My Heart Can’t Take It No More

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment and I slept fairly well. I will be spending most of my day on ZOOM with the new Board of Directors for Mystery Writers of America doing Orientation (we should be doing it in person in New York today, but yet another event is a victim of the coronavirus variants). I am not a fan of ZOOM, for obvious reasons–I cannot stand seeing myself on camera, and hate the sound of my voice–and while I can’t necessarily hear my own voice, I can see my face on screen, and I really don’t like that. I don’t really have space for a ZOOM studio in my little nook office right off my kitchen–and I need to make sure all the counters are cleared off and the cabinets are closed, etc.–and so I’ve avoided doing ZOOM things like the plague during these plague years. I am not an extrovert by any means (and yes, well aware that my claims to be painfully shy, socially anxious, and introverted are often greeted by laughter; but the appearance of calm and ease I project in these situations is always just pure dumb luck because I am always a twisted tangle of anxiety-ridden knots on the inside the entire time, and completely exhausted when it’s over), and thus these things are never easy on me. I imagine this afternoon when the calls ends I will adjourn to my easy chair with a drink and will spend the rest of the day there.

Yesterday we started watching Peacemaker with John Cena on HBO MAX; it took a minute for us to get involved in the story but we eventually got sucked in. It’s an odd kind of super-hero show, really; Peacemaker is theoretically a villain (I’m not familiar with the Suicide Squad and haven’t seen any of the movies) but he sees himself as a hero. John Cena is a very charismatic leading man; there’s something about him that is very watchable, and he plays comedy very well; which is surprising, since he comes from the world of WWE (then again, Dwayne Johnson and Bautista also did, and also play comedy very well, so maybe it’s not surprising), and he really shines in this part. I’ve always been a fan, and am glad to see his career outside of WWE taking off. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the show. We also started watching a docuseries on HBO MAX after we finished the three episodes of Peacemaker that have been loaded for streaming called Murders at Starved Rock, which is interesting enough but probably isn’t going to have a resolution.

I did started reading Alafair Burke’s Find Me yesterday and am enjoying it thus far–maybe when the meeting is over I can spend some time with the book, which would be marvelous and a definite reward for spending so much of the day talking to my computer (which is some seriously weird Jetsons shit). I started making a to-do list yesterday so I can keep track of everything I need to do and need to get done and with some sort of time-line involved; I am confident I can get everything done but it’s going to take some serious focusing on my part to get it all done. It’s a bit overwhelming and stressful to be sure, but as long as I can get a handle on everything I need to do, it can all get done. Over the next two days I am going to work, over my morning coffee, on getting my email inbox cleared out once and for all; I am going to get some filing in order; and I’d like to finish reading Alafair’s book. I think we’re probably going to watch some movies in the evening–Power of the Dog and The Tragedy of Macbeth are at the top of my list–over the next couple of days, and I am also hoping to start back at the gym tomorrow morning (after getting all my morning chores finished); hope springs eternal. My weight has climbed back up somehow, and so getting back to the gym is a lot more important than it has been. I hate that my weight is climbing again, and I am sure it has to do with me being more sedentary over the last few months than I had been in the months before. (Just thinking about how good it will feel to stretch and work my muscles out again just sent a shiver of delight down my spine.)

But making the list made me feel much better about things, honestly; I don’t know why I have so much trouble falling back into the habits that help me get things done and reduce my stress.

I bought our first King cake of the season yesterday–and yes, it’s quite delicious. I don’t think I bought any last year, since there were no parades or hardly anything Carnival-like; I doubt very seriously that Paul and I will be heading down to super-spreader central out on the corner this year. It’s a shame because we’ve always loved the parades and catching throws, even when the weather is bad; how many times have we stood out there in the rain to catch things? (It’s actually more fun in the rain because most people leave and there’s more room and they throw more because there are less people to throw to…) But I just can’t see taking the risk of getting sick out there–and you know there are going to so many unvaccinated people out there who won’t wear masks at all; the parishes surrounding Orleans are ridiculously defiant when it comes to taking measures to protect other people, which is terribly sad–but those are also the people who drive in to the city and hang out along our parade routes (while posting comments on news articles about how much they hate New Orleans and how the city is so dangerous and riddled with crime–keep your racists asses out in your paradise parishes then, trash), so yeah, no desire to put myself at that much risk, thank you very much. I can only imagine what Carnival is going to do to our infection rates.

Given how many people used to die annually in New Orleans AND Louisiana from malaria, yellow fever, and other pandemics that used to rage through the population, you’d think we’d handle things better as a state, city and parish, but nooooooooo….(if you ever want to read a great book about the horrors of a pandemic and massive death in New Orleans during the nineteenth century, Barbara Hambly’s Fever Season is pretty amazing)

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. I have to hide things from the computer camera and do some straightening up as well as preparing. Heavy heaving sigh. And I will see you tomorrow, Constant Reader.

Stop! In The Name of Love

Friday morning and it’s not as chilly in the Lost Apartment as it has been. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and all seems right with the world this morning. I have a lot to get done today–tomorrow is another work day, heavy sigh–and have errands to run later on. I am going to do some things this morning before I leave for the afternoon errands; hopefully once I return home from said errands I will be in the mood to do some writing/cleaning/filing/organizing. I’ve been remarkably productive thus far on this stay-cation (sob, I should be in New York right now); I need to keep that momentum going and I also need to make sure that I am getting properly rested as well. I feel like I’m getting decent sleep and I feel rested when I get up, which is always a plus.

Yay, well-rested Gregalicious!

And it’s a holiday weekend, which is theoretically marvelous. Monday was going to be my re-acclimate to reality after my New York trip, which is no longer necessary or needed, so I should be able to get my focus in order and write write write. I also want to get some reading done this weekend as well. I have Laura Lippman’s short story collection, the new Alafair Burke, and a massive TBR pile full of prospective treasures, which is very cool. I think maybe today when I get home from the errands I may curl up with a blanket and a book for the rest of the afternoon. It’s been a while since I’ve lost myself in a good book–or so it feels–and reading is a pleasure I don’t allow myself to indulge in as much as I would like. Partly because reading is compulsive for me; once I start reading a good book I really don’t want to do anything other than finish reading it, and will make endless excuses to justify or rationalize doing nothing other than reading until the book is finished. This is dangerous, obviously, when I am on deadline…I have enough trouble with deadlines as it is; I don’t need to add something else that will keep me from writing to the already crowded ADHD-addled brain inside my skull.

The kitchen needs to be cleaned, obviously, and of course the floors always need attention. I am going to try today to not be as awful as I have been about the upkeep on the Lost Apartment over the last few months; I am not certain how successful I will be with that, in all honesty. There’s been a lot of lethargy lately–not sure what that’s about, but it’s definitely not the post-book malaise, that’s for sure. I suspect it comes from being overburdened and overwhelmed a bit with everything I need to get done, which inevitably leads to the why bother I’ll never get this all done blues which includes paralysis and the inability to focus and get things done, when the answer is always make a list and start crossing things off. I need to make a grocery list this morning for sure; I am having some “Greg-time” today with an appointment for self-care and I intend to go get groceries once that is over. I need to empty the dishwasher, I need to take out the trash and recycling, and there are numerous other odds and ends that need taking care of around here–which is why the list is of utmost importance this morning. Putting it all down on paper makes it seem less scary and intimidating, and of course, once you have a picture of everything in your head that needs doing it becomes easier to get it all done.

So, after I finish this I am going to make a grocery list, a to-do list, and then I am going to start organizing and cleaning around the kitchen before showering and getting the day off to a good start. Sounds like a good plan, does it not?

And maybe this afternoon, after I read for a bit and while I wait for Paul to come home, I can watch a movie or a Marvel show on Disney Plus. I really liked Loki, despite its slow start, and would like to see some of these other shows as well. We did start The Book of Boba Fett but that first episode was really kind of boring, frankly; I don’t know that we’ll return to it. (I never got the Boba Fett fandom in the Star Wars fan-base; he was really not much of a character in the original trilogy but for some reason caught on, so Lucas made him a key player in the next trilogy…which didn’t play for me.)

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

Run, Run, Run

Wednesday morning and it’s not as cold as it has been, but it’s still (of course) cold in the Lost Apartment, same as it ever was when it is cold outside. I didn’t want to get out of my warm bed this morning yet again, but there’s no choice, obviously, as I have to leave for the office shortly. It’s my last day in the office of the week; I had actually taken tomorrow off because we were going to have our new year’s lunch at Commander’s tomorrow, but with the recent uptick of cases and changes in safety protocols and so forth, we all decided it was probably for the best to cancel it. This gives me another day off at home to work on the book and do some cleaning; not the worst possible outcome, but I would rather be having lunch at Commander’s if I have to be honest about it. Friday will thus be another work-at-home day for me, and then I will have the weekend to work some more on the book.

Not the best, but certainly not the worst potential outcome here.

I did tape “The Reading Life” with the always delightful Susan Larson for WWNO yesterday, which is always a pleasure. I also am going to be interviewed for a newspaper over the phone on Friday; it’s been a while since I’ve done one of those, and so it should be interesting. I am also not feeling quite as tired or sleepy this morning as I did yesterday; perhaps it’s the coffee, perhaps it’s a better night’s sleep, I am not sure which is true, frankly, I just know this morning I feel more awake than I did yesterday (not as awake and energetic as Monday, to be sure, but still, this is better than yesterday when I felt like something Scooter had dragged in). We watched the LSU bowl game for a while before finally, regretfully, giving up on the game and watching another episode of Yellowjackets, which continues to enthrall; I am really looking forward to getting back to it again tonight, to be honest. It’s so very well done, well written and acted, and such a spectacular cast, too! I do recommend it, even though it’s early in the season and things can still easily go off the rails.

It’s also Pay-the-Bills Day (huzzah?), so I will be spending some of my lunch hour doing exactly that, and determining if a Costco run this weekend is in order. I don’t know, to be honest; there’s only a few things that I actually need from there, and there’s a very real sense that I can probably do without those things for another week or so, right? It always ends up costing so much to go there…because I can always find more things I “need” than are on my grocery list–defeating the purpose of the list entirely.

My mind is all over the place this morning, which is to be expected, I suppose. It’s really a wonder my ADHD-addled brain allows me to get anything finished or accomplished at all. I have managed to get coping mechanisms in place to help me with my fevered all-over-the-place brain; the one good thing about having an ADHD-addled mind is that when you are able to focus it, you can focus it with laser-like precision. I am having some trouble focusing my brain this morning, but I am hoping that the causes of that will fade as the morning progresses and I’ll be able to get focused the later in the day it gets. I need to do some writing today and I need to empty out my email inbox once and for all. I need to make a list of things I need to get done this week. I need to clean the house and stop to make a little groceries on the way home from the office tonight.

I also need to stop being overwhelmed by how much I have to get done and just start fucking doing it.

And so, on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. I am going to be productive today if it kills me. Have a lovely Wednesday!

Yesterday Once More

I’ve always believed that it is smarter to set goals every year rather than resolutions; resolutions have almost become kind of a joke in that no one ever really keeps them past the first few weeks of the new year. Years ago, I decided to change that up and set goals to achieve rather than resolutions to change behavior, and that has worked out much better for me. Sure, there have been some of the same goals set every year that have never been achieved (I’m looking at you, find an agent) but I find that it all seems to work out in the end, and the goals I never achieve and carry over just maybe need some more of my energy and focus applied to them

Before, however, I get into the goals for one Gregalicious in 2022, I’d like to go over some of the things that stood out for me in 2021, both good and bad.

HIGHLIGHTS OF 2021: I was able to visit New York in November and then head up to Boston by train for Crime Bake, and it was a marvelous experience; I learned a lot more family history; made the list of
“other distinguished work” in Best Mystery and Suspense; finished writing and published Bury Me in Shadows at long last; finished the Kansas book finally; I read some great books and watched some great movies and television shows; signing a book contract with Crooked Lane; sold some short stories (“The Snow Globe”, “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” and “Night Follows Night”, among possible others I cannot recall at the moment); a visit to the Gardner Museum whilst in Boston; I bought a new computer with which I am still rather pleased; and I did some more deep diving into New Orleans history, which has been incredibly fun.

LOW LIGHTS: Hurricane Ida and the ensuing horrific power loss at precisely the worst time of the year to be without climate control in New Orleans (will never ride out another storm of that size again, ever); the on-going pandemic canceling the Edgars and conferences and limiting/prohibiting travel; no Williams Fest/S&S again; the horrible polar vortex that brought record low temperatures to New Orleans during Carnival and we had no heat, so I spent Fat Tuesday freezing under many layers of clothes, layers of blankets, and with a space heater on and still was shivering and cold and miserable; my inability to finish writing the first draft of Chlorine; and of course, not finishing any of the novellas I really wanted to get finished this past year–and any number of short stories as well.

I think the biggest goal I want to set for 2022 has to do with Chlorine. I want to get a viable first draft finished as soon as I can, because the second part of the goal with Chlorine is to finally get representation, or at least try again. I think once I get this current manuscript finished and some of the stories and novellas I have in progress out of the way, I can focus on getting Chlorine finished and out on spec. My goal is to make that my March project, giving me January and February to finish all the other stuff and get it out of the way.

My second goal, also to do with writing, is to get the next short story collection pulled together as well as the novella collections. I think I have enough completed work to get the story collection turned in this year–some of the stories I have in mind for it are still in progress, of course, and of course I have three completed drafts of novellas that need to be redone, revised, and two others that need to be written (or do I? I am now remembering that there’s a third that needs a revision but has a completed draft, so that’s four–and now that I think about it more deeply there are three in some sort of progress that I should be able to get finished in the new year). There’s also the essay collection, which is going to take some serious focus and concentration to pull together. I also want to write a Scotty book this year…which is a LOT to have on one’s plate in one year. (This could, of course, all change should Crooked Lane want a follow-up to the book I am currently writing; this is the sort of thing that makes someone like me–a planner–crazy because I cannot control what requests are going to be made for work from me.)

Next goal is, naturally, work out related. I need to make it to the gym three times per week, going forward into this new year. My fitness regimen has been all over the place since the pandemic started, but it’s been a lot more consistent since the pandemic started than it was in the (many) years prior when I just stopped going entirely and allowed my body to not only go to seed but to start breaking down. I feel better when I lift weights and stretch, and I should also add a cardio day to my workout schedule. I want my goal weight to remain 200–I’m not sure what I weigh now, frankly, but I know it’s not 225, which was where I’d allowed myself to get–and I’d like to get into 32 waist pants (comfortably) again in the new year. (I can get into 32’s in stretchy jeans, but 33’s in regular jeans, while I can fit into them, aren’t as comfortable as I would like them to be, and right now comfort above all else.) I don’t think I’ll ever get my Gumby-like flexibility back again, but the stretching does feel incredibly good when I do it (I also want to add stretching daily to the regimen; I can stretch at home just as easily as I can at the gym) so it needs to become more of a routine thing for me.

My next goal is to break my lifelong habit of falling into procrastination at every opportunity. While I will be the first to admit that it’s best to listen to your brain and your body and to not try to push them into things when they are exhausted or tired or fried, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s just laziness, and I own that completely: oh, there’s plenty of time to do this or oh I will just get this done tomorrow is too easy a habit to fall into; even as I write this I am thinking Oh I can go to the store tomorrow and I can also write tomorrow and there’s no need for me to do any of this today despite the fact I feel rested and relaxed and creative. So I am going to finish this and then I am going to get cleaned up and get back to my writing (the groceries, on the other hand, can 100% wait until tomorrow).

Another goal is to keep on top of the housework and the filing–and by that, I am also including the storage attic and the storage facility. I want to get the attic cleared out, and I want to clear out the storage as well so i can stop spending that money every month. This isn’t as easy as one might expect, but I figure if I can get rid of a box in the attic every week–again, not as easy as one might think–I should be able to get a handle on this all by the middle of the year. One box a week doesn’t sound too difficult, does it? And yet…

All right, on that note I need to get back to the writing. I think I can push through quite a bit today, even if I don’t want to–which I don’t–but I also have no choice. The book is due exactly two weeks from today, and I don’t want to turn in something as sloppy as what I have on my hands right now.

Have a wonderful New Year, Constant Reader!

Tears of Sorrow

And just like that, it is now 2022.

We’ve been having a more than abnormal heat wave lately; Thursday when I went to run my errands it was over eighty degrees, according to the car’s temperature gauge, and yes, since you asked so nicely, I was in fact running the air conditioner. The air conditioner in the house has also kicked on and off several times over the past few days. I prefer it to be warm than cold, without question, it just seems a bit weird.

I did give in to my curiosity a bit and watched some of the College Football Play-off games yesterday; in which Alabama spanked Cincinnati and Georgia dominated Michigan to set up yet another championship game between the two. This will be the first time they’ve played twice in the same season though; the question is whether or not Georgia will at long last get the Alabama monkey off their back and finally get a title win. I won’t get involved in the “Did Cincinnati/Michigan belong in the play-offs” conversation because they earned their way in and I don’t think there was anyone else (sorry, Ohio State/Notre Dame/Baylor fans) who might have done any better than they did against this year’s two juggernauts; this is like how in 2011 LSU and Alabama were so much better than anyone else they were the only teams capable of beating each other. Paul said earlier in the season, “It’s really just Georgia and Alabama, and then everyone else” and he was right. People are already bored with the notion of two SEC teams playing for the national championship again for the third time in just over a decade; I am curious to see if this development will result in another reshuffling/change to the system.

We also finished watching Gossip Girl the OG last night, and while it’s nice to finally be finished with the show, I feel like the last season was a bit hurried, and the final outcomes of the cast mates’ lives–who they wound up with for their HEA’s–wasn’t necessarily the best outcome or the one I wanted to see, but life sometimes just works out that way. The identity of the actual “gossip girl” was never really, to me, a big mystery of the show–whenever I did think about it, the big reveal at the end was the only outcome that could possibly make sense over all, even if they did cheat a bit from time to time to throw the viewers off the scent, but at the same time–I was more interested in the melodrama playing out on screen between the characters than actually caring about the mystery at the heart of the show, or finding out who it actually was. I still think–without watching the rest–that the OG is vastly superior to the new edition, but I may go back and finish watching the sequel series simply because I am, if nothing else, a completist.

I need to work this weekend; I need to write and revise and edit and work on my email inbox, among other things, and at some point I need to make a grocery run (something I am really not looking forward to, but there are definitely worse things at this point that going to the store), and of course, there’s always housework that needs to be done. I was very tired these last two days–not sure what that was about, some combination of physical, mental, and intellectual exhaustion, no doubt–so waking up feeling good and rested and not sluggish was a lovely feeling; an excellent portent for the new year. I’ve also decided to set my goals for 2022 in a different entry for clarity’s sake.

Reflecting back on 2021, as I’ve been doing these past few days, hasn’t been easy–in no small part because the last two years have sort of blended together in my head as “the pandemic year” even though we are about ready to go into Year Fucking Three of it, which was completely and utterly unnecessary–but one great reading pleasure I forgot to mention in my round-up of what I enjoyed this last year was Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series, which has brought me no small amount of pleasure in this pandemic time. I still have a long way to go in the series before I can even consider myself close to the point of running out of books to read within it; but I would also like to revisit King’s Kate Martinelli series and some of her other work as well. She really is particularly gifted as a writer, and she’s made me fall in love a bit with Sherlock Holmes, and Conan Doyle didn’t even manage that particular feat. (I also kind of want to revisit the Nicholas Meyer iterations of Holmes; there’s a brand new one out now that involves Egypt, so naturally I want to dig into that one.)

I also need to figure out what I need to revise and write that I’ve agreed to do thus far…yikes! I will be the first to admit I’ve been sluggish these last couple of weeks–the holidays always do that for me–but I feel rested and alert and capable this morning, which is more than I can say for any other morning lately. So I am going to finish this off, do my 2022 goals entry, and then get my day going. I don’t know if I am going to watch any of the bowl games today–I don’t find myself caring very much about any of the games being played today, and I might put them on for background noise while I do other things. (I spent a lot of time yesterday while doing things listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and then some of the earlier session versions of the songs that come along with the “deluxe bonus” version of the album on Spotify; one of the earlier session recordings of “Gold Dust Woman” is spectacular–That Bitch Ford made sure I listened to it–and I might spend some time listening to other Fleetwood Mac albums today as well.)

So, today I need to spend some time with the book; spend some time with a promotional article I need to write for #shedeservedit, and need to do one last final edit/revision on “The Sound of Snow Falling.” I feel like that’s an ambitious enough program for the first day of the new year, and should I finish these things as planned, I can reward myself with some reading time.

I seriously cannot wait to be finished with writing this book, frankly.

And on that note, I am going to move on to writing up my goals email. Have a lovely New Year, Constant Reader–and I will check in with you again later with the goals and then again tomorrow morning.

Never Again

One of the many Youtube wormholes I have fallen down since the pandemic descended upon on our world has been the magical journey of the music reaction video. I didn’t know this was even a thing–I think it was Twins the New Trend’s reaction video to the Carpenters that went viral was when I actually learned this is something people not only do, but can make money from (O magical world of the Internet! Is there anything that can’t be monetized?) but this led me to, thanks to Youtube suggestions, other young people or music specialists (vocal coaches, etc.) reacting to older music they’ve not heard before, or from artists they may recognize the name of but not their music.

Needless to say, seeing these young people discover, appreciate, and love Fleetwood Mac (and Stevie Nicks) is not only a lot of fun but also is an unneeded justification of my nearly life-long love of the band. The Rumours album is probably my favorite album of all time; and since it was released (and I discovered it) when I was in high school in Kansas, Rumours is always linked in my mind to not only high school but to Kansas in particular. I didn’t have an 8-track player in my car when I was in high school–I never even had a car of any kind with the capacity to do anything other than play the radio until 1991–but radio was a major player back in those days, and I of course had other friends who did have 8 track or cassette players in their cars… Rumours was pretty much owned by everyone (as was Hotel California by the Eagles and Boston’s debut album) and so it was often heard in cars, played loudly, as it drove way over the speed limit down country roads.

But watching these people discover the Mac, and listening to and enjoying their music for the first time (despite my devotion to Stevie and all things Stevie, my favorite Mac song will always be “Go Your Own Way”) has taken me down that pleasant road of nostalgia and memory…which came somewhat in handy as I wrote #shedeservedit aka the Kansas Book. I based Liberty Center geographically on Emporia, Kansas; but I have not set foot in Emporia since I left one snowy February night in 1981 so I had to rely a lot on memories. I did use Google Earth to revisit, in case my faulty memory was wrong about where a street was or how the grid the city was laid out on precisely was laid out–where was the Catholic cemetery, where was the college campus, where was the park down by the waterfall–but since I was also fictionalizing everything, it was more of a guideline than anything else; it was easier for me to picture it all in my head that way rather than making it all up from scratch. (I also got the name Liberty Center, and used it, as a tribute to Philip Roth and his novel When She Was Good; I’d gone through many many iterations of names for that town throughout the years, but Liberty Center was just too perfect not to use)

And yes, I listened to a lot of Fleetwood Mac while I was writing the book. While Hotel California and Boston can both take me back to Kansas if I listen to them, Fleetwood Mac’s first three albums with Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, Tusk) definitely do it almost from the first chord (if I am writing, of course–I am also realizing as I write this and think it through that I need to write an essay about my lifelong fandom of Fleetwood Mac, and how their music has always inspired me with my writing and creativity as well as connected with me emotionally).

Although, interestingly enough, the first time I ever published fiction about Kansas–my short story “Promises in Every Star”–it was actually inspired by another band, ’til Tuesday. But that’s a story for another time.

Music has always been important to my writing process–back in the days of CD’s, I used to put five in the stereo and hit shuffle whenever I started writing, trying to make them all from the same artist or at least similar artists–and I’ve noticed that recently I don’t listen to music quite as much as I used to when I write, and have been thinking that maybe I need to go back to that process. I rediscovered my love of writing after a long burnt out period by using journals to record ideas and random thoughts and things again–going back to my roots, as it were–and so maybe music is something I need to add back into my writing experience, especially since I am coming down to crunch time with the new book.

I’m working at home today–there’s data entry to do and condoms packs to make, as always–and then of course tomorrow is our paid holiday for New Year’s, so I can spend that day writing and cleaning and running errands and so forth. I need to pick up a prescription today, so will probably do that at some point (I think the pharmacy will be closed tomorrow, since its in one of our buildings and they do get holidays as well) and also will need to do a deep dive into my email inbox and get some things done around here.

And that’s my cue to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely New Year’s Eve Eve!

Carol of the Bells

Well, I am officially on Christmas holiday. No working at home this Thursday; I do have some errands to run and I am hoping–really hoping–that once I return from these errands I won’t have to go outside for anything other than going to the gym over the next few days. I also am hoping to be incredibly productive: to get some writing, cleaning and organizing done; and some serious and intense reading. Here’s hoping!

Huzzah!

This cold snap (go ahead and sneer, all those who live north of I-10) has been wonderful for my sleep. I slept well again last night and thus feel very well-rested this morning. There’s just something about a warm, comfortable bed and piles of blankets that make sleeping much better for me. (The problem in places that get super cold is that I never want to get out of the bed–well, one of many problems I have with cold weather.) As I mentioned, I have some errands to run today and other than that, this is a free day at home for me, and I hope to use my time wisely. I never did pay the bills yesterday–they aren’t due until next week at any rate–so I should probably go ahead and get that out of the way at some point today or tomorrow; I also need to get some things from the store and pick up the mail, and let’s face it; today will be better to do that than any other day this weekend. The book continues apace; it’s halfway done now and hopefully by the end of the weekend will be much deeper into it and closer to being finished. Huzzah!

So, back to the blatant self-promotion. Part of the reason I am so bad at self-promotion is because promotion, in theory, is about beating the drum and shouting your name from the rooftops and trying to engage people into being interested in buying, or at least thinking about buying, your latest book. I tend to constantly question myself about everything–was this my place to write this book; could I have done a better job of it; and so on. I hate begging people to review my books, let alone read them; and of course I am never comfortable bragging about myself or feeling secure in myself and with my work (that “humility” part of my upbringing) that I inevitably always default to self-deprecation, which is also self-defeating, which is also a part of my own personal psychosis that I need to either control or cure myself from–it’s hard to be successful when you are constantly undermining yourself.

One of the major difficulties about writing for teenagers is that, well, I don’t really know any. I do remember being a teenager–the best advice someone gave me while writing my first y/a many years ago was “just remember everything is the end of the world to them”–but the world is dramatically different for teens today than it was back in the Pleistocene era when I was one. (So much for “write what you know,” right?) But I don’t think the emotional lives of teenagers are any different than they used to be; sure, they grew up with the Internet and smart phones and communicating through apps become obsolete and passé between first and second drafts–and trying to decipher the abbreviations and emojis and so forth would need Champollion and the Rosetta Stone–but being a teenager today, with it’s technological differences, doesn’t mean their interior lives have changed that much. Sure, the bullying and it happening on-line are significantly different than it was when I was a teenager–I am so glad we didn’t have social media and smart phones when I was in high school–but like I said, trying to be accurate about the apps they use to communicate can quickly date your book, so I try to leave as much of that out of them as possible. One of the things I absolutely hated about young adult/juvenile fiction when I actually was one myself was it never seemed real to me; the characters weren’t anyone I actually knew–I remember one book where the teenagers were into Gilbert & Sullivan and this was completely alien to me. There also seemed to be a sort of Hayes-like code for these books; and while I know that the 1970’s was also a period of change and more explosive topics for books for kids (Judy Blume, anyone?), the vast majority of books targeted at me didn’t interest me. I also always hated preachy books; and so avoided ones that dealt with “controversial” topics because they inevitably had A Very Valuable Lesson to Teach, something I try to avoid when I myself am writing about something controversial.

Following the stories of what happened in Steubenville and Marysville, and other stories like the Stanford Rapist and this recent one about the kid who was drugging and raping girls on Long Island and will serve no time, deeply offended my own personal sense of justice, fairness, and equality. As a gay man who has been directly discriminated against as well as passively (the micro-aggressions and daily reminders from a culture and society riddled with systemic homophobia are endless), I never like to see other people treated unfairly, either individually or as a group. For many years, I was so focused on homophobia and concern about HIV/AIDS that I basically had tunnel vision and was unable to see how what I experienced personally and as a part of a minority group extrapolated to other marginalized groups. This was partly because I was raised in a society where that marginalization was the norm; my gender and skin shielded me from it for the most part and the loss of privilege experienced as a result of my own sexuality was outrageous in some ways to my sense of justice and fairness, therefore that was the priority of any and all activism from me.

But as I slowly undid the conditioning and lessons of my childhood, and given the reckoning triggered by the aforementioned cases as well as the #metoo and #timesup movements, I felt toxic masculinity and its companion rape culture needed to be something I addressed in my writing. I started with some short stories–“The Silky Veils of Ardor” for one, and “This Town” for another–all the while the Kansas book was being developed and worked on in the background and around other contacted manuscripts. Homophobia is, after all, deeply rooted in toxic masculinity; and I began to realize how interconnected all forms of discrimination are; what theorists refer to as ‘Intersectionality.’ I’ve always, after all, written about homophobia and discrimination of some sort, so why not expand myself and where I am mentally, extrapolate everything I’ve experienced to other similar situations and issues involving other marginalized groups? The Diversity Project I’ve embarked on over the past few years, reading other voices that are non-white, has broadened my mind in so many ways that I wish had not been necessary, and I am rather resentful that my own education was so narrow and so exclusionary. But at least I am aware of its failures, and my own that resulted from this lack; although it can be frustrating from time to time to see something much more clearly that I should have always been conditioned to see clearly; and I hate that I had on blinders that I wasn’t aware I was wearing.

I am trying to do better. I am trying to be better. And I am getting better at noticing defaults that are problematic, that are a result of the cultural and societal conditioning of my childhood and most of the first half of my life that it took me far too long to start questioning.

And you now see why I am so shitty at self-promotion.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

It’s hard to believe that Christmas will be all over one week from today, but there it is. It’s been humid and in the eighties here in New Orleans the last few days, which is about as un-Christmas like as one can imagine. I don’t mind the heat, to be honest, but wouldn’t mind a slight temperature dip to recognize the holiday–a slight one. Not even a fan of it going much lower than sixty-five, and will inevitably whine when and if it does.

Yesterday was, all in all, a lovely day. I managed to get my chapters done yesterday, as I had hoped–the book is turning out nicely, and I am most pleased with how it’s going, even if I am behind schedule (as always)–and I managed to not make a complete fool of myself on the ZOOM promotion thing I did last night (well, at least I don’t think so). I slept deeply and well last night, managed to get a lot of cleaning up done around here and some organizing, and hopefully today the writing will go well yet again. I also am hopeful that I’ll have the energy to also get other things done around here today. I wasn’t as tired yesterday as I had been the previous two days, which had a lot, I would imagine, to do with sleeping well the way I have the last two nights. I probably need to run to the grocery store today, but I think I might actually wait and go on the way home from work tomorrow. We shall see, I suppose.

And I still need to figure out when things are due and what all I have agreed to do–which means at some point today I need to make A List, which is never really a bad thing to do at any time, really. I do feel a little overwhelmed with deadlines, and A List is precisely the thing I need for right now. All I want to do right now is actually go sit in my easy chair with my coffee and read Vivien Chien’s book, but that’s undoubtedly the part of my brain that always throws up roadblocks and tries to keep me from succeeding, which is the part of my brain I should also never listen to at any time.

Yet here we are.

I’ve also been abstractedly thinking in the macro sense about next year already, and what I want to get done. I had wanted to do another Scotty book this year (the book I am currently writing supplanted it in the schedule), but with so many odds and ends hanging out in my files…I think that after I get all the short stories that are promised out of the way in January, I am going to spend February writing Chlorine while working on the Bouchercon anthology, which I would love to have finished and out of the way by the end of February (while being aware that I probably won’t get Chlorine finished in that same period of time, most likely), and then I want to get all these novellas and short story collections and potential essays finished and out of the way before I dive into another Scotty book. I know what that Scotty book is going to be–which is a lot more than I usually know going into a Scotty book, other than the title, which this time around is Mississippi River Mischief–but I doubt that’s going to make it any easier to write for me, either.

I also have to bear in mind that Crooked Lane may want another book in this series, too, which I would have to carve out time for.

It never ends–and I hope that it literally never does, frankly; I never want to stop writing and publishing, ever. Even if I stop publishing traditionally, I would probably keep writing and might go the indie route, to be honest. I’ve always written, and will always write as long as I can sit in my desk chair and move my fingers across the keyboard.

There’s also another Corinth County book I want to write, and more Corinth County stories to work on as well.

It’s gray outside this morning, which means clouds and that inevitably means rain at some point. There’s no condensation on my windows so it’s not humid–or not terribly so, at any rate, outside.

Nightmare Alley and the new Spider-Man movie both opened this weekend, and I actually would like to see both films, but am not entirely comfortable going to sit in a movie theater at this point in time. I do love the original Tyrone Power version of Nightmare Alley, and I love the darkness of the book (which was recommended to me by my friend Megan); it’s one of those I would like to have the time to reread at some point. Spider-Man is making bank at the box office, as one would expect it to, and I do love Tom Holland–I think he’s adorable, charismatic, and a good actor–but as much as I think this spectacle probably would work best on a big screen, this current variant situation has me reluctant to go see anything in the theater. I mean, why take chances? And since I am in close contact with people every day I see clients at the office, why push my luck this way? Hopefully both will wind up on a streaming service relatively soon, and I’m not in any huge rush to see either film. There aren’t many films I absolutely have to see immediately right now cannot wait for them to stream these days.

We’re still watching the OG Gossip Girl, which is still fun even if the characters create drama by doing things that have always failed before, which makes it very definitely a soap opera. We’re up to season four now, with only two left once we get through this run, and I suspect our Christmas day is going to be nothing more than a massive Gossip Girl binge watch. There certainly are other shows now piling up on our “must-watch” list, so this lengthy visit with the Gossip Girl gang is certainly allowing us to bank up a lot of shows to watch in reserve–which hopefully means not running out of anything to watch for a good long time.

And on that note, I think I am going to retire to my chair for an hour or so with Vivien Chien before diving into the book for today. Wish me luck, Constant Reader! I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

Christmas Alphabet

Thursday and working at home today. Huzzah!

I got some very good work done yesterday on the book, as well as an invitation to write a story for a tribute anthology, which meant it was a very good day. Today I am working at home, and am also very excited because finally, at long last, I have found Johnny Tremain on a streaming service! And while it disturbs me to no end to actually have to pay to rent it, but I’ve been wanting to see it again for a very long time, and I think I can cough up the couple of bucks to pay for it.

I’ve long wondered where my interest in history came from, and when I saw Johnny Tremain available to stream at long last on Amazon Prime the other day, it hit me: when I was in the first grade, at Eli Whitney Elementary School in Chicago, one afternoon we all gathered in the auditorium and they screened the movie for us. It was my first time seeing anything to do with American history–at that point, I was aware of the Civil War (I was from the South and lived in Chicago; of course I did) and who Washington and Lincoln were, but it was watching this movie–about a teenager in Boston during the period leading up to the American Revolution, that triggered my interest. This was when I started looking for books on American history at the library instead of ones about dinosaurs, and I was in the fourth grade when I finally got a copy of the book (I didn’t know it was a book first) from the Scholastic Book Fair, and it remained a favorite of mine for the rest of my life. I’ve always, always, remembered watching that movie and wanted to see it again; but it wasn’t until recently that I realized that it was the trigger that led me to my interest in American history, and from there to history in general. I am sure, since it’s a Disney picture made in the 1950’s, that it’s very rah-rah patriotic–there’s a thirty minute clip from it on Disney Plus that I tried to watch out of context, but it was so…hit you over the head with AMERICANA and FREEDOM and LIBERTY that I couldn’t really watch all of it; I am hoping that the entire movie won’t be such blatant propaganda, but then again, it was during the height of the Red Scare and it probably was intended to indoctrinate (white) children with a pro-America mentality; patriotism to the nth degree.

So, we’ll see how that goes, won’t we?

I got some good work on the book done last night, after which I was very tired, so I climbed into the easy chair (with a sleeping purr-kitty in my lap) and finished reading A Caribbean Mystery. (More on that later.) I also started reading Nightwing: Leaping into the Light (based on a recommendation from my friend Alex, who always knows whereof he speaks) and it reminded me (again) of why Nightwing is and always has been my favorite super-hero ever since I was a teenager (since he evolved from Robin into Nightwing); and it also finally hit me last night precisely why that was the case; it should make for an interesting blog entry when I get to it. I have so much writing to do–and fortunately I am in a creative state of mind these days, which needs to be more laser-focused. I am pretty confident I will get the book finished in time now, as well as everything else I need to do. We need to make a Costco run at some point, and of course there’s always mail to pick up, dishes to do, floors to clean, and laundry. I also have condoms to pack, and so much reading to do. I inevitably always have more than enough books on hand so that I will never run out of things to read–and that’s not even taking into consideration the ebooks loaded into all the reading apps on my iPad. I slept really well last night–a lovely side effect to being exhausted yesterday–and my shoulder is starting to feel better–at least I can move my arm without feeling a stab of pain, but I do want to keep resting it for another few days before attempting the gym again. I think tonight I might also walk around the Garden District taking pictures of Christmas decorations, which is always a lovely thing to do; one of the many things I love about this city is how it dresses itself up for any and every holiday, which makes it always seem so festive here.

I also have all my Christmas shopping done, and I actually did my Christmas cards last night as well. Now if only my house weren’t such a mess, I could claim I was winning at life!

Paul and I have decided that 2022 is going to be a year dedicated to living our best lives, and we’re thinking about taking another jaunt to Europe (pandemic permitting); but Amsterdam and Berlin will be our destinations. I’ve always wanted to visit both–there’s really nowhere in Europe I don’t want to visit, really–and the appeal of the art museums in both, plus Amsterdam is primarily a walking city, is a hard pull to resist. I’m thinking we might even take the occasional weekend getaway to a panhandle beach, why not? I have to do some traveling for my career (pandemic willing), and I am sure Paul will want to come to Minneapolis with me for Bouchercon, since we both lived there (he lived there much longer than I did; I only lasted eight months, and only agreed to live there on the guarantee it would be eight months and then we would move to New Orleans–other than the weather I really liked it there) it makes sense for him to come with. He works so hard, and he really does deserve to have down time where he can just relax and have fun.

Yesterday at the office I was walking out of our cubicle area to a testing room because one of my clients had arrived. I had noticed that the Crescent Care shirt I was wearing fit rather nicely; I have three of them in purple (one for every clinic day) and one of them, for some reason, fits better than the others and looks more flattering when I wear it. I actually had just thought about it again when I stood up from my desk (“hey, my pecs looks HUGE in this shirt”) and as I walked out, our nurse (hired in July) was sitting at the front desk and she said, “You know Greg, I can see the potential that you were fine when you were younger.” Fifty year old me would have been offended (“what? I look old and tired now?”) but sixty year old me accepted it in the spirit it was intended–a compliment–so I just laughed and replied, “thank you, I was.” Like I said, ten years ago I would have let that hurt my feelings; now I saw it as a compliment–if worded a bit bluntly–and it amused me. Even thinking about it, I am smiling about it.

I do wish I hadn’t been so insecure and self-conscious when I was younger. I also wish I could transfer this very mentality to my writing. I don’t get Imposter Syndrome as much as I used to–more maturity of age, perhaps?–but I do worry about whether people will get what i am trying to do when I write. I worry about unintentionally offending people more than I ever used to before (trust me, if I am trying to offend you, it’s pretty fucking clear); and I am trying to be kinder, more aware, and to exercise empathy as my default rather than getting offended myself. I don’t know how well I am succeeding, but I certainly don’t have my Julia Sugarbaker tirades are regularly as I used to.

Interesting.

Maturity, or just tired?

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

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Friday morning and I have a dear friend’s retirement party to attend in the Bywater this evening. I have to run some errands–including stopping by the office–at some point during the day, and it looks like I shall have to postpone working on the book until tomorrow as there isn’t any way to make time for it today. But these things happen; sometimes life doesn’t allow an author an opportunity to write. It’s not the best possible outcome of a day, of course, but there it is.

I also further aggravated a muscle strain in my left shoulder (usually it’s my right one that becomes an issue, from an old wrestling injury) at the gym last night. I noticed the ache the last time I went to the gym–and thought I could push through it at the gym again last night. I noticed it when I was doing the chest exercise–I had to significantly lower the weight in order to do the exercise–but ironically, the only other time it was an issue was doing tricep pushdowns, when the shoulder merely works as a stabilizer for the working of the triceps. I had to abandon that entirely, and it did make me wonder as I walked home how I strained the muscle in the first place? It’s also worrying, now that I am back into the swing of actually working out again, that I now have a ready-made excuse to talk myself out of going every other day. On the other hand, it’s just a strain of some sort–not even a pull–so it can undoubtedly be worked around. The gym was also very crowded last night, which was irritating; I really need to get used to going into businesses that are more full than I’ve gotten used to over the past year or two. And especially since it’s now Christmas time; everything and everywhere is going to be more crowded.

Sigh.

While I was making condom packs yesterday I started watching Chapelwaite on Epix. I originally started watching it with Paul, but he thought it was too slow and didn’t care to continue watching it. I knew almost from the get-go that it was most likely a slow-burn; it was very Gothic in feel, which inevitably means a slow-burn (a friend asked me if I was watching, and when I said we’d stopped, told me to go back and finish–and she was right). The show is exceptional–it did take me a while to get used to Emily Hampshire playing someone not Stevie on Schitt’s Creek–and if you’re into Gothic horror and suspense, it’s right up your alley. It also handles issues of class, race, prejudice and provincialism extremely well; and the steady sense of dread and building suspense is quite remarkably done. I am really looking forward to finishing watching, to be honest. The afternoon flew past as I watched. It’s based on the story “Jerusalem’s Lot,” by Stephen King, from his Night Shift collection, and yes, it does sort of fit into the mythology of his terrific novel ‘salem’s Lot. I’m not sure if that was his intent when he wrote the story–Chapelwaite, the house in the story, is in some ways similar to the Marsden House in ‘salem’s Lot–which is yet another reason I am looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.

It also gave ma a good idea for another Alabama book, a sort of sequel to Bury Me in Shadows. So huzzah indeed!

But as Friday looms, there’s a lot I have to get done this weekend–I really need to get caught up on the book; I want to finish reading A Caribbean Mystery, and as always, there are endless chores to be done, and don’t even get me started on my email inbox–but I have faith that I shall persevere, and will come out on the other side of the weekend with much ado and accomplishment. (Yes, I do crack myself up from time to time, thanks for asking.) I slept really well last night–we got through the second season of OG Gossip Girl and are now into season three; it really is fun to watch, especially seeing bigger name stars of the present in early roles–Armie Hammer (although one can argue he no longer has a career of which to speak) was in the second season, for example, and yes, shame that he turned out to be what he turned out to be, as he was very good looking and reasonably talented–and our addiction to this show is allowing other shows we watch, or ones we want to watch, pile up so we’ll have plenty to watch in coming weeks and months, which is lovely.

I also think I am finished with Paul’s Christmas presents, but am not entirely sure. I’ll assess once they are in my hot little hands and wrapped (and hidden). And I do need to do my Christmas cards at some point–tick tock, said the clock.

And on that note, tis time to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will speak with you again tomorrow.