Thursday morning and all is quiet and still in the Lost Apartment. Again, I didn’t want to get up this morning, but forced myself out–the constant whining from a hungry cat for the assist, seriously; he hasn’t shut up since I got up even though I have fed him–but that’s okay. I am taking tomorrow off because of Saints and Sinners, so being tired today is okay. I’m always tired by Thursday. I wasn’t that tired when I got home from work yesterday, so I was able to get some work done, which felt great–I also realized that after today I will be over halfway finished, with an end to the revisions in sight. It’s coming along very well and I’m quite pleased with it, and very happy I seem to have been able to get back into the groove after a very difficult period. I stopped by the post office to get the mail yesterday–some things I needed and ordered had arrived–and then came home to work for a glorious couple of hours before I started doing chores around here. I also watched the second episode of Ted Lasso, which I am still loving; I’ve seen some dissatisfaction on social media about the new (final) season; I have no quibbles or concerns with it so far. The show’s heart is still there, the character relationships are just as strong if not even more poignant, and I think they are taking us on a wonderful ride this final season. I love this show so much I don’t even wonder what’s going to happen or even speculate about it; I am more than content to simply enjoy the ride for what it is without looking ahead. (I don’t want to look ahead because I don’t want it to end.)
Tonight when I get off work I get to come home, do some more work on the book, and relax. Tomorrow I’ll move into the hotel for the night–I’m going to come home Saturday night to keep Scooter company, and then will commute back on Sunday before coming home in the evening. I also am probably going to try to do some organizing and cleaning before spending some quality time with Scooter in the easy chair. I also need to figure out what I am going to read from at the reading series on Saturday; but I can think about that tomorrow morning after I’ve slept in and feel a bit more rested than I do this morning. I slept pretty well last night; I pretty much slept through the entire night but I do remember waking up around one thirty in the morning before going back to sleep. But my coffee is jumpstarting my brain and body as I type this, and I am sure I shall make it through this day without a problem. I will probably just come straight home from work tonight; I can run errands tomorrow and get things done around the house before I head down to the hotel.
I’m looking forward to this weekend primarily to see people I’ve not seen in a hot minute. Some terrific crime writers are coming in for the weekend–Jean Redmann, Michael Nava, Cheryl Head, John Copenhaver, Marco Carocari, Shawn Cosby, and Kelly J. Ford, to name a few–and so am looking forward to seeing my crime fiction family as well as the other S&S regulars. I didn’t really do much last year because I was revising A Streetcar Named Murder, but this year I’ve managed to not be as far behind as I usually am at this time of year. (Make no mistake, though–I have a lot of catching up to do before May 1, believe you me.) Maybe when I get home tonight, after working, I can start reading something new. I haven’t decided on my next read yet, which is terrible since I finished reading my last book Sunday, and haven’t started anything new. I am almost finished with my years-long reading of Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, which has kind of turned into an Afghan War of sorts around the Lost Apartment; something that’s been going on forever with no end in sight. I think I am going to read something by David McCullough as my next major-length non-fiction read; either the Johnstown Flood or the Panama Canal one; I’ve not been able to decide but I think I have about another hundred pages or so of the Caro to go anyway so there’s plenty of time for me to decide.
I can’t believe March is almost over already, either.
I need to get my taxes done. Next weekend, for sure.
And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday. Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.
Tuesday and we survived Monday, Constant Reader–that has to count for something, doesn’t it? Actually, it wasn’t that bad, to be honest. I slept decently and woke up without problem with the alarm, and didn’t feel tired for most of the day. I had a highly productive day at the office, and then I came home and worked some more on the manuscript, which I am really starting to feel good about, believe it or not. I like my characters and I like the story, and I like that it isn’t set in either Uptown or the French Quarter or–where I always go–the Lower Garden District is always the default for me. This time out I set the book in the 7th Ward, on what we used to say was the “wrong side” of St. Claude (this is also the neighborhood where my office building is now, on Elysian Fields); even now people say this neighborhood is “unsafe”; and yes, we’ve had some instances where there was gunfire outside and we went into a code and locked down the office. Maybe I just have a false sense of security–which won’t change until something bad happens to me, as usual–but I never feel all that unsafe either going to or from my car before and after work. (I also love that realtors are trying to rebrand the neighborhood as ‘the new Marigny.” Um, no, it’s not and there’s no such thing as the ‘new Marigny.’)
I also slept well last night, which is great. I feel rested and relaxed this morning, but I also have to see clients today. I’ll probably be a bit tired when I get home tonight; seeing clients can drain you a bit, which is why I don’t see clients four days a week instead of three. I got some more work on the book done yesterday, and hope to get further along today as well–no relaxing until I get my work done tonight. I had a ZOOM meeting last night so I wasn’t able to get as much work done as i would have liked–still behind, of course, as always–but I am pretty happy with the work I am doing and how the manuscript is coming together, which is always lovely. I’m not hating the manuscript as I work on it, which is kind of a nice change, overall. Maybe I have finally gotten less self-loathing about my own work, after twenty-odd years? Nah, that can’t be it! Maybe I just feel centered for the first time in a long time? That is more likely.
It’s been a time, there’s no question about that. Mom’s health had been declining for years, so that was always weighing on the back of my mind, no matter how hard I tried to not think about it or even consider the possibilities inherent in recognizing that her health was failing; there was a pandemic and a dramatic shift/change in my day job; and of course I was doing a lot of volunteering around writing and trying to keep my authorial career going at the same time. I’m surprised I didn’t have more mental breakdowns over the last few years, in all honesty. It’s no wonder I was low energy, depressed, and tired all the time. There were paradigm shifts happening everywhere in my life, and I was completely unprepared for any of them, either physically or emotionally or intellectually. I don’t remember writing the books I wrote since the shutdown three years ago; Bury Me in Shadows, A Streetcar Named Murder, #shedeservedit–I remember the young adults because I’ve been working on them for years before I sold them; but the revision process? The editing? I don’t remember a fucking thing. I do worry some about how my brain works now; one thing that has definitely happened over the last three years is a complete loss of remembering how to deal with the ADHD, so focusing is a lot harder than it used to be. I don’t know if that’s related to the ten-day COVID I had last summer, or if it’s because of all the changes and shifts, or maybe it’s even a combination of all those things. I don’t know, but I know I haven’t been functioning at full brain capacity for quite some time now, and I am starting to feel normal (or what passes for that around here) for the first time in a long time. More like myself, I should say, rather than normal; I’ve always taken great pride in not being normal–once I accepted it.
But I also don’t remember much of my life post-Katrina, either; there are years after Katrina that are foggy memories, if that. It shouldn’t come as a surprise (or a shock) that things that occur during times of trauma and stress don’t go into the permanent memory bank (which isn’t as big and powerful as it used to be). I should be used to it by now, right? But I don’t think you ever get used to traumatic events, and your brain just figures out the easiest way to get through it all without causing more trauma, and if that means not remembering things that happen, well, who am I to question how my twisted brain works and functions?
I’m just glad it’s still functioning, really, even if it is all over the place.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later.
Sunday morning rolling around like a marble in the Mousetrapgame–do they still sell that? We never had that game when we were kids–I remember having Clue, Monopoly, Life, and Chinese checkers, but never Mousetrap. We were a game family, often playing cards–Rook, Hearts, Spades, and Pinochle were enormous favorites within the family–and much later adding Uno and Trivial Pursuit (although no one will pay Trivial Pursuit anymore because I always win; and have even won on my first turn). Yesterday was kind of a lovely day, overall; I slept deeply and late, got up and did some things around the apartment; soaked my toe and slathered topical gel over it all day; read Bobby Mathews’ quite marvelous Living the Gimmick for a while, and worked. (Bobby’s book is really good, y’all) The work wasn’t easy but it also wasn’t difficult; in fact, I was kind of enjoying myself, which for me is lovely and encouraging. I do have to run out to the grocery store at some point today, but I’m not going to get terribly worked up and/or upset about it. I slept decently last night; I feel rested this morning but managed to get up early and am hoping that today will be a good, productive one.
The Lefty Awards were given out last night in Tucson: I lost Best Humorous to Ellen Byron and her delightful Bayou Book Thief; Kellye Garrett won Best Novel for Like a Sister; Wanda Morris won Best Historical for Anywhere You Run; and Ramona Emerson won Best Debut for Shutter. Congratulations to everyone! It was both a thrill and a surprise to be nominated in the first place, completely unexpected, and just a bit sad that the “race” is over. I can’t imagine being nominated another time, to be honest, but am very grateful for everyone who included A Streetcar Named Murder.
I still get to enjoy being an Agatha nominee for another month, though.
Yesterday was pretty good, over all. I did get a lot done, and I was pleased with the work I got done. I’m feeling a lot better these days about everything, really; it’s hard for me to explain but it feels like I’ve been operating on autopilot since even before the pandemic started; like there was a dark cloud inside my head that I somehow managed to get things done, but it was harder than it used to be. I don’t feel like that dark cloud is there anymore, at least not since last weekend, and it’s delightful to be free of that whatever-it-was. Depression and anxiety, most likely; I know I’ve been worrying about Mom in the back of my mind for years now, and I still kind of tense up when I get a text message alert from my phone. I guess a lot of that worry has now transferred over to Dad, but he’s healthy–or at least has been so far. The grief comes and goes still–far less frequently than before–but it still happens from time to time that I’ll get a bit overwhelmed and have to go withdraw from the world for a while.
While I was waiting for Paul to get home and after I had finished working for the day, I decided to watch a movie instead of just endless scrolling through social media and looking for things on Youtube to watch. I couldn’t remember if I had seen Uncharted or not; I like Tom Holland and still kind of enjoy Mark Wahlberg (while admitting that he’s probably not a great person–it’s complicated), so I queued it up and started watching. As I watched, I began remembering things from it, so I had seen it before, just didn’t remember it. It didn’t take long for me to start punching holes in the plot/story, and I remembered that it became so far-fetched that I didn’t enjoy it. I was about forty-three minutes into it when I gave up; the entire premise that Magellan had a fortune in gold that somehow got lost (he didn’t; he didn’t stay anywhere long enough to amass such a treasure) was simply taken for granted without explanation; that’s the legend so we just don’t question it. Props for using an actual historical figure to give it more authenticity, but…it also lost me. We watched the SEC Gymnastics championships (LSU came in third, but it really was a matter of tenths of points), then finished watching Servant, which was interesting and different and strange and very well done before catching this week’s The Mandalorian, which wasn’t a particularly good one. I’m not feeling this season, to be honest; and of course the best part–Baby Yoda–hasn’t really had much to do except just kind of be there.
Such a shame about Uncharted, really. I love treasure hunts, but they are so rarely (outside of Indiana Jones and Romancing the Stone) featured in good movies that I’m always a little hesitant to watch one. I still want to do my Colin treasure hunt book sometime, but God only knows when. The Festivals are this week, so Paul will be moving into the Monteleone Hotel on Wednesday, most likely, and I’ll probably go down there on Friday. I’m going to have to commute, which isn’t going to be easy–the limping toe, for example–so we don’t have to board Scooter, and means I will probably be exhausted by the end of the weekend. So be it, seriously. I definitely need to make a to-do list today; I’ve been operating without one for quite some time and I think it’s necessary for me going forward to stay on track with everything,
And on that note, I am going to read some more Bobby Mathews while my coffee continues to warm me up. I have some chores to do around the house (as always) and I am going to run over to the Fresh Market at some point to get some things (not entirely sure what is needed, to be honest, with Paul going away on Wednesday), and so I must be busy and productive today. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.
Well, it definitely is not gout, Constant Reader. The antibiotic cream prescribed by my doctor has made a remarkable difference with my toe since I started using it yesterday; this morning it isn’t even reddish anymore and bending it hardly is noticeably painful. AH, modern medicine, and sorry I doubted you, Doctor. I did get tired eventually last evening; shortly after finally finishing yesterday’s post I repaired to my easy chair where I watched a few more episodes of Netflix’ The Movies That Made Us, primarily the ones about Friday the 13th, Aliens, and Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s always somewhat lovely to revisit pop culture of the 1980’s, even though it was mostly a pretty shitty decade overall. The difference between 80’s movies and 70’s cinema was dramatic, as I learned during my Cynical 70’s Film Festival back during the early days of the pandemic when I was making hundreds of condom packs every day sitting in my living room during what I was never completely convinced weren’t the end times.
I do have some more cleaning and straightening up to do around here today around working on my book. Yes, I am definitely digging into the book today. I slept like the dead last night, and even stayed up later than usual (Paul came home before I went to bed) and slept an extra hour later this morning being a lag-a-bed until nine (the horror!). I’m feeling very well rested this morning on all three planes of existence–physical, emotional, intellectual–so it should be a great and highly productive day. It’s cold this morning–in the forties outside–and yesterday I had to turn the air on because it was stuffy in here and the clothes weren’t drying. Turn the air conditioning on and cool it down a couple of degrees and it made a significant difference. (I’m always interested in that weird range of temperature where it’s really not hot enough to need the air conditioning, but the air is thick enough so that clothes won’t dry unless it’s colder and the damp is taken out of the air; I also always sleep best on the night that I launder the bed linens) But I am going to have some coffee, do some straightening up here in the office, maybe read for an hour or so, and then get cleaned up and parked at my desk for however long I can stand it today. My coffee is tasting pretty marvelous this morning too; always a plus and always a good sign.
I also spent some time last night revisiting Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet in what was probably the first time in about thirty years, which is kind of terrifying when you think about it. I discovered Russo back in the day when I was discovering the rich culture and heritage of my community, when I was venturing into gay bookstores and had started reading the gay papers and magazines in search of my people and some sort of definition of what it meant to be a gay man in the United States at that time. The Russo book was the first seminal text in critiquing the entertainment industry and its participatory role in enforcing the homophobic standards of the times (if not helping to create those standards by the erasure of queer people and themes in entertainments). Russo set out to show how Hollywood’s erasure, or stereotypic rendering, of queer people served to enforce those social dynamics and mores that were suppressing our community and relegating those who identified as members of that community as outsiders, a lower caste, and separate from the dominant culture. I’d love to see a popular nonfiction version of Russo’s work that focuses on representation in crime fiction; I have neither the research skills nor the patience to write such a book myself. One of the things I enjoyed the most about the Russo book was finding out what films had queer content erased from their original source material; like the film Crossfire, about anti-Semitism in the military, was based on a book called The Brick Foxhole, which was about homophobia in the military; the murder victim wasn’t a Jewish soldier but a gay one. The alcoholic Ray Milland won an Oscar for playing in the film of The Lost Weekend drank because he had writer’s block; in the book he drank because he couldn’t handle his homosexuality in a homophobic society. The mini-series made from Dress Gray saved the reveal of the dead cadet’s sexuality for a plot twist at the end; in Lucien Truscott IV’s novel it was right there, revealed on page one and treated, really, throughout the entire book as not a particularly big deal (I’ve been meaning to reread Dress Gray; it was one of the few books I read as a teenager that didn’t treat homosexuality as a hideous moral failing, a massive sin, and/or something just revolting and disgusting, just as I’ve been meaning to reread Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline–you just know there had to be a queer or two at Carolina Military Institute).
I also remember discovering queer mysteries for the first time at the gay bookstore in Tampa, and thinking you’ve always wanted to write mysteries, why don’t you write them with gay characters and themes? And thus the seed was planted–by Michael Nava, Richard Stevenson, and Steve Johnson–that grew into my becoming a gay mystery writer in every sense of the term: I’m gay, I’m a gay writer, and I write gay mysteries.
So, that’s where my mind was last night; thinking about the very limited queer rep I’d been exposed to as a reader growing up and how discovering gay fiction by gay writers about gay life and experiences–books–essentially changed my life and the trajectory of my writing. I think my writing began to improve when I started writing what I knew–the tired old trope of write what you know–because I was writing about my truths and experiences and feelings about being a gay man in a homophobic country; that was how I found authenticity and truth in my writing, and was able to extrapolate that outward into writing about other lives, other people, other experiences.
And of course, the Lefty Award banquet is tonight. I’m cheering on my friends and fellow nominees from afar. It’s a pleasure and a thrill to be nominated for Best Humorous Mystery; I never expected in a million years to ever be nominated for a Lefty and then it happened, so A Streetcar Named Murder continues on as my “first” of many things. I’m not sure which of the other four nominees will have their name called tonight, but it’s an honor to lose to any of my fellow nominees. (I also never thought I’d be nominated for an Agatha, and yet here we are; I’ve been having a hell of a twelve month period, am I not? Two Anthony nominations, a Lefty, and an Agatha; who’s a lucky Gregalicious?)
And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee and go curl up for a bit with a book for a little reading pleasure this morning before I go to work. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.
Sunday morning in the Lost Apartment and I slept well–I wanted to stay in bed for another few hours, but got up anyway and am now sitting in my kitchen remembering that there was a time change and it’s actually later than I thought. Sigh. So I didn’t get up early after all, did I? I hate Daylight Savings Time and wish we could do away with it once and for all; didn’t Congress take this up last year or something, and didn’t it look like this pointless time change was going to be a thing of the past, or was that merely a fever dream brought on by the pandemic or something?
Yesterday wound up being a wasted day for me. I had some things to do yesterday morning that had to be done–some emails I’d been putting off because I knew they would be triggering, and I was right. I’m still not certain the most important one was worded correctly or the right thing to say at all, but when I finally finished it–it took me several hours to compose it and myself–I was emotionally drained and in a grief spiral, so I decided to spend some time with Scooter sleeping in my lap to make me feel better. I wound up actually drained and exhausted and fatigued, so I simply stayed there. Paul didn’t go into the office yesterday (he is going today) and we finally spent some time together last night, getting caught up on Servant (which is really phenomenal; Lauren Ambrose doesn’t get near the credit as an actress that she should; there’s a scene in the second to last episode–the series finale is this Friday–that can be Ms. Ambrose’s Emmy reel; the scene where her husband and brother finally come clean with the secret they’ve been keeping from her since the first episode is a master class in acting, and it’s all done with her facial expressions, and it’s a tour-de-force), and then the first episode of Outer Banks. We were both getting sleepy, so we put on a true crime documentary series (Two Shallow Graves, which is quite interesting; we figured if we fell asleep it would be okay because we could rewatch it if necessary without necessarily spoiling anything) and finally repaired to bed (later) than I thought it was (stupid time change), which is already throwing me off this morning.
I am still digesting Cheryl A. Head’s marvelous Time’s Undoing, which I finished yesterday morning and greatly enjoyed. I was hoping to spend some time with my next read this morning….but I’ve already lost an hour. Maybe instead of reading this morning, I’ll finish this and get cleaned up and write for a few hours before curling up with a good book later on this afternoon. Paul is going to see his trainer this morning and then to the office, so he’ll be out of my hair for most of the day so I should be able to get a lot of editing and so forth done, as well as some planning for future writing. There’s also always cleaning and filing to get done; yesterday after the depression set in was pretty much a wasted day. But I’m not going to beat myself up over the lost day; it is what it is and nothing I can do now can ever change that, so I am going to be kind to myself and recognize that, while still disappointing, there’s a significant difference between deciding to be lazy and blow off the entire day as opposed to being so overwhelmed that you can’t do anything. (This being kind to myself thing I am trying this year is such an outlook change that it’s not reflexive and I always have to process myself into it; maybe at some point it will become reflexive and…yeah, I don’t see it becoming reflexive any time soon)
Oh, yes, and the Oscars are on tonight. My interest in awards shows has declined as I’ve gotten older; sometimes I wonder if my gradual growing antipathy for awards shows I used to look forward to when I was younger has anything to do with my own eligibility for awards since getting published? Don’t get me wrong; I don’t object to awards by any means, but they also aren’t why I do what I do. It’s always nice to be recognized, especially by your peers and especially when you’ve always felt like an outsider rather than a peer. But while winning an Oscar (or even being nominated) can change a film industry member’s career for the better, do book awards make a difference to someone’s career if they aren’t the National Book Award or the Pulitzer Prize? I do think it’s important to recognize excellence in the field, but awards are just as subjective as anything else, and when an award is decided by a panel of judges..well, a different panel of judges might not come up with the exact same shortlist and winner, either. It isn’t like you can campaign to win an Edgar–but there are awards for mystery novels that you can campaign for, and the campaigning always makes me uncomfortable. In the beginning, I hated asking people for votes and wouldn’t do it. Then I started adding my eligible stuff to Gabriel Valjan’s awards-eligibility lists, which he compiles every year for every award as their nominations period open up.
Last year was the first time I actually made a little announcement on social media that hey, Bury Me in Shadows is eligible for the Anthony for Best PBO because there wasn’t a children’s/young adult category on the ballot. A second ballot was sent out at the almost last-minute because they’d inadvertently left that category off the ballot, so…figuring I didn’t have a prayer at a Best PBO nomination, I asked people to write me in on their ballot for y/a. IMAGINE my shock to wind up nominated in both categories (I lost both, PBO to Jess Lourey and Y/A to Alan Orloff; it’s lovely to lose to friends because you can be happy for them rather than disappointed at losing–losing to someone you don’t like or respect is an entirely different situation); so this year I figured I had nothing to lose by asking for votes–and wound up nominated for a Lefty for A Streetcar Named Murder and an Agatha for #shedeservedit, so go figure, you know?
Another reason I stopped caring or watching the Oscars is because they’ve become so predictable in every category in every year that there are no fun surprises, or if there are any, they are so few and far-between that watching become tedious (although one delightful surprise was Olivia Colman’s win for The Favourite a few years ago); but there doesn’t seem to be a clear cut winner in every category this year, even though I will go out on a limb and predict Oscars for Brendan Fraser (everyone loves a comeback story), Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan (another comeback story), and Jamie Lee Curtis. The two actresses will not only be rewarded for their work in the film but also for lengthy, glorious careers that have never been recognized before; while the two men are feel-good comeback stories. I’ve not seen Everything Everywhere All At Once, but I do think it’s trending to win everything. (If I had to chose, Barry Keoghan probably deserves an award for The Banshees of Inisherin; to me his was the strongest performance in a film I really disliked.)
And on that note, I am going to get another cup of coffee and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check back in with you later.
It’s literally amazing how much stuff fell by the wayside over the last couple of weeks, really. I realized yesterday that it was already the 26th and thought how can that be? Mom just died on Valentine’s Day–twlve days ago? But I went to the office the rest of that week and drove over for the funeral last weekend, and then I was on bereavement leave and worked at home–the Fat Tuesday holiday fell in the midst of my leave–and today I am going back into the office, which feels like a step in the right direction towards normalcy, of a sort. Life does goes on, and as I’ve moped around this last week, it also kind of feels like I’ve been in a fog of sorts for quite some time. I should be used to this sort of thing, as it always happens with a paradigm shift–like how the weekend before Katrina we’d gone to Hammond to celebrate my birthday and had a great time…and while we were evacuated, that seemed like was a different life, a different world, and even happened to different people. Murder in the Magic City/Murder on the Menu seems like it was months ago. And hadn’t I just turned in the manuscript that week before I left, with plans to get back on it as soon as I recovered from that trip? Then Mom had her stroke and everything went up into the air, and now I’m trying to find all the balls I dropped somewhere that I had been somehow managing to keep up in the air.
Yesterday was a gorgeous day; it was eighty degrees when I made groceries and gassed up the car. I kept the toe elevated and iced for most of the rest of the day while I read more of Abby Collette’s marvelous Body and Soul Food–which I am really enjoying–and then around five gave up on everything for the rest of the day. I printed out a short story I need to read to see if I can revise it into something that I can turn in for this anthology I’ve committed a story to, and of course I have to dive back into the manuscripts. I have to write something for Paul for Saints and Sinners; and I think I may have agreed to write something else? I need to do thank you cards and I need to mail the books to the winners of the Facebook page takeover giveaway that I did. I need to check in on my dad and sister, and of course at some point this week the fuse for the dryer is going to arrive so I can see if I can get that working again (prayers are appreciated and welcomed; not having a dryer has really sucked). I also ordered some other things I need. I just feel like I don’t have a grasp yet on my own life, and I don’t really like the way it feels. It’s almost like I am swimming through a fog, and things I used to easily remember and keep track of now just go right out of my mind like they were never there in my head in the first place. I don’t like this feeling; I don’t like not being able to trust my memory anymore–but even now as I write this I am wondering hasn’t this been the case for a while? Isn’t that why you started making lists in the first place–because if you didn’t write it down you’d forget?
I can’t even trust my memory about my memory. There’s a Kafka novel in there somewhere.
I’m also more aware of how quickly I tire now, too. I know that’s been going on for a while–since last summer’s horrific bout with Long COVID–but I am hoping that once I get back into the gym I will start building up my endurance again, and I also have to accept that it won’t be quick and my body won’t change at the speed that it used to. For one example, I was overweight when I moved back to New Orleans in August of 2001; I’d lost twenty pounds and tightened up everything by Halloween so I could wear a slutty costume. I’m not going to be able to return to the gym and be able to dress slutty again within eight weeks. (Not that I would dress slutty now–I’m in my sixties, for God’s sake, and I don’t care whether people think I look good or not anymore. It was never the priority of the gym for me in the first place. Yes, I liked looking good and yes, I liked getting flirted with and hit on, but for me that was a nice side effect to having the endurance to dance for hours, or feeling good physically.
God, I used to be so vain! I don’t really miss vanity, though.
One of the things I was working on before Mom had the final stroke was building a website–just something to play around with when I have time (ha ha ha ha ha, sure, Greg, that’s going to happen) and of course, that was the same fucking day I got the text from my sister, so I’ve not done a whole hell of a lot there, you know? I did get the domain registered, and I loaded a picture as well as info on A Streetcar Named Murder, but it’s going to take me some more time to learn how to do all the things I want it to do.
Because I am just swimming in free time.
I’m a bit groggy this morning, mainly because I am out of the habit of waking up to the alarm now–it actually jolted me awake, as opposed to me already being awake when it goes off, which means a retraining of myself yet again as this does not feel natural to me. It feels weird having to go back to the office this morning, as well. My toe’s not quite as painful this morning, either–it still hurts, mind you, but I can walk without limping and it’s not as bad as it has been, which is progress. I am still going to message my doctor today, though. We’ll see how it feels at the end of the day, won’t we? I suppose I can always ice it again once I am home tonight.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have the best Monday you can, Constant Reader.
Happy Mardi Gras! Everywhere else it’s just Tuesday.
I was exhausted yesterday, and essentially useless. Scooter demanded a lap almost as soon as I got home, and apparently he missed me. I collapsed into my easy chair, he climbed into my lap and started purring as well as making biscuits before curling up and sleeping (and purring in his sleep), which was comforting and relaxing at the same time. I finally slept last night, and feel more human and Greg-like this morning than I have in a while. The bed felt wonderful, especially this morning, and i really would have been more than delighted and happy to have stayed in bed for another few hours. But I agreed to do a Facebook page takeover this morning to promote A Streetcar Named Murder (what better way to do promo for a New Orleans book than on Fat Tuesday?) several months ago, and at the time I didn’t know what the future held for this year’s Carnival for me and my family. I would imagine the neutral ground on St. Charles is crowded with parade-goers already; it was already a zoo on the neutral ground yesterday when I got home. I knew we would most likely be taking today as a holiday and not going anywhere or doing anything to celebrate, figuring we would be exhausted by Fat Tuesday and staying in to recover. I am out on bereavement leave from work until Friday, which is nice, and I will probably begin the process of figuring out where I am with things and digging out from under (my email inbox is out of control; I had it under control until a few weeks ago), and making groceries and getting organized. It’ll be nice to be home this weekend after three weekends in a row away. I’ve driven almost three thousand miles over the last three weekends, and my poor car is probably wondering what the fuck at this point.
But it’s good to be home, good to be feeling like myself again, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done around here. I really let everything slide these last few weeks–don’t even want to think about how much filing there is to do, and organizing–and of course, the kitchen/office is a total mess as always. I’d started making progress on the gradual thorough clean of the apartment I’d planned as a New Year’s goal before everything went up into the air; I’m not sure where I left off but do know that it won’t kill me if I simply start over again. I’d really like things to be neat and tidy (another of my mother’s legacies) so I can get to work on my manuscript editing that I am so terribly behind on. I also have a short story to write. So basically I have the rest of this week off to get my shit together before my work-at-home Friday and then my first weekend at home since January. I am going to probably do some bits and pieces around here today but after the Facebook page takeover thing I think I am simply going to spend the rest of the day relaxing and resting and recovering and hopefully regaining my equilibrium. I started listening to Tara Laskowski’s One Night Gone in the car yesterday after finishing The Other Mother, and I’m going to probably dedicate some time to reading more of it today. Just looking around this morning as I write this and sip my oh-so-delicious coffee I made for myself this morning (I do laugh at myself and how particular I’ve become about things I like, like my morning coffee; it’s never the same when I have to get hotel coffee or make it in one of those little coffee maker things they have in some hotel rooms). I need to take out the trash and put dishes away before cleaning out the sink again and running another load through the dishwasher. I also need to figure out what to do about our dryer situation; I’m going to try to fix it myself before giving up and buying a new one.
My toe is still slightly painful this morning, but I can walk on it without either wincing or limping so I consider that a victory. I’m going to wrap it again this morning as well as ice it and keep it elevated (hence the day in my chair reading Tara’s marvelous book); tomorrow is going to be errands day (which will require lists, and we all know how much I love a good to-do list) and probably laundry and other chores, and I’ll also probably start digging into the editorial process with my two manuscripts. I would also like to start back to the gym for stretching and cardio soon; maybe even go to some yoga classes, which can also help me with focus and relaxation. I need to start taking better care of myself; eating better, dropping some weight, getting some exercise, and so forth; it will make me feel better physically and mentally; and of course, I now have the great joy of audiobooks for the treadmill, elliptical, and stationary bike. I also have to accept that my work schedule may never go back to what it used to be, and the rest of my working life before retirement is going to be this schedule that I’ve been working now for months.
But I feel better about almost everything this morning–amazing what a good night’s sleep will do for you–and I know grief will sucker-punch me again at least a few more times–but I think I’ve achieved acceptance at last, which is a start to healing. I know I’ll never get over losing Mom, but I think I am starting down the path of learning to live with the loss.
One step at a time, one day at a time, one task at a time.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Fat Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later–I need to write up The Other Mother–and thank you again for all the kindness.
Well, I forgot my power cord in New Orleans, so have been trying to use this laptop as sparingly as possible so that I can at least get this posted before I head to Wetumpka this morning for Murder on the Menu. Today was nice; the Homewood Library always has a nice turnout for the panels, people bought my books and were very lovely to me–always a plus–and I got to spend some more time with friends I don’t get to see very often, like Dean James and Erica Spindler (name-dropping!) and I also got to spend time getting to know Debra Goldstein and Christopher Swann better, and I got to spend some time with Bobby Mathews, whom I met briefly at Bouchercon this last fall. He’s quite funny, and I picked up his Working the Gimmick, a pro wrestling noir! How fun is that? And since one of my in-progress projects is a pro-wrestling adjacent gay noir, I’m kind of looking forward to reading it! I am going to listen to Carol Goodman on the drive to Wetumpka (The Night Visitors), and when I finish it–probably about halfway between Wetumpka and New Orleans, I will switch over to Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game, which I am also looking forward to. I’ve also been writing lots of notes and ideas in my journal during yesterday’s panels. Alas, after mine today I am departing back to New Orleans because I do need to get home–parades start next weekend, so I really need to start preparing for the coming limitations on running errands that is the inevitable and unenviable result of parade season.
I did sleep really well Friday night–the key is that even if I am now in that partial sleep that is the bane of my existence, my body and mind are resting, which makes such a difference. My Fitbit does actually monitor my sleep; the goal is to always have a sleep score of 80 or higher; I think there’s only been one night since I came home from New York where the score wasn’t over eighty, and usually it’s averaging in the high eighties, which is great and not very common for me. I slept really well again last night–at least, rested well; not sure how deep the sleep actually was but the rest was lovely.
I did not manage to finish this entry this morning. The battery in my laptop did indeed die as I was typing (I’d managed to save it as I watched the battery very quickly evaporate once it got to 15% charge) and now I am home. Today I had a lovely drive to Wetumpka, and the panel and signings and stuff there went well. We managed to sell thirty (!) copies of A Streetcar Named Murder, which was very pleasant and a very pleasant surprise. I really love Wetumpka, and the folks there seem to really love me, too. They are absolutely lovely, they read my books and like them, what a pleasant surprise, you know? Small town Alabama–who knew that was my sweet spot?
I am home now and very tired. The drive home was smooth–and I did start Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game before I got to Mobile (the Goodman novel is fantastic; more on that later), and I am really enjoying the Ware as well. I really want to set a book in Wetumpka–I have a Ruth Ware kind of idea for a book to be set there, and I have a cozy idea that could easily work in a town like Wetumpka. Although the Wetumpkans may not like what I may do to their town….LOL. But the more I listen to/read Carol Goodman and Ruth Ware, the more I think I want to write something more along those lines, too. That’s me, the sponge; anything I read that I also enjoy I always wind up wanting to write something in that style. The 70’s book that I am thinking about–I almost have the title down–is also something entirely different than what I’ve written before or want to write in the future, which of course makes me want to write it all the more. But this week I need to start tearing manuscripts apart and stitching them back together, getting these other two books finished so I can get back to the others I want to write, so I can then write the 70s book. (I am resisting the urge to start writing it, you have no idea how hard it is to resist that urge, especially with that little voice in my head whispering you can always start editing the manuscripts next week why not take this week to get it started which is how this stuff always winds up getting out of hand. I also think that my creativity sometimes gets a bit over-stimulated when I do events like this.
But what a problem to have, right?
And on that note, I am going to go start digging out from under everything that has piled up since I left Friday afternoon. Have a lovely rest of your evening, Constant Reader!
I always forget this when I am asked about major influences on my life, writing, and career–but probably the biggest influence on me was the television soap Dark Shadows.
“My name is Victoria Winters…”
So began the first episode, with young heroine Victoria speaking over some rather spooky music, usually with a background scene of a light in the window at the great house of Collinwood in the fog, or waves crashing against the beach, or the family cemetery, or even the Old House.
Dark Shadows is probably the root or seed from which Bury Me in Shadows was grown from, now that I think about it more. A haunted old house, an even older house in ruins nearby in the woods that was the original family home, ghosts and secrets from the past–oh yes, the framework is absolutely there, and it never even occurred to me.
When my sister and I were kids, we moved to Chicago from Alabama. I was about two years old, give or take; I don’t remember moving up there nor do I remember ever living in Alabama; my sister was two years older. My parents both got jobs–the point of the move was for climbing the economic ladder; they both got really good jobs in factories while my dad finished his degree. But because they both worked (our friends and neighbors all felt sorry for us because our mom had to work; their moms all were housewives), we needed to be watched while they weren’t home. Our landlady recommended a woman down the street–a mother of six whose two youngest were in their last years of high school–and so we started spending our days with Mrs. Harris, who fed us breakfast and lunch, and Mom would pick us up on her way home from the bus stop. When we started school, we went there for breakfast and lunch but came home after school; school let out at 3:15 and Mom was usually home by 3:30. But it was Mrs. Harris–and my grandmother, who worked a night shift–who got me started watching soaps in the first place. One Life to Life and General Hospital sort of held my attention, but it was Dark Shadows I couldn’t wait for. I used to run home from school to try to catch the last five or ten minutes during school; it wasn’t a problem during the summer.
I loved Dark Shadows.
I was crushed when it was canceled.
I mean, look at that house!!!!
The show wasn’t canceled, although the ratings were starting to slide a bit in the later years. The truism that Dark Shadows‘ producers and writers discovered is one that practically every other continuing series having to deal with the supernatural and supernatural creatures has had to deal with: how do you keep topping yourself and raising the stakes? True Blood, Supernatural, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and countless others have all run headfirst into that wall. Once you’ve done time travel and vampires and witches and werewolves and Frankenstein and other dimensions, what is left to do? I admire them for pulling the plug rather than getting more and more desperate to get the ratings up and eventually damaging the legacy of the show.
The show was a phenomenon the likes of which had never really been seen before in daytime–and the lesson learned from its success (go for the young audience!) would soon lead to the creation of youth-oriented shows like All My Children and The Young and the Restless–and of course in the mid-1970’s soaps would be forever changed when General Hospital introduced the character of teenager Laura Webber, played by an actual teenager, Genie Francis–and daytime was never the same. But Dark Shadows managed something that other soaps hadn’t–they created teen idols. Jonathan Frid as Barnabas, David Selby as Quentin, and even David Hennessey as David Collins were often on the covers of teen magazines like Tiger Beat and 16. The show even licensed FAN FICTION–a series of books based on the characters from the show, but thanks to all the fun stuff with time travel and parallel dimensions, Dark Shadows was perfect for spin-off books that took place in other Dark Shadows universe; one could even say Dark Shadows was one of the first shows to make use of a multi-verse.
The books were cheap–as you can see in the picture above (a copy sent to me by a friend with whom I bonded over our mutual love of the show) they ran between fifty cents and seventy-five cents a copy; they all had that same gold bordered cover with an oval image of characters from the show, and they were all written by “Marilyn Ross”, which was a pen name for a very prolific Canadian author named William Edward Daniel Ross; he wrote over three hundred novels during his career, and Marilyn Ross was the name he used for Gothics–and the Dark Shadows books. (He also wrote as Clarissa Ross, and I read some of those novels as well, including The Spectral Mist.) They also weren’t particularly well written, and while they did take place outside the show’s continuity, there were also moments in some of them that didn’t make sense; in one of them, in which Barnabas shows up at Collinwood in the 1910’s, the only son of the family dies in a tragic accident…but if he was the only son, where did the present day Collinses come from? (The earlier books were told from the perspective of Victoria Winters, and in some cases the gimmick was some member of the family was telling Victoria a story about the family history.)
That’s the kind of shit that drives me insane.
But I remember when one of the off-brand television channels in Chicago (not affiliated with a major network) started running repeats of Dark Shadows from the very beginning when we lived in the suburbs in the evenings while the networks ran the evening news–guess what I was watching instead? Yup, Dark Shadows. (I always found it interesting, too, that the young actress who played Victoria Winters originally–Alexandra von Moltke–eventually became infamous as Klaus von Bulow’s mistress Alexandra Isles, who was, in the prosecutor’s theory, the reason Klaus injected Sunny with enough insulin to induce the coma from which she never woke up. But I digress.
I always wanted to write a vampire story similar to that of Barnabas Collins; I have an entire idea for a rural Louisiana version called Bayou Shadows that I’ve tinkered with off and on since the early 1990’s…but then Charlaine Harris started the Sookie Stackhouse series, which was essentially the same thing. I still might write about Bayou Shadows–the town called that has popped up from time to time in my books about New Orleans and Louisiana; most recently in A Streetcar Named Murder, actually–and if people think I’m ripping off Charlaine, so be it.
I’ll know that I’m really ripping off Dark Shadows.
The show also spawned two feature films, Night of Dark Shadows and House of Dark Shadows, each featuring one of the show’s leading men, Jonathan Frid and David Selby, respectively; the first did far better than the second. The show was revived in prime time for a single season in the late 1980’s; I watched it and loved it, of course–even got Paul to watch when it became available on DVD and I rewatched. I wish that show had been given more of a chance, because it was really quite good, and I was curious to see where the story went from that first season. It also had an excellent cast, including Hammer Film star Barbara Steele as Dr. Julia Hoffman. I did watch the Tim Burton film from this century, which had some clever moments but wasn’t quite as good; it went for the silly parody thing The Brady Bunch movies of the 1990’s did, but it didn’t land. The actress who played villainess Angelique in the original series, Lara Parker, has also written some Dark Shadows novels (I have copies but haven’t read them; I really should). Kathryn Leigh Scott, who played the original Maggie Evans on the soap (and in the first film) also has written novels; she was at Long Beach Bouchercon, where I met her and got a signed copy of her book Down and Out in Beverly Heels. She was lovely and couldn’t have been nicer; I really should read that book someday.
I’ve had Dark Shadows on my mind lately because I bonded with Carol Goodman at Bouchercon over our mutual love of Dark Shadows, and the Scotty book still in draft form takes place mostly in a rural parish outside of New Orleans; not the same parish where Bayou Shadows is located, but the next one over.
Sometimes I think it would be fun to reboot the show again, retelling the original story, or picking up from where the television series ended, or even doing a new generation, some forty years later, with David Collins as an adult with children and so forth…Carol and I have joked about coming up with a concept and trying to sell it and be the showrunners…which would be a dream.
It’s a rainy gray morning here in New Orleans–which explains a little further why I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, as there is nothing more comfortable than being buried in blankets in a warm bed while it rains outside. Scooter was even snoring when I finally decided I couldn’t be a lag-a-bed much longer. I have writing to do–so much writing to do–and of course, the kitchen is an utter disaster area this morning. I’ve also been so focused on getting the writing done that I didn’t order groceries for pick-up today; which I may do once I am finished with this entry. I am going to Alabama on Friday for Murder in the Magic City as well as Murder on the Menu in Wetumpka on Sunday, so no groceries will be made this coming weekend. I could just order something for pick-up either Thursday night or Friday morning before I leave; but I will make those decisions after I’ve had more coffee and my brain is a little less bleary. I also need to make the decision as to whether I am going to go to Malice Domestic or not. I mean–how many times am I actually ever going to be an Agatha finalist? I won’t win, but it was very kind of the attendees to nominate me–and I did have a great time the last time I went. Decisions, decisions. It’s going to boil down to money, but I think I can take the money out of savings safely without concern for disaster later. And of course, I have lots of points on Southwest to take care of the airfare.
The ALA event I went to yesterday was smaller than the ALA’s I am used to; I’ve been twice before when it was here in New Orleans. Once was after Hurricane Katrina (I was thinking 2006, but it may have been 2007) and I actually read at their Friday night event that time; the other was years later when I signed in the booth for Sisters in Crime. I didn’t get rid of many books–I don’t even remember which book it was I was signing and giving away–but I know there was so little interest in the gay New Orleans writer’s books that I basically was helping out in the booth, breaking down boxes and setting out more books, and helping the other authors by opening books for them to sign–they started calling me Booth Boy, and it was quite fun. But yesterday I signed fifty copies of A Streetcar Named Murder to give away (along with a bookmark with a download code for the audiobook) and got rid of every last copy in fifteen minutes. It really does make a difference when you aren’t giving away a queer book, which deep down in my heart of hearts I already knew, but it also made me kind of sad at the same time to see that I was right. (It was one of the rare occasions when being proved right gave me no pleasure or satisfaction.)
I have a lot of writing to do today. I didn’t make quota yesterday, which means the quota is even higher now for today and even more unlikely for me to make. It’s fine, actually; I am going to make the deadline of Wednesday. It’s a mess, of course, as they always are at this stage, but I already know what I need to do to fix it, which is making the finishing even harder than usual because I am itching to go back and revise and fix it before finishing it, but that’s simply not going to work. Instead, I am going to write this and then worry about getting it revised. (Which isn’t easy, I might add.) I did spend some time with Abby Collette’s book, which I am really enjoying, and also watched some of the US Figure Skating Championships yesterday–the men’s short program and the ice dance final. The men’s final is this afternoon, but I’ll record it to watch later this evening. All of the current shows we are watching have new episodes available (Servant, Mayfair Witches) as well, but I would imagine once Monday rolls around we’ll be back to Paul not getting home from the office until after I’ve gone to bed or am starting to get ready for bed.
I feel good about everything this morning, to be honest, and it’s remarkable how calm I am about this pending deadline particularly given how far behind I am right now. I still haven’t completely adapted to the freedom from volunteering yet–I still have that subconscious unsettling feeling that there’s more I should be doing before I remember oh yeah there’s nothing besides the book that you need be worried about right now which is always kind of lovely and nice–and relaxing. I know I’ve said it before but I am really really happy that I am still able to write in the amounts that I’ve always been used to when writing–I now remember that I wrote the 98,000 or so words of the first draft of #shedeservedit in thirty days one hot July summer month; and I am still capable of doing that, clearly. I need to focus once I get both of these current manuscripts revised and I can get an incredible amount of writing done this year, which is always fun.
And on that note, I am going to clean up some of this mess before curling up with Abby’s book for a while before I start my writing journey for the day. Have a great Sunday, Constant Reader.