Love Train

Yesterday I had the privilege of reading a personal essay that did what all good personal essays do: it connected with me on a deeply personal level. That’s what the best kind of writing does; it connects with you. One of the myriad of reasons I love Stephen King’s work is because I can connect with the humanity of his characters–even the bad ones, and that’s truly skill.

If you would like to read Laura Lippman’s powerful essay on body image and getting older–something I myself have been wrestling with lately, as I get older and my body morphs into something I’m not sure I entirely recognize anymore–right here; trust me, you will NOT regret clicking here.

I’ve been wrestling this week with a lot of things: exhaustion from the pressures and anxieties of recent weather situations down here; concern about my inability to get work done on any of my writing; concern about money (always); and many of my volunteering responsibilities. A lot of it had to do with being tired and having low blood sugar-I don’t stress eat, whenever I’m under any kind of pressure it has the opposite effect: I don’t eat at all and lose my appetite completely. I rarely ever get hungry in the first place, and often have to ensure that I schedule myself time to eat so that I will actually remember to eat. (I know, it’s weird) But the older I get the more important it is for me to remember to eat because of the blood sugar thing. When my blood sugar drops, I have no energy or patience, and the lack of energy and patience often leads to a muddled mind which isn’t capable of writing or editing. The inability to write or edit (or even read) anything then creates more stress and anxiety, which means further loss of appetite. WHen Paul was out of town I found myself forgetting to eat almost constantly; the same situation developed over the weekend. It peaked finally yesterday, and having to run an errand to pick up a prescription in Mid-city afforded me the opportunity to pick up Five Guys for lunch–and eating a substantial meal made such an incredible difference in my day–once I’d eaten, I had energy and my sense of humor came back. I had been avoiding doing some things–like dealing with my email inbox–for days; not even wanting to read any of them because I simply couldn’t face dealing with them. But after I finish this I am going to start working my way through my emails with a goal to having the inbox officially cleared out by the end of today.

I know I can do it.

I’ve always had a tendency to put off dealing with unpleasant things because I simply didn’t want to face up to them; taking the Scarlett O’Hara “I don’t want to think about that now, I’ll think about that tomorrow” approach, and then continuing to push them away every day until,  of course, it was too late and the situation had become much worse. In my mid-thirties I finally recognized the reality that it’s always easier to deal with a shitty situation earlier rather than later and getting it over with–waiting never made anything better, nor did it resolve the problem, no matter how much I hoped the problem might somehow resolve itself over time. I have a shit ton of messages, for example, on various websites and even on Facebook messenger, that I’ve not answered. And while responses to messages and emails always beget more messages and emails, you can’t just keep letting them sit. I used to make myself crazy responding to everything; I used to have a very strict “everything must be answered within twenty-four hours” policy, which also sometimes provoked anxiety and also sometimes created more work for myself. I’ve taught myself to walk away from the email and the messages; no one needs to be on call 24/7, and I am, like anyone else, entitled to downtime and relaxation. I generally stop answering my emails after seven every day; the evenings are my writing and watching television and spending time with Paul time, and that’s kind of sacrosanct. There are very few things that actually demand, after all, immediate attention. I also restrict myself from dealing with emails on the weekend; that is my down time for cleaning around the house, running errands, and writing. That has really worked well for me, and I am going to stick to that going forward, with the occasional exception.

I’ve also not been as organized as I would like, going back to the Great Data Disaster of 2018. I’ve felt kind of at sea since then; that horrible weekend stalled the great momentum I was building and I’ve never really regained it since then. I’ve felt lost, like I’m treading water but barely keeping my head above the surface. That needs to stop, and I guess recognizing that there’s a problem is the first step in taking corrective action on it. I haven’t really felt like myself pretty much this entire year, like I’m one step behind my life. Other times it feels like I’m simply observing my life as it passes me by, which isn’t a particularly good feeling.

So, in the spirit of Laura’s essay, I am going to stop beating myself up over things, and try to focus on the positive, rather than the negative.

And on that note, I have some emails to answer. Happy Wednesday, Constant Reader.

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Rocky Mountain High

I was very tired yesterday. Pretty much the entire day, too. Rolling back into my regularly scheduled work week after a vacation week and a storm-disturbed week wasn’t the easiest task I’ve undertaken lately. I felt terrible all day long, actually, which was incredibly unpleasant. The weather was equally unpleasant; gray and cool but oppressively humid at the same time. I suppose the exhaustion was the release from the stress of dealing with tropical weather over the last few days–the pent-up stress and PTSD and everything else, finally being let go with the tension leaving exhaustion in its wake–which was pretty awful. I didn’t sleep deeply last night, but at least I feel somewhat rested this morning.

I managed to get a little work done on the WIP yesterday; Chapter Eighteen, where it had stalled, just needed a little nudging to get moving, and that’s precisely what I did; I went back to the very first sentence and started rebuilding the chapter. I didn’t get very far–I was exhausted–but it was a start, and I think I can get the damned thing finished by the end of the month again. A month late, to be sure, but finished nonetheless. And that is some progress I can get behind, even if it’s not as much progress as I would like, nor am as I far along with this year’s work as I wanted to be by now. But it happens, and writing, at least for me, isn’t something I can ever really force myself to do. Sometimes I need to force myself into doing it and then the words start to come; some days they never come. I wish I knew how to turn it off and on; but here we are twenty years in and it’s never gotten any easier.

We got caught up on Big Little Lies last night. This season isn’t as strong as the first; the acting is just as good, if not better, and I do like that this entire season is actually about the cover-up of the crime and how that fallout has impacted all the women negatively; how the guilt and keeping that secret has caused ripple effects into the rest of their lives, putting their marriages and/or relationships in trouble. I’ve said before one of the things that has interested me the most about crime fiction lately has been dealing with the aftermath of a crime, how it affects the people involved, how it changes and shapes the rest of their lives going forward.

I am hopeful that today will be a good day; I feel sufficiently rested this morning, and while it doesn’t look particularly great outside, I am hoping the sun will be back and today will be the usual hot, sweaty, humid misery of a normal July day in New Orleans. I do think the weirdness of yesterday’s weather played a part in the badness of my day yesterday. I want to get some writing done tonight, I want to get my email inbox cleared and cleaned out, and I need to get caught up on all of my correspondence as well. I think I made a to-do list over the course of the weekend; at least, I remember thinking I needed to make one and start going through it, item by item. It really does bother me that I’ve stopped making my to-do lists; it helps me with my productivity and helps me keep track of everything I need to get done. I have three short stories to prep for submission as well; even now, sitting here thinking about it, I can’t remember what one of them is for or what it was going to be about.

My once-sharp mind and memory now is as filled with holes as Swiss cheese. This doesn’t please me in the least, but I suppose it’s inevitable and a part of getting older, which makes the to-do list even more crucial than it used to be.

I also need to start thinking about promoting the new Scotty when it’s released. Sigh. It never ends, does it?

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

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I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby

I wrote twenty-three hundred and sixty-six words yesterday; a rather precise amount, I admit, but I am rather proud of them, as I’ve not written anything new in nearly two weeks, I think.

It was also new, nothing do with any of the many works in progress I am in the midst of; it was one of those things where the idea came to me, and I knew how to write the chapter, so I sat down and I did lest I forget it. I also wanted to see if I could get the voice right, the tone, and all of that. I think it kind of works, but I am going to let it sit for a moment or two (or weeks) and see what I think of it then.

It’s the first chapter of Chlorine, which is a start. Probably not what I needed to be writing or working on, but

I do want to get back to the WIP–and I’m not really sure why I keep calling it that. Why am I superstitious about sharing the title of this book? I like the title, and I believe I have even mentioned it before. I originally had the idea a million years ago, when I was a little boy. My grandmother–the not sane one–used to love to tell me stories about the past; she always swore on the Bible the stories were true, but I’ve long suspected that most of them were invented or stories she read somewhere–she did like to read, and encouraged both my sister and I to also read. I never wrote the stories she told me down, but I do remember bits and pieces of them, and one of those bits and pieces became a short story I wrote in college called “Ruins.” I wrote it as a ghost story, weaving what I remembered from my grandmother’s story into a modern-day story in a fictional county based on the one my family is from (I also planned to do a lot of writing about this fictional county when I was in college…I have published some work about the county; it’s where Scotty’s sorta-nephew Taylor is from and where Frank’s sister lives. It’s where my main character from Dark Tide  was from, and also where “Smalltown Boy” was set, along with various other short stories, like “Son of a Preacher Man”…so I’m using some of those old ideas today. There are also any number of short stories in some form of completion set there, and the current WIP is, of course, set there). I always thought “Ruins” (still unpublished) could be expanded into a pretty decent novel, and that’s what I am currently working on, have been for the last few months. I no longer call it “Ruins”–that title has already been used multiple times for a novel, and why invite comparison–but when I needed a new title, I wanted something more poetic. I started looking through poems (can you imagine? I know so little about poetry it’s staggering) and wanted something Barbara Michaels-ish. I decided to riff on her title Be Buried in the Rain, which is from a poem, and then a lyric from The Band Perry’s song “If I Die Young” stuck in my head, and I started using that as the title, Bury Me in Satin. But that didn’t really work or fit, and it evolved into Bury Me in Shadows, which had the right creepy, spooky, Gothic feel to it that I wanted, that I am trying to get in the book. It’s a ghost story of sorts, it’s set in the woods of rural central-western Alabama, and there’s a ruin of a plantation back in the woods, which an archaeological team from the University of Alabama has started excavating. There’s a legend about the “lost boys” around the ruins; two boys who disappeared during the Civil War. I’m also working rural drug addiction into it, as well as the Klan, and racism and homophobia. It’s a lot, and it has to been done correctly, in order to get the points across that I want to make in the book. This is why it’s been such a slog, really. I am trying to make points about important topics without sounding too preachy-teachy, while trying to weave in an interesting story, all told from the point of view of a rather intelligent gay teenager from Chicago, who has to spend the summer in Alabama being the point person for the family while his grandmother, who has had several strokes, dies in her own crumbling Victorian style home from the late nineteenth century, and then the archaeologists discover the skeleton of a young man. Is he one of the lost boys from the Civil War, or is there something more sinister going on back in the woods?

I’m trying to write about race sensitively, without giving offense. I am trying to be conscious of my own internalized prejudices and bigotries, which is sadly a life-long process of deprogramming. (But that’s a subject for another time.) But I am hopeful that my own keen editorial eye will catch things in the editing process, and there’s also going to be my editor’s eyes on it. So, hopefully it won’t turn out to be yet another sad white person’s attempt to deal with race that turns out to be problematic.

I am also writing it in a style different than what I usually use–first person present tense, and it’s obvious when I reread chapters I’ve written that it’s not my default; I slip into the past tense very easily and naturally and because I’m so used to writing that way it’s easy for me to miss things in the wrong tense.

I’m up early because today returns normality to my life; this is my first work week that won’t be disrupted this month. First it was a brief vacation, and of course last week was disrupted by Barry. I got very little accomplished over the last few days–storm disruptions make it very hard to focus or get anything done, frankly; as you wait for the storm you don’t want to start anything in case you lose power suddenly, plus there’s the weird tension of waiting for the unexpected. When I walked to Touro to get my car yesterday and run by the grocery store, it was strange; the city was still deserted and lifeless. There were a few cars out driving but not the usual amount of people out and about on a Sunday, even in the rain. I actually think we got more rain yesterday than we did from the storm on Saturday, frankly. I was soaked by the time I got to the car–$21 is a very low price to pay to keep your car safe, to be honest–and of course, everything at the grocery store was on sale because it was old and ripe; I got a great deal on two enormous smooth avocados, and there were still some Creole tomatoes out, but the grocery store was still depleted from people stocking up for the storm. I came home, we got caught up on Animal Kingdom, and last night we watched The Spy Who Dumped Me, a cute comedy starring Mila Kunis and Kate MacKinnon. I love both women, and they worked very well together, and the plot was clever and funny enough to hold my attention, but it could have been better–but it was mostly the charisma of the two women, and their chemistry together, that made the film enjoyable.

So, wish me well on my first full week of work this month. It’s gray and drizzly outside my windows this fair morning; I’m hoping my shoes have dried out from yesterday as well. (note to self: order new shoes, you’re due.)

And now back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

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Say Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose

Paul and I both stayed up way past our bedtimes last night, finishing the third season of Stranger Things. I had spent the afternoon finishing The Pacific on HBO streaming service (it’s really quite brilliant and moving and heartbreaking and horrifying; probably one of the best things about the horror of war I’ve ever seen, and how it wrecks the young men who fight them–if not physically, than psychologically). As such I slept later than I usually do this morning–much later than usual, which is obviously a problem as I have to go back to work tomorrow morning which means getting up extremely early. I’m not terribly concerned, however; it is what it is.

We never lost cable or power yesterday; and it didn’t even rain in our neighborhood until later in the evening; I think it was around eight-thirty that I got a tornado warning alert on my phone. I checked it out on my computer–it wasn’t for our area, but further downtown and in the lower river parishes, who also had overtopped levees and flooding. That was when I noticed it was raining outside. There wasn’t thunder or lightning, just rain. We’re still in a flash flood alert, but I think I’m going to go take a long walk in the rain and retrieve my car from the Touro parking lot, where I took it Friday afternoon just to be on the safe side. I need to stop at the grocery store, but I suppose it will also depend on if one’s open. I suspect the city is fairly operating normally again today, but I’ve also just woken up and am still on my first cup of coffee, so I could be wrong.

I managed to get absolutely nothing done over the course of the last four or five days; the city flooding and that aftermath, while trying to prepare for the arrival of a tropical storm/hurricane kind of drains you of most energy and your ability to focus. The waiting is also horrible, I might add, the wondering endlessly if you made the right decision or not, whether you should have fled when you had the chance, and so on. This is how it ever was, and how it ever will be. Paul and I were talking about this very thing on Friday, as we adopted our usual wait-and-see mentality. We have actually only evacuated twice; once for Katrina, and for Isaac (or was it called Ike?) in 2008. The other I storm left us without power for the week leading up to Labor Day in 2013, I think it was–I just remember we had tickets for the LSU game that Saturday, and the irony of sitting in the heat all day that Saturday after complaining all week that we didn’t have a/c or power, only to have it come on the night before was kind of the most Louisianan thing we’ve ever done.

I also feel that all of my friends and family deserve an apology for the horror that was the storm coverage all week, culminating in emails, texts, and posts/PM on social media. And admittedly, the arrival of hurricane sex symbol Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel here on Friday was not a good sign. New Orleans and tropical weather has been major news, alas, ever since the levees failed, and nothing gets clicks and views like apocalyptic headlines and news coverage. I’m sorry all the 24 hour channels and even some reputable news organizations decided to go down the terror route for everyone; I’m sorry you all had to be put through that kind of stress and worry on our behalf.  Don’t get me wrong, it makes my heart feel full that so many people nationwide care, not only about New Orleans, but about Paul and me and our friends and our lives here. Thank you for that. I just wish the media wouldn’t put you all through it…as we always say down here, this kind of coverage is what makes the really dangerous storms get not taken as seriously as they should be.

Paul and I are also very prudent, and cautious. In our twenty-odd years here, we’ve learned what to listen for and who to listen to; which local stations are dependable, which models of storm tracking to pay attention to, and we also aren’t ever locked into a decision–we make a decision based on the information available at the time, continue to check, and adjust decisions accordingly based on new information. We’re not meteorologists by any means, of course, and there’s always the possibility we’ll make a wrong decision–and your concerns and worries mean so much to us. Don’t ever think that’s not the case.

And once New Orleans is out of danger, it’s truly awful and sad to see how quickly the story dies…despite the damage that actually was wrought, and continues to be, from this storm system. New Orleans isn’t the only part of Louisiana that is below sea level, and protected from flooding by an at best iffy levee structure system. This system is going to continue to dump lots of water everywhere on its path, and it has the upper Mississippi valley, already in flood stage, square in its sights. Even as I type, the north shore is in tornado warnings, and there are also flood warnings for rivers on the north shore. The North Shore and the I-10 corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge were horribly, unexpectedly flooded several years ago–places that generally never flood, or at least, not often–and they are still recovering from that horror. (I think that was August 2016?) So, do keep those areas in your thoughts.

Storm days, as we call them down here–the free days off from work because of weather, the tropical version of Snow Days–aren’t conducive for getting anything done, at least not for me. Even though I ignore the doom-and-gloom news, and pay attention to the reports I’ve found reliable over the years (I still miss Nash Roberts!), there’s always that nagging sense in the back of your head, that horrible little voice whispering are you so sure? Are you so sure that not leaving is the right thing to do? That is, as you can imagine, emotionally draining and exhausting, and also makes it hard to focus on anything. I can never write or edit during these times; reading is often difficult as well. So I wind up watching a lot of television: this time, Band of Brothers (still unfinished), The Pacific, and Stranger Things. I did enjoy this third season of Stranger Things, even if there are enormous holes in the plot and things that didn’t make a lot of sense; but as entertainment it really did a great job–and it also introduced new characters to the cast seamlessly; not an easy task.

But I do think this enforced period of inactivity–in addition to my vacation the week prior–may have done some wonders are far as kicking my creativity back into gear, which is lovely. I think today–after getting the car and doing a minor grocery gathering–I may sit down with the first seventeen chapters of the WIP and reread them, making notes and figuring out the final act of the book so maybe, just maybe, I can get a strong, workable first draft finished by the end of this month. That puts me behind schedule, of course, but I think I should be able to work on my next project alongside a revision of the Kansas book for the next two months. Maybe that’s an overestimation of what I can do, and get done–it is, after all, going to be the dog days here–but we’ll see.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines and getting back on track. The house is a mess and needs straightening–and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that we could still lose power.

Thanks for all the good thoughts, y’all. Greatly appreciated.

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Keep on Truckin’

Sitting here in the Lost Apartment waiting for Barry’s rain to arrive. It’s eerily quiet outside right now–very little wind, and that weird pre-storm light that indicates something big is coming; I don’t think what’s going to happen here is nearly as bad as anyone predicted or warned about. Even as I type these words I just got the notification that Barry had reached the coastline of central Louisiana; it’s still calm and peaceful here.

Here’s hoping it stays that way.

Thursday night Paul didn’t get home until late; he was working on a grant due Friday–which they proceeded to extend the deadline because of the storm for a week, but didn’t send the email out until almost nine pm, but as I said, hey, at least it’s done and you don’t have to worry about it anymore–so I found myself watching things Paul won’t watch, to pass the time. I watched another episode of The Last Czars, which only served to lessen my sympathy for the last Romanovs even further (I also hate the third part of the story, which is the whole Anna Anderson/Anastasia nonsense, discredited at long last when DNA proved she wasn’t a Romanov), and then I started watching HBO’s Band of Brothers, which I’ve always wanted to watch on some levels–World War II has always been an interesting, if heavily mythologized, time in American history to me–and I really enjoyed it. It’s hard for me, even now, to imagine what that must have been like for the rank-and-file soldiery: the farm boys and the accountants, the garage mechanics and the shepherds, the fishermen and factory workers, many of whom had never traveled far from where they grew up, being sent to faraway and exotic (to them) locales, and having to go through the horror of full scale war. World War II was many things, but the world completely changed through the course of the war, and it was, indeed, the war that also exposed the inequities and inequalities of our own country and its systems. The military was segregated; any question of equality for people of color were shunted to the side or ignored for the “common good”, this despite the fact that they were all working just as hard for an American victory as the white people.

I’ve always felt the experience of the war was what eventually led to the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation/feminism movement, and the slow rise of the gay rights movement; which all came to a head in the 1960’s. Band of Brothers, well written, well cast, and well acted, depicts the segregation of the military in a way that is kind of sly–the entire cast is white people. That, of course, wasn’t the intent of the show in any way, shape or form; it was made at a time when all-white casts were pretty much the norm–and it’s sad how recent that time still is. But it is historically accurate; the military was segregated, and the perpetuation of this systemic racism came from high up in the command because there was a fear of how racist white people would react.

As always, the feelings of white people were paramount. I mean, how very dare the Pentagon force white people to serve with non-white people? 

Ugh.

I watched another episode yesterday, and then switched to another Hanks-Spielberg HBO series, The Pacific, which, obviously, is about the Pacific theater of the war, focusing on the Marine Corp First Division, which won the Battle of Guadalcanal against overwhelming odds. The Pacific is better, I think, than Band of Brothers, but there’s also a weirdly compelling plot line about two best friends from Alabama that I am reading as gay but probably isn’t. One of the best takeaways I am getting from both these series is, interestingly enough, again about the toxic American ideology of masculinity; seeing these men bonding through hellish circumstances and what they go through, and then being completely unable to express their love for one another–even if its just the love from friendship, not romantic–physically or verbally is heartbreaking.

There are times whenI just want them to embrace and hold each other…or to allow themselves to cry…but they always catch themselves and just give each other a firm handshake. This makes me think more about writing some essays about the American masculine ideal…but then think, Oh I am sure other people, more qualified than me, surely, have already explored all of this.

I’ve been having a lovely time on Twitter lately. Twitter is so associated in my mind with toxicity and trolling that it always comes as a pleasant surprise when I actually enjoy myself on there. But it’s a pleasant reminder of the social part of social media; remember when it used to be fun to go on social media? When the biggest complaints were joking about cat videos or dog memes or people’s meal pictures? So, going forward, I am going to try to make my Twitter feed as fun as possible, and encourage fun interactions.

And on that note, I think I best finish this off and do some chores around here while we still have power. I hope hope hope we don’t lose power…but it’s also rather lovely that losing power is right now the worst thing that I think may happen to us here in the Lost Apartment. I moved my car yesterday to an elevated parking garage to get it off the street in case of a repeat of Wednesday; will definitely check in later.

Happy Saturday, all.

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Dancing in the Moonlight

Friday morning, Barry eve. Paul and I, for those who are curious, are electing to stay rather than go. We may end up regretting that decision, but it’s not like it would be the first time we made a decision we wound up regretting deeply (hello, year in Washington).

It’s sunny yet cloudy outside this morning, giving the morning a weird, yellow-grayish tint to everything (sepia!). I am most likely going to venture out this morning at some point; I still need to fill the car with gasoline, and later I am also going to decide whether to take the precaution of parking in a garage somewhere in the CBD, to get the car above whatever possible floodwaters might be coming. There’s also some things I should pick up at the grocery store–although I imagine the candle and bread aisles have already been decimated. Paul and I both don’t have to go to work today, so we will undoubtedly end up watching a lot of television and getting caught up on our shows–we fell behind while he was at his mother’s. Moving the car to a garage might not be necessary, but I’d rather pay a daily parking rate somewhere than over a thousand dollars making my car operational again–or losing it entirely to water. If experience has taught me anything, getting a car operational after it gets flooded also means it never quite runs right again, and why risk it as I am getting so close to owning it outright?

It’s supposed to rain off and on all day today as Barry gets closer to shore. It’s getting darker even as I type this right now, and so I guess that means it’s getting ready to rain at any moment.

Yesterday was probably the most beautiful day of the summer; low eighties with little to no humidity, and a cool breeze. Wednesday I was pretty tired all day, and that kind of carried over into yesterday. I got nothing done–this entire week has been a bust for the most part, other than reading to edit some things I’ve already written–but maybe I can correct that a bit today. I don’t know, we shall see, won’t we? Right now I am feeling pretty good and well-rested and like I can get some stuff done–but where that will wind up, nobody knows.

Yesterday was also a lovely day for me on Twitter; that’s twice in the last week or so I’ve had an absolutely lovely day on social media. Twitter, and social media, can be lovely places to connect and reconnect and speak (albeit electronically) with friends; I’ve tried for a very long time to keep my social media upbeat and positive, rather than allowing myself to get sucked into the toxicity rampant on all social media sites. I have no desire to argue with anyone, about anything; no one has ever been convinced to change their minds by a social media argument. If anything, it seems to harden people against opposing views, so why even bother? My time and my patience and my emotional investments are limited, as is my energy, and I’d rather use all of them productively and positively, rather than trying to score points on people with opposing views that I find repugnant.

Yesterday, though, was lovely; what social media can be if we avoid toxicity. Alex Segura had been doing some gratitude posts there, thanking people who have helped, encouraged, and supported him on his journey as a crime writer (if you haven’t checked out his Pete Fernandez series, you simply MUST); I thought to myself, self, you really need to do the same thing, and so I started a tweet-thread in which I did the same; thanked people for their support and help and encouragement over the now near-twenty years of my writing career. I naturally forgot some people–there have been so many–and I was trying to do it as I went, but the responses turned out to be a lot of fun and people are still responding to that thread this morning. But the tweets and responses were a lot of fun, and almost every new notification brought yet another smile to my face, and made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (as opposed to the usual, in which I’m dead inside…KIDDING), and made me feel quite grateful; grateful for my career, grateful for the terrific people I’ve met along the way, grateful for all the help and encouragement and support. Writing can often feel like an incredibly lonely business; most of the time it’s just you and your computer screen and your imagination, typing away while going deep inside your own head. Social media has made it much easier for us to connect outside of the conferences, your Bouchercons and Malice Domestics and Left Coast Crimes and Tennessee Williams Festivals–and helps deepen the bonds formed at those events, and makes you look forward to seeing everyone at the next one. I am already looking forward to seeing everyone in Dallas at this year’s Bouchercon…which will be here sooner than I expect and will also wind up being over much sooner than it should be.

So, I am going to spend this morning trying to sort my kitchen again–it’s astonishing how quickly it gets out of order–and probably reading this book I need to write an introduction for soon. I also have some terrific new books: Clandestine by James Ellroy (which I want to read again); Paper Son by S. J. Rozan; Life After Life by Kate Atkinson; and The Ceremonies by T. E. D. Klein. I may also reread some short stories that need to be edited; I may even try to write on the WIP–but let’s not get too crazy or ahead of ourselves here.

So, I guess it’s time to start getting my act together this morning. Have a great day, Constant Reader; hopefully we’ll still have power at this time tomorrow.

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That Lady

Thursday, the aftermath of Wicked Weather Wednesday.

It looks beautiful outside, and it’s only eighty degrees this morning; it was also very cool after yesterday’s flooding thunderstorm. Barry,  should he turn into Barry, is projected to hit Saturday afternoon; the storm surge up the river is concerning. The river is already high and has been at flood stage for almost the entire year; the Army Corps of Engineers say the surge won’t overtop the levees initially, but now it seems there are some levees that may happen to–none around uptown New Orleans and my neighborhood, but further down river, like the lower 9th and some on the west bank. I’m not entirely certain I trust the Army Corps of Engineers, frankly; they also told us the levees wouldn’t fail due to Katrina. One would assume they’ve learned from their enormous mistakes, but then again…so I am not sure if we’re going to leave or not. I guess we’ll wait and see what happens with tomorrow. I hate waiting to the last minute like that, but I also don’t want to leave if it isn’t necessary.

This is the quandary we find ourselves in–it’s very easy for those who don’t live here to be critical of our decision-making processes down here when faced with a storm coming in; but when you haven’t been in that situation and you don’t live somewhere under constant threat of storms and flooding…you really don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about and please, have all the fucking seats.

I unfriended someone yesterday on Facebook for showing his stupid ass about New Orleans and flooding; it wasn’t someone I have ever met in person, and as a straight white male “author” (I used quotation marks because I’ve never read him or any of his books; I doubt seriously that a straight white male Yankee from a small rural town in New England sent me a friend request as a reader–more like it was a networking request, really) who also went ahead and admitted in the comments on his post that he’s never been to New Orleans and knows nothing about the city other than it floods periodically…yeah, go fuck yourself. His post was a link to an article about the flooding here, with his own editorialization of Keep insisting this place is livable, even though it’s so obviously not. What kind of idiot do you have to be to keep insisting on living somewhere this happens regularly?

I thought about pointing out that without the port of New Orleans, the entire Mississippi River waterways and tributaries would be closed to international commerce, including the oil that heats his stupid fucking house in Maine in the winter time; that shutting down the system would cause an economic and stock market crash, and the cost of some things–including bananas, coffee, and gasoline–would at the very least double; and the Midwestern farmers, already so heavily hit by tariffs and trade wars, would be ruined.

Does anyone remember what happened to the cost of gas after the one-two punch of Katrina and Rita interrupted the flow of oil?

And then I figured, why should I waste my time on a douchebag whom I don’t know, will never meet, and never convince? It was ever so much easier to simply unfriend and block the trash. So I did, and it felt glorious.

The river is both our lifeline and our curse.

I did take the time to explain to a friend yesterday that flooding in New Orleans does occur fairly regularly–yesterday’s seven to nine inches in less than three hours was more than the pumping system could handle; in fact, any city getting that much rain in that short a period of time would flood and they don’t have pumping systems like ours. The flood waters were gone within two hours of the rain stopping. The advent of social media and smart phones with cameras also has changed the way things are perceived; before social media and camera-phones a flood like yesterday’s would have been maybe a ninety-second segment on the news, perhaps a three minute segment on the 24 hour channels. Before Katrina, flooding in New Orleans wasn’t even news, really. Yesterday’s was unusual in that it was the first time since 1995 that my neighborhood actually took on flood water; the last flood, almost two years ago this August, we didn’t even have an inch of water on our street. But I flooded my car back in 1997 when I was caught in a flash flood when the city got five inches of rain in about an hour; there was an inch of water in the streets when I left work but by the time I got home Camp Street was a river. It cost me about $600 for my car to be operational again, and that car was never really the same again afterwards. I was incredibly lucky that the only available place to park when I got home Tuesday night was on the highest part of the street; the water didn’t get in my car but did in other cars on the street, including my neighbor in the front apartment’s car. It was very close, too–another inch or two and there would have been water inside my car.

Am I concerned about this weekend’s storm? Of course I am, and we never want it to flood here–but it’s not like this is unusual.

Ironically, the river in flood stage and a hurricane storm surge was something I wrote about in Bourbon Street Blues a million years ago; Scotty just mentioned it briefly in passing as a concern that the river was high and if a storm surge came up the river (ironically, before Katrina that was always the prime concern–no one worried about the storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain, which was what did us in); right now our plan is to stay put and probably move the car to the parking garage at Canal Place so I don’t have to worry about the car getting flooded–there’s going to be a lot of rain and I imagine our streets will repeat what happened yesterday morning.

It is really hard to imagine that Katrina was almost fourteen years ago. Sometimes it seems like yesterday, sometimes it seems like it was a different lifetime.

Yesterday I was emotionally drained and exhausted most of the day; I took my Snow Day/Flood Day very easy and didn’t do anything. I didn’t clean, I didn’t write, I didn’t even read–I just wasted most of the day interacting on social media and keeping an eye on the weather. I imagine the exhaustion was a form of leftover PTSD. It rears itself every once in a while, usually triggered by something like a flood event after a thunderstorm or the imminent arrival of a tropical storm of some sort–hey, hello, did you forget about me? Ha ha ha, still here!

But as I said, it’s sunny today–there are thunderstorms in the forecast for this evening, so on my way to the office today I’ll fill the tank with gas just in case–the lovely thing about owning a Honda now is that a full tank will ease any worries about running out of gas in case of an evacuation, whereas the gas-guzzling cars I evacuated in previously made that always an issue, and I think we have everything we need in the house in case, you know, we stay and there’s power outages and so forth. Perhaps another loaf of bread–I have charcoal so in a worst case scenario if we’re without power I can barbecue everything in the freezer–and hopefully tonight I’ll be settled in to get some writing or editing or reading done.

And now back to the spice mines.

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