Shop Around

Ugh. Yesterday I was sooo tired my brain was barely functional. There’s nothing worse than being tired on one of your long days and counting down the hours until you get off work…and thinking, oh, yay, only SEVEN hours left to my shift. I drank my usual coffee, but it just gave me that “oh you’re tired but you’re wired” feeling that makes your eyes ache a little bit and leaves that nasty taste in your mouth.

I fucking hate that.

I am choosing to believe that’s why I wasn’t able to get anything written yesterday; brain was too tired and so was my body in order to be functional, which is irritating. I slept much better last night–don’t even feel tired or sleepy this morning, HUZZAH–so hopefully today I’ll be able to get things done. AT least the thought of my long day doesn’t make me want to curl up into a ball and sob…which is a vast improvement over yesterday. Thank you, baby Jesus.

But while I was too brain-tired/dead/numb to be creative, I wasn’t too tired to spend some time lost in the stunning new novel by Jamie Mason, The Hidden Things. I can’t believe, for one thing, that it’s taking me so long to read this book, which is fantastic. I have been doling out chapters to myself as a reward for getting things done, but obviously, I am not getting enough done and have decided to abandon the entire “use reading chapters as a reward” thing since it’s not working out so well for me after all. Also, the story has started to pick up steam–one of the truly fun things about Jamie’s work is how she peels away the onion to reveal the darkness within her interconnected characters–but it seems organic rather than staged, if that makes any sense? I’m afraid to try this method of telling a story because I am not confident enough in my abilities to do it and make it seem organic, the way Jamie Mason manages (in the same way that Lori Roy does as well) to make look so damned easy–she reminds me a lot of Patricia Highsmith. I am hoping to get this book finished within the next couple of days. I am also excited about my next book in the pile, They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall.

I did write the opening sentence of a short story yesterday that’s been brewing in my head for quite some time now, so I did get something of note done…I take my victories, no matter how small, as worth celebrating.

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

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Let’s Do It Again

Well, I got the article done yesterday and I think I did a good job on it. I don’t really do much article-writing anymore–it’s been years, other than my quarterly column for Sisters in Crime–and so it’s a skill set that is rather rusty for me; just like Saturday’s breakthrough in getting a lot written in a very short period of time felt like an enormous breakthrough; as though my writing was given a much-needed and sorely overdue tune-up. With the article is finished, and also being all caught up on the WIP–which means it’s time to start writing the new material–I chose to take Sunday off to recharge, recalibrate, and start thinking things through.

And I refuse to feel guilty for taking a day off after getting everything caught up.

Bite me.

This morning I don’t feel as well rested as I did yesterday; I didn’t sleep deeply and it felt like I was awake most of the night but I must have slept some, it just doesn’t feel like it was enough. This doesn’t, by the way, bode well for writing tonight after work, but…there is it.

We binged Fosse Verdon yesterday in the lead-up to Game of Thrones, and it’s a stellar, absolutely stellar show. Michelle Williams is simply extraordinary as Gwen Verdon; Sam Rockwell is equally terrific as Fosse himself. One thing I couldn’t help thinking as I watched was how he is given so much of the credit for his own success/genius, but couldn’t have done any of it without Gwen Verdon. And it seems like Gwen put her own career on halt to help push him to his own success, and was rewarded with what, precisely? Being cheated on? And the horrifying concomitant realization that this kind of relationship–borderline abusive, so horribly one-sided–was what so many women had to put up with in the time before feminism…yeah, not really the good old days, as so many would have us believe.

As for Game of Thrones…spoilers after the cut, because I am just kind that way. Continue reading “Let’s Do It Again”

Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel

It started raining last night as I retired to bed. Lovely, I thought, the sound of rain always helps me sleep better. There’s just something about being warm and dry underneath blankets while it’s pouring rain outside that, I don’t know, that makes me feel comfortable and relax, which is, quite naturally, rather lovely. It rained pretty heavily all night, actually; thunder woke me a couple of times, but I was able to easily go back to sleep, which was quite marvelous. I woke up this morning a little later than usual, and after seeing articles like this one, popping up on my notifications when I sat down at my computer, I might not have known how bad the raining–and subsequent flooding–actually was. My street generally doesn’t flood–it might take on an inch or so or water, but the entire neighborhood basically drains to Coliseum Square–but I did go out and check. I didn’t see any telltale leaves or dirt on the sides of any of the cars parked out there, so I am going to assume my car is okay this morning.

One can hope, at any rate.

So, yesterday I managed to write quite a bit in a very short period of time; over three thousand words on chapters nine and ten, finishing them off and bringing me back to the point where I have to start writing new chapters. Revising these first ten chapters has, as intended, brought me back into the story again, so today I am going to try to write Chapter Eleven as well as map out the rest of the middle of the book. This pleases me inordinately; I should be able to get the rest of this first draft finished by the end of the month; there’s also a three day weekend to look forward to, which is also kind of awesome. It felt great doing all that writing yesterday, and when I was finished for the day I was amazed at how great I felt. It was also a bit of a relief; whenever writing becomes hard, you always begin to question whether or not the well has run dry and your glory days are behind you.

I think that becomes worse the older you get, too–because things you’ve become used to over the course of your life begin to go away the older you get, you know? Things like teeth and hair and firm skin…the ability to write.

I watched the first episode of Fosse Verdon last night, and greatly enjoyed it. I was sort of familiar already with the story–I watched All That Jazz a very long time ago, and that film sort of spelled out the Fosse story, while of course centering Fosse and shoving Verdon’s importance to his career to the side (as always); I’m glad to see this series making this very clear. Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell are incredible; I don’t know who the actress playing young Liza Minnelli is, but she also knocked it out of the part, turning what could very easily have been your standard caricature into an actual performance. It also didn’t hurt that the first episode primarily focused on the filming of Cabaret, a film I first saw when I was very young and didn’t much care for, but as an older adult have grown to appreciate all the more–and watching this episode actually made me want to see it yet again. It’s a very good show; I hope people are watching.

I am also still thinking about Dead to Me, which is absolutely superb. Seriously, Constant Reader, you need to watch this show.

So, yesterday, as you can tell, was a good day for the most part–the overnight street flooding aside–and I also managed to get some filing and organizing and cleaning done, which was also pretty marvelous. The Lost Apartment looks better than it has in quite some time–I was managing the cleaning/writing balance pretty well–and when I was finished (quite early, actually) with the writing I was able to focus on the cleaning/filing/organizing, and it all went well. I did some backing up of computer files–the computer is getting wonky again–and did all the dishes and so forth, which was also quite lovely. I also did some note-taking in my journal.

Go, Gregalicious!

I am also really loving my Spotify subscription; I am truly sorry I didn’t discover it and its magic long ago. I’m listening to a lot of albums I used to love and reacquainting myself with how much I love them–the Cars, the Go-Go’s, Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, Aretha Franklin, Pat Benatar, the Pointer Sisters, Josie Cotton, Tina Turner, ’til Tuesday–the list goes on forever, really. I’ve saved tons of albums to my library, and have been having the best time listening to them and–as music always does–being swept back in time to when I used to listen to them originally; I guess revisiting my youth?

It’s also daunting to realize how old some of these records actually are; I mean, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is about forty-two years old now…which again adds to the horror of how old I am. AIEEEEE! But so many of them still hold up today, you know, and don’t sound dated at all, and I’m really enjoying rediscovering how great some of the records I owned in the past were and had just forgotten about. I mean, I’d absolutely forgotten how amazing the Cars were, or how terrific the Pointer Sisters’ Break Out album actually was–and still is.

So, today, I intend to write Chapter Eleven, map out some future chapters, and get some other things done before Game of Thrones tonight.

And then the entire week starts all over again, lather, rinse, repeat.

But I do have high hopes for getting things done today. Fingers crossed, Constant Reader, fingers crossed!

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Show Me the Way

Saturday morning and I slept in, as I always seem to do on Saturday mornings. But really, things have truly come to a sorry pass when getting out of bed at nine is considered sleeping in. But that’s when I got up and I feel good and rested this morning, which bodes well for the things I’d like to get done today.

I spent yesterday afternoon getting caught up on laundry (there’s a load going in the dryer now), and doing a surface clean of the apartment. After Paul got home last evening we finished watching Dead to Me, which is really fantastic–if Christina Applegate doesn’t at LEAST get an Emmy nomination, it’s a travesty. The show is fantastically written, has two amazingly great roles for the two lead actresses (Linda Cardellini, of Freaks and Geeks/Mad Men fame, is the secondary female lead and is heartbreakingly terrific as well; I’d be hard pressed as an Emmy voter to chose one over the other), and the writing is also award-worthy; the premise is in and of itself exceptional, thematically exploring the grief of two women who’ve suffered recent great losses; but it is ever so much more than that. It’s smart, angry, funny, and oh-so-twisted, oh-so-clever. Bravo to Netflix; this is up there with Ozark for dark comedy with a crime twist. I cannot recommend Dead to Me highly enough, Constant Reader.

I also, before Paul came home, rather than falling into a Youtube vortex of LSU or Saints highlights or Game of Thrones fan theory videos or whatever might strike my fancy at the moment (music videos or Dynasty clips or whatever), switched on Starz and started watching The Spanish Princess, which is the latest Starz mini-series based on a Philippa Gregory book. We’d watched and liked The White Queen, but gave up on The White Princess relatively quickly. I’ve not read Gregory, and I’ve seen all sorts of mockery of her on-line as to her changing history to fit the needs of her narrative, but that isn’t why I’ve not read her work; I’m just not that interested in fictional biographies of royalty anymore, certainly not the way I was as a teenager. As a teenager I would have read everything Gregory wrote, anxiously awaiting the next. But I’ve read Jean Plaidy and Norah Lofts, and of course others like Maurice Druon and Thomas B. Costain, so Gregory’s work has never held much appeal for me; I am more apt to read an actual biography now rather than fictionalized versions (although I do want to read Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell books). The Spanish Princess is, of course, about Catherine of Aragon, who has gotten mostly favorable press throughout history as Henry VIII’s poor, abandoned first wife; I’ve always viewed that with an arched eyebrow, primarily because she had a great PR machine in the Spanish ambassador, Chapuys, and of course she had the entire PR machine of the Hapsburg empire behind her as well–whereas Anne Boleyn, her replacement and the cause of her misery, soon enough had Henry’s PR machine blackening her name. At least this production had the wisdom and sense to ignore modern sensibilities; this is the first time I’ve ever seen Catherine portrayed on film (since the 1970s BBC The Six Wives of Henry VIII) to have the actual coloring she had in real life; she is usually shown as dark when she was actually fair; like her husband, she had reddish-gold hair; and she also had Plantagenet blood as a descendant of Edward III–her grandmother was Blanche of Lancaster, a daughter of John of Gaunt, and as such had her own legitimate but unrecognized claim to the English crown herself (since no illegitimacy was involved, she actually had a better claim than her own husband–his claim was based on his grandmother’s descent from John of Gaunt, but she was descended from his liaison with long-time mistress Katherine Swynford–whom he later married and legitimized their offspring–but Catherine’s descent was not marred by the bar sinister).

However, they did depict Catherine’s mother, Isabella, as being dark–which she wasn’t, either. Isabella of Castile was blonde and blue-eyed, but she’s a minor character we’ll never see again, so I will overlook it. (Isabella is one of my favorite historical queens; she was kind of a bad-ass but at the same time her bigotry planted the seeds for the eventual downfall of Spain from the great power she turned it into; but more on her at another time.) Anyway, I enjoyed the first episode; which also has laid the groundwork for Catherine as stubborn, proud, and arrogant–qualities that eventually led to the upheaval that changed world history forever. I’ll keep watching, of course–but at the same time, it’s not “must watch”; it was okay and can serve as a time-filler when I need to relax and when Paul’s not home and I don’t feel like actually wasting my time on Youtube.

I also want to watch the Zac Efron as Ted Bundy movie on Netflix.

So many riches, so many choices! It’s kind of like my TBR pile.

The plan for today and tomorrow is to work on the WIP and work on the article a bit, maybe even work on a short story. Given I have the attention span of a squirrel lately, I am not sure how much work I am actually going to get done today, but I have good intentions. I also have a Bouchercon subcommittee conference call later on this afternoon as well, so I should be able to bounce back and forth between cleaning, writing and reading until such time as the conference call; after which time I can call it a day and relax for the rest of the evening.

Ah, to have the energy and ambition I have in the morning after a good night’s sleep and two cups of coffee, right?

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

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I Love Music

I’ve always supported women crime writers, and I’ve always read them. From the women who wrote the children’s mysteries for Scholastic (Mary C. Jane and Phyllis A. Whitney, to name two) through the Agatha Christie canon (which essentially includes every subgenre of mystery to come, from serial killers to cozies to spy novels to romantic suspense to Gothic to locked rooms to private eyes to amateur sleuths to unreliable narrators–you get the picture. An argument can be made that And Then There Were None was the original Friday the 13th; a group of people stranded somewhere being targeted by a killer, who goes through them all systematically), moving on eventually to Victoria Holt and Charlotte Armstrong and Dorothy Eden and Mary Stewart, who in turn were followed by Grafton, Paretsky, and Muller…terrific stories and series and stand alones by such terrific writers as Nancy Pickard, Lia Matera, S. J. Rozan, Laura Lippman…the list of women crime writers I love is insanely lengthy, and there isn’t any way that I could possibly, successfully, sit down and make a list of them all without forgetting so many, many others who don’t deserve to be forgotten or left off.

Women are currently some of the top writers in our field–Megan Abbott,  Alison Gaylin, Lori Rader-Day, Jamie Mason, Lisa Unger, Catriona McPherson, Wendy Corsi Staub, Carol Goodman, Gillian Flynn, Lori Roy, Alafair Burke…again, the list could go on forever and I would always manage to forget someone. There’s not, after all, enough time for me to ever read everything I want to read, and there’s fantastic new work being published all the time. And I am finding new to me writers all the time, that I greatly enjoy.

The reason I am even bringing this up is twofold; recently, there was an article in The Writer that acted like women crime writers essentially don’t exist (I don’t think, ultimately, the piece was mean-spirited or this was actually deliberate; the problem was the author of the piece used the angle that there were no women being written accurately, with nuance, in crime fiction today; she simply failed to qualify her thesis by adding by men. Had she done this, her piece–about how Lee Child and Paul Doiron have evolved and are now writing complex, believable women characters–probably would have been applauded rather than the subject of some outrage), and then, yesterday, Sisters in Crime president Sherry Harris wrote a blistering response to the almost non-stop mockage the cozy mysteries–which are kind of the backbone of our genre–are almost always subject to from the non-cozy writers in our genre.

I personally have never understood why some writers are so condescending and rude about any genre, to be honest. Romance novels aren’t for me, really, but I certainly am not contemptuous of romance novels, or the genre as a whole. Writing, and getting published, and maintaining a career as a writer, is fucking hard; I would daresay that writing romance novels would be incredibly difficult. There are the constraints of the formula and the required HEA (happily ever after) ending; you try to make a formula fresh and new and interesting to readers who read dozens of novels a year and are looking for something fresh, that will move them, will keep them reading, and leave them wanting more of your work.

I’ll wait.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I hear cozies dismissed and not taken seriously all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. And I don’t understand it. Sure, there are terrible cozies. There are also terrible noirs, terrible private eye novels, terrible police procedurals, terrible psychological thrillers, etc.; not every book in every style of mystery–or writing, for that matter–is good, and not every one is bad. And cozies are, quite frankly, incredibly hard to write. They have to be light, they have to be funny (and no matter how easy it looks–writing funny is fucking hard), and there have to be a lot of suspects and clues and red herrings and so forth. Cozies are also often stories about communities–whether it’s the people who work at a spice shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market (Leslie Budewitz) or the extended friends-and-family of the Langslow clan in Caerphilly, Virginia (Donna Andrews) or those who live in an art deco Fort Lauderdale apartment complex that used to be a motel (Elaine Viets)–and again, this is incredibly difficult to do, let alone do every goddamned year, managing to keep the stories and characters fresh and new, as well as juggling the need for a plot against the need to include the regular cast members the readers have come to love over the years.

For example, there are characters in the Scotty universe that have kind of dropped away as the years and the series have progressed; every time I write a new Scotty I think, I really need to include David in here somehow and yet it never seems to work. (David was Scotty’s best friend in the first three books; a character I genuinely liked and loved writing about…but in the after-Katrina books, having to juggle Scotty’s two partners and his family grew ever more difficult and David just kind of fell to the wayside.)

I digress.

I always say that cozies aren’t given the respect they deserve for the same reason romance novels aren’t, either; they are seen as books by women about women for women, and therefore couldn’t possibly be as important as the testosterone driven he-man crime novels men write. Even the non-cozy crime novels written by women don’t get the same respect as those by men–its the reason why Sisters in Crime exists, the Malice Domestic conference, and the Agatha Awards.

And let’s face it. Scotty might be a licensed private eye, but his adventures are more cozy than hard-boiled.

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

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Times of Your Life

Ah, the long workday part of my week is finished, and all I have to do is get through my two half-days before sliding gracelessly into the weekend.

I don’t think I wrecked Chapter Eight, but it is going to need a revisit. I am on target for Chapter Nine today, which is endlessly exciting. I am starting to feel excited about the WIP again–as opposed to the usual Christ this book sucks why did I ever think I could be a writer that I usually feel at this point in a manuscript–which is kind of nice and lovely. I know what I am trying to do with this book, the story I am trying to tell, and I am starting, after all this revising, to feel it again, and again feel like it’s getting me somewhere close to what I wanted to do in the first place, and that’s kind of exciting–or rather, what passes for exciting around the Lost Apartment these days. Oh sure, even after revising these opening chapters I know there’s a lot of cleaning up/mopping up to do with it, to tighten the plot and story and so forth, but it’s also do-able and while I may not want to sit down and actually do it when the time comes, I feel a lot better about it than I did before.

Ah, the crazy rollercoaster of emotion when you’re a writer. This, of course, is why writers drink.

Paul and I started watching the new Christina Applegate show on Netflix, Dead to Me, last night and it’s quite literally amazing. I’ve been a fan of Applegate ever since her days as Kelly Bundy on Married with Children, and I’ve never understood why she was never a major star. She can do comedy or drama with equal flare, she’s quite beautiful, and she lights up the screen whenever she is front of the cameras. The show is quite extraordinary, but difficult to talk about without giving away spoilers, as every episode ends with a startling twist/revelation that completely alters and changes the narrative. The writing is exceptional; it’s both funny and heartbreakingly sad at the same time. To describe it without spoilers of any kind, it’s about two women who meet and become friends at a grief support group; Applegate’s husband was killed in a hit-and-run accident several months before the show starts, and she is still deeply grieving. The supporting cast is also amazing–Ed Asner, James Marsden, to name a few; the young actors who play Applegate’s two sons are also terrific. We watched the first three episodes last night and are hooked completely.

I have to say, props to Netflix. They are doing some amazing work; although I am still angry at them for cancelling The Santa Clarita Diet, which was also terrific.

But as Thursday dawns, and I look ahead to this weekend, I am hopeful I can get some serious writing done. My plan is to do the errands and the cleaning on Friday afternoon, which will open up my weekend to spending it finishing reading Jamie Mason’s superb The Hidden Things, while getting some writing done. My next read is going to be Rachel Howzell Hall’s They All Fall Down, which I’ve been hearing great things about, and we also have season 2 of Killing Eve to watch, and Widows, which I’ve rented on iTunes. (Love Viola Davis, and it was written by Gillian Flynn so you know it’s going to be good.)

And so, now before I have to get ready for work, there are dishes to be put away and laundry to fold, a backpack to unpack and repack, Paul’s lunch to make. (I also get off rather early today as well; but since I am getting off work at a ridiculous time for rush hour traffic…yeah, not sure what time I’ll be home this afternoon.)

But I feel good, I feel rested, and I feel creative and motivated this morning. I guess we’ll see how long that lasts, eh?

And now back to the spice mines.

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Devil Woman

Oddly enough, I wound up not working on the book yesterday.

I did reread Chapter Eight, and it’s actually not bad at all. But it’s good enough for me to have to think about how to revise it and make it stronger; this is one of those situations when writing that I am afraid trying to improve something will actually ruin it–and even the fact that it’s only dreadful possibility–after all, the possibility that I actually will improve it is much more likely, and statistically more probable– is still paralyzingly terrifying. So it bears more thought than simply diving right in–and then, of course, I question that judgment–is this simply a stall tactic?–and yes, here is yet another example of why writers drink.

At least this one, anyway.

I had intended to get up early this morning, rather than allowing myself to wallow in bed until I finally got tired of lying there the way I usually do every Wednesday. The alarm went off, I hit snooze a couple of times, and finally turned it off….and yes, wallowed in bed for longer than I should have simply because I was so relaxed and comfortable. I’m not sorry that I did this, now that I am awake–this no regrets thing I am trying out; part of which is listening to myself and listening to my body; my body needed the rest else I would have been wide awake and willing to hop out of bed at the first sounding of the alarm this morning. My body must have needed to rest, so I rested it. When I was a personal trainer I used to advocate this all the time; listen to your body. The problem of course, for me, is that I’ve been told so often throughout my life that I’m lazy that whenever I’ve taken time to rest (my body or my brain) I’m so conditioned and so convinced that I am lazy that it’s my default: you’re just being lazy and making excuses for yourself to be lazy. This is so ingrained into my subconscious that it’s my immediate default; but be told “you’re lazy” enough times…well, you start to believe it. And then have to spend far too many years trying to unlearn that.

But, as I said above, Chapter Eight was in much better shape than I thought it was, and so I am going to reread it again today (along with Chapter Nine) and start working on it again. I don’t regret not working on the book yesterday–not at all. It wasn’t one of those what’s the point days, or I just don’t feel like it; it was more along the lines of I don’t really know what to do, and the chapter wasn’t terrible, so there was no urgency to fix it, if that makes sense? Had the chapter been horrible from start to finish, it would have triggered me to want to fix it, the need to fix it would have been overwhelming. But it was actually kind of good and complete and creepy and the mood and feeling were exactly what I was going for, and trying to force the revision/rewrite was…as I said above, I was more worried about messing it up more than anything else. But perhaps today–as the caffeine from my first cup of coffee begins to flow through my system and my body comes awake, I am beginning to see a way to revise this chapter…and in fact, at the moment I feel as though I will actually have the energy to not only do it but the next chapter as well.

We shall see how that goes, shan’t we?

But I am now on my second cup of coffee, and I also have to recognize that the weather is also changing again; which always has something to do with my energy levels and how I feel. The heat and humidity are coming back–we’re supposedly getting our first major heat wave next week (it’s only MAY)–and of course, the termites are swarming again. May brings the termite swarms; a plague of Egypt that descends on the city every year  around Mother’s Day.

I continue to read Jamie Mason’s wonderful The Hidden Things, and I am marveling at the way she plays her cards; the slow reveal of information that adds to the story. It opens wonderfully; a young girl coming home from school is victim of a home invasion, defends herself, and the attacker runs away, all captured on security cameras within the house. The police post the video on their social media page, hoping to get community help to identify the attacker; the video goes viral. But there’s an issue here–why did the husband/stepfather not tell his wife and stepdaughter there were security cameras inside the house? Why was the alarm pad not connected to the security company in order for help to come? And why is the father so nervous about the footage going viral? It’s fascinating, as a reader, to become so intrigued and curious, wanting to keep reading; as a fellow writer it’s even more interesting to see how she is constructing her story and creating her characters. Her debut novel, Three Graves Full, was quite marvelous, and this one is quite good as well. We have so many amazing women crime writers these days…

I also need to get to work on that article. Heavy heaving sigh.

So, I suppose it’s time to get back to the spice mines.

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