Bottle of Wine

Oxford, Mississippi is a beautiful little town. I arrived here yesterday afternoon–the drive didn’t leave me nearly as exhausted as the one to Montgomery did, even though it was longer; I suspect it was because I worked late the night before doing bar testing so was already tired. I checked into the Inn at Ole Miss, and then went foraging for dinner as well as exploring.  I had a lovely dinner at City Grocery; shrimp and grits, similar to the dish I make but slightly better–but I also was able to spot the spice differences, as well as the obvious addition of sautéed mushrooms, so the next time I make it I am going to make those alterations and see if it turns out the same way. I washed it down with a lovely glass of a Napa Chardonnay, and then wandered back down to the Inn, taking lots of pictures and getting all kinds of inspirations and ideas for a campus crime novel.I am not sure what the situation here is as far as campus crime, but I am making notes and a file, and perhaps some other time I can come up for a few extra days, talk to some more people, do some research and figure out how to get the story whipped into shape.

I also finished reading Jessica Knoll’s sublime Luckiest Girl Alive, which was absolutely amazing, and I intend to discuss that wonderful novel in more depth once I am home and at a computer rather than writing this on an app on the iPad (don’t get me wrong, this is very cool, and this is the first trip I’ve taken where I’ve not brought the laptop–and I will most likely never bring it again, as the iPad basically can replace it completely, and it weighs significantly less. I also started reading Cleopatra’s Shadows by Emily Holleman, which I am enjoying and focuses on two women who have always fascinated me: Cleopatra’s sisters, Berenice and Arsinoe, and whom I myself have always wanted to write about.

My panel is this afternoon at four; they are picking me up at 3:30 in front of the Inn and I am really not certain what the discussion is going to be about. It’s a month-long event called the Radical South, a counter-event to Confederate History Month (in a moment of irony, I am here at a counter-event to Confederate History MOnth while the Confederate monuments in New Orleans are being taken down; which is also a subject for another time as I have very strong feelings about that myself) and after that I am being taken out to dinner. Tomorrow I intend to rise early, avail myself of the complimentary breakfast here at the Inn (it was sublime this morning), and then check-out and head home, as I have to work tomorrow night. But that also gets me a short day on Thursday, which is also lovely.

The weather is also sublime; rather cool for late April, but not humid, which is always a plus.

And now, I am going back to the spice mines.IMG_1725


I Say a Little Prayer

Today I venture north to Oxford, Mississippi, home to one of my literary heroes, William Faulkner, and also home to Ole Miss, aka the University of Mississippi. This isn’t going to be a quick ‘in-and-out’ like Montgomery; I am spending two nights there (the event is tomorrow night) and will drive back down to New Orleans on Wednesday. I have to work later that evening, which is daunting and will make for a long, exhausting day, but I feel like I will sleep rather well that Wednesday night, if for no other reason than pure exhaustion. I am feeling rested this morning, but not quite awake; I am going to continue with coffee-swilling before I shave and shower and depart. I am already packed; all I have left to do is put the current book I’m reading (Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll) and my iPad into my bag. I believe the event is tomorrow evening, so I will have all day to explore Oxford. I will be taking the camera with me, and I plan on making a pilgrimage, at the very least, to Faulkner’s home. (In an aside, sometimes when I mention that Faulkner is one of my literary heroes I get mocked, or get called pretentious; but I truly enjoy reading Faulkner. He isn’t easy to read, or follow, but the language! The way he builds the story! I still think The Sound and the Fury is the greatest American novel, no matter what–but I have been thinking lately I should, as an adult and more mature reader, give both Hemingway and Fitzgerald another try.)

I did finish reading Thirteen Reasons Why yesterday afternoon, and no, it didn’t end in the same was as the television series, and yes, it’s ending was just as dissatisfying to me, although it made sense. The book makes no judgments of the characters, including Clay, although the relationship between Clay and Hannah wasn’t as developed or as evolved in the show; I didn’t get a sense of why Clay would care as much as he did from the novel. But it was a fun read, and let’s face it–as I said on the panel Saturday, what could be more noir than high school? All of my young adult fiction, frankly, is based on that principle.

We also finished Feud last night, along with the rest of the country, and Jessica Lange was absolutely heartbreaking. Sarandon really was great as Bette Davis, but for some reason, I just think Lange was better as Crawford. The whole cast was terrific, really, and it was horrible what happened to both women as they aged, how the industry turned their back on them, what it’s like to be a woman in Hollywood–and how that hasn’t, really, changed. Ryan Murphy is an interesting writer/producer. American Horror Story seems to go off the rails every season; I never got past the second episode of Scream Queens; and I never watched Nip/Tuck–but really enjoyed Popular. But with American Crime Story and Feud he’s done an extraordinary job; but then again, in both instances he didn’t have to really come up with a plot or an ending to the story he was telling: both were based in reality. I also am terrified of his Hurricane Katrina season of American Crime Story. It could be terrible, absolutely terrible; all I can do is hope that filming in New Orleans–as he did with American Horror Story–made him fall in love with the city the way Jessica Lange did (she now lives here).

Obviously, I’ve not written a word since I left for Montgomery on Friday (other than here), and hope I’ll have both the time and the energy while in Oxford.

And now, back to the spice mines.6f72d89ae05ea0959513f24176fd12e5

Hold Me Tight

Monday morning of a short work week, as I am traveling to Alabama on Friday, returning to New Orleans on Sunday, and then it’s off to Ole Miss and Oxford, MS for another event.

It was a rather lovely three day weekend, quite frankly; I wish there was some way to make every weekend three days, to be honest. Having the extra day makes all the difference, really. I spent one day running errands and cleaning, another day cleaning and reading, and the last day reading and writing. I now feel completely relaxed and rested and thoroughly prepared for this week, as opposed to whining about how the weekend never lasts long enough. Alas, there won’t be another such three day weekend until Memorial Day at the end of next month. Heavy heaving sigh.

I finished reading Finders Keepers yesterday, and I did really enjoy it. It was an excellent follow-up to Mr. Mercedes, and it was fun catching up with the remaining cast of that novel: Bill Hodges, Holly, and Jerome, who team up to help out a teenaged boy who has discovered a treasure trove–a buried trunk full of money and manuscripts, the haul from the robbery/murder of noted American author Joel Rothstein. Like all of King’s novels, it was compulsively readable, highly entertaining, with strongly built characters and relationships, brilliants touches of pop culture, and a good story. And, like so many of King’s novels/stories, at the center of the story was an author and his work–not to mention how that work affected his readers. Like Misery, one of his readers takes the work too seriously and becomes overly attached to the main character, doesn’t like what the author does to the character, and that fanaticism is what leads to the robbery/murder, and triggers the rest of the story.

I often chastise myself for writing about writers; I’ve always considered it more than a little self-indulgent, and as I get older and further along in my writing career, writers as characters continue to pop up in my work. “Quiet Desperation” is about writers and writing; and an author character popped up in The Orion Mask– Jerry Channing, a character I became so attached I brought him back for Garden District Gothic, and even considered giving him his own stand-alone adventure. It also occurs to me that the unnamed protagonist of several short stories I’ve written–an author–are really early incarnations of Jerry (the only short story about him that’s been published so far was “An Arrow for Sebastian”). Yesterday I started a second draft of “Quiet Desperation”–an actual rewrite, rather than an edit (which is, I think, long been a part of my problem with writing; I don’t rewrite, I simply edit what I’ve already written, which is lazy) and it will eventually require me to drive out to New Orleans East, because where the new opening of the story takes place is a part of New Orleans I haven’t seen in over ten years, and I am pulling from my memories–and Katrina occurred since then, so the topography of that part of the city/parish has undoubtedly been changed by the hurricane and aftermath. Of course, now that I have a new car, that’s not an issue; nor is driving out there. It’s just a matter of finding the time. Next weekend is definitely out, since I’ll be in Alabama, and when I’m  not in Alabama I’ll be too busy preparing for the trip to Mississippi–although I could drive out that way on the way out of town to Alabama on Friday; it’s on the way.

Hmmmm. ’tis a thought.

We also watched last night’s Feud, and I have to say, both Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon are absolutely killing it. I’m not sure who’s going to win the Emmy, but my guess is on one of them–with Nicole Kidman’s performance in Big Little Lies giving them both a run for their money.

We also started watching Thirteen Reasons Why, and got through the first three episodes. Had I not needed to get up this morning for work, we would have watched more. There are some questionable aspects of the story/plot for me, but the young actors are incredibly appealing, and Dylan Minnette, who plays main character Clay Jensen, is quite compelling as the quiet loner. I have some thoughts about him, his character, and where this is all going, but I will keep those to myself and continue to watch.

dylan minnette

I also have a copy of the book in my TBR pile, where it’s been forever, and might just go ahead and read it now–reading Big Little Lies while watching the show didn’t hurt either, frankly.

And now, back to the spice mines.


I Wish It Would Rain

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

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

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

And I want to get to the gym tomorrow morning.

A truly ambitious plan for the weekend, no?

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

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

Born to Be Wild

Apparently, a nasty storm will be buffeting New Orleans most of the day; at this moment the sun is still shining but there’s also that creepy, weird, pre-storm quiet/stillness outside of my windows this morning, which means it will be particularly nasty.

Yesterday I did chores; the bed linens are all clean now, two loads of dishes, and two loads of clothing were also run through the washing/drying cycles; I still have some dishes to put away this morning but at a glance, the kitchen is clean. We also watched the World Figure Skating championships yesterday, and got caught up on Big Little Lies, Supernatural, and Riverdale. We also are about five episodes behind on Bates Motel, but having now seen the first two episodes of this final season…well, wow, they are really knocking it out of the park on this season. Today I am going to answer emails, read, and do some writing while also doing some organizing of my work station–as always, there is filing to be done, which is incredibly annoying.

I’ve been doing some scattershot research lately; as I have mentioned before my mind is all over the place right now. I am reading up on the seventeenth century, to get a better knowledge of the politics of the time (I am pretty up on them, but getting better informed is never a bad idea, especially if you’re planning on writing about the period at some point); I am also researching Alabama history because of another project I am thinking about; and I am also reading up on New Orleans history and Louisiana politics. My knowledge in regards to both, considering how much I write about both New Orleans and Louisiana, is not as up to snuff as it should be. I know basics about it, of course–the city was founded by the French; became Spanish after the French and Indian/Seven Years’ War; was given back to the French and then sold to the US in 1803; fell to the Union army/navy in 1862; and so forth. Lots of gaps there, though, and more knowledge is always crucial in writing, even if most of it remains off the page.

Later this month, of course, I am off to both Alabama and Mississippi for events; I’m hoping that the trip to Alabama, in particular, will help in some ways for the Alabama project–which will probably result in a trip to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa to do research at their library and archive. Paul and I are also considering a trip to the beach at some point; a lovely, relaxing long weekend would be absolutely lovely, methinks. I am thinking it’s about time I got a tan again–although some basic research in tanning salons in Uptown New Orleans slapped me in the face with the knowledge that tanning beds apparently are no longer in vogue and people seem to prefer spray tans…which doesn’t appeal to me in the least. I don’t want my skin dyed, I want an actual tan, which apparently means going to beaches now. Although I suppose now going to the beach and getting sun is much worse for the skin than it used to be.

Heavy heaving sigh…but I think it’s a good sign that my vanity is starting to resurface, which means I will be taking better care of myself. Paul and I have both decided to start eating more healthy, with a treat on the weekends–yesterday we got shrimp po’boys from the Please U; next week it will be deep dish pizza from That’s Amore, which has now conveniently opened a location in our neighborhood.

I also want to get some reading done today….in fact, I’m probably going to do that before trying to write. I can’t help but think reading Colson Whitehead will help in some ways. Or maybe I’ll dive back into Mississippi Noir again. The day is rife with possibility.

Or…I may end up doing nothing today at all. It happens sometimes.

And now, back to the spice mines. Here’s a hot guy to liven up your Sunday.

Dance to the Music

Saturday morning in New Orleans, and I can see blue sky up there outside my windows and above the crepe myrtles. I slept pretty well last night, but am a little bit foggy this morning; not sure what that’s all about, but I am sure some coffee will clear that problem right up. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from work last night, so I don’t have to leave the house at all this weekend if I don’t want to–and right now, in my foggy headed state, that sounds absolutely lovely, quite frankly. All I really feel like doing this morning is reading; I may even finish The Underground Railroad at long last. There are some chores to be done today, and I do seriously need to do some cleaning around here, but right now I am just going to relax and enjoy my coffee and maybe fold the laundry once the dryer is done fluffing them again.

I need to do some writing this weekend, but it may wait until tomorrow. We’ll see how I feel later on. Right now I’m too foggy to even think about it, quite frankly.

The more I look about the kitchen, the more my skin crawls. These windows are also thoroughly revolting. Maybe it’s time to get out the ladder and get to work on them.

But it’s also lovely to have a normal weekend again. Paul was at the office working the three weekends prior to the Festivals, and the one before that was the last weekend of Carnival, so we’ve not had a normal weekend in well over a month, which sucks. It’s part of why I think I’ve been in a bit of a writing rut, to be honest. (I just can’t seem to motivate myself to write, and when I do, it’s a real struggle to get words down. But I WILL GET SOME WRITING DONE THIS WEEKEND OR HEADS WILL ROLL. Whose heads, of course, remains to be seen.)

And we can get caught up on all of our television shows, at long last.

Okay, tis off to the spice mines with me. Here’s a Saturday hunk for you.

Hello I Love You

Ah, a lovely night’s sleep, only interrupted by having to get up at five to get Amie an Uber to the Amtrak station; after which I returned to bed for another few hours of sleep. During that second round of sleep last night (or rather, this morning) a major thunderstorm rolled into the city. The crepe myrtles are swaying outside my windows, it’s completely gray out there, lightning and thunder, a downpour of rain. Right now, the rain has ceased, but there was just another flash of lightning and some more thunder, so who knows? It’s supposed to rain until around two this afternoon, which will, of course, make getting to work a JOY.

Oh, well, I haven’t driven the new car anywhere in the rain yet (outside of Alabama; I was rained on almost all the way from Wetumpka to Mobile on that trip). So, we’ll see how it handles in the rain on the slick, uneven streets of New Orleans…

I feel rested and awake this morning, which is quite lovely. I don’t have to work a long day tomorrow, either (my day today is shorter than usual), and am planning on making a Costco run tomorrow before going into the office (must remember to make list). These next two days and the weekend are going to be spent getting caught up on everything that has been let slide in the madness of the last few months–I’ve really felt like I’ve had no grasp of everything lately, and I need to get back on top of everything–which includes cleaning the Lost Apartment, organizing, filing, you name it. I am delighted that I’ve gotten everything to my accountant so I don’t have the burden of the taxes hanging over my head again. But at least now we have some semblance of normality for awhile again (until my trip to Alabama and Mississippi in late April), and as far as I know there shouldn’t be any other trips on the horizon at any time soon–although I do have to go back to Kentucky at some point, and Paul and I really want to go spend a long weekend at the beach at some point).

I didn’t write yesterday because, of course, because my mind was bouncing all over the place and I was so physically tired and mentally sleepy. I hate those days, when I can’t focus and know I just have to somehow just get through the damned day. Paul is very excited about this weekend, as there’s a major tennis tournament, the LSU gymnastics team is competing at regionals, and the World Figure Skating championships are also this weekend–so I doubt very seriously if I am ever going to be able to get him off the couch, but that’s also fine. He deserves some rest, frankly.

I’m hoping to get a first draft of “Quiet Desperation” finished today. Here’s hoping.

Here’s a Thursday hunk for you: