Solsbury Hill

Thursday and working at home today. Huzzah!

Yesterday was yet another day when I woke up feeling rested and invigorated. I had thought, oddly enough, that I hadn’t slept particularly well the night before–I woke up several times throughout the night, and the last time was five thirty, so I just kind of laid there in a half-sleep until the alarm went off. But oddly enough, I never hit the wall yesterday afternoon and I was also full of energy and highly functioning and got a lot of stuff taken care of, which was absolutely lovely. I hope to match that productivity today. I only have to work a partial day because I had to stay late the other day, so I am hoping to get some writing and editing done today as well, and make it to the gym once I complete my work-at-home duties. Fingers crossed!

I went to sleep later than I’d planned last night. We finished watching Dopesick, which is an amazing production with exceptional acting and writing, and then I went into a wormhole on Youtube and wound up staying up until midnight. I woke up early this morning–earlier than I’d wanted to, but hey, more time to get things done–and I think I slept relatively well last night. I am awake, after all, and not tired physically or mentally; I call that a win, really. I also finished reading Shucked Apart by Barbara Ross–more on that later–and started reading Guilty as Cinnamon by Leslie Budewitz, who is a favorite writer of mine and one I should read more of–I loved Assault and Pepper, the first in her Seattle Spice Shop series, this is the second.

I’ve also been reflecting a lot on my trip to Boston. I made a mistake the other day when I was talking about visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; I referred to reading about Mrs. Gardner in a book called The Grande Dames by Stephen Buckingham; his name was actually Birmingham. I think I can be forgiven for that error, primarily because Buckingham seems like a more likely last name for an American than Birmingham–and buck instead of birm is a very easy mistake to make, and therefore forgivable, despite my incredibly high standards for getting these facts correct. But I always loved the story of Mrs. Gardner, the ultimate diva and grande dame of Boston, and now that I’ve seen the Italian palazzo she built as a home for herself and her extraordinary art collection…I need to reread Mr. Birmingham’s book again. The museum was spectacular, just spectacular.

The day began with me looking out the window of my room at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square to see it was drizzling a bit outside; and I had to decide: lug my suitcase through the subway, or summon a Lyft, or walk ten blocks to the new train station, Moyhihan Hall? Being a hardy New Orleanian, I decided I’d just walk the ten blocks–my Fitbit would love all the steps–and as long as I could keep my glasses dry, I should be fine. It was just a drizzle, after all. So, I rode the elevator down and walked out the front door and walked over to 8th Avenue and headed downtown. It was, despite the slight drizzle, a lovely walk. I debated stopping for coffee along the way–I’d not had any (and it was actually rather delightful to not be so dependent on caffeine this trip as usual, and perhaps that’s why I had no issues sleeping?), but decided to wait till I got to Moynihan before getting coffee–what were the odds there wouldn’t be at least a Starbucks, if not a Dunkin’ Donuts, inside? I made good time, and was actually enjoying people watching as I made my way down 8th.

So, of course, about a block and a half from my final destination, the sky opened with a deluge worthy of a New Orleans street-flooding strength downpour. By the time I reached the train station I was completely soaked, but was also highly amused by it all. I had a three and a half hour train ride to Boston ahead of me, and I was really looking forward to getting back into the book I was reading–These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall, see the blog entry where I discussed how terrific the book was–and the Amtrak ride from New York to Boston is one of my favorite train trips–Connecticut is so scenic and beautiful, and the train hugs the coast most of the way, with spectacular views of bays and inlets and estuaries and boats and lovely homes. So I got my coffee, wiped off my head and glasses with napkins, and debated battling with my suitcase in the bathroom to get dry clothing–I decided against it eventually–and finally boarded my train and headed for one of my favorite cities that I never get to spend enough time in, Boston (I’ve always had an affinity for the city because I love history, and of course, Boston was pivotal in the American Revolution, and Johnny Tremain is set there, and I love that book). Alas, the scenery was perhaps not as spectacular along the route as it usually is; it rained and was gray and cloudy and overcast the entire way, and whenever I tried to take a picture by aiming my phone at the window, all I got was a gray photo of water beaded up on glass and nothing beyond, which was terribly disappointing. But this lack of ability to take great scenic photos enabled me to focus on the book, which I was absolutely loving (see blog entry from several days ago where I discuss the phenomenal novel at great length). It was raining in Boston when the train pulled into the station, and my wonderful friends were there to pick me up, and we headed for the Gardner Museum.

I could spend days in that museum, seriously. The building itself is breathtakingly beautiful–as are the Sargent portraits of Mrs. Gardner on display–and so much other amazing art: paintings and sculptures and tapestries; the Velazquez painting of Philip IV of Spain that is perhaps the most famous image of that sad Hapsburg king; everywhere you look there is a spectacularly beautiful piece of art. It’s overwhelming, and even more awe-inspiring perhaps than even the Uffizi in Florence–you expect the palaces and collections of European nobility and royalty to be spectacular; and to be sure, Mrs. Gardner’s home and collection pales in comparison to that of the Medici, but she was an American heiress…and even though she was fabulously wealthy, to me even the wealthiest of the robber barons pale in comparison to the sumptuous palazzos of the Renaissance Italians. But it’s still an impressive collection, if not a Medici one, and that’s why I think it’s more impressive. Mrs. Gardner was simply a wealthy woman, not a Renaissance lady or princess or queen. She couldn’t be expected to compete, and yet…the collection is exceptional and extraordinary, as was the woman herself.

And of course, as a crime writer, the robbery–the empty frames that once held Rembrandts brazenly stolen and yet to be recovered still on display–is also fascinating to me, particularly since I love treasure hunts.

I am forever grateful to my friends Stuart and Robbie for taking me there–and I plan to visit again sometime.

Crime Bake, the event put on jointly sponsored by the New England chapters of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, was why I went to Boston in the first place, so Stuart and Robbie dropped me off in Dedham at my hotel (which was where the event was) and I got a lovely night’s sleep–again, a complete shock, but is it a mere coincidence that the coffee I had at the train station was the only cup I had that day?–and I got up early the next morning for the breakfast buffet and to start attending panels. When I said earlier that I’d forgotten how much I love listening to writers speak about writing, and books, and everything to do with being a writer, I was not kidding. I haven’t been to anything like Crime Bake since the Williams Festival in March 2019; I missed that year’s Bouchercon because I developed an inner ear infection and couldn’t fly. It was so inspirational. I listened to writers I admired and writers I wasn’t aware of, and was scribbling notes in my journal the entire day. It was marvelous! And inspiring. I’ve talked on here a lot about feeling disconnected from writing and publishing; part of it was not being around writers and listening to them talk about craft, what inspires them, how they work, how they develop and flesh out their ideas–the joys and heartaches and the Imposter Syndrome–because writing can be a very lonely business (it’s just you, the keyboard and the computer screen much of the time), and it’s nice to connect with others and realize we all go through the same thing, the same frustrations, the same heartaches and aggravations and joys.

Today I have a lot of catching up to do–what else is new?–and I am hoping to get some writing done around my work-at-home duties. Wish me luck, Constant Reader, and have a lovely Thursday!

Who Needs Love Like That

Tuesday morning and I feel like I had a good night’s sleep; I certainly am not feeling groggy or tired this morning; at least not yet anyway. I was very tired yesterday, though–I started the day out pretty well but around ten in the morning started to drag, and then just managed to hang on by my fingernails for the rest of the day. I ran some errands on my way home from the office, made dinner for Paul, and then watched a bit of the Saints game for a bit before we watched two episodes of Dopesick, which is really quite good. (It also makes me angry.) We switched back over to the Saints game for a bit before I went to bed; I am very glad to see they did go on to beat the Seahawks 13-10 in what may be the lowest scoring Saints game that I can remember.

I still have a lot to do this week, and so I really need to be certain I am getting the rest I need so I can get the work done I need to get done.

I finished going over the final third of #shedeservedit last night, and it’s better than I remembered it being; it’s hard, really, for me to tell because the manuscript has gone through so many iterations on its path to being published. I started writing this book way back in the summer of 2015, when I was feeling incredibly burned out and was trying to take a break from the non-stop grind of deadlines. 2010-2015 was probably the period when I published the most work, from novels to short stories to anthologies, and I was exhausted, frankly. That was also the time when I did my first service on the Mystery Writers of America board, and with all that writing and all that volunteering on top of my day job I was worn down, exhausted, drained. I’d been wanting to write this book for a while, but at the same time wasn’t terribly confident that I would be able to write it properly, so I decided to take that summer and work on it; I literally wrote the ninety-six thousand word first draft that July. I wasn’t certain how to end it, so I never wrote the last chapter, figuring I would figure out the right way to end it when I was revising it. It went through any number of revisions and redrafts over the years that followed; more drafts than anything I’ve published since Murder in the Rue Dauphine, actually–and that didn’t exactly make me feel any more confident. I tried to get an agent with this manuscript; only one agent I queried actually bothered to reply with a ‘not interested but it sounds good’ brush-off email. This was obviously disappointing (every time I’ve looked for an agent has been disappointing; I try not to let it effect my confidence anymore, and evolved to the point where generally I make a joke out of the fact that I’ve never had representation. I’ve not done badly for myself, really, without one; I probably wouldn’t have the career I do now had I had an agent, but conversely it’s also possible I would have a much better one.

You never know.

I’d intended to start reading Scott Carson’s The Chill last night, which has, at its core, a concept that’s always interested me and one I’ve always wanted to write about: a town submerged by the rising waters of a dammed river. Alas, I had to read those last chapters of my own book to sign off on the edits, and alas, by the time I was done with that I was too fatigued mentally to really focus on reading anything. I am hoping to be able to either make it to the gym for a quick and easy workout this evening or to read the book some before Paul and I settle in for more episodes of Dopesick.

One more day of getting up before dawn this week. When does the time change again this fall? Ah, not this weekend but next, the seventh of November; that’s the night we get an extra hour to sleep in. I suppose it is an improvement having it start getting darker an hour later than it does already, or is it the other way around? My mind has gotten so mushy these days I have trouble remember time zone differences if I don’t sit down and think about it really hard–which is truly tragic for a former airline employee who used to have to not only know the time differences but which zone what cities were in, and to know it so well I didn’t even have to think about it. Heavy heaving sigh.

But I am hoping to get back on track with everything today. I do feel more rested and awake than I did yesterday, and am equally hopeful that the energy won’t flag in mid-morning today, either. I managed to sleepwalk my way through a pretty good level of productivity yesterday, all things considered–I did get some things done that needed to be done–and my fingers and toes are crossed that today will follow suit that way as well. And there’s the sun, too; so perhaps it is time for me to head into the spice mines this morning. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again before dawn tomorrow.

Love Must Be The Answer

And here we are on Monday again. It was overall a pleasant weekend, really; I love being able to get up without an alarm, whenever I simply decide I’ve had enough of being lazy and lolling about beneath the covers and so forth. I was deeply asleep when the alarm woke up–I was charging the Fitbit, so have on report on how the sleep actually was, but I think it was deep for most of the night. The alarm was definitely invasive and jarring this morning. But I do feel very well rested and awake–even though I do think I could very easily fall right back asleep if I got back into my bed–and that’s a very good sign for a day in which I have a lot of things to get done.

(Incidentally, I did look up what the normal stages of sleep are at night for a good sleep, and I am hitting the percentages properly every night per my Fitbit–who knew you only needed about two hours of DEEP SLEEP and ninety minutes of REM to be and feel perfectly rested the next day, and that those hours of light sleep aren’t, in fact, a bad thing at all? The more you know…)

I went to the gym during the Saints game–it really is much easier on my stress levels and blood pressure to just periodically check in on the score, or to have the game on while I do other things. AND THEY WON! YAY! GEAUX SAINTS! I’m also following Joey Burrow and Cincinnati–I will always be a fan of Joey B–and they lost in overtime, but they don’t seem like the Bengals of old anymore. I think they will be in the Super Bowl within a very few years.

The gym felt marvelous, as it always does once you get past that deeply painful “back-to-the-gym-after-a-break” workout. For the first time in a while yesterday, I noticed in the gym mirrors that my muscles were responding to the working out and were getting pumped up, which was a shock and a pleasant surprise at the same time; as always an extremist, I think my muscles shrink and fade away if I don’t work them out regularly and I forget sometimes that I am actually fairly big in muscle mass…but all I see, of course, is spaghetti arms, drooping moobs, love handles a gang can grasp, and a big belly. I also am enjoying seeing my flexibility slowly coming back from the abyss; I was able to stretch more deeply yesterday than I have in a very long time. Once I get going again and am doing three sets with added weights for several weeks in a row, I am going to add some more exercises and increase the difficulty of the workouts. I’m actually kind of looking forward to it, frankly–although I am going to be missing two weeks in November (two trips planned!).

And yes, I am very excited to be traveling again. I am going to New York for MWA business for a few days, then taking the train to Boston for Crime Bake, a joint event sponsored by MWA’s New England chapter and the local Sisters in Crime chapter. I’ll be going to visit my parents for Thanksgiving, so that will be quite the lengthy drive to and fro; I believe I will listen to books on tape that I will get from the library; and who better to while a lengthy drive away with than Stephen King? I think I’ll listen to Black House on the way up and Dr. Sleep on the way home. That definitely sounds like a plan, does it not?

I’m also going to have to be very careful and keep an eye on my schedule so my writing schedule doesn’t get fucked up by these trips. Deadline is 1/15 for A Streetcar Named Murder; definitely need to keep my eyes on that prize; I am going to start revising the first four chapters this week and hopefully will get the ball going again on that.

I’ve been seeing a lot of hate for Nate the Great from Ted Lasso recently on Twitter, and while I can certainly understand the turn of the audience–what a terrific job they did on this villain origin story–I also kind of understand where Nate is coming from, if that makes sense? Yes, his behavior is shocking, but it’s not unearned and it didn’t come from left field, and kudos of all kinds to the writers for not taking the easy way out with this character. It would have been very easy for Nate, who was so shy and reticent and cowed by being bullied by everyone on the team and his father, to slowly bloom under Ted and Beard’s belief in him, and how the team has not only stopped bullying him but come to accept him as one of them….as I said, that story was easy; all that was left for the icing on the cake was for Nate’s confidence to keep growing and for him to fall in love and so on and so forth; a nice easy audience-pleasing character arc for the poor bullied boy everyone felt sorry for in the beginning. But the underdog we always want to root for isn’t always this nice person being held down by others. Bullying, and being bullied, isn’t really that simple, nor are all the bullied kids lonely and desperate for just a chance, any chance, and once given that chance, blossom into great people and achieve the potential they’ve always had. Being bullied–and I am speaking as someone here who has been bullied, for most of my childhood and some of my early adulthood–has a very toxic effect on the victim. You often wind up hating yourself intensely; after all, they have a reason for bullying you, don’t they? You must deserve what’s happening to you. And when people cut you down and insult you, you always respond in your head, hating them, wishing you had the courage to say something nasty right back to them. You spend your alone time reliving the humiliations and embarrassments, practicing the vicious and nasty things you should have said in response. There’s a lot of anger there, and often, in the narratives we are used to seeing in fiction, that anger never gets resolved; it just magically dissolves away once the bullying ends. I think that the show writers are doing an excellent job of showing how Nate’s character development/arc has run; remember, he has always lashed out angrily when he felt safe enough to do so; and people who are bullied often become bullies themselves; it’s really the only interpersonal interaction they are most familiar with. Nate began coming out of his shell with the encouragement of Ted and Beard and the acceptance from the team; the promotion to coach; and actually being good at soccer. When he began to see Ted and the others no longer applauding him, giving him the attention he believes he has earned and now deserved, that anger that was always there began to curdle within him. The final episode turn didn’t come as a terrible surprise to me; I saw it building all season, really. I applaud them for taking Nate–obviously a fan favorite–and turning him into the antagonist for Season Three.

Although it must be a strange ride for actor Nick Mohammed, who went from being beloved to reviled over the course of twelve episodes.

And on that note, I am off to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, everyone.

Tell It To My Heart

Monday morning, and I am not so certain that my weekend was nearly as productive as it needed to be. Sure, I finished going over the line/copy edits of Bury Me in Shadows, and I did manage to get caught up on some other things, but as always, as I Monday morning quarterback my weekend over my first cup of coffee–I find myself thinking I should have gotten more done, should have spent more time with some things, and am trying not to allow the inevitable desire to get down on myself take deeper hold. Part of my goals for this year is to be easier on myself, and beating myself up over not being as productive as I would like to be–which is often unattainable for even the most Type A facet of one Gregalicious–is definitely not the road or path I need to be taking this Monday morning. This is my last full week of this month–after this week is completed, next weekend (the one after this coming one) is when we have our lovely four day long weekend where the agency is closing (but still paying us), and then after that week will be Bouchercon here in New Orleans–although very little is left of what was going to be my first in-person event with my mystery peeps since I went to New York for the annual board meeting for Mystery Writers of America in January of 2020(!). People are canceling and I can’t blame them for not wanting to come to a hot spot of COVID variant strains.

This coming weekend is earmarked for the revisions/edits/clean up of #shedeservedit, which will be so lovely to finally be almost completely finished with. I wrote the first draft in July of 2015; ninety-seven thousand words in thirty-one days, and now it’s going to finally see print. It is (the town, the characters) been in progress of some sort or another since I was in high school, really, and…when it finally comes out, it’s kind of the end of an era for me. Oh, I’ll probably write more about that county and town; that region in general, for that matter–but along with Sara, it finally closes the publication door on the things I’ve been working on or thinking about for the last forty years or more.

And when you put it that way….

And here it is Monday evening already. I never finished writing this before leaving for the office this morning; I didn’t sleep well and of all mornings that needed cappuccinos, it was clearly this one, and yet I was too tired to get everything out and make one, so I just had regular coffee instead. Not ideal, perhaps, but I managed to make it through the day somehow. I even picked up the mail and made groceries on the way home, how’s about that? Shocking, I know–but I am probably going to pour myself into bed relatively early tonight. Tomorrow is a big “after work” day; I am switching to doing legs as my second workout of the week. Not a real leg day, mind you–just a focused workout with my legs with a few intense and difficult exercises.

I also finished the third chapter of Chlorine yesterday; taking it from the 1300 I had to a robust 3500 or so. Is it probably a sloppy sloppy mess? Probably. But it was also kind of fun to write once the hole in the page opened and I fell into it. This is enormously pleasing to me still–I am not as pleased as I was last night, to be clear, but am still pretty darned pleased–and when I finish writing this, I am probably going to go over to my easy chair and reread what I wrote yesterday, and probably will spend some time with The Other Black Girl, which I am also really enjoying.

And of course, we spent some time last night with the great cheesy fun that is Outer Banks’ second season. I love that they aren’t reeling any of it in this season, either; batshit nuts and over the top and WAY WAY fun.

You know, everything I love in a television show.

Man, I am tired. We had a weird day today; my program coordinator is on vacation so everything was silence back in the cubicle area, and I had no one to talk to all day. We also had a lot of clients no-show or cancel today–not sure if that was COVID-surge-related, or the thunderstorm (it’s been raining all day), or just the first Monday in a new month blues or something, I don’t know. But I would have rather had clients–I’d rather be busy than sitting at my desk twiddling my thumbs waiting for something, anything, to do (I have other things to do, but it’s all tedious make-work sort of stuff, like printing forms, stocking rooms, and so forth–and yes, I did all that but it’s tedious; I’d rather be interacting with clients and getting them tested).

Ah, well, at least I have a job that I love doing and don’t mind getting out of bed for. It’s one of the many blessings I’ve been gifted with in this life–a great day job that I enjoy and where I feel like I’m accomplishing something every day I go into the office. A lot of people don’t even have that, so…would it be great if my salary were twice its size? Of course, but if that increase were to come with a decrease in working with clients face to face on risk reduction strategies for STI infections and testing them for same (as well as connecting them to treatment) I don’t know that I would take it, frankly.

And now, without further ado, I am going to read for a bit before Paul gets home. Have a lovely Monday evening, Constant Reader!

Two To Make It Right

Thursday morning and I am slurping coffee and trying to get awake and ready for an exciting day of data entry and condom packing. I’ve not been terribly successful with my goal of cleaning out my inbox; I am going to try to work on that today after I finish working, after I go to the gym, and after I get today’s writing done.

I’ve identified a problem–a pattern, if you will–with my writing. I will get to a point in a short story where I am kind of stuck, and whereas what I do with a novel (write my way out of it) I won’t do that with the story, instead agonizing over it for a bit before consigning it to the oh well I’ll finish this later at some point folder. This is defeating, and why, ultimately, I have so many unfinished stories languishing around in my files. So, I am determined to solider on with the one I am currently working on, “The Sound of Snow Falling”, and try to get it finished. I am also determined to revise chapter one of Chlorine this weekend, and hopefully get into my next novella–either “Never Kiss a Stranger” or “A Holler Full of Kudzu”–and also get the Lost Apartment back under control at some point.

It’s amazing how little time it takes yet how easy it is for this place to look like a disaster area in need of FEMA assistance.

I also want to get back to reading–oh, how the books pile up!–and maybe it’s something I should do before I go to bed every night. I had tried for a brief while–after that less screen time before going to bed will help you sleep better thing circulated a few years ago–to read before bed every night; I have a non-fiction book on my nightstand that is now coated in dust that I would love to get back to reading–but it also wouldn’t hurt to do some fiction reading downstairs before I go up to bed, risking the getting caught up in the book and not wanting to put it down thing, which all too often happens to me with reading fiction. I am still greatly enjoying Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, by the way; Caro is an exceptional biographer. I also love how he weaves historical context into his biographies–I’ve only read the first volume of the Johnson biographies, and his description for how hard life was for poor rural women has never stopping haunting my mind–and always am blown away. I’ve never read the two biggest biographies of this century–Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton or McCullough’s John Adams, which I need to remedy–but then again my non-fiction reading (outside of necessary research for writing) has been woefully overshadowed this century by my fiction reading.

I also received copies of the MWA anthologies Deadly Anniversaries (edited by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini) and When a Stranger Comes to Town (edited by Michael Koryta), which reminded me of how much I’ve been languishing on the Short Story Project–while continuing to buy anthologies or single-author collections, which are also piling up around me. I also have a lot of short stories to read for my Bouchercon panel in August; I am on, of all things, a short story panel; which kind of caught me off-guard because I don’t consider myself a master of the form–or even half-way decent at it. But I have published quite a few of them, and my goal is to publish more (which means writing more of them) and I figure with the terrific panelists, maybe I can pick up a thing or two from some of them.

We started watching another Spanish language show last night, High Seas (Alta Mar in Spanish), which is a murder mystery set on a luxury liner sometime in the 1940’s, traveling from Spain to Rio de Janeiro. It’s gorgeously shot, the period costumes and decor are first rate, as is the acting. We’re on episode 4 now; there have already been two murders and some mysterious shenanigans, including a fire, and yes, we are completely sucked into it. (We’re taking The Underground Railroad slowly, because it’s not really something to be binged, since it raises so many philosophical and societal questions; you kind of need to absorb each episode. It’s really one of the most literate series I’ve ever watched, in part because the visuals are so incredible and poetic; I think it’s one that needs to be rewatched as well because it’s almost too cerebral–yet compelling–to absorb all at once for someone of such diminished intellectual capabilities as me–it’s also making me want to revisit the novel)

And on that note, I am heading into today’s spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you later.

96 Tears

I thought today’s title was rather appropriate for a Monday morning, don’t you?

Yesterday I got my desktop iMac functional again, which is absolutely lovely. I really need the big screen–laptops work as a last resort–but it feels nice to have it working again, frankly. It still gives me the spinning wheel every once in a while, and at some point I may invest in more RAM (or whatever it is) to make that stop happening. But again–very lovely to have my desktop back, and even lovelier to not have to buy a new one. HUZZAH!

It takes so little to make me happy, really.

Yesterday was nice and relaxing. I got the computer functioning again (I did have to make a call to Apple Support with one question, which resulted in a twenty minute phone call; why is it so hard to simply say “Yes, Greg, you can stop the migration without worry and do it manually”?) and did some cleaning up around here. Paul and I tried to watch a documentary series and gave up during the first episode, then moved on to Hacks (Jean Smart is incredible in this, just as she is in Mare of Easttown, and it’s laugh out loud funny on top of that), and then watched the first episode of Shadow and Bone on Netflix. It didn’t really suck me in, but I am willing to keep going with it; fantasy shows have to get more than one episode in before you can really decide whether or not it’s worthwhile to continue. I do find the Russian influence on it–at least many character names are Russian-sounding, and one of the countries has a Russian-sounding name to it–kind of interesting. Pretty good production values, as well. We also watched a movie which was entertaining enough, but over-all not very good (I won’t name it, because I try not to call out anything as bad unless it’s unwatchably bad), and it was disappointing because it could have been so much better than it was.

The trip to visit my family is in a few days, and it will be the first time I’ve flown since January 2020 and my trip to New York for the MWA Board retreat. While traveling is something I have done less and less over the years–looking back to some heavy travel years, it stuns me that I did so much and went so many places over the course of a few years, given how I have grown to hate traveling–it is still unusual that I’ve traveled so little in the last year and a half. I had planned on going to Bouchercon in Sacramento last year, and various other conferences, and of course there was no board retreat in New York this year nor were there Edgar banquets this year or last to go up there for. I do miss New York; one of the perks of serving on the national board was the several times per year trips to my second favorite city in the United States, and I have so many friends there! Well, perhaps if this pandemic is indeed coming to an end–I personally don’t believe it is, but that’s just my natural cynicism and negativity coming into play, but I do hope that it’s coming to a close–I want to make several trips during the rest of this year and during the next. I have, for example, never been to Left Coast Crime, and I want to rectify this next year–which means needing to save vacation time and fewer three day mental health weekends.

There’s also some more things I need to do before I leave on Thursday morning; I can’t really leave the apartment in the condition it’s currently in–although the shedding of books and beads this past weekend has helped dramatically with cutting back on the living room clutter–but it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to take care of that before Thursday morning. I slept decently last night, which was lovely, and tonight when I get home from work I should be able to get some of this mess around my desk cleaned up, organized, and put away. We’ll probably continue with Shadow and Bone tonight, as well as this week’s Mare of Easttown, and of course I need to get to bed early this evening because tomorrow is another get up before the sunrise morning (every day this week, in fact, until I get to my parents’). I’m getting used to getting up this early–I should be by now, right? It’s been going on since last June or July, and now even on my days off I am opening my eyes around six-ish in the morning, but staying in bed. It’s really more about going to bed early than getting up early, to be honest; I hate cutting my evening short at ten pm.

Whine whine whine.

But it’s supposed to be yet another rainy week here in New Orleans–which is why the dawn light is so gray this morning, I suppose–and I really don’t mind. It’s May, and this is usually when the termites are swarming, but I’ve seen nothing about that anywhere this month and I’ve not seen any–knock on wood–so far this year. This could mean any number of things–there aren’t any swarms this year; there are, but not as bad as usual; or everyone is so used to them now they don’t bother commenting on their appearance. I suspect it’s the latter two, frankly; I can’t believe the scourge of the Formosan termite swarms are a thing of the past, especially given how wet it has been this year.

I still want to write a story that opens with this line: “The termites were swarming.”

And on that note, it’s off to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, all.

Slow Jam

Monday morning and we’re in a flash flood warning–which means it’s flooding somewhere. The phone advisory said (you know, the loud beeping warning at four a.m.) to not even try to go anywhere before eight….of course, I need to be at the office by seven thirty, so there’s that. Sigh. The storm seems to have passed–there was some amazing thunder and lightning I was aware of while I was sleeping comfortably in my warm bed and under my soft, comfortable covers–so I’m not sure if the gray outside is the predawn gray I see every morning, and from the storm. It’s supposed to rain heavily every day until Thursday; this is definitely the wettest spring I can remember us having since we moved here all those years ago.

Yesterday was a good day. I may not have gotten all the things done that I wanted to get done, but I spent a goodly portion of my afternoon answering emails (saving as drafts to be sent today) and my inbox is almost completely emptied out for the first time in I don’t know how long, and it feels pretty fucking marvelous, in all honesty. Emails often defeat me, frankly; there are days when I look at all of them sitting there in my inbox and just close it again. This morning, with an almost empty inbox and some serious energy–two nights in a row of good, deep sleep, in case you were wondering–and I am chastising myself thoroughly for ever letting it get to the point where I need to scroll down through several pages to get to the bottom of them all. OH, no worries–I am sure I will get to that point once again, and probably relatively soon–but being caught up on such a thing makes me feel accomplished this morning, and I am going to roll with that feeling.

I walked to the gym yesterday afternoon in the insane heat (it was in the nineties, but not really humid yesterday) and got in a really good workout. I wasn’t trying to hurry through it the way I usually do–although I did do it quickly–but the gym was deserted and I was able to do the workout the way I like to do it; supersetting exercises and pushing myself (obviously, the key to going to the gym on Sunday is not to go around noon but to wait until about one thirty) and adding weight to the final set. I pushed myself and it felt good, then I came home and filed and organized and cleaned the kitchen. We had started watching a show on Netflix Saturday night, Sky Rojo, which was crazy and fun and action-packed; it’s about three prostitutes in the Canary Island who finally rebel against the abusive pimp in the bordello they work in and make a run for it, being pursued by his evil henchmen, and it was highly entertaining. The episodes were also a lot shorter than I thought–maybe half an hour at most–and we finished it early evening. Then we started watching Jupiter’s Legacy, a superhero series on Netflix based on some graphic novels–we loved Watchmen and The Boys–and despite a rather dull, predictable, and tedious first episode, the show began picking up with the second and we started enjoying it. I’ve always wanted to do a superhero novel myself–it’s one of my bucket list items, along with writing a comic book–and as always, I started thinking about the idea I had for one back in the 1980’s, and have toyed with every so often ever since. (I always end up talking myself out of it, because it’s hard to do any kind of superhero story anymore that isn’t derivative, and isn’t the theme always with great power comes great responsibility? But seeing this, and The Boys..the key is to take something derivative and turn it into something original, which is a terrific challenge, and I like challenges.)

I still haven’t decided what to read next, but I am leaning towards Walter Mosley’s A Red Death; I’d like to get back to my attempt to get through his entire canon. The problem, as always, is there is so little time for me to read, to write, and to get everything finished around the house (chores etc.) around my full-time job and my MWA responsibilities. But it can be done–when I am tired, for example, like reading Summer of ’42 in a single afternoon this past weekend–and so I need to remember that sometimes one can read even when one is tired.

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

Mr. Disco

Ah, Friday, and the weekend looms on the horizon.

Last night was odd; there was some sort of power problem in our neighborhood–a problem I’ve never experienced anything like before. The living room had power; everything in there worked fine. The upstairs lights? Flickering, and out most of the time. Same with the kitchen and the laundry room; the refrigerator was barely on, and the HVAC wasn’t working at all; and this was only affecting our block. So, so weird–and then around eleven thirty we got all the voltage we could possibly want. I’ve never experienced “low” power before; didn’t even know it was a thing, to be honest. But at least nothing in the refrigerator spoiled–always a plus.

The Edgars went smoothly yesterday, and there were some lovely surprises. All the nominees were deserving–they always are–and it’s always fun to see the excitement of those who get the statue. Obviously, it’s way more fun in person–fingers crossed for next year–and yesterday morning as I made condom packs and broke down expired test kits for biohazard disposal (seriously, my life is just a non-stop thrill ride) I remembered past Edgar ceremonies I attended and deeply enjoyed. I inevitably drink too much–it’s the free wine, always a danger for one Gregalicious–but my favorite ceremony remains the very first one I attended, when I wore a kilt and then took the train with friends the following morning to Washington for Malice Domestic. As I have mentioned before, my memory–once sterling and dependable–is now in tatters, so am trying to remember that first ceremony and evening and am finding it difficult, to be completely honest. I think that was the year Charlaine Harris was MWA president, and Carolyn Hart and Robert Crais were named grand masters, but I could be wrong. I also don’t remember which year Stephen King won for best novel–but it was the year Sara Paretsky was president of MWA, because I have a great picture of the two of them together from the cocktail reception before the ceremony. The third and final time I went–I think I’ve only attended three times–was the year my friend William J. Mann won for Best Fact Crime for Tinseltown. I always enjoy the Edgars and Edgar week activities; missing out on a ceremony the last two years was disappointing. I am hopeful next year we will be able to have it in person again.

Fingers crossed!

I also managed to get deeper into the revision of the book last evening before Paul got home and we settled in for three episodes of season 4 of Line of Duty–and Acorn loaded the fifth season yesterday as well.So, that’s the weekend pretty sorted. I also want to spend some time with The Butcher’s Boy, perhaps even finishing it–so I can dive into my next Mary Russell adventure. I am also currently reading Barbara Tuchman’s The Zimmerman Telegram–and it occurs to me that all the espionage and so forth that went on before the American entry into the first World War between the Germans and Mexico (trying to keep the US occupied and distracted from what was going on in Europe, as well as disrupting the supplying of the Allies) could make for a wonderful “Holmes in New Orleans” story. New Orleans was a major port (still is, actually) and fairly close to Mexico…hmmm. I was also thinking about the banana intrigues–seriously, that is one of the most fascinating times in New Orleans history!

We really are enjoying Line of Duty, which is an interesting take on your typical crime show. The heroes of the stories–each season is relatively self-contained, although there was an over-all arc that tied all the first three seasons together–are an anti-corruption division; so the good guys are cops, but so are the bad guys. It is chilling to see how easy it is for the cops (at least in the show; I don’t know enough to comment on reality) to corrupt and divert an investigation; falsify evidence and so forth; with no concept of how deep and how high up the corruption actually runs. Thandie Newton is the dirty cop in season four, and like the previous villains/guest stars of previous seasons, she is terrific in the role. Can’t wait to see how this one turns out.

Yesterday afternoon as I made condom packs, I watched North Dallas Forty. This is a 1979 film starring Nick Note and Mac Davis (!), and was adapted from Peter Gent’s novel. I had read the novel, but had never seen the movie; it came up on Twitter a week or so ago when someone asked people for the best sports movie (I said Brian’s Song, and stand by my answer). Laura Lippman brought up North Dallas Forty, which made me think of Semi-Tough, another pro football novel and movie from the same period (remember? I tried to reread it and the blatant racism was so horrific I put it in the donate box after rereading the first page?). I’d like to reread the Gent novel–it was very dark; painkillers and drugs and alcohol and rapes and sexual assaults and racism and all kinds of horrible behavior–but unlike Semi-Tough, the Gent took those issues seriously and didn’t try to play them for laughs. The movie takes the same tone as the book–dark–and Nolte is really good as the wide receiver whose years playing have battered and broken his body and left him needing painkilling shots to play and swallowing pain killers to get through the day, and the alcohol and drug abuse. Mac Davis is surprisingly good as his best friend, the quarterback–who eventually betrays him in the end to keep his own contract alive. The game scenes are particularly funny; even in the 1970’s professional football stadiums were better than where these scenes were filmed; the “stadiums” they play in look like high school football fields–and not even the better ones. It definitely fits into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival–it exposes the “team as a family” mentality as the crock that it is, and that the players are all just cogs in a money-making machine for the owners, and the coaches don’t give two shits about their players, either.

I still stick with Brian’s Song as the best sports movie, though.

And on that note, this data isn’t going to enter itself nor are these condoms going pack themselves, so it’s off to the spice mines with me.

Liar

Good morning, Edgar Thursday!

Yes, that’s right–today Mystery Writers of America is presenting the Edgar Awards, live on our Facebook page. I always love when the Edgar nominations come out and when the winners are announced; I just think it’s really cool, and it’s also a connection back to the early days of the organization, back in 1945. The first Edgars were presented in 1946, making this the 75th anniversary of the presentation of the awards, which is also incredibly cool. I am a bit of a geek about this sort of thing; historical connections and so forth. I remember the first time I went to an MWA board meeting in New York–ten years or so ago (!!!)–and how awed I was when I walked into the meeting room. I could feel the ghosts of Erle Stanley Gardner and Rex Stout and Ellery Queen and the Lockridges and Dorothy B. Hughes and Anthony Boucher hovering in the room–even though it was certainly not the same room they all gathered in when they founded the organization.

I’m kind of silly that way.

Yesterday was a pretty good day; for one thing, it was Paul’s birthday. I stopped at the store on the way home from work and got a sampler cheesecake as a birthday treat (well, for us both) and we got dinner from Hoshun–what can I say, I love noodles, and Paul would eat shrimp for every meal if he could–and it’s kind of a nice, relatively inexpensive treat we both enjoy from time to time. We’ve been together for so long–this July will be our twenty-sixth anniversary–that our special days (birthdays, anniversary, etc.) have evolved into nice, quiet times where we prefer to just be with each other and enjoy each other’s company. It’s nice being married to your best friend, really.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than just kicking back with Paul and Scooter, having a nice meal, and watching something we are enjoying on television. (Yes, we finished the third season of Line of Duty last night, and it was quite excellent.)

I slept pretty well last night, and am looking forward to a nice day of working at home–I can watch the Edgar presentation while making condom packs–and while I may not have slept as deeply and well as I would have preferred last night (honestly), I feel pretty good this morning and keep looking around at my horribly messy kitchen and sigh deeply–I didn’t even make dinner last night–and the organizing and filing that needs to be done, and sigh. I did manage to get some work on the book done last night after Paul went to bed–I stayed up a little later, thinking I can’t let a day pass without making some progress on it–and I will probably do some more after work tonight. Bury Me in Shadows is starting to come together, and yes, I still think I was being much too hard on myself. The character and the story work; and the sentences/paragraphs are far easier to fix than character issues or holes in the plot, after all. I think it may just be something I’ll be proud of when it is finally finished.

I also picked up two books yesterday: Laurie R. King’s third Mary Russell novel, A Letter of Mary, and Christopher Bollan’s A Beautiful Crime, which was a finalist for the LA Times Book Award in the mystery category. I haven’t had a chance to dip back into The Butcher’s Boy, but once I finish and turn in the revision of my own book, I suspect my free Sunday will be spent reading. That would actually be my ideal for a weekend; spend one day writing and cleaning and doing errands, and then Sunday relaxing and reading.

A sixty year old can but dream…

And on that note, these condoms aren’t going to pack themselves. Have a lovely Thursday, all–and good luck to all the Edgar finalists today!

I’ve Got a Feeling

And now it’s Wednesday again, and believe it or not, it’s also Pay the Bills Day again. I could have sworn this just happened, but here we are again. At least I got a very wonderful night’s sleep last night, which was quite marvelous. Scooter woke me up around five, by lying down on me while in full purr mode, but that was fine–I was even able to doze off a little bit more for another hour before the wretched alarm tore me from the arms of Morpheus–but again, it’s fine; I slept so well and feel so rested and ready to go this morning that it didn’t matter to me in the least.

I actually made it to the gym last night after work–it was so strange; I slept better Monday night than I did Sunday, yet was more tired when I got off work yesterday than when I did on Monday–despite the near-death experience I had on the way there. I always walk down to Coliseum Square, then cut through the park to Camp Place before walking down Camp Street to Josephine before cutting over to Magazine. I am extremely careful about crossing streets on foot–going back to the olden days when there were no stop signs on the French Quarter streets that ran parallel to the river, so people would drive through the Quarter at about ninety miles per hour, and woe to the pedestrian not paying attention–and Coliseum Street is a one-way, so really, I only have to look one direction before crossing the street. I had my headphones on, listening quite happily to Fearless–Taylor’s Version, and started across to the park. I was about half-way across when I either noticed something out of the corner of my eye or heard it, but I turned my head and saw there was a speeding pick-up truck–doing at least forty in a residential area, if not more–heading right for me and not slowing–and was maybe a car-length away from me. I started running to get to the other side and he steered towards me, forcing me to leap for the curb. It was very close. Had I not noticed or heard him coming, I would have been hit and sent flying, possibly killed, definitely severely injured. My heart thumping in my ears, I took some deep breaths and started crossing the park. I looked back and the guy had his window down–trucker cap, beard, gun rack in the back window–and he was calling out to me “Sorry dude”. I just rolled my eyes and kept walking, resisting the urge to yell back, “Sorry you missed me? Because you sure as fuck were trying to hit me.” In fairness, he was probably not paying attention–typical in New Orleans–and reacted badly when he finally saw me and most likely tried to steer around me without hitting me, not realizing I would run for the curb, but still.

As I very carefully crossed Race Street at the light, I thought to myself, well, at least my heart rate is already up.

The gym was crowded, so I abbreviated my workout a bit; skipping biceps/triceps–the easiest to skip, since most upper body exercises of every kind will inevitably work your bis and tris anyway–and skedaddled home, where I emptied the dishwasher, did another load of dishes, queued up my Taylor playlist (Paul calls me “A Swiftie at Sixty”), and started working through the book again. I am so glad I am past the Imposter Syndrome (for now, at least), so am able to work clearly and concisely on the manuscript, detaching all personal emotion from it–when I edit my own work, I try to get into the mindspace that it’s someone else’s manuscript I am being paid to edit, which makes it ever so much easier–although there are times it is simply not possible. After Paul got home, we watched yet another episode of Line of Duty, which is incredible–the plotting and writing and acting are topnotch; seriously, if you have Acorn you need to be watching this show–and am looking forward to getting home tonight and watching some more.

It’s been a week already, let me tell you! MWA’s How to Write a Mystery dropped yesterday; the Edgars are tomorrow; and the Sherlock anthology I have a story in, The Only One in the World, edited by the marvelous Narrelle Harris, also was released in Australia this week. This is the one that includes my wonderfully titled story “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy”; my first and thus far only entry into the Sherlock Holmes canon–which indirectly led me to get started reading Laurie R. King’s amazing Mary Russell series, for which I shall be eternally grateful–and I am still a bit torn. I would love to do some more Sherlock stories, maybe even a book–I have a great title and premise, The Mother of Harlots, about the murder of a Storyville madam, and there’s even a famous murder case I can purloin details from; but then the Imposter Syndrome kicks in and I slink back to more contemporary ideas.

Heavy sigh.

But I am going to head back into the spice mines for now–have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you tomorrow!