Tell Me What You Want Me To Do

Somehow another week has gone past and it’s Friday already. I am halfway through the second draft revision of Chapter Two (still early enough that I am counting baby steps as milestones), which pleases me enormously. It’s not been difficult so far; it’s actually been a rather pleasant surprise to see oh, that actually works and I don’t need to revise/alter/rewrite that, although I am sure that will start coming soon.

Nothing gold can stay.

Or something.

I’m excited about going to the LSU game tomorrow, and as this week of work comes to a close, I am hoping to get a lot of chores done tonight because putting them off is simply not an option since we will be driving up to Baton Rouge tomorrow in the late afternoon, and I will undoubtedly be completely exhausted when we get home from the game. It’s going to be hot, for one thing, in the stadium, plus all that nervous energy and jumping up and down and screaming? Yeah, I’ll be very drained and tired when we finally roll into the Lost Apartment after the game tomorrow night, and will undoubtedly sleep the sleep of the dead Saturday night.

It is still ridiculously hot; the heat and humidity did not break after Labor Day as it so generally does, but the evenings are getting cooler. This is quite lovely as I generally get home from work after dark and it’s nice to not sweat to death while walking from the car to the door of the house. So glad global warming is a liberal conspiracy…I suspect we may not even get winter this year–not that I mind, of course, but still.

Ozark continues to enthrall. We are limiting ourselves to a single episode per night to make it last longer since we’re enjoying it so much, but man, is this second season dark. I thought the first was, but wow. And seeing how the characters are developing and changing is astonishing. The cast is knocking it out of the park, and everything is coming to a boil…there are only three episodes left before we have finished season two, and I can only imagine what hell is going to break loose in that season finale.

I am also hoping to spend some time finishing Circe this weekend. Like Ozark, I’m taking it slow and relishing every word, every sentence. Madeline Miller is such a brilliant writer, and she reminds me some of Mary Renault, whom I should revisit at some time as an adult (I read most of her work when I was a teenager; I am certain I will enjoy it more now); The Last of the Wine is definitely worth a revisit.

I was thinking the other day (well, last night as I washed the dishes) that I should do a definitive (or somewhat definitive) study of gay representation in work written by non-gay writers; it’s one of the reasons I am still holding onto unread copies of A Little Life and City on Fire. Part of my book-hoarding tendencies come from this notion that someday I will write literary criticism; which is why I hold on to my romantic suspense novels from the 60’s and 70’s, for example. I’m getting a little better about that; donating the hard copies once the ebook goes on sale for ridiculously cheap–it’s also part of the same mentality of someday I’ll be able to support myself again as a full-time writer.

Dreams. Never let go of the dreams. I imagine I’ll still be dreaming as they push my dead body into the crematorium.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Masterpiece

 How bout them Tigers?

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

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

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

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

And Madeline Miller’s Circe continues to enthrall.

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

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

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Giving Him Something He Can Feel

GEAUX TIGERS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me

Thursday morning, and my quest to readjust to, ahem, civilian life is getting there gradually. I no longer feel like my batteries need to be recharged–at least, not for the moment–and there is some semblance of order to my kitchen. There’s a load in the dishwasher that needs to be put away, and once again there are dishes in the sink, but the situation is neither as dire nor extreme as it seemed the other day. I’ve still not finished catching up on my email, nor have I had the mental fortitude to get back to reading Circe (which is killing me), nor have I written a single word of fiction this week…but I will. I am almost to the end of my latest journal, which means I’ve been carrying around two with me this week–the almost-finished, and the new one–which means I need to make sure that ideas and story fragments inside of it must be marked or retyped or scanned or something, so as not to be forgotten.

I came up with the idea for a hilarious Nancy Drew type spoof one morning while hanging out with Dana Cameron; actually it’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the easiest way to describe it, which I happily scribbled away about in my journal, and I also came up with an idea for a crime short story which I am interested in exploring at some point; I have the WIP to work through, and the rewrite of the Scotty manuscript as well. I need to buckle down, don’t I? But I think that this week of readjustment and recharging my brain is necessary. I am inspired and I want to work hard on my writing again, I just haven’t the energy or creative strength to do it this week.

I have to run errands this morning; I don’t have to be at work until later this afternoon.

I am just fascinating this morning, aren’t I?

I am also toying with the idea of writing a supernatural-style series; it’s been on my mind for a while, and while I was in St. Petersburg I thought of a way to make it work, and combine some of the short stories I’ve written about that area of Louisiana already (and yes, The Gates of Evangeline helped with that). I am also becoming more and more interested in the history of Louisiana, and the possibility of a historical series, maybe New Orleans in the pre-WW1 era, or the 1920’s. I can’t decide.

But even though I am not putting words down, I am thinking, and that kind of counts as working, doesn’t it?

And now back to the spice mines.

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Live and Learn

Trying to settle back into the mundanity of every day life again. Dishes piled up in the sink, a load in the dishwasher that needs putting away, books and files and papers and note cards and silverware, bottle caps and letter openers and my checkbook scattered about with reckless abandonment and no discernible pattern other than a concurrent lack of desire and energy and interest to do anything about it. Clothes are strewn across the floor of the laundry room while books gather dust on top of the dryer. For yet another day, I allowed myself to wallow in the malaise aftermath of a writerly weekend; a foot back into the swirling and comforting waters of my writing career. At some point–most likely tomorrow morning–I shall rise and make myself some coffee, answer the seemingly insurmountable amount of emails that have clustered in my various in-boxes, organize electronic photos downloaded and stolen from various social media sites to further document the weekend, and generate emails of thanks and gratitude. But tonight, realizing I didn’t even post a blog entry today, I chose to simply sit down as my tired mind and exhausted body wind down for bed and compose a start to tomorrow’s blog in an effort to maximize efficiency and leave more time in the morning for making lists and figuring out what needs to be done and what needs to be worked on, prioritizing and reordering and stepping full-time back into the day-to-day existence of going to work and running errands and cleaning and writing and reading and trying to stay on top of things and at the very least tread water rather than losing more ground.

Traveling does this to me, and especially traveling for writing; each time I am immersed full time into the writing/publishing/reading community it always takes me a little bit longer to pull back from it, to stop missing it, and get back to the business of being Gregalicious again.

One of the loveliest things about traveling, for me, is being able to read. I don’t know how people travel by air and don’t read, to be honest with you. The time just flies past and you can forget that you’re in a busy airport with some people who don’t care about clipping their toenails or other such horrific things in public, or hurtling through the air in a long metal tube thousands of yards above the ground through the theory of lift, a Physics principle I wish my father the engineer had never explained to me because now it creeps into my head every time I fly. I was not only able to finish reading The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young as our flight taxied to the gate in Tampa; and I started reading Madeline Miller’s brilliant Circe on the way back and cannot wait to finish it.

But The Gates of Evangeline was truly a stunning work.

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The sky is a dismal gray when I finally go to remove my son’s car seat. It’s raining, a cold autumn rain that feels both cliche and appropriate for a moment I’ve spent more than three months avoiding. I stand by my Prius, peering through the rear window at the empty booster seat, wondering for the hundredth time about the thin coating of mystery grit Keegan always left behind. And then I do it.

I don’t give myself time to think, just proceed, quickly and efficiently. Loosen the straps. Dig into the cushions of the backseat and unhook the metal latches. One tug, and the car seat lands with a thunk on my driveway.

They never end, all these little ways you have to say good-bye. I turn my face toward the drizzle.

The summer has gone, slipped away without my noticing it, and somehow October is here, flaunting her furious reds and yellows. Squinting, I take in the houses of my neighborhood their wholesome front yards: trim lawns, beds of waterlogged chrysanthemums, a couple of pumpkins on doorsteps. And leaves, of course, everywhere, blazing and brilliant, melting into the slick streets, clogging gutters.

These are actually not the opening paragraphs of the novel, but rather the opening paragraphs of Chapter One. I chose to not use the opening of the prologue to share, primarily because, while the prologue is extremely well done and gripping, it primarily serves to set the mood for the story, rather than introducing the reader to the main character, Charlotte Cates–whom everyone calls Charlie–and Charlie is the driving force of the novel; its success with the reader entirely depends on how you feel about Charlie, as a character, as a person, as a woman, and as a mother. That is key to the novel; if you don’t like Charlie, you aren’t going to enjoy the book.

Which is a shame. The plot of the book is powerful, an interesting mystery about a missing small boy of wealth and privilege who vanished from his room on the palatial family estate of Evangeline in Cajun Country, Louisiana. Charlie is a successful career woman, managing editor of a Cosmo-like magazine, divorced her husband for cheating, and was raising her son on her own. Her parents died young and she was raised by her grandmother; her parents were, as we say down here, “pieces of work.” But then her young son dies suddenly of a rare aneurysm, casting her down the road of grief, pain, blame, and horror. Whatever flaws she might have, Charlie is grieving, and her grief is so real and palpable that you start rooting for her as she leaves her job and drives to Louisiana to write a true-crime book about the disappearance of Gabriel Deveau. Many mysteries haunt the plantation, and Charlie has to navigate those while digging into what happened to Gabriel. The book is beautifully written, and how Charlie begins to slowly come out from under the dark cloud of her own grief, through her interactions with the others at Evangeline and the local people she becomes involved with, is even more powerful than the mystery she is trying to unravel. Charlie also has psychic visions she doesn’t understand, sometimes seeing the past and sometimes seeing the future; and one of those visions–of a boy being taken, rowed into a swamp by someone who has sexually abused him and plans to kill him–is the impetus that gets her to shake off her grief and head to Louisiana in the first place. The visions, which easily could be used to move the story along, etc., are intertwined into the story instead in such a way that seems organic and never seems manipulative.

I greatly, greatly enjoyed this book. As I said, it’s a crime novel but it’s really about coming to terms with grief, accepting tragedy, and moving on. I cried at the end. I will say I had a couple of quibbles, but over all, a great read.

There’s apparently a sequel, which I will definitely seek out.

Can’t Let Go

We took Scooter to Kitty Camp yesterday morning, and I spent the rest of the day packing and cleaning, around treating every available surface for fleas and watching the US Open (GO SERENA! GO RAFA!). But I managed to get everything that might have fleas or flea eggs in it treated with the death-to-flea spray we got at the Cat Practice, and to be honest, I’ve never seen any fleas anywhere except for occasionally finding a sluggish one on Scooter. It’s possible–they said this at the Cat Practice–there are so many fleas outside that we track them in with us, and when they get on him his flea treatment kills them. I don’t know. I just know that when Skittle had fleas they were fucking everywhere, once we took him out of the house.

Heavy sigh.

It is awfully lonely around here without Scooter, I have to say.

I am, as I said yesterday morning, greatly enjoying Hester Young’s The Gates of Evangeline. This is, at least so far, what Southern Gothic should be; elegant, dusty, slightly decayed and morally askew; the writing is absolutely stellar and the main character is incredibly compelling: a single mother who works as managing editor at a Cosmo type magazine whose child has died, suddenly, of a rare brain aneurysm, and trying to put her life back together again. She also is a touch psychic, but is never really sure if she is seeing things, dreaming, or it’s grief and drug-induced. Absolutely loving it; trying to decide if I should save it for the airport/airplane or if I should dive back into it some tonight…but worried if I did I wouldn’t be able to set it aside to sleep; I really needed to go to bed early last night; so I put it aside for today’s flight/sitting in the airport. I got up before the alarm this morning, as well–it was set for six and I got up at five thirty.

Heavy heaving sigh. Which means I’ll be exhausted tonight; which I hope means a good night’s sleep.

I am also packing Madeline Miller’s Circe with me to St. Petersburg, and I am sure I will pick up some books once there (there are a lot of giveaways, always, which for a book hoarding nerd like me is heavenly) so I don’t think I’ll run out of things to read. I’ll also have the iPad with me, so I can read any of the number of books on there that I’ve downloaded over the years. And I’d really like to get back to the Short Story Project; although it was fun reading the books for my panel, and talking about the wonderful stories in Florida Happens–I’m thinking there will be some award nominations for the contributors coming in the next year, which is awesome. I’m very proud to have helped in organizing and putting the book together, which was a lot of work and a lot of fun, even though a lot of people wound up being disappointed. But I acknowledged every submission when it was received, and I let everyone know who submitted and wasn’t selected as well.

It’s called being professional, people.

I am very glad travel day is finally here though–much as I have traveling, that’s primarily because I hate the actual traveling. Once I am in St. Petersburg and all checked in and comfy in my fabulous room at the Vinoy Renaissance, I am sure I will be more than fine.

But ugh, airport and so forth.

And now to start getting ready to leave.

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Live and Learn

So, the governor declared a state of emergency last night for Tropical Storm Gordon, which may be a Category 1 when it comes ashore tonight. Right now it’s projected to pass through here around one in the morning, which means when it’s time to get up in the morning and head to the airport it might still be raining, but the storm should have passed long before. Our flight should be fine, barring any complications from airport damage or a power outage there. Fingers crossed! Paul and I discussed it at great length last night, and decided that in a worst case scenario–rebooking and an inability to get out of here until Friday–that we would just turn it into a stay-cation and bid adieu to Bouchercon for this year. It cannot be helped and while it would be an enormous disappointment, there’s no point in being sad, depressed or upset about it, since it’s completely outside of our control.

I did get some things done yesterday that I needed to get done; today’s plan is to take Scooter to the Kitty Camp where he will board until we return, finish packing, get some things done around here cleaning-wise, and get back to reading The Gates of Evangeline, by Hester Young, which I started last night and am enjoying tremendously. Lori Roy mentioned it recently in an article about top Southern Gothic novels, and I remembered that I had a copy; Lori is someone whose opinion about books I deeply respect (check out her most recent, The Disappearing, which is exceptional, but you can’t go wrong with any of her amazing novels) and she has again proven my faith in her taste to be correct. It’s gorgeously written and perfect Southern Gothic–which last night got me to thinking about Southern Gothic. I really think Southern Gothic, and Southern noir, is really what I should be writing; my best short stories (and therefore what I consider to be my best work) really are Southern Gothic; “Survivor’s Guilt” is a good example of that.

Something to ponder, at any rate.

I also finished reading Thomas Pluck’s Bad Boy Boogie yesterday morning, so my Bouchercon homework is complete, one day ahead of time.

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When Jay Desmarteaux walked out the gate of Rahway Prison, the sun hit his face like air on a fresh wound. The breeze smelled different, felt charged, electric. A rawboned middleweight, he was broad at the shoulders and hips, as if God had attempted to halt his growth and he’d thickened out of spite.

“Go one,” the guard said. Jay couldn’t remember his name, but he was all right, as far as CO’s went. “Ride’s waiting for you at the curb.”

Jay squinted at the road. The only vehicle waiting in the early summer heat was a black Suburban parked at the yellow curb. The wind played with his shock of black hair. He had spent twenty-five years locked inside a dank Shaolin prison dedicated to violence and human predation while the men who put him there lived free from fear.

Men who needed killing.

Mama Angeline raised him to understand that some folks just needed killing. There was nothing you could do for them.

And she’d been right.

And so begins the final Anthony nominee for Best Paperback Original. I was already acquainted with Jay–he appeared in Pluck’s short story contribution to Blood on the Bayou, “Gumbo Weather,” and was delighted to read about him again. The book reads like a classic old black and white film, as Jay tries to figure out what happened to his life and the people he cared about while he was locked up–as well as looking out for vengeance–and it reads like a cross between a Jim Thompson novel and perhaps a Lee Child; non-stop twists and turns and surprised, written in a style the compels you to keep reading.

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