Me and You and a Dog Named Boo

Wednesday and yet another Pay-the-Bills Day. I also didn’t set my alarm last night–could have sworn I did, though–but fortunately managed to get up anyway shortly after six. That could have been truly scary, really; I could have easily slept for another few hours–even now that I am up and sipping coffee, I really can feel the pull of my bed, calling me back to its cozy, comfortable warmth. I would much rather spend a few more hours there than get cleaned up and head into the office any day of the week, quite frankly. I’m not sure why I was so deeply asleep last night yet again, but I am calling all of this great sleep I’ve been getting an awesome thing and just riding the wave as long as it continues, frankly. It’s weird feeling rested in the mornings, I have to admit. Nice, but weird.

I got my editorial letter for A Streetcar Named Murder yesterday, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared it would be. I need to process it all, get it organized, and then get to work on it as soon as I can. I also need to finish the Bouchercon anthology and get it turned in as well; I also had a business call about a book project I am considering taking on. (Money makes the world go around, the world go around….) I also started working on a short story idea I had a while back and had gotten started on, called “Smoky Mountain Rest Stop,” for a very quick turn around short story submission call that I will most likely not get finished in time to turn in, but at the very least I will have a finished draft of the story at some point. I’m still not entirely certain what happens at the rest stop when my character winds up there–but I do have some thoughts–so we will see how it all goes. I also saw another submission call that struck my fancy recently; it might prove to be a home for another one of my stories that I can’t seem to find a home for–which is fine; my stories follow my imagination, and my imagination rarely works in a way that produces stories that short fiction markets like. (I do want to see if I can some out for submissions over the course of the next week or so; it’s all going to depend on my motivation, as everything always does…)

We also watched another episode of Candy last night, and it’s really interesting. I keep saying to Paul, “this suburban existence being depicted on this show–late 70’s, early 80’s–is my idea of hell. This was the environment I grew up in, and definitely was not the future I wanted for myself.” I’ve been hankering (my God did I really just say hankering?) to write about the 1970’s lately–probably has something to do with my turning sixty last year–and the suburbs and what that was kind of like; I have several ideas for stories/novels to be set in my fictional suburb outside of Chicago (where the main character of Lake Thirteen was from; remember, all of my books and stories, regardless of authorial name, are connected together in some way; the Gregiverse, if you will); one is based on a true story that happened when we lived there and I was a freshman in high school (a murder involving some students) and the other is sort of based on the Candyman serial murders in Houston. So yes, those days of cheap faux wood paneling and station wagons and lawn mowers and Schwinn bicycles with streamers coming out of the handgrips and cards woven through the tire spokes so they clatter will someday be written about by yours truly.

So many ideas, so little time to actually write any of them. Heavy heaving sigh.

I think today I need to make a to-do list. I have a bunch of things that need doing, and I cannot count on my memory to remember them all–not that I have been able to count on my memory for that sort of thing for quite some time; this is not something new that has developed with age; no matter how much I want to believe that I used to have this truly fantastic memory, the truth is I was always able to simply manage tasks through list-keeping and obsessive organization…both of which have kind of fallen off track over the years, hence me forgetting things. I did kind of let my life get out of control for quite a number of years; the process of getting reorganized is one that is so overwhelming that I’ve just kind of let it go (my file cabinet is terrifying, seriously; even though I know I can probably clean a shit ton of things out of it and make it into something functional and workable…it’s also incredibly time consuming and the one thing I never seem to have in abundance of any kind is actual time) and as such, I can never really find anything…not to mention that I will look for a folder I know I created, not find it, and simply make a new one…so yes, I have files every-fucking-where.

Sigh.

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

If

Ah, Tuesday morning. Last night I slept remarkably well–so much so that when the alarm went off and hit snooze the first time, the second time it went off I slept through it and Paul had to nudge me awake. Which was good–I’m glad I slept so well–and a bit scary (what if I had slept through the alarm completely the second time?) at the same time. No matter, I am awake now and feeling rested and not even the teensiest bit groggy. Whether that will last all day or not is an entirely different story, of course, but I feel very well rested this morning–a good thing, since I am going into the office again today. Huzzah? Huzzah.

We started watching Pieces of Her on Netflix, based on the novel by Karin Slaughter, and at first I was a bit taken aback by it; some of what was going on didn’t make a lot of sense, but the second episode cleared a lot of that right up, and we’ve been climbed aboard for the ride. We’re both Toni Collette fans (we decided to give the fictionalization of The Staircase a whirl as well, before giving up because we’d seen the documentary series and so we know everything that’s going to happen. This quite naturally kills any suspense the series might have for people unfamiliar with the case, but alas, I am a crime writer and many of my friends were vested in watching the documentary, with endless discussions as to whether or not Michael Peterson was guilty or not…so despite the excellent casting choices, we gave up on it after the first episode), and she is topnotch as always in this; we’re definitely looking forward to seeing where and how this all works out. We also watched the first episode of Candy on Hulu; not realizing the entire show hadn’t completely dropped yet–they are doling out episodes one day at a time–which we enjoyed; we especially were surprised at how easy it is to make actors look unattractive while watching it. I could swear I’d seen this story before–including the cast–but maybe I just saw a lot of previews of it while watching other shows on Hulu, but it certainly feels like I’ve watched this before with this very same cast, which I know isn’t really possible.

But still, very weird. Has anyone else had deja vu while watching a television program?

How peculiar.

I was going to start reading Ellen Byron’s Bayou Book Thief last night, but alas, Paul came home earlier than expected so we started watching our television shows. Perhaps tonight he’ll either go to the gym or get home from the office later than expected, so I have some time to write and read before he does. I have decided to start embracing things in my life–the things I’ve always certainly dreaded doing–because putting things off that may be unpleasant certainly doesn’t make them go away, and why not just rip the bandage off and get it over with? So, today between my clients, I am going to try to organize myself and make a plan for the rest of the year to make sure everything gets done that I want to get done and try to get things going. First step is to finally get caught up on all of my emails and clean out that messy, sloppy, absolutely hideously full inbox. I also have to generate some emails, which will simply beget more emails–emails are truly what the ancient Greeks had in mind when they came up with the myth of Sisyphus; every time I go into my inbox I think to myself yes, new emails beget more emails as do answering emails so even emptying out the inbox doesn’t really accomplish anything other than a brief–very brief–respite. This of course is self-defeating at its finest; the justification argument I can literally use as an excuse to never do anything.

And have.

But ignoring them and hoping they will go away doesn’t work, so I am going to have to dive in headfirst and start answering, aren’t I? Sigh, I hate being an adult sometimes….most times.

Stay Awhile

Another work-at-home Monday here in the Lost Apartment and I am not feeling especially motivated this morning. Granted, I’ve yet to swill down any coffee (which will undoubtedly make a significant difference) but I also have a lot to do. I wasn’t nearly as productive over the weekend as I would have liked to have been, so the to-do list still has many things to be crossed off of it. But I think the relaxation was necessary in some ways–I did make notes in my journal all weekend, and I did a lot of thinking about writing, and I do think that’s very important; as I mentioned on the Spirit of Ink the other day, it’s crazy to sit down to write something without spending some time thinking about what you are going to write first. There’s this sense, often reinforced by television and movie depictions of writers trying to write, that we simply sit down at the computer (or typewriter, depending on the time period) and then stare in in frustration at the blank page or document before finally giving up. I don’t know any writer who sits down without some idea of what they are going to be writing about when they sit down to start, and it occurs to me that not thinking about what you’re going to be writing before you sit down and start writing it is nothing more than defeating yourself before you even get started.

We wound up watching quite a bit of television over the weekend; Anatomy of a Scandal on Netflix with Siena Miller and Michelle Dockery was how we spent most of yesterday; it wasn’t bad but there was a massive plot hole in the center of it that, once we were aware of it (a surprise twist about halfway through) kind of undermined the story and the character who was committing the deception: it simply did not make any sense. Maybe in the book it was based upon it worked better, I don’t know; but it really undermined the impact of the show and its message; which purported to be about entitled men and the “boys will be boys” dismissal of sexual harassment and assault on women; the old “he said/she said” debate in which the woman is never truly believed in our justice system (or the British one, in this case; sad that both countries have the same issues with toxic masculinity and accountability for entitled male behavior, but not terribly surprising, since one country is basically the mother of the other). The acting was good, but I really didn’t see anything fresh or new to the story; we’ve seen this same story before numerous times: powerful man is accused by underling with whom he is having an affair of sexual assault after the affair ends; wife isn’t sure whether she should believe him or not; and endless surprising revelations from the pasts of everyone involved.

But I did get some things done, so the weekend wasn’t a complete and/or total loss, to be sure. I managed to get most of the dishes done (there’s still another load to put in the dishwasher and run) and most of the laundry, and I did manage to get some organizing done as well. As I already mentioned I got some writing (or thinking about writing) done; I also did some important on-line research for not only my next Scotty but for a sequel to A Streetcar Named Murder if they want one; if they don’t, the research will certainly come in handy for something else. I also did find a couple of submission calls I might, if I have the time, cobble something together for–but the deadlines are very tight, and I don’t have anything in pristine-enough shape to turn in for the calls, either, which would mean needing to find the time to revise and rewrite stories for both, or at the very least trying to figure out which stories might work in either case. I’ll need to review the calls again with an eye to looking at what is in the files.

I also finished reading Carol Goodman’s The Lake of Dead Languages, so Ellen Byron’s Bayou Book Thief is up next for me. I am interviewing her at Blue Cypress Books this coming Sunday, so it’s best that I be prepared to talk to her about her new series don’t you think? I think a week–despite everything I have that needs to get done this week–is more than enough time to make sure I can read the book and be sort of intelligent-sounding while we are at the store. I’m not terribly worried; Ellen is witty and wise and warm and a great story-teller, so I know she’ll run with the ball every time I hand it off to her.

And on that note, this isn’t getting anything crossed off my to-do list, so I’d best head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, no matter what it requires you to do.

Another Day

Sunday morning and I slept really well again. I woke up, as always, at just before seven, but stayed in bed lazily until nearly eight–when nature’s call became too much to be ignored for longer. But I have a nice fresh hot cup of coffee, a long Sunday with a lot to do and/or get done today (I also need to run to the grocery store this morning, which is always so exhausting) but I suspect that i can get everything I need to get done, done. Yesterday morning I spent some time with the Carol Goodman novel (which is really and truly spectacularly well done), went to do my self-care (which was lovely) and then picked up the mail and headed home to spend some time doing things. I did the bed linens, emptied the dishwasher and did another load (that needs to be emptied this morning) and also got some things organized for my next writing project. I did the Spirit of Ink interview at 2, as scheduled, and then when I was finished with that I was drained, as I knew I would be, so I did some more file organizing before retiring to my easy chair with my journal to make notes for Mississippi River Mischief, which I am also starting to get excited about writing (which is a lovely change from the usual, where I dread writing any and every thing).

So, overall, I was quite pleased with my Friday. Since we’d finished or gotten caught up on everything else we had started watching, we decided to binge through season two of The Hardy Boys on Hulu, which I am enjoying. Is it the Hardy Boys of my childhood? No, but neither was the 1970’s show with Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy. I belong to several kids’ series groups on Facebook (they are very interesting people; I’ve always wanted to write a book about kids’ series fandom) and they were, of course, quite unhappy with this adaptation (but not NEARLY as up-in-arms as they were about the Nancy Drew television series, in which Nancy actually has sex with Ned–who’s Black in the show–in the very first episode). Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I don’t expect adaptations to match us precisely to the source material, and whether people in their fifties and sixties want to admit to it or not, both series in their original forms are horribly dated today. I did enjoy the show’s nods to the canon series throughout–one of the villains was named McFarlane (Leslie McFarlane ghost-wrote many of the original books) and the bad company is Stratemeyer Global (the Stratemeyer Syndicate created and owned both series, among many others), and there was also a single throwaway line at one point about “what happened at midnight” (which is one of the titles of the original canonical series); so that was all a bit fun for me. Even as I watched, I kept remembering all the dog-whistles of the fan group–disguised as “dedication to the original canon” of course–but when you use words like woke and so forth, your bigotry and personal biases are kind of put right out there on display.

And I can only imagine how upset they are that Aunt Gertrude (Trudy on the show) is a lesbian…which actually makes canonical sense, to be honest.

But it was a very pleasant way to waste the rest of the day, frankly, and I felt pretty marvelous when I went to bed last evening. I am really enjoying my sleep lately, which is marvelous, and lately I am feeling very–I don’t know, optimistic?–about my career and my future as a writer, which is always a plus. I am still waiting for my edits on A Streetcar Named Murder, and to hear back about my short story, but I am feeling pretty good about myself this morning (let’s see how long that lasts, shall we?) and tomorrow evening i am going to make a semi-triumphant return to the gym. This morning I am going to spend some time with The Lake of Dead Languages, and then I am going to head out to the grocery store, probably around elevenish, so I can come home and do some more writing and organizing and so forth. I am going to try to bang out a draft of a new manuscript by mid-June, and then I want to spend until August 1 finishing a first draft of Chlorine, at which point I will most likely have to start really working on Mississippi River Mischief. That’s a pretty good schedule, if I can stick to it–and then of course there are any number of short stories I want to get written in the meantime. There are two submission calls I saw recently (with very tight deadlines) I’d like to get something submitted to–but then it always comes down to time and motivation–both of which I am good at failing at–so it’s all going to depend, I suppose. But I am going to get organized here in my office space before retiring to read for the rest of the morning, which hopefully will mean productivity. We also need something new to watch, since we’ve binged our way through everything already–but there are any number of shows that dropped since the beginning of the year that we’d like to see that we never got around to, and more are coming out all the time.

I also want to rewatch Heartstopper at some point, so I can finish my post about it at some point. I really need to get those old unfinished posts finished and posted at some point, don’t I? I also have a bad review of Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not to finish as well as a review of Marco Carocari’s marvelous Blackout, as well as some ruminations about the resurgence of anti-queer political homophobia which hs reared its ugly head again.

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

Mr. Bojangles

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment, and I am kind of excited about the weekend if I am being honest. It’s nice, for one thing, to be able to sleep in a bit this morning and tomorrow; I do have some things to do today (one is doing something personal for myself; along the lines of important self-care) and of course, I am doing an on-line interview with Spirit of Ink’s Jaden Terrell as well (she’s actually quite lovely, too; I can’t believe how many years I’ve known her now). Tomorrow I have to probably go run some errands–I am hoping after my interview today I will make it to the gym, after which I will come home to curl up with Carol Goodman’s The Lake of Lost Languages with an eye to finishing it. It really is good, y’all; I hate that it’s taking me so damned long to get it done, really. I also have some other blog posts I need to finish and post–I’ve got to stop starting blog entries and then not finishing and saving them as drafts and then never going back and finishing and/or posting them; every time I go to the draft page here those unfinished entries reproach me, and they’re getting MEANER the more time goes by. Like I really need to be shamed and mocked by unfinished blog posts?

Bastards, really.

So, as I mentioned, we finished watching Minx earlier this week. I had started this during my festival widowhood, had some initial issues with it (still kind of have those original issues, to be fair) but somewhere around the third or fourth episode the show hit its stride and I started to really enjoy it. (It’s also a stark reminder that women had little to no rights less than fifty years ago, and thanks to the fuckhead judicial activists on the “supreme Court”–which should now always be put in quotes as the fucking joke it actually is, as well as supreme should henceforth be in all lower-case–those rights are about to be taken away in the service of an incredibly anti-American authoritarian agenda by the party of “small government”…yeah) The premise behind the show is simple: an ardent feminist and journalist wants to launch a new magazine for feminists called The Matriarchy Awakens (yes, that is actually what she is calling it) while working the subscription line at a magazine for teen girls. She believes that women–once they are aware of what feminism is really about–want and need such a magazine, to enlighten them about their own oppression and to learn more about their own power and equality. The show opens with her going to a weird fair where magazine companies take pitches for new magazines (is this something that really used to happen?) and of course, none of the old white men take her seriously or see anything of potential in her magazine. While she is waiting to go inside, she meets a pig of a man who actually produces porn magazines…long story short he offers to publish her magazine with the catch that she needs photo spreads of nude male models inside–“why shouldn’t a woman get to look at a dong if they want to?” Naturally, she is horrified…and then the Burt Reynolds issue of Cosmopolitan comes out and she realizes that it could, indeed, be empowering for women to look at naked men–but the editorial content will have a very strong feminist bent, and that empowering female sexuality should also be a part of feminism. As I mentioned in my earliest commentary on the show, I disliked the trope of the uptight feminist woman who needs to loosen up and enjoy herself–and her own sexuality–more; but it was handled a lot better than I thought it would be; it wasn’t the tired old “she just needs to get laid” thing. There are also a lot of male dongs shown in this; I wasn’t expecting the parade of penises as they look for their first centerfold–but there was nothing salacious or even erotic about the dongs on this show; they were just…dicks. But the show continued to improve with each episode, and it–along with Physical, which we didn’t finish–is a stark reminder of just how shitty it was to be a woman in this country back then (somewhat better now, but not even remotely close to where it needs to be, frankly).

It also made me think it would be interesting to see a documentary about how Playgirl got started and its journey over the years until it finally ceased publication. (I have an idea about a noirish type thriller set in the 1970’s about the struggle against prohibitions on porn called Obscenity, which is part of what I call The Chlorine Quartet.)

We also started watching The Offer last night, which is about the making of The Godfather, from the point of view of producer Albert Ruddy. I knew a lot of this material already–Mario Puzo had already documented the writing and selling of the book, and then the making of the movie, in a long-forgotten book called The Godfather Papers back after the movie was released and hailed as an instant classic; which included his memories, diary entries, and correspondence. I read the book (I mean The Godfather) when I was about eleven or twelve years old; I don’t really remember. My father had the paperback edition with the black cover and the white print, with the image of the hand holding the puppeteer’s strings, and I also recall one summer while visiting relatives in the South one of my cousins had a copy that had all the “dirty parts” dog-eared–so I had read about Lucy Mancini’s bizarre vagina problems before I actually sat down and read the book. I’ve been meaning to go back and reread it; it’s been called a turgid potboiler melodrama, trash, you name it–but if nothing else, it was a really good read. Obviously this is one of the cases where the film was better than the book, and I’ve been meaning to watch the movies again at some point, but it’s such a time commitment…

We also got caught up on this week’s Under the Banner of Heaven, which is twisted and bizarre. I’ve never read the book, despite being a fan of Jon Krakauer, so I don’t know where this is going, and I am very tempted to go back and read the book now.

I slept well last night (as I am sure some of you are wondering about; like anyone really cares whether I can sleep or not) and so feel pretty good this morning. I have a lot of things to get done around here before my appointment at 11:15–the sink is full of dishes; the dishwasher is also full with clean dishes to put away; I am doing laundry; and at some point the trash needs to be taken out–and of course I need to make lists so I know what all I have to get done over the course of this weekend.

Heavy sigh.

And on that note, I’d best head into the spice mines and make another cup of coffee. Have a great Saturday, Constant Reader.

Spanish Harlem

Friday morning at last, and I am a more than a little happy to see this reentry week put to rest in the archives, if I am being completely honest. Reentry weeks are always a bit of a disruption, and the older I get the weird transition from one side of my life to the other inevitably becomes more difficult. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the different sides so much–I always feel that the day-to-day life, so disparate and different from the “writer” public life–is good for keeping me grounded as well as keeping my ego in check. After all, you could get whiplash going from being on-stage at the Edgars as the executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America back to lower-level clinic employee (although that’s really not a fair statement about my day job; my day job–while not in management or supervision–is actually important and I do help every one of my clients in a positive way every day; it’s just a vastly different enterprise than my life as a writer and/or everything that is involved, even peripherally, with that).

We finished watching Harry Wild, the new Jane Seymour crime series on Acorn and highly recommend it. Seymour is terrific in the leading role, and everyone in the supporting cast is also good. The young Black teenager who originally mugs her in the first episode eventually becomes her Watson, and they are great together. Paul and I, like so many Americans, are absolute suckers for British crime series, and now that we’ve (alas) finished Harry Wild, we’ll probably go ahead and finish Severance this weekend–we’re very close to the end of the first season, and I do find the show to be both interesting and disturbing at the same time; while I can see why the “severance” would be appealing to people–the utter and complete separation of day-job from personal life–at the same time it would seem incredibly weird and unsettling to me; not knowing what I did the rest of the time? It is interesting, and obviously there are deeper questions about morality and bodily autonomy here as well–and given what’s going on in this country at the current moment, it’s very timely.

I have big plans for this weekend. I have some self-care scheduled for tomorrow morning, and I am also doing an interview/event for Spirit of Ink on Saturday afternoon. I want to finish reading my Carol Goodman novel (it really is quite delicious); I need to do some writing; and of course, there’s always cleaning and organizing that needs to be done. We also had some horrific thunderstorms over night–I don’t remember if I woke up during the storms or not; the same thing happened Wednesday night and I do remember waking up to thunder; I think it was Wednesday night rather than last, honestly. I’ve really been sleeping great lately, and it’s marvelous. I still get terribly tired on the days I have to get up early–I don’t think that will ever change, frankly–but I am adjusting. I actually am planning on returning to the gym this weekend as well; I am hopeful that getting my act together and working out again will also help make me feel better, sleep better, and get more done. I’m really tired of carrying around this extra weight and not being in tip-top shape, but also have to recognize that it will take far longer than it used to now that I am older. It would probably go faster also if I started eating healthier…but I think we know how that is going to go, don’t we?

Yeah, not going to happen. I can try, but make no promises. I like fat and grease and breading and so forth too much to put my vanity (and it’s really not about vanity anymore, really) ahead of what pleasures I get from eating, to be honest. My relationship with food has always been skewed–so has my relationship with my body and my appearance, which I really need to write about sometime–and I always have to worry about my tendency to fall into compulsive/obsessive behavior (I really need to try to continue channeling those quirks of my personality into my writing and promotion of my career) when it comes to exercise and eating and so forth.

Ah, Greg’s personality problems and issues.

I turned my story into the anthology yesterday, and also found another (very short) call for submissions for another anthology I’d like to work on something for. I think my story turned out okay; it needs some tweaking and so forth, perhaps, but I am hoping the editors do like it. I also want to get a couple of other stories I’d also like to starting sending out to various markets to see if anyone wants them; it’s been a hot minute since I’ve sent anything out to other markets rather than the occasional anthology submission call. I wrote a story to submit to Land of 10000 Crimes, the Bouchercon anthology I am currently co-editing, but finally decided to not send in anything for the blind read; I made it past the blind reads in the last two anthologies I edited for Bouchercon, but I kind of got the impression (and it could be wrong; I tend to expect people to be critical and snarky of me and my work) that the fact that I made it past the blind reads on the anthologies I personally edited might look weird and/or suspicious to people on the outside–suuuuuuuure you made it through the blind read–but at the same time, I didn’t help myself by never submitting stories to the Bouchercon anthologies I wasn’t editing. But my story in Blood on the Bayou was a Macavity Award finalist, and my story in Florida Happens was an Anthony finalist, so that sort of makes it seem like my stories were worthy of being published?

But I can certainly get why it’s for the best that I didn’t submit anything to the anthology. But I also really like my story, “The Sound of Snow Falling,” and I’d like to get that out for submission; it’s pretty close to being finished and perhaps maybe one more go-round with it could be in order. There are a few others I’d also like to get out for submission as well–“Death and the Handmaidens” is certainly one of those–and so I am going to add that to my weekend to-do list; look at the some of the almost-completed stories I have on hand, and see which ones can be sent out next week. It’s never a bad idea to keep my hand in, you know.

And now that I am sort of feeling like myself again. I might as well ride this train as far as it will take me before it goes off the rails again.

Have a happy Friday, Constant Reader..

Shadows in the Moonlight

When Anne Rice died back in the winter, I posted a memoriam to her here in which I talked about a very generous thing she did for me and Paul back in the days after he was attacked. It was something deep and personal–one of the reasons why I won’t abide criticism of Mrs. Rice in my presence–and while I did tell some people about it, I kept it quiet for the most part. It was an odd little personal connection I had with one of the most successful writers of my lifetime, and as it had to do with Paul and what happened to him, I also thought it was kind of untoward to write or talk about it publicly. But when she passed, I wanted to let people know a human side of a public figure who could be divisive; I never listened to criticisms of her after the spring of 2004 or could be bothered to read them. There was little, if anything, she could have ever done to change my opinion of her or to forget the grace and kindness she showed to me when I was in a very low place in my life, so I wasn’t interested in listening to or reading anything negative about her. The Witching Hour was also one of the reasons I was drawn to New Orleans in the first place; so overall I would say she had a very positive influence on me and my life, and I will always be grateful to her for that.

Last year, an editor reached out to me (maybe it was two years ago; I really have no concept or sense of time anymore) to write a story an anthology called Unburied; the editor was Rebecca Rowland. I gave her one of the stories I’d written but never found a home for–“Night Follows Night”–which she liked and used and that was very cool. In the wake of Mrs. Rice’s death, she contacted me again to see if I would write a story for a tribute anthology to Mrs. Rice that would also be a fundraiser for a charity she supported.

It was, I thought, the least I could do, so I pulled out “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and finished the first draft before revising umpteen times and turning in.

“Someone was murdered in this house.” Susan Norris said.

Her tone was idle and matter of fact, like she was making small talk at a cocktail party with women she didn’t know and what she was saying didn’t matter in the long run. She was already redecorating the place in her head, picking out color combinations to paint the walls and trim, what furniture she already had could be used or discarded and where it would go. For this front upstairs bedroom, for example, she pictured long curtains of shimmering bright colors in gauze, which would look dramatic billowing out into the room when the windows were open. This would be the room, she decided, where she would have readings or hold seances for her clientele. Those long billowing curtains on nights when thunderstorms raged would be the perfect setting to make even the most cynical skeptic into a true believer. She ran a hand along the beige wall slightly yellowed from nicotine. She could feel layers of paint under her fingertips. The walls hadn’t been stripped in years, which she would need to rectify. It would be a crime to slake another layer on top of what was already there.

The realtor—whatever her name was, Collette or Colleen or Doreen or something like that—paused in her sales patter when Susan’s words finally penetrated her professional façade, a frown furrowing creases into her forehead as she stumbled over a few words and finally stopped speaking. She was a beautiful woman in her late forties, maybe early fifties; one benefit of the Botox she clearly used was a blurring of her actual age. Her long red hair cascaded down over the shoulder pads inside her blouse, which also showed a lot of decolletage. A golden cross with a diamond set in the center glittered against her white bosom. An expensive watch decorated her wrist, her freckled hands were bare other than a wedding band and a diamond engagement ring. “I’m sorry, what did you say?” the realtor asked, surprise giving way to concern that what she hoped would be an easy sale—this place was exactly what Susan had described as wanting to her, when they first spoke—might actually be turning into something else.

Inwardly, Susan cursed at herself. She’d done it again, said something to a stranger that she should have not said aloud. She didn’t want to explain herself to Collette/Colleen/Doreen any more than she wanted to stick a fork into an outlet, so she turned back to the redheaded realtor with a charming smile and said, “I said someone was murdered in this house.” She exhaled. “I did some research on-line when you gave me the addresses of the places you suggested I look at. It was a long time ago, and I shouldn’t have said it out loud, my apologies. I do think this house is perfect for me.”

I was originally using this title for a different story (which has since been renamed “Solace in a Dying Hour”), and so when I started writing this story it was called “The Oracle of Orange Street” (the house she is buying is on Orange Street, one of those mysterious hidden streets in New Orleans whose blocks have slowly vanished over the years until all that is left is a single block between Coliseum and Prytania; it’s very near where I live so I see the Orange Street sign all the time…I think there may be a continuation of it on the other side of Magazine Street; a quick look at a map indicates that it does, indeed, continue on the other side of Magazine to Tchoupitoulas–but if you asked most New Orleanians were Orange Street is, they’d give you a blank look); I’d even already started another story with the character of Susan Norris in it (“Parlor Tricks,” which I tried to finish again recently for yet another last minute submission and wasn’t able to). I like the character of Susan Norris, psychic detective; her mother is actually Madame Xena, who Scotty aficionados might recognize as the woman who originally told Scotty’s family that he “has the Gift!”

So yes, all of my work is connected in some way besides just being by me.

I’ve always loved the idea of a psychic detective (and yes, I watched Psych for years before tiring of it), which is part of the reason why I made Scotty one, but my inspiration for this kind of character goes back to my teens, when I was enjoying Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax series so much that one day at the bookstore I picked up two of her non-Pollifax books, A Nun in the Closet and The Clairvoyant Countess…the latter of whom was, indeed, a psychic and an amateur detective. The book was really a series of connected short stories, each detailing a case that the Countess became involved in helping to solve; gradually the police detective began actually consulting her. I don’t remember how limited her powers were, but to work in a crime story the psychic cannot be all-knowing and all-seeing, obviously; otherwise there would be no mystery to solve. But I enjoyed the book and reread it many times, and always wanted to write about a psychic detective. Scotty’s powers have always been incredibly vague; he usually can channel it through reading tarot cards (which doesn’t always work) and sometimes he goes into a fugue state while he actually talks to the Divine Feminine (She comes in many forms to him) and she gives him hints and clues to the future and what is going on–but he has to figure it out for himself.

One day when I was walking home from the gym I took a different route home than I usually do–I do this to mix things up a bit when I have the time to leisurely stroll, and it’s been helping me reconnect with my neighborhood as well as find many secrets and hidden treasures–and one day the different route took me up Felicity Street from Camp. One of the houses I passed–a lovely old Victorian–actually had an orange tree in the front yard and oranges were littering the ground and sidewalk; some of them rotting (there’s nothing quite like the smell of oranges rotting in the sun) and it reminded me that, oh, yes, indeed, Orange Street was originally named that because there was an orange grove here–whether it was indigenous and imported I cannot say, but I suspect imported–and then I thought, oh, that story you’re writing about the psychic (at that time, it was “Parlor Tricks”) could easily be titled “The Oracle of Orange Street” and I quite liked that title…so when I couldn’t get that story to work for this anthology, I decided to write another story about Susan Norris, reluctant psychic detective, and the opening line just kind of jumped out at me the day I picked the house on Orange Street which would be hers–and it also just happened to be for sale when I picked it; and as I stood there snapping pictures of the house with my phone I thought, yes, what would it be like for a psychic to buy a home in New Orleans? And I quite liked the idea of her just absent-mindedly blurting out to the realtor, “Someone was murdered in this house” and then I was off and running.

You can preorder the ebook here!

Whatcha See is Whatcha Get

Good morning, Constant Reader, and a happy Thursday to you. I am a bit groggy this morning as I swill my first cup of coffee, but Scooter has already been fed and so at least the cat cries have stopped.

For now, at least.

I slept pretty well last night again, and maybe my body has readjusted to my work schedule already, which is nice and I was a bit concerned that it might take a while for that to happen. But I seem to have slipped right back into the routine I was in before I left for New York, and that is, of course, quite lovely. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from the office yesterday and picked up a few things, then once I was home I retired to my easy chair to edit “Solace in a Dying Hour,” which actually is a much better story than I thought it was. In fairness to me, expecting the story to need a great deal of work really isn’t a case of Imposter Syndrome, as one might have expected (it so often is just that), but rather because it was so hard for me to write and took me so long to get into the story groove. It’s actually not bad at all, and just needs some tweaking here and there; which I should be able to do tonight and get turned in by the end of the day. This is actually rather nice, and I am most pleased about it, in all honesty. By the time I’d finished, Scooter was in my lap and I tuned in to get caught up on Superman and Lois; Paul came home while I was watching and we switched to the new Jane Seymour mystery series on Acorn, which is quite good. I’ve always appreciated Jane Seymour and thought she was more talented than she often received credit for; I suppose being a Mini-series Queen during the 1980s didn’t really help all that much–but I thought she was exceptional in the adaptation of East of Eden that was done in the 80’s, in which she played Steinbeck’s perhaps most evil creation, Cathy Ames. (She was also good as Natalie in War and Remembrance, having a remarkably long career for someone who started as a Bond girl in Live and Let Die.) The show is Harry Wild, and we quite enjoyed it; although it’s hard to think of a British crime series we haven’t enjoyed.

I also didn’t get an opportunity to read any more of my Carol Goodman novel, either, which didn’t please me. Perhaps tonight I can relax with my book and the Gothic story of what is going on at that boarding school on the lake. Really, y’all, if you’ve not read anything by Carol Goodman, you really should. But tonight I am coming straight home from the office–no detours, no stops to make–and so hopefully that means I can spend some good quality time reading tonight. Fingers crossed, at any rate, especially since Saturday I have an appointment in the late morning and a ZOOM appearance to make in the mid-afternoon, which means I won’t have a lot of time to do much of anything on Saturday other than making the kitchen background to my computer camera neat and tidy.

I was also delighted to see that the Saints signed former LSU and Kansas City Chiefs standout (and local high school star from St. Augustine’s) TYRANN MATHIEU. The Honey Badger is finally coming home to New Orleans (HUZZAH!) and I think this was an incredibly smart move by the Saints. Mathieu has already proven himself to be a leader who is interested in helping and giving back to the community (he helped fund the new state-of-the-art training center for the LSU football team, for example, despite the fact that he was kicked off the team and out of school for infractions after his sophomore year), and what better brand ambassador in the city of New Orleans for the Saints than a local kid who made good? I’ve never really understood why the Saints never signed anyone from LSU over the many years since Sean Payton took over–especially since so many of those stars were from either New Orleans or Louisiana–but maybe it was a “local hero ego” kind of thing. Who knows? (Paul and I dreamed that Joey Burrow would end up playing for the Saints, but that would have been too much to hope for, really.) I’ll be actually curious to see how LSU and the Saints will do this year; I remember the last time new coaches came in to both around the same time was 2005 at LSU (Les Miles) and 2006 with the Saints (Sean Payton)–both of those turned out well, so here’s hoping the new coaches at both for 2022 will also turn out well.

As always with football season, hope springs eternal.

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

If You Really Love Me

Wednesday morning and I forgot to set my alarm. No worries, because my body went ahead and woke me up before the alarm would have gone off, so that I could see that the alarm hadn’t been set–which isn’t, frankly, very like me, but yesterday was a weird transitional day where I went to the office and had to deal with the jarring reentry into my normal everyday life after the high of the Edgar banquet last week. I think I slept well last night; I certainly feel awake and alert this morning, more so than I did yesterday, which is great. I have some errands to run on my way home from the office tonight–mail, groceries–and then I am in and settled for the evening. We finished watching Minx (I do have some thoughts on this show) last night and started Under the Banner of Heaven, starring Andrew Garfield and based on the Jon Krakauer book (I am a fan of Krakauer, but I never got around to reading this one), so am not really sure what true crime the book was based on, so the entire thing is new to both of us, and we are definitely enjoying it. I didn’t get to spend any time reading or writing last evening because I had a long overdue phone call with a friend (it was marvelous) when I got home from the office and by the time we were finished talking Paul was home and it was time to watch some of our shows.

Scooter has also readjusted to being back home, and it’s not he was never boarded now and has completely forgiven us (or forgotten it happened, more likely) and is back to normal again. He spent most of the evening moving from my lap to Paul’s and back again; moving whenever one of us got up and/or shifted how we were sitting (or lying down, in Paul’s case), so he’s happy again, which is nice. I always feel guilty about boarding him, especially since the kitty spa he boards at is also where we acquired him; so I always worry he thinks he’s being abandoned again whenever we take him there. I know animals may not think in those kinds of terms, but I always imagine they do, and it kind of breaks my heart for them.

My own reentry/readjustment period actually comes to fruition today, I think. Yesterday was difficult in some ways adjusting back to the work schedule and routine of the every day; today feels more in line with how things were before I left for New York. I’m not traveling again until June (I also am traveling in July; again in September, and then hopefully not again until the holidays; I may be heading up to New England again in November but we’ll just have to see how that works out, with vacation times and all but I don’t really want to think that far ahead of things, either), if then–the jury remains out on that one–and time is really slipping away through my fingers. I need to get back to writing, and soon–I am glad that I have that story draft finished–and I also need to get the Bouchercon anthology finished as well. I think if I can get these fragments of things finished and crossed off the list that will make getting back to actually writing something much much easier as I move forward through this swimming pool we call life.

“The swimming pool we call life.” Jesus fricking Christ, I can get full of myself and write some garbage, can’t I? This is yet another example of why no one sees early drafts of anything I write.

The Anne Rice tribute anthology I was asked to write a story for–which wound up being “The Rosary of Broken Promises”–is going to be released later this month; it’s called Dancing in the Shadows: A Tribute to Anne Rice and it’s a fundraiser for a charity Mrs. Rice supported during her lifetime–although I cannot for the life of me remember what that is right now (no worries, Constant Reader, at some point I will post the cover art and the name of the charity along with buy links and the opening of my story, as I always do with anthologies that I am in).

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

I Don’t Know How to Love Him

Tuesday morning, up again before sunrise and heading back into the office for the first time since last Monday. Yesterday was a good working at home day; I managed to get quite a bit accomplished and even managed to get Scooter (the Lost Apartment certainly feels like the Lost Apartment again now that the cat is back and in full-throated you’re not paying enough attention to meeeeeeeee mode again) and the mail and even made a bit of groceries as well (I forgot things, of course, which means stopping on the way home from the office tonight, hurray) which is nice; I also made a very (relatively) thorough to-do list for me to work on for the rest of the week. I also finished a (very) rough first draft of the short story, which I am going to let sit for a day or so before marking up the fuck out of it before turning it in. I also spent some more time with Carol Goodman’s quite marvelous The Lake of Dead Languages, which really is magical–I don’t know how she manages that melancholy Gothic tone she pulled off in this book, but it’s really a master class–before making dinner and collapsing into my easy chair.

It did feel good to get the draft of the story done. It was at 2300 or so words, and now it is sitting at about 5500; and some of the original 2300 bit the dust, so I managed to write maybe about 4000 words yesterday in a couple of hours? It’s good to know that I can still do that I suppose; that’s always a part of the malaise I experience whenever I finish writing something major–the fear that the ability to write will go away in the future and can no longer be counted on. But it felt really good to write yesterday–when will I ever learn that writing, or rather, forcing myself to actually sit down and do it–always is the best way for me to alleviate stress. It’s the not writing that inevitably is at the root of all my anxieties and stress, and actually writing–no matter how bad the thing I am writing might be–always makes me feel better, always centers me, and is always the best cure for whatever ails me at any time. The secret is to write, of course, always.

Bearing that in mind, of course after I get home this evening I should spend some time writing before spending some more time with the Goodman before shutting my brain off and watching television. Paul and I started watching Minx–I’d only watched the first few episodes before stopping–and those earlier episodes were much funnier the second time around; but I think there’s still some issues I have with the show’s depiction of the main character, but I know I’m enjoying the show a lot more this time around. than I did the first time I tried to watch. I just have an issue with the entire trope of the fierce woman with no sexual experience (or much to speak of, at any rate) finally learning the joys of a vibrator or having really good sex to “lighten” up her point-of-view; the show really leans into the idea of the angry feminist trope and all the baggage that comes with it. On the other hand, it was an incredibly sexist and misogynist period (spousal rape was still considered not a crime at the time this show is set), and as the Supreme Court leak from yesterday showed…misogyny runs deep in this country. (I am still too filled with rage to go down that particular path right now, but I am deeply, deeply, furious about this prospective ruling.) But I like the show overall; and it’s good to have a reminder of just how fucking bad things used to be as a reminder of what the right wants us to return to…

I’ve also started looking over my story this morning and the opening is actually…not bad. Maybe this story isn’t going to need nearly as much work as perhaps I may have thought. This is, naturally, very exciting.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader–I’ll check with you again tomorrow.