I Just Want to Celebrate

…because it’s finally fucking Friday!

Yesterday was…not a great day, really. I was physically tired, but not mentally tired, if that makes sense? The problem is that the physical tired makes it hard for the not-tired brain to focus on anything, and I get kind of punchy, which isn’t really the face I like to show to the world. But my day was okay for the most part. I think the tired primarily came about because of the early return of summer weather to New Orleans. Yes, I know to those of you who do not live here New Orleans always seems brutally hot all of the time, but there are degrees to New Orleans heat, and yes, it usually starts getting hotter in May and yes, the humidity usually is back in May. But it was ninety-five degrees on Wednesday; and even at the hottest part of the dog days of August it rarely gets to that. Usually it hovers somewhere between 88 and 93, but it’s the humidity that makes it so awful. Also, I’ve been more active this week than usual. I did Ellen’s book launch on Sunday evening, I had that ZOOM meeting on Wednesday night, and I had drinks with a friend in from out of town before the ZOOM meeting. So, that was a lot more of social interaction than I am accustomed to, and instead of going home from work Wednesday night (the way I usually do) and collapsing into my chair while going into a Youtube wormhole of some sort, I didn’t get to relax until after nine pm.

That is not my norm.

I stopped on the way home last night to get some things at the grocery store, and then spent some time doing some kitchen chores (since I had drinks with a friend before the ZOOM meeting, I had to move everything off the kitchen counters, shove it all in the laundry room, and then closed the doors so no one could see it; and the dishes in the sink had to be organized so nothing could be seen from the camera on the computer; I never realized having my work station in the kitchen would turn out to be so problematic, but I couldn’t have foreseen ZOOM in the summer of 2005 when we moved into the Lost Apartment, either) before collapsing into my easy chair to wait for Paul to get home.

So, there I was, minding my own business, watching first Superman and Lois before The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (I have tuned back in for this season, I have thoughts) and occasionally checking social media and my emails when…I got a notification on Twitter. I clicked to see this tweet from Katrina Niidas Holm:

GREG HERREN!!! You wrote a book so damn good, it got nominated twice! Congratulations, @scottynola! Hope you’ll remember us Pogues when…

(‘Pogues’ being an Outer Banks reference, a show she and her husband Chris–buy his Child Zero, available now and amazing–convinced me to watch with the result Paul and I fell in love with the show, too)

I literally had no idea what she was talking about and gave my usual intelligent response of wait what? at which point she linked to this year’s Anthony Award nominees. Bury Me in Shadows was nominated not only for Best Paperback/Ebook/Audio Original, but also for Best Children’s/Young Adult.

TWO NOMINATIONS FOR THE SAME BOOK IN DIFFERENT CATEGORIES.

I am still in shock this morning–a delighted shock, to be sure, but it’s still shock. It still hasn’t completely sunken in yet, either. It’s going to take me a hot minute to thank everyone who has tweeted or posted on Facebook their congratulations, as well as to congratulate the ridiculously amazing amount of friends that are also nominated in one of the categories–it really is, overall, a remarkable list with a lot of books nominated that I read and loved loved loved–but what a lovely chore to have, you know? And talk about turning your mood and your day around! So, this morning–needless to say I slept very well last night–I am sipping my coffee and riding the high a bit still. At some point I’ll need to make sure I thank everyone and congratulate everyone else nominated and get through my social media, but right now I am just sitting here at my desk feeling very proud and happy and content while I sip my coffee. Wow. I mean, wow.

I’ve not been in a very good place about my career lately, honestly–any number of things; the problems with getting myself to actually write, not feeling great about what I write when I do write, all the little doubts and insecurities that have built up over a lifetime of wanting to be a writer but getting little to no encouragement from anyone, really. It all kinds of builds up sometimes, and anything–no matter how small or inconsequential–will trigger it and send me spiraling down into the Pit of Despair. As I struggle with my schedule and all the things I need and want to get done, with a to-do list that seems to grow like the Hydra, with two new things to do replacing every single task that gets scratched off the list, this was precisely the right time to get this kind of reassurance from my community, my wonderful crime fiction world, and I’ll always be grateful for this. Bury Me in Shadows was a very hard book for me to write, emotionally; but digging deep into the issues I dealt with in the book–and that emotional difficulty–made it a better book, I think.

Wow. I mean, wow.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a wonderful Friday, Constant Reader.

Ruby Tuesday

Tuesday and back into the office, which means I am awake waaaaaaay too early for my liking.

Sleep wasn’t great last night–yesterday was a very trying day, to say the least–and so I didn’t expect to sleep particularly well to begin with, and well, I was correct. I don’t feel groggy or tired right now, but I am sure will hit a wall big time later this afternoon. I’m not entirely sure it was that bad of a night’s sleep; I just know I woke up several times during the night and each time had trouble falling back asleep. But the coffee this morning is going down well, and I feel awake in a way, if a little physically tired still. But I shall make it through this day, I am going to power through and get things done. Yesterday I did manage to get work done–even if it wasn’t the greatest–but it was something.

I also got some bad news that I had to process–still processing, really–but life goes on, you know? The world doesn’t stop turning and you still have to go to work, pay your bills, and so forth. Scooter needs to be fed, and his litter box needs to be cleaned, and wallowing in bad news doesn’t get the dishes cleaned or the mail picked up or my clients seen. Or my stories written and edited and so on and so forth. The news did kind of derail me from finishing that short story that was due yesterday, but that’s life and it’s not the first deadline I’ve missed for an anthology or short story call. And at least I got more of the story written–and it could, if I can figure out the middle, be a really good one should I ever finish it.

So that’s something, at any rate.

Last night we caught up on Gaslit (Julia Roberts is really killing the role of Martha Mitchell, and I’m not a big fan of hers, either) and The Baby (a truly bizarre show) and started watching another show whose name I cannot recall right now–which is probably an indication of my brain fog from lack of sleep last night. (Although according to my fitbit I had a much better than average sleep last night, go figure.) Oh, yes, Tokyo Vice, starring Ansel Elgort. The first episode didn’t do much for me, but the story began picking up in the second episode and so we’re probably going to continue watching. The thing about Gaslit –asides from being yet another 1970s set television program–is that as we watched Paul kept saying, “were they really this stupid?” and I had to keep replying, “yes, they actually were this stupid, which is why they got caught. And it was all completely unnecessary–if I’m not mistaken, he won at least 48 states.” Idiot. And really, the country has never completely recovered from Watergate, either; the damage to public trust in our institutions has never been restored, which is part of the reason the country is in the shape it’s in now. Ironically, it was the Republican party responsible for Watergate–and then later they became the “you can’t trust the government” party. Coincidence? Or a pattern?

Definitely pattern.

I’ve not decided what I am going to read next, either. I am having to head up to Kentucky for Memorial Day weekend, so I will be trying to decide what to listen to on the drive up and back, and I also should be able to get some reading in while I am up there. I have a lot of great books on deck–my TBR stack(s) are literally to die for, seriously–which makes the deciding that much harder for me to deal with and make final decisions. But I need to start clearing books out again–an endless struggle–and—and—and–yeah, I have a lot to do. Tonight I am going to turn in the Bouchercon anthology and start diving into my edits on my book, which is going to make it a lot stronger than it currently is; obviously my preference would be to have that finished before I drive up there a week from Thursday (it’s incredibly difficult for me to get much writing work done while I am on a trip) but we’ll see. (Ironically, I still had the submission call for that short story open on my browser tabs and they’ve pushed it back a week so in theory at least I could get that story done as there is more time now…we’ll see how it goes. I am in such a dark space this morning I can’t really picture getting anything done here or in time. Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that cheery note, I am heading into the spice mines. Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader, and I hope your Tuesday is as lovely as you are.

Easy Loving

Monday morning and I really didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. I have so much to get done this week it’s kind of overwhelming, to be honest; and the temptation to just stay in bed for the rest of my life and avoid the world was kind of really powerful this morning. Yet the world stops turning for no man, let alone a Gregalicious, so there was naught for me to do other than arise, do my morning ablutions, and start drinking coffee. I did sleep fairly well, despite the enormous stress of a to-do list with incredibly lengthy chores and projects to work on, and feel pretty well rested this morning–if not quite up to dealing with the world at large.

Ellen Byron’s book launch last night was marvelous. I was delighted to see she had a very good turnout and sold a lot of books–and she is the QUEEN of swag. I for once didn’t have stage fright–I knew Ellen would be warm and witty and wise and funny; all I had to do was lob some questions at her and she was off and running (she did try to deflect attention back to me a couple of times, but I was ready to turn the spotlight right back on her after a brief answer and succeeded each time). The book itself is lovely, too; you want to get a copy of Bayou Book Thief, especially if you’re a fan of traditional mysteries. The cover is gorgeous, and it’s a fun story with a likable main character and a likable supporting cast, and Ellen’s adoration of New Orleans spills over on every page–and what more can a New Orleanophile ask for? I also picked up a copy of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (I saw it and remembered someone recommending it to me a while back, so I grabbed it immediately) and a copy of Albert Camus’ The Stranger, which I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time now (since Camus was inspired by The Postman Always Rings Twice for his own novel, I thought it only made sense for me to finally read the Camus)–I can never walk into a bookstore and not walk out with more than I intended to buy when I walked in (I had only intended to get a copy of Ellen’s finished book; I read a pdf) but that was fine–I wanted both books and let’s face it, I am always going to buy books at every opportunity, but it is time for me to start donating books to the library again.

I am not familiar with the part of New Orleans where the bookstore is located; Blue Cypress Books is on Oak Street past Carrollton, not far from where Carrollton and Claiborne intersect (and yes, the two streets actually run parallel to each other in my neighborhood; welcome to the wonderful and terribly confusing world of New Orleans’ bizarre geography). I would have, as per my usual, simply driven all the way to Riverbend on St. Charles then turned left on Carrollton…but I decided not to do my usual “this is how I know to get there” thing and used Google maps. Interestingly enough, Google maps took me on to Highway 90 then I-10 before getting off at the Carrollton exit in front of Costco and going that way…and it was faster–a lot faster, which I still kind of can’t wrap my mind around, but then again that’s New Orleans geography for you; my mind always thinks in terms of grids where everything runs north and south or east and west, and that isn’t New Orleans. The only actual grid design to anywhere in this city is the French Quarter–and only the French Quarter, at that. I have lived here twenty-six years and still get confused and mystified by how geography works here…which is one of the reasons I think people believe New Orleans is magical and mystical. Where else does geography make no sense other than here?

After I got home, we finished watching The Outlaws, which we really enjoyed, and started watching Gaslit. Julia Roberts is killing it as Martha Mitchell–I’d really forgotten a lot about her, but she was kind of a celebrity at the time, more so than the wife of Attorney General could ever hope to be, frankly–and she was enormously popular; everyone liked Martha Mitchell, because you never really knew what she was going to say next, which naturally didn’t sit well with the president of the time, Richard Nixon. (And again with a show set in the 1970s; sensing a theme–Minx, Candy, Gaslit–all set in the 1970s as a reminder to us all just how awful the 1970s actually were…pay attention, everyone. There’s a reason you never want to turn the clock back, or bring an era back.) I’d actually forgotten about Martha Mitchell–she’s often left out of books I’ve read about Watergate–and she was actually kind of an important cultural figure of the time. If the Nixon idea was to erase her from history, it kind of worked. The 1970s was definitely an odd decade.

As I was lying in bed dreading getting up and facing the world today, I thought, I would really love to have a vacation, you know. A week where I didn’t have a deadline to meet, or go into the office, or really do anything at all other than relax and read and watch movies or television shows I’ve not had a chance to see. It’s been a hot minute, and most of the traveling I actually do tends to be writing related in some way, which means it’s not really a vacation but a work trip. I don’t think I’ve actually had a vacation-vacation since we went to Italy, and that was eight long years ago. We’re talking about possibly going to Puerto Rico or some place in Central America (Costa Rica, if anywhere), but I think it’s past time…although I could also use some time off to stay home and get the Lost Apartment into some semblance of order, a Sisyphean task if there ever was one.

I didn’t finish my short story–the deadline was today and I know there’s no way I can get it finished in time to email off by midnight tonight, particularly since there would be little to no time to revise and/or edit it. It’s a shame, but at least the story is further along at about just over a thousand words than it was at less than two hundred; it’s a great idea but I’m basically stuck in the middle. I know how it ends, I just don’t know how to get it there, so letting it sit for a while is definitely in order. I did start writing the new Scotty yesterday–don’t get excited, I literally wrote maybe 175 words of the prologue; I found the book opening I wanted to spoof (Pride and Prejudice) and since I didn’t want to forget, I started writing it and it flowed along for another hundred words or so before I ran out of steam. The Scotty prologues are always the hardest part of the book for me to write; they are basically a recap of Scotty’s life thus far to get a new reader caught up without having to go back and read the first eight (!) books in the series as well as not spoiling the first eight books in the series should the reader decide to go back and actually read the first eight books in the series. (Something I actually need to do before I really dig in and start writing this thing…I really need to do the Scotty Series Bible and get that done so I have an easy reference without having to page through the books or do a search in the ebooks) I also did some research over the weekend for the book, which entailed rereading two Nancy Drew mysteries, The Ghost of Blackwood Hall and The Haunted Showboat (both books bring Nancy and her friends to New Orleans/Louisiana) and oh, yes, that bit of research definitely triggered a blog post which I started writing yesterday after I got ready for the event and was waiting for it to be the right time to leave. I kind of slam Nancy Drew in the post–but the truth is, despite my obsessive collecting of Nancy Drew books (trying to get the entire original series, with the yellow spines) I never actually liked the books all that much. (Same with the Hardy Boys.) While I appreciate the two series for their popularity and for getting kids to read (and to read mysteries) neither series was ever my favorite–but once I started reading and collecting, I had to keep reading and collecting because I am obsessive–and that obsession with collecting the books, while slightly tempered as I’ve gotten much older (and don’t have a place to display the collection), still exists. (Periodically I do think about emptying a bookcase and refilling it with my kids’ series books; it’s always satisfying for me to see them on the shelves. And yes, I know how weird that sounds.)

And now back into the spice mines with me. Y’all have a lovely Monday, okay?

Louisiana Bayou

The traditional mystery, to quote Rodney Dangerfield, “don’t get no respect.”

I’m not sure why that is, to be perfectly honest. I do have my suspicions and opinions, most of which inevitably circle back to the root of so many societal ills: misogyny. Traditional mysteries, often called (both respectfully and derisively) cozies, are, as a general rule, primarily written by women, tell women’s stories, and theoretically, the primary market for them is women. So naturally, much like the entirety of the romance genre, it is subject to derision, not being taken as seriously as darker works, and often is shut out during awards seasons (the primary exception being the Agatha Awards, given at Malice Domestic, which is primarily focused on the traditional mystery). They generally also don’t get a lot of review coverage, because women mystery writers also traditionally don’t get their fair share of print reviews in major publications, either–and the ones who usually do trend to the darker side.

I will also admit that I, too, am guilty of being more drawn to the darker, harsher, more noir side of crime fiction in my reading–which is kind of ironic, as one of my favorite series writers of all time is Elizabeth Peters, who didn’t write dark but rather light-hearted and funny; the Amelia Peabody series is one of the all-time greats. I also love Ellen Hart’s and Donna Andrews’ and and Miranda James’ and Elaine Viets’ series; but a few years ago I realized I wasn’t giving the subgenre enough love and attention, so focused on consciously reading more traditional mysteries. I have since discovered other terrific traditional mystery writers by expanding my scope and not just reaching for the next thing that sounds interesting. I discovered Kellye Garrett’s terrific Detective by Day series, Leslie Budewitz, Sherry Harris, Julia Henry, Hannah Dennison, and far too many others to name. (Also, shout outs to Raquel V. Reyes and Mia P. Manansala for outstanding new series over the last year or so.)

And then of course there’s Ellen Byron.

In some cities, a middle-aged woman dancing down the street dressed as a cross between a 1970’s disco queen and Wilma Flintsone would be unusual. But this was New Orleans, where the unusual was the everyday.

The woman dancing past Ricki James-Diaz, dodging the broken concrete in the Irish Channel’s worn sidewalks, happened to be her landlady, Kitty Kat Rousseau, who lived on the other side of Ricki’s double-shotgun cottage on Odile Street. “On your way to rehearsal?” Ricki called to Kitty from the porch. Kitty belonged to the ABBA Dabbo Do’s, one of the Crescent City’s many synchronized dance and marching troupes that entertained at parades and special events.

“You know it, chère.” Kitty did the hustle, then paused. “Whew, spinning made me dizzy.” She leaned against a lamppost, trying to regain her equilibrium. “I’m glad you caught me. I wanted to wish you good luck today.”

Ricki used the back of her hand to wipe a drop of perspiration from her forehead, the result of nervrs, not the mid-August heat. “Thank you so much.”

I’ve been meaning to read Ellen Byron for quite some time now; I’m not really sure why I haven’t. Ellen and I met electronically, but I am not exactly sure I remember precisely how; a Facebook group, or something. I don’t know, but Ellen–who graduated from Tulane University and whose daughter was attending Loyola–wanted to meet for dinner on a trip here to get her daughter settled into an apartment and the rest was history. She has written two series already–the Cajun Country series (which I need to read) and the Catering Hall mysteries as Maria DiRico. She’s doing a prelaunch party for the first in her new series, the Vintage Cookbook series, the first of which is called Bayou Book Thief. She graciously asked me to do the event with her, and as such I spent yesterday afternoon reading the book…which is absolutely charming.

The premise of the book is the Ricki (full name: Miracle Fleur de Lis James-Diaz, thank you very much) has returned to New Orleans to escape two awful experiences: the freak accident death of her husband, a viral Youtube video-maker (think Jackass) who choked to death doing one of his stunts, and of course the video of his death–he filmed it live–has gone viral. If that isn’t bad enough, her employer (she curated his collection of rare first editions) was convicted of a massive Bernie Madoff-like fraud scheme. Having been born in New Orleans and lived there her first seven years of life till her adoptive (yes, she was abandoned at Charity Hospital as an infant) parents moved to Los Angeles, she has decided to return to the city of her birth, maybe find her birth mother, and start a new business–selling vintage cookbooks and vintage serving ware in a shop in the Bon Vee museum, which used to be the home of one of the city’s legendary restauranteurs, Genevieve “Vee” Charbonnet. The board president approves her idea, and the story is off to the races as Ricki gets to know her co-workers, the Bon Vee family, from administration to the tour guides to the docents, as well as those who work in the little café on the grounds.

Soon, one of the more irritating tour guides (let’s face it, he’s a dick) turns up dead in a trunk and dropped off at the mansion with some boxes of donated books for the shop. Ricki herself has had a few run-ins with the victim, and she’s also the one who finds the body. Worried about whether or not she herself is a suspect, as well as what damage the murder might do to her new business, Ricki starts looking into the murder herself–while also developing a weird relationship/friendship with the female police detective looking into the case. But this murder is just one of several mysteries surrounding Ricki and her life at the mansion, and many complications that arise from her working there and her amateur sleuthing.

Bayou Book Thief is a lot of fun, and is filled with endearing, likable characters along with some marvelous observations and truths about New Orleans–watching out for tree roots as you walk along the sidewalks; the horror of your air conditioning going out while it’s still hot; being in a bar during a Saints game; and above all else, that the city is really a very small town at heart. I really enjoyed it, and look forward to the next in the series, Wined and Died in New Orleans.

Join us tonight at five pm at Blue Cypress Books. It’ll be a fun time.

Mercy Mercy Me

Sunday morning and another decent night of sleep. I felt rested this morning, and still have an insane amount of things to get done, but progress was made yesterday. I did my work yesterday–I love when my work consists of reading, especially when the book is as delightful and charming as the one I read yesterday–and so have other things to get done today. Today’s primary task involves reading as well–I also have to come up with clever questions for Ellen Byron for tonight’s (this afternoon’s?) event at Blue Cypress Books, at 5 pm. Come on, come all! There’s also some filing and organizing for me to get done this morning while my mind slowly awakens, and of course, dishes to put away.

But I did get a lot finished yesterday, just not as much as I needed to, which seems to always be the case these days. That’s okay, you see, because I’ve also learned/am trying to be kinder to myself these days, in a successful (some days more than others) attempt to try to keep my stress levels down as well as the anxiety, which will inevitably combine into some sort of depressive, overwhelmed state during which I get nothing done and only compound the problem into a vicious cycle that winds up going around and around and around and where it stops, nobody knows. But my coffee tastes really lovely this morning, which is a good thing, and I feel rested and recuperated, which is also lovely.

Last evening, after we were finished with everything we could do during the day and decided to call it quits for the day, we finished watching Candy–I still am not entirely sure what I think of it, to be honest, but man did they capture the time period absolutely perfectly–and then watched the first two episodes of the second season of Hacks, which is even funnier this time around. Everyone in the show is so perfectly cast, from Jean Smart having the time of her life in a role that is absolutely perfect for her, all the way down to even the most minor characters. It is one of the best comedies on television now, frankly. We then moved on to The Outlaws, a British show on Amazon Prime starring Christopher Walken (who has been working a lot lately, and that isn’t a bad thing at all) which is about a group of disparate characters all brought together from being sentenced to community service together. The first episode wasn’t great, so we were on the fence about continuing but gave it another episode. SO glad we did; the show really kicks into gear in the second episode and the writing is so good, so intricate…definitely recommend it to you, Constant Reader. We also need to get caught up on Severance and The Offer, and there are a few other shows out there we’d like to get started with.

How are y’all doing this morning? I am feeling pretty good, in all honesty. There are some things I need to deal with that I would prefer not, but ripping off the scab and getting it taken care of is better than letting it sit, I suppose. I’m not at all stressed about doing a public appearance tonight–Ellen is a pro, witty and warm and charming, so really all I have to do is lob softballs to her so she can hit them out of the park–because I don’t mind interviewing people (I don’t mind moderating panels so much as I do public speaking; as long as the focus isn’t on me I am more fine than I am with having to give a talk where the focus is entirely on me; I am not sure why I am so uncomfortable in the spotlight). Ellen is also a friend, which makes it easier; it can be like a casual conversation between two friends who also happen to be writers and who both happen to write about New Orleans.

And speaking of New Orleans, I also went down a wormhole of research yesterday. I’m doing some research for the next Scotty book (more on that later), and found myself in yet another wormhole; I don’t even remember how it started (I think with a story that came across my feed about the Mississippi River battures and a street that used to be on other side of the levee, and still is in some places) and then of course one article leads to another leads to still another and so forth and before I knew it a lot of time had passed. There’s so much about New Orleans and its history that I do not know, or knew at one time and have forgotten, and every last thing I find or remember is fodder: oh, this is interesting, I should write about this. This new Scotty book is mostly going to take place outside of New Orleans for the most part; which is a big risk–writing a Scotty that’s not really a New Orleans story, but also is a New Orleans story. (That sounded confusing, even to me and I know what I am talking about.) You’ll just have to trust me, Constant Reader.

And on that note, this morning’s “haven’t completely woken up yet” chores are waiting. Talk to you tomorrow, and have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader–it’s always a pleasure when you check in.

Colour My World

Today’s title song was ubiquitous in the early 1970’s; I would be curious to know how many proms and other high school dances (fraternity formals, etc.) used “Colour My World” as their theme in the first half of that decade. I think my high school in the suburbs used it my freshmen year as the prom theme; my yearbooks were lost many years ago so I cannot verify anything for certain by taking one down from the shelf and looking. At first, I lamented the loss of so much of my high school and childhood memorabilia: letters for sport, letter jackets, scrapbooks, yearbooks, trophies, medals, certificates–you name it, it disappeared years ago. I do have my junior prom photo, some medals, and a plaque I got for something or another when I was in high school–everything else is gone. After the initial sadness at losing memorabilia of my youth, I got over it pretty quickly; it’s just stuff, and really, it’s nothing I’ve ever truly missed. Sure, sometimes I might remember someone or something, and think, oh if I had my yearbooks I could look this person up but it’s always very fleeting…although now that I am thinking about writing about the 1970s those yearbooks would probably come in handy…

Any other sentimental attachments I may have had regarding possessions were ended by Hurricane Katrina and the things we lost then–and we were lucky, we didn’t lose everything–but the mentality of it’s just stuff has really stuck with me since then. Sure, it’s still difficult for me to get rid of books–my storage attic and unit are proof of that–but I am getting there with the books, too. I am really tired of the attic being full and I am really getting tired of paying the storage unit bill. And if I take one box down from the attic every week and go through it–just to be sure–it will eventually be emptied out.

And of course there are other boxes of books stashed around the Lost Apartment, disguised as tables underneath small blankets working as makeshift tablecloths.

Last year Paul and I discussed our hoarder habits and had decided to “clean like we’re moving”–but we have yet to really pursue that goal.

I’ve been depressed and angry alternatively a lot lately; it really does seem sometimes like we are indeed living in the end times; I find my reaction to developing news lately to be all too frequently something along the lines of well, at least I’m old or #teamextinctionevent or something all those lines. I am so tired of having to fight for my rights and those of other non-straight non-white people, seriously. I try not to let this shit get me down by giving myself pep talks: the arc of history bends towards justice, our system often breaks down but always repairs itself, the majority of Americans really don’t want to take rights away from other Americans–all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. But are those things really true? Democracies and republics historically have always collapsed into authoritarianism, going all the way back to Athens and Rome. Organized religion has always been oppressive and monstrous–but we’re supposed to somehow believe that its modern iterations aren’t (yeah, and I’ve got a bridge across the Mississippi River to sell you, too)–and its historical crimes are far too many to mention. Power and money literally corrupt everything, and religion is not free from that stain, despite all the warnings in the Christian Bible. One of my favorite histories to reread is Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly, and my favorite part is “The Renaissance Popes Spark the Protestant Reformation”, about how those popes, from Sixtus IV through Clement VII, essentially through their pride, venality, and lust for power (and women) were so excessive that they drove Martin Luther to nail his ninety-odd theses to the cathedral door, changing history forever.

So, yeah, miss me with that “organized religion” is a societal good thing. It’s not, nor has it ever been, and religion is yet another way for people to be controlled–the opiate of the masses, as Karl Marx said. (oooh, I quoted Marx. Cue the accusations that I am a Communist!)

Heavy heaving sigh. I have an entire post about my rage about Roe and how we’re next in the crosshairs of the “supreme” Court, but I don’t know if I’ll ever post it. It might make me feel better to express my rage publicly, but will it actually make a difference in the world if I do? There’s nothing more frustrating than feeling helpless–it’s the absolute worst (and why religion exists in the first fucking place, don’t @ me) and the major issue with the world burning to the ground all around me, for me, is that when I get down or depressed or frustrated, that makes it much harder for me to actually write things. I want to get this story finished; I need to get the edits on Streetcar done; I have to finish the Bouchercon anthology; and I need to start planning out the next Scotty. I have this terrific idea for it–can’t talk about it publicly yet, obviously, but I’ve become incredibly proud of my own cleverness in this case–and I really want to spend some time playing around with it this weekend. if I can get the anthology finished, put in some good thinking about the edits and do some workarounds with the notes from my editor, and finish this story as well as a base synopsis of the Scotty book, I will be most pleased with myself come Monday morning.

I slept very well last night–even slept in a bit this morning, so am a bit groggy but shaking it off with the assistance of my morning coffee, but feel very rested. I did clean and organize a bit when I got home last night, which was lovely; the kitchen/office looks a bit better this morning than it did yesterday and I also managed to do all the bed linen (I did not, however, put away the load of dishes in the dishwasher, but still–progress). Paul and I watched The Lost City last night, which was a fun diversion, but it was ultimately overall a bit disappointing to me. I kept seeing the similarities to Romancing the Stone, and in comparison, The Lost City comes up short. Channing Tatum, though, is so adorable-especially when he’s playing a himbo–he carries most of the film on his back, really. I didn’t quite get it, really–Bullock is always charming in everything (I will always appreciate her, if for no other reason than Miss Congeniality is genius)–but for some reason she kind of wasn’t in this, for some reason. Maybe I was expecting more and was disappointed? But really, my primary response to the film was “I need to watch both Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile again.” I think the primary reason the movie failed was the power imbalance between their characters, really; Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner were equals, Bullock and Tatum were not, so when Bullock is mean and dismissive of Tatum’s character, it just comes across as mean and bitchy, not funny–and the history between the two isn’t really set up very well, nor is Bullock’s back story as a heartbroken widow how just wants to hide in her house for the rest of her life. A few more scenes could have set this up and built up the dynamic between them better; it just doesn’t play the way it is edited now…which was enormously disappointing for me, because this is precisely the kind of romantic adventure/treasure hunt story I usually love. I wouldn’t say you shouldn’t watch, Constant Reader. Your mileage might vary, of course; but it essentially left me thinking this could have been so much better.

And now, back to the spice mines. Y’all have a lovely day, okay?

Proud Mary

Left a good job in the city…

Well, Constant Reader, once again Friday has rolled around and I have to go into the office. It’s taking me some getting used to–being in the office four days a week again–and I actually don’t have to go in as early as I do on my other days; I can be there for nine rather than seven thirty, which surprisingly makes a huge difference for me. I did wake up at five, but slept on and off again before waking up for good at six (the usual) but I half-napped in bed for another hour and yes, it felt lovely. I feel quite rested this morning–even if I really don’t want to face the day–but what choice is there? I wish I could stay home, but that’s simply not the way life works for me, at least not yet. Retirement from the day job comes closer and closer every passing day; I wonder–should I in fact make it that far–what it will be like to get up and not have to go into the office every day? Will my productivity increase? Decrease? I’ll be older and creakier, for sure, by then; but hopefully I will also spend the next four years working out fairly regularly and hopefully eating better (although I keep putting both off, don’t I?), so maybe physically I’ll be okay by then? Who knows? I could be killed in a car accident on my way to work this morning.

I was tired yesterday again when I got home from work. I stopped and made groceries on the way home, and tonight I’ll swing by the post office on my way home. I’ll probably have to make another grocery run at some point over the weekend, and I should have to pick up a prescription at some point; so probably Saturday I will swing by, get the prescription, the mail, drop books off at the library sale, and then head to the grocery store. The heat is back and the humidity is also starting to rise again (hurray), but I’ve seen and heard nothing about the swarms of termites this year. I find it rather hard to believe that suddenly the scourge of the Formosan termites has finally ended in New Orleans. I’ll never forget the horror and shock of our first experience with that particular plague of Egypt way back in May 1997, when we were watching television and having a nice quiet evening at home and suddenly the apartment was filled with termites everywhere. It was horrible, and no one had warned us about the impending swarms…so we learned how to live with the little bastards–essentially, at the first sign of one, turn off everything in the house that gives off a light and wait for a while for it all to end. We’ve been very lucky here in the Lost Apartment in that we don’t get swarms inside–we always follow the rule of turn off everything at first sight–but even the outdoor lights here in the back of the house away from the street have never drawn many…although now that I’ve said that publicly we’ll probably wind up buried under termite wings this weekend.

I have a lot of work to do this weekend–what else is new–but that’s fine. I never made that to-do list I talked about making earlier this week; perhaps that will be on today’s agenda. The apartment is a disaster area as always on Friday, but I did finish the laundry and did a load of dishes last night. Progress! I have some projects to finish, lots of emails to answer and send, and I really would like to try to spend some time cleaning up around here. I would like to finish my short story this weekend as well–the submission call closes on Monday, methinks, so hopefully I can focus on it a bit this evening and get a draft finished so I can edit and fix over the weekend. If not, it will simply be chalked up to another lost publishing opportunity to go along with all the others I’ve missed over the years.

I mean, it happens. Regularly.

I also need to read Ellen’s book so I won’t look like a moronic poseur Sunday evening at Blue Cypress Books (at 5 pm! UPSTAIRS! And there’s a bar across the street!) while we are in conversation, bur also fortunately I’ve gotten to know Ellen fairly well over the last couple of years–I mean, as well as one can with someone you mostly communicate with over emails and on social media, with the occasional dinner and/or drinks here and there–so I like to think I can speak to her intelligently and ask her good questions about her books and her writing and her career; otherwise I am just going to crash and burn and make an idiot of myself, which is always a possibility and the big fear whenever I do something like this–not to mention I am always so drained and exhausted afterwards. But Monday is my work-at-home day, so I can recover from the strain of a public appearance.

Yeah, this messy kitchen will have to be tackled tonight rather than put off to the weekend…it’s driving me crazy just sitting here in the midst of it. Heavy sigh. It is long overdue, and maybe tomorrow morning before I run errands and after doing my morning post I can get it all cleaned up and organized and under control.

Perchance to dream…

And on that note, tis time for me to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

Spanish Harlem

Friday morning at last, and I am a more than a little happy to see this reentry week put to rest in the archives, if I am being completely honest. Reentry weeks are always a bit of a disruption, and the older I get the weird transition from one side of my life to the other inevitably becomes more difficult. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the different sides so much–I always feel that the day-to-day life, so disparate and different from the “writer” public life–is good for keeping me grounded as well as keeping my ego in check. After all, you could get whiplash going from being on-stage at the Edgars as the executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America back to lower-level clinic employee (although that’s really not a fair statement about my day job; my day job–while not in management or supervision–is actually important and I do help every one of my clients in a positive way every day; it’s just a vastly different enterprise than my life as a writer and/or everything that is involved, even peripherally, with that).

We finished watching Harry Wild, the new Jane Seymour crime series on Acorn and highly recommend it. Seymour is terrific in the leading role, and everyone in the supporting cast is also good. The young Black teenager who originally mugs her in the first episode eventually becomes her Watson, and they are great together. Paul and I, like so many Americans, are absolute suckers for British crime series, and now that we’ve (alas) finished Harry Wild, we’ll probably go ahead and finish Severance this weekend–we’re very close to the end of the first season, and I do find the show to be both interesting and disturbing at the same time; while I can see why the “severance” would be appealing to people–the utter and complete separation of day-job from personal life–at the same time it would seem incredibly weird and unsettling to me; not knowing what I did the rest of the time? It is interesting, and obviously there are deeper questions about morality and bodily autonomy here as well–and given what’s going on in this country at the current moment, it’s very timely.

I have big plans for this weekend. I have some self-care scheduled for tomorrow morning, and I am also doing an interview/event for Spirit of Ink on Saturday afternoon. I want to finish reading my Carol Goodman novel (it really is quite delicious); I need to do some writing; and of course, there’s always cleaning and organizing that needs to be done. We also had some horrific thunderstorms over night–I don’t remember if I woke up during the storms or not; the same thing happened Wednesday night and I do remember waking up to thunder; I think it was Wednesday night rather than last, honestly. I’ve really been sleeping great lately, and it’s marvelous. I still get terribly tired on the days I have to get up early–I don’t think that will ever change, frankly–but I am adjusting. I actually am planning on returning to the gym this weekend as well; I am hopeful that getting my act together and working out again will also help make me feel better, sleep better, and get more done. I’m really tired of carrying around this extra weight and not being in tip-top shape, but also have to recognize that it will take far longer than it used to now that I am older. It would probably go faster also if I started eating healthier…but I think we know how that is going to go, don’t we?

Yeah, not going to happen. I can try, but make no promises. I like fat and grease and breading and so forth too much to put my vanity (and it’s really not about vanity anymore, really) ahead of what pleasures I get from eating, to be honest. My relationship with food has always been skewed–so has my relationship with my body and my appearance, which I really need to write about sometime–and I always have to worry about my tendency to fall into compulsive/obsessive behavior (I really need to try to continue channeling those quirks of my personality into my writing and promotion of my career) when it comes to exercise and eating and so forth.

Ah, Greg’s personality problems and issues.

I turned my story into the anthology yesterday, and also found another (very short) call for submissions for another anthology I’d like to work on something for. I think my story turned out okay; it needs some tweaking and so forth, perhaps, but I am hoping the editors do like it. I also want to get a couple of other stories I’d also like to starting sending out to various markets to see if anyone wants them; it’s been a hot minute since I’ve sent anything out to other markets rather than the occasional anthology submission call. I wrote a story to submit to Land of 10000 Crimes, the Bouchercon anthology I am currently co-editing, but finally decided to not send in anything for the blind read; I made it past the blind reads in the last two anthologies I edited for Bouchercon, but I kind of got the impression (and it could be wrong; I tend to expect people to be critical and snarky of me and my work) that the fact that I made it past the blind reads on the anthologies I personally edited might look weird and/or suspicious to people on the outside–suuuuuuuure you made it through the blind read–but at the same time, I didn’t help myself by never submitting stories to the Bouchercon anthologies I wasn’t editing. But my story in Blood on the Bayou was a Macavity Award finalist, and my story in Florida Happens was an Anthony finalist, so that sort of makes it seem like my stories were worthy of being published?

But I can certainly get why it’s for the best that I didn’t submit anything to the anthology. But I also really like my story, “The Sound of Snow Falling,” and I’d like to get that out for submission; it’s pretty close to being finished and perhaps maybe one more go-round with it could be in order. There are a few others I’d also like to get out for submission as well–“Death and the Handmaidens” is certainly one of those–and so I am going to add that to my weekend to-do list; look at the some of the almost-completed stories I have on hand, and see which ones can be sent out next week. It’s never a bad idea to keep my hand in, you know.

And now that I am sort of feeling like myself again. I might as well ride this train as far as it will take me before it goes off the rails again.

Have a happy Friday, Constant Reader..

Shadows in the Moonlight

When Anne Rice died back in the winter, I posted a memoriam to her here in which I talked about a very generous thing she did for me and Paul back in the days after he was attacked. It was something deep and personal–one of the reasons why I won’t abide criticism of Mrs. Rice in my presence–and while I did tell some people about it, I kept it quiet for the most part. It was an odd little personal connection I had with one of the most successful writers of my lifetime, and as it had to do with Paul and what happened to him, I also thought it was kind of untoward to write or talk about it publicly. But when she passed, I wanted to let people know a human side of a public figure who could be divisive; I never listened to criticisms of her after the spring of 2004 or could be bothered to read them. There was little, if anything, she could have ever done to change my opinion of her or to forget the grace and kindness she showed to me when I was in a very low place in my life, so I wasn’t interested in listening to or reading anything negative about her. The Witching Hour was also one of the reasons I was drawn to New Orleans in the first place; so overall I would say she had a very positive influence on me and my life, and I will always be grateful to her for that.

Last year, an editor reached out to me (maybe it was two years ago; I really have no concept or sense of time anymore) to write a story an anthology called Unburied; the editor was Rebecca Rowland. I gave her one of the stories I’d written but never found a home for–“Night Follows Night”–which she liked and used and that was very cool. In the wake of Mrs. Rice’s death, she contacted me again to see if I would write a story for a tribute anthology to Mrs. Rice that would also be a fundraiser for a charity she supported.

It was, I thought, the least I could do, so I pulled out “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and finished the first draft before revising umpteen times and turning in.

“Someone was murdered in this house.” Susan Norris said.

Her tone was idle and matter of fact, like she was making small talk at a cocktail party with women she didn’t know and what she was saying didn’t matter in the long run. She was already redecorating the place in her head, picking out color combinations to paint the walls and trim, what furniture she already had could be used or discarded and where it would go. For this front upstairs bedroom, for example, she pictured long curtains of shimmering bright colors in gauze, which would look dramatic billowing out into the room when the windows were open. This would be the room, she decided, where she would have readings or hold seances for her clientele. Those long billowing curtains on nights when thunderstorms raged would be the perfect setting to make even the most cynical skeptic into a true believer. She ran a hand along the beige wall slightly yellowed from nicotine. She could feel layers of paint under her fingertips. The walls hadn’t been stripped in years, which she would need to rectify. It would be a crime to slake another layer on top of what was already there.

The realtor—whatever her name was, Collette or Colleen or Doreen or something like that—paused in her sales patter when Susan’s words finally penetrated her professional façade, a frown furrowing creases into her forehead as she stumbled over a few words and finally stopped speaking. She was a beautiful woman in her late forties, maybe early fifties; one benefit of the Botox she clearly used was a blurring of her actual age. Her long red hair cascaded down over the shoulder pads inside her blouse, which also showed a lot of decolletage. A golden cross with a diamond set in the center glittered against her white bosom. An expensive watch decorated her wrist, her freckled hands were bare other than a wedding band and a diamond engagement ring. “I’m sorry, what did you say?” the realtor asked, surprise giving way to concern that what she hoped would be an easy sale—this place was exactly what Susan had described as wanting to her, when they first spoke—might actually be turning into something else.

Inwardly, Susan cursed at herself. She’d done it again, said something to a stranger that she should have not said aloud. She didn’t want to explain herself to Collette/Colleen/Doreen any more than she wanted to stick a fork into an outlet, so she turned back to the redheaded realtor with a charming smile and said, “I said someone was murdered in this house.” She exhaled. “I did some research on-line when you gave me the addresses of the places you suggested I look at. It was a long time ago, and I shouldn’t have said it out loud, my apologies. I do think this house is perfect for me.”

I was originally using this title for a different story (which has since been renamed “Solace in a Dying Hour”), and so when I started writing this story it was called “The Oracle of Orange Street” (the house she is buying is on Orange Street, one of those mysterious hidden streets in New Orleans whose blocks have slowly vanished over the years until all that is left is a single block between Coliseum and Prytania; it’s very near where I live so I see the Orange Street sign all the time…I think there may be a continuation of it on the other side of Magazine Street; a quick look at a map indicates that it does, indeed, continue on the other side of Magazine to Tchoupitoulas–but if you asked most New Orleanians were Orange Street is, they’d give you a blank look); I’d even already started another story with the character of Susan Norris in it (“Parlor Tricks,” which I tried to finish again recently for yet another last minute submission and wasn’t able to). I like the character of Susan Norris, psychic detective; her mother is actually Madame Xena, who Scotty aficionados might recognize as the woman who originally told Scotty’s family that he “has the Gift!”

So yes, all of my work is connected in some way besides just being by me.

I’ve always loved the idea of a psychic detective (and yes, I watched Psych for years before tiring of it), which is part of the reason why I made Scotty one, but my inspiration for this kind of character goes back to my teens, when I was enjoying Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax series so much that one day at the bookstore I picked up two of her non-Pollifax books, A Nun in the Closet and The Clairvoyant Countess…the latter of whom was, indeed, a psychic and an amateur detective. The book was really a series of connected short stories, each detailing a case that the Countess became involved in helping to solve; gradually the police detective began actually consulting her. I don’t remember how limited her powers were, but to work in a crime story the psychic cannot be all-knowing and all-seeing, obviously; otherwise there would be no mystery to solve. But I enjoyed the book and reread it many times, and always wanted to write about a psychic detective. Scotty’s powers have always been incredibly vague; he usually can channel it through reading tarot cards (which doesn’t always work) and sometimes he goes into a fugue state while he actually talks to the Divine Feminine (She comes in many forms to him) and she gives him hints and clues to the future and what is going on–but he has to figure it out for himself.

One day when I was walking home from the gym I took a different route home than I usually do–I do this to mix things up a bit when I have the time to leisurely stroll, and it’s been helping me reconnect with my neighborhood as well as find many secrets and hidden treasures–and one day the different route took me up Felicity Street from Camp. One of the houses I passed–a lovely old Victorian–actually had an orange tree in the front yard and oranges were littering the ground and sidewalk; some of them rotting (there’s nothing quite like the smell of oranges rotting in the sun) and it reminded me that, oh, yes, indeed, Orange Street was originally named that because there was an orange grove here–whether it was indigenous and imported I cannot say, but I suspect imported–and then I thought, oh, that story you’re writing about the psychic (at that time, it was “Parlor Tricks”) could easily be titled “The Oracle of Orange Street” and I quite liked that title…so when I couldn’t get that story to work for this anthology, I decided to write another story about Susan Norris, reluctant psychic detective, and the opening line just kind of jumped out at me the day I picked the house on Orange Street which would be hers–and it also just happened to be for sale when I picked it; and as I stood there snapping pictures of the house with my phone I thought, yes, what would it be like for a psychic to buy a home in New Orleans? And I quite liked the idea of her just absent-mindedly blurting out to the realtor, “Someone was murdered in this house” and then I was off and running.

You can preorder the ebook here!

Whatcha See is Whatcha Get

Good morning, Constant Reader, and a happy Thursday to you. I am a bit groggy this morning as I swill my first cup of coffee, but Scooter has already been fed and so at least the cat cries have stopped.

For now, at least.

I slept pretty well last night again, and maybe my body has readjusted to my work schedule already, which is nice and I was a bit concerned that it might take a while for that to happen. But I seem to have slipped right back into the routine I was in before I left for New York, and that is, of course, quite lovely. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from the office yesterday and picked up a few things, then once I was home I retired to my easy chair to edit “Solace in a Dying Hour,” which actually is a much better story than I thought it was. In fairness to me, expecting the story to need a great deal of work really isn’t a case of Imposter Syndrome, as one might have expected (it so often is just that), but rather because it was so hard for me to write and took me so long to get into the story groove. It’s actually not bad at all, and just needs some tweaking here and there; which I should be able to do tonight and get turned in by the end of the day. This is actually rather nice, and I am most pleased about it, in all honesty. By the time I’d finished, Scooter was in my lap and I tuned in to get caught up on Superman and Lois; Paul came home while I was watching and we switched to the new Jane Seymour mystery series on Acorn, which is quite good. I’ve always appreciated Jane Seymour and thought she was more talented than she often received credit for; I suppose being a Mini-series Queen during the 1980s didn’t really help all that much–but I thought she was exceptional in the adaptation of East of Eden that was done in the 80’s, in which she played Steinbeck’s perhaps most evil creation, Cathy Ames. (She was also good as Natalie in War and Remembrance, having a remarkably long career for someone who started as a Bond girl in Live and Let Die.) The show is Harry Wild, and we quite enjoyed it; although it’s hard to think of a British crime series we haven’t enjoyed.

I also didn’t get an opportunity to read any more of my Carol Goodman novel, either, which didn’t please me. Perhaps tonight I can relax with my book and the Gothic story of what is going on at that boarding school on the lake. Really, y’all, if you’ve not read anything by Carol Goodman, you really should. But tonight I am coming straight home from the office–no detours, no stops to make–and so hopefully that means I can spend some good quality time reading tonight. Fingers crossed, at any rate, especially since Saturday I have an appointment in the late morning and a ZOOM appearance to make in the mid-afternoon, which means I won’t have a lot of time to do much of anything on Saturday other than making the kitchen background to my computer camera neat and tidy.

I was also delighted to see that the Saints signed former LSU and Kansas City Chiefs standout (and local high school star from St. Augustine’s) TYRANN MATHIEU. The Honey Badger is finally coming home to New Orleans (HUZZAH!) and I think this was an incredibly smart move by the Saints. Mathieu has already proven himself to be a leader who is interested in helping and giving back to the community (he helped fund the new state-of-the-art training center for the LSU football team, for example, despite the fact that he was kicked off the team and out of school for infractions after his sophomore year), and what better brand ambassador in the city of New Orleans for the Saints than a local kid who made good? I’ve never really understood why the Saints never signed anyone from LSU over the many years since Sean Payton took over–especially since so many of those stars were from either New Orleans or Louisiana–but maybe it was a “local hero ego” kind of thing. Who knows? (Paul and I dreamed that Joey Burrow would end up playing for the Saints, but that would have been too much to hope for, really.) I’ll be actually curious to see how LSU and the Saints will do this year; I remember the last time new coaches came in to both around the same time was 2005 at LSU (Les Miles) and 2006 with the Saints (Sean Payton)–both of those turned out well, so here’s hoping the new coaches at both for 2022 will also turn out well.

As always with football season, hope springs eternal.

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