Vicious Circle

Ugh, Monday morning. I slept really well again last night–woke up before the alarm, in fact–and feel relatively well rested, if not completely mentally awake yet. I am sort of feeling like myself again; like my batteries have finally recharged, even if it meant putting some things off for a few days and just allowing myself to relax completely. The Lost Apartment is all pulled back together again; I’ve made some terrific progress with my writing, and my creativity is firing on almost all of its cylinders again, which is more than I ever thought would happen for me again. I finished reading The Russia House yesterday–it’s quite good, if unexciting; the writing itself is so marvelous the coldness of the story itself doesn’t matter, really–and we started watching season two of Very Scary People, getting through the Son of Sam and Night Stalker cases, and then part one of the Coed Killer (honest takeaway from this series: California sure has a lot of mass murderers and serial killers/rapists) before retiring for the evening. I also started reading Jack Olsen’s The Man with the Candy: The Story of the Houston Mass Murders (interesting title, because the term “serial killer” hadn’t really been coined yet), which is extremely well written, and also paints an interesting picture of Houston; coupled with Thomas Thompson’s Blood and Money–I’ve always wanted to write about Houston. I lived there for two years, and then six months again a few years later, and it’s an interesting, complicated city that no crime writer, at least that I am aware of, has set a crime series in, or written a crime novel set there….which is something I find interesting. I think it’s also true of Dallas.

Interesting trivia Greg fact: the Chanse series was originally set in Houston, and the first book was called The Body in the Bayou. I later, when I started writing it seriously (and got beyond two chapters) I moved the series to New Orleans and the story evolved into Murder in the Rue Dauphine, which is the real reason why Chanse was from Texas: he was originally supposed to have lived in Houston, playing for the (at the time) Oilers after attending Texas A&M before getting injured and becoming a private eye. (In the published series, Chanse went to LSU instead of A&M, and was injured in his final college game, which kept him from playing in the pros.)

I still think someone should write a cop or private eye series set in Houston. As wild and crazy as these true crime books set there make Houston seem, I doubt very seriously that the city isn’t wild and crazy still. I remember going to see the stage version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) there, the very first time it was publicly performed (little known Greg fact), and the audience was interesting….I loved the guys in their formal jackets, ties, Wranglers and boots escorting women in evening gowns and furs and dripping with diamonds ( needless to say, I was wearing a nice pair of slacks and a dress shirt, but I spent the intermissions and the pre-performance time in the lobby literally just staring at the fascinating fashion choices for Houston’s moneyed class).

Oddly enough, there were not many children there; considering it was the stage production of a Disney animated film, you’d think there would be more kids there…but it was a world premiere, and more about Houston’s higher class showing off jewels, furs, and gowns more than anything else.

I also had fun brainstorming the background work for Chlorine over the weekend; naming characters and loosely sketching out bios for them, as well as trying to figure out how to pull off the plot and how to make it work. This is the really fun part of a book–figuring out everything–before the drudgery of actually writing it starts. I am very excited about writing this book, though, and it’s been a hot minute since I was excited about writing a book–in fact, so long that I can’t remember the last time I was actually excited to write a book–it may have been Lake Thirteen, all those years ago–which is different than being happy to write a book. I also have to be careful not to worry about expectations of other people, too–Chlorine began its life as just a vague idea I had one morning while writing my blog, which somehow caught on with some of my friends on Twitter who started tweeting at me (some of them still, periodically, will bring up Chlorine on social media, wondering where it is and when I am going to write it), excited about the idea.

I also spent some time yesterday coming up with a to-do list, which I always enjoy doing when I’m not stressed and worn out. When I am stressed and worn out (hello, first three months of this year), to-do lists simply make things worse more than anything else; emphasizing how far behind I am and how much I have to get done and sometimes–not always, just sometimes–the to-do list defeats me once it’s written. Just looking at it causes me stress. I’m not sure how long I am going to be able to hold off stress at the moment–it’s always just lurking there, in my peripheral vision, waiting to pounce on my like a tiger and hold me down–but I am hoping that having the apartment back together and having the two deadlines in my rearview mirror will help stave off it’s inevitable return for a little while, at least.

Tonight I am planning–we’ll see how that goes–to return to the gym for the first time in a couple of weeks, which means basically starting over with one set of everything, which means I won’t be there for terribly long, which for a Monday night is a good thing, most likely. Here’s hoping this will also help me fall asleep tonight; insomnia so frequently derails me. The office is also on track to going back to full staffing and regular open hours, possibly as early as May; I am curious to see how that winds up going. I’ve gotten used to the tumbleweeds blowing through our mostly empty department, and it will seem weird having other people around when they actually starts to happen.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Monday, all, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Touched by the Hand of God

Sunday morning, and I am swilling coffee and eating coffee cake and trying to wake up. I slept very well again last night, and am starting to feel more…normal, whatever that means for me, since I am anything but normal. I have things to get done today, but the apartment is starting to feel like home again for the first time in a while (since everything went haywire week before last). The laundry room is mostly reassembled, and the book shelves in there look neat and tidy and organized, which rather pleases me. The living room is….well, the living room. I am always going to have too many books in my house (even typing that a voice inside my head was shrieking you can never have too many books what are you talking about?); but I am developing a certain heartlessness as I continue to fill boxes with books for the library sale. At some point, I am going to have to start going through the boxes of books on top of the kitchen cabinets and the ones in the storage attic, and my goal is to have cleaned out not only the attic but the storage unit I’ve rented for far too long.

We finished the first season of Very Scary People on HBO last night, concluding with the two-parter on Jim Jones (we skipped Gacy–have seen enough of him lately already–and Aileen Wuornos, because we watched one on her already recently) and will be moving on to season two probably this evening. I am way behind on Superman and Lois–mainly because it’s something I started watching without Paul and so, rather than trying to get him caught up, I am just going to continue watching without him (I always, inevitably, have to fill him in on super-hero backstory and so forth anyway in most cases, though I think he knows enough Superman lore–doesn’t everyone, really–that he wouldn’t need explanations in this case).

I’ve started–sort of–working on Chlorine this weekend, mostly free hand and mostly in my journal, mapping out backstory and so forth for the main character, and I’ve also started working on the backstory for the body in the surf, and the plot–which was kind of amorphously planned in my head, but yesterday I started nailing down specifics in the plot. It’s going to be kind of fun to write, I think–I always think that going into a manuscript; ever the optimist–and while it’s very tempting to use real people as characters, I think I will make the ones who actually are on the page and participating in the story fictional, but mention others–Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, etc.–in passing. I know the studio is going to be fictional–tempted as I am to use Fox or MGM–and I also know I need to sprinkle in some of the conservatism that reigned then, as everyone was afraid of Communists and having to testify in front of HUAC in Washington; it was the time of ‘the lavender scare” (also the title of a terrific history of the period and this very thing, by David Johnson; I highly recommend it) and so homosexuality was also driven even further underground because we were seen as security risks, particularly if we worked in government since it put us at risk for blackmail by Communists (I touched on this briefly in my story “The Weight of a Feather”, collected in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories).

I also worked on getting organized yesterday. I did a lot of filing, and took a lot of books off my desk and replaced them with ones I’ll be using for research and background for this book. I kind of feel like I already know my main character (even though I couldn’t remember his name yesterday as I wrote notes in my journal); he grew up in Kansas, was caught by his father in a “compromising position” with his high school basketball coach in the tiny little town he grew up in and was forced to enter the military at age 17–going into the Navy and serving in the South Pacific, where he found other men like himself, and thus became familiar with the underground gay community within the military, as well as in Honolulu and Los Angeles (on leaves). After mustering out in 1946 he comes to LA to become a movie star, is discovered by a Henry Willson type agent, and at the start of the story his seven year control with Pacific Pictures is coming to an end, they aren’t going to renew his contract, and he is in fact being sacrificed to a tabloid in order to protect another client, a rising star the tabloid was going to out–loosely based on how Henry Willson sold out Rory Calhoun and Tab Hunter to Confidential to save Rock Hudson; but unlike them, my character’s agent has a plan for him: a long-term contract to work with an Italian film company making sword-and-sandal epics.

It’s a great set-up, and one that I hope to not let down…right now I am feeling confident that I can write this and it will be amazing; of course, once I start the doubts and imposter syndrome will start creeping in and I will spend most of my time wondering what the hell I was thinking to try to write such a thing in the first place.

I couldn’t have picked a better career path for a neurotic, could I?

I also lined up all the potential short story calls I am interested in submitting to, matched them up with an in-progress story that fits their call (or at least what does in my mind; I am really not that great a judge of these things, in all honesty) and need to plan out when to reread and when to rewrite. It’s very strange; now that I am coming out of the exhaustion from the writing of the two books back to back I am amazed at how light I feel; I don’t feel that oppressive burden nor the stress that comes from carrying it. I know both manuscripts need work and I need to revise and rework and edit one last time with each, and there’s a deadline for the first for sure–but I am going to put that off until next weekend, when I have the time to sit and go through Bury Me in Shadows from beginning to end, making notes, making corrections, and so on and so forth to get it polished into a diamond…or as close to one as I can get one of my books.

So, I am going to spend the rest of this morning swilling coffee and trying to finish reading The Russia House. I love LeCarré; he is such a terrific writer I can get lost in his sentences and paragraphs forever–but I find myself not loving the plot or the characters in this one, which is why it’s taking me so long to get through this one, I think. He also does an excellent job of taking me back into that 1980’s world/mentality of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union–that halcyon time when the fear of nuclear annihilation began to fade somewhat but at the same time the worry of what would fill the vacuum created by that collapse was almost nearly as intense (it didn’t take long for conservatives to replace Communists with Muslims as the scary other from another part of the world determined to destroy us); not to mention the wondering if glasnost and perestroika weren’t real or sincerely meant; LeCarré does an absolutely amazing job with that cold intelligence paranoia.

And then, for something similar yet completely different, I am going to reread Dorothy Gilman’s The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax.

I also would like to get back to the gym today; it looks absolutely lovely outside, and the walk will be lovely.

Until tomorrow, Constant Reader. Have a lovely Sunday!

Sabotage

So, yesterday was new washing machine day. Thursday evening I took the laundry room apart, went outside and measured the places that looked like they may be too tight for the washer to get through, etc. I also had to move some things around outside as well. But it was finally delivered and installed–right at the end of the window I was given–and then I ran a few errands before coming home to get caught up on laundry and, well, reassemble the laundry room. It didn’t take long, for example, for me to realize that rehanging the doors was a two person job, so the doors will stay down until there’s a day when the handyman is here and I see him outside; he’s very nice, so I can’t imagine he wouldn’t come in and screw the bolts back in while I hold the doors in place.

The new washer is lovely, really; but it is also computer-operated (the dreaded motherboard–which always makes me think, “oh yay, something else that can break”) and it is much more complex and complicated to operate. It also doesn’t have a traditional agitator inside; it’s hard to explain how it actually agitates the laundry, but it does somehow–and the spinning is so strong that the clothes feel merely damp rather than wet when they come out. I also have to get used to the new and different noises it makes–its sounds are vastly different than its predecessor’s, and since the flood when its predecessor broke last week, I am paranoid about washing machine noises.

It’s going to take some getting used to–as well as learning how to use it. My old washer was relatively simple–you chose the water-load size and then selected what kind of cycle and what kind of water temperature you wanted, pulled the dial out, and were done with it until it was finished. This one you choose the water temperature you want, the kind of load (at least eight options) and then the kind of cycle–again, eight options. The basket will spin one direction and then back the other a few times for the sensor to determine how big the load is and how much water it needs–you can also manually ask it to add more water, once the sensor has determined how much to use–and well, yeah, it’s complicated. It’s also “green”–it conserves energy and water, based on those afore-mentioned sensors. (And yes, every time I think “sensors” in the back of my head something whispers something else that can break….)

It also made me curious–when the old washer was taken out and the new one put in, I was able to retrieve some things that had fallen behind it or been knocked underneath it by one cat or the other over the years–we had it for sixteen years and two cats, after all, it was a miracle there weren’t more things underneath it–but the floor was filthy beneath, just disgusting–and of course the delivery guys were on a timetable so I could hardly ask them to wait while I cleaned the floor beneath; which makes me wonder, do people clean regularly beneath their washer and dryer? Considering, in my case, I would have to disconnect them completely and move them out, neither of which would be easy, I am resigned to having a disgustingly filthy floor beneath the two appliances (now I am also wondering about beneath the refrigerator). I would imagine most people probably don’t regularly clean beneath their washer/dryer sets; but I am willing to go out on a limb here and say that my mother probably does.

While reassembling the laundry room I also picked out books to donate to the library, and found lots of books, buried behind stacks of others, that I’d forgotten I even owned. “Oh, yes, I did buy Gloria Steinem’s essay collection, didn’t I? Oh, there’s Rabbit, Run, and that biography of Cardinal Richelieu I was wondering about a few months ago.” So many books–and of course, one of the delivery guys was like, after looking at the shelves in there, the stacks of books on the living room floor and the book cases, with books crammed into the shelves and stacked on top, in a voice of clear wonder, have you read ALL these books?

The answer, of course, is no–one of the things I’ve reluctantly been doing is donating the books I’ve already read to the library sale; figuring that I will never have time to reread them and if I do need to reread them, well, The Reread Project definitely taught me I can certainly reread books in Digital form, even if I may not necessarily want to read them that way originally.

It’s gloomy and raining outside this morning; thunder woke me in the midst of a downpour around four this morning, but the rain lulled me back into a very deep and comfortable sleep, and I suspect it’s going to rain all day–at least it looks that way right now. I haven’t gotten any emergency alerts, so flooding isn’t happening–it’s steady now, not torrential, which usually means the drains and pumps can handle it–but it is indeed a gray morning; perfect for curling up with a book. My emails–ignored yesterday–have gotten a bit out of control (as they always do) and so I am going to have to go through there today. The emails are an endless nightmare for me from which I never seem to be able to either wake up from or get caught up on…but I also kind of snapped this week about them; as always, the stress builds to the point where something in my brain just snaps and I think to myself, it is what it is and I can only do so much per day.

Like, right now I am thinking, go sit in your chair and read for a whileface it all later when you’ve had more coffee and are more awake, and it actually sounds like the plan for the morning. I have to do a ZOOM thing later today for the Northwest chapter of MWA–a question and answer thing for like half an hour about MWA–and I am also going to need some time to prepare for that. There’s also more organizing and cleaning to get done today, and I also started wanting to map out/work on Chlorine this weekend as well as some short stories, and I am going to get back to the gym tomorrow–no desire to walk there today in the rain, frankly–and I also need to start working on the edits for Bury Me in Shadows at some point this weekend. Heavy heaving sigh.

It truly never ends, does it?

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

Elegia

Ugh, Monday morning.

At least I finished the draft of the book yesterday, so huzzah! It’s probably still a big old mess, and a whole lot of revision and rewriting is going to be required by my ever-patient and long-suffering editor, but it’s fucking done. And I have to say, in addition, that I’m kind of glad to be done with that manuscript, at least for now, and at least it’s in some sort of shape that makes sense and is hopefully fixable.

The espresso machine is still not making cappuccino shots, still only making an espresso shot despite having enough water for the larger shot; apparently just turning that extra water into steam. The new one should arrive today, so this morning will be the last time I have to use this old, no longer properly working one. I’ve also learned my lesson from the debacle of last Wednesday as far as how to drink the proper amount of caffeine this morning. What I should do is not make another and simply swing through the Starbucks drive-thru at St. Claude and Elysian Fields and pay a ridiculous amount of money for one of their lattes with a shot of vanilla in it…but as it also still causes me physical pain to pay that much money for one, I will most likely repeat the enormous mistake of last week and wind up over-caffeinating. I’ll be sad to get rid of this espresso machine; it was cheap and served me well for seven years almost, but I am really looking forward to using the new one, and seeing what it does.

I have tomorrow off so I can take Paul to his colonoscopy. Big excitement, right? At least I can take The Russia House with me to read while that’s going on. We don’t know what time his appointment is for; he has to go get a COVID test today, and once they get the result will call to let him know what time he needs to come in tomorrow morning (or afternoon; it could be at any time). Our new washer is also being delivered this Friday, and now of course I am stressing about how they are getting the old one out and the new one in. I’ll probably go ahead and remove the laundry room door on Thursday, as well as taking out the bottom shelf and everything on it to make as much room for them in the tight space as possible. I keep telling myself they’re used to this sort of thing and not worrying; after all, they were able to deliver and install the original one, weren’t they? And we’ve had three dryers delivered and installed over the last sixteen years, so I am probably worrying about nothing, right? Right? But so many things have been going wrong around here for so long–this weekend, we kept blowing a fuse in the kitchen–which is worrisome, especially since the last time it blew yesterday it wouldn’t flip back, and it was hot to the touch, so I let it sit for about two hours and then tried again. It worked that time–the kitchen lights are still on this morning (it’s also the same fuse the refrigerator and dishwasher are on, so I’ve not been able to. use the dishwasher as the fuse goes every time) so here’s hoping the guys can come out today and replace the fuse or figure out the problem with it so it will stop tripping.

We finished watching The Clown and the Candyman yesterday, as they tried to make the connection between the two notorious serial killers and the John Norman pedophilia ring, and as I watched and listened, I kept thinking to myself this sounds like where that QAnon pedophile conspiracy theory probably got its start–which doesn’t mean that it’s not based in some kind of fact; the QAnon conspiracy theory might actually be grounded in some kind of reality–which doesn’t, of course, mean what they are saying on those message boards and so forth is true, either. But it was interesting, to say the least, and the parallels and possible connection between these two mass murderers is fascinating to contemplate. And of course, the entire time I was watching I was scribbling down notes and ideas for stories and so forth. We also finished watching Resident Alien last night, which was exceptionally clever and rather well done; I am assuming last night’s final episode we watched was the season finale because the end was the perfect cliffhanger.

Fun!

I’ve also fallen behind on Superman and Lois, and with this draft of the book finished, I should be able to get back on track with everything else that I’ve fallen behind on–groan, my email inbox alone–and I have to do some tweaking of Bury Me in Shadows, which I am hoping to get to work on this coming weekend. I kind of want to take this week to kind of chill and relax and get a handle on everything. I’ve never felt caught up at all at any time over the past year, which is terrible and drives me crazy; there’s nothing worse than feeling behind all the time and like you’re never going to catch up.

And on that note….tis back to the spice mines with me! Happy day after Easter, everyone!

Chemical

Sunday, and time for the final push on the book. I’m at the point in writing where I feel like my entire life has become subsumed by the book; that point where it has seized almost complete control of your brain and you are thinking in terms of when this is done I’ll have my life back. I am also at the point where I hate everything about it, am heartily sick of the story and the characters when I am not actually working on them, and also when I am questioning any and all of my life choices.

I had a socially distant drink (or two) with a friend in from out of town for the Easter holiday, and her mixology skills may have gotten me to switch my allegiance from vodka to gin when it comes to martinis. They are two very different drinks–I’d never particularly cared for gin when I’d tried it in the past, but the traditional martinis she made me yesterday were quite tasty. I did all the errands I had to do yesterday, including the laundromat trip I’d talked about–which was interesting, and I did get much further in The Russia House while I was waiting to switch clothes from washer to dryer and then to finish drying–and then I came home to work for a bit before the cocktail date. It has been quite a long while since I’ve had anything alcoholic to drink, and it was so nice and normal I wasn’t quite sure how to act. After I got home and made dinner, we watched the regional final (LSU qualified for the national semi-finals; they did better than they had the day before, but it was still a rather sloppy meet for them; they can do better and score higher than they have) and then it was on to watch another serial killer documentary series–The Clown and the Candyman (recommended by a friend on Facebook).

Gacy is the more famous of the two serial killers who targeted and tortured boys and young men; Gacy came after Dean Korll and is better remembered for some reason. I guess it’s the whole clown thing, but Korll was, I think, even more sadistic than Gacy and the whole candyman thing–he used to work in his mother’s candy store and gave candy away to kids. It’s kind of terrifying, really, to think about how things usually associated with children were twisted around by these horrible killers. It’s like if the ice cream truck driver turned out to be a serial rapist/killer (Stephen King kind of did this in Mr. Mercedes), or some other trusted person people felt safe having around their kids. This documentary touches on something the Gacy docuseries briefly touched on; that Gacy may have been involved with a nation-wide ring of pedophiles involved in sex trafficking boys. The similarities between the Korll and Gacy murders are eerie and creepy; the assumption has always been that Gacy kind of copied what Korll did, but what if they actually were connected in some way–which is even more terrifying to think about or consider. I’ve always wanted to write about Dean Korll; I heard about the mass killings in the Heights when I first moved to Houston back in 1989, and have been fascinated by the story ever since. I am really looking forward to watching the second half tonight….if I finish my book.

Speaking of which, I am so close to being finished!

So, when I finish this I am going to go back and read the previous drafts of these last two chapters–I don’t think there’s much to be saved from them, frankly, but hey, stranger things have happened–and get them reworked to fit the final narrative. It’s been quite a journey writing this book, frankly–going back all the way to the summer of 2015 when I wrote the first draft in a burst of energy and excitement that hot and fetid July in New Orleans. I’ve also been so horribly disorganized, computer wise, since the Great Data Disaster of 2018, when things started going haywire with my desktop computer and nothing has really been the same since (I’ve not really tried to organize my computer files since then, with so much to do and so much going on; one of the things I decided yesterday was to make sure that, with the manuscript finished and so forth, that I spend some time over the next month–when not revising Bury Me in Shadows one last time–getting all my files and so forth organized–it’s been an absolute bitch revising this manuscript because there are so many versions and so many drafts scattered throughout all my storage–iCloud, dropbox, back up hard drive–that I am never entirely sure I am using the most current version of any of it, to be honest; but it’s fine, really. I am pleased with this version of it, and if there exists better drafts of chapters I’ve been working on, oh well). It’s just so time consuming to go through everything, opening and reading files, determining where the right space for them is, and so forth.

Sigh. So much organizing to get done.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Easter, and have a lovely day.

I’ll Stay With You

Good morning, Saturday, hope you’re doing fine!

I can’t even begin to tell you, Constant Reader, how unsettling it is has been for me–and I know this is an entirely a mental disorder of some sort–having that full laundry basket sitting on top of my unusable washing machine these last few days–to the point where I am seriously considering going to the laundromat on Magazine Street this morning an just getting it over with, you know? Annoying as it could possibly–and probably will–be, it’s really bothering me that I have that basket full and knowing that, even though the new washer is coming this Friday, the laundry will just continue piling up. It’s also unsettling because I usually launder the bed linens on Friday and obviously, I was unable to do that this past week as well. I am such a creature of habit–and such a completist–that it is unsettling to me that I started to do laundry and never got very far with it; I think that’s the real reason it is bothering me. So last night before I went to bed–we did finish the Gacy docuseries, and someone has recommended another one, that connects Gacy with Dean Corll, the Houston mass murderer who also targeted young men and boys–that I may have to check out.

It’s horrible, isn’t it, that watching these true crime serial killer documentaries gives me story ideas? I was scribbling away in my journal last night as we watched (we also watched LSU in the regional college gymnastics preliminaries; despite having an incredibly bad night, riddled with falls and mistakes, they qualified for the regional final–which tells you how good they really are. They have the potential, if everyone hits, to win the national title) and making notes; particularly for a short story idea I had a while ago for a deeply disturbing story about a young man being held by a psychotic, called “Oubliette.” I actually wrote the opening paragraphs while watching the docuseries last night, and I also realized that one of the primary reasons that the images of Gacy–those videotaped interviews are fucking chilling–bothered me so much was because Brian Dennehy was so brilliant playing Gacy in a TV movie back in the day that I always picture Dennehy whenever I think of Gacy, so adjusting my brain to register no, that really is Gacy and the reality is so much creepier than the Dennehy performance it was kind of hard to wrap my mind around it.

I wrote yesterday, and if I stick to my plan the book will be able to be turned in on Monday, which is lovely and also an enormous release of pressure for me. These final chapters are turning into something I think is kind of wonderful, but I am not entirely sure I’m going to stick the landing–I so rarely do, let’s be honest–and I am also worried about the length of the book; it’s right now already over ninety thousand words, and I don’t know that I want it to go over a hundred thousand–and at the pace I am going that is going to happen. I suppose during the editorial process I can trim ten to twenty thousand words from the book; Bury Me in Shadows also came in long (as did, now that I think about, Royal Street Reveillon) and will probably need some judicious pruning; I have until the end of this month to revise and edit it, with my editorial notes. I’m not sure why I started writing long again–but it’s also kind of nice; the last really long book I wrote was Mardi Gras Mambo and I was also beginning to think I couldn’t write long anymore.

Apparently not a problem. Although Chlorine really needs to be tight, lean and nasty.

So, this morning I am going to go to the laundromat (taking The Russia House along with me; I read some more of it yesterday), dropping off a library book, getting the mail, and making groceries. I also have a prescription to pick up, and a friend is in town and we’re going to have (socially distanced) drinks later, after I get my work done. I haven’t ha an actual drink–Paul and I were talking about this last night–since I went to New York for the MWA board meeting last year in January–Paul hasn’t had one since last year’s Carnival. How weird, right?

I can’t remember the last time I went for over a year without a drink–but it’s not like I actually missed it, either.

I am actually looking forward to being finished with this book, but am also glad my creativity is kicking into gear again.

And on that note, I need to get ready to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you tomorrow.

Your Silent Face

Hello, Thursday, how’s it hangin’?

Yesterday was kind of strange, really. In the morning I had issues with my espresso machine–no worries, I ordered a new one–but since the problem was the water was turning to steam rather than coming through the ground beans, I think the smaller amount of actual coffee produced had a much higher octane than I am used to having in the morning. Since the second cup–which is usually the cappuccino I sip off the rest of the morning at work–was also somewhat smaller than usual, I made a small cup of regular coffee with the Keurig to add to it so I would have enough for the morning.

It was about nine, I think, when I realized I had made a horrible mistake with the caffeine dosages and was essentially bouncing off the walls, over-caffeinated, with the whole eyes burning thing that usually means I am really tired and have had too much caffeine to compensate, and yeah. I was too jittery to do much of anything, and I was talking a mile-a-minute with my clients All. Damned. Day. And of course, on my way home, I had the inevitable caffeine crash…I had intended to go to the gym, but it was also supposed to rain. When I got home, I decided to do a load of laundry, and while that was going, I’d work on some emails, possibly the book, and if it hadn’t started raining by six when I switched the laundry from washer to dryer, I would then head to the gym. As I sat here, being constantly pestered by Scooter (and frankly, being annoyed) I heard water running–loudly; so loud it couldn’t be the washer, so I thought, ah, it’s raining, so the gym is out. But it kept get louder, and finally I looked out the window and realized, to my horror, that it was not, in fact, raining….so I spun around in may chair and saw that not only was the laundry room floor under water, it was spreading into the rugs into the kitchen. I immediately ran (splashed) into the laundry room, lifted the lid to the washer….and there was no water in it, and the sound of running water, naturally, stopped when I lifted the lid. I dragged the sopping wet rugs outside and draped them over the fence to dry, and then gathered up all the towels from inside the washer–oh yes, I was doing a load of towels–and they weren’t enough. I had to get all the towels from the linen closet upstairs to mop up and dry the floor. (Dragging the sopping wet rugs outside had also resulted in pools of water being formed wherever the rugs had passed–so the living room floor, the steps outside–and so I had to keep mopping.)

And of course, not being the most emotionally stable person at the moment–the stress of the deadline, any number of other things, the sense that I am just treading water in the deep end of the pool and getting very very tired–led to an almost amazing storm of emotions, swinging back and forth from a horrific depression (why does everything always have to be so fucking hard? What’s the point of staying positive when life just keeps shoveling shit on top of you?) to almost out of control hysterics (how are we going to afford a new washer? What are we going to do without a washing machine? So from now on every week I’m going to have to drag everything to a laundromat? Because I have nothing else to do? Something else stealing my time away from me?). Yeah, it wasn’t pretty, and when finally the pendulum stopped swinging–I was wringing out the soaking towels in the bathroom sink before putting them in the dryer–an eerie calm had descended over me, and I just didn’t care about anything anymore. This was even more disquieting than the swinging pendulum, frankly–I was worried something in my brain had snapped and the not caring thing was kind of, well, scary. When Paul got home, completely exhausted–he’d stayed up all night Tuesday working on a grant and working on a special project–he was also in that “mind has kind of broken” place, and we commiserated about everything and came up with a workable plan. We’re going to see if we can get a washing machine from Costco–figuring it can’t be more expensive there than it would be anywhere else–and we needed, ironically, to buy new towels anyway (I’ve just been putting it off, worrying about spending money), so we are going to also get some new towels while we are there. The carriage house is still unrented, and I think there’s a washer/dryer in there, so we are going to ask our landlady if we can use the washing machine in there until our new one comes–or else I’ll just have to go spend some time at a laundromat-and yes, it will eat up some time in my day, but at the same time, I can do all the laundry all at once, and I can read The Russia House while I sit and wait.

The book isn’t quite finished yet, either, so I am going to tell them I am taking the weekend to finish and polish and will send it in on Monday. Writing this book, I realized, as well as the one before it, has also taken a deep emotional toll on me (part of the reason last night’s meltdown was so intense, frankly), as did the one I wrote right before it. Writing back to back books that came from deep inside personal experience as well as facing up to those personal experiences has been emotionally exhausting and draining, to say the least.

I slept very well–I did wake up a few times during the night–but feel rested, if drained, this morning. One of the reasons I always try to stave off the meltdowns and the pendulum swings is precisely because it’s exhausting, and today I have a kind of hangover from it. The apartment is still a mess–it was a HUGE mess before the flooding; after the calm descended last night I told myself you know, the only thing you can actually control is how messy this fucking apartment is, and so I set to work on getting everything put away and organized and under control again. I didn’t finish–after Paul and I talked and he went to bed, I went into the living room and sat down, flipped on the DVR and went to my happy place–watching LSU game highlights, like the last five minutes of last season’s Florida and Mississippi games, with those amazing comeback wins pulled off in the closing minutes of each game–before finally retiring to bed.

Today is insane and all over the map. We have to take Scooter into the vet this morning for a follow-up on his diabetes as well as his “senior cat” blood panels, and then I am going to run uptown and get the mail, drop off a library book, and at some point we’re going to swing by Costco. I have six hours of data entry to squeeze in today around all of that, and I also need to do some writing (obviously); so it’s going to be a bit of a hectic day with lots of running around and utter madness. The towels hadn’t dried completely in the dryer, so I am running them through another full cycle–they’re dirty, too, since I mopped up the floor with them; but I also didn’t want to have to carry a load of sopping wet towels anywhere, whether it’s to a laundromat or to the carriage house. I’ve checked the rugs–they are dry, so they can be brought in and put back into place–it’s going to be sunny all day, so I am also liking the idea of them being aired out, and while they are draped over the fence I want to beat them with the broom (makeshift rug beater), and I like the idea of them outside air drying and getting whatever smells may be in them swept away by the sun and the wind and so forth.

And on that note, let me get another cup of coffee and brace myself for the rest of the day and whatever fresh hells it has in store for me. I will let you know tomorrow how it all goes, Constant Reader.

Love Less

Wednesday, and pay-the-bills day yet again has rolled around. Heavy heaving sigh. But at least I can pay them, for which I should be–and am–grateful.

This morning a PDF proof of my Sherlock Holmes story dropped into my inbox for me to proof-read; this is very exciting for me, to be honest. The book is called The Only One in the World, and is from Clandestine Press in Australia–so not really sure if or how it will be available in the United States….but it’s still exciting for me. I am far enough distant from the writing of the story to not really remember much about it, so rereading it will be kind of like reading something new for me–also kind of exciting. The cover looks pretty cool, too.

I am getting so close to being finished with the book it isn’t even funny. I can almost taste it, I am so close…it’s due tomorrow, so by the time I go to bed tonight I should have a better idea as to whether I am going to get it finished tomorrow or not, or if I will need the long holiday weekend (thank you, Louisiana Catholics!). Last night I had every intention of going to the gym once I got home from the office, but I hit a wall on the drive home and so once I was home, it was to the easy chair with the laptop and the Taylor Swift Vimeo account for background noise. Paul came home later and had to work on a grant, so he went upstairs and I kept writing until I burned out and couldn’t stand the sound of my own written voice anymore and put it aside.

I felt like I slept really well again last night, but my espresso machine is giving up the ghost. I’m not sure what’s wrong with it–and let’s face it, I didn’t buy a top-of-the-line one and as cheap as it was, it’s a miracle it’s lasted as long as it did–so I am now in the market for a new one. I am going to obviously keep this one until I get the new one, and hope that whatever was wrong with it this morning was just me being tired and doing something stupid…but it is old–I bought it right after our trip to Italy (sigh, Italy) which was seven years ago. (Wow.) So, I think seven years worth of work from a relatively cheap espresso machine is probably pretty fucking great; when I bought it I figured it would last, at most, two years. I have a lot of work to do at home tomorrow…the endless hell of CDC data entry…but at least I can do it in my sweats without showering, and I can also do it in my easy chair with a purring sleeping kitty in my lap, which is really my favorite way of doing anything, really.

Although I wish I had thought to pick up The Russia House for a few more chapters, but my brain was kind of fried and frazzled. I am really looking forward to being finished (well, for now, at least) with writing this book. I do need to go through my folder of submission calls I am interested in to see if there’s anything I have on hand–either partially written or needing a revision–that will fit any of them. I know I was thinking about one for “Death and the Handmaidens,” and there was another for “The Blues Before Dawn” and yet still another one I remember thinking “He Didn’t Kill Her” would work for as well. I also need to look over “This Thing of Darkness” again and see if i can figure out how to make it work–I suspect in its current iteration it doesn’t, which is why its been rejected twice–and I really would like to finish “Please Die Soon” to send somewhere, maybe Ellery Queen.

Or Alfred Hitchcock. That’s a bucket list item I’ve yet to cross off my list.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow!

Too Late

Outside of the “getting up to an alarm” thing that is always a trial for me every morning, I think I feel rested and alert today–as opposed to yesterday’s Greggy Grogginess. This I hope is a good sign for today’s workday and the work to come tonight. I didn’t get as much work on the book done as I would have liked yesterday–I’m really going to have to dig deep today and try to get back on schedule–but the work I did get done last night was good work, and therefore I will take it. It was most pleasing to our eyes.

After I finished working on the book, I spent some more time with The Russia House, which is actually quite marvelous, and watched a documentary on the history of gay porn which was terribly interesting. I’ve talked quite a bit about Chlorine, and how I kind of want it to anchor a short quartet of gay noir historicals–the others being Obscenity, Indecency, and Muscles–that all sort of touch on the history of gay rights and the evolution of public opinion about queer people, by looking at the kind of crimes that had to be committed in order to be gay–whether publicly or secretly–back in the day. Muscles doesn’t really fit completely with the others–which deal with Hollywood, porn films, and public nudity, while Muscles is a bit different in that it doesn’t take on a big issue other than the former connection (and who knows how former it is?) between gay bars and the Mafia. I’ll watch the documentary again–I kind of found it by going down a wormhole the started with the discovery of the entire film of Song of the Loon on Youtube, and that’s a whole other story in and of itself.

Paul was home last night so I also got to make dinner, which was lovely; we’ve had so few opportunities to have dinner together over the last few months I’d forgotten how nice it is to have him be at home. He was working on a grant, so he spent most of the evening upstairs, but I suspect my boring evenings of going own Youtube wormholes after writing are going to be over for a while yet, and I do welcome this change. It’s also so weird that it’s almost April already. Last year seemed endless; this year is flying by already. That could also be because there were no deadlines really last year until the fall when I signed the contracts for the most recent two books–deadlines always make time seem to fly past. Tonight I am hoping to get to the gym after work, and then home to write for a while before piling into bed yet again and trying to get one more good sleep on the last night before having to wake up early for the week. They told us yesterday that we are gradually working our way to being back to fully operational again; it’s going to seem weird once we are, to be honest–I’ve gotten so used to there being no other people around for most of the time it’s going to be weird to have a building full of people again, not to mention a steady flow of clients into and out of the building. But there are worse problems to have, certainly! It just means I need to be flexible and adjust yet again.

I am so tired of having to adjust at this point, though…but what really is life but a rather lengthy series of readjustments to changing situations?

Whereas last week I was terribly stressed out by the impending deadline and everything else I had to do, this week I am eerily calm. I”m not sure if that means I think I have everything under control or my brain just snapped and I no longer care about the stress; whatever the root cause of the calm is I’ll happily take it over the stress and being on edge, ready to snap at any moment. I hate that stress, because it also comes with a couple of sides: imposter syndrome (which try to again rear its ugly head last night before being batted back down) and depression. It amazes me that despite being so deep into my career now that the day my fortieth novel is published is coming up–I think I’ll probably hit that milestone at some point in the next few years, but then again would have to sit down and actually count the books, and I always, invariably, forget some when I do that–but I probably should figure that out someday. And update my long out of date CV….but then again, why do I even need a CV at this point?

Heavy sigh. This is why nothing ever gets done around here.

And on that note, I am going to ride this energy wave and get some things done before I head to the office. Happy Tuesday, Constant Reader!

World in Motion

Ah, Sunday.

Last night I kept waking up, even though it felt like I was getting good rest, if that makes any sense. I finally got tired of trying to get some more sleep and went ahead and got up before eight–around quarter till, to be precise–because I have work to do and the deadline is ticking. I made some excellent progress yesterday, and have a lot more to do today. I am hoping to get the final chapters of the book completely refinished and rewritten today; so I can do mop up the rest of the week–and there will be lots of mopping up to do. This is maybe the ninth draft of the book since I wrote the first draft in 2015–but in complete fairness, all those revisions were of the first half of the book rather than the second; this is the third draft of the second half–I was struggling to find the right voice, to find the correct tense, and really, trying to figure out who my main character is or was. Most of this work has been, since I first wrote the first draft six years ago, scattered and disorganized and, in retrospect, primarily a case of me not trusting myself or my abilities and be intimidated by what I was writing about–with the occasional dose of imposter syndrome thrown in for good measure.

We watched the ice dancing final last night, and remain completely mystified by the results. Perhaps we’re partisan, but we simply failed to see the same magic in the routine by the Canadian team that resulted in them placing second in the free dance, and capturing the bronze medal somehow. But ice dance has always been controversial, and the judging has never made much sense. The Russian team that won was clearly the best in the competition; no question about that–but I also felt the second place Russian team, that finished fifth, was also better, more athletic, and more artistic, than the Canadians. But yesterday afternoon I also took some time to watch the men’s final, and it was delightful to see Nathan Chen make a comeback from a fall in the short program to win it all, his third world title in a row–the first American to do so since Scott Hamilton–and if he wins the Olympics and a fourth world title next year, he’ll be in even more elite company. The women also managed to earn the US three Olympic spots, which I wasn’t expecting to happen, so at least we’ll have as full a team as possible; I think Nathan winning automatically earns us three men for the team–but the rules may have changed, and I must confess I don’t pay nearly as much attention to figure skating as I used to. I hate this new points system; always have since it was implemented, and I don’t believe it forestalls arrangements between judges the way the old system did–not to mention the guarantee of anonymity so no one knows how any judge scored any competitor; I fail to see how this will stop collusion, but I am not the ISU.

The humidity has been ruinous on my sinuses lately; it’s so weird for it to be so hot and humid already this year. My windows are covered in condensation this morning, which is unusual for this time of year–that new HVAC system clearly works extremely well–an I am going to head to the gym later this morning for my weekend workout. The rain kept me from going earlier in the week, so for the last two weeks I’ve only had two workouts per week; not goo, but better than one and much better than not going at all. I need to get some new workout clothes, though; I haven’t bought workout shorts in well over ten years and thus they not only don’t fit properly but are also a little on the worn out side, and the more hot and humid it gets the less likely I am to want to wear sweat pants to the gym. I found some T-shirts in my T-shirt drawer back from the days when I could squeeze into a medium (I now wear extra large) and so I disposed of them as well. I really would like to get this book finished and turned in on Thursday the 1st (this week!) so I can spend my three day Easter weekend cleaning out books and going through my clothes.

I’d also like to spend some time finishing The Russia House. I read another chapter yesterday and greatly enjoyed it; I am really looking forward to spending more time with LeCarré. I also want to start reading more of these books that I keep buying and adding to my TBR pile, which is mostly out of control these days–I also need to recognize that many essays I have wanted to write about books and authors I enjoyed won’t ever happen because I will never have the time to write them, nor will I ever have the time to go back and reread the books; there simply isn’t enough time for all the reading I want to do, and I have to be more realistic. Some are simply too long–much as I loved Anya Seton’s Green Darkness, Arthur Hailey’s Airport, and Herman Wouk’s Youngblood Hawke, there’s simply no way I can (or will) ever find the time to reread those books; let alone anything by Michener (I’ve been wanting to reread my favorite Michener, Centennial, for quite some time, but probably will never happen).

And once I have this book finished and turned in, I have to do some revisions of Bury Me in Shadows by May 1; I don’t think it’s anything major, really; a much more thorough copy edit, an additional clarifying sentence here and there, and then it will be finished, and then comes the first draft of Chlorine….at long last. There are also some submission calls I want to write for as well; we’ll see how that turns out, won’t we? But I think my stories “Death and the Handmaidens”, “The Blues Before Dawn”, and “Le Feu Follet” might actually have homes I can try to get them into; and there’s another call for a humorous mystery I’d like to take a shot at as well; my stories always seem to turn out to be darkly comic anyway.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you tomorrow.