Jingle Bell Rock

Constant Reader may have noticed that I have started using Christmas songs and hot guys in Christmas costume, effective this past weekend. This is my annual countdown to Christmas–twelve days leading up to it rather than the twelve after; most people wouldn’t get that I was doing Christmas to Twelfth Night (which is the night Carnival technically begins–but we aren’t really having Carnival this year in New Orleans, yet another crippling blow to the city’s economy), and I prefer to confuse people as little as possible–particularly since it is generally so easy to do, frankly.

It’s dark and cold this morning as I sit sipping my cappuccino; it’s a mere forty-eight degrees outside, with the high for the day projected to be a toasty fifty-nine degrees. It was cold last night as I walked to the gym–yes, I went after work, which was nice and felt great, and then it was back home to write for a bit before bed. I was very tired–getting up early AND the gym–but I did get some work done on the complete overhaul of Chapter Eighteen, which is going to slow me down considerably, but it’s actually okay. I still have time, and if I can get more than one chapter done in a day I’ll still have time to get it all done and let it sit momentarily before sending it in after one last polish. I did get the final cover design yesterday, which is absolutely gorgeous; definitely one of my favorite covers.

We also watched a couple of episodes of The Hardy Boys before retiring for the evening, and I have to say, I am very impressed with the show. I get why the purists object to it, but the show is better written, acted, and plotted than the dreadful 70’s iteration, which the purists seem to love. But oh no! Diversity! The boys aren’t a year apart! Aunt Gertrude is too young and goes by Trudy! THE HORROR! I think it’s well done, and the series is very close to the spirit of the books–if not as cardboard and two dimensional and simplistic–which has me curious to give Nancy Drew another whirl. (In fairness, I also liked the first episode of that reboot, but I watched it by myself one night when Paul was working late and never got back to it.)

I think maybe this next year will be the year I try to write my middle grade series.

But I slept really well last night, and don’t feel tired at all this morning, which is absolutely lovely. I have taken the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, which means I’ll be out of the office for nearly ten days (New Year’s Eve is a workday, but it’s also a work-at-home day, which means…out of the office for nearly ten days), and I am looking forward to that. It’s also an opportunity to have a lot of down time in case I need it for finishing the book–which hopefully I won’t need–and it will also give me a chance to get started on the final rewrite of the next one, due on March 1, and after that, I will focus on Chlorine until I can get a good first draft out of the way. I ordered The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson yesterday, and it should be here by the weekend, and it’s the final piece of research I need for the Hollywood casting back ground stuff. I will also need to do some other background reading–studios, economics of the period, what else was going on, what was LA and Hollywood like in that period, etc. And perhaps at long last I will also read James Ellroy’s LA Confidential–it seems fitting.

Oh! And I. need some time to finish my short story for the MWA anthology, which will hopefully make it stand out from the submissions pile and get selected. One more thing to scratch off my “bucket list”–get into an MWA anthology. I wish I had some things ready to end out for submission, but alas, I don’t. Maybe “This Thing of Darkness”, after a bit of a tweak, and “Death and the Handmaidens”–again, after another tweak or two–but I hate that I’ve not sent any stories out for submission lately. I also want to finish some of these that I’ve got started.

So. Much. Writing. To. Do.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and hope you’re having as lovely a holiday season as a pandemic will permit.

Silver Bells

Still aglow from the big LSU win Saturday night.

Sadly, the Tigers clearly used up all of Louisiana’s football juju, because the Saints played terribly against the Eagles and lost yesterday afternoon. It did occur to me that one of the reasons I dislike the NFL–at least in comparison to college–is because players I rooted against can wind up on the Saints, and LSU players are drafted to other teams and play against the Saints. It’s hard for me to root against LSU players. And while Jalen Hurts wasn’t a Tiger–he played against us several times and I rooted for him to lose each time–I was a fan of his; I could recognize ability and talent on the field, and I also thought how he handled the whole Tua situation at Alabama was pretty damned classy. So, while I wanted the Eagles to lose, I also wanted to see him play well, and he did, and then I felt like a traitor and I do not have these kinds of conflicts watching college football damn it.

Well, at least not so much anymore. The LSU-Auburn game was a tough one for me until Katrina. After that, I was all in for LSU.

It’s back in the fifties today, and we are in a “high wind alert”–gusts up to 35 miles per hour until around seven, which is fortunately around when I have to get in the shower before heading to the office. It doesn’t feel all that cold this morning in the Lost Apartment, which is interesting; usually when it’s that cold outside it’s even more cold inside, but while I did have to put a ski cap on this morning because my head was cold, other than that it’s not so bad this morning. I slept pretty well (obviously, didn’t want to get out of bed at any point once the alarm started going off) and so feel pretty good this morning. I wound up not going to the gym yesterday, which means having to go this evening (which is fine; I’ll be reluctant and tired, undoubtedly, when I do go) but that’s all right, I can deal.

Yesterday I fully intended to work on Chapter 18, but realized that it probably needs to be mostly tossed and completely rewritten from the start, which is something I was really afraid of having to do–and tossing and starting over means I have to redo the ending of Chapter 17–which I actually realized on Saturday night, while I was thinking about it during the LSU game; the ending of that chapter doesn’t make sense, rendering the eighteenth chapter was completely off the rails, which is going to delay my completion of the revision more than just a little bit. I spent most of yesterday trying to figure out how to redo the chapter, and I think I have it down now–we shall see when I get home from the gym this evening, won’t we?

John Le Carre died yesterday–or rather, his death was made public, at any rate–which came as a surprise to me because I had figured he had already died. It was strange that he died around the time I finally got to read The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, but deepest sympathies for his family, friends, and professional colleagues. Truly a great writer, the book won an Edgar for Best Novel and Le Carre himself was named a Grand Master in 1984; deservedly so. He was nominated three other times–The Little Drummer Girl was nominated for Best Novel; he was nominated for Best Short Story for “Dare I Weep? Dare I Mourn?” in The Saturday Evening Post in 1968; and for Best TV Feature or Miniseries for A Murder of Quality. I am really looking forward to exploring more of his work in the years to come; I am still reeling a bit from the brilliance of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold–and have been assured by others whose opinions I respect that the other novels are just as brilliant and well written. I’m only sorry it took me this long to get to his canon.

And so another week dawns; another week of seeing clients and getting writing done and going to the gym and hoping against hope that I will stay rested and motivated and fresh all week to get everything done.

Have a happy Monday, Constant Reader.

MWA Announces Special Awards

MWA Announces 2021 Grand Master and Raven Award Honorees
Celebrates 75th Anniversary of Awards in 2021

November 23, 2020 —New York, NY—Today Mystery Writers of America (MWA) announces the recipients of its special awards. The board chose Charlaine Harris and Jeffery Deaver as the 2021 Grand Masters, and the 2020 Raven Award recipient is Malice Domestic. They will receive their awards at the 75th Annual Edgar Awards Ceremony, which will be held April 29, 2021.

“Mystery Writers of America is thrilled to honor Jeffery Deaver and Charlaine Harris as MWA’s 2021 Grand Masters,” said MWA President Meg Gardiner. “Over the course of decades, Deaver and Harris have gripped tens of millions of readers while broadening the reach of the genre with transformative books—notably, Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series, and Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels—and while generously encouraging and supporting fellow writers and the reading public. We’re delighted to recognize their achievements.”

MWA’s Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality. Jeffery Deaver has published more than forty novels since the early 1990’s, including two series besides the Lincoln Rhyme novels, numerous stand-alone and short story collections.  On being notified of the honor, Deaver said, “When I was a (relatively) young writer new to this business of penning novels, many years ago, the first professional organization I joined was Mystery Writers of America. Signing on felt to me like coming home—being welcomed into a community of fellow authors willing to share their expertise and offer support in a profession that was largely, well, a ‘mystery’ to me. Besides, how could I not join? MWA was the real deal; for proof, one had only to look at those in the ranks of the Grand Masters: Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, James M. Cain . . . and so many others whose works populated my bookshelves. Yet it never once occurred to me, in all my years as a member and my two terms as president, that I might be invited into those very ranks. I wish to express by boundless gratitude to MWA for this honor, which stands, without question, as the highpoint of my career.”

Charlaine Harris has published 13 novels in the Southern Vampire series (adapted into the popular HBO series True Blood), which proved so popular that at one point her novels took half of the top ten slots on New York Times’ bestseller list. Her other series include the Aurora Teagarden novels, the Lily Bard (Shakespeare) books, the Midnight Texas trilogy (adapted for television) and numerous others, as well as several standalones. Harris said, “This is like winning the lottery and the Pulitzer Prize in one day. I am so honored and thrilled to join the ranks of revered writers who are Grand Masters. I thank the MWA Board from the bottom of my heart.”

Previous Grand Masters include Barbara Neely, Martin Cruz Smith, William Link, Peter Lovesey, Walter Mosley, Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Ken Follett, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie, to name a few.

The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing. For 2021, Mystery Writers of America selected the Malice Domestic mystery conference, founded in 1989 and held every spring since. Malice Domestic focuses primarily on traditional mysteries, their authors and fans, and also presents the Agatha Awards, with six categories. “Who says Friday the 13th is an unlucky day?” said Verena Rose, currently chair of the Malice Domestic Board of Directors. “Certainly, not me. This morning I received a call from Greg Herren, Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America, letting me know that Malice Domestic has been selected to receive the Raven Award in 2021. What an absolutely, amazing surprise and as the Chair, I can’t wait to give my fellow Board members the news. This is an honor we are beyond thrilled to receive.” Previous Raven winners include Left Coast Crime, Marilyn Stasio, Kristopher Zgorski, Dru Ann Love, Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas, Sisters in Crime, Margaret Kinsman, Kathryn Kennison, Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Oline Cogdill, The Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Chicago, Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis, Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA, Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, and The Poe House in Baltimore, MD.

The Edgar Awards, or “Edgars,” as they are commonly known, are named after MWA’s patron saint Edgar Allan Poe and are presented to authors of distinguished work in various categories. MWA is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime-writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. The organization encompasses some 3,000 members including authors of fiction and non-fiction books, screen and television writers, as well as publishers, editors, and literary agents. For more information on Mystery Writers of America, please visit the website: www.mysterywriters.org

Beautiful Eyes

So here we are on Thursday and how is everyone?

I’m doing okay, myself. I got home from work last night and headed to the gym for a nice workout, before repairing back to the Lost Apartment and the ongoing struggle to maintain order and neatness to the Greg-sty. I slept extremely well, and am waking up gradually this morning. It’s a work-at-home day, so soon I will be entering data and making condom packs. I also discovered that a lot of the Hitchcock movies I wanted to watch that were on Prime and then disappeared are now on Peacock–some require paying for a membership, which I am resisting currently as I already pay way too much for way too many premium services–but there were also some terrific films on there for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival that Id’d been looking for, so I started adding things to the watch list while I waited for Paul to come home from the gym. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll watch today while I make condom packs, but there are a plethora of options for me now. …and no matter how much I am paying for streaming, it still is far far less than the Cox Cable bill used to be.

We watched another two episodes of A Teacher on Hulu last night, and while it’s interesting enough, last night as we watched (the trigger warnings! My God) I commented, “isn’t it interesting how female teacher/male student stories get so much attention? What about all the male teachers who get into inappropriate relationships with female students? Is it so commonplace that films and television shows depicting them are considered cliche? I’d almost rather see a show about a gay teacher having an inappropriate relationship with a student–although that would play into that wretched ‘all gays are pedophiles’ trope.” Paul also pointed out–props to him–that the true-life stories about female teachers/male students inevitably reveal a relationship; the women don’t see themselves as predators and fall in love with the boys; the male teachers who prey on their students do not and are serial predators, quickly moving on to the next student while leaving the girl feeling ashamed, embarrassed, and abused–and generally don’t report it (as we saw as the #metoo movement swept the country a few years back).

I also believe the male teacher/female student dynamic is more common–but that also could be my cynical gay man coming out yet again.

I also did something last evening that I’ve not done in years–I put my contacts in to wear to the gym. I’ve not put contacts in for quite some time–probably well over a year. I like contacts and would prefer not to wear my glasses, but the prescription is too weak for my eyes now (so are my glasses) so I can’t really function with them in. But I was also tired of my glasses fogging up from wearing a mask to work out in and breathing hard; so I thought I’d try to wear my contacts again. It wasn’t the worst experience, and henceforth I will most likely continue to do so in the future. I don’t object to wearing contacts–I used to wear them all the time–the reason I stopped is because my eyes have gotten so bad I need progressive lenses, and I don’t really like how they work; I’m sure they work fine for others, but they don’t progress as quickly as I would like, which gets weird for me. On the other hand, maybe wearing them more regularly will get me used to them. Who knows?

I also need to get better focused and get back to writing. I’ve figured out the Kansas book, and I’ve also figured out Bury Me in Shadows (about fucking time on both) and once I get this short story edited and revised, I can dive back into them. I have to work on “The Snow Globe,” and will probably do so today after I finish the condom packs and before Paul gets home. That will free up the weekend to deep dive back into Bury Me in Shadows. I’m also taking the week of Thanksgiving off, so I can get deeper into my “clean like you’re moving” project as well as working on the book and trying to get it all caught up. I’m really excited about getting back to work on the Kansas book (aka #shedeservedit) because I have finally figured out how to write it properly, and what the proper framing device (I always knew it needed one, I just couldn’t figure out how to do it) would be.

I also want to write a story for the next MWA anthology submission process, and the deadline for that is January 15th. I have three stories in progress that would work for its theme; and I’ve pretty much decided which one I want to finish and submit for that; I just need to get a first draft finished so I can work the whole thing out. This is great news for one Gregalicious, and I am quite pleased.

And on that note, I’m going to get another cup of coffee and get started on my day. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!

Breathless

Monday morning and up at the rise of the sun; back to another work week and trying to get caught up on everything.

I really do feel like Sisyphus pushing the rock uphill most days, you know?

But I woke up early yesterday and made progress, which is never a bad thing, and I also made it to the gym for my first workout of week two. I managed to accomplish all three workouts for week one, and so this week entailed an added set of 15 reps at the same weights I used last week. It was more difficult, but not painfully so or so bad that I couldn’t finish both sets–but on some exercises it was much harder than it was on others. That’s fine–I worked up a lovely sweat and my heart rate went up, which was the ultimate goal. I came home–it was really quite a beautiful fall day in New Orleans; sunny and crisp and cool–and had my protein shake before getting cleaned up and diving back into the emails and things I needed to get done.

I did decide what my next read would be: Donald Westlake’s The Hot Rock. My education in Westlake is sorely lacking (as is my education in Lawrence Block, for that matter) although I read one of his Hard Case Crime books, The Comedy is Finished, and I read the first of his Richard Stark novels…but other than that, I have failed miserably in reading Westlake. I remember when The Hot Rock was out in paperback originally; I also remember that it was filmed with Robert Redford (perhaps another film I can add–if I can find it–to the Cynical 70’s Film Festival), and I’ve had a copy of this forever. Rob Byrnes has always spoken highly of Westlake–his own comic caper novels, he claims, owe a huge debt to Westlake, and only three chapters into the book, I can totally see the influence–and I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to reading The Hot Rock, frankly. The edition I have also has an intro from Westlake himself, which sort of explains where the book came from, and I found this very interesting:

One day in 1967 I was wearing my Richard Stark hat, looking for a story to tell about my man Parker, and I thought, he reacts badly to frustration, what if he had to steal the same thing four or five times? I started to work it out, then realized the idea was only comic and Parker wouldn’t stand for it. But I still liked the notion, and even–once it was comic–saw how to make it six thefts of the same elusive item. So I’d do it that way.

But if it wasn’t Parker, who was it? Who was this guy, dogged but doomed, and what was his name? Without a name, I couldn’t see him, and until I could see him I couldn’t write about him.

Wow. He then goes on to talk about how he came up with the name Dortmunder, but it was so weird to see a writer of Westlake’s stature having the same problem I have when writing, or coming up with a new idea: I can’t write about people if they don’t have names, because without names I can’t see them or know enough about them to write about them. I know there are writers who can do this; I am just not one of them, and I always thought it was one of my (many) peculiarities as a writer. Turns out, Westlake was like me, too. Mine goes even further–I can’t write a story without a title, and if the title is wrong, it impedes the story writing even further. I think some of the in-progress unfinished stories I have on hand suffer from this very problem–I know I think “A Dirge in the Dark” isn’t the right title for the story I am writing with that title–but I am hoping I can get it all worked out eventually.

I do hate daylight savings time, quite frankly, but this “gain an hour” nonsense was rejected by my body–which makes getting up earlier much easier than it usually is. I was awake before my alarm went off this morning, I am wide awake as I sip my first cappuccino of the morning, and I feel like it’s going to be, over all, a really great day–for a shitty, unsettling week. Heavy sigh. But I got everything ready last night so I don’t have to pick out clothes or anything this morning; my lunch is ready to go into the lunch box, and my office/kitchen is very neat and organized already–a very good start to the week. LSU has a bye week this coming weekend, and one good thing about LSU having a bad season–I’ve almost completely lost interest in both the conference and national championship races, which means I won’t be watching games other than LSU anymore, thereby freeing up my Saturdays almost completely. The Saints did eke out a win yesterday–although they did everything they possibly could to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. As Paul said, “this year sucks and we can’t even get solace from football season.”

I did read a Charlaine Harris short story yesterday as well, from the MWA anthology she edited a while back, Crimes by Moonlight, which was, in her own words from her introduction to the piece, “a collection of woo-woo stories.” Her story was set in the Sookie Stackhouse universe she created with her bestselling novels (later adapted into True Blood, one of my favorite television series), and was called “Dahlia Underground.” Dahlia is a nine hundred year old vampire who looks nineteen–sexy and beautiful, she also dresses like a sexy dominatrix (I kept picturing my favorite True Blood character, Pam) who wakes up after an anti-vampire terrorist strike on a hotel. Numerous vampires were killed during the attack, she has to be dug out of the wreckage by a firehouse company, and then the rest of the story is about not only vampiric revenge on the terrorists, but Dahlia essentially adopting the fire company that saved her life. It was well done and enormously satisfying; the next story up in the anthology is by Edgar winner William Kent Krueger, which should also be fun.

My back feels a little sore this morning–not sure what that’s from, but it’s not muscle soreness, so who the fuck knows–so I am going to use the self-massager in a moment to try to loosen whatever it is that is tight back there. I’m having dinner with a writer friend tonight who is in from out of town to visit her daughter, who is currently enrolled at Tulane University, which is lovely–I always tend to avoid such commitments, but when I do agree to them inevitably have a good time–and I just have to be wary of time, since I have to get up early again tomorrow.

We continue to watch The Undoing on HBO, and I am beginning to think I’ve already got this entire thing figured out. I could be wrong–I have been before–and perhaps what I am thinking is too obvious to be the case. If it does turn out to the case, it will be disappointing…but therein lies the rub of being a crime writer who reads a lot of crime novels (and has edited dozens).

I certainly am hoping to get a lot done this week. But I am rested, hopefully there will be no more major life disruptions (he types hopefully the day before a terrifying general election), and if I can remain focused, I can get everything finished that I need to get finished this week.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Monday before the election, Constant Reader, and if you haven’t already, VOTE TOMORROW.

The 1

November 1st, or All Saints’ Day; which is the perfect day for a Saints game, don’t you think? LSU lost yesterday, badly, and while it was incredibly disappointing to watch, I felt worse for the players. We always forget, regardless of how talented they are, they’re really little more than kids. And since so many starters are either true freshman or sophomores…I think they’ll be really good next year…if they can survive what looks to be a season on par with the late 1990’s. Yeesh.

I am up ridiculously early because of Daylight Savings time; I’d be up early regardless, but I am wide awake and decided, since I have to get up early the next three mornings, that it made sense to go ahead and get up now–one advantage of the so-called “extra hour” (because if 2020 needs anything, it’s more time) is that by not using that hour to get extra sleep, I can recalibrate my body clock to my own advantage for the next few mornings. The sun isn’t up yet completely, but the cutting down of the crepe myrtles next door–many of them, but not all–means that my workspace and kitchen are going to be flooded with a lot more direct sunlight, which is going to make it unbearable in here once it gets hot again; which means I am going to need to do something about window coverings, whether it’s curtains or blinds. We’ll see how much time I have before that becomes a massive priority–hell, it might become one later this morning.

I was still very tired and physically exhausted yesterday. I ran my errands, and then working on cleaning up our side of the house–leaves, branches, debris–and so I watched the LSU game, doing some cleaning and organizing around here in the meantime, and then for Halloween watched House of Dark Shadows on Hulu. I originally saw this movie in the theater–my grandmother, who got me started watching the soap in the first place–took me, and it was a very different take on the Barnabas Collins story. For one thing, there was no redemption of the character; he remained an evil, cruel vampire till the end, when he was killed for his crimes, and he also kind of killed off the entire family, other than Elizabeth and David, by the end. It was straight up more horror than melodrama, and the movie did well enough to inspire a sequel (with none of the same characters or actors), but it really wasn’t as good a story as the redemption of the vampire arc the show did.

I also took the time to read four novellas of Cornell Woolrich, collected together in one volume with the name Four Novellas of Fear (which is really not the best title, as it gives the impression that the novellas are more horror than suspense/crime; which is what they really are). The novellas are all interesting takes, some of which are dated and wouldn’t work today, alas: “Eyes That Watch You”, the first, was my favorite, in which a woman who is completely paralyzed and cannot speak overhears her daughter-in-law and her lover plotting to kill the woman’s son. Unable to communicate and warn him, the crime takes place…and then she becomes determined, somehow, to expose the murderers to the cops and send them to the chair. Great concept, marvelously handled. The next, “The Day I Died,” is about a man who finds out his wife is planning to kill him for the insurance; he comes home early from work and surprises her with the man she has hired to kill him. The hired assassin winds up dead, and the hard-boiled heroine convinces her husband to go through with the plan–they have a ready made corpse whose face they can disfigure and claim it’s suicide. But as he leaves town he runs into a co-worker on the bus…and now he has to kill the co-worker somehow. It’s very noir, very well done–but again, wouldn’t work in a modern setting because of technology and the difficulty of disappearing in the modern world. The third story, “You Won’t See Me Again,” is about a young newly married couple who have an argument, and she walks out–storming home to mother. When she doesn’t return–as he suspects and expects her to, after a day or so–it becomes a missing persons case and of course, the husband is always the prime suspect in those cases. So now he has to find not only the wife he loves to make sure she’s safe, but also to clear her name. It’s yet another story that wouldn’t work in today’s world because of technology, but it’s a charming time capsule. Likewise, “Murder Always Gathers Momentum” is about the slow descent into crime of a person who is broke and desperate and owed money he was cheated out of; rather than confronting the man and asking for his money he decides instead to break into his house and steal it. He’s caught, commits murder, realizes how easy it is to become a criminal, and starts killing people to cover his initial crime….(this is very similar to Agatha Christie’s Murder Is Easy, in which Dame Agatha and Miss Marple also explored the idea that once you’ve killed, it becomes easier to keep killing) and there’s a terrific ironic twist at the end, worthy of The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Despite being dated, I enjoyed all four novellas–which were all very distinct and different, and cynical in their own ways. I certainly enjoyed them more than I enjoyed Night Has a Thousand Eyes, that’s for certain, and my own curiosity about Woolrich–who was a gay man, an alcoholic, and horribly unhappy in his personal life–deepened. (Just as watching The Other the other day, and thinking about the author of the book, Thomas Tryon–a closeted gay actor of the 1960’s who turned to writing novels in the 1970’s–reminded me that I had once thought him worthy of a biography, and I still kind of think that way; I just wish I had the time to devote to doing the research and traveling to Connecticut to examine his papers and so forth; he was also the long-time lover of the first gay porn star, Cal Culver, which is also an interesting footnote to his interesting life as well as of gay historical interest.)

I’m trying to decide what to read next, and have narrowed it down to four options (and may choose something else entirely): Owen Laukkanen’s Deception Cove; Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages (which I may have already read, but I don’t remember finishing it); The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier; or The Hot Rock by Donald Westlake. I am leaning toward to du Maurier because I am thinking it may be time to finish her canon; but the others all look tremendously good, which inevitably always makes choosing difficult. I also want to start reading short stories again–I still have two volumes, for example, of Shirley Jackson stories to read–and I need to get back to my writing–if I can only remember where I was. I know I was rereading Bury Me in Shadows in order to get a grasp of the story–I also have been thinking about the tweaks it needs–and the deadline looms. I also need to revise my story “The Snow Globe,” there’s about a million emails to catch up on, and there’s also the bills to pay.

Heavy heaving sigh. I also want to make it to the gym this morning. One good thing that has happened in this past week is managing three workouts; my body feels wonderful, my muscles feel more stretched and better than they have since the pandemic closed my old gym (we belonged there for eighteen years) and that’s got to count for something, doesn’t it? I think so, and I like that I am developing better workout habits. I’ll worry about correcting my diet and going full on Mediterranean diet after a few more weeks.

I’m also going to write a story–or rather, try to finish one–for the next Mystery Writers of America anthology. Getting a short story into one of those is on my bucket list, and I have two potential in-progress stories for this one; three, really: “Condos for Sale or Rent,” “Please Die Soon,” and “A Dirge in the Dark”. I guess I’ll need to read what’s been done on all four stories and then see about finishing any or all of them…it’s not a bad idea to get all three stories written, pick one to submit to the MWA anthology, and then send the others to other markets.

So many stories in progress.

The sun is rising and the loss of the trees has also made a significant difference to my view–which isn’t nearly as pretty or scenic as it was before, and will take some getting used to. The great irony is my landlady has been trying to get the property owner next door to trim the trees back for years–and trying to get her to trim them regularly, as they are problematic for hurricanes/tropical storms. It took Zeta for her to take the risk presented by the crepe myrtles seriously, with the end result that some were not only trimmed back dramatically, but others were removed entirely. I may have to hang up a small blanket or something in the meantime as a stopgap until I have the time and financial means to get curtains or blinds.

And on that note, I must head into the spice mines and start working on getting caught up, a Sisyphean task at best. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and enjoy your Feast of All Saints.

A Perfectly Good Heart

And here it is, Tuesday morning again, and we survived Monday.

I am sort of getting use to getting up at this hour; not necessarily a bad thing. Both Saturday and Sunday I woke up at six; Saturday I stayed in bed for a few more hours and managed to doze off again; Sunday I went ahead and got up at seven. I did get things done, so that was clearly a plus; so maybe getting used to getting up early (as well as going to bed early) isn’t such a bad thing?

Madness.

I was tired when I got home last night, so I mostly just relaxed and thought, going deep into myself, while music videos streamed in an endless cycle of continuous play on Youtube and a purring cat slept in my lap. I was a little disappointed in myself–I’d high hopes of working when I got home, but tired is tired, damn it–and I do realize this month is slipping through my fingers, but….tired is tired. I refuse to give into my natural inclination to give myself a hard time about not working, or relaxing when I am tired; that only adds to my stress and makes me crazier–with which I need no assistance whatsoever. But I will get everything done.

I will.

It may very well kill me, but I will get it done.

It’s still dark this morning as I sip my first cappuccino (almost finished; I’ll be needing to make another momentarily), and I do feel rested, if not fully awake this morning. I’m not positive how much I will be able to get done today, but in a worst case scenario, I am closer to being finished and caught up with my emails, which is something; if I can finish those all off today, I’ll be doing great. I feel as though I have recently finished a major project–that sort of dissociative cognizance that usually comes with turning a book in, or something along those lines–and I know where it comes from; we recently wrapped up something big with my volunteer work, and so now I feel a bit disoriented and untethered, which usually only happens when I’ve finished a book and turned one in. The fact that I haven’t finished a book in actuality is part of this disorientation I am feeling, methinks; I have a book to actually finish but I keep thinking I am done with one, and I do have to keep snapping myself out of it.

It’s nearly November, and 2020 is slowly but surely inexorably drawing to a close. I was thinking–amongst many other things last night–about how long ago January seems now; almost another lifetime. I can’t remember any other year that has seemed to exist so completely outside of time, other than post Katrina 2005-2006, but even in those weird times you could escape the unreality and weirdness of recovering New Orleans whenever you traveled outside the city–you’d become so used to the strangeness of what was going on here that going somewhere else, unaffected and intact and perfectly normal, and it was jarring. I noticed this especially when flying–the New Orleans airport was a ghost terminal, operating at a severely reduced capacity, and then you’d arrive at another airport where Katrina hadn’t happened and be taken aback by the crowds of people and the open shops and how everyone was just going about their business like normal and it was kind of like traveling into another dimension or something. This is different because even if you were to travel, there’s nowhere you can go in the country that is unaffected and where this isn’t happening. I keep thinking about all the things I wanted to do in 2021–my two trips to New York for the board meeting in January and the Edgars in May; Left Coast Crime; Malice Domestic; and even possibly Crime Bake in New England or Sleuthfest in Florida–and am bitterly disappointed knowing that many of these in-person events won’t happen. Bouchercon is coming to New Orleans, in theory, in August of next year; there are no plans currently for that to change, but naturally, there’s a concern. I hate to think negatively, but I am also ceaselessly realistic…I don’t see how this can happen in August at this time, but I am also keeping my fingers crossed.

I miss seeing my friends.

My last trip before all of this was actually to the MWA Board meeting in New York in January, which was a lovely time but also exhausting–I never sleep well in hotel rooms, and I never sleep well when I drink; and inevitably whenever I am around my mystery writing friends I always drink too much, stay up too late, and then can’t sleep. (I keep thinking the martinis will help me fall asleep, but they never do. Apparently I can only successfully pass out from drink in my own bed.) One of the best parts of being on the board is going to New York twice a year; the Edgars are also always a lot of fun, and I definitely hated missing that this past year as well (although I definitely did NOT miss having to get up on stage in front of a room full of mystery publishing professionals and trying to be entertaining–just even thinking about that now is terrifying to me and giving me heartburn); we’ll see what 2021 holds in store for us all…but I don’t have very high hopes.

Eternally pessimistic, that’s me!

I actually started writing French Quarter Flambeaux for a hot minute last night–yes, I know, I already have way too many projects in some sort of progress already–but I had found the perfect book opening to parody for this Scotty opening (Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, to be exact) and as an intellectual exercise–and to help free up and loosen up my creative abilities–I started writing the parody opening of the book. The opening of the Bradbury isn’t probably as famous or as well-known as others I’ve used (I mean, almost everyone knows the opening lines of Rebecca and The Haunting of Hill House), but it works. Especially since the book is set during the accursed Carnival of 2020.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday, everyone.

New York City Boy

I really miss New York.

As I’ve gotten older and more set in my ways, I’ve grown to abhor travel for the most part. I have trouble sleeping in hotel beds, for one thing–and by the time I am finally used to the bed, it’s the last night of the trip and I inevitably will have to get up early the next morning, ensuring exhaustion when I arrive at Armstrong International here in New Orleans. I don’t like working on laptops anymore–my eyes have gotten so bad the small screen is a pain in the ass, and the difference in keyboard from my desktops (home and work) is too much of an adaptation, so getting writing done when I travel has become next to impossible as well; now when I travel I just try to keep up with deleting junk emails from my various inboxes to make catching up on those easier when I get back home.

New York always exhausts me when I visit; it seems like I catch the pace of the city and am constantly running from one meeting to another, grabbing lunch sometime and a coffee here and there. But I love it there, and every trip up to there always makes me feel kind of like a kid again. When I was a kid I used to dream about being an author and going to New York for authorial business; I always feel like an author when I am there–because I am always there primarily for writing or publishing business. Business trips to New York! That was the kind of glamour I dreamed about when I was a kid, both in the suburbs of Chicago and out in the small rural town in Kansas I grew up in, where the seeds of my writing dreams were planted and germinated. Part of the reason I agreed to become Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America was because that meant a minimum of two business trips up there per year–one in January for the annual board meeting, and another in late April/early May for all the Edgar Award festivities. The pandemic, of course, cancelled all those plans for this year and probably next; I wouldn’t be surprised if I am not able to get to New York again until January 2022.

There’s obviously no time frame on when this pandemic will end, or when i will become comfortable with traveling again. I generally don’t travel much, even though conferences and so forth are tax deductions for me; I generally make it to Bouchercon and that’s about it for my year. I was hoping to go to more events over the next few years–not the least of which would be related to trying to be more visible as an MWA executive, trying to meet as many members as possible and engaging with them about the organization. The position is a lot of work, and trying to keep as many plates spinning as possible at the same time, hoping against hope none of those plates will go crashing to the floor. My personality is this bizarre combination of Type A and laziness; probably has more to do with mood swings and possible manic phases than anything else, really. I never seem to be able to say no, for one thing, and so I always wind up with more plates spinning than need to be going at the same time. It’s also hard to prioritize plates–which ones matter more than others?–and inevitably, for some reason or another (subconscious self-destructive patterns, perhaps?) wind up prioritizing the ones that don’t matter as much and won’t make me any money.

But I miss New York so much. I have so many friends there that my short visits never allow me to see everyone that I would like to see–as much as I would love to cram as many people in as I can, of course, I barely have time to get everything done that needs to be done up there, and I am always tired from the hotel-induced insomnia as it is. I miss taking the subway. I miss Grand Central Station. I miss drinking dirty vodka martinis with extra olives with my friends; for some reason martinis always makes me feel posh and authorial; I think it’s because all the people in the 1950’s and 1960’s movies that firmly fixed the city in my imagination drank martinis. I marvel at the energy required to live there, the crowds of people on the streets and the subways, in the stores and the coffee shops, and the joys of going shopping–when I have the time. I had intended to visit the New York Public Library–just to look around–the next time I came up; I’ve always wanted to go inside and have a look around.

I already have resigned myself to the bitter reality that there will be no board meeting in New York in January, and probably no Edgar ceremony in May, either.

But someday, New York, someday.

You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk

And just like that, it’s Friday again.

Not that the day of the week matters anymore, frankly; yesterday I thought it was Friday all day and even when corrected (I sent an email to the MWA Board of Directors and opened with HAPPY FRIDAY!) I still continued to think it was Friday.

I’m stubborn that way.

We finished watching We Are the Wave last night, after I did one of those on-line promo reading/discussion things for The Faking of the President. I recognize that these things have become a part of what is reality these days, but I’m still uncomfortable doing them. I hate the sound of my own voice, and being able to see myself staring back at me from the computer screen is far worse than any mirror I’ve ever looked into. But I suspect that even once the pandemic has come to its inevitable end–even bubonic plague eventually ran its original course–these things will become part and parcel of promotion for writers henceforth. For one thing, publishers would much rather you “tour” virtually than having to pay to send you, for one, and for the vast majority of writers, virtual touring is much more, obviously, affordable than an actual tour.

But last night I slept extremely well, which is lovely; I actually feel very rested this morning and not tired, mentally or physically, and it’s been a hot minute or two since I could say that. There are some errands I have to run today–most importantly, a prescription refill that needs to be picked up–but I am going to be spending a lot of the day doing my day job stuff here at the Lost Apartment, and yes, that includes more hours of condom packing, which means finding some movies on HBO MAX or Disney to watch. The TCM app on HBO MAX is quite marvelous, actually; there are a lot of wonderful films on there I’ve always wanted to watch, and since I spend several afternoons a week making condom packs, I can now watch them while my hands work. Alas, there are a lot of films I want to see that aren’t on there; there’s some great Hitchcock movies (I really enjoyed Foreign Correspondent, despite how dated it was) and there are some lesser known Hitchcocks which will be fun to watch as well (I could also go through Amazon Prime, but their app on Apple TV is not user friendly in the least). I was looking to rewatch Rebecca and Notorious the other day, but neither were on the TCM app, and neither was Suspicion, which was my next default. I think Shadow of a Doubt is on Prime–that’s the next one I’m looking for–and there might be some on there that aren’t on the TCM app.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the films of the 1970’s a lot lately as well; watching Eyewitness made me think more about that decade, and we talked about it some on the virtual event last night–and there are some terrific films from the 1970’s I’d like to rewatch or see for the first time. I’d like to see Chinatown again, despite my aversion to Roman Polanski and his work–which is a whole other conversation, the old artist vs. the art thing–and there was a darker, grittier aspect to the films of the decade, despite it also being the decade that gave us Star Wars. I’d actually like to watch Cruising again, and numerous other Pacino/De Niro/Scorsese films of the decade.

I also am going to spend some time this weekend writing, and I am also going to spend some time with S. A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland. I also have some anthologies and short story collections I’d like to start dipping into; I hate that I’ve allowed myself to let the Short Story Project collapse by the wayside. I also want to spend some time this weekend trying to get organized; I have so much going on, between various writing projects and volunteerism and so forth that I am always playing catch-up, and I much prefer, as Constant Reader is very well aware, planning; the problem is that I am always juggling things as they come at me (bullets-and-bracelets from the old Wonder Woman comics is a very apt analogy) with the result that I always feel like I am getting dragged down into quicksand.

And don’t even get me started on emails. Jesus.

But it’s a good morning, I have energy and feel rested, and am hopeful this will help carry me through the rest of the day and I can get a lot done.

Have a terrific Friday, Constant Reader.

Building a Wall

Friday! Friday! Friday!

HUZZAH!

I also submitted my story “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy” off to the editor yesterday morning; it was quite a lovely thing to do, and now of course I intend, as I always do, to forget all about it and get on with my life. I spent part of last evening revising another story to submit today–I doubt very seriously it’ll get taken, but nothing ventured, nothing gained–and am looking forward to getting on with some other things this weekend. I need to get some serious work done on the Secret Project, which I haven’t touched since before the pandemic, and God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’d like to get that finished this weekend, along with the revision of my story “Night Follows Night.” Ideally, I’d love to have a story in the submission process with the four publications I aim for–Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, and Mystery Tribune–at all times. I just am not sure that I have enough completed stories to keep that going; but if I can get “Night Follows Night” revised this weekend, and then I can move on to another story next week, and so on…by the end of May I’ll have something at each publication, and who knows? Perhaps I might get lucky.

I also need to get back to Bury Me in Shadows at some point; now that I know how to revise the damned thing and make the story work, I’ve been itching to get my hands back on it. I think I may even start rereading the manuscript as it is this weekend; making some notes so I don’t forget all the things I need to do to make it work.

The Edgars were presented on-line yesterday, announced on Twitter, and it went very well–congratulations to everyone, from the judges to the finalists to the winners, for all their hard work–and I realized last night, looking through my mentions, wow, I actually had fun on Twitter yesterday! How fucking crazy is that? Pretty crazy, indeed; but it was an exciting mix of writers and books and styles, and I am really sorry we didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate everyone and everything in person. I hate that people didn’t get their chance to be celebrated at a really nice black-tie event, and obviously, nothing we can do on-line could replicate the excitement of the night, with the champagne and being with everyone…but it was still really nice.

Now if only I can find the time to get today’s story finished and polished and turned in by this evening, that would be terrific.

We finished watching The Plot Against America last night with a two episode binge, and it’s really quite well done and quite disturbing; there were several times throughout the series where it crossed my mind that hmm, this is really making me uncomfortable, maybe we should stop watching–but that was the entire point of the show, and the book, to begin with; to see the parallels today and be made to feel uncomfortable. Chernobyl was very much the same way, and sometimes that’s the role of art and entertainment; to make the viewer uncomfortable with accurate reflection of inhumanity and how it becomes possible–how easily it becomes possible.

No one wants to believe how easy it is for people to go to the dark side, or at the very least, to be complicit.

And I am looking forward to this weekend. I really am. Yes, I need to run to the grocery store and yes, the weekend is rarely, if ever, long enough; but I am very happy that I made it through yet another week and managed to get a lot done.

Sometimes that’s all you can hope for, really.

IMG_0743