Masterpiece

 How bout them Tigers?

I’m still aglow from yesterday’s big upset win over Auburn, and I have to say, LSU not only gave me a heart attack yesterday, but impressed me quite a bit by how well they played. They raced out to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter–and it could have been worse–only to make some mistakes and fall behind 21-10. I am completely ashamed to say that at that point in the game, I honestly thought well, this is going to be a blow out. What happened? They were playing so well. 

You’d think I’d know better by now. LSU came back, and the final score, 22-21, was reached by transfer kicker Cole Tracy putting a forty-two yarder square through the uprights to give the Tigers the win as time ran out and silence a stadium full of people. The LSU-Auburn rivalry, almost always played in September, has resulted in a lot of classic games that went on to be named: the Earthquake Game, the Night The Barn Burned, etc. There have been some blowouts along the way–LSU’s 2011 and 2015 pastings of Auburn come to mind; as well as the 2014 31-7 LSU loss. This is only the third time LSU has won at Auburn this century. Auburn has come back from losing to LSU before–in 2013 Auburn lost 35-21 at Tiger Stadium and played for the national title; last year they lost at Tiger Stadium 27-23, wound up winning the West and playing for the SEC title–and along the way beat both teams that played for the national title (Alabama and Georgia) in the regular season. In fact, Auburn played three of the four teams in the play-offs during the regular season, losing only to Clemson…they played Georgia twice, playing them again and losing in the SEC title game. So, it’s early in the season; far too early to make much of this win–LSU has games against Alabama and Georgia themselves to look ahead to this season; and Mississippi State and any number of SEC games that could rise up and bite them in the ass….but for now, we can relish the likelihood of a Top Ten ranking and showing all the nay-sayers you can’t ever count the LSU Tigers out.

A lot of broadcasters and experts are eating their words this morning, I would imagine.

I think I am back to normal at long last this morning; yesterday I did some chores and dug myself out of most of the mess in my kitchen; filing, making files, putting things away, and working on the laundry and cleaning the living room. There’s still work to be done, of course, but progress was made, and I also made some progress with my writing yesterday. I know, I know, who am I and what have I done with Gregalicious? But I am pretty excited about some things, and I am really excited to get back to work on the Scotty book, as well as the short stories I’ve been toying with for some time. I like the concept of the new one I am working on, “A Little More Jazz for the Axeman,” which I think has a lot of potential; and of course I’m still playing around with “The Blues Before Dawn,” and “Never Kiss a Stranger,” of course; and I need to get organized to keep track of my life again.

And Madeline Miller’s Circe continues to enthrall.

So, for today, I need to take the suitcase back to storage and I need to put air in the tires of the car; and then it’s back home to get some things done before the Saints game, which starts at noon. Then again…it’s always easier to do things out of the house during the Saints game, when tumbleweeds roll in the wind down St. Charles Avenue and the city turns into a ghost town. I also need to get the last few touches of some things done around the house, and perhaps today I can begin the deconstruction of the manuscript I’ve been putting off for quite some time now.

But it’s nice to feel like I fit into my own life again. It really, really is.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Giving Him Something He Can Feel

GEAUX TIGERS!

I think I have finally, somehow, managed to come back into myself as a Gregalicious, after the long, drawn-out malaise of this past week. Everything conspired against me; I never felt mentally rested,  always felt slightly out of it or disconnected from my everyday life, etc. Bouchercon, and other literary events like it, have that effect on me, but it usually doesn’t take this long to start feeling Gregalicious again. I love my day job–it’s absolutely perfect for me, I can’t imagine doing anything else–and I am very lucky that at least I have a day job that neither makes me crazy nor that I hate.

And having had every shitty job imaginable (or so it seems), this is quite lovely.

I hope that today–since I awoke feeling rested and like myself for the first time this week–will result in me getting a lot done today, around the football games. The LSU-Auburn game this afternoon will be an interesting tell as to how good LSU actually is this year (how good Auburn is as well, for that matter) and has important division implications as well as national ones. The season is young, though, and the Murderer’s Row section of the schedule (Florida, Ole Miss, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi State, Texas A&M) is yet to come. And after the Saints stunk up the Dome last weekend…GEAUX TIGERS.

We got caught up on Castle Rock, which actually took an incredibly interesting turn that I didn’t see coming, and so now I am really curious to see where it’s going to go from here. (I also continue to be blown away by the ridiculous beauty of Bill Skarsgaard.) We also watched the premiere episode of American Horror Story: Apocalypse, which also is off to a terrific and interesting start–but almost every season started off interesting, and so many of them wound up going off the rails (we never finished watching Hotel, for example) that we can never be sure what we’re going to get with the show. We also finished watching Sharp Objects, which was terrific (I see Emmys in the future for Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson), and there are so many other shows now to watch, and movies released to Netflix and other streaming services, that it’s hard to believe just a few weeks ago we didn’t have anything to watch. I also want to finish reading Circe.

But the house is a mess, and I need to run the suitcase back to storage, and the car tires need air–but other than that and cleaning and writing, I have the weekend relatively free. Paul is going out shopping and running errands with our friend Lisa today–he has some ideas about turning the area outside our stairs into a sitting area for when the weather is better–and they are launching that project today.

It does feel nice being myself again, and I can spend the day doing some reading and cleaning. I am writing a new short story, and I need to read up a little bit on New Orleans history in order for the story to actually work. We shall see.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Just Another Day

So, the Saints have added a male Saintsation this year, which pleases me to no end. And of course, he’s been targeted by trash on-line; you know, the ‘keyboard warriors’ who insult and tear into total strangers from behind the safety of their computers. I am looking forward to watching Jesse perform this season, as well as the two men who are performing with the Rams. I was a cheerleader in college, and know all too well the abuse you can get from other men (and some women) for putting yourself out there. I enjoyed every moment of cheering, and that trash would have called me fag even if I wasn’t a cheerleader.

And I’d still like to see any of them try to do a string of back handsprings.

Both Animal Kingdom and Sharp Objects continue to enthrall us; both are coming to their inevitable season finales soon, but hopefully all the other shows we enjoy watching will be airing again by then; there are also some other shows I’d like to watch currently on Netflix. I watched To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or whatever it’s name was the other night; it was adorable and sweet, if a bit predictable. But it was great seeing a young Asian-American girl in the Molly Ringwold role for a change; I also enjoyed seeing her family dynamic. I imagine the film is going to draw the inevitable haters, as such things are wont to do; but I love this new trend of representation of characters without making a big deal about it. I am, of course, conditioned to notice the minority characters–as are we all, really–but representation does  matter, and presenting it like it’s not a big deal is the best way  to go because it shouldn’t be a big deal.

I hope and pray future generations will see it that way and won’t notice.

Next up for Florida Happens is Alex Segura’s “Quarters for the Meter.”

Alex Segura is the author of the Pete Fernandez Miami Mystery novels, which include Silent CityDown the Darkest StreetDangerous Ends, and Blackout, all via Polis Books. Blackout was listed as one of the most anticipated mystery novels of 2018 by CrimeReads, MysteryPeople and Bookbub, and included in The Boston Globe’s Summer Reading List.

He has also written a number of comic books, including the best-selling and critically acclaimed Archie Meets Kiss storyline, the “Occupy Riverdale” story, and the Archies Meet The Ramones one-shot and The Archies ongoing series.

Alex will be co-writing Lethal Lit, a new fictional crime podcast launching this fall from iHeart Media.

His work has appeared in the anthologies Protectors 2, Waiting To Be Forgotten:  SStories of Crime and Heartbreak Inspired by the Replacements, Unloaded 2, Apollo’s Daughters, and Florida Happens,  the Bouchercon 2018 anthology, and in publications including The Daily Beast, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Strand, Mental Floss, LitReactor, and more.

A Miami native, he lives in New York with his wife and son. Check out his website here.

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I had this weird dream,” Pete Fernandez said. “I was in a boat, but there weren’t any paddles.”

“That is weird,” Mike said, sipping his Heineken. The jukebox was playing Waits. The Bar—a grungy gastropub located in the heart of Coral Gables—was mostly empty. It was just past six in the evening. They were in a booth a few steps away from the main bar area.

“That’s not all of it,” Pete said. He took a sip of his drink—a vodka soda—before continuing. “But then my dad showed up. He was standing in front of the boat.”

“On the water?”

“Yeah,” Pete said. The thought of his dad put a clench in his throat. It’d been only a few months since they had to put the old man in the ground, forcing Pete and his fiancé Emily to return to Miami from their home in New Jersey. “He was just standing there. Looking at me.”

“What’d you do?”

The question hung over them for a moment. The bartender, a fit blonde named Lisa, nodded at Pete politely as she walked by. He’d been back in Miami for less than six months, and he already felt unhinged.

Emily.

She had left a few days ago. He was living in his father’s house and he was pretty sure the only reason Mike, his best friend, was tolerating him tonight was because he was worried Pete couldn’t last very long alone.

“Nothing,” Pete said. He couldn’t bring himself to tell Mike he’d woken up to find his pillow wet from tears.

This is a terrific story, from beginning to end; a kind of crime slice-of-life tale that made me hungry to read more of Alex’s work. I have the ebook of the first Pete Fernandez novel, and an ARC of the most recent one, and haven’t managed to get to either as of yet. Pete and his buddy are having a couple of drinks in a bar at the end of their workday, which just happens to be when some masked bandits rush in to rob the place. The rest of the story details what happens during the robbery and how the two of them manage to avert a tragedy; and the closing line is pitch perfect.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Pink Houses

Another cold morning in New Orleans. The Saints are up in Minneapolis playing the Vikings today, with the winner going to the NFC championship game to play Philadelphia in Philadelphia, so I shouldn’t complain about how cold it is here! I am hoping to finish cleaning the kitchen this morning so I have to time to go lift weights for the first time since AUGUST before the game. And stretch, and do some cardio. I am taking this get back in shape goal for this year seriously, Constant Reader.

I also didn’t read a short story yesterday, but I started reading one of the Kinsey Millhone stories in Kinsey and Me, and it’s quite good; I look forward to finishing it today during the game, and reading another to get back on track. But I am doing much better this year on the Short Story Project than I ever have in past years, and I have so many short story collections and anthologies to choose from; which is part of the reason I decided to make 2018 the year of the short story. I was also inspired yesterday to start writing two short stories–“Sorry Wrong Email” (which is going to take a lot of work to get right) and “Neighborhood Warning”, which I think can be really really good. I also want to work on finishing the final draft of another short story today, and this week I need to start reading the submissions for Sunny Places Shady People. With no offense to my Blood on the Bayou contributors, I think this one might be even better, I also need to finish an interview for my Sisters newsletter column (basically, writing the introduction and putting the questions in the proper order for flow) and I also need to work on my two manuscripts, and of course the Scotty Bible languishes. Heavy heaving sigh, the work of a Gregalicious is never done. I also want to read a novel; another goal for the year is getting the TBR pile down to a workable size. Tomorrow I am going to Target, and probably going to make it Leg Day at the gym in the afternoon (I have a long work day on Tuesday, so I can’t do an every other day; the nice thing about Leg Day is no cardio; just stretch, do legs, and some abs).

I watched the 1970 film Airport yesterday, based on the Arthur Hailey novel, it was one of the year’s biggest hits and was nominated for lots of Academy Awards, and even got great reviews. It was also the movie that kicked off the ‘disaster movie’ trend of the 1970’s, and spawned several sequels. The opening sequence of the movie was pretty interesting, as they showed all the ticket counters for the various airlines at “Lincoln International” in Chicago; obviously a stand-in for O’Hare. What made it interesting was how none of the airlines whose counters were shown, or were mentioned in the PA announcements over the opening credits (Continental Airlines Flight 220 is now boarding) exist anymore: Northwest, Eastern, TWA, Continental, Braniff, Pan Am. It’s hard to imagine today, with our limited choices, but just twenty years ago they were a lot of options.

The movie had, as all these types of films usually did, what was called an ‘all-star cast’; Oscar winners Burt Lancaster, George Kennedy, Van Heflin, and Helen Hayes (who would win a second Oscar for her role); as well as other bankable stars as Dean Martin and Jean Seberg; newcomer Jacqueline Bisset, stunningly beautiful who would hit major stardom later in the decade in The Deep; stage actress Maureen Stapleton in one of her first roles and who would later win an Oscar of her own; and assorted others (Gary Collins, for example) in small parts early in their career. The premise of the film is simple: a major airport is in the throes of a several day long snowstorm; it was inspired by the blizzard of the winter of 1966 (which I remember), and how the airport operates in such a crisis, and the personal stories of the airport employees intercrossed with those of several people who pass through the airport. Burt Lancaster plays Mel Bakersfeld, general manager of the airport, who is married to his job and ignores his wife and family as a result. His marriage to Cindy (Dana Wynter) is in shambles, and he’s strongly attracted to the widowed Tanya Livingston (Jean Seberg) who is some sort of manager for Trans Global Airlines (her job is never really defined in the movie; it certainly was in the book–Hailey was nothing if not thorough). They of course don’t act on their attraction, but it’s there–and she is considering a transfer to San Francisco and  ‘fresh start’ since they have no future. He fights with his wife several times on the phone, mostly to show how unreasonable she is–obviously his job should come before his wife and family! Dean Martin plays asshole pilot Vernon Demerest, who also happens to be Mel’s brother-in-law, married to Mel’s sister (played by Barbara Hale, best known for playing Della Street on the original Perry Mason series). He’s a great pilot, but a dick–and he and Mel disagree frequently about airport operations, etc. He’s also having an affair–the latest of many–with co-worker Gwen Meighan (Jacqueline Bisset), who tells him before they work their flight to Rome that she’s pregnant–including the icy line “You can stop twisting your wedding ring, I know you’re married”–which in turn doesn’t really either of them sympathetic. The head of Customs and Immigration’s niece is also going to be on the Rome flight…as it soon becomes apparent that this particular flight is going to be the film’s focus and everyone’s paths are going to cross in some way regarding Trans Global Flight 22, The Golden Argosy. Helen Hayes plays Ada Quonsett, an older woman who stows away on flights to try to visit her daughter and grandchildren in New York, caught and being sent back to Los Angeles, but she manages to evade her watcher and sneak aboard Flight 22. Also on the flight is D. O. Guerrero, a bankrupt failure with mental problems and lots of debts who also happens to be a demolitions expert, and his briefcase, which contains a bomb. He wants to blow up the plane so his wife (coffee shop waitress Inez, played by Maureen Stapleton) will collect on his flight insurance. (He’s played by Van Heflin.) This is before security, metal detectors, etc., and the rash of hijackings in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s started the change to tighter airport security (so many New York to Florida flights were hijacked and redirected to Havana that it became a joke in the zeitgeist; “my flight was hijacked to Cuba.'” Of course, after the flight takes off it becomes apparent to those on the ground that he must have a bomb; the flight crew tries to get it from him with the end result he sets it off in the bathroom, blowing a hole in the side of the plane and causing explosive decompression. Gwen was trying to get into the bathroom to him when the bomb goes off and experiences severe injuries. The damaged plane has to return to Chicago as all other airports are closed; and of course, the issue of the big runway being blocked by a plane stuck in the snow that opens the movie now becomes crucial; the plane must be moved because the damaged aircraft needs as much room as possible to land, since its rudder, and steering are damaged which means the brakes might be as well.

Complicated, right? Of course the plane gets moved, and the flight lands safely. Mel’s wife admits she is having an affair and wants a divorce, and it looks like asshole Vern might do the right thing with Gwen after all. At least if Mel and Tanya get involved, they’ll be together at the airport all the time, although as they prepare to drive off together at the end, there’s another crisis…but this time Mel says “let him handle it” which means…what, exactly? He’s not going to be a workaholic anymore?

The acting in the movie isn’t good, but then again they aren’t really given a lot to work with. Hailey’s books probably don’t hold up, but they were huge bestsellers in their day–I read them all. He always focused on an industry or business–medicine, hotels, airports, hospitals, banks, power companies–did a lot of research, and then wrote enormous, sprawling books that not only showed how the businesses worked but told melodramatic stories about the people who worked there or were involved somehow. His novel Hotel was also filmed, and then turned into a Love Boat like weekly television series in the 1980’s; in the book and movie the St. Gregory Hotel was in New Orleans (based on the Monteleone, actually), in the TV show it was moved to San Francisco. The book, written in the 1960’s, also dealt with racial issues; I should really reread both it and Airport. The Moneychangers, which was about banking, I read when I worked for Bank of America, and I was amazed at how spot-on he got working in a bank. I should reread Airport to see how different airports were in the 1960’s than they were in the 1990’s, when I worked for Continental. But his male leads, who usually ran the business, were Ayn Rand-ian style supermen: married to their jobs, good at them, and devoted to the point there was no room in their lives for a personal life, which also kind of made them unlikable.

But back to the film–as corny and badly acted as it was, despite the terrible dialogue, they did a really great job of building up the suspense about the bomb as well as would the plane be able to land safely; and since that was the most important part of the film, it worked on that level. It was also hard to not laugh a bit from time to time, having seen the spoof Airplane! so many times I can speak the dialogue along with the movie when watching; it’s weird seeing this stuff not being played for laughs  (although Airplane! was primarily based on Zero Hour! with elements from Airplane 1975. In an interesting aside, Arthur Hailey did the novelization of Zero Hour!, which was called Runway Zero-Eight). It was also interesting seeing how much things have changed since this film was made: divorce isn’t the societal horror it was back then; people don’t stay in bad marriages “for the sake of the children” anymore; abortion wasn’t legal in the US when the film was made so Gwen’s abortion would have to be in Sweden, if she chose to have one; and of course, all the changes in airport security. The plane itself was a Boeing 707; which aren’t used anymore. Stowaways can’t really get onto planes anymore, either.

Plus, back in the day the concept that airline crews were boozing and sexing it up all the time, and that flight attendants (then stewardesses) were good time girls fucking every pilot they could lure into their clutches was such a stereotype–one the airlines actually bought into because they had age, size and looks standards for the women, and ran print and television ads playing up the sexiness of their stewardesses–that it took years for that to be changed…and it still exists to a certain extent.

It was certainly not something I learned from the Vicki Barr Stewardess mystery series for kids! I’ve always wanted to write a crime series about a flight attendant–kind of an update of Vicki Barr but not for kids–but can never really figure out how to make it work. Maybe someday.

Back to the spice mines! The kitchen ain’t going to clean itself!

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Give It Up

It rained overnight, and is still damp and gloomy this morning. There really is nothing like sleeping during a downpour, is there, the constant strumming of the rain, the comfort and warmth of the mattress and under the blankets, is there?

Yesterday was a crazy busy day for one Gregalicious, who got up in the morning and did some work, cleaned, and then walked to Comic Con for a signing and a panel. The signing was fun, and the panel discussion about creativity and creativity triggers was also a lot of fun; as exhausting and draining as it is to do public appearances, I also always somehow forget, in the nervousness and terror of having to speak in front of a room full of people, how much I actually enjoy talking about writing and creativity. So, there’s that. I then came home, watched the ice dance final at US Nationals, and then the Saints play-off game, which was a nail-biter down to the very last play of the game (GEAUX SAINTS!). We stayed up and watched the Golden Globes before going to bed; I also managed to get some brainstorming done in my journal, and I also read a short story, to keep the Short Story Project going.

One of the truly fun things about the panel was that Tom Cook was on it. Tom was an animator/director for Hanna-Barbera in the late 1960’s/1970’s, and of course, one of the shows he worked on was Scooby Doo Where Are You, which tremendously influenced me in the direction of mysteries and crime when I was a kid. So meeting Tom, and thanking him for the influence, was kind of a thrill for the weekend for me. I am starting to feel energized about writing again, which is very cool.

The short story I read was “East Wind,” from Daphne du Maurier’s The Doll and Other Lost Stories.

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Nearly a hundred miles west of the Scillies, far from the main track of ships, lies the small, rocky island of St. Hilda’s. Only a few miles square, it is a barren, rugged place, with great jagged cliffs that run deep into deep water. The harbour is hardly more than a creek, and the entrance like a black hole cut out of the rock. The island rises out of the sea a queer, misshapen crag, splendid inits desolation, with a grey face lifted to the four winds. It might have been thrown up from the depths of the Atlantic in a moment of great unrest, and set there, a small defiant piece of land, to withstand forever that anger of the sea Over a century ago few knew of its existence, and the many sailors who saw its black outline on the horizon imagined it to be little more than a solitary rock, standing like a sentinel in mid-ocean.

“East Wind” is an early du Maurier tale, from early in her career (which people seem to want to divide into ‘pre’ and ‘post’ Rebecca); and in some ways the inexperience shows. The story is, as so many of her later stories are, very matter-of-fact; simply told with a move this  to that to the other; unemotional and simple. However, what is actually missing from this story that shows up in her later stories are layers of detail and complexity; stories like “Don’t Look Now” and “The Birds” have so many layers to burrow through, so much detail, and so much creepy, quiet horror that they continue to haunt the reader once the story is told. “East Wind” is an equally unpleasant tale, but doesn’t have the impact of the later stories in its telling.

As I started reading it, it reminded me of one of my favorite Stephen King stories, “The Reach”, which was the final story I think in Skeleton Crew, and was originally called “Do the Dead Sing?”, which is, in my opinion, a far superior title. That story was from the point of view of an old woman, dying in her bed on a cold, blustery winter night, and remembering something that happened many years ago–while also hearing her beloved dead one’s calling to her to join them. The story was brilliant and beautiful and haunting, and as I said, remains one of my favorite King stories to this day.

The du Maurier tale is similar in that it is about a remote island, where the inhabitants have very little contact with the outside world and because of a limited pool, have become more than a little inbred. The east wind of the title is brutal, blasting away at the little island and making the seas rough, so a brig of foreign sailors is forced to take shelter in the harbor, foreigners who don’s speak the same language. These exotic to the islanders strangers have an odd impact on the islanders, who become intoxicated in the strangeness and newness of this experience, which eventually leads to seduction and murder, changing and scarring the island forever; and of course, once this has happened and the east wind stops blowing, they get back in their ship and sail away because, of course, it was nothing to them. This is, of course, a terrific theme that du Maurier returns to again and again in her work; the dionysian influence of an outside force that causes trouble and then moves on without a care, leaving damage in its wake. The story itself, which is short and unemotional, is important as an early work because the reader, the duMaurier afficionado, can see how she developed themes she used extensively in her later career; her fascination with the concept of the unfeeling outside force on ordinary people’s lives, and the disruption such an influence can cause.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Cover Me

The first day of the new year: 2018. It is currently twenty-eight degrees outside; which is hideous for New Orleans. Much as I would rather spend the day curled up beneath blankets with a good book today, I am venturing out for an early lunch with a friend before heading back home for the LSU bowl game. I am currently wrapped in a wool blanket sipping my first cup of coffee. I didn’t want to leave the warmth of my bed this morning; it was comfortable and warm in there under all those blankets. Tomorrow I have to work a long day which will entail getting up quite early; I am not looking forward to that as the temperature is supposed to be around the same as it is this morning.

Not a pleasant start to the new year, but i am grateful that at least our thermostat is in the positive numbers.

Yesterday after lunch at Commander’s, I stopped at Garden District Books and bought myself a blank journal; while watching the Saints lose (seriously, they couldn’t have played worse if they were trying to lose) I wrote three pages of notes on the WIP in it; and they are good notes. Sometimes, it’s necessary to go back to your roots to kick the cobwebs out of your mind and get things together. I’m glad I remembered that I used to do this with my journals, and I can carry it with me everywhere, just like I used to; and I can just scribble notes, even just brainstorming and free association the way I used to rather than rabidly checking my phone.

So, here are my goals for 2018. I prefer to set goals rather than make resolutions; goals sounds, for one thing, more positive, and not reaching a goal isn’t like failing; breaking a resolution sounds almost criminal, whereas not making a goal doesn’t mean the goal isn’t still attainable; just taking longer than originally anticipated. So, here goes.

Get to the gym at least twice a week. I was doing quite well with doing crunches at home several days a week, until I got sick a few weeks ago and it flattened me out. It will be easier to get to the gym now on the weekends since football season is past; ideally I should make it three times per week; but two is better than once; and once is better than never. Getting into a regular routine will help me get back into better physical condition; being in better physical condition will help me sleep better and help regulate my vitals–blood pressure, etc.

Write a short story every month. I always try to write more short stories; I set this goal every year, and I am even going to allow myself a little more wiggle room here with this one; I am going to expand it to mean just working on a short story every month. I have any number of short stories in a draft form, either unfinished or in need of rewriting/revising/polishing, and the sooner I can get those files off my desk the more room I will have on my desk.

Get an agent. This was a goal last year that I didn’t achieve; but last year I did start submitting queries. Now that I’ve ripped off that bandage, I am going to get going on this and get somewhere with it. However, part of this is having something to submit; and the WIP needs more work. So, I am setting May 1 as the goal date of having the WIP in shape and submittable. That gives me four months, and I should be able to get it done in that amount of time.

Finish the new Scotty and a young adult novel. I’ve had to stop the current Scotty because it was kind of a mess; I am debating whether any of the chapters I’ve written are even usable. I’ll need to reread them all, of course, but I am thinking that not only does the title need to be changed but the book itself needs to be overhauled. This is do-able. I also have about 40k of another y/a novel that’s been haunting my files for several years. It needed about another 20k, and I wasn’t totally satisfied with the plot. I think I know how to fix the plot and get it up to about 60k; with a goal of getting that finished by the end of the summer.

Pay down my debt. Buying a new car and having to have full insurance coverage on it put a major dent in my finances this year; so much so that it’s almost frightening how close to the edge I’ve skated at times. Obviously, the best way to not have financial concerns would be to pay down the debt that I owe, rather than just, as I said, skating along the way I have been, which means tightening my belt and maybe doing without. I am already denying myself new books until I clean out my TBR pile substantially (I will make exceptions, of course, to this rule), and frugality is the key to this year.

Do a better job of staying on top of the household chores, and maybe add a cleaning project each week. The condition of the Lost Apartment is really appalling, and trying to stay on top of things has been much harder than it should have been, but if I add one extra chore to the weekly ones rather than trying to do a massive, over-all all-at-once clean, I can get the house back under control in a matter of months and having it under control after a matter of months is better than never at all, right?

Those are all attainable, and putting them out there in public does make it slightly more likely that I will get them done.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines. I need to finish the laundry and grab a shower before lunch.

Here’s a Happy New Year hunk to kick off the year for you, Constant Reader, and as always, thanks for being here.

 

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Lucky Star

New Year’s Eve, a time to look back on the past year and reflect on goals either achieved or missed; to look at what was accomplished and what wasn’t, to think about and make plans for the future year.

So, what kind of year was 2017? I didn’t achieve many, if any, of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. I intended to write more short stories (which I sort of did) and publish more short stories (which I didn’t really do); I intended to start my search for an agent (which I did); but I didn’t seem to get much else done. I didn’t start working out more, but I did lose weight–so that one’s kind of a toss-up; I weigh 15 pounds less than I did a year ago. I did buy a new car, which was also a goal, and I’ve not regretted it once, despite the impact on my finances. I also didn’t write nearly as much this year as I had hoped/wanted to; there were no new novels published under my name this year; which is the first time I think that’s happened since 2005. That doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it did in 2005, to be honest; my self-worth and identity as an author apparently no longer requires me to write and publish at the insane pace that I used to keep.

I read a lot of good books in 2017, discovered a lot of great new-to-me writers, watched some amazing television shows and movies, but creatively I spent most of the year in stasis; just kind of getting through the day every day and then watching as those days turned into weeks and then months. I started a number of short stories that I either didn’t finish, or finished but didn’t know how to fix. The WIP, the manuscript I am shopping to agents, needs some more work. I had started sending it out in the fall, but I am going to hold back on it for a few more months as I revise and polish it some more. I always felt it was missing something, even though I thought it was a good manuscript, and I’ve recently figured out what that something is; and I’ve also realized part of the problem I had with the manuscript and fixing it has to do with my own stubbornness. It’s starting point needs to be before where I start the book; I flash back to the beginning of the story and that kind of is not only a cliche but also steps on the action. Also, where I start the book itself is kind of hackneyed and cliched. There’s another subplot or two that needs to be woven into the story, and I  need to develop my main character more; and there are things about him that know that are kind of crucial to the story that don’t actually appear in the story, and some of the relationships between the characters need to be developed and deepened, more layered. It’s a very basic story right now, and it needs to be more complex; and it needs to go deeper into its theme.

So, that’s something, at any rate.

I also had a good year in that I was nominated for a Macavity Award (Best Short Story, “Survivor’s Guilt”) and an Anthony Award (Best Anthology, Blood on the Bayou). Both were completely unexpected surprises, and enormously gratifying.  As Constant Reader knows, I struggle with short stories and have very little to no self-confidence when it comes to them. So, to get nominated for a Macavity Award for a short story I wrote? That was probably one of the most meaningful things to happen to me in my career thus far. And I was nominated against some amazing writers–I read all the stories–and wasn’t in the least surprised when Art Taylor won; any of the other nominated stories were award-worthy. It was such an honor.

I was so certain I wasn’t going to win the Anthony Award that Paul and I booked our plane tickets home from Toronto for Sunday morning; I was boarding my flight to New Orleans when I started getting texts and tweets and Facebook messages that I’d won. It, too, was an incredibly lovely surprise, and I was extremely happy for the contributors, and thankful to them for their amazing stories.

I also realized this year that something I used to do when I was writing–something that was highly effective, and I don’t know why I stopped doing it–was write about whatever I was working on in long-hand in notebooks. I started doing that again this year, in these last few months–and it proved incredibly helpful with a couple of things I was working on at the time. So, I am going to make that a goal for the new year; to return to buying a blank book to carry around with me at all times, to use for notes and questions I have for myself, for developing characters and things. I think I stopped using the blank books because I started keeping physical files, and it was easier to use a spiral notebook for notes that could be removed and put in the files. There’s no reason I can’t stop doing that, either; but the point is that I need to start doing things like that in long-hand again. It was an excellent way of brainstorming and free-associating that I’ve sadly gotten away from over the years.

Despite getting off to a rough start, LSU also had a great season, one with lots of highlights and excitement, and wound up 9-3 on the year, with a chance for a ten-win season with a bowl win. The future also looks fairly bright for the Tigers going forward; the Saints are also having a great season. Back in September this football season was looking really bleak; who could have foreseen that both of our teams would have such a remarkable turnaround?

I had a lot of fun this past year. Last January I did two library events in Alabama, which were way fun, and was invited back again this year; I also spoke at an event at the University of Mississippi as well as at the Alabama Book Festival (both events were in teh same week, so I was driving around the deep South quite a bit then), and of course, Bouchercon in Toronto was a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to this year’s event in St. Petersburg, and I am also looking forward to a trip to England this spring.

We’re having lunch later at Commander’s Palace; our annual New Year’s Eve meal with Jean and Gillian, which is always a lovely way to ring out the old year. I’ve started reading John Hart’s Redemption Road–I greatly enjoyed his The Last Child and Iron House, so am greatly looking forward to this one. Next weekend I am appearing at Comic Con at the Convention Center every day; that should also be a lot of fun.

And so, I should get some things done before it’s time to go to lunch. The spice mines are always calling me, so here’s one last hunk for 2017, Constant Reader, and have a lovely and safe and happy new year.

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