Rare Things

So, Greg, why did you choose to write about an antique shop when you know nothing about antiques other than they are old furniture and so forth?

In all honesty, I didn’t originally set out to write about an antique shop, and while the book was in progress my utter lack of knowledge about the antiques business did have me incredibly concerned. Even though I had decided that Valerie herself would know nothing about antiques (that way, she and I could learn together), it still made me feel fraudulent and like I didn’t know what I was doing writing about something I didn’t know anything about. But then I went to Crime Bake, and at one of the panels a writer named Barbara Ross, who writes a Clambake New England series, confessed she knew nothing about clam bakes or any of those types of things…so she had to learn as she wrote the series. That was exactly what I wanted and needed to hear from someone and that was the right time for me to hear it, so I felt a lot more confident about the book when I returned home to New Orleans from that trip (it’s always nice to go to a writer’s event and learn something; I feel like I always do whenever I go to one).

Originally, I had wanted to write about a costume shop; which even now seems easier to learn about that antiques, to be honest. There used to be a costume shop in my neighborhood for years, on St. Charles Avenue on the lake side on the same block as Hoshun. I never went inside, but I always thought it was interesting that it was open year-round rather than just being seasonal; I would have thought they wouldn’t have enough business to do so. But it closed and another opened in the CBD near Paul’s office, connected to whatever theater that is in the next block–which means they had an enormous warehouse space to keep their costumes in, and their primary customers were local theater, film and television productions. I thought, yeah, that could be fun so I moved MY shop back to the block and decided to give them a warehouse to store costumes for commercial rentals in, out near the airport. When Crooked Lane wanted something other than a costume shop, I just went to the Starbucks at the corner of Washington and Magazine, got a latte, and walked down the block writing down the kinds of businesses I walked past. I sent those to Crooked Lane and they picked an antique shop, which was a bit daunting but….anything is do-able, right? And since I like to learn…in theory.

I did stop into one of the ubiquitous antique shops in New Orleans to talk to the manager, who gave me some good tips–estate auctions and sales, for example; something that hadn’t occurred to me–and also, highly amused that both Valerie and myself knew nothing about the business, suggested, “Start with Antiquing for Dummies.” I’m still not sure if she was kidding or not, but I thought it a pretty good idea, so I ordered a copy and had Dee–who works at Rare Things–suggest Valerie do the same in the book!

Serendipity, if you will.

And then I needed a name for the business. In the late 1980’s there was a marvelous supernatural syndicated series called Friday the 13th-the Series (because it just used the name, it was not related to the films in any way) in which there was such a shop called Curious Goods. The premise of the show is that the owner of the shop made a deal with the devil and all the items in the shop are cursed; he goes back on his deal and the devil drags him to hell. His niece and nephew inherit the shop and start selling things–only to find out that the items are all cursed –an older man with lots of knowledge tells them; they form a team to track down the objects, which can kill–or can make a wish of some sort for the person owning it come true, but death is required–and each episode focuses on one of the objects. I thought about calling the shop Curious Goods, as an homage, but then thought but the objects in this shop aren’t cursed, so I went with Rare Things. I liked the name, and thought it really fit; it’s really more of a curio shop than an antique shop, anyway.

And the benefits of an antique shop means I can have a lot of fun with future volumes, if there are more. How much fun would it be for Valerie to have to stay at some old manse working on an estate sale, only to be bedeviled by ghosts and secret passages and so on? It also means getting to explore history and areas outside of New Orleans; I am becoming more and more interested in the entire state rather than just New Orleans, too, so this really is kind of cool–more reason to explore Louisiana’s history! Huzzah!

So, that’s how this book came to built around an antique shop on St. Charles Avenue. More to come!

Say You Will

And just like that, it’s Tuesday morning and another exciting day back in the clinic. Huzzah!

Yesterday was a good day. I mentioned it was cold yesterday morning? I turned the heat on to no avail on Sunday evening–it ran for a little while and then went off–so I played with the thermostat with no success yesterday morning and just broke out my old space heater. When I got home from work and running errands yesterday, you can imagine my delight and surprise to walk into a temperate apartment with heat coming from the vents. Paul said it was on when he got home from the gym yesterday afternoon, and we both just shrugged and decided to enjoy the fact that it felt temperate in the apartment rather than questioning whatever happened with the HVAC system. And you know, it’s nice. Our heat never really worked all those years, so we always just layered and used space heaters and blankets and so forth, but this is really lovely. It’s nice to sit at my desk on what I can tell is a cold morning without a hat and gloves and a space heater.

And yesterday was a good day. After the errands I got home, did some laundry and dishes, and then opened up my word files and started revising and revamping and reworking the book. It really is something to reread things you’ve written that makes you question your career choices, you know? I knew it was some seriously bad writing, but I didn’t know it was that bad, LOL. But yes, I knew it was bad when I was writing it but at the same time, yesterday I just started revising and reworking and rewording and ooh, look at this two-page long info dump that’s definitely going to need some fixing. It feels good to strip things down to the bones and rebuild them, and I actually felt like I accomplished something yesterday, which was great. It also picked up my mood–clearly I am in a much better mood this morning than I was before–as writing always does. I hope to get some more shredding and rebuilding done today. And I do think once I get this part of the book reworked and redone, writing the rest of it will be that much easier.

We also watched a few more episodes of The Bastard Son and The Devil Himself–which actually has a different main title, Half Bad, which I didn’t realize until last night; and frankly, calling it Half Bad is much easier. The show is very entertaining, I love the male lead (whose name I should look up, so I did: Jay Lycurgo is his name) and the show is very cleverly plotted. I may have to go back and check out the book it’s based on, even if it is (I checked) written in the second person, which I’ve always found irritating.

We had an amazing thunderstorm last night while I was in my chair revising and waiting for Paul to finish work and come downstairs to watch Half Bad. I am never really entirely sure it if’s thunder or someone moving the heavy iron chairs on the deck upstairs (it really has to be pouring incredibly hard for me to hear the rain over the television), and Paul confirmed, when he came down, that it was a thunderstorm. Shortly after that there was a clap of thunder that sounded like it was right outside the apartment–and lasted for a rather long time. Maybe the storm helped me sleep really well last night? I don’t know what caused it, but I actually slept decently last night. I also think the relaxation over the book–the book stress always builds up to a pressure point inside my head, which also induces paralysis (this book is so bad there’s no saving it so why bother?) but getting deep into the weeds with it yesterday clearly relieved a lot of that pressure and so now the stress has been released (kind of like the steam when you’re making an espresso–great analogy, Greg! Maybe you should try writing?) and am hopeful it will be mostly smooth sailing from here on out. It’s a bit warmer outside today than it was yesterday, too, per the weather app, which probably also has something to do with the rain from last night.

So, I am hoping for a productive morning. I am going to make a cappuccino to take with me and head into the office. Hopefully, I’ll make it through the day with enough energy to come home and finish the chores as well as dive into the book some more. Wish me luck, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Valerie

Seriously, how could I not love this cover?

It literally has everything I love (well, most of it, at any rate): the St. Charles streetcar, Scooter, and all kinds of fun antiques and artifacts–and so brightly colored and beautiful. They even slipped in a strand of beads cleverly disguised as pearls! It is one of my favorite covers, and not just because it doesn’t have a shirtless man on the cover–I know, I know, it’s been awhile since I actually had one–certainly it’s been since Royal Street Reveillon–oops, no, Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories is post Royal Street Reveillon, so I guess it’s just the last two young adults and this one since then. And as I said, I really love the color scheme. I may have to have this blown up into a poster and have it framed–that’s how much I love it.

So, who is this Valerie Cooper and why did I decide to write about her and from her point of view?

I’d written from a female perspective before–under pseudonyms–and since I generally relate easier to women than I do to (straight) men, most of my reading is from a female point of view. I’ve always wanted to do a series from this perspective; on the rare occasions I’ve written from a straight man’s point of view (usually in a short story, although occasionally under a pseudonym for a novel) but not as often. I had thought about trying to write a cozy series from a male perspective (I have a great idea for one that I don’t think anyone would buy or want, but I love the idea and may try to do something with it sometime) but eventually defaulted to a woman. Most cozies are told from the feminine perspective (there are exceptions), and so it felt more right to have a female protagonist. I learned from the Paige series being marketed as cozies (which they weren’t) that the strong, sarcastic, borderline bitchy doesn’t play well within that subgenre, and so since I knew I was specifically writing a cozy this time, I knew to follow the rules.

One of the things I had noticed in the cozy series I read is that usually the first book in the series follows a transition of sorts for the main character (Mia P. Manansala’s flopped in the big city and returned to her small hometown; Raquel V. Reyes’ character has just moved back to the Miami area from New York, so she’s happy about it but concerned on others–read the book, you won’t be sorry; others have just gotten divorced, walked on a cheating partner, etc. etc. you get the drift), and I wanted to do something a little softer and less jarring–so I went with her being a youngish empty nester. Married young to a handsome fireman several years older (six, to be exact) she is left a widow when he is killed on the job to raise their twin sons by herself. She’s not worked outside the home since she was a teenager, and now the boys are off to LSU and she’s home alone in the big Victorian house she and her husband bought as a fixer-upper and then renovated while raising the kids. The house is done, her husband is dead and her kids are at school–so she is now finding herself at loose ends and not really sure what to do with herself. She dropped out of college after her marriage when she found herself pregnant–not planned, but not a disappointment, either–and now is considering going back to get her degree at UNO, or maybe finding a job–but what can she do?

I did worry about her not having finished college and just being a stay-at-home mother. It didn’t seem very pro-woman to me, but then I chastised myself. My sister was a stay-at-home mom, and I remember that when she finally was given the choice, my mother was one as well…and I realized I was falling into the wrong mindset about Valerie to begin with–there’s nothing wrong with a woman deciding to be a stay-at-home mom and not ever really working outside the home; the point of feminism is that women should be able to choose what they want rather than have limitations placed on their decisions (which a lot of non-feminist women do not understand), and why not write about a stay-at-home mother now finding her own way in life? I also wanted to surround her with friends and support–so she lives next door to her best friend (they became friends after the woman moved in next door) and is also close to Stacia, a divorced lawyer who lives down the street. The gay couple next door in a double shotgun, Michael and John, are also friends, as is John’s mother, who lives in the other side of the shotgun. Her own parents have retired to the Gulf Coast of Florida, and she is very close to her late husband’s family, the Coopers.

Her name is Valerie because I’ve always liked the name (it’s one of my favorite female names, along with Laura), and I picked Cooper because it’s a friend’s maiden name. I decided to make her be an actual local; born and raised in the city–but her parents are not from New Orleans; they moved here for the father’s job. So she was born here, but she wasn’t born into any of the many striations of social class here. Her parents weren’t connected to old-line New Orleans, they didn’t belong to any Mardi Gras krewes, and Valerie herself–while going to Sacred Heart–never got involved in any of the Carnival stuff, preferring, as she says, to participate by going to parades and catching throws. She’s also an only child who thinks of her late husband’s older sister Therese as a kind of replacement older sister since she didn’t have one.

I wanted to upset Valerie’s tame, placid, almost boring life with a series of shocks that upend everything about her life and what she believed she knew about her life, her house, her late husband–and what better way than to have her realize, thanks to someone else–that the notice she got from the city about the house being reappraised for taxes and didn’t think too much about could actually become a big catastrophe for her. The house they bought so cheaply and renovated could now be worth vastly more than she and Tony paid for the house (I named her husband Tony because I’ve always liked that name for a man; Scotty was almost Tony) because their neighborhood, sketchy and dangerous when they moved there, has been gentrified (as so much of the city has been) and when someone she knows and doesn’t like (a very thin line there I was worried about crossing by introducing that character–toning it down to a Valerie level of dislike was something I really had to pay attention to) lets her know what the market value of her home might actually be–Valerie instantly goes into financial panic mode. If the house is worth ten times what they paid for it, wouldn’t that mean the tax assessment would also got up times ten? She’s run into the woman while picking up fresh shrimp at Big Fisherman Market on Magazine (right there by what used to be the A&P and now I can’t recall what chain went in there? BREAUX MART. Whew, was getting a bit concerned there about my brain working) and walking back home, turning it over and over again in her mind as she reflects how much the neighborhood has changed since she and Tony first moved in–and then when she gets home, she finds out a registered letter from a lawyer has arrived for her.

And nothing in her life is ever the same again.

Essentially, the letter lets her know that she and her sons have received an inheritance from an uncle of Tony’s she never knew even existed, and it includes Rare Things, an antiques business on St. Charles Avenue in the lower Garden District, and the story is then off and running.

I do really like Valerie. I hope readers do, too–because I’d like to keep writing about her.

Peacekeeper

It is a cold Monday morning in the Lost Apartment and our heater is out again–every year it seems, the moment it gets cold it goes on the fritz the very first time we try to use it, so out came the space heater and I may need a second, just in case–but that’s fine. I sleep best when it’s cold, so last night’s sleep was quite nice. I also woke up at five again this morning, yay, but stayed in bed for another few hours. I probably should have just gone ahead and gotten up–it’s not like I don’t have things to do, you know–but again, cold and the pile of blankets was marvelously warm and comfortable. And now, sitting here at my desk in my sweats with a ski cap on and the space heater blowing warm air on me…I don’t even want to get up out of this warm space.

Sigh.

Paul and I had lunch with friends from out of town yesterday at Lula, the lovely restaurant on St. Charles just a couple of blocks from our house. I didn’t wear a jacket, although it was chilly, but it was nice. I always enjoy these sorts of things, but it’s always hard to get a Greg at rest into motion, you know? I’m not entirely sure why that is, but it just is, and I’ve learned to live with it. I have errands to run tonight when I get off work–prescriptions, mail, groceries–which will be wonderful in the cold, of course; it’s forty-five outside right now with a high predicted to be sixty-five; hardly the dead of winter everyone else is used to, but it is a bit on the extreme side for us here in New Orleans. I got some excellent work done on the book this weekend, which is always lovely when you shut off contact from the outside world for a few days to close off distractions so you can focus. I am still behind, of course, but I am hopeful I can get back on track by the end of this coming weekend.

We finished watching Young Royals last night–it doesn’t have very long seasons, six episodes or so–and I enjoyed it. (Although, as I pointed out several times, being a royal is a symbolic thing and not really necessary for Sweden anymore; it’s funny how these countries hang on to their pasts and traditions, no matter how archaic they may be; scratch a Brit and find a royalist) We also started watching a new supernatural show called The Bastard Son and The Devil Himself, which is actually quite good and we found ourselves enjoying it tremendously. The young male lead is also in Titans, playing a character whose name I cannot recall but I do remember from the comics as being the third Robin. It’s interesting and very well done and the fantasy/supernatural world it builds–two warring clans of witches–is also done pretty well.

It’s also hard to think that at this time next Monday I’ll be on the road, driving to Kentucky and listening to Carol Goodman. I already downloaded a book to my phone, but I don’t remember which one–but it doesn’t matter because they are always excellent. I’ve yet to read a Goodman that wasn’t, frankly, and I think she is definitely one of our finest suspense novelists of this time. Like Mary Stewart, her books are very literate and incredibly smart; they are also incredibly good reads with strongly developed characters and interesting, engaging plots that you can’t step away from–which is truly the mark of a terrific writer. I may listen to another on the way back, too. I am so glad I discovered audio books…it really makes a difference on long drives. Sure, my mind wanders from time to time, but I am always pulled back into the narrative quite easily.

I do feel a little disappointed with myself for not getting more done over the weekend. I really do need to do a deep clean before i leave so I don’t come home to a dirty apartment but the question is, when will I have the time to do it? I I am exhausted every day when I get home from work–but that’s the thing, isn’t it? I need to resist the urge–and the cat howling–to just sit down for a minute to relax because inevitably I wind up stuck there, feeling exhausted and depleted, and nothing gets done. This, of course, leads to self-flagellation as well: why did you blow off the entire evening? Imagine how much MORE relaxed you’d feel if you’d done the dishes or gotten the laundry sorted or picked up some of this mess…

I am a harsh taskmaster for myself, apparently.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you later.

Red Rover

It’s cold in the Lost Apartment this morning–it’s only forty-two degrees outside; it was fifty when Paul got home from the office last night–and the bed felt marvelous and comfortable and warm so I didn’t want to escape its clutches, seriously–and my coffee cup feels rather lovely in my hands as I sit here in my breakfast nook this morning. The sun is shining, though, and the high for the day is a stunning 56. Hurray!

LSU won despite terrible play yesterday over Arkansas, 13-10, and then Alabama managed to come back to beat Mississippi right after (30-24), which clinched the West division of the conference for the Tigers in perhaps one of the fastest and most surprising turnarounds of all time in college football. LSU was picked to finish fifth in the division (out of seven teams), and the predictions of a maximum of seven wins looked overly optimistic in October. Yet here they are, sitting at 8-2 and going to Atlanta to play Georgia for the conference title. Oregon lost last night, which means LSU would likely move up at spot to the Number 6 ranking, despite how poorly they played–I was actually thinking they might drop a bit, until I saw that Oregon lost–and still have a very outside shot at going to the college football play-offs, if they can win out and somehow defeat the defending national champions the first weekend of December. Paul, who figured out how LSU could play for the national championship in 2007 and predicted every loss that was necessary for it to happen correctly, was mapping it out for me again last night. It’s very tempting to believe, given the impossible, implausible, and improbable season LSU is having, that their luck and this magical season can continue to hold…but regardless of how the season ends, this one was already a win for Tiger fans and Louisiana. (And I still can’t believe we beat Alabama.) But the most amazing thing about this game was true freshman Harold Perkins Jr.’s play. How is this kid a true freshman? He’s basically the reason LSU won yesterday. He is going to be a lot of fun to watch as he matures and develops and gets better.

I also managed to get some work done on the book yesterday–not actually writing, of course, but the planning and working out of the plot so that I can go back and finish revising the first half of it so I can get the second half written. It is highly unlikely at the moment that I will make the 12/1 deadline–but next weekend there aren’t many games on that I think I’d want to watch (the weekend before Thanksgiving is rarely a good football weekend) so I am hopeful that I will have that day to spend writing on the book in addition to the rest of the week. The Thanksgiving trip to Kentucky is going to wreak havoc on my writing schedule, but I am still rather confident that if I buckle down and shut off distractions, I can still make my deadline.

Hope springs eternal.

Today we are having lunch at Lula, a restaurant in our neighborhood, with friends in from out of town. Ordinarily I would have a drink or something with lunch, but alas, I have to come home and get to work, little as I want to–I’d much rather do nothing for the rest of the day, frankly; its cold, which makes it a perfect day for watching television under my blanket in my easy chair with a purring kitty in my lap, but alas and alack, that won’t be possible until this evening. Paul wanted to watch the Falwell documentary God Forbid which I’d watched while he was gone, so it was on while I idly scrolled through social media–by the time Paul got home I was exhausted, and the Auburn-Texas A&M game was on but I wasn’t paying much attention to it. I guess exhausted is the wrong word to use, as I didn’t do anything that could have exhausted me yesterday–maybe fatigue is more correct? I get fatigued much easier than I ever used to before, since having COVID this past summer–and it’s often very sudden. One moment I will be fine, the next I am falling asleep in my chair and am so tired getting out of the chair requires almost too much effort. Maybe it’s an after-effect of the COVID, maybe I am just getting older, maybe it’s a combination of the two. I do have a doctor’s appointment in January for my biannual check-up, and I should probably ask him about it. Advocate for yourself with your doctor, dumbass.

We also started watching the second season of Young Royals on Netflix, but somehow it defaulted to the dubbed version, which I hate. I don’t like it when what they’re saying doesn’t match the lip movements. I was too tired to figure out how to switch it to Swedish with American subtitles (it still amuses me to remember how much I didn’t want to read subtitles in the olden days), and maybe I can get that done before we continue watching tonight.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, everyone, and GEAUX SAINTS!

The Second Time

Saturday morning and LSU plays at eleven, which means I have an extremely short window to get things this morning. I fell asleep in my chair watching the debut episode of Dangerous Liaisons, which was a great idea for a series in theory, but I wasn’t impressed with the execution. I doubt we’ll continue with it–a shame, because it’s one of my favorite stories of all time; I read the original novel after the Glenn Close film was released in the 1980’s and have loved it ever since. (I also love the Cruel Intentions adaptation of it; I even adapted it into my gay erotic fraternity novel Wicked Frat Boy Ways) It also rained overnight–I slept very deeply and well last night–and of course I woke at five again this morning but napped on and off until rising just before eight.

LSU can actually clinch the West Division of the SEC today with a win over Arkansas–either outright and a share of it; should Alabama beat Mississippi today, it’s theirs if they win. If Mississippi wins, the pressure is back on LSU to win out; both would end up tied for the West if they both win out, but LSU goes to the championship game by virtue of having beaten Mississippi when they played. It’s a very chaotic college football season, folks; the kind that rarely comes around and things happen that never usually happen. (I still can’t believe LSU beat Alabama last week.) Just a month ago, things looked very bleak for the season indeed for LSU, and I am so proud of how they bounced back after that embarrassing loss to Tennessee. Several things happened this year that have never happened before: LSU had never beaten both Auburn and Florida on the road in the same season before, let alone beaten them both on the road AND beat Alabama. LSU hadn’t beaten Alabama in Baton Rouge since 2010 (the last time Alabama had lost twice this early in the season–but I doubt they will go on to lose to Auburn in the Iron Bowl as they did in 2010), hadn’t beat Florida four years in a row since 1977-1980, and the Tennessee loss was the first time the Vols have beat LSU since 2005.

Okay, I’ll stop boring you with my football fandom. GEAUX TIGERS!

Although I have to add I don’t know how I’ll manage to stay calm during the LSU game–and today I find myself rooting for Alabama. College football always gets interesting later in the season…

I’m going to try to work on edits during the games today; I am not sure how well that is going to go. I’m probably not going to leave the house this weekend outside of a lunch date tomorrow; I really need to work on the book and I’m even going to have to (sigh) not watch the Saints game tomorrow and work instead. I’m running out of time on my deadline, which is terrifying to me, and I have a lot of other things I have to write as well. I really need to make a thorough and complete to-do list; maybe after I finish and post this. I did get a lot of chores done yesterday around the work-at-home duties; laundry and dishes and the kitchen are under control this morning, so I don’t need to do anything this weekend on that score. But whoa boy, was I worn out once five thirty rolled around. I repaired to my chair and watched Youtube videos (and yes, I watched the LSU-Alabama highlights again because I still can’t believe LSU beat Alabama)–I watched a really great historical one about the fall of Constantinople in 1204 to the 4th Crusade, and another interesting one about the camp aesthetic of Mommie Dearest–until Paul got home, and we got caught up on Andor, which I am really enjoying; I’ve actually enjoyed all the Star Wars television shows other than The Book of Boba Fett, which I should probably give another chance to, before switching to Dangerous Liaisons, which was, frankly, boring and the revised plot doesn’t make much sense–a wealthy older noblewoman would not be able to confer a title on anyone; that was the prerogative of the King and the King only, especially in absolutist France of the eighteenth century, so yeah–it wasn’t just being tired. I can forgive historical inaccuracies as a necessity for dramatizations, but being so blatant and deliberate in being wrong like that for the purpose of plot and story is something I cannot condone by rewatching. I am not a purist either when it comes to adaptations of novels into series and films, either–I enjoyed Cruel Intentions, after all–but in all honesty, there was so much more to the original story that had to be cut and removed from any film adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses that could have been implemented into telling the story over the course of a season–perhaps even a second–and the fallout and aftermath from the exposure of the Marquise de Merteuil’s letters could have also been interesting.

Ah, well. Great idea, poor execution.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. The game starts in less than two hours (!!!) and I need to get some things done. Have a happy Saturday, Constant Reader!

What’s the World Coming To?

Work-at-home Friday morning and all is quiet in the Lost Apartment so far. There’s a load re-tumbling in the dryer and another in the washing machine waiting for the dryer to free up; the dishwasher needs to be emptied so I can refill it back up again. I have lots of work-at-home duties to get finished today as well as all kinds of other things I have to get done later when I am finished with work. Heavy heaving sigh, but that’s always the way, isn’t it? More to do than I have time to do it in. C’est la vie, y’all.

I was tired when I got home from work yesterday. I started the laundry and had intended to do the dishes as well–but Scooter had been alone for hours and needed attention, so I decided to get the laundry started and give him about twenty minutes of nap time in my lap–which is usually all he wants. I was rather surprised and nonplussed as I cycled through sportscaster conversations on Youtube about this college football season–including wrap-ups of last weekend’s game plus looking ahead to this weekend’s–and the next thing I knew hours had passed and I’d even started drifting in and out of naps. When he finally got up and went upstairs for either water or the litter box, I moved a load from the washer to the dryer and started another one before His Majesty returned, demanding my lap back. Paul came home a little later and we finished off Big Mouth as well as caught up on this week’s episodes of American Horror Story: NYC, which is now, finally, starting to go off the rails after wrapping up a storyline that was actually rather well-composed. I guess the rest of the season will be the usual Ryan Murphy shitshow.

I guess it was too much to hope that the gayest season ever of the show would turn out not to be a pitiful, poorly plotted and paced mess.

But the good news is I feel rested today, so there’s hope for a productive and effective day for me today. Huzzah!

Now, where was I? Oh yes, I’d started talking about A Streetcar Named Murder yesterday, didn’t I, in a blatant attempt at self-promotion hoping to encourage you to preorder my new book! I should probably bring it up every day until Pub Day, or should I simply plan out some promotional posts I can work on and post every few days? I am sure anyone who follows me on social media or reads this would gradually tire of reading about my new, exciting book which takes my career into a new, exciting direction, wouldn’t they? I know I eventually tire of the BSP of others–unless they are friends, in which case I wholeheartedly encourage them to promote the fuck out of themselves–which also governs sometimes how much of it I do. I got very self-conscious about it, which probably goes back to that horrible “don’t praise yourself” mentality I was raised with and have talked about before–and whether or not that is a good message for young people (stay humble), it’s not a great one for someone destined to go into a field that requires you to talk up yourself. Heavy sigh. The need to self-promote and the need to be humble are constantly at war inside my head, which is yet another example of why precisely Greg is not entirely sane.

But I am very proud of this book. It’s a departure in many ways for me, and while writing it was hellish–not the fault of the book or the publisher, simply the timing of its writing–I am very proud of it. I mean, given the hellish circumstances surrounding me when I was writing it, it’s not only a miracle it was written but a miracle there’s not a body count from that period. I think it’s a good book–it did occur to me last night dope, you wrote a book set in New Orleans during football season and didn’t mention the Saints once–and despite that blasphemy, it reads easily and well and it’s a nice little story. I think my main character is relatable and likable, and I think readers can identify with her. I wasn’t sure, but all the advance readers liked it (or said they did) and the prepublication trade reviews have all been positive, so I think I did a fairly good job on it. But more on that later. I think it makes more sense to simply write promotional entries where I talk about the book and inspirations and so forth and keep them separate from these daily “Life of Greg” entries.

And having made that decision I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

When It Comes to Love

If you follow me on social media you will know already that I got my box o’books of A Streetcar Named Murder this week. The book looks stunningly beautiful, seriously; I couldn’t be more pleased with everything about the book’s packaging. The cover is gorgeous; and stacked up together they look especially gorgeous, as you can see in these delightful images from my kitchen counter.

So, Greg, why did you write a cozy mystery?

The same reason I write anything–primarily because I wanted to, and to see if I could, you know. actually write one. I’ve always liked them–I love traditional mysteries, always have–and have always admired how authors pull off the crime aspect of the story. Sure, there’s a bit of an imaginative stretch required to read a series–how realistic is it that an every day citizen will continually get involved in the solving of a crime, through no fault of their own? But…no one bats an eye about the realism of private eye series, and let’s face it: private eyes involved in murder investigations are just as rare. They spend most of their time on insurance claims or, you know, infidelity. Likewise, police investigations are often very straight-forward, without the usual twists and turns and surprises a writer needs to include to keep the reader turning the pages. The Scotty series–despite him actually becoming a licensed private eye, fits more into the cozy genre than it does the private eye; for one thing, it’s funny, and for another, Scotty is never hired, he always stumbles over a body somehow–to the point that it’s almost a running joke in the series.

I had always wanted to write a mainstream series centered around a straight woman, to be honest. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve done that queer mystery, both series and stand-alones, and I always like to keep my work fresh and interesting for me–I cannot imagine the hell writing something that bores me would be. Early on, before I sold my first book, a major figure in the crime fiction world told me that every so often she wished she could write something else, but “all anyone wants from me is *series character*,” but very quickly added, “But I’m still grateful people want that.” I always remembered that–obviously, I still do–and so while I would be eternally grateful were I ever to achieve that level of great success, I tried to always diversify my writing so I’d never get bored. The Chanse series was very different from the Scotty series; the stand-alone novels are rarely set in New Orleans; and so on.

I’ve tried spinning off my Paige character from the Chanse series into her own series; I always liked the character and thought she was a lot of fun and could carry her own stories quite nicely. I still think so, but audiences didn’t respond to her when I did finally give her those own stories–but there could have been any number of reasons why that didn’t work. The books were marketed and sold as cozies–which I think was a mistake, because I didn’t write them as cozies. Sure, Paige was a single woman, working for Crescent City magazine and a former crime reporter for the Times-Picayune, which gave her some credibility as an investigator, but Paige was sharp-tongued and foul-mouthed. Had I known that the books would be marketed to the cozy audience, I wouldn’t have used Paige–she was too centered in my head as who she was for me to change her significantly in her own series–and would have simply come up with someone new. The books were also electronic only, and oddly enough, my readers tend to prefer to read me in print hard copies.

I had actually tried writing a cozy series before–I had this great idea for one, about an English professor at a university in a fictional Louisiana town on the north shore (based on Hammond); I called it A Study in Starlet and wrote a strong introductory chapter, trying to channel my inner Elizabeth Peters/Vicky Bliss; sarcastic but not bitchy, but it never got anywhere. I actually became rather fixated on my fictional Hammond (which I called Rouen, pronounced “ruin”, and I did want to call one of the books The Road to Rouen), which I may still write about at some point–I never say never to anything–but I am digressing. But I always had it in the back of my head that I should try writing a mainstream cozy at some point in my career. And this came about in a very weird way–it’s a long story–but I wound up pitching the idea I had to Crooked Lane and they offered me a contract, which was quite lovely. (Incidentally, I signed the contract electronically on the Friday before Hurricane Ida; the last email I got from Crooked Lane that Friday afternoon after signing the contract said you’re going to be getting some emails from the team next week so keep an eye out for them and welcome aboard! So, of course the power went out on Sunday morning…)

I originally was going to write about a costume shop. There’s one across the street from Paul’s office that has a showroom and an enormous warehouse; they do a lot of costume work for film, theater, and television, which seemed like a great backdrop for a series with all kinds of potential stories for the future. Crooked Lane didn’t like that, and asked me to come up with something else, so I walked down Magazine Street writing down the kinds of businesses I saw. An antique shop was one of them, and that was what they liked. My working title for the book was Grave Expectations, because it involved an inheritance, but they didn’t like that title either, and I reached back into my archives for a title for the original spin-off idea I had for launching the Paige series–I wrote like 100 pages of the first Paige book in 2004 and it never got used–and grabbed the title from it: A Streetcar Named Murder, and hence, the title was born.

And…I had three months to finish the book, as they wanted it by January 15th. And of course there was the power situation in New Orleans, and…

Heavy sigh. I will leave the rest of the story for another day and time.

I slept really well last night; woke up again at five and since it wasn’t the alarm yanking me out of the clutches of Morpheus this morning, I feel rested. I was very tired last night when I got home; I hit the wall around three yesterday afternoon and when I got home it was the easy chair for me. We watched more Big Mouth, and then I retired to bed around ten. I am working at home tomorrow, so am hopeful this will be a good weekend for writing. I do want to watch both the LSU-Arkansas and Alabama-Mississippi games this weekend–as they could determine who wins the SEC West for the season (and I cannot believe that LSU is in the driver’s seat; I was hoping for an 8-4 season and feared that was unlikely), but I also need to get caught up on my writing and everything. Yikes.

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

Murrow Turning Over In His Grave

Pay-the-Bills Day and it’s also post-election Wednesday. Do I dare look? Do I want to know if my fellow Americans decided, once again, that my rights aren’t as important as their wallets? I chose not to look last night as I couldn’t bear it. Was there ever a time when elections didn’t fill me with existential dread? I voted, of course–I have voted in every election since I was old enough to register, in 1980–but will also admit that sometimes I miss the smaller, less-publicized elections, and those are really just as important as the big national ones. I used to lecture people about not voting, until I realized I was a hypocrite who skipped minor local elections. Yes, Greg, voting for the School Board is important even if you don’t have children.

Sheesh.

I may not have children, but my tax dollars help pay for them to be educated, so I should care about the kind of education my tax dollars are providing, right?

I was tired yesterday. I ran out of steam in the afternoon, as always, and then drove home and walked to my polling place. I worked on the book a little–I was tired, like I said–and then collapsed into my easy chair to wait for Paul to come home. I woke up at five again this morning–I suspect it’s going to take me awhile to get used to the time change and getting to actually sleep through until the alarm at six–but adjustments are, while sometimes difficult, a part of life and my body’s inability to adapt as quickly as it used to is just yet another sign of my advancing age. I am feeling better about the book, to be honest–I think the revisions of this first half, while going a lot slower than I would ordinarily prefer, are coalescing and shaping the book into something quite enjoyable. I guess it’s normal for me to have self-doubt about everything while I am in the midst of a book and wondering why I continue to torture myself the way I do. I kind of do this during every book, don’t I? I wonder if I will ever get to the point where I don’t have crippling self-doubt and loathing of my own work while it’s in progress? No, not likely.

Know thyself.

Paul and I have been watching the new season of Big Mouth, the animated Netflix series about kids going through puberty, and it’s so good to laugh like that. We’ve loved the show and its irreverent and hilarious approach to something everyone can relate to–raging hormones, the transition from childhood to adulthood–and the first episode we watched last night, “Vagina Shame,” was absolutely scream-laugh funny, and accurate. I’ll probably write more in-depth about this show at some point, but it is really funny. If you don’t offend easily, you might want to check it out.

It’s also Pay-the-Bills day, and I have to say, it’s so lovely to actually have gotten a life-changing raise. I’m not wealthy now by any means, but I also no longer have to worry about paying the bills and buying groceries. It doesn’t mean carte blanche to spend money like it’s going out of style or anything, but it is nice to not have to think about “well, if I pay this much on that credit card I can then use it to buy groceries.” Ugh. One of my goals for this year is to pay down as much of this debt as I can (I know, I know, that’s been a goal for quite some time, but I am making progress. It’s just slower going than I would prefer, quite frankly).

And here’s hoping that my energy and my mood lasts through the entire day!

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Catch you tomorrow, Constant Reader!

Illume

Yesterday LSU announced that the game Saturday night registered on the campus seismograph twice: once when Jayden Daniels scored the overtime touchdown, and then again minutes later when the two-point conversion worked. I had thought this had happened several times since the famed Earthquake Game in 1988 against Auburn, when Tommy Hodson threw a touchdown pass on fourth down with less than two minutes left in the game to tie, with the extra point that followed given LSU a one-point lead that held. I would have thought it might happen during the 1997 Florida game, when the Tigers ended several Florida winning streaks as well as their Number One ranking on the season; during the 2003 Georgia game when Matt Mauck threw the winning touchdown pass with less than two minutes to go; or during either the 2007 Auburn game or the 2007 Florida game, but I was incorrect. The next time Tiger Stadium registered on the seismograph was during this summer’s Garth Brooks concert there, when he played “Calling Baton Rouge”–people who lived within a mile of the stadium didn’t hear the concert, but they could hear the crowd singing–and then twice this past Saturday night.

I still can’t believe LSU won that game. I may never believe it. I still, three days later, wake up every morning and the first thing I do is check to make sure I didn’t dream it.

So it’s Tuesday, the time has changed and it’s no longer dark when I get up in the morning. It’s kind of gray out there at the moment, as the sun hasn’t truly risen yet–so there’s a weird kind of wintry gloom outside, and I really hated coming home in the dark yesterday. My sleep still hasn’t adjusted yet–wide awake at five this morning, but stayed in bed anyway–and I am not sure how well I actually am sleeping since the time change. Yesterday morning I felt fine and didn’t really fade until I got home–and then I faded, big time. I even forgot the Saints game was last night. Paul had a meeting so he had to go into his office; I didn’t remember to turn on the game until it was already past half-time. I fell asleep while watching, and since Paul wasn’t home yet by nine thirty I just went to bed (they lost; I just checked the score. We Saints fans are indeed terribly spoiled) and I didn’t even hear Paul come home–Scooter is still cuddling with me when I go to bed still, even with Paul home–so I must have slept much better than I initially thought this morning when I first got up.

I also need to remember to vote when I get home from work today.

I did work on cleaning up the opening of the book yesterday. I didn’t get very far, but I did manage to switch the two things that I needed to switch at the beginning (anything else would be a spoiler, sorry) and so the revision is already starting to come together. Progress is progress, and I also had some–not much, but some–luck in cleaning out my email inbox. There’s still a lot that I have to get done in addition to working on the book, but as long as the book keeps moving forward, I am fine with it. I am really worried about getting it done on time–the Thanksgiving trip is going to seriously fuck with me–but the LSU game this weekend is at eleven in the morning, and while I do indeed want to watch the Alabama-Mississippi game to see if LSU can clinch the division, I should be able to spend some serious time working this weekend.

Oh, the box of books arrived yesterday! How cool is that? It’s been almost eighteen years since I’ve had a hardcover release, so needless to say that was a bit of a thrill for me. Huzzah! I posted a picture of the box yesterday–I know, I know, the thing is unboxing videos for Instagram stories and Tik Tok but I’ve always just posted pictures of the open box and I am not going to change that now, no matter what the cool kids are doing. I’ve never been one of the cool kids, have long since given up on caring about whether I was cool or not, and am smart (or experienced) enough now to know I will never be one of the cool kids. That’s a lot of pressure I used to put on myself gone, frankly. I am still working on the “completely not giving a shit whether someone likes me or not”; I am much better than I used to be about that but it still occasionally rears its ugly head from time to time. I would imagine that is something that I will never get over completely, but at least now I can see it happening and can make an attempt to try to stop it before it becomes a problem. Anyway, I need to start amping up pre-release promotion. Have you preordered your copy yet?

I am terrible at this. It really is a wonder I have a career, isn’t it?

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. I have so much to do…it is to weep.