The Coventry Carol

New Year’s Eve Eve, and all is quiet in the Lost Apartment this morning. Scooter has been fed and given treats, so  he’s gone back to bed; Paul is curled up with him upstairs. I overslept again this morning, not as late as yesterday but still–I woke up just before ten. Obviously, I need the rest, but at the same time it becomes a little frustrating because I generally do my best work in the mornings.

I did some work yesterday but not much. I got sucked into the college football vortex after going to the grocery store and picking up the mail, and wound up mostly just reading The Shining most of the time. I finished reading the first part, which is all set-up; we meet the Torrances (Jack, Wendy, Danny) who are point-of-view characters and learn about their background–Jack’s drinking and violent temper; how he broke Danny’s arm in a rage and almost destroyed the marriage; Wendy, who still loves him but isn’t sure she should be staying with him, and young Danny, with his unusual talent and desperate love for both his parents and wanting them to stay married. This is also the tale of how they came to stay at the Overlook Hotel over the long, remote, brutal winter; one of the things that has always been a flaw to me with this book is the idea of a luxury hotel in the Rocky Mountains that is so high up in the mountains that it has to close for winter sports season. But King presents it as a fact; it is a necessary one for the story to work–the Torrances have to be completely cut off from civilization, and that again makes The Shining a novel of its time; even today there would be wi-fi service all winter up there; Jack would be able, undoubtedly, to look up all kinds of information about the hotel on-line (probably would have before taking the job) rather than having to dig through the stuff in the basement. But I am enjoying this reread, and I am also enjoying recognizing why some of the issues and problems I had with this book come from a personal place; I don’t like, for example, stories where children are in danger–whether from supernatural forces or from their parents or from anyone or anything, really. And that is also an interesting thing to unpack: why do these stories bother me so much, get under my skin, make me recoil from them?

I am really looking forward to my reread of Pet Sematary.

So this morning I need to finish cleaning and organizing. I may write today after the Saints game–none of the main players will be in the game, as they’ve already clinched the Number One seed and home-field advantage during the play-offs, so why risk your stars getting injured in a game that doesn’t matter (and games that don’t matter is another thing I dislike about the NFL; all games should matter) so I don’t know how intense the game will be or how wound-up in it I will get. But probably not very; since the game doesn’t matter.

We had a deep-dish Chicago style pizza from That’s Amore last night and it was everything. Everything. It is seriously my favorite pizza in New Orleans, but it’s so thick and heavy you can’t have it regularly; it’s perfect as an occasional treat. We hadn’t had one in months, so having one for dinner (and the second half of it today for today’s dinner) is probably the smart way to go. We are having our annual lunch at Commander’s Palace tomorrow–which will be wonderful–and I am going to simply make baked potatoes for our evening meal tomorrow night; Tuesday I’m going to make Shrimp Creole in the slow-cooker for dinner, and we’ll probably cook out for lunch for the LSU game (GEAUX TIGERS!).

Tomorrow morning’s blog will be my year recap; it’ll be curious to go back to my New Year’s Day blog from last year and see what the 2018 goals were, and if I made any progress on any of them (unlikely). It was an interesting year, to say the least, and one that I’m not in the least bit sorry to see ending. One of my year-end goals is to clean out my various email inboxes, as well, and to henceforth try to stay on top of these things.

We shall see how that plays out, won’t we?

I took some awesome pictures with my phone last night on the walk to pick up the pizza at That’s Amore. I’ll post them on Facebook at some time today.

And now, I am going to dive headlong back into the spice mines. I want to revise another chapter of the WIP and I am going to reread those last five chapters of the Scotty during the Saints game.

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Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

So it’s Christmas Eve. May you all who celebrate have a lovely day, and those of you who don’t, may you also have a lovely day! I’m not really sure what’s on the agenda for today around the Lost Apartment, to be honest. I know I want to do some writing and reading and possibly some editing–I don’t think the old but it’s a holiday is going to kick in for me today after all. I had a terrific day yesterday; I cleaned and organized, the Saints won (although why they always want me to have a heart attack before the conclusion of every game is beyond me) and now have clinched the Number One seed and home games throughout the play-offs thru the Super Bowl, and I actually wrote yesterday. I wrote about another thousand words of Bury Me in Satin, finishing that bear of a Chapter Eight finally, and now I think I can move forward. I think, though, I need to go back and do some revising on the earlier chapters while writing Chapter Nine.

I also discovered something incredibly convenient–yes, I know, I am nothing if not mostly oblivious most of the time and it’s insane when something so obvious smacks in the side of the head. My computer is still acting wonky–mostly when I have Word open–and so yesterday, incredibly irritated with the Apple Spinning Wheel of Death and the concurrent Microsoft Word Not Responding message, I closed my Internet browser and Word continued to operate–still not as fast as I would prefer, but faster, at any rate–and not having the distraction of getting push alerts from Twitter and Facebook and every time I got a new email enabled me to tear right through that chapter yesterday. I had my phone with me at my desk, and so whenever I was bored or needed to look something up on-line I was able to use that. I left the browser closed, in fact, for the rest of the day, just checking in on things periodically with the phone or my iPad. This was smart, and I am probably going to do the same thing today.

I started rereading The Shining yesterday, and while I am only a few chapters in, I have to say those initial chapters are remarkable, as King sets up the Torrance family–Jack, Wendy, Danny–as initial point-of-view characters, and we get to know the three of them very well. I remember when The Shining first came out in paperback–remember, this when I was living in Kansas and there was no place to buy hardcover books because the only local bookstore (the News Depot on Commercial Street in Emporia) only carried paperbacks, so I always had to wait for the paperback editions of everything–I started reading it after I bought it and didn’t care for Jack Torrance at all, so I stopped reading before I got to the chapters from Wendy and Danny’s points of view, and put it aside. It was about a year or so before I picked it back up again–it was the shiny all silver cover, with the faceless head of the boy blending into the silver–and then read it all the way through. I didn’t reread it as much as other King novels of the period, and it’s never really been a favorite of mine, preferring ‘salem’s Lot, The Dead Zone, The Stand, and Christine by far and away; but it’s considered by many to be one of his best books and certainly one of the most terrifying books of the late twentieth century. This was also the second consecutive novel of King’s to have a writer as the main character; but Jack is a failed writer, and maybe that was one of the reasons the book never quite found a place in my heart the way other Kings of the same period did; perhaps I could relate to Jack’s failure far too much for me? I will continue reporting back as the reread progresses further.

I also managed to get some cleaning done.

Paul went out last evening after the Saints game (GEAUX SAINTS!), and so I stayed home, reading The Shining and watching A Clockwork Orange on Amazon Prime for the first time. I’ve always wanted to see the movie; I have the book somewhere in my TBR pile or on one of the TBR shelves, and when I saw yesterday that it was free for streaming on Amazon I thought what the hell and decided to watch it. It is…interesting, for wont of a better word. Kubrick was a great director; there’s no question about that, but I also felt, from the few films of his that I’ve seen, he was very cold as a director; his movies always come across as kind of emotionless and cold. That style works incredibly well with the subject matter of this film and its theme. It’s also visually stunning, and despite the cold distance afforded by the camera lens, it’s portrait of a future desensitized to all kinds of violence–both sexual and physical–and the equally horrific answer the government comes up with to it, cannot help but keep your attention but also will make one think. I suspect I will be thinking about A Clockwork Orange for some time…and now I really would like to read Anthony Burgess’ novel.

So many books I need to read. Heavy heaving sigh.

But as I said earlier, I think I am going to continue with the Short Story Project going into the new year, and I am going to also have my own Diversity Project, where I am going to try to read everything in my TBR piles that were written by minority writers of some sort. It’s called leading by example, people, and I hope some of you will join me.

And on that note, this work isn’t going to do itself, unfortunately, so yes, even on Christmas Eve, I must spend some time mining spice.

Have a lovely day, everyone!

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Sleigh Ride

Today we’re going to see Aquaman. I am very excited for this, if you couldn’t tell by me pretty much mentioning it every day for the last week. I didn’t discover Jason Momoa until Game of Thrones (I know, I know, bad gay), but have been a huge fan ever since. And while my initial reaction to the news of his casting was problematic (but Aquaman is blond!) I got over it pretty quick. I’ve always been a fan of Aquaman–yes, I love Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but have always had a place in my heart for the ‘lesser’ heroes–Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, etc. So I am excited to see Aquaman get his own movie, and I do hope someday they give Green Lantern another shot.

I slept in this morning, later than usual–last night I even fell asleep in my easy chair, showing how tired I was (although that’s happened twice this week), and I feel very rested this morning. I have to run to the post office this morning, and I have some things to get at the grocery store (the Saturday before Christmas! Hurray!) before we head out for the movie. I did work a little on Bury Me in Satin a little bit last night, but I also had dinner with some friends in from out of town, which was lovely, and then we also watched the Schitt’s Creek Christmas special. I do want to talk some more about this show, but I am going to give it, I think, it’s own entry because it deserves it. Seriously, people, if you aren’t watching this show you need to. It’s hilarious, but incredibly warm and sweet at the same time.

It definitely deserves an entry of its own.

My kitchen is a mess; and I have loads of chores to do this morning. I’d like to, obviously, get as much done today as possible, so tomorrow I can focus on the Saints game and editing the Scotty book, maybe log some time in on Bury Me in Satin, do some reading, etc., and then have both Christmas Eve and Christmas to not only do some writing/editing in the morning, but spend the rest of each day relaxing, which will be lovely. I get a three day work week this week and next (huzzah!) and so here’s hoping that some of that free time will be spent productively.

Or not. We’ll see. Oh! I have to stop at the library today, too. They’re holding a book for me. Yay! I love having a library card, and being able to reserve books on-line. I do think one of these days I need to just go spend a day in the library, though; try to remember what it was like when I was a kid and used to spend whole afternoons in the Tomen Branch of the Chicago Public Library on Pulaski Boulevard. And the Latter Library on St. Charles Avenue here in New Orleans is so, so beautiful.

I am also, by the way, in total denial that Carnival is just around the corner.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Santa Baby

Well, yesterday was interesting.

I have some thoughts about yesterday’s recent blow-up within the crime fiction world; deep thoughts that I’ve not been able to coherently pull together in order to share as of yet. These thoughts began to form, and swirl around, inside my head during the last dust-up within my chosen world of crime writing; I’ve been playing with them and trying to put them into a some sort of sense ever since. Yesterday I was busy almost my entire twelve-hours at the office, only able to check in with social media via my phone periodically–and watched, in horror, as the fire not only spread but gasoline was thrown onto it. But as I’ve said before, I no longer want to say things in the heat of the moment, when emotion is running rampant within my head and through my body, and would prefer to sit on it for a few days, think about what I am going to say, and try to say it ina  reasonable way.

Even despite the fact that quite a lot of what’s been happening in my community has been, quite frankly, un-fucking-reasonable.

But sometimes…to effect change you have to wait and allow a cooler head to prevail. Sigh. I hate being more mature.

Needless to say, I got little to no writing or editing done yesterday. Having the lengthy work day is part of the problem, of course–at the end of one’s second twelve-hour day one is a bit tired–so when I got home last evening I simply collapsed into my easy chair and spent the rest of the evening bingeing Schitt’s Creek until I actually fell asleep in the chair. So, yes, in case you’re wondering, I did sleep really well last night. I moved from the chair to the bed and immediately fell back asleep; I think I woke up once around three in the morning but embraced Morpheus again almost instantly. I feel most wonderfully rested this morning; and hopeful that I’ll be able to get back on the horse from which I’ve fallen and get some more work done. I have to get through three more days of work before a four day weekend–and I do think we’re going to go see Aquaman this weekend–and I am equally hopeful I’ll be able to get a lot done this weekend as well.

Fingers crossed, for sure.

I’m also really glad I did all that cleaning on Monday night during the Saints game. *Whew*.

And Christmas is less than a week away now. YIKES.

I am swinging by the post office this morning, hopeful that the last of the gifts I ordered for Paul will have arrived, so I can hide them in the back of the car until such time as I can sneak them into the house and wrap them. I also ordered some gifts for myself–what can I say, I’m a giver, and sometimes you need to order something extra for the free shipping–and hopefully all those have arrived. I actually ordered copies of two comic books from my childhood that, for some reason, resonated with me: DC’s The Brave and the Bold, issue 98, and Charlton Comics’ Ghostly Tales from the Haunted House issue 91: “Bloody Mermaid.” I recently reread The Brave and the Bold #98, and regret to inform you, Constant Reader, that the tale doesn’t stand the test of time; but it did provide me with a kernal of an idea for a book (and in all honesty, when I first read it when I was ten it inspired an idea for a book, and part of the reason I ordered the comic was to see if the idea still remained okay–which I think it does). I have yet to reread “Bloody Mermaid”; I’ve already discussed how it inspired a germ of an idea that eventually became my novel Dark Tide.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a fabulous Hump Day, Constant Reader!

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I may have to rethink this two-twelve-hour-days-to-start-the-week thing.

Or maybe it’s just this week that’s the problem. I know there’s a four day weekend lurking just over the horizon, and all I really need to do is just get through this week and then I can rest and relax and enjoy the holiday and spend a lot of time thinking oh, it’s a four day weekend I can get things done tomorrow until suddenly it’s Tuesday night and I have to go back to work the next morning.

I also felt like crap all day; that certainly didn’t help. I don’t know if it was low blood sugar, or what, but I just didn’t feel good, and that’s always unpleasant when you’re at work. I soldiered through though. This morning, I feel somewhat better–there’s still an itchy feeling in my throat which I don’t much care for–but at least I feel better rested ths morning than I did yesterday.

I also cleaned the apartment. The Saints game was giving me extreme levels of stress, so rather than sitting there and allowing it to make me crazy, I got up and started cleaning. Dishes, laundry, vacuuming…yes, I managed to get that all done during the Saints victory last night–which was in doubt until the fucking very end. I’m not sure what is up with the Saints exactly lately–whether it is some kind of late-season “we’ve made the play-offs already” malaise…but it’s painful to watch, even as they manage to eke out the win.

I don’t understand why they want us to  have cardiac arrest and hypertension, but there you have it.

I do feel better this morning; more tired than anything else, but I’ve also already taken my morning dosage of DayQuil. The DayQuil didn’t seem to help a whole lot yesterday, but on the other hand, it may have been worse had I not taken it. My nose is raw (again) after having to repeatedly blow/wipe it, and that is also highly annoying.

But…tomorrow I get to sleep later, and run pick up the mail before I come into the office. I am so not an early morning person. I can handle getting up at seven, but these two mornings of rising at six are horrific. I did drink some of that “help you sleep” tea last night, and so I slept deeply and well…but that also could have come from being so worn out and tired. But today and tonight I am hoping to get some chapters of Scotty reread and revised between clients, and maybe take some notes on Bury Me in Satin. I also am thinking about getting back to doing some work on short stories that are in progress; “Never Kiss a Stranger” has literally been languishing for weeks, and there are several others that I’ve started and not gotten very far on. I also want to get back to reading my New Orleans histories, as well.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.

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Do You Hear What I Hear

Wednesday. Paul made it home late last night, and is sleeping away this chilly morning in the Lost Apartment. I started feeling a bit under the weather yesterday–scratchy throat, usually not a good sign–but am hoping I can power through today and hopefully will feel better tomorrow. I hate to call in sick, but at the same time I don’t particularly want to get any of our clients sick, either.

I finished editing “Don’t Look Down” and “This Thing of Darkness” last night; I am hoping to get through “The Snow Globe” and “Moves in the Field” this morning, and have my fingers crossed that I can get back to work on Bury Me in Satin tonight. One can hope, at any rate. I also want to get some work done on the revision of Royal Street Reveillon, and I also have to get the afterward to that one written as well. So, I am hopeful by the end of the weekend I’ll have Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories completely banged out and ready for the copy edit, so I can get RSR finished over the Christmas weekend, and maybe–just maybe–get Bury Me in Satin finished by the end of December–a reach, but something I am going to still try to accomplish.

I’d also like to have a strong first draft of “Never Kiss a Stranger” done, but let’s not get crazy.

I can’t believe Christmas is less than two weeks away. I think I’ve done all my shopping for Paul; all I need to do now is buy something for my parents and it’s over. (I know what to get them, so not an issue.) This has been a kind of weird holiday season. Thanksgiving was early, and that built up a false sense of security that there was plenty of time before Christmas…then BLAM, it snuck up on me.

But…I have four day weekends for Christmas and New Year’s, and our annual trip to Commander’s Palace for lunch on New Year’s Eve with Jean and Gillian to look forward to, which is lovely, and LSU is playing in a New Year’s Day bowl, so there’s that. The Saints won their division and are going to the play-offs, hopefully with a bye the first week and maybe even home field advantage the whole series…so maybe, just maybe, we could end up in the Super Bowl again this year. (I probably shouldn’t have said that…because I truly believe that my fandom has enough power to jinx the teams I root for, because it’s all about me.)

But I am thrilled to have made it through the roughest part of the week. Monday and Tuesday’s twelve hour days are rough; yesterday it felt like I was coming down with something–I had a scratch at the base of my throat–and I wondered if I was really getting sick or if it was just from being tired. I slept really well last night–even slept in later than I wanted or planned–and this morning I still feel a bit off…but much better than yesterday. I don”t feel quite the same way today–the little tickle is still there, but not as bad as yesterday–and I may have to stop and buy some teabags so I can just drink tea with honey and lemon all day. I’ve also been really dehydrated lately, so have been drinking Gatorade a lot.

I hate being sick, so here’s hoping it can be warded off.

Last night before I retired to bed early, I also managed to revive the next and final draft of Royal Street Reveillon. I work by chapters, which I know is probably weird to most other writers; they write usually in terms of pages, i.e. “I wrote ten pages today”. I don’t. I go by word counts and chapters; I always try to write a chapter every day, and in early draft form those are anywhere from 2200-3000 words; sometimes less, sometimes more. The Great Data Loss of 2018 took all the final chapter drafts of the manuscript as it was turned in, including the version where I pulled it all together and sent it in to Bold Strokes as one document. This, as you can imagine, was a disaster almost unimaginable; trying to recreate to copy edit and tweak a manuscript you no longer have the final version of is the worst nightmare any writer could have (at least in my opinion). However, the manuscript was in my “sent mail” file; so I was able to download that copy and last night I started breaking it down into chapters again for me to work on. I am also trying something different this time–I am going to work backwards. So I created new draft chapters for the last five chapters, and hopefully will be able to get to work on them this weekend as the end draws near.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me.

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Let’s Get Rocked

How about dem Saints? Damn, they look like the Alabama of the NFL.

A long day in the car stretches before me. Just thinking about it makes me tired, oh so tired.

So don’t think about it, bitch.

In exciting news, I can now announce that my story, “Neighborhood Alert,” has sold to Mystery Tribune.

“Neighborhood Alert” was one of the stories I wrote in the flurry that was the first quarter (or first half?) of the year. I’d had the idea for a long time; the inspiration came to me one day when we were living back on Camp Street. I never used the front door of the apartment–or rarely, at any rate–because we had off-street parking and I usually came in through the apartment’s back door. But one morning when I was coming home from training a client I noticed there was a white piece of paper stuck in the mail slot in the front door. When I retrieved it, it was one of those sex offender notices–we are required by law to let you know a sex offender has moved into your neighborhood–and while I certainly understand why this is done…at the same time, there’s an element of continuing to punish the criminal after they’ve served their time about it that makes me a little squeamish.  But if I had a child I’d want to know, and if I were a woman I’d want to know. So, therein lies the intellectual and moral dilemma.

And, in the back of my head, I always wanted to write a story which opens with a character getting one of those notices on his/her front door. And vóila, at some point early in the year I wrote that story and started shopping it around.

And now, it has sold. How lovely is that?

I will talk about the story more when it is closer to seeing the light of day.

I’ve successfully managed to download A Game of Thrones to my phone, so hopefully I’ll have that for listening as I drive north, and I’ll decide if audiobooks are indeed something I can make a part of my reading life going forward. I’ve added the Duolingo app to my iPad so I can continue with my Italian lessons–some of the words are starting to stick with me, but being able to hear and identify the words isn’t going quite as well.

I also read “The Nature of My Inheritance” by Bradford Morrow, from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

In the wake of my father’s death, my inheritance of over half a hundred Bibles offered me no solace whatsoever, but instead served to remind me what a godless son I was and had always been. Like the contrarian children of police officers who are sometimes driven to a life of crime, and professors’ kids who become carefree dropouts, my  father’s devotion to his ministry might well have been the impetus behind my early secret embrace of atheism. In church, listening to his Sunday sermons, as I sat in a pew with my mother near the back of the sanctuary, I nodded approvingly along with the rest of the congregation when he hit upon this particularly poignant scriptural point or that. But in all honesty, my mind was a thousand light years away, wallowing, at least usually, in smutty thoughts. His last day in the pulpit, his last day on earth, was no different. I cannot recall with precision what lewd scenario I was playing out in my head, but no doubt my juvenile pornography, the witless daydream of a virgin, did not make a pretty counterpoint with my father’s homily.

One of the fun things about reading anthologies is discovering new writers, or rather, new-to-me writers. I’d not read Morrow before, but I’ve added him to my list of writers whose canon should be explored. This story is interesting and goes places I certainly never imagined; and the voice of the young man who is telling the story–a slightly amoral young man whose father’s devotion hid a lot of secrets, which his son will slowly uncover, is exceptional. The story could have just as easily been called something like “Lessons My Father Taught Me” or something like that; but this title is just fine–it doesn’t give anything away, and it’s truly a wonderful, fun story. I was very pleased with it.

Once I get caffeinated and clean the kitchen, I’m hitting the road.

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