as I read the articles and books that served as background research (there’s a chilling amount of research out there for anyone who is interested), all I could keep thinking was what is wrong with these boys? And from there I began to extrapolate further in my never-ending mental gymnastics. What do the kids who are not football players think about the privilege the players enjoy? High school is, after all, wanting/trying to fit in, not wanting to attract bad attention from people, not standing out from the crowd with an unpopular view or opinion. As I continued to read and research–and in the beginning, you have to remember, I started looking into all of this to begin with not because I wanted to write about it, but because the Steubenville/Marysville cases stoked my curiosity.

It was actually during the reading on Marysville that it hit me right between the eyes: the Marysville victim, Daisy Coleman, had not only been a cheerleader but her older brother was on the football team; the guys that got her drunk and assaulted her were not only guys she knew but felt safe with but were her brother’s teammates and friends.

And that was when I realized, you need to change the Kansas book to be about this, and write about the brother of a past victim when there is a new victim.

And then the other day, in an irony of ironies, I got my copy of Laura Lippman’s new collection, Seasonal Work, in the mail–and there it was, in the table of contents; her own story inspired by the Marysville incident, “Five Fires”; which I read when it was initially published; a story Laura and I had, in one of our infrequent but marvelous alcohol-fueled conversations, talked about (I’d forgotten what an integral part of shaping my own story that conversation with Laura all those years ago played).

“Five Fires” is quite marvelous.

“There was another fire last night.” That’s the first woman. Tennis skirt, Lacoste polo, gold chain with a diamond on it, like a drop of water.

The other woman–I don’t know either of them, you can’t, even in a town as small as ours, know everybody–says: “That makes three this month, doesn’t it?”

“Two. The one at the vacant–you know that place. And now behind Langley’s.”

And the playhouse, I want to say. The first one was that playhouse. But I don’t say it, because, again, I don’t know them. But three is right. There have been three since August 1, and it’s only August 10.

Whereas my story is told from the point of view of a victim’s brother–who is also on the football team–Laura’s story was inspired (if I remember correctly) by a newspaper article on Marysville, when the victim’s house was burned to the ground in a nasty work of arson–as if the family hadn’t been through enough already–and I don’t remember whether it was a photograph or a video she’d seen, of a vigil supporting the accused; there was a young woman in the picture that caught her attention and made her think, now why would that girl not support another young woman in a horrible situation? Why is it so easy for her to not believe the victim? And she thus wrote the story, to try to get into the mindset of a young teenaged girl who found it easy to believe an accused rapist and blame the victim.

It’s really quite an extraordinary story, and rereading it now, after all these years, I am even more impressed with how well done–touching, sad, and poignant–it is. It would be easy to make a villain of this girl, but Lippman approaches her with a strong sense of empathy, and while the character’s views and behavior can be quite repellant, the fact that Lippman gets so deep into her head and point of view makes character all the more compelling, and heartbreakingly sad at the same time–all the while never ever losing sight of who the real victim in the story is. It’s a terrific story, incredibly well done, and I strongly recommend getting this collection of stories; it’s worth it for “Five Fires” alone.

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

Run, Run, Run

Wednesday morning and it’s not as cold as it has been, but it’s still (of course) cold in the Lost Apartment, same as it ever was when it is cold outside. I didn’t want to get out of my warm bed this morning yet again, but there’s no choice, obviously, as I have to leave for the office shortly. It’s my last day in the office of the week; I had actually taken tomorrow off because we were going to have our new year’s lunch at Commander’s tomorrow, but with the recent uptick of cases and changes in safety protocols and so forth, we all decided it was probably for the best to cancel it. This gives me another day off at home to work on the book and do some cleaning; not the worst possible outcome, but I would rather be having lunch at Commander’s if I have to be honest about it. Friday will thus be another work-at-home day for me, and then I will have the weekend to work some more on the book.

Not the best, but certainly not the worst potential outcome here.

I did tape “The Reading Life” with the always delightful Susan Larson for WWNO yesterday, which is always a pleasure. I also am going to be interviewed for a newspaper over the phone on Friday; it’s been a while since I’ve done one of those, and so it should be interesting. I am also not feeling quite as tired or sleepy this morning as I did yesterday; perhaps it’s the coffee, perhaps it’s a better night’s sleep, I am not sure which is true, frankly, I just know this morning I feel more awake than I did yesterday (not as awake and energetic as Monday, to be sure, but still, this is better than yesterday when I felt like something Scooter had dragged in). We watched the LSU bowl game for a while before finally, regretfully, giving up on the game and watching another episode of Yellowjackets, which continues to enthrall; I am really looking forward to getting back to it again tonight, to be honest. It’s so very well done, well written and acted, and such a spectacular cast, too! I do recommend it, even though it’s early in the season and things can still easily go off the rails.

It’s also Pay-the-Bills Day (huzzah?), so I will be spending some of my lunch hour doing exactly that, and determining if a Costco run this weekend is in order. I don’t know, to be honest; there’s only a few things that I actually need from there, and there’s a very real sense that I can probably do without those things for another week or so, right? It always ends up costing so much to go there…because I can always find more things I “need” than are on my grocery list–defeating the purpose of the list entirely.

My mind is all over the place this morning, which is to be expected, I suppose. It’s really a wonder my ADHD-addled brain allows me to get anything finished or accomplished at all. I have managed to get coping mechanisms in place to help me with my fevered all-over-the-place brain; the one good thing about having an ADHD-addled mind is that when you are able to focus it, you can focus it with laser-like precision. I am having some trouble focusing my brain this morning, but I am hoping that the causes of that will fade as the morning progresses and I’ll be able to get focused the later in the day it gets. I need to do some writing today and I need to empty out my email inbox once and for all. I need to make a list of things I need to get done this week. I need to clean the house and stop to make a little groceries on the way home from the office tonight.

I also need to stop being overwhelmed by how much I have to get done and just start fucking doing it.

And so, on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. I am going to be productive today if it kills me. Have a lovely Wednesday!

Where Did Our Love Go?

It is cold again this morning–37 degrees to be exact–and while I was prepared for it yesterday, I was not this morning. I was under the impression that yesterday morning’s frigid clime was an aberration; a cold spell that was going to be experienced overnight and then it would be over, with the lows for the rest of this week hovering in the low fifties. That was incorrect, and it clearly changed at some point since I checked it yesterday morning. It is bitterly cold this morning; and not only am I cold, I am bitter.

I got another chapter of the book finished yesterday–huzzah!–and now have three to go plus the revisions, which are going to be difficult but not impossible; definitely wearying. I ran some errands on the way home last night, and then we watched the first two episodes of Yellowjackets on Showtime, and are completely all-in on the show. It’s incredibly well done, and you can never go wrong with Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci–ever.

Today of course I have a lot to do as always; I need to get another chapter written tonight, some more emails cleaned out of the inbox, and work on that article–which I should have finished yesterday. It’s hard because I am trying to make sure I get the intro to the list of books (Kansas crime) absolutely correct; I am trying to talk about the strange dichotomy of how we always are taught this myth that rural, small town life is the American ideal, the ‘true America’–yet that myth completely ignores the level and degree of true crime and nastiness that is there once you pull back the patriotic “real America” sheen we paint that lifestyle with…yet I also have to be careful not to offend anyone, which isn’t easy to do. Yet that dichotomy remains, and is as true today as it ever has been: urban areas don’t have a monopoly on crime, sin, or scandal. (Ever notice how the majority of soap operas back in the day were actually set in small towns?) I hope I can be as motivated today as I was yesterday, when I managed to get a lot finished during the course of the evening while I waited for Paul to get home from the gym so we could start watching Yellowjackets. The kitchen is still a mess, alas, and there are dishes still in the dishwasher to put away, but I have to admit that the cold doesn’t exactly motivate me to do much besides sit under a blanket and read/edit/write, you know? But I at least managed to get the throw rugs put back in place and ran the vacuum cleaner over them–no small feat, especially when it’s cold.

This morning, obviously, I didn’t want to leave the warm comfort of the bed and the covers to venture out into the cold of the Lost Apartment, but I did. The coffee hit the spot this morning, and I remembered there was a load of laundry in the washer (a small one) that I put into the dryer this morning. I am still a bit cold, but the coffee is warming me from the inside and that’s always a good thing, really. On my lunch break today I get to drive out to UNO to record Susan Larson’s “The Reading Life” radio show, which is kind of exciting, and I’ve also been asked for another phone interview for this Friday, which I can do while I make condom packs since it’s on the phone, obviously. I’d like to make a Costco run at some point this weekend, but we’ll have to see. I’m supposed to go to New York next week, but the jury’s still out on whether travel should be something I consider. If it weren’t for my day job, I’d say I’ll take the risk but…the day job. It’s really not a good idea to take those kinds of risks when it’s entirely possible I could become an asymptomatic carrier, and that’s really not a good look for a public health worker in a public health clinic. Decisions, decisions…

But I am hoping that this weekend will be a nice one, with lovely warm sunshine and a slight chill in the air. I have yet to return to the gym–my shoulder is starting to feel normal again, so I think maybe this weekend a walk over to the gym might be in order both days, really–and it’s time to get used to no football on the weekends again, which will be nice and will allow me to get more things done on Saturdays than I have been used to getting done lately, or since the hurricane. I always try to remember what Saturdays are like when it isn’t football season and it’s always hard for me to remember what those Saturdays are like the rest of the year. Do I spend them cleaning, or do I waste them, do I write or edit or do any number of things? I honestly can never recall from one year to the next. I suppose I will watch part of the LSU game tonight until it’s time for me to go to bed (the game has a ridiculously late start time, and there’s no way it will be over before it’s time for me to go to bed, and I am not going to stay up to watch so I can be exhausted and sleepy all day tomorrow, no thanks). Plus the team is depleted with opt-outs, transfers, and who knows what all. I don’t even think they have a scholarship quarterback on the roster, so there won’t be much of a passing game, that’s for sure. (May not even be able to watch an entire quarter, now that I think about it.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Your Heart Belongs to Me

Sunday morning and reality again looms on the horizon. No more long weekends, no more extra days off from work for a while, and back to the regular grind of living this life, which is–you know, fine, as a general rule, but don’t mind me if I whine a bit about it, you know?

I mean, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t whine, would I?

I got some work done on the book yesterday, and I plan to do even more today. I also need to spend some time reading what’s already written and trying to figure out how to fix the mess that the manuscript has become–it’s really all over the place, but everything I want the book to say and do it does; it’s just going to need some serious editing. The deadline looms to get it all fixed and decent and publishable; which means I am going to be revising and editing my ass off next weekend. Which is fine, and do-able, just an enormous pain in the ass, but as long as I am sleeping well and getting rested, that’s really all that matters, isn’t it?

I spent yesterday afternoon writing my book, and then spent some time doing what I usually do; puttering around and trying to get organized, which will also encapsulate most of today as well. I also have an article to write, and a short story to revise/edit…it’s really endless, isn’t it? And of course this week is a work week, and I have other things on the agenda to get done as well. We also watched Landscapers on HBO MAX last night, which was interesting. Olivia Colman and her co-stars are amazing, as always, but at the same time the producers/directors made some interesting artistic choices that didn’t always, at least in my mind, pay off completely. We then moved on to the second season of Control Z, a Spanish language show whose first season we greatly enjoyed, and this second season is also pretty interesting, once you get the hang of what’s going on again; the problem with bingeing so many shows over the course of time is that it’s impossible to remember the plots and subplots when the show comes back around for another season….supporting actor Andres Baida is also incredibly good looking. But finishing Gossip Girl means needing to find new things to watch regularly, and this is quite the pain in the ass now…maybe we need to find another show from that same period that ran for years so there’s plenty for us to watch without having to think too hard or make a false start with watching something else. (I do want to watch the new John Cena super-hero show, if and when it finally premieres; also, there’s all those Marvel shows over on Disney to watch; we’ve never seen WandaVision, for one, and of course there are others now, too; I greatly enjoyed Loki, despite its slow start, and I think there are other shows coming back that we enjoyed as well.)

I also watched bits and pieces of some of the college football games that were on yesterday, many of which were highly entertaining.

Right now, of course, I feel a bit groggy from the sleep hangover; I slept late again this morning and so am a bit behind on the waking up thing. The coffee, as always, is helping enormously, which is a good thing–as a general rule–and as my brain slowly but certainly comes back to life again, and into consciousness, I am beginning to think I am going to be able to get a lot done today as long as I stay focused. I’ve been mostly ignoring my emails since this long weekend began; deleting spam and junk, of course, and noting bill reminders on my calendar. I am also kind of excited because Paul bought me a datebook–the first one I’ve had in an eternity–because using the digital calendar–while it works perfectly for paying the bills, it’s not so great for to-do lists and deadlines. (note to self: make notes on everything you’ve agreed to write and revise and put it in the date book for now) I know I have some stories to get done, and I’ve got to get this book done, and yes, I need to stop saying yes to things.

But the new book is dropping next week too–yeesh, how quickly this seems to happen!–and I’ve not been doing any Blatant Self-Promotion, have I? Seriously, it’s a wonder how I still manage to have a career; imagine were I to focus my inconsiderable energies directly on my career–then again I could do that and have it turn out to make not the slightest bit of difference whatsoever. That is this kind of life, where it is so incredibly easy to feel defeated and give up without trying very hard. I’ve been thinking about retirement–still five years into the future–and yes, well aware that I am late getting started on retirement planning (when a sprightly young girl, fresh out of college and doing one of those benefits fairs at the office said “well, you’ve certainly waited much too long to start this!”–and yes, I know it’s awful, and yes, I should NOT have said it–but I really couldn’t resist replying, “I didn’t think I’d live to see my retirement”) but I think writing was always intended to be a part of my retirement; I’ll keep writing as long as someone will keep publishing me, and as long as my brain continues to function properly in order for me to do so. My career has always been, from the very first, about writing the kind of books I want to write with no thought as to whether it would become a huge seller or not; I’ve always felt that’s kind of a fool’s game. No one really knows what will sell, no one knows what makes a book climb the bestseller lists or capture lightning in a bottle otherwise everyone would be doing it, you know? Who knows what will capture the imagination of the public? I’m always amazed when another writer will say something like, “So I looked at what was selling and decided, ‘okay I’ll write this’.” I like to think I’m not cantankerous when it comes to writing, but I know when I agree to write something for money, I always struggle more writing that than something I came up with on my own, that I wanted to write about.

#shdeservedit was written because I wanted to take a stand against societal misogyny and the notion that boys’ lives are of more value to society than girls’. Sexual assault and sexual harassment, while hand in glove with each other, aren’t the same thing–but they do accomplish the same thing; the devaluing of female lives, making women feel like they are less than; that they don’t enjoy the same rights and privileges that males do in our culture and our society. I’ve spent most of my writing career writing about homophobia–no real surprise, as it directly impacts me and my life on a daily basis and has for most of my life–but now that I am getting older, I am wanting to expand my writing out to address societal issues that may not directly affect me (although the argument can be made that toxic masculinity is the common denominator in all oppression in this country) but injustice for one is injustice for all, which is something I firmly believe.

And on that note, I have a kitchen to clean, floors to vacuum and some filing to do before I get to work on the short story, the chapter I need to write, and that pesky article I need to get written.

Have a lovely first Sunday of 2022, Constant Reader!

Yesterday Once More

I’ve always believed that it is smarter to set goals every year rather than resolutions; resolutions have almost become kind of a joke in that no one ever really keeps them past the first few weeks of the new year. Years ago, I decided to change that up and set goals to achieve rather than resolutions to change behavior, and that has worked out much better for me. Sure, there have been some of the same goals set every year that have never been achieved (I’m looking at you, find an agent) but I find that it all seems to work out in the end, and the goals I never achieve and carry over just maybe need some more of my energy and focus applied to them

Before, however, I get into the goals for one Gregalicious in 2022, I’d like to go over some of the things that stood out for me in 2021, both good and bad.

HIGHLIGHTS OF 2021: I was able to visit New York in November and then head up to Boston by train for Crime Bake, and it was a marvelous experience; I learned a lot more family history; made the list of
“other distinguished work” in Best Mystery and Suspense; finished writing and published Bury Me in Shadows at long last; finished the Kansas book finally; I read some great books and watched some great movies and television shows; signing a book contract with Crooked Lane; sold some short stories (“The Snow Globe”, “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” and “Night Follows Night”, among possible others I cannot recall at the moment); a visit to the Gardner Museum whilst in Boston; I bought a new computer with which I am still rather pleased; and I did some more deep diving into New Orleans history, which has been incredibly fun.

LOW LIGHTS: Hurricane Ida and the ensuing horrific power loss at precisely the worst time of the year to be without climate control in New Orleans (will never ride out another storm of that size again, ever); the on-going pandemic canceling the Edgars and conferences and limiting/prohibiting travel; no Williams Fest/S&S again; the horrible polar vortex that brought record low temperatures to New Orleans during Carnival and we had no heat, so I spent Fat Tuesday freezing under many layers of clothes, layers of blankets, and with a space heater on and still was shivering and cold and miserable; my inability to finish writing the first draft of Chlorine; and of course, not finishing any of the novellas I really wanted to get finished this past year–and any number of short stories as well.

I think the biggest goal I want to set for 2022 has to do with Chlorine. I want to get a viable first draft finished as soon as I can, because the second part of the goal with Chlorine is to finally get representation, or at least try again. I think once I get this current manuscript finished and some of the stories and novellas I have in progress out of the way, I can focus on getting Chlorine finished and out on spec. My goal is to make that my March project, giving me January and February to finish all the other stuff and get it out of the way.

My second goal, also to do with writing, is to get the next short story collection pulled together as well as the novella collections. I think I have enough completed work to get the story collection turned in this year–some of the stories I have in mind for it are still in progress, of course, and of course I have three completed drafts of novellas that need to be redone, revised, and two others that need to be written (or do I? I am now remembering that there’s a third that needs a revision but has a completed draft, so that’s four–and now that I think about it more deeply there are three in some sort of progress that I should be able to get finished in the new year). There’s also the essay collection, which is going to take some serious focus and concentration to pull together. I also want to write a Scotty book this year…which is a LOT to have on one’s plate in one year. (This could, of course, all change should Crooked Lane want a follow-up to the book I am currently writing; this is the sort of thing that makes someone like me–a planner–crazy because I cannot control what requests are going to be made for work from me.)

Next goal is, naturally, work out related. I need to make it to the gym three times per week, going forward into this new year. My fitness regimen has been all over the place since the pandemic started, but it’s been a lot more consistent since the pandemic started than it was in the (many) years prior when I just stopped going entirely and allowed my body to not only go to seed but to start breaking down. I feel better when I lift weights and stretch, and I should also add a cardio day to my workout schedule. I want my goal weight to remain 200–I’m not sure what I weigh now, frankly, but I know it’s not 225, which was where I’d allowed myself to get–and I’d like to get into 32 waist pants (comfortably) again in the new year. (I can get into 32’s in stretchy jeans, but 33’s in regular jeans, while I can fit into them, aren’t as comfortable as I would like them to be, and right now comfort above all else.) I don’t think I’ll ever get my Gumby-like flexibility back again, but the stretching does feel incredibly good when I do it (I also want to add stretching daily to the regimen; I can stretch at home just as easily as I can at the gym) so it needs to become more of a routine thing for me.

My next goal is to break my lifelong habit of falling into procrastination at every opportunity. While I will be the first to admit that it’s best to listen to your brain and your body and to not try to push them into things when they are exhausted or tired or fried, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s just laziness, and I own that completely: oh, there’s plenty of time to do this or oh I will just get this done tomorrow is too easy a habit to fall into; even as I write this I am thinking Oh I can go to the store tomorrow and I can also write tomorrow and there’s no need for me to do any of this today despite the fact I feel rested and relaxed and creative. So I am going to finish this and then I am going to get cleaned up and get back to my writing (the groceries, on the other hand, can 100% wait until tomorrow).

Another goal is to keep on top of the housework and the filing–and by that, I am also including the storage attic and the storage facility. I want to get the attic cleared out, and I want to clear out the storage as well so i can stop spending that money every month. This isn’t as easy as one might expect, but I figure if I can get rid of a box in the attic every week–again, not as easy as one might think–I should be able to get a handle on this all by the middle of the year. One box a week doesn’t sound too difficult, does it? And yet…

All right, on that note I need to get back to the writing. I think I can push through quite a bit today, even if I don’t want to–which I don’t–but I also have no choice. The book is due exactly two weeks from today, and I don’t want to turn in something as sloppy as what I have on my hands right now.

Have a wonderful New Year, Constant Reader!

My Favorite Things

And so we have reached the last day of 2021 at last (it’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that it has been 2021 for a year; 2022 is going to seem even stranger, methinks). I’m on a holiday, so there’s no work for the day-job to be done today, but there’s plenty of other things that need to be done. I need to work on the book some more, I need to clean, I need to run some errands, and I’d also like to do some reading. It’s a lot, I know, and who knows how much I can or will actually get done around here? Yesterday I did data entry, made condom packs and rewatched the original Clash of the Titans (starring a very young Harry Hamlin and his nipples; seeing this in the theater made me a Harry Hamlin fan for life) while I did so. I also was able to pick up two boxes of home COVID-19 tests (the day-job procured you them for the staff as a preventive measure, which are apparently like gold these days.

It was a very challenging year in many ways. I suspect that if I looked back at a list of my goals for the year, two of the most key things–getting an agent and finishing Chlorine–would not be able to be checked off the list. My faulty memory–I keep, for one thing, conflating the last two years as one and the same mentally–has something to do with it. I know I wanted to write more short stories in 2021, and I don’t know that I succeeded at that. I know I had a couple of stories of which I am very proud come out this past year (my first ever attempt at writing a Sherlock Holmes story for one), and of course I finished writing two books while trying to finish yet a third under contract, and trying to get Chlorine done.

I always feel sort of weird at the end of the year when I compile my favorite things (books, movies, television) because I never limit myself to things that were new to the year, but rather new to me during the year; I am always so woefully behind on everything I read and watch that it doesn’t seem fair to leave off things that didn’t debut in 2021. Besides, it’s always kind of fun, I think, to remind people of things they themselves might have missed and forgotten about. But when I started thinking about all the books I read this past year, I would have sworn that I hadn’t read this much, or that I couldn’t have possibly read this many books–and I know I am also forgetting some, and these are the ones that stand out enough to be remembered. My favorite reads of the year were, in no particular order, The Turnout by Megan Abbott; The Collective by Alison Gaylin; Dream Girl by Laura Lippman; The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews (I read three or four Andrews novels this past year, and loved them all, frankly); Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier; Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby; A Beautiful Crime by Christopher YBollen; Yes Daddy by Jonathan Page-Ramage; The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris; These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall; Invisible City by Julia Dahl; and By Way of Sorrow by Robyn Gigl. I also read a lot more cozies than I generally do, which were quite fun–I highly recommend checking out Leslie Budewitz, Vivien Chien, Sherry Harris, Ali Brandon, Miranda Harris, and Carolyn Haines, among many others–my TBR pile is nothing if not a treasure trove of terrific reading–and I am hoping to get even more reading done in the new year as well.

As for movies, I also watched a lot of movies. I saw a lot of classic cinema of the past I’d never seen before–my Cynical 70’s Film Festival had some marvelous entries this past year–as well as revisited some favorites. I greatly enjoyed Dune, which I thought was incredibly well done, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was a great super-hero film, with just the right amount of spectacle, humor, and humanity to ground it in enough reality that an audience could relate to it. I don’t remember any other new films that we saw in this past year, but I am sure there were some–the direct-to-streaming/limited theatrical release model for the pandemic ensured that I saw some things much sooner than I probably would have otherwise–but give me a break, I am still on my first cup of coffee after a lovely and deep night’s sleep.

Television again is something a bit blurry for me; the lines between 2020 and 2021 also blurring a bit here. I know we loved Mare of Easttown, Ted Lasso (a true gem of a show), The Mandalorian, Elité, Superman and Lois (probably the best version of Superman since the first two Christopher Reeve films), the original Gossip Girl (which is winding down now with a last season that is rather disappointing, alas), Hacks, One of Us is Lying, Cruel Summer, and Only Murders in the Building, which was also a jewel. But maybe my favorite show of the year was HBO’s It’s a Sin, which was not only well done, but powerful and thought-provoking. I had debated whether I wanted to see it or not; entertainment about HIV/AIDS, particularly about the height of the plague, has never sat well with me–either pandering nonsense or heavy-handed. The gold standard for me has always been Longtime Companion, but after watching I had to say It’s a Sin belongs up there. It was hard to watch at times–and I realized that the reason was the characters were all the same age that I was when it all started, which was a big part of it–but it also made me acknowledge and understand any number of things about myself and my past; namely that I had never grieved, just going numb at one point and deciding to keep moving forward and not think about anything. Watching the show brought back a lot of memories which, while painful at times, was necessary and needed.

I also spent time writing and working on two novellas, “Festival of the Redeemer” and “Never Kiss a Stranger”; one thing I really want to be able to do in the new year is get the novella collection together as well as another collection of short stories. Lots of plans for the new year, including a new Scotty novel I’ve been itching to get to, and another stand alone, in addition to Chlorine. I was able to visit my parents twice this past year, and I was also about to make it to New York and then Boston for Crime Bake, which was simply marvelous. I have lots of travel plans for the new year that I am hoping new pandemic variants aren’t going to jettison–I really do want to be around writers again, seriously–and over all, the year wasn’t as terrible as it easily could have been (2022, do not take this as a challenge). I got a new computer, paid off a lot of debt, and over all, I have to say, all things considered, 2021 wasn’t altogether terrible. I wish I had been more productive, but I also wish that every year.

And on that note, this next chapter isn’t going to write itself, is it? Have a lovely New Year’s Eve, Constant Reader, and I’ll talk to you next year!