Second Hand News

Labor Day Monday and I have a nice relaxing day ahead of me of writing and reading and who knows what else? We also leave for Minneapolis the day after tomorrow, which is also kind of exciting. I did make a small run to make groceries yesterday and had a small Costco order delivered. I also watched some tennis (Coco Grauff) and then we watched the LSU Game. Jury’s still out; they played very lackadaisically to me, it seemed; not quite gelled as a team yet, but lots of talented players with some kinks to work out yet. They ended up losing 24-23, could have tied and/or won the game at the end, and rallied from 24-10 down in the closing minutes, so that was promising. I am of course disappointed the comeback failed, but at one point it literally looked like we were going to lose 31-17, and that final drive went ninety-nine yards in sixty-five seconds. So, they could continue to improve and get better, which is a good sign. I impatiently was hoping this could be turned around in one year, but….it even took Saban an off-year before turning Alabama into what it is today. It was a fun weekend of football, to be sure, and I am always happier when it’s football season.

I mean, take away the two fumbled punts, the blocked extra point, and the blocked field goal, and LSU would be 1-0 right now.

I am curious to see how the rest of the season shakes out.

I skim-reread Jackson Square Jazz yesterday, and again, I was very pleasantly surprised at how well the book still reads, roughly nineteen years after release, and again–I really did do a great job with the characters. I am writing an entry about it, of course, and then started skim-rereading Mardi Gras Mambo, too. I really wish I could remember what the plot was in the first two failed attempts to write the book, but maybe it’ll come to me while I skim reread, but I rather doubt it; I forgot those original plots years ago. I am glad that reader asked me about the Scotty books, though. I had figured I’d talked about them often enough that Constant Reader didn’t really need me to write the backstories behind the books in this series, but I am having the most wonderful time revisiting the books and remembering the process that produced each one. And these first three are so far back in my distant past that it’s almost like reading new-to-me books; I always wondered if my own work would ever get to that point, and clearly, they have done so. I’m not sure how to feel about it, but I imagine Philip Roth didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about his first couple of books, nor did Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, or Erle Stanley Gardner. (Not that I put myself up there with those greats of crime fiction, but you know what I mean.) We write books and we move on from them to write other books, and the farther in the past those old titles get, the more distance I feel from them and the less I remember about them, which makes them much easier to read (at least for me).

And it’s really helping me get back inside Scotty’s brain and his voice, too. Always a bonus, you know?

Today I am going to take it easy but still get things done. I need to write–which I’ve done woefully little of this weekend–and I also need to overhaul the first three chapters of this book before I can move on with it, which should be taken care of today. (I started to do it yesterday but…Coco Grauff was playing!) I also have some other things to get done today–maybe I should make a list of what all I want to get done today; can’t hurt–including making my packing list for the trip (I checked the weather; I think I can get away with taking a sweat jacket with me rather than a coat; every night it’s supposed to dip into the 60’s, which, as we all know, is the dead of winter to me) and some other loose odds and ends. And the skim-rereading of my books is at least getting me to read again–just wait till Wednesday afternoon at the airport though; I’ll be tearing through that Gabino Iglesias novel like it’s going out of style. I don’t think I’ll finish reading the Iglesias, the King, and the Andrews on the trip, but I am taking a book in reserve just in case–A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren. I also need to prep myself for reading only horror in October, the way I do every year; I know there are some Paul Tremblay and Stephen King and Christopher Golden and some other great horror novels sitting there waiting in my TBR Piles. There’s also some great short stories I should read, too. I am sitting on a Daphne du Maurier novella–“A Border-line Case”–and maybe I should spend some time today reading that?

I do love me some du Maurier (reminder to self: reread My Cousin Rachel).

So, we’re basically sitting on today and tomorrow as interim days. I think the house is in good enough shape as is for us to leave without doing some more cleaning, but I always do some cleaning while I am writing. There’s a load of dishes that need doing, and some other picking up and things needing to be put away, but that’s always the case, isn’t it?

And on that note, I am going to make a to-do list, finish those dishes, and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Labor Day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

7

Mabel Normand

Saturday in the Lost Apartment and all is well–at least so far.

I ran errands last night on my way home from work so I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything today involving leaving the house, and I think I’ll go ahead and make groceries on-line today to pick up tomorrow; we don’t really need a lot of stuff but it must be done. There’s a part of me that feels incredibly lazy doing this for some reason–perhaps the more I do it, the less guilt I’ll feel about having someone else make my groceries for me. I guess that’s really what it is; getting used to a new service. I mean, even the Fresh Market will do this, too–but one of the things I like about the Fresh Market is, well, everything seems fresher than at the other groceries, and picking out fruit and vegetables isn’t something I am willing to trust to another person just yet. I like to see the fresh stuff I am buying and pick it (although I am still regretting not stopping at that roadside stand when I was on the North Shore last weekend and picking up some Creole tomatoes fresh from the field, especially since I’ve not seen any in stores since then).

It rained again most of the day, and of course we’re still under a flood warning through sometime tonight. There are two systems out there I’ve yet to check but probably will momentarily. It’s that time of year when we seem to be getting hit with a higher degree of frequency since Katrina–just before Labor Day–and I know there have been at least three more storms around this time that I can think of right off the top of my head (2008, 2012, and last year for sure). Well, I took a look and yes, there is still a system in the Caribbean near the Yucatan, and there’s another one developing in the eastern Atlantic (meaning there are now two out there) but at least we’re okay for now. Labor Day weekend, on the other hand, could be something else entirely. Last year’s Ida was more of a Labor Day thing, if I am remembering correctly, or at least its impact and aftermath lasted through Labor Day. (2021 is still kind of blurry for me.)

The sun is shining right now, and I rested really well last night. A good night’s sleep is always a pleasure on the weekends, of course, and I even allowed myself the indulgence of sleeping in a little later. I have some laundry to finish and a sink to clear in the kitchen, and some other casual cleaning up and household maintenance to take care of this morning before I dive back into the wonderful world of work. I did get Chapter One rewritten Thursday–still leaves something to be desired, but isn’t completely the shitty mess it was before–and I did get started revising Chapter Two, which is going to be trickier–and then I have to springboard into Chapter Three, which I still have to figure out. I also want to do some work on some other things I am working on (as always) and I want to dedicate some time to reading Gabino’s marvelous novel The Devil Takes You Home today and tomorrow. I’ve actually been better these last couple of weeks at not being completely exhausted when I get home, which has also enabled me to try, at some level, to keep up with the housework so I don’t have to spend the entire day today cleaning and organizing and filing–there will be some of that, of course, and I also have to spend some time revisiting older Scotty books; maybe one of the things I could do today is start working on the Scotty Bible? That would help me remember everything that’s going on in the family and refresh my brain about some other things (did I ever give Rain’s doctor husband a name, for one really strong example of bad memory) and of course it would never hurt to have all of that assembled in one place that is easily accessible. Heavy sigh.

We also are watching Bad Sisters on Apple TV, and am really enjoying it. It’s rather dark; it’s about five extremely close Irish sisters who lost their parents young and were all raised by the oldest sister, who now lives in the family home, is single and apparently unable to have children. One of the sisters is married to an emotionally abusive asshole named John Paul who apparently takes delight in torturing and being cruel not only to his wife but to her sisters. One decides he needs to die, and recruits the oldest to help her kill him…and then each episode details how another sister got involved in the plan. The show opens with his funeral, so we know they succeed at some point, but the story alternates between the past (the sisters slowly coming together to decide to kill The Prick, which is what they all call him) and the team of brothers who work for the insurance company who have to pay out the death claim. The brothers (half-brothers, actually; one is played by the same hot actor who played the escort Emma Thompson hires for sex in her most recent film, which we enjoyed and I can’t recall the name of now) don’t really get along either. The oldest is convinced John Paul was murdered, but the younger brother is really attracted to the youngest sister and they are starting to develop a romantic relationship. It’s quite cleverly written and plotted–and even before I was completely sold on the show, I realized I wanted to keep watching because I hated John Paul so much I wanted to see how they decided to kill him and how. But well into the second episode I had to confess to being hooked. I loved the dueling timelines (I have always been a sucker for stories that are told this way, both the past and the present, flashing back and forth; I’ve always wanted to do one that way, but it seems really hard. A good example of a crime novel using this technique is Alison Gaylin’s What Remains of Me), the writing is sharp, and the acting top notch. It also takes place in Ireland, with gorgeous cinematography. I’ll keep you posted as we continue to watch.

We also watched the latest episode of Five Days at Memorial, which was truly painful to watch. The first episodes didn’t really get to me, but episode five–the fifth day, when the decision was made that everyone had to be out of the hospital and whoever couldn’t get out would be left behind regardless of the consequences, was absolutely wrenching in a way the previous episodes had not been. My Katrina scars are as nothing compared to what a lot of other people experienced: I survived, I was able to get out before the storm arrived, and my scars, while still from loss, are from bearing witness by watching television and witnessing what I saw when I finally came home in October, as well as living in a nearly-empty, 90% destroyed city after my return. (Last year, when we trapped here as Ida came in, was bad enough; I cannot imagine how horrible it would have been to have been stuck here praying for someone to come rescue us. At least we were able, and had the means, to finally get out when we ran out of food and water.)

I’ve also found myself thinking a lot about my Katrina writing these last couple of days–my essay “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet”; my short stories “Disaster Relief” and “Annunciation Shotgun” and “Survivor’s Guilt”; and of course, Murder in the Rue Chartres. I was thinking about this book last night–partly because of watching Five Days at Memorial, because it reminded me that Rue Chartres wasn’t supposed to be the third Chanse book at all. The third Chanse book was supposed to be something else altogether, but obviously in the wake of Hurricane Katrina my plans for both the Chanse and Scotty series had to dramatically shift and change. Seventeen years ago was a Saturday, the Saturday we nervously watched the storm, having now crossed south Florida and entered the Gulf, intensifying and growing and taking aim directly at New Orleans. We decided to not leave just yet; every other time a hurricane had threatened the city after we moved here we watched and waited patiently, and were rewarded with the storm turning east before coming ashore and the city avoiding a direct hit. We never lost phone, cable or power during those other instances–we were nervous, still reassuring ourselves of the turn to the east before landfall but the reality that we would have to leave was becoming more and more real. It’s odd that this year the dates all on the same day they fell back in 2005, so it’s a reflective anniversary that mirrors the actual weekend it happened. I’m debating whether I want to watch the new documentary on HBO MAX, Katrina Babies–that might be definitely too much for me to handle. (I’m still surprised that we’re able to–and were willing to–watch Five Days at Memorial, to be honest.)

At least I know Paul won’t be shaking me awake tomorrow morning at eight saying, Honey, we need to go.

OH! I didn’t tell you. Yesterday my other glasses I ordered from Zenni arrived–the red frames and the purple frames, and I absolutely love them. I don’t think I need to order any more pairs, to be honest, but it’s so cool to have them! And to have options now. I never ever thought of glasses as anything other than utilitarian, to be honest; I needed them to work and that was all I cared about, and I also thought they were too expensive to treat as part of a “look” or to be more style conscious…but Zenni is so inexpensive; the three pairs I got are all cheaper than the pair I got with my eye exam, and using my insurance. Had I saved my insurance for use on Zenni, they would have been even cheaper.

Life. CHANGED.

And on that note, I am going to make some more coffee and dive back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

Blue Letter

Friday!

I’m not certain why waking up on Friday makes me happy–or as happy as one can be when going through the tedious process of waking up from slumber–but I am sure it has to do with a light day at the office and then two days at home that are free (well, free from the day job, at any rate; I work all weekends as it is), and of course I will have errands to run as always, writing to do, laundry and dishes to clean up, etc etc etc. I want to finish reading Gabino’s book this weekend, and of course I want to write and do some other things as well. It rained overnight–a quite marvelous thunderstorm–and it’s still rainy and damp this morning now that I have arisen. It felt rather marvelous to sleep last night. There’s really nothing like rain/thunderstorms to help one sleep when one is buried beneath a pile of comfortable and very warm blankets.

I did work on Mississippi River Mischief some last night–the first chapter wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was, but it needed some fixing and things and so I was more than happy to add about a thousand words to it as well as clean some of it up. I also recorded a video for an on-line conference for A Streetcar Named Murder. I had to clean off my desk and straighten up the kitchen in order to get it done, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be to do, and I didn’t even mind seeing myself on video or hearing the recording of my voice as much as I usually do. Which was nice, of course–the initial shock of seeing how much older I look than I think I look seems to not be as great as it used to be. Acceptance? A final loss of vanity? Who knows? But it wasn’t as big an ordeal or as terrible as I feared it would be (few things ever are as terrible as I worry they will be, thanks to my vivid imagination). It’s also interesting to start transitioning into promo mode for A Streetcar Named Murder, which should be kind of different and fun than what I am used to experiencing when it comes to book promo.

I’m feeling good this morning, and my coffee is hitting the spot, and everything feels right, which is always a little unsettling for me as I inevitably wait for the other shoe to drop that is going to fuck everything up. It has always been my experience in life that there’s always another shoe about to drop. We finished watching one of the Fyre Festival documentaries last night–the Netflix one rather than Hulu, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. As someone who has done event planning, and is married to someone who basically has been an event planner since 1998, oh my God, how we both were cringing. Sure, we had hindsight, but…as we watched as the disaster unfolded and the guests started arriving into the mess that had been created, one of the people involved with it kept talking about how, right up until the last minute, the guy in charge–Billy something, who actually turned out to be a sociopathic schemer–kept thinking and believing and convincing everyone that it would somehow all come together and work out at the last minute. I turned to Paul and said, “what’s really frightening about this is knowing I’ve been that person many many times, oh, it’ll all come together while not being entirely sure that it will but thinking that because it always has before. Have you ever felt like that?”

And he replied, “every weekend before the Festival starts I basically have a panic attack.”

No matter how many lists you make, no matter how much attention you pay, no matter how many reminder notes you scribble down somewhere, there’s always this fear that you forgot something important that’s going to rise up and bite you in the ass at the worst possible time. It always reminds me of that bit from The Shining about the boiler–“that what was forgotten” (although I knew in the beginning of the book, when the hotelier spent so much time explaining the boiler to Jack, that at some point it was going to blow the entire hotel to smithereens–SPOILER, sorry!).

In fact, I had completely forgotten that I had chaired World Horror Con in New Orleans whatever year that was; 2014? 2015? 2013? It really wasn’t terrible, but all those spinning plates…but I was cautious and careful and made sure nothing went awry, and overall it ran relatively smoothly. Funny that I had forgotten about that. Is it my age and getting older that has damaged my memory so badly? Or is it that the older you get the more you have to remember, so there’s limited room in my memory banks so things get stored deeper in my brain and aren’t as easily accessible? That’s better and easier to believe than my memory is faltering and synapses are no longer firing.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely and dry Friday, Constant Reader. I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

Belle Fleur

Wednesday and the middle of the week and the countdown to Bouchercon continues. I think we leave two weeks from today? I booked my parking at the airport for the trip reservation yesterday, so it’s starting to feel like it’s actually going to happen. I am looking forward to this trip–I can’t believe I’ve not seen some friends since 2018–even though it’s going to be completely and totally exhausting. We have to change planes in Chicago both directions (because that always makes trips more relaxing and less stressful, you know) and then of course there’s the to-and-fro with the airport up there and…no, I am going to focus on the fun aspects of the trip rather than the hassles and irritations that come with traveling (I am also in denial over my usual travel insomnia).

Yesterday was okay. I got tired right around lunch time, and ran my errands on the way home (I did, however, cut one errand out that will have to be run today after work). By the time I got home, my mind wasn’t in a focused place, so rather than trying to read anything I did chores–laundry, dishes, straightening up, filing–and when Paul got home we watched the finale of Only Murders in the Building, which was fun, and the final episode of that Woodstock 99 documentary we’d been watching whose title I can’t recall at the moment (we enjoyed it so much we might actually watch the documentaries about the other shitshow festival, Fyre) but it was enjoyable before we retired for the evening. And it was really nice getting up to a relatively clean kitchen this morning. Hopefully, tonight I’ll have the energy to do the floors before doing some reading and writing.

I realized last night the reason I’ve been so reluctant to go back and revise these first two chapters of Scotty (as well as fix the problems in the four chapters of the other book) has been primarily because I intellectually know that they are terrible and need a lot of work, and I haven’t really been in the mood to examine just how terrible of a writer I can be (hush, you there in the back) when I writing a first draft and the story is still gestating in my head. I also keep defaulting to Mississippi River Bottom as the title of this book, which it’s not–it’s Mississippi River Mischief. Mississippi River Bottom was the working title for Jackson Square Jazz, and that flashed back into my head this morning as I referred to the book as “bottom” rather than “mischief.” In JSJ, Scotty meets the young figure skater at a seedy gay strip club–which I dubbed “the Brass Rail”, and I’ve used ever since as a stand-in whenever I need a seedy gay strip club for either Scotty or Chanse or a short story or anything I am writing where I need a seedy gay strip club. Most people assume “the Brass Rail” is the Corner Pocket, but it wasn’t originally. There used to be a seedy gay strip club in the lower Quarter–I don’t remember exactly where it was–called MRB’s, that had a stage AND a pole, should one of their dancers be so inclined. When I was new to New Orleans, I asked someone what MRB’s stood for, and they replied, “Mississippi River Bottom”–which amused me to no end; what a perfect name for a seedy club! It wasn’t until later that I learned it actually stood for Mr. Boudreaux’, which makes more sense…but in my heart I always kept thinking “it’s Mississippi River Bottom”, and when it came time to write the second Scotty. I decided to use that as a title. My publisher didn’t like it and suggested I do something alliterative, to mirror the first, which is how the Scotty titles began. Most of the book centered on the Cabildo fire on Jackson Square, so Jackson Square Jazz made sense to me as a title, and the publisher loved it. I’ve kept using the Brass Rail since then–it played a pivotal role in Royal Street Reveillon–and it’s going to appear in the new Scotty as well. Continuity alert! When the Brass Rail made its first appearance in my fiction, like MRB’s, it was located in the lower Quarter…however, whenever I’ve used it since it migrated to the Upper Quarter; which, of course, is always possible–businesses in New Orleans change locations quite frequently, and certainly much more frequently than anyone might think. It’s going to remain one of those unremarked-upon continuity errors in the series–why bore the reader by trying to come up with a backstory for the change in location, especially when no one has even noticed?

*eye roll to infinity*

I’m also thinking a lot about the book lately. I have some odds and ends I really need to clear up this week, but I also have been thinking about the book and what its story should be and how to make it all make sense. One of the great stressors of my life is not being able to write as often as I would like; my spare time is becoming more and more limited, and there’s always something else I need to do–that has nothing to do with my writing, which I resent, and I am growing more and more resentful of the time I spend doing things besides writing, which isn’t a good thing.

And on that note, I need to make a to-do list, I need to start getting things done and cleared off my itinerary, so I am going to head into the spice mines. Y’all have a lovely day, okay?

Starshine

Tuesday morning and I am awake, swilling my coffee and trying to think of what all needs to be done this evening when I get home from work. The weekend wasn’t nearly as productive as I would have liked…but it was also my birthday weekend so I am cutting myself some slack here (I know, it’s like I don’t even know myself anymore). I slept well last night, which is lovely, and am feeling awake this morning and not in the least groggy; I could easily go back to bed (which was enormously comfortable this morning) and sleep for a few more hours, but this morning that’s simply not in the cards. I have to get ready for the spice mines here in a moment, but I am just going to sit here and enjoy my coffee for another moment or two here before getting going. My coffee tastes rather good this morning, always a nice sign that it’s hitting the spot, and who knows what this day will bring? I am hoping for the best, as always; a smooth easy day at the office where things go the way they are supposed to, and then a stop on the way home to get some incidentals at the Fresh Market. The office space is a bit of a mess, but hopefully it won’t take long for that to get rectified.

I am also at a crossroads with a couple of projects, where I am trying to resist the urge to go back and fix what I’ve already done so I can move on with the next chapters. I think I am going to have to just go back and fix those chapters because, at least with the Scotty, it’s definitely keeping me from moving into the next chapter. The opening of this book has to be just right, or else the rest of the book will not work. And maybe–just maybe–I should go ahead and do the prologue, which is usually one of the last things I write (primarily because I am having trouble right now giving backstory in the first two chapters which is kind of necessary–since the prologue isn’t written–but I also need to know how I do the backstory so I know how much (or how little) to say in the text of the novel itself. I was having a bit of despair over the weekend over the state of the book, but just talking it through here this morning is helping clear things up in my head a bit–you see how that works? This is one of the reasons I always say the blog is really, at its most basic, intended for me to talk about things and my life and talk them through and maybe get some clarity in my brain once it’s talked through.

Ugh, August in New Orleans. I don’t know if it actually does get nastier, weather-wise, here in August or if it’s just being tired of the excessive heat going on months now. It rained again yesterday and overnight, and literally walking outside the air is so hot, damp, and heavy it feels like sitting in a steam room. Just stepping out the front door sucks the energy and spirit right out of you. I did manage to run my errands yesterday successfully–I skipped a couple of the errands, like returning the library books and stopping by Fresh Market, which I pushed off till today for after work which I will undoubtedly regret when I get off work and it’s rush hour traffic as I drive uptown on Claiborne Avenue–but it is what it is, and really, yesterday I wasn’t in the mood to run all over New Orleans in the rain and/or the heat/humidity and said fuck it, tomorrow at least I’ll already be out of the house.

Probably not the smartest or best reason to make a decision about running errands, but don’t judge me until you’ve lived here through a summer.

But it’s Tuesday morning and time to go back into the office and handling my patients again, which is a pleasure; I honestly enjoy interacting with my clients, in all honesty, and while it’s not the same as it used to be back in the olden days, I still like to believe I am making a difference in their lives, helping them reduce their risks of getting an STI.

We started watching a documentary about Woodstock 1999–a shitshow if there ever was one; and of course, knowing what’s going to happen makes watching the episode about the planning and the first day and the bright and high-minded mentality of those who organized it (I forgot there had been one in 1994, also a shit show but everyone wasn’t on the Internet yet so it didn’t get as much exposure as 1999 did)–the mentalities of young people in 1999 were significantly different than those they had in 1969; the world, the culture, society and civilization were dramatically altered and changed during that thirty year period. To me at the time, I just remember thinking this is some nostalgia that needs to remain nostalgia–kids nowadays aren’t about tearing down the Establishment and peace and love and harmony anymore; all you have to do is watch MTV’s programming to see this is going to draw that spring-break, party party party fratboy mentality and that is a completely different vibe than 1969. I inevitably was proven correct, but we only got through the first two episodes last night and there’s one left–which is the “all hell breaks loose” episode.

(Writing this reminded me to check the Hurricane Center. There’s still a system out there in the eastern Atlantic, but still not anything to be concerned about. Late August is always a tricky, stressful time for hurricane season–partly because of the Katrina anniversary, but we’ve also had at least three other hurricanes right before Labor Day since then as well, including last year’s delight, Ida.)

I did read some more of Gabino’s book, but it’s so powerful and well-written that the pain and suffering literally comes alive viscerally on the page, and I literally can only take a chapter or so at a time before it gets so intense I have to put it down. The book is brilliant and sad and wise and heartbreaking, and I can’t help but think things for the main character are going to continue to get worse. I think this is probably going to be one of the best books of the year–the writing is gorgeous yet raw as an exposed nerve at the same time–but it’s probably going to take me longer to read it than usual.

And on THAT note, I should probably head into the spice mines and start getting ready for work. May your Tuesday be as joyous as it possibly can, Constant Reader.

Blue Water

Monday rolls around, and it’s a work-at-home Monday. I’m not sure how many work-at-home days we still have left to us in the future; it’s going to feel very odd going in five days a week after all these years of limited in-the-office time. Ah, well, the more things change and all that. Life is always about change, really; which does make you wonder about people who inevitably fall into ruts. I can rarely get into a rut (can’t spell routine without r-u-t) because everything is always different. When I worked for Continental, they used to always tell us “the only constant in this business is change”, and I realized that also applies to life. Things are changing around us all the time. No two days are really the same–certainly not at my day job–and therefore the only rut I ever feel like I’ve ever gotten myself into is just the actual work week; but the tasks and duties are never the same even if the schedule is the same. Every client is different, every testing/counseling session is not the same as the one before or after, every book or story I write is different and the process of writing each is always different.

It rained pretty much all weekend, which gave the outside air a feeling of oppressive heavy dampness whenever I stepped outside of the apartment all weekend. It was a lovely and relaxing weekend, too. I am not pressed, nor did I press myself to get things done, which was also kind of nice, quite frankly. We watched House of the Dragon last night–I kept thinking, “ah, this story is based on the Pragmatic Sanction which led to the War of the Austrian Succession”–and it wasn’t bad. You could tell they don’t have that Games of Thrones sky’s-the-limit budget; some of the CGI wasn’t great and you could tell they didn’t really have crowds or lots of extras in some scenes that required them. We’ll keep watching, of course (the entire time I was thinking, why doesn’t the uncle marry the niece? The Targaryens weren’t above incest–and in fact, many royal marriages in European history were uncle/niece; looking at you, Hapsburg family) but I don’t think it’s going to have the same “must-watch” feel to it the way Game of Thrones did–which was “must watch as soon as its available.” It’s not bad, by any means. It’s just on a smaller scale than Game of Thrones was, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I read some more of Gabino Iglesias’ The Devil Takes You Home, which is incredibly well-written and powerful as an exposed nerve, with an intense depiction of suffering and pain and agony, and how that changes a person. It’s very emotionally heavy and packs a very powerful punch in those first few chapters. I’m looking forward to reading more of it, but it’s also not something you can gulp down in a few sittings. The language is too lyrical and beautiful yet stark; I feel it needs to be read slowly, so you can enjoy all the beauty and power of the language being used to tell this very dark story. I doubt seriously that the book is going to leave me feeling uplifted and happy–I don’t see how it could; but it may be a story about redemption and coming back from a very dark place…yet somehow I don’t think that’s where Gabino is coming from with this exceptional work. Getting inside that level of grief is difficult. I can’t imagine how hard it was, as a writer, to go to such a horrifyingly dark place–and that’s the FIRST FEW CHAPTERS. Sheesh.

I do have to take time from my workday today to run some errands–I ordered groceries, need to get the mail, need to drop off library books–so I am hoping it’s not going to be horrifically miserable outside today the way it was the weekend. There’s a tropical system in the Atlantic off the Cape Verde Islands heading this way–well, west at any rate–to keep an eye on. The Katrina anniversary looms, and we’ve had several storm systems around the same time numerous times in the years since 2005. I certainly hope that isn’t the case, as it could affect our trip to Bouchercon, but I think we were back home last year from Ida around the same time we would need to be leaving for Minneapolis (I could go back and look it up on the blog, I suppose, but Ida wasn’t a good time and it’s still a bit raw for me to want to actually do that just yet); any way, it’s not something I want to deal with again this year.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Cheaper Than Free

Friday and my last day as a sixty year old.

I am working at home today, which is kind of nice. I do have an errand to run this morning–or rather, on my lunch break–but have lots of data to enter and so forth, so I will be ensconced in the home workspace for most of the day. I am also laundering the bed linens–an every Friday chore–and have some odds and ends to clean up around here. I am going to try to get the chores done today so I don’t have to do a damned thing tomorrow; I think I’m allowed on my birthday to take an entire day off–not wash a dish or do any laundry or run any errands or do anything I don’t want to do. I want to spend all day tomorrow reading and relaxing and just chilling out; that’s my favorite kind of birthday. Paul is going to get us Chinese food for a birthday dinner treat, which we haven’t had in an extremely long time..one of my favorite things to do whenever I go to New York is to get good Chinese food. (I know it’s Americanized, don’t @ me.)

I was tired yesterday, the usual Thursday “I’ve gotten up at six a.m. four mornings in a row” thing more than anything else. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I would have hoped, but as I said, I felt tired all day–both body and brain fatigue–so when I got home from work yesterday I just kind of allowed myself the evening off. I finished rereading the first two Sandman graphic novels–Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House–which the first season of the show covered, and they were just as marvelous and well-done as I remembered. Hopefully, this weekend I will be able to get back into reading–which is my entire plan for my birthday; I want to finish reading the book I started two weeks (!!!) ago, and move on to the next book on my list. Sunday I will write and edit; and then of course Monday is another work-at-home day as August slowly but surely slides back into September. Whew. At some point–Sunday, most likely–I will need to run some errands, but I’m not going to worry about that today…although I do need to update ye Olde To-Do List.

Last night we couldn’t decide what to watch. I started watching a documentary series about British cinema while I was waiting for Paul to finish working, and when he came downstairs we just started chatting while the documentary continued streaming–and when it got to the part about James Bond, Paul remembered seeing something about the young woman who played Rosie Carver, the first Black Bond girl (who also turned out to be a double agent) and as we chatted, we both confessed that we had a special soft spot for that Bond film (Live and Let Die), which led to me remembering that watching that movie (the first Bond I saw in the theater, and why Roger Moore was always my favorite Bond–although I’ve really come to appreciate Connery’s a lot more and of course, DANIEL CRAIG) and I said, “I bet that movie doesn’t hold up anymore–I watched it a couple of years ago while making condom packs and I was a little surprised at how racist it actually was; why don’t we watch it again and see what we think?” I had also read the book when I was a teenager–very very little in common with the film, I might add–and had reread it sometime in the last decade and, like rewatching the film, more than a little taken aback about how racist it was. (Live and Let Die will probably be an essay I’ll write at some point, both book and movie.) There are some funny moments in the movie–Moore had a much lighter take on Bond than Connery, and the switch in actors resulted in a dramatic switch in tone for the films–and it’s highly entertaining…but yes, it definitely traffics in the worst 70’s stereotypes of Black people and the voodoo aspects of the story on the fictional island of San Monique are pretty bad, as well. Live and Let Die was also filmed and released during the “blaxploitation” period of film, which saw movies like Superfly, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Cleopatra Jones, Shaft, and Coffy being made and released–the time when the incredibly marvelous Pam Grier’s career took off. Was it an attempt to be relevant and possibly try to reach the audience for blaxploitation movies? Probably, but one of the few things that carried over from the book to the movie was that the villains were Black.

And yes, when we finished watching we agreed that the depiction of Black characters were, at the very least, problematic. The movie does have one of the best theme songs of the entire series of films, though (probably the best song Paul McCartney and Wings ever recorded, for that matter).

I had always kind of envisioned Colin from the Scotty books as a kind of cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones–one of the reasons I originally decided to never really talk about what Colin was doing when he wasn’t in New Orleans is yes, even back then I was thinking about spinning Colin off into his own action/adventure series before realizing can you write an action/adventure novel, Greg? I still would like to try–part of the reason my career is so strange and all-over-the-place is me trying new things to see if I could actually, you know, do it–but action has always been difficult for me to write (and now that little voice in my head is saying which is precisely why you should try to write one, jackass) and of course, an international intrigue plot would require a lot more planning than what I am used to doing. I might still do it, you never know–I have a plot in mind that involves the 4th Crusade and the sack of Constantinople; one that’s been in my mind now for several decades–but there are so many things I want to write, and time is running out…

Which, of course, is why I think I’m lazy and am taken aback when people say I’m prolific. My novels and short stories published are maybe about a fifth (if that much) of all the ideas I’ve had or things that are in some sort of progress; that’s what I think about when someone calls me prolific–the files and files of incomplete stories and ideas and characters and scenes languishing on the back burner and collecting dust.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Greg’s Birthday Eve, everyone!

If You Were My Love

Wednesday, and Pay the Bills Day has rolled around yet again. Huzzah?

Yesterday actually turned out to be rather pleasant, or at least not terrible, you know? The workday went well; some things are changing around at the day job–to be expected, as we’ve transitioned to a new department director and some other management staffing changes have occurred–but it’s not nearly as intrusive or annoying as I had feared it could be (the curse of a highly overactive imagination strikes again) and while that’s not to say there haven’t been some bumps, it hasn’t been as rough as I had worried it would be. I think I am starting to adjust at long last to this sleep schedule–I actually forgot to set the alarm last night but woke up at the right time–which is good, I suppose; I still don’t like going to bed early or getting up this early, but it’s become less and less painful the longer it goes on.

I was also highly productive when I got home from the office. I did the dishes and got laundry started (I’ll have to finish it tonight), and then I sat down and wrote around two thousand (incredibly shitty but nonetheless actual) words on the new Scotty. I am really enjoying writing this new book, even if the writing is thus far pretty horrible; the first drafts of Scottys are usually pretty fucking horrendous (I suspect I’ve never really made any moves about storing my papers anywhere is because I don’t want anyone to ever see how shitty my first drafts actually are, or to put my incredibly self-absorbed journals into circulation of any kind, even if it is ‘by request.’) but it feels good to be working on him again. Even as bad as the draft is, for some reason I never experience Imposter Syndrome when I work on the Scotty books, and maybe that’s yet another reason why I never let him go….writing him feels so natural, and there’s an easy comfort to entrenching myself in his world again.

It’s also lovely to get up to a relatively clean kitchen, too. There’s still some more cleaning to do in here–I’d like to spend some time every evening getting the apartment under control so I don’t have to spend much time on my weekends doing that sort of thing. As always, I am going to be trying to write a book during football season, which is always a nightmare for me. But let’s face the facts, shall we? There’s always something else going on that will distract me from the book–in the spring it’s the festivals and the Edgars, in the summer it’s the heat, in the fall it’s football season, and in the winter it’s Christmas and Carnival, so when IS a good time for me to write a book?

I’d also like to get some reading done this weekend. I am behind as always on my reading, but the focus reading properly requires hasn’t been there for a few weeks; I suspect it’s because my head is filled with Scotty–it really is–and so I can’t really make room for anything else at the moment. I am hoping once I get a few more chapters into the story I’ll be able to get back to my reading, as the great reads continue to pile up all around my TBR stacks in the living room. Heavy heaving sigh. But while I may have had a bit of mental fatigue around reading lately, it was really nice to not be super tired when I got home from the office for a change. I have to stop at the store on the way home tonight, so here’s hoping I’ll still have the same kind of “off-work now I’m home” energy I had yesterday so I can finish the cleaning–my birthday is Saturday, so I’d kind of like to not have to do much of anything that day other than relax and chill…and maybe spend the day reading.

Once Paul came home, we watched Only Murders in the Building and a new documentary series on Netflix; a true crime in Baton Rouge! And a recent one at that, 2019–and this is the first I’m hearing of it. It’s not too surprising, I guess–I really don’t pay much attention to the Baton Rouge news a whole lot, other than when they had that serial killer a couple of decades ago–but if it’s a weird enough case to get a documentary series, you’d think I would have heard of it, wouldn’t you? Called I Just Killed My Dad, it’s about a seventeen-year-old who shoots and kills his father, calls 9-1-1, admits it…and then it starts getting more complicated. It’s a very interesting case, and I am kind of looking forward to watching the rest of it.

And on that note, I have some bills to pay before I head into the spice mines for today. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

You May Be The One

Tuesday and the week seems to be settling into a sort of groove that I can not only handle but isn’t too horrific, to be perfectly honest. The week has started off pretty okay, really; I was notified that Mystery Scene magazine had given an anthology I have a story in a glowing review which included a lovely shout out to my story, “The Snow Globe,” which is absolutely lovely. And I quote: “The Snow Globe,” by Greg Herren, is a dark and humorous Christmas tale–“Santa, Dylan thought, certainly has a great six-pack”–about loneliness, voodoo, and reconnecting with family.

Isn’t that lovely? Usually anthologies I am in get reviewed and my story doesn’t get mentioned; there was a review of one anthology in particular I recall where every single story was individually reviewed…except for mine, which wasn’t even mentioned. Since my story had gay content and characters, I can’t help but think that was due to the reviewer’s homophobia; why would you namecheck every story in the book with a few sentences about each and then not even mention mine, even to dog it? I know, I know, it’s not always homophobia, but one always has to wonder–especially when you have the only gay tale in the book and it is the ONE story that doesn’t even get mentioned. So how lovely was this?

I don’t even mind that the story was called “dark and humorous” even though it wasn’t supposed to be funny (this has happened so many times in my career….)

But, you see, this is yet another one of the problems of being a queer writer of queer work. When things happen like the aforementioned review (where my story was the only one unworthy of review or commentary), as a queer writer of queer work you always have to wonder: was my story that bad, or is this just your average, garden variety homophobia at work? This is always an issue for queer writers; is this a place that will publish a story about a gay man or will they just reject it out of hand? I wonder about this, particularly with the bigger markets for crime short fiction that are out there. I know I’ve sold a gay tale or two to some of the paying markets for crime short fiction; I also know there are some that have rejected every story with a gay character but have taken the ones that centered a straight character. I shouldn’t have to even wonder about this, to be perfectly honest; I should never hesitate about sending a story somewhere as long as it meets their guidelines. And yet, every time I submit something, anything, somewhere anywhere, I always wonder.

I ran my errands after work yesterday, came home and Paul and I relaxed in front of the television, watching the last episode of The Anarchists (weird and sad), and then got ourselves caught up on Becoming Elizabeth, which is quite well done for a Starz English royalty dramatization (earlier series, based on the Philippa Gregory books, were also well done, but not necessarily always historically accurate. Becoming Elizabeth follows the period between the death of Henry VIII and Elizabeth being crowned queen–the eleven year period of the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I, which were quite turbulent and Elizabeth often found herself imprisoned, if not her life in jeopardy. It was in navigating those times that her character was formed, and she learned–often the hard way–how to play both sides as well as how to never ever cross the line into treason.

I slept decently, not great, last night, and this morning I am not feeling either tired or groggy, but that doesn’t mean I won’t hit the wall this afternoon, either. I have so much to do it’s not even funny, and I suppose, as always, that the key to getting everything done is to just go down the list and check things off once and for all. I did get some work done on the new Scotty yesterday–not much but any progress at this point is progress–but I was mostly tired when I got home last night, to be honest. I am hoping for a better day today than yesterday was–not that it was a bad day, but it was a very low energy, low motivation day (which probably had a lot to do with me going in on a Monday, which isn’t the usual and at some point I am going to have to get used to again, which I kind of don’t want to do, frankly) so hopefully today won’t be like that. They set up a work station in my testing room yesterday, which means I don’t have to commute back and forth from my desk all day anymore, so today will be me trying to get used to that and trying to figure out how best to utilize the space in the my room and how to make it easier for me to do my job with the new set-up; I don’t know how I am going to get it set up to be functional quite yet, which means work arounds in the meantime until I can get it all figured out.

If it isn’t one thing, it certainly is another.

I also had ordered a new pair of glasses from Zenni.com that arrived yesterday, and I really do like them–I especially like that they were about one fifth the cost of my last pair, which I bought from the optometrist. (I may order another pair or two today; I didn’t want to go crazy until I got the first pair and could see that they worked just fine, which they do.) I had never thought of glasses as being fashionable; they were too expensive, for one thing, to think about in terms of oh I should get different pairs in different styles to coordinate with outfits; which of course meant that, as with everything, I saw glasses as utilitarian rather than fashionable–function over form, if you will. But this pair of glasses was inexpensive enough that I can actually start thinking of my glasses as form and function, rather than as one. So, maybe on my lunch hour I will look around on their website and see if I can find some others that work for my round face and slight wattle.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader! And I will see you tomorrow!

The Dealer

Sunday morning in the Lost Apartment and I am feeling a bit bleary-eyed this morning. I slept magnificently last night; I didn’t want to arise from the nest of blankets in my comfortable bed this morning in the least. But arise I did, because there are things I must get done today and staying in the bed for a longer time than usual would not help accomplish anything except, you know, more pleasure of sleep.

We did finish watching Black Bird last night, which was an interesting show based on a true story and executive-produced by Dennis Lehane; in which a cop’s son turned bad gets a chance to get his sentence commuted if he goes into a prison for the criminally insane and gets a serial killer–whose appeal might earn his release–to confess to him. It was quite entertaining and more than a little intense, but I do recommend it. I don’t think it needed to be six episodes–I think it felt a little padded here and there to get to six episodes, which seems to be the American minimum/sweet spot for mini-series. We also started watching Five Days at Memorial, which is…interesting. It’s a dramatization based on a book and the true-life experiences of those who were trapped there after Katrina and the flooding; one thing that was absolutely spot-on was how everyone kept lapsing and calling the hospital “Baptist” instead of “Memorial”–the hospital had been bought out by Tenet Health and renamed in the years before the storm; it was a New Orleans thing as to how long it would take for the new name to catch on; I was still calling it “Baptist” to the point that even the title of the series took me aback; I actually did wonder before we started watching, was the name of the hospital Baptist Memorial and we all just called it Baptist? Mystery solved.

I did run my errands yesterday–it didn’t feel quite as miserable outside as I thought it would–and actually made dinner last night…meatballs in the slow cooker, but I also made them differently than I usually make slow-cooker meatballs, the recipe I donated to the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook; I added sour cream to the recipe, for one thing, as well as some other spices and vegetables in the sauce. They turned out really well–quite tasty, actually–and as I sliced bell peppers, celery and onions yesterday while the roux bubbled and browned, I remembered oh yes, I love to cook; I just never get the opportunity to do so anymore. Our work and sleep schedules are now completely out of sync, and the only time I ever cook anything is on the weekends. Today I do need to make things to take for lunch this week–the meatballs will only stretch so far, and I am starting the week in the office on Monday instead of Tuesday this week. I am also having Costco delivered this afternoon as well. I also need to get to work on my second-pass page proofs for a Streetcar today; they are due on my birthday, ironically, but I’d rather get them out of the way today. I also want to get some writing in today, if I am lucky and motivated; I need to start getting more focused and less concerned about other things and issues as well as getting distracted, which is getting easier and easier all the damned time. I know there’s medication for ADHD, but unfortunately it can also act like speed–and the last thing in the world I need is to take something that will make it harder for me to fall asleep.

Yeah, definitely don’t need something to keep me awake longer. (Although every night before I go to bed now I start drifting off to sleep in my easy chair, which is so fucking lovely you have no idea.)

I’ve been reading some non-fiction lately; my mind hasn’t been clear or steady enough to continue reading fiction–a malaise that has come and gone since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020–so I’ve been focusing more on non-fiction when I am reading lately. I’ve got a really interesting book called Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang, which is absolutely fascinating. I loved the Charlie Chan movies when I was a kid (neither knowing nor comprehending how racist they were, not to mention their “yellowface” aspects)–again, the influence of my grandmother–and I read some of the Earl Derr Biggers novels when I was a teenager. I am really interested in getting into the meat of this book, since the character was beloved but is problematic in our more enlightened time; can the stories and the character be reclaimed from the morass of stereotyping and cultural colonialism the books and films were steeped in so deeply? Reading the introduction to the book yesterday did again make me feel like gosh, I wish I was educated enough in criticism and the writing of non-fiction to produce this type of work; there are any number of books and writers and characters I would love to explore and dissect and deconstruct. But alas, I do not have that background or education, nor do I have the necessary egotism/self-confidence in my own intellect to believe that I could come up with anything interesting or constructive or scintillatingly brilliant to say that hasn’t already been side (although I have an interesting take on Rebecca I would love to write about someday). I’d love to write about the heyday of romantic suspense and the women who hit the bestseller lists throughout the 50’s-80’s writing those books (Whitney, Stewart, Holt being the holy trinity); deconstructing the themes and tropes and tracing their evolution as the role of women in society began to change during the decades they wrote their novels.

I also bought an ebook about the children of Nazis, which is something that has always fascinated me; how did and have Germany and Germans dealt with, and continue to deal with, their horrific and genocidal past?

Obviously, as a Southerner, I am curious to see how one deals with a horrific history.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Y’all have a lovely Sunday, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.