Friend and a Lover

Thursday and working at home on this glorious morning. Huzzah! (I really hate leaving the house–something I battle with almost daily; my desire to be an anchorite or a shut-in; which makes it a really good thing that I work outside the home. If I could work at home, I’d have everything delivered and would never leave the house except for the gym. Seriously.)

I was tired yesterday–as I always am on Wednesdays; I’m not sure why the getting-up-at-six thing is such an issue when I go to bed at ten, but I also suppose it has to do with the quality level of the sleep. I am trying not to look at my Fitbit to get the breakdown of deep vs. light vs. awake, to be honest, as I don’t need another thing to obsess about. But I don’t think being tired on my third consecutive morning of getting up early is unusual, and I wasn’t nearly as tired as I remember being on Wednesdays. It’s more that it’s harder for me to stay focused when I am tired, and therefore harder for me to complete tasks.

And man, was it ever hard to make myself go to the gym last night when I got home from work. BUT I DID IT, AND IT WAS LEG DAY, AND MAN OH MAN HOW MUCH DO I HATE LEG DAY? With the white hot intensity of a dozen burning suns, that’s how much. (Leg Day is always rough for everyone, because your legs are half of your body, and while yes, of course, your upper body is the other half, but Upper Body can isolate actual muscle groups, whereas most leg exercises inevitably require usage of the entire leg; even calf raises require your entire legs’ muscles to be engaged, plus you don’t walk on your arms…) This morning my legs feel good tired, which means the initiation into Leg Day after so long was the right amount of work–I always worry about overdoing it, and it was Leg Day, in fact, where I injured my back all those years ago, which forced me out of the gym, and I’ve never really had a consistent workout program ever since. I also fell asleep in my chair around eight thirty, eventually crawling into bed before ten and sleeping like a stone, which was marvelous.

So, overall a good day. I managed to get the revision of my short story done (“The Sound of Snow Falling”), and it needs probably one more coat of gloss on it; I started writing another short story (“He Seemed Fine”) but didn’t get very far into it, and also started planning the revision of the first few chapters of A Streetcar Named Murder, which I need to work on adapting to the new backdrop of the series. I was too tired after the gym to focus on reading, so hopefully today after my work-at-home time I can finally finish reading it. Paul was working on another grant proposal last night when he got home from the gym, so I was watching Youtube videos on French history–the 16th and 17th centuries in France are like catnip to me–so we weren’t able to watch anything last night.

Today, I am going to watch some horror films while I do my work-at-home chores; it’s October and Halloween season, after all. I was really pleased to get some watched last year during October–horror classics I’d never seen before, as well as some I had and rewatched–and I think this week I am going to focus on sequels; namely Friday the 13th. I’ve seen the first a couple of times–rewatched it last year–but I’ve never watched any of the sequels. I think when I’ve made it through all the myriad of Friday the 13th movies, I may try Halloween. I think I’ve seen most of these movies at some point or another, but it would be interesting, I think, to watch them all in order.

Or perhaps…perhaps a John Carpenter film festival is in order. It could be fun to watch Prince of Darkness again, which I saw in the theater and was terrified; I’ve always enjoyed it on rewatches–but the fact that all the college students are played by actors well into their thirties is always a bit amusing. (I also think the score for that film is terrifying; Carpenter’s scores are always pitch perfect for his movies.)

I am feeling like myself again these days–like some dark cloud has lifted out of my brain; I’m not sure how or why, but I am glad it’s gone, even if it’s merely a temporary thing. The house is a mess, of course–as always–but I am going to try to work on getting it all cleaned up this weekend. The LSU game is Saturday night, so I have all day–if I can avoid the easy temptation of the other games airing–to clean. Or I can clean with the television on–or (gasp) I can have the games playing on my computer while I clean the kitchen.

Stop the insanity!

And on that note, I am going to finish this coffee and start a load of laundry. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

Every Song Is You

Wednesday morning!

Yesterday was a really good day. I was productive again–not as much as the previous two days, but still, I’m counting it as a win. I even wrote. I worked on a short story and an essay–granted, the short story was a revision, so somewhat easier than actually writing something from scratch on a blank page–but it was still pretty awesome to be flexing some creative muscles again. I also think my editorial eye has become a lot more clear than it’s been in over twenty-one months; I definitely think I am going to be tweaking this story perhaps one more time. But it felt amazing to be writing again–rewriting, as it were–and so my new plan is to try to get this three short stories I’ve been trying to revise forever revised this week, and start working on A Streetcar Named Murder in earnest this weekend.

Tonight after work I am going to go to the gym for Leg Day, and try to get some more editing done. I also want to finish reading Velvet Was the Night so I can start my Horror for Halloween reading, beginning with the annual reread of The Haunting of Hill House. I had also planned to read one of the Stephen Kings I have on hand but not yet read–probably The Institute–and another Paul Tremblay at the very least; but I’ve got to finish what I am already reading before I can move on to anything else. I think this decommitment to watching college football all day on Saturday will help, and just the occasional check-in on the Saints on Sunday should also help free up some of my time. I think today’s lower energy mode is probably just the usual oh I’ve gotten up at six for three straight mornings tired; even now as the coffee kicks into gear I am starting to feel more alert and more on top of things–which is pretty fucking cool. Yay!

I’ve also been writing blog posts to promote Bury Me in Shadows; I wrote a rather lengthy one about the backstory behind the book–where the Civil War ghost story aspect of the book came from, and why it was kind of difficult to write such a thing in the present time, knowing that the rebel side was wrong and problematic–and the underlying root cause of all the racial tension and problems we still face as a country today (I’ve preordered The 1619 Project, and can’t wait to read it). One of my primary worries/concerns with writing this book was how easy it would be to step wrong and write something offensive. I still worry from time to time that I did exactly that, and when the book is released there will be controversy. But if I got something wrong, or wrote something that is offensive, I will own my mistakes, apologize for them, and try to do better going forward.

I don’t understand when admitting you were wrong or made a mistake became a sign of weakness in this country. I also don’t understand it. I don’t like being wrong, but I am also not going to double down on being wrong. Not meaning any offense doesn’t mean you won’t offend someone, and for the record, I’m sorry you were offended is not the same thing as I’m sorry I offended you. The first is a non-apology, and the speaker isn’t really sorry for what they said, they are only sorry you were offended by it. The second takes ownership of the situation and doesn’t let the original speaker off the hook, and personalizes the apology. I also don’t understand why this is so hard for people to understand.

Yesterday Twitter was all abuzz about the Kidney Woman story in the New York Times, which tried to stir up the whole argument about drawing inspiration from someone else’s life or story. I’ve always believed that it’s impossible for any writer to create either a character or situation lifted from real life; if anything, it’s only a starting place, because a writer cannot know everything about any real life person–you don’t know their every experience, you don’t know what the seminal experiences that created who they are and how they react to things, you don’t know how their mind works or how they even think; at best, all you really see if how they outwardly react to a person or a situation–you don’t know what they are thinking, you don’t know their triggers, you don’t know anything, really–so you have to make up a lot of it, and you base it on your observations of how that person behaves and reacts. Observation is very key, yes, and an understanding of psychology, but again, everyone is different and no one can predict how anyone else will think or react or behave in any given situation. Which is why we are always surprised by the behavior of people we know; we don’t really know them at any great depth so of course we are always going to be surprised and caught off guard by their actions. Nobody likes to think people talk about them behind their back; no one really wants to know what people that dislike say about them. But you have to understand that it’s very human–friends tell each other things, and everyone talks about everyone else (it always amazes me that this salient fact of life is always addresses so insanely on reality televisions shows–“don’t talk about me behind my back!” Um, everyone does it, hello? And most of the time it means nothing. If someone has pissed me off, I will inevitably talk about it to a mutual friend–just to get it off my chest and out of my system. Usually, I am over it once I talk it through with another person–everyone needs to vent, why is this so hard to understand? And it doesn’t have to mean anything more than that…”yes, I was mad at you, but once I talked it through with X I realized it wasn’t anything, I was over it, and why hurt your feelings or start a fight with you when it really wasn’t anything?”). I certainly don’t want to know what people say about me when I’ve irritated them or pissed them off; I’m perfectly happy being oblivious.

With the caveat that if I behave in a way that really gets on someone’s nerves regularly, I would like to know so I can decide to change the behavior or not.

Then again, I’ve never understood the rules of friendship, either.

We finished Midnight Mass last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mike Flanagan, who also did The Haunting of Hill House (which I was able to enjoy as I merely viewed as fan fiction rather than a straightforward adaptation of the classic novel–one of my favorites), did an excellent job here. It’s a deep meditation on religion and the power of belief, juxtaposed with some serious horror. The acting is superb; the characters deeply drawn and compelling, and it’s hard to look away. I prefer this kind of creepy, unsettling horror to jump scares and gore, frankly. I do recommend the show, but prepared to think some heavy thoughts about the power of religion and its potential for abuse–as well as how easy it is to misinterpret something as holy when it most certainly is not.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

Walking in the Rain

And we’ll make it to Wednesday.

So, in less than one week Bury Me in Shadows will officially be out into the world. I’m not sure which book of mine this is—somewhere between thirty-five and forty, I think; I am so tired of counting and I inevitably forget something—and I suppose I should qualify that by book I mean novel; there are also twenty-two anthologies, and I am working on the twenty-third, Land of 10000 Crimes,even as we speak. So, in all, there are close to sixty books with either my name, or that of a pseudonym, on the spine; not bad for the last twenty years.

That said, I should probably talk a bit about Bury Me in Shadows, so you, my very dear Constant Reader, can decide whether or not you wish to bite on this opportunity to read it or not. As I have mentioned before, this story began as a short story called “Ruins” that I wrote while I was in college, on an IBM Selectric with corrective ribbon; remember those? I still have the original draft I typed…(sidebar: I hated typewriters, and freely admit that had computers not evolved and become common place, I’d still be a wannabe writer and unpublished)…but anyway, as I said the other day, I always knew there was more story there than could be contained in a short story, so I put it aside and figured I’d eventually come back to it at some point when I had the time and mind-space to turn it into a novel. It was always there in the back of my head—maybe this year I’ll do the Alabama ghost story—and I’m not sure what finally drove it to the forefront of my mind to start writing the book; I know it happened sometime after the pandemic shutdown, and I had a deadline in January of this year to get it finished. (My memory has become so terribly faulty, you see.)

I really like my main character, Jake Chapman—I know, I know, I always like my main characters, and they usually, inevitably, always have a lot of similarities to each other, in temperament and attitude and intelligence; what differentiates them all is their back stories. When I originally started writing this as a book, Jake was still in high school, attending a fictional Chicago Catholic high school, with plans to work at the school pool over the summer because a boy he had a huge crush on was also going to be working there. (Actually, scratch that; it originally was set in a suburb and he had gotten a job at a fast food place for the summer to be closer to his crush; how could I forget that? And then I moved him into the city when I couldn’t get that story to work; I kept the suburban component but for his father’s second family) Originally I had him flying to Birmingham from Chicago, and being picked up at the airport by Kelly (another one of the characters)…but those original chapters felt very fake to me or something. It just didn’t work. It felt very much like something I had read before many times, and while I originally made Jake very strong and secure in who he is, I also thought it might not work—he needed to have insecurities, he needed to have flaws. And while I know things have changed, I still think an openly gay kid at a Jesuit high school, even in Chicago, would have issues…but am willing to admit I could be wrong about that. But my Jake does, so there.

So, I decided to advance his age a bit and have him attending Tulane here in New Orleans, and I needed a stronger trigger for his mother to send him to Alabama for the summer—especially given her feelings about her past and her family and its history. And that, I realized, was what I needed to establish with the back story; if she kept him away from there since he was a child, why would she send him there now? He couldn’t be a well-adjusted young man, completely secure in himself and his sexuality…and then he started forming in my head. He doesn’t remember his parents being married; they divorced when he was too young to remember. He doesn’t fit into his father’s second family and their suburban life. His mother has been through several husbands—including the most recent, whom she is shedding as the book opens, and he is much younger, a tennis pro. His mother is the only real stability in his life, and she, as a hugely successful lawyer who also teaches law, wouldn’t be around very much. He loves his mother, admires and respects her, but also doesn’t feel as close to her as he thinks he should. Then being a lonely out gay kid at the Catholic school, socially awkward because he isn’t used to having friends, becomes the lonely gay kid at Tulane—shy and awkward and not sure how to meet someone, make friends, even how to be gay. (And yes, I am aware of the Internet and apps and so forth so he could easily educate himself that way, even have encounters with strangers…I do address this a little bit; he does use apps to get laid, but always feels cheap and empty when it’s over.) At Tulane he gets picked up by a gay guy at a party, and lonely, he latches onto him (Tradd) and thinks they have more of a relationship than they really do; it makes him very unhappy and miserable, and one final fight between them with Tradd walking out on him sends Jake out drinking and doing drugs on a binge that ends, finally, with him collapsing in a gay bar and being rushed to the hospital. His mother’s concerns about him—he tried suicide in high school—is what overrides her aversion to Alabama and her home place, and she decides to send him there for the summer. His grandmother has come home from the hospital to die in her own bed—she’s had a massive series of strokes and is bedridden, mostly—and his mother, Glynis, figures someone from the family should be there in the house with her. A distant relative, an orphan named Kelly, who is a senior in high school, has been living there since his own mother died the previous year; Glynis doesn’t quite trust the kid, and once the old woman dies—well, there needs to be an inventory of everything in the house done, so why not pay Jake to do that while spending the summer there?

That, to me, was a much more interesting back story and set up for the book, and so when I started working on it in earnest, that was what I went with.

So, we have a young man who has spent most of his life in cities—Chicago and New Orleans—coming to rural Alabama for the summer. He has faint memories of his grandmother and the old house; the ruins of the original plantation house are still on the property, but over the years as the family lost their money and had to begin selling off all the land, the woods have grown back up so the ruins are actually hidden from the road and from the main house by trees. Jake is recovering from a broken heart and from an overdose.

I like the set-up, and it worked, at least for me, in terms of writing the story. As I said, I really became vested in Jake; I wanted to get to the root of who he is, the traumas he’s endured, and wanted him to learn things about himself now that he has the distance from his life to reexamine the things that have held him back from becoming the best Jake he can be. I really wanted to show his emotional growth and development over the course of the summer.

I guess we’ll see how well I succeeded, won’t we?

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, everyone.

Maybe Someday

Well, we managed to survive Monday, did we not, Constant Reader?

Always a plus, don’t you think?

Yesterday morning I got up without much of a problem—but I really need to stop checking my Fitbit every morning to see how well I slept; it’s rather silly, actually, and doesn’t change whether I feel rested or not when I do get up. I went to the gym Sunday afternoon (why do I always forget how good it feels to stretch and work out?) and am hoping to have the energy to go for Leg Day after work tonight. This month—looking ahead—is going to be a bit on the crazy side: I have an on-line training for work; I’m doing a library event in the evening this coming Monday; my book drops officially next week; I’m doing an event with David Slayton (author of White Trash Warlock) with Murder by the Book on the 13th; and I am having a colonoscopy on the 21st. Woo-hoo! That’s me, living large everywhere I turn around. And then it’s Halloween, and then it’s November, and I am taking two trips: one to New York/Boston (for Crime Bake), and to visit my family for Thanksgiving (note to self: buy plane tickets and make arrangements for New York/Boston trip). After that, it’s pretty much just Christmas and New Year’s, and suddenly it’s Carnival again—not sure what it’s going to look like, to be completely honest, or how much I plan to be involved or participate with it. I will also be doing some traveling in the new year—New York again in January, Birmingham in February, Albuquerque for Left Coast, whenever that is—and here’s hoping the pandemic has calmed down and/or finally ended by then. PLEASE? Is it too much to ask?

There really is something to be said for doing things that were normal before the pandemic again. I do think going to the football game Saturday night, which I was so concerned about—and I wasn’t entirely comfortable around all those people—helped reset my brain a bit; I felt so much better about the world and life and everything in general when I woke up Sunday morning—after the first cup of coffee cleared some of the bleariness away—and Sunday night, after watching two more episodes of Midnight Mass (which is extraordinary, by the way; you should watch, Constant Reader—the writing and acting and production values are truly stellar—I had no problem going to bed and sleep. I did hit snooze a few times yesterday morning, as always—the alarm is set fifteen minutes ahead; which may seem kind of dumb to me at times (what good does it do you if you always remember its fifteen minutes fast?) but I do like to gradually wake up and acclimate a bit before I throw aside the covers and put on my morning pre-shower attire of LSU sweats, socks and house slippers. (Note to self: need a new pair of LSU moccasins to wear around the house)

I was also fairly productive yesterday, which was most pleasing to me. I did start getting sleepy and tired in the afternoon while at work, but powered through. I got a lot of emails taken care of, paid some bills, and spent a lot more time than I probably should have on Twitter being amused about the Facebook crash. (although I did find myself more than slightly amused at how often I would automatically start to go to the Facebook tab on my browser before thinking sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t let you do that right now)

Old habits die hard, and it does kind of bother me that it’s become so habitual for me to check Facebook. (We pause briefly now to look back and remember the days of MySpace, with a bit of nostalgic fondness)

Honestly.

But I am getting better organized, and working more efficiently these days than I have for, oh, say about the last two years, give or take? I am also—now that I no longer feel the need to spend all day Saturday glued to the television watching college football—going to start cleaning projects, weekend by weekend, until I have gradually cleaned the entire apartment. Ambitious plans, to be sure, but it’s not like I haven’t done it before. And included in this is cleaning out the crawlspace above the laundry room; there’s a lot of stuff up there that can probably be donated—boxes and boxes and boxes of books that I most likely will never look at again because they are in boxes in the crawlspace. The ultimate goal for me would be to not only clean out the crawlspace but clean out the storage unit—there’s room in there now, but there could be a lot more. (There’s also a chance that things in there got ruined during Ida as well—I know at some point since I rented the unit some water got in there somehow, because a couple of boxes had gotten wet and were thus ruined and needed to be thrown out.) I was also thinking about the whole “keeping my papers to have them archived somewhere”—which I really need to either do, or throw them in the garbage because they take up so much space—because what really is going to be interesting is the electronic files; those may not show the notes I’ve made on manuscripts themselves for edits and so forth, but you can trace the progression of the writing and rewriting through each different version of the story/book/file. (And of course, I am rolling my eyes at myself for thinking any future scholar of queer mysteries from this time period would be interested in me and my work. Ten years after I am dead, cremated and my ashes scattered in the various places I want them scattered, I won’t be remembered, and I am perfectly fine with that.) I mean, it’s interesting to me to look through because it triggers memories long dormant in a corner of my brain, but I honestly cannot imagine being the subject of anyone’s dissertation or thesis; unless someone wants to look at my stuff as a reference to gay white male life in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina.

Ah, well.

I also realized I’ve been writing this for quite some time and haven’t mentioned Bury Me in Shadows yet, and I was going to try to talk about this book a bit every day as a bit of a tease to encourage people to buy it. It really is a wonder I have a career, isn’t it?

So, if you’ve stuck with this entry so far, let me promise you this: tomorrow I will talk about Bury Me in Shadows. You’ve been warned.

Until tomorrow, Constant Reader.

Together We’re Better

Yesterday actually turned out to be quite lovely.

I was a little bleary when I got up yesterday morning (my Fitbit advises me I only slept deeply for 3 hours, 48 minutes; the rest was “light sleep” and I woke up three times), but for whatever reason, I decided to start getting to work on things. I started answering emails (I am very careful with email. I refuse to let it control my life, which it easily can; so I answer emails over the weekends and in the mornings, save my responses as drafts, and send them all after lunch. I do not send emails after five pm CST; I do not read them, either. Email at one point took over my life, which made getting anything done impossible and raised my stress levels to unbelievable heights. I realized anyone who absolutely, positively needs to reach me has my cell phone number…and if I don’t trust you with my cell phone number…you don’t really need an answer right away. And guess what? The world didn’t end, I didn’t miss out on anything, and nothing became harder) while reading coverage of the LSU debacle from Saturday night (one thing I did mean to mention and didn’t yesterday; I try not to be overly critical of college athletes because they are basically kids. It’s easy to forget that when you’re watching on television, but when you see them on the sidelines with their helmets off, or while walking down Victory Hill to the stadium in their suits and ties…you see a bunch of teenagers and young men in their early twenties. They are kids—and those baby faces on those big muscular bodies is a very strange juxtaposition sometimes). I decided on the way home from Baton Rouge that while I do, indeed, love football, I really shouldn’t give up my weekends to it all fall. Now that LSU is definitely out of the running for anything, I’ll probably not watch as much football as I would if they were still in contention for anything. I’ll still watch LSU, and occasionally I may spend an afternoon watching a big game—the SEC title game, the play-offs—I am not going to spend every Saturday pretty much glued to the television all day, flipping between games all day. And I also rarely enjoy watching the Saints—I love them, they’re my guys, my team, my heart—but their games are so damned stressful it’s hard to enjoy them, and when the games is over I am always, win or lose, emotionally and physically and mentally exhausted. So, I decided it made more sense to get things done, check in on the score periodically, and not sweat it too much. (Good thing. Like LSU, the Saints led the entire game, folded like a newspaper in the fourth quarter and wound up losing.) I made groceries, filled the car’s gas tank, and before going, I started weeding shit out of my iCloud and saving it all to my back-up hard drive.  I wound up freeing up over four hundred and seven gigabytes in my flash storage, and suddenly my computer was running very quickly again.

And yes, it’s my fault.* I have a gazillion pictures files, going back to digital camera days. I used to back up my hard drive and my flash drives regularly to the cloud—and those folders are enormous. I don’t probably need all of it—I was weeding through bits here and there as I moved the files over to the back-up hard drive (eventually planning on copying them up to Dropbox), and started finding all kinds of interesting things. Story fragments I’d forgotten, book ideas and anthology ideas and essays I’d started; some of these things are in very rough, first draft form—and got left behind as my addled, AHDH-like brain moved on to the next thirty or forty ideas for all of the above. I also was kind of amused to see how I often I plagiarize myself; I had a completely different idea for the book I wanted to call A Streetcar Named Murder fifteen years ago—which I can still use at some point, just have to come up with a new title. I’d forgotten that all the way through the process Need was called A Vampire’s Heart; my editor suggested changing it after I turned the book it. It was a wise choice; my title was very romance sounding and Need was hardly that. It was also interesting seeing, over the years, how many different ideas I’ve had for a gay noir set in the world of ballet (damn you, Megan Abbott!). I discovered that Murder in the Garden District actually began as Murder on the Avenue (a title I can repurpose for an idea I had last week); I found the original files for Hollywood South Hustle, the Scotty book that turned into a Chanse MacLeod, Murder in the Rue Ursulines; I found the files for the Colin book that tells us what he was doing and where he was between Mardi Gras Mambo and Vieux Carré Voodoo; I found the original Paige novel I started writing in 2004, in which an Ann Coulter-like pundit from New Orleans is murdered; I found the first three chapters of the Scotty Katrina book, Hurricane Party High,  in which they don’t evacuate during a fictional hurricane, and the chapters where I rewrote it, had the, evacuate to Frank’s sister’s in rural Alabama (and we meet Frank’s nephew Taylor for the first time—and I also remembered that they belonged to some weird kind of religious cult and that Taylor was going to come to New Orleans in the future to visit during their version of rumspringa, but eventually abandoned the idea completely and never did a Scotty/Katrina book; was reminded that Dark Tide began as Mermaid Inn; that I wrote the first chapter of Timothy during the summer of 2003; and if I even tried to list all the iterations that wound up being #shedeservedit, we would be here all day (Sins of Omission, I think, was my favorite earlier title; again, a completely different book with some slight similarities…I may have to take a longer look at some of those iterations because being reminded of them all, I also remembered that I really liked all the versions).

I also found many, many nonfiction pieces I’ve written over the years—many of which I’d long since forgotten about—so maybe that essay collection won’t take quite as long to pull together as I had originally thought. Huzzah!

And I also discovered something else that I knew but had slipped out of my consciousness: that Bury Me in Shadows was called, for the first and second drafts, Bury Me in Satin—which gives off an entirely different vibe, doesn’t it? I wrote a very early version of it as a short story while in college, called it “Ruins,” but never wrote a second draft because I knew it wasn’t a short story; it needed to be a book, and one day I would write it. I was never completely comfortable with the story, to be honest; I wasn’t sure how I could write a modern novel built around a Civil War legend in rural Alabama. I absolutely didn’t want to write a fucking Lost Cause narrative—which is what this easily could have become, and people might come to it thinking it is, and are going to be very angry when they find out it is not that—but I really wasn’t sure how to tell the story…and in my mind, I thought of it as Ruins—which I freely admit is not a great title, and has been over-used.

As luck would have it, I was watching some awards show—I can’t begin to try to remember what year—and one of the nominated groups performed. I’d never heard of The Band Perry before; and the song they performed, “If I Die Young,” absolutely blew me away. (I just remembered, I kind of used the title as guidance when writing Need—always trying to remember he became undead very young) The first two lines of the chorus are this:

If I die young,

Bury me in satin

And I thought to myself, Bury Me in Satin is a perfect title for the Civil War ghost story! Melancholy and sort of romantic; I’ve always thought of hauntings as more about loss than being terrifying (you do not have to go full out jump scare, use gore or blood or violence to scare the reader, and if you doubt me, read Barbara Michaels’ Ammie Come Home), which is why I’ve always loved the Barbara Michaels novels that were ghost stories. That was the feeling I wanted to convey, that sad creepiness, and longing—I wanted a Gothic feel to the book, and I felt that line captured what I wanted perfectly. But as I wrote it, it didn’t quite feel as right as it did in that moment (I still love the song—and the video is interesting and kind of Gothic, doing a Tennyson Lady of Shalott thing), and then one day it hit me: changed ‘satin’ to ‘shadows’, and there’s your perfect title.

And so it was.

Oh dear, look at the time. Till tomorrow, Constant Reader! I am off to the spice mines! Have a lovely Monday!

*I will add the caveat to this that anything stored in the Cloud should not affect the flash storage in the actual computer and its operating system, and yes, I am prepared and more than willing to die on that hill.

Am I Losing You

Good morning, Sunday. I am not as worn out and tired as I thought I would be, to be honest.

The game last night was disappointing–it always is when LSU uses–but I wouldn’t have even minded that so much had it seemed like they were trying to win the game, if that makes sense? As I sat in a crowded (not full) stadium for the first time in two years, in and itself a novelty from the before times, it occurred to me as I watched that the problem this entire season with LSU is both sides of the ball (offense or defense), whichever is out on the field at the time, is playing not to lose, rather than to win. They play cautiously. The defense’s tackling was embarrassing for a team playing at the elitest level of college football; I don’t think they sacked the Auburn quarterback even once, and they don’t aggressively play pass defense in the backfield, either. It’s just weird that LSU has a quarterback now who has flashes of potential greatness–but no run game, no offensive line to speak of, and probably the worst defense to play for LSU since the 1990’s. Auburn didn’t play much better, either–so War Eagle fans shouldn’t put too much stock in this “big win” for them either. We barely beat Mississippi State, and UCLA–our other loss–keeps losing, too. Paul and I had never seen LSU lose in Tiger Stadium since we started attending games in 2010; that streak came to an end last night, as did Auburn’s losing streak in Baton Rouge; they hadn’t won in Tiger Stadium this century.

I always thought it would suck to drive all the way back to New Orleans after a loss–and especially one that at night–we didn’t get back to the car until well past twelve, yet somehow managed to get home before one thirty (a miracle in and of itself). There was hardly any traffic, even in Baton Rouge; but there was a cop directing traffic on Highland Avenue so maybe that helped, I don’t know.

The sting of the LSU loss, however, was made a bit more palatable by others scores from other games: Florida lost to Kentucky (Dan Mullen’s job is definitely in jeopardy–with Georgia and LSU still on their schedule, it’s entirely possible they could lose four games, although I wouldn’t be too concerned about the LSU game were I them) and Mississippi State beat Texas A&M (which means Jimbo Fisher should be worrying about his job–they haven’t played Alabama or Auburn yet, and they already have two losses in the conference). Arkansas’ bubble was popped by Georgia decisively last night, and Stanford knocked off Oregon. This is a crazy year for college football, reminding me of 2007 and 2014 (although 2014 sorted itself in the end), and come to think of it, that’s a seven year cycle.

Maybe 2021 is going to be just as crazy.

As Paul said in the car, “I think really this year there’s just Alabama and Georgia, and then everyone else at a level below.” I think he’s right.

But I slept fairly well, and there was no need to yell or scream, so I am not hoarse this morning. The stadium never really got rocking, either, so my ears aren’t ringing the way they were after the last time we went to a game in Baton Rouge. I’m not tired, but I am also not feeling particularly high energy this morning either. I have to make groceries and get gas for the car (I can apparently make it to Baton Rouge and back on a quarter tank of gas, which ain’t bad, really), and there’s also a lot of other things I’d like to do today–the gym, write for a while, do some editing, clean and organize. I started clearing out files from the Cloud yesterday because once again–a problem I have had with every Mac I’ve owned ever since they developed the cloud and stopped putting large amounts of storage in their computers, even to operate programs–my computer wasn’t working properly. It was enormously frustrating and it took me hours to move big files out of there and onto my back-up hard drive. I wasted most of yesterday doing this, in fact, until it was time to get ready to go to the game. The entire point of buying a new Mac computer two months ago was to alleviate these issues and have a functional desktop; the Cloud was a huge mistake on their part–I am certainly not a fan of it–and I do think it’s absurd that every time they upgrade their operating systems you have to learn how to use your computer all over again. It’s bullshit, a cashgrab from an already excessively greedy corporation, and yes, this will be the last Mac I own. When it finally dies from an operating system upgrade–I’d say probably two years, max–I’ll be buying a Dell, much as I hate Windows, and moving everything in the Cloud over to Dropbox….which will not affect the operating memory of my fucking computer thank you very much.

So. Fucking. Frustrating.

And on that note, I need to get rolling on my day. You have a lovely and restful (or productive, if that’s your preference) Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you tomorrow.

Something New Got Old

Saturday and tonight we will be in Death Valley, watching the LSU-Auburn game. Huzzah!

But that means a really long day ahead. The game isn’t until eight pm, which means we may not get out of the stadium and into the car before midnight, which will get me home around one thirty in the morning at the earliest. That is way past my bedtime, and could also prove incredibly problematic when it comes to having a productive day tomorrow, which is absolutely necessary. I slept deeply and well last night–Scooter woke me up for water around three, and for food again around six (and yes, I should have filled the food bowl at three but I was barely conscious; I’m surprised I even remember getting up to get him water at three)–and feel pretty rested this morning. I am debating as to whether I should make a grocery run today–I doubt I will feel up to it tomorrow–but looking at my grocery list, there’s really nothing that makes such a trip necessary, really; but I should probably go looking through my cabinets to be thorough before making any decision. For some reason lately running errands makes me tired; but that could be a combination of any number of other things, not just being sixty. It’s also not like the month of September (with the end of August added in for good measure) was an easy one, after all.

I had to get up really early yesterday to take my car to the West Bank for servicing–new air filters, and the tire with a slow, steady leak became the tire with a regular pretty quick leak–and it got all patched up and everything. I had ordered a new lap desk so I can use the laptop in my easy chair–the old one I bought while we were still living in the carriage house the first time; so it was pretty old–and the new one is pretty fancy–pockets and so forth, as well as a built in mousepad on the surface. Whether or not that means I will actually start using the laptop in my easy chair remains to be seen. I also want to move the ratty old one upstairs for use in bed; we do have a television in the bedroom we never use, and maybe having the lap desk will encourage me to work from the comfort of said bed. Anyway, I love my new lap desk, and can’t wait to try it out this morning (once I post this I am planning on moving to the easy chair).

I think I am going to have to make that grocery run today; might as well, and then I can get the mail and I also need to fill the tank with gas for the drive to Baton Rouge. And since I have to go out into the world today anyway…might as well get that odious chore out of the way.

I also made that “Mississippi roast” in the slow cooker yesterday; that recipe that keeps popping up everywhere you turn around, with people raving about it–the one that calls for a packet of au jus and a packet of ranch, with a stick of butter added to the top of the roast and no liquids added. I will fully confess I assumed it would be terribly bland (living in New Orleans and learning to cook Louisiana style has certainly spoiled me when it comes to flavor and spices and so forth–everywhere else’s food always seems terribly bland to me now) but I always follow the recipe the first time I make anything so I can see how it turns out, before starting to experiment every time after (I generally never make the same recipe the same way twice; I am always tweaking recipes but ironically never track the changes and adaptations, which means I can never repeat it if I find a perfect way to make something by experimenting). I am pleased to report that it actually tasted quite good as written; the only thing I might change the next time is to add mushrooms or perhaps small potatoes (although there really isn’t a lot of gravy; I think the potatoes would have to be added about half-way through, and the mushrooms with an hour left to go), and maybe–maybe–some white pepper and basil.

I really do love to cook.

I did read some more Velvet Was the Night while I was waiting at the dealership for the work on my car to be finished. I hope I’m not giving the impression that the book isn’t good, given how long it is taking me to finish it. That has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with an inability to focus. Yesterday at the dealership, I was really getting caught up in the story when they came to let me know the car was ready. I meant to get back to it last night after work, but Paul was home early and so we started watching our shows–getting caught up on Only Murders in the Building, Titans, Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, and American Horror Story: Double Feature–and since there’s game all day today, we probably won’t get to Midnight Mass again until tomorrow. AHS wrapped up it’s odd story about the talent vampires in Provincetown, and so the second half of this season is the second feature, which apparently has to do with aliens in the Southern California desert, near Joshua Tree/Palm Springs area (I guess the Salton Sea was too much to hope for). It’s strange–with all four of the college student leads (including the guys, who are a young gay couple) winding up pregnant after an alien experience none of them remember; they just remember a bright light and all of them waking up in the car in different seats–but intriguing. I will be interested to see how this plays out, and if it goes off the rails as so many plots on this show tend to do.

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

There’ll Come a Time

Yesterday I experienced something I’ve not in a very long time–overwhelming rage.

I had a shortened work day yesterday because I got stuck at work late every day this week–didn’t leave at my usual time once, and even Wednesday was stuck there past five, which never happens. Anyway, I had a check I needed to deposit. I ran my errands yesterday morning, swung by my bank branch on Tchoupitoulas to discover it was damaged by Ida and temporarily closed, so I had to go by the branch at St. Charles and Louisiana–which is new, and I’d never been there before. (Constant Reader may not know or remember this, but when I was in college I worked as a bank teller for a year; so I know something about banks and how they work; although that knowledge is nearly forty years out of date and we didn’t have the computer technology that exists today so yeah, it’s probably different in many ways now than it was back then–but I tend to get very judgy about service in banks because, well, I used to work in one. However I do not usually allow my irritation or aggravation with shoddy bank service get to me the way this situation did yesterday.) When I walked into the branch there was one teller working the drive through window and one teller working the walk-in clients. I was, as always, very happy to see the sign on the door mandating masks be worn inside; I had mine with me as I always do, and walked into the little serpentine maze to get in line. There was one person at the teller’s window, with me waiting.

And that was when I noticed the woman transacting business at the teller window was not wearing a mask! Not pushed down under her nose, or hanging off one ear, or draped over her shoulder, or pulled down under her chin–there was no evidence that she had a mask with her, no evidence she’d ever had one on, nothing. I sat there, wondering why the teller was waiting on her and also why there was no security guard on duty; I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a bank in over thirty years that didn’t have a security guard; I may not have ever seen this happen before…and then thought to myself, ah, no security guard, the masked teller probably didn’t want to cause a scene or have any trouble without the presence of a guard to escort Virus Vicky here out of the branch.

Despite coming up with this explanation, it still made me angry–but I can understand why a teller wouldn’t want to cause trouble in this instance (also, teller was an older Black woman; Virus Vicky was an older white woman of indeterminate age, somewhere between thirty-five and sixty–so there could have been racial/power disparities; what if Virus Vicky was a business customer, white/Black, etc.). I did decide, however, that I would ask the teller why she provided service for someone violating not only the bank’s posted policy but the mayor’s city-wide indoor business mask mandate. And then came the piece de resistance: Virus Vicky concluded her transactions, walked over to the copy machine by the offices, made a copy , and went into an office, took a seat behind the desk and began talking to the man seated on the customer’s side of what was obviously her desk.

Virus Vicky, maskless and defiant of both the bank’s posted policy and the city’s mandatory mask mandate, was at the very least a new accounts manager, if not a loan officer.

She. Was. MANAGEMENT.

There was no point in saying anything to the teller–who was incredibly polite, friendly, and efficient–but by the time I walked out of the branch to my car, receipt in hand, I was shaking with rage. All the way home I thought about what, if anything, to do. All I could think about was whether this woman was vaccinated (still, not an excuse not to mask indoors–particularly since the city AND her employer demanded masks inside) or if she was a COVID-denier/anti-vaxxer monster. Regardless, I thought as I pulled up in front of the house, she should be held accountable for her behavior.

All the way home, my mind was raging. Once I got home, I sat down at my computer, went to my bank’s website, and clicked on the contact us link. I wrote out the entire tale, all the while debating whether or not to post it to social media….but finally, gradually, eventually decided not to send the email, not to post on Yelp, not to do anything about this.

Maybe her mask was at her desk, maybe the client she was dealing with didn’t care and had said it was okay to not wear hers in front of him, and she’s just forgotten to to put it back on….the more I thought about it, the more reasons and explanations I came up with. How many times have I walked out of the house, only to walk back from my car because I’d forgotten to take one? How many times have I taken mine off at my desk in the office, only to get up to go do something and have to run back to my desk to grab the mask? The more I thought about, the more my anger dissipated, and I started thinking about the source of the unbelievable, deeply rooted anger this situation aroused in me, to try to begin to understand it a little better. I mean, seriously–I was fucking furious to the point that my hands were shaking with rage as I drove home from the bank.

And I realized a few things.

Mainly, that I’m fucking exhausted. As we are now going into month twenty-fucking-one of this pandemic, I have little to no patience left for anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, and COVID-deniers. I want it to be over, and it makes me furious that the idiotic selfishness of a minority of our population has prolonged this agony. There are friends who I only get to see once or twice a year, at conventions or events, and I have not seen them in over two years. I don’t get to go visit my parents as often as I would like. I’ve not traveled anywhere other than Kentucky (to visit my parents) since this entire thing started. And while traveling is its own hell, in and of itself (thanks, airlines!), I do miss getting to New York once or twice a year, going to Bouchercon or other events like it, seeing my friends regularly here in New Orleans. Life is very short and time is very precious (as I am beginning to finally understand) and I resent, very deeply, that some of what will inevitably be the final part of my life has been wasted because people are fucking selfish idiots. My patience is at an end, my well of kindness (never all that deep, really) is drying, and I’m just tired. Of it all.

I also realized I had no moral high ground to send a nasty email to my bank when I am going to Tiger Stadium on Saturday night and will be in a crowd of over a hundred thousand people, none of whom are going to be masked, and 99% of whom will have their mouths open yelling and screaming for over three hours. How much spray am I going to get on me at the game? It’s something I’ve never really considered before in going to a football game, but it’s still kind of concerning. They have advised everyone to get to the stadium early–we have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result from within the last 72 hours, and that will take some time to sort, obviously–and while I am very grateful that LSU is taking these steps to make the stadium as safe as possible, it’s still a potentially massive super-spreader event, and I will be right in the middle of it.

And while the stadium has these safety restrictions, there are no such restrictions on tailgaters…and we’ll have to walk through thousands of them to get to the stadium.

So, reporting this woman felt kind of hypocritical, to say the least.

But my angry reaction to this woman was so deep, so visceral and intense, that I definitely needed to explore the source of it. I also realized that part of the anger I feel about having to continue to deal with something that could easily be long over is because I am tired, to the bone, of selfish assholes who don’t feel any responsibility of any kind to the society they live in. I’m tired of religion being used to further the greed and desire for power of some individuals, who then use that religion as a bludgeon to clobber and oppress groups of people they feel superior to for some reason (although almost every sect of Christianity is drenched in the smug superiority of the saved vs. “the damned”; and there’s definitely an essay in there). I’m tired of a political class beholden to corporations and the wealthy rather than to the vast majority of constituents who are neither. I’m tired of our country’s natural resources, wealth, and treasury being looted so people and businesses who could never spend every cent they possess get to keep more of their loot.

I find it deeply ironic that the trash who spent at least thirty or so years of my life crying about their children being exposed to GAY PEOPLE OH MY GOD WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN? not giving a shit that the world they are leaving behind for their precious babies and grand-babies is well on its way to becoming an uninhabitable shithole…and are gleeful about it.

I think one of the many reasons Ted Lasso resonated so strongly with its audience isn’t just because the show is predicated on kindness and being supportive of others, but because its characters are also learning accountability, and are learning to hold themselves accountable for their behavior–something that is sorely lacking in our culture, society and country at the moment; the lack of accountability, and the apparent lack of interest in holding anyone accountable from our so-called leadership.

And it’s tiring, very tiring.

And on that note, I am off to the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

If You Ever Go

Thursday, Thursday. A work at home day, hurray!

It rained again yesterday, which was more than a little bit irritating (in theory, it’s going to rain every day for a while now; including scattered thunderstorms in Baton Rouge Saturday night DURING THE GAME), but it’s okay. Rain makes me sleepy and I was tired yesterday from Tuesday night’s weird sleep, so the combination of the two helped me run out of steam by the afternoon. It kind of sucked, because I wanted to go to the gym and do some things last night, but by the time my shift ended and it was time to go home…all I wanted to do was go home, get under the blanket in my easy chair with a purring kitty in my lap, and mindlessly zone out while falling into some insane Youtube wormhole. However, I had advance warning that Paul would be late getting home (the grant he’s been working on was due at midnight), so after a few times around with history videos, I decided to watch a movie. I opened the TCM app on my AppleTV, and started looking through the vast riches there. I was delighted to see Pillow Talk was available to stream–a few weeks ago I’d looked for it, settling for the follow up, Lover Come Back, instead; which isn’t settling because it’s also a fun, if dated movie–and so queued it up. I’ve always loved Pillow Talk, and it always has made me laugh; but I’ve also not seen it in years, and I am a lot more aware about things that can be seen today as problematic. A sex comedy from the days of the Hays Code, made in 1959? Yes, all kinds of things were played for comedy back then that are not only no longer funny, but absolutely cringey today. And yes–there were parts that really made me cringe a bit; the entire “Rex Stetson” deception, which is actually quite cruel, being at the top of the list. But the only reason it even works in the first place is because Rock Hudson is so utterly likable, charismatic, and charming; even though he’s a complete cad, you can’t help but like him. Doris Day is stunningly beautiful, and that singing voice! The chemistry between the two is also powerful; you know from the beginning they’re going to wind up together (it’s a romantic comedy, after all), and Hudson–dismissed as just being handsome rather than actually having any talent–deserved an Oscar. Knowing Hudson is a gay man, playing a straight man with a steady parade of women through his life and is so completely convincing that he not only is falling for Doris Day but you actually believe he wants to fuck her.

That–given his reality–was definitely Oscar worthy. The film absolutely couldn’t be made today–the idea that a woman in her late twenties/early thirties would be an almost prudish virgin would never fly today–but it holds up better than Lover Come Back, in that Day’s character has some great scenes with other characters about how she wants to be in love, wants to fall in love, and dreams of finding the right man who will sweep her off her feet and romance her and love her; the relationship between her character and the neurotic millionaire who loves her (Tony Randall) is so incredibly sweet–she doesn’t love him but she likes him a lot, and how she gently lets him down after his umpteenth wedding proposal–and how he accepts the defeat gracefully, saying he just wants her to be happy above-all, was lovely; there was some great chemistry between Day and Randall as well. And that apartment she has! And New York just looks marvelous and wonderful and exciting and fun and everything you could ever imagine it could be. It’s a fantasy, of course, but that’s what movies were back then; and of course, the movie never shames Day for being a single career-woman in the big city–Lover Come Back’s message was a lot cruder–“she just needs a good fuck”–but it doesn’t play that way in Pillow Talk, which remains somewhat charming, if unrealistic.

And it’s actually a rather clever window into that time period.

As always, I have lots to do today. I am working at home, as per the usual, on a Thursday; which is nice. I slept well last night, which was also lovely; I don’t even think I got up once during the night. Paul had a meeting this evening but will be home shortly thereafter, so we can get caught up on our shows and actually spend some time together. I am getting excited and nervous about the game this weekend; I am delighted that we are returning to Tiger Stadium for the first time since the 2019 season, but at the same time I am a bit nervous about being in a stadium with over a hundred thousand people crammed into it; with thousands more partying on the university grounds around the stadium. This will be a sort of trial run for a return to normal after the pandemic is completely over, but at the same time I can’t get that voice in my head whispering super spreader event to stop. The game is at eight, which means not getting home until after midnight–not optimal–but I can sleep in on Sunday and get rested. (But I also need to check to see what time the Saints play on Sunday as well.)

And on that note, I am putting on my helmet and heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

It’s All In Your Mind

Wednesday, which is also Pay Day, which means it is also Pay the Bills Day. Huzzah! (That, in case you were wondering, Constant Reader, was sarcasm.) At least I can pay the bills without bankrupting myself, so that’s a plus.

I just booked my hotel room for Bouchercon Minneapolis. I am, needless to say, very excited about the possibility of actually going to Bouchercon this year–I’ve not been in years; the last one held in person was Dallas and I got an inner ear infection the week of that prohibited me from flying, which kind of sucked; I would have driven had I known it would be four years between attendances for me. Paul will be coming with me, methinks; we did use to live up there (he was there much longer than my eight months) after all, and I am thrilled at the thought of traveling again. I still am hoping to get to New York and Boston for Crime Bake in November; we’ll see how that turns out.

It rained yesterday afternoon, and my final client was a bit late so I ended up staying much later than I normally do–and by much, I mean a half-hour (in fairness, the difference in traffic between 4:30 and 5 pm is significant)–but it was also pouring rain as I drove home. I had considered stopping at the grocery store AND going to the gym last night after work, but the rain put the kibosh on that. I was a little tired last night also, so I didn’t get as much done as I probably should have. There’s a load of dishes in the dishwasher that need to be put away, for example, but at least I got the laundry done. I also spent quite a bit of time organizing. My computer files are an absolute disaster, frankly; but I am getting there. I also need to stop downloading images and articles that *may* come in handy later at some point (I am constantly seeing something and thinking oh this would be the good basis for a story at some point and then I need to have it available to me at some point, so I download it and save it; this includes photographs and images (my Chlorine folder is filled with images of men being intimate in some way, going back over a hundred years, so whenever I get the “I don’t know how they would have looked or dressed or whatever” I can just scroll through the images and think, “ah, yes, here we are”); I am also worried about transferring files from computer to computer and am always worried I am going to wind up deleting something I’ll need later, so I will end up with, for example, five copies of the same word document. It does make finding things a challenge, and this is also helping me. Organizing and filing are always a pain in the ass to do, but I always find it soothing in some way; like when I am folding clothes or doing the dishes.

I did do some editing yesterday; not much of anything, really, but progress was made and it was good. I should be able to finish that listicle article thingamabob today and get it sent off to the website it’s for; which will be lovely. I’m going to push to get some things edited and revised over the next two days, and of course, once it’s October first, I have to get to work on the new mystery, A Streetcar Named Murder. I also have to figure out what name to use for it. Also beginning on October 1, I have to start really pushing and promoting Bury Me in Shadows, which officially drops on October 12–and I’ve done very little on this front in quite some time. Seriously, I really do wonder sometimes how I have managed to have a writing career for as long as I have…

I am a bit tired this morning. I woke up several times throughout the night, sadly, and it took me a while to fall asleep as well. I wouldn’t call last night’s sleep insomnia, but it wasn’t as restful or as relaxing as it could have been (I should have gone to the gym; that would have tired me out enough to sleep, surely) so I am sure sometime around three this afternoon I will undoubtedly run out of energy and just drag through the rest of the work day. It’s also supposed to rain all day, which will inevitably also make me sleepier. Great.

And on that note, tis time to head back into the spice mines. Have a happy Wednesday, Constant Reader, and will chat with you again tomorrow undoubtedly.