Spanish Harlem

Friday morning at last, and I am a more than a little happy to see this reentry week put to rest in the archives, if I am being completely honest. Reentry weeks are always a bit of a disruption, and the older I get the weird transition from one side of my life to the other inevitably becomes more difficult. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the different sides so much–I always feel that the day-to-day life, so disparate and different from the “writer” public life–is good for keeping me grounded as well as keeping my ego in check. After all, you could get whiplash going from being on-stage at the Edgars as the executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America back to lower-level clinic employee (although that’s really not a fair statement about my day job; my day job–while not in management or supervision–is actually important and I do help every one of my clients in a positive way every day; it’s just a vastly different enterprise than my life as a writer and/or everything that is involved, even peripherally, with that).

We finished watching Harry Wild, the new Jane Seymour crime series on Acorn and highly recommend it. Seymour is terrific in the leading role, and everyone in the supporting cast is also good. The young Black teenager who originally mugs her in the first episode eventually becomes her Watson, and they are great together. Paul and I, like so many Americans, are absolute suckers for British crime series, and now that we’ve (alas) finished Harry Wild, we’ll probably go ahead and finish Severance this weekend–we’re very close to the end of the first season, and I do find the show to be both interesting and disturbing at the same time; while I can see why the “severance” would be appealing to people–the utter and complete separation of day-job from personal life–at the same time it would seem incredibly weird and unsettling to me; not knowing what I did the rest of the time? It is interesting, and obviously there are deeper questions about morality and bodily autonomy here as well–and given what’s going on in this country at the current moment, it’s very timely.

I have big plans for this weekend. I have some self-care scheduled for tomorrow morning, and I am also doing an interview/event for Spirit of Ink on Saturday afternoon. I want to finish reading my Carol Goodman novel (it really is quite delicious); I need to do some writing; and of course, there’s always cleaning and organizing that needs to be done. We also had some horrific thunderstorms over night–I don’t remember if I woke up during the storms or not; the same thing happened Wednesday night and I do remember waking up to thunder; I think it was Wednesday night rather than last, honestly. I’ve really been sleeping great lately, and it’s marvelous. I still get terribly tired on the days I have to get up early–I don’t think that will ever change, frankly–but I am adjusting. I actually am planning on returning to the gym this weekend as well; I am hopeful that getting my act together and working out again will also help make me feel better, sleep better, and get more done. I’m really tired of carrying around this extra weight and not being in tip-top shape, but also have to recognize that it will take far longer than it used to now that I am older. It would probably go faster also if I started eating healthier…but I think we know how that is going to go, don’t we?

Yeah, not going to happen. I can try, but make no promises. I like fat and grease and breading and so forth too much to put my vanity (and it’s really not about vanity anymore, really) ahead of what pleasures I get from eating, to be honest. My relationship with food has always been skewed–so has my relationship with my body and my appearance, which I really need to write about sometime–and I always have to worry about my tendency to fall into compulsive/obsessive behavior (I really need to try to continue channeling those quirks of my personality into my writing and promotion of my career) when it comes to exercise and eating and so forth.

Ah, Greg’s personality problems and issues.

I turned my story into the anthology yesterday, and also found another (very short) call for submissions for another anthology I’d like to work on something for. I think my story turned out okay; it needs some tweaking and so forth, perhaps, but I am hoping the editors do like it. I also want to get a couple of other stories I’d also like to starting sending out to various markets to see if anyone wants them; it’s been a hot minute since I’ve sent anything out to other markets rather than the occasional anthology submission call. I wrote a story to submit to Land of 10000 Crimes, the Bouchercon anthology I am currently co-editing, but finally decided to not send in anything for the blind read; I made it past the blind reads in the last two anthologies I edited for Bouchercon, but I kind of got the impression (and it could be wrong; I tend to expect people to be critical and snarky of me and my work) that the fact that I made it past the blind reads on the anthologies I personally edited might look weird and/or suspicious to people on the outside–suuuuuuuure you made it through the blind read–but at the same time, I didn’t help myself by never submitting stories to the Bouchercon anthologies I wasn’t editing. But my story in Blood on the Bayou was a Macavity Award finalist, and my story in Florida Happens was an Anthony finalist, so that sort of makes it seem like my stories were worthy of being published?

But I can certainly get why it’s for the best that I didn’t submit anything to the anthology. But I also really like my story, “The Sound of Snow Falling,” and I’d like to get that out for submission; it’s pretty close to being finished and perhaps maybe one more go-round with it could be in order. There are a few others I’d also like to get out for submission as well–“Death and the Handmaidens” is certainly one of those–and so I am going to add that to my weekend to-do list; look at the some of the almost-completed stories I have on hand, and see which ones can be sent out next week. It’s never a bad idea to keep my hand in, you know.

And now that I am sort of feeling like myself again. I might as well ride this train as far as it will take me before it goes off the rails again.

Have a happy Friday, Constant Reader..

Whatcha See is Whatcha Get

Good morning, Constant Reader, and a happy Thursday to you. I am a bit groggy this morning as I swill my first cup of coffee, but Scooter has already been fed and so at least the cat cries have stopped.

For now, at least.

I slept pretty well last night again, and maybe my body has readjusted to my work schedule already, which is nice and I was a bit concerned that it might take a while for that to happen. But I seem to have slipped right back into the routine I was in before I left for New York, and that is, of course, quite lovely. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from the office yesterday and picked up a few things, then once I was home I retired to my easy chair to edit “Solace in a Dying Hour,” which actually is a much better story than I thought it was. In fairness to me, expecting the story to need a great deal of work really isn’t a case of Imposter Syndrome, as one might have expected (it so often is just that), but rather because it was so hard for me to write and took me so long to get into the story groove. It’s actually not bad at all, and just needs some tweaking here and there; which I should be able to do tonight and get turned in by the end of the day. This is actually rather nice, and I am most pleased about it, in all honesty. By the time I’d finished, Scooter was in my lap and I tuned in to get caught up on Superman and Lois; Paul came home while I was watching and we switched to the new Jane Seymour mystery series on Acorn, which is quite good. I’ve always appreciated Jane Seymour and thought she was more talented than she often received credit for; I suppose being a Mini-series Queen during the 1980s didn’t really help all that much–but I thought she was exceptional in the adaptation of East of Eden that was done in the 80’s, in which she played Steinbeck’s perhaps most evil creation, Cathy Ames. (She was also good as Natalie in War and Remembrance, having a remarkably long career for someone who started as a Bond girl in Live and Let Die.) The show is Harry Wild, and we quite enjoyed it; although it’s hard to think of a British crime series we haven’t enjoyed.

I also didn’t get an opportunity to read any more of my Carol Goodman novel, either, which didn’t please me. Perhaps tonight I can relax with my book and the Gothic story of what is going on at that boarding school on the lake. Really, y’all, if you’ve not read anything by Carol Goodman, you really should. But tonight I am coming straight home from the office–no detours, no stops to make–and so hopefully that means I can spend some good quality time reading tonight. Fingers crossed, at any rate, especially since Saturday I have an appointment in the late morning and a ZOOM appearance to make in the mid-afternoon, which means I won’t have a lot of time to do much of anything on Saturday other than making the kitchen background to my computer camera neat and tidy.

I was also delighted to see that the Saints signed former LSU and Kansas City Chiefs standout (and local high school star from St. Augustine’s) TYRANN MATHIEU. The Honey Badger is finally coming home to New Orleans (HUZZAH!) and I think this was an incredibly smart move by the Saints. Mathieu has already proven himself to be a leader who is interested in helping and giving back to the community (he helped fund the new state-of-the-art training center for the LSU football team, for example, despite the fact that he was kicked off the team and out of school for infractions after his sophomore year), and what better brand ambassador in the city of New Orleans for the Saints than a local kid who made good? I’ve never really understood why the Saints never signed anyone from LSU over the many years since Sean Payton took over–especially since so many of those stars were from either New Orleans or Louisiana–but maybe it was a “local hero ego” kind of thing. Who knows? (Paul and I dreamed that Joey Burrow would end up playing for the Saints, but that would have been too much to hope for, really.) I’ll be actually curious to see how LSU and the Saints will do this year; I remember the last time new coaches came in to both around the same time was 2005 at LSU (Les Miles) and 2006 with the Saints (Sean Payton)–both of those turned out well, so here’s hoping the new coaches at both for 2022 will also turn out well.

As always with football season, hope springs eternal.

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

Rapture

Wednesday and pay the bills day; which hasn’t been depressing in a while but I suspect will be by the time I am finished with this always odious chore. After a sleepless night on Monday, last night’s sleep was much better. I was horribly tired all day yesterday–the combo of no sleep and the workout Monday night; tonight I will be heading back to the gym again after work–and as such did no writing last night. I did write yesterday–in my head; I finally came up with the perfect concept for a story idea I’ve been toying with for quite some time, “Murder on the Acela Express”, with an assist from a very good friend, so I did scribble that down and made some notes in my journal. I also had to proof the final draft of this year’s Edgar annual, which also took up some time Monday evening and on breaks at work, so it’s not like I have been slacking this week. But I really want to get back to “Festival of the Redeemer,” and at some point I want to look over “The Sound of Snow Falling” and see what to make of it; I have figured out the story at last–I knew who the characters were, the set-up, and the setting; I just didn’t now how to write the crime and end it, which I do know now.

So, progress of a sort, right?

There was also exciting news at the day job this week–my position has been funded again by the CDC for another five years, which will actually take me all the way to retirement. While it was always unlikely that the funding would ever be pulled with the concomitant loss of my job, every time the grant is up for renewal it always rather hovers in the back of my mind like a slightly sore tooth you can’t help but worry with your tongue even though it hurts. I also got a raise (the entire staff did), which was a pleasant surprise, and we were also given two extra vacation days, with the agency closing down on a Friday and Monday in August to give us all a long weekend–and it’s the weekend before I turn sixty; my birthday will also be on a Friday this year, which is generally a work-at-home day for me (if that still holds after we go back to full operations again) so I can stay home, watch movies, and make condom packs all day, which will be kind of nice. And then Bouchercon is the very next weekend, and then the next weekend is Labor Day and Southern Decadence–which I am not entirely sure is going to happen, or what is going to go on with that at all. And my car will be paid off come January, which will be even more lovely. So there are things to look forward to, certainly; and I am getting a little bit excited. I generally don’t look too far ahead–there’s always so much to do to keep me occupied I don’t think about the future much–but maybe I need to start doing that a bit more; although there is something to the idea/notion that looking ahead is sort of wishing your life away, which is why I try not to do that unless of course a deadline of some sort is involved.

Although I seem to tend to do that a lot every week by looking forward to the weekend and wishing it would arrive faster.

The summer humidity has returned after all the rain of May; this morning my windows are covered in condensation as the sun is rising, and I feel very rested and alert this morning, which is lovely. I did a load of laundry last night, which I need to fold before getting ready to head into the office this morning; I suspect I will be very tired tonight simply from working, stopping at the grocery on the way home, and then going to the gym–plus we have the last episode of season one of Blood on Acorn to watch, and another episode of Cruel Summer should be loaded on Hulu–the show is surprisingly compelling, and watching it unfold over three different timelines, each one a year apart but on the same day–is a story device I’m really liking a lot more than I thought I would. I know it can be done in a novel–Alison Gaylin’s What Remains of Me did a dual timeline, and Laura Lippman’s After I’m Gone bounced around in time like that, and I think it did have three time periods–and it’s something I think I would like to try at some point in the future. I think part of the reason I’ve been in the doldrums about my writing is because I’ve not been pushing myself to try new things, to experiment and play with the form of story-telling, and I’ve been feeling stale….which isn’t a good place to be when you fancy yourself a writer.

And I think that has been a lot of the malaise I’ve been feeling lately–the last few years with my writing, really–that sense of writing by rote, on automatic; and not pushing myself and trying new things. I will say that the short story writing has been really terrific in that regard, getting to explore themes and ideas and form in a shorter medium (I have published several short stories recently that, ironically, have been reviewed with the note: should have been longer, like a novella–which is always the problem with writing short stories for me; I always feel like there’s more to the story, and apparently that is indeed the case with some of them; but I am trying not to turn short story ideas into longer forms of fiction anymore…which is also kind of why i am experimenting with the novella form). I will say I enjoyed the hell out of Royal Street Reveillon because I was really pushing myself by juggling plots and subplots; it also felt more like a Scotty book than the ones previous–mainly because the plots were more simple and linear. I was having a lot of fun writing it–I do remember that–despite the headaches of juggling so much plot and story-lines.

Aaaaaannnnnndddddd….I think I know what the next Scotty is going to be. I am going to start making notes on it today…we’ll see how it goes.

Being with You

Our new stray (we’re currently calling him Guzman, after a character on Elite) is very friendly, and is clearly someone’s cat, or was; he wants to come inside (alas, already have one indoor kitty) and not only is happy to be fed, but he also wants to be petted and loved on. He’s also very talkative and purrs while being fed/petted. He’s also enormous; he’s a bit on the skinny side, but if he were fed regularly he’d probably eventually expand to Bubba size, and Bubba was essentially the size of a small wildcat–he had to weigh thirty pounds, and his fangs, like Guzman’s, were very long and scary-looking. Guzman could do some serious damage were he so inclined…and I’ve not seen hide nor hair of Tiger since Guzman showed up. Guzman has also yet to figure out he could and would be fed by every door in our little complex–something Tiger learned very quickly–and instead just hangs out on our steps.

While he’s nice to have around, he clearly was–or is–someone’s cat, and I worry that maybe we should have someone come and take him in–he’s been chipped (clipped ear), but if he was abandoned that just makes me furious. I’m hoping he belongs to someone in the neighborhood (the way Simba did) and just has decided to hang out around our steps for a while.

I did make it to the gym last night after work, which was marvelous–despite the heavy soupy humidity; I was drenched in sweat by the time I got there–and I did one set of everything at the weights I was using before the break–three to four weeks, however long it was–and only lat pulldowns was a real strain; I’ve never really had much back strength, at least not in my lat muscles, which then becomes compounded by not wanting to do those exercises or push myself, which becomes the vicious cycle of the lats never getting stronger so the exercise never becomes easier so I don’t like to do them or push myself with them so they never get stronger so the exercise never becomes easier so I….you get the point. I had hoped to be on a split workout by June–different body parts on different days–but that’s going to have to be pushed back to July now, and only if I manage to keep consistent with my three times per week visits. I think I can do this, but I’ve also thought that before. But sixty is also staring me in the face–scratching at my back, as it were–and if I don’t want to continue becoming more and more feeble, regular visits to the gym needs to become part of my routine. Now that summer is here in its full force, that also means the walk to and from will result in heavy loss of body fluids…as it did last night…so I need to make sure I remain fully hydrated.

Insomnia also reared its ugly head again last night; but I am okay with it. I’ve not suffered from this at all since my return from Kentucky, and as long as it doesn’t become a nightly occurrence again I am good with dealing with being tired today–right now I don’t feel tired; my eyes a bit and my legs, of course, but that’s not from lack of sleep so much as it is from the workout last night–but we shall see how the day goes. At the very least I don’t have to go to the gym tonight, so being tired won’t impact my workouts…but tomorrow is another story.

I also didn’t write last night, which wasn’t ideal, but between going to the gym and then coming home for my protein shake and shower there wasn’t much time before Paul came home–and I started falling asleep a bit while we were watching our current Acorn series, Blood–which is interesting, and boy oh boy is the family it focuses on seriously fucked up–but that was also, I think, partly due to Scooter sleeping in my lap; Paul and I have both noted that our cat’s superpower is the ability to lull us both to sleep simply by cuddling with either of us. It’s probably his regular breathing, heartbeat, and warmth, but it is interesting; Skittle didn’t have that power over me. But I have been thinking more about “Festival of the Redeemer,” and am hopeful I’ll get a few thousand words done on it today at some point. I also want to work on “The Sound of Snow Falling” this week; my goal is to get rough first drafts of both finished by the end of the weekend as well as an edit of “A Dirge in the Dark” finished, and I also want to revise the first chapter of Chlorine I’ve already written. An ambitious plan, to be sure, but one that is possible to accomplish. I really need to start achieving at a high level again, and stop whining about lack of sleep and getting older, and using both as an excuse to not achieve–if that makes any sense?

I’ve also, of all things, started exploring Instagram some more. I was discussing it with That Bitch Ford over the weekend, and he was pointing out that he often gets more engagement there than he does on other social media; which I thought was kind of interesting. So, on my way to and from the gym on Sunday in the rain (that aborted trip because I had the operating hours wrong), I was taking pictures of my neighborhood and posting them on Instagram–and yes, there was a LOT of engagement and I gained a lot of new followers; which was, as I mentioned before, rather interesting. Maybe it’s because it’s more of a visual medium than Facebook and Twitter? I have no idea, but will keep you apprised as I continue what I call The Instagram Experiment. I mean, I love taking pictures–I have literally THOUSANDS of picture files stored in the Cloud–so why not combine my love of photography with a social medium dedicated to sharing images? I doubt I will start making videos–I recorded one yesterday at the request of the San Francisco Public Library, to promote the queer mystery panel I am doing for them later this month–since I hate the way I look and I really hate the sound of my voice–but one never knows.

Stranger things indeed have happened.

And on that note, it’s time to get ready to head into the spice mines and get my day rolling. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Take It on the Run

It has been seventeen years, more or less, give and take, since it happened and my life–and my worldview–went through a significant change.

It’s weird how it sneaks up on you when you aren’t expecting it, isn’t it? In the weeks leading up to Memorial Day I am vaguely aware of a sense of unease and discomfort, a feeling like some sort of impending doom is waiting for me just over the horizon. I’ve noticed in recent years that times and date have little meaning to me; at my day job every form I fill out requires a date–month, day, year–over and over again, and this constant use of dates makes them seem to lose their meaning as I write them down, recording them by rote; sometimes glancing up at the display on the telephone mounted on the wall above my working table to remember when my brain seizes up–as it is wont to do from time to time–and the date slips out from my short-term memory and cannot be retrieved by the processor. These meaningless days continue passing, recorded on form after form after form, until one day a date I am recording catches me off guard and I am startled by the rapid passage of time and think something like my God, next week is Paul’s birthday or next week is our anniversary and so forth.

And yet every May, without fail, as I go through the motions of my day to day life and run my errands and put gas in the car and make meals and clean up and work with my clients and try to make it to the gym, I forget about Memorial Day looming in the future, just around the corner, up ahead, waiting to land like a sucker punch in the solar plexus when I am least expecting it to happen. Is it a protective thing, I wonder, my subconscious pushing the memories deep into the darkest corners of my brain, to keep me from reliving some of the darkest hours and days of my life? I’m not sure–and the weird thing is that somehow I am vaguely aware. The memories don’t get pushed back into the cobwebby recesses completely, because I always, inevitably, feel unsettled every May, vaguely off-center, knowing there’s something back there I don’t want to remember, and it makes me tense, stressed, anxious.

And then, between episodes of a show we were streaming (The Drowning, on Acorn or Britbox, I cannot remember which) I got up to make garlic bread as a snack. As I sliced the loaf of French bread to spread the garlic butter paste on to broil in the oven, Paul was telling me about how crowded the Quarter had been on Friday afternoon when he’d gone down there to get his haircut. “It was more crowded than it would usually be before the shutdown,” he said with a shudder, “and all I could think was how awful it seemed.” I agreed with him, expressing that I had little to no desire to ever go out in the Quarter again–while thinking ah yes, you have become the tired old man you always feared you would–when Paul laughed and said, “Well, it’s not like Memorial Day is my favorite time to go out and do anything” and I laughed and kept spreading the paste on the bread as the memories and realizations all came flooding back to me; why I have been so tense and anxious lately; why I was so desperate to get my Xanax prescription refilled (telling myself it was because I needed them to sleep) and WHY I had been unable to sleep in the first place; why there was so much tension and so many knots in my neck, shoulder and back; why I have been unable to focus and why it has felt like I’ve been living under a dark cloud of looming depression for so long.

Memorial Day weekend, 2004, and that horrible phone call that Sunday morning, that Paul was at the emergency room at Charity Hospital and all that ensued from there.

I’ve only written about what happened that weekend once; in the wake of the Pulse massacre, that horrible morning in 2016 when I woke up to the horrible news and sat, glued to my computer screen, refreshing social media and new sites and worrying about my friends and acquaintances in Orlando to check in, so that I would know they were alive. Pulse was horrifying in and of itself, without it being a triggering event for me personally; watching those friends and family outside the bar in the morning hours in Orlando, terrified and wondering if someone they loved, someone they knew had been inside Pulse that night and hadn’t yet heard from, was alive or dead. I’ve never felt that the story of Memorial Day weekend 2004 was mine to tell; as I said to a friend recently, as we talked about the HBO show It’s a Sin and how deeply it affected me, “I’ve never written about my own experiences during that time because I was a survivor and a witness, and to me, writing about it and making money from it seemed wrong to me somehow.” Part of this mentality–which is probably wrong, but I can make a rational case for it from either point of view–comes from being raised to keep personal pain private; I’ve always called it ‘bleeding in public.’ I’ve never wanted to be seen as a victim; I’ve never wanted to publicly dissect my pain for others to see, comment on–especially to belittle or demean.

We survived it, and isn’t that the most important thing?

I’m not sure that I’ve ever really processed it all; dealt with it properly and adequately. I saw a therapist for a few years, and obviously we discussed all of my traumas, all the PTSD from everything I had experienced, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever faced it, dealt with it, handled it. I wrote a short story about it once–“A Streetcar Named Death”–and of course I wrote that blog entry after the Pulse massacre.

But now as I approach sixty–only a few more months–I find myself wondering, about all of the pain and trauma of the past, and whether I have dealt with it in a healthy manner, and if writing about it, which is how I inevitably deal with almost everything, is the way to go with it?

I don’t know. But…I can’t help but feel that I need to; that somehow, despite whatever blowback and snark might come from doing so, that it will finally help me to deal with it and maybe–just maybe–Memorial Day weekend can go back to being what it used to be for me, and I can finally be free from it all.

I’ve Got a Feeling

And now it’s Wednesday again, and believe it or not, it’s also Pay the Bills Day again. I could have sworn this just happened, but here we are again. At least I got a very wonderful night’s sleep last night, which was quite marvelous. Scooter woke me up around five, by lying down on me while in full purr mode, but that was fine–I was even able to doze off a little bit more for another hour before the wretched alarm tore me from the arms of Morpheus–but again, it’s fine; I slept so well and feel so rested and ready to go this morning that it didn’t matter to me in the least.

I actually made it to the gym last night after work–it was so strange; I slept better Monday night than I did Sunday, yet was more tired when I got off work yesterday than when I did on Monday–despite the near-death experience I had on the way there. I always walk down to Coliseum Square, then cut through the park to Camp Place before walking down Camp Street to Josephine before cutting over to Magazine. I am extremely careful about crossing streets on foot–going back to the olden days when there were no stop signs on the French Quarter streets that ran parallel to the river, so people would drive through the Quarter at about ninety miles per hour, and woe to the pedestrian not paying attention–and Coliseum Street is a one-way, so really, I only have to look one direction before crossing the street. I had my headphones on, listening quite happily to Fearless–Taylor’s Version, and started across to the park. I was about half-way across when I either noticed something out of the corner of my eye or heard it, but I turned my head and saw there was a speeding pick-up truck–doing at least forty in a residential area, if not more–heading right for me and not slowing–and was maybe a car-length away from me. I started running to get to the other side and he steered towards me, forcing me to leap for the curb. It was very close. Had I not noticed or heard him coming, I would have been hit and sent flying, possibly killed, definitely severely injured. My heart thumping in my ears, I took some deep breaths and started crossing the park. I looked back and the guy had his window down–trucker cap, beard, gun rack in the back window–and he was calling out to me “Sorry dude”. I just rolled my eyes and kept walking, resisting the urge to yell back, “Sorry you missed me? Because you sure as fuck were trying to hit me.” In fairness, he was probably not paying attention–typical in New Orleans–and reacted badly when he finally saw me and most likely tried to steer around me without hitting me, not realizing I would run for the curb, but still.

As I very carefully crossed Race Street at the light, I thought to myself, well, at least my heart rate is already up.

The gym was crowded, so I abbreviated my workout a bit; skipping biceps/triceps–the easiest to skip, since most upper body exercises of every kind will inevitably work your bis and tris anyway–and skedaddled home, where I emptied the dishwasher, did another load of dishes, queued up my Taylor playlist (Paul calls me “A Swiftie at Sixty”), and started working through the book again. I am so glad I am past the Imposter Syndrome (for now, at least), so am able to work clearly and concisely on the manuscript, detaching all personal emotion from it–when I edit my own work, I try to get into the mindspace that it’s someone else’s manuscript I am being paid to edit, which makes it ever so much easier–although there are times it is simply not possible. After Paul got home, we watched yet another episode of Line of Duty, which is incredible–the plotting and writing and acting are topnotch; seriously, if you have Acorn you need to be watching this show–and am looking forward to getting home tonight and watching some more.

It’s been a week already, let me tell you! MWA’s How to Write a Mystery dropped yesterday; the Edgars are tomorrow; and the Sherlock anthology I have a story in, The Only One in the World, edited by the marvelous Narrelle Harris, also was released in Australia this week. This is the one that includes my wonderfully titled story “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy”; my first and thus far only entry into the Sherlock Holmes canon–which indirectly led me to get started reading Laurie R. King’s amazing Mary Russell series, for which I shall be eternally grateful–and I am still a bit torn. I would love to do some more Sherlock stories, maybe even a book–I have a great title and premise, The Mother of Harlots, about the murder of a Storyville madam, and there’s even a famous murder case I can purloin details from; but then the Imposter Syndrome kicks in and I slink back to more contemporary ideas.

Heavy sigh.

But I am going to head back into the spice mines for now–have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you tomorrow!

Murder

Well, we survived Monday, which is always an accomplishment. As you will recall, I didn’t sleep all that well on Sunday night and then woke up to misplacing my glasses–never a good augury–andI was thus irritable, tired and crabby as I began my day yesterday. But as the morning progressed and I tore through my emails, my mood began to improve–my lovely clients yesterday were an enormous help–and by the time I got off work, I was in a splendid mood, and the day seemed to simply fly past. I started inputting the edits and corrections to Bury Me in Shadows last night, and am pleased to report that it’s really not as terrible and awful as I had originally thought it was; that I was, in fact, being much too harsh on myself. And doing the clean up work is making it even better, so yes, I was being overly dramatic and beating myself up for nothing, really–something I have a tendency to do too much of and will seize every opportunity to do so.

I slept much better last night, which was lovely, and so far this morning there have been no mishaps. Fingers crossed that this is a good sign for a Tuesday. I think maybe realizing, as i started inputting changes last night, that the manuscript isn’t as terrible as I thought last week helped me fall asleep last night and rest better? Perhaps…at this point I have literally no clue as to why I can or can’t sleep at times. I just hope every night as I lay down that this will be a good night’s sleep and then leave it to Morpheus as to whether or not he will visit.

We started the third season of Line of Duty last night, and it’s also quite interesting. I highly recommend this program, if you like crime shows; it’s one of the most cleverly and intricately plotted shows we’ve seen in quite some time. The acting and writing are stellar, and it’s shot in an almost documentary-like style, which makes it all the more interesting. It’s on Acorn, which we get through the Amazon app on Apple TV. I didn’t have time last night to read more of the Thomas Perry I started on Sunday, and I expect I will most likely not get to read much until I get this final revision of the manuscript finished–which is fine. I’m also trying to get all my computer files better organized–but that can also wait until Sunday, after I turn the manuscript back in one last time. I can’t believe it’s almost May–it’s stunning how quickly this year is passing, after last year seemed to last a decade.

I do not miss last year, quite frankly.

And remain happy that it is firmly in the rear view mirror.

I am also hopeful that I’ll have both the energy and the desire to walk to the gym tonight after I get home from work. I’ve really been slacking on my mid-week gym workouts almost the entire month of April, which is not only a shame but kind of disgraceful, honestly. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to make myself go to the gym; but I am going to attribute that to this month’s malaise and lack of motivation. I also would like to get started cleaning out the storage attic this week, bringing down boxes of books and sorting through them before running them over to the library sale; the sooner I can get that attic cleaned out the sooner I can start cleaning out the storage unit and bringing those boxes home and storing them in the attic–after sorting through them, of course. I don’t think I am ever going to allow the book situation to ever get as out of control as it was before I started this latest decluttering project; henceforth each book is going to be read and donated or given away; which is perhaps the wisest course of action and what I should have been doing all along. (Plus, going to the library sale gives me a chance to look for more John LeCarre novels….)

And on that note, Constant Reader, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday!

Exit

Thursday morning and errands and things to get done this morning. I am giddy this morning because I actually slept deeply and well last night, and finally feel rested in every way–physically, emotionally, and mentally–and Christ, if I could only start every day well-rested like this I could conquer the world. This morning I have to take Paul to Metairie for some medical things–nothing serious, y’all, calm down–and so I scheduled my work hours so I could have the morning off today. It’s also a gorgeous day outside, looks like, so huzzah for that–last week I reached the point where I thought it was never going to stop raining, seriously. Much as I love the heavy rains of New Orleans and our marvelous thunderstorms–five consecutive days can be a bit much.

I was very tired after work yesterday, but I managed to force myself to do things that don’t require much brain power–laundry, two loads of dishes, straightening up, cleaning counters and filing and so forth–to get it out of the way so I don’t have to waste any free time on the weekend doing it. I never am entirely sure how my kitchen gets so out of control between Monday and Wednesday, really, but it does and then I wind up spending time on the weekends getting the house under control, which is irritating. But with me feeling rested today, there’s absolutely no reason I can’t get some reading and writing finished this weekend; when I finish my work-at-home duties today and tomorrow, I can read and work on the apartment–hopefully finishing that all off tonight, so tomorrow night I can just write when I finish with the condom packing–and be nice and rested and ready to go when the weekend rolls around.

We finished watching The Capture last night, and while it didn’t have the ending I wanted it to have, the ending was absolutely and completely believable and realistic; anything else would have felt forced; tacked-on as an audience-pleaser. And while the ending really was cynical…it felt real. The show really dealt incredibly well with the dichotomy of how difficult it can be to keep the population safe from threats–which can sometimes come into conflict with the individual rights and freedoms individuals have from state intrusion. It’s murky; is it okay to trample of individual rights to protect the many? And once you start down that road, isn’t it easy to abuse that power, especially when there is no oversight from the other branches of government? We really enjoyed the show, and I was incredibly glad they didn’t cheat the ending. It also examined these morally complex issues really well, and I also liked that the characters were capable of compromising their own ethics and values when necessary to get the end result they desired. It was a much more complex and cerebral thriller show than most of its contemporaries. I do recommend this highly.

Of course, now that we’ve finished it, now begins the search for something new to watch. Yay.

Well, I never finished writing this yesterday or posted it; something that happens rarely but does sometimes happen. I had to stop to run the errands, and when I got home I had to start working, and since I’d taken the morning off I had to work later last evening than I usually do, so I never got back around to finishing this. Sorry about that, Constant Reader. But it was a good day, overall, and I also got another good night’s sleep last night, which was also quite marvelous. I am working at home al day today–condom packing and some data entry–and on my lunch break I need to run to the bank to deposit a royalty check (huzzah for royalties!) and pick up some things at the grocery. Sleep makes such a difference to my quality of life, seriously. We also got new pillows at Costco yesterday (one of the errands) and they are wonderful, absolutely wonderful. After work today I am going to the gym, and then settling in to continue watching the show we discovered last night on Acorn: Line of Duty, which is a look at the internal operations of a British police station. It’s quite good, and the plot is incredibly interesting; Anti-corruption is looking at a multiple Officer of the Year winner because his case-closing record is a bit too good to not have been manipulated in some way; we see things from the perspective of the award-winning officer (who is, indeed, too good to be true) and the investigator looking into him–who’d recently been sent down from anti-terrorism because of a heinous mistake in which an innocent man was killed–and it’s indeed very well done. There are also four seasons, so we’re set for a few nights, at any rate.

While Paul was seeing his doctors and so forth yesterday I started reading Laurie R. King’s second Mary Russell novel, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, and I cannot even begin to tell you, Constant Reader, how much you should be reading this series. It’s so well done, so well written, and the way King brings Mary and Sherlock Holmes and their post World War I world to life is so beautifully done and compelling…give her all the awards, seriously. These novels remind me so much of my beloved Amelia Peabody novels by the deeply missed Elizabeth Peters that I wish I had discovered them earlier. But the lovely news is King has an enormous backlist, and I am looking forward to catching up on the entire series at leisure. I’ve also been appreciating Holmes more these days–mainly because I wrote my own Holmes story last year for the first time, and kind of want to do it again; there really is a book idea in Sherlock Holmes and the Axeman (but the Axeman was never caught, alas), and the case lasted over a year….and since the period I’ve dropped Holmes into is that same period…it would be weird if Holmes wouldn’t insert himself into the Axeman case. It’s such an interesting story, and so New Orleans….but fictionalizing it is the puzzle, isn’t it?

This weekend, I have to get really moving on the revision/final edit of Bury Me in Shadows–it’s due next Saturday, and while I can certainly take next Saturday all day to work on it (I tend to turn things in very very late on the day they are due), I should think I need to get the majority of the work out of the way already. It’s going to be a big week anyway–the Edgars are being awarded on Thursday–but constant juggling and multi-tasking seems to be my stock in trade these days (well, it has been for a long time; sometimes it feels like I am juggling chainsaws), so it’s little wonder I am always worn out and tired.Bury

Plus, my neuroses always wear me out–and there are plenty of them.

I also, while making condom packs yesterday, fell into a new Youtube wormhole, in which this rather cute young straight guy was listening to Taylor Swift for the first time, and it was quite entertaining to see him growing from someone who was vaguely aware of her into a massive fan by the time he’d listened to about six of her songs–by the last video he was a full-fledged Swiftie (to the point where he actually said “I’m not straight or bi or gay or pan, I am a Taylor-sexual” which made me laugh). I must admit I was much the same–someone who was vaguely aware of her, knew she was heavily criticized and her love life was tabloid fodder, and pretty much knew her primarily for her dating life and the Kanye incident(s) ore than anything else. I do remember driving somewhere–I think it was for the Murder in the Magic City event in Birmingham; I’m not entirely sure, but I know I was driving in Alabama–with my iTunes on shuffle when a song started playing that immediately hooked me. I glanced over at the screen on my dashboard and was a little surprised: it was Taylor Swift’s “Red,” which to this day I don’t know why I had down-loaded. I replayed it three times, loving it a little more every time–it’s still one of my favorites of hers–and when I stopped for gas I checked the library on my phone and saw four more songs of hers: “Love Story, “You Belong with Me”, “Mean,” and “Shake It Off.” I recognized the last two, but had no idea what the first two were. I do remember seeing her perform “Mean” on an awards show and downloading it–it’s from the Red album, so I have to assume it was around the same time I downloaded “Red”–but I literally don’t remember those first two. (I do remember one of my co-workers at the Frenchmen Street office had been a fan, and that was how I heard “Shake It Off”).

For the record, her recent releases–including her rerecording of her Fearless album–are really good.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Evil Dust

The sun is actually out today and there aren’t many–if any–clouds in our beautiful blue sky this morning, which is lovely. It’s rained pretty constantly ever since Tuesday afternoon, and everything outside is still wet from nearly a week of rain. I love rain–especially thunderstorms–but even I thought five straight days of them was a bit extreme. I wound up running my errands in the rain yesterday–I dropped off another five boxes of books to the Ladder Library sale yesterday (you actually can tell now that I’ve gotten rid of books)–and made groceries and got the mail. It was pouring while I did all of this, so my plans to go to the gym yesterday were finally scrapped. I also wound up taking the day off from almost everything yesterday–I think I needed a brain-free day, frankly–and so we watched a lot of television–we binged all the way through a delightful comedy called The Other Two, watched the Tom Holland movie Cherry on Apple Plus, and then switched over to Acorn for a riveting crime show called The Cry.

Yes, I was a slug all day and I am not a bit ashamed of it.

Oh, sure, I had my journal with me and scribbled notes freeform all day–my favorite is that I came up with a short story title I now HAVE to use, “To Live and Die in La.”, while having absolutely no idea what the story would actually be, but I laughed at the title and now want to. use it–so I did do something. But today I have to start revising/copy editing/making notes on Bury Me in Shadows–due to be returned to my editor no later than the first of May–and so, if I do go to the gym today (leaning towards it, since it’s sunny out) I can curl up in my easy chair to do it, so that’s a start. I really need to work on my story–the deadline for that submission call is May 15, I believe–and so I need to kick everything up a notch this week. I am getting caught up on a lot of other things as well–it’s never-ending, and have also accepted that I only have so much bandwidth for things. The emails, for example…I’ll never get caught up on those, ever…so I need to prioritize and so forth in order to get through everything that absolutely needs to be responded to immediately.

I also need to spend some time getting organized and cleaning a bit this morning. There’s filing to be done, of course–always–and somehow the kitchen looks like a tornado ripped through here (not completely an exaggeration, to be honest) and I need to get that taken care of this morning. I have a load of laundry to do, and there’s always dishes–always. I also want to organize the refrigerator a bit more this morning. Since the sun is out, I’ll probably grill hamburgers later on this afternoon, which is always an absolute treat (I really prefer all meat to be cooked over hot charcoal, frankly–or at least, most). I am also a bit excited that the next step of book decluttering (and yes, I am aware I am completely Marie Kondo-ing my apartment) is to go up into the storage attic and start clearing the boxes up there. This will, of course, be more complicated than the bookcases and the hidden boxes in the living room, since I’ll have to bring them down and go through them, combining the ones to keep (I can’t imagine there will be many of those) while putting aside the ones to donate. The goal is to clear out enough space in the storage attic so I can clean out my storage rental and close that account; most of the books in the storage are copies of my own books (and my kids’ series collection) along with some other things–mostly papers–and it would be nice to either no longer have that bill every month, or to use that space for other things…but at the moment I can’t think of anything that we’d need to keep it for.

But it would be great to lose that bill by the end of the summer.

Not as great as paying off the car, but still pretty good.

I think I’m going to add Semi-Tough to the donate pile. The first three pages are nothing but racial slurs as well as justifications for using them, and how the main character–it’s a first person narrative–isn’t really racist and the slurs are just words that don’t mean offense and so on–and yeah, I really don’t feel like spending any of my time with that kind of character. I certainly wouldn’t in real life–imagine being at dinner or a cocktail party and the person you are talking to says, and this is a direct quote from page one: Just because I may happen to say (the n-word) doesn’t mean I’m a racist.

Um, actually it does. It says a lot about you, who you are, and how you were raised, as well as how you see people and the world.

And I really have no desire to read a book filled with racial slurs…because you KNOW its also full of gay slurs, too–and most likely without the caveat justifying the racial slurs: Now listen, just because I say “faggot” doesn’t mean I’m homophobic.

Sure, Jan.

There are so many other good books to read, why reread something I originally read as a teen that plays on racism and homophobia and misogyny for humor? I stopped rereading The Last Picture Show, a book I absolutely loved, a few years ago when it got to the part about bestiality, and how it was perfectly normal for the teen boys to fuck animals…I closed the book and put it away. I may go back and reread the entire thing at some point–the reason I was rereading it in the first place was to examine how it handles homosexuality–which I distinctly remembered it doing–but I don’t think I was able to get far enough into it to get to that part. I know that Coach Popper–long-suffering Ruth’s awful husband–was a deeply repressed one, who favored one of the more athletic boys primarily because of his attraction to him; that the preacher’s son Billy Bob Blanton was often mocked and teased and bullied and humiliated for being a “four-eyed queer” (before he molests a little girl, after which he’s taken away as a pervert); and that the heterosexual English teacher, who was cultured and sensitive and kind, was accused by the coach of impure thoughts and fired (everyone, of course, would never suspect the manly football coach of anything, or question him); and I remembered a particular poignant scene between the fired English teacher–who’s been fired, whose wife has left him and taken their daughters and filed for divorce–and Ruth, where he’s just so beaten down and defeated that it’s heartbreaking. But yeah–that whole “boys will be boys” attitude towards bestiality was too much for me to get through again.

The Last Two is a terrific show, and quite funny. Paul and I really enjoyed it; the premise of the show is the two older children are in their late twenties–one is a struggling actor whose most recent audition was for a commercial in which he would play “Party-goer who smells a fart”; the daughter had wanted to become a dancer until she broke her ankle and dropped out of dance school and cannot figure out what she wants to do with the rest of her life–when suddenly, their thirteen year old brother puts up a video of him singing a ridiculous song (“Marry Me at Recess”) and becomes an overnight viral sensation with a record deal and a manager under the name “Chase Dreams”; which makes them feel even more like losers. The older brother, Cary, is also gay and in a weird relationship with his straight roommate; the daughter has broken up with her boyfriend and is now homeless at the beginning of the show. I thought it was terrific, frankly, and look forward to season two.

My primary takeaway from Cherry is that Tom Holland is an amazingly talented actor–he really gives a stunning performance as a poor young man who falls in love, gets his heart broken and joins the military, serves as a medic in Iraq and comes home to nothing but PTSD and drug addiction, which leads him to a life of crime. It’s a very dark story–but also weirdly a love story at the same time–and I don’t think the film, worked overall; the Russo Brothers, who directed, turned it into this big grand opera style thing in the way they shot it; to the point where the beautiful imagery is almost intrusive. It’s a very real story–based on a true story–and it highlights, very powerfully, how we abandon our troops completely after their service is over (since they’re no longer the troops….”support the troops” makes me angry because it is used primarily as a political prop and the actual soldiers themselves suffer in silence and neglect while we give billionaires and corporations every break in the world), but it’s worth watching for Tom Holland’s performance–he was also fantastic in The Devil All The Time–and it’s really nice to see him pushing himself in his non-superhero roles (he’s also the best, in my opinion, Spider-Man).

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

Dress

And it’s Thanksgiving, and a holiday! Huzzah for holidays! Thanksgiving isn’t really one of my favorites (other than the obligatory four day weekend that results; I wonder who had the brilliant idea to have the holiday fall on a Thursday instead of Friday in the first place? Give that person a Nobel Prize, please, even if it’s posthumous), but I’m really not much of a holiday person now, nor have I ever really been.

For me, it was always about time off–from school, from work, from responsibility–and now as an adult? I just appreciate paid time off from work, which is always welcomed.

I actually slept late this morning, too–almost all the way to nine thirty, without waking up once and looking at the clock and thinking oh go back to sleep for a bit. This is, obviously, unusual; I must have needed the rest, frankly, so I am not going to question it at all. I am taking the day off from everything guilt-free–it’s a goddamned holiday, so my guilt can just fuck right off–and in a moment, once this is finished, I am going to take my cappuccino into the living room and embrace The Hot Rock and some short stories.

I am making a turkey breast roast (that sounds just wrong) in the slow cooker today in a nod to the holiday–it’s a very simple recipe and then when it’s done I shred the meat with a fork, so it’s really pulled turkey–and yes, I make boxed stuffing because a) it’s perfectly edible and fine and b) if you use chicken broth instead of water, it’s even better. Plus, it’s easy. And the older I get, the more I embrace easy. (I still, however, will make a cheesecake from scratch because it’s so much better.)

I try not to engage much on Twitter–tempting as it may be, the amount of trolls there is truly amazing, and I certainly don’t have the time to bother with keyboard warrior trash– but at the same time, Twitter can be highly entertaining. (My standard rule of thumb for engagement is this: if I start writing an angry and/or snarky response to something someone has tweeted, I either report the original or block the person. It’s enormously cathartic.) I remember being riveted last Christmas, for example, by the massive meltdown of RWA (hard to believe we haven’t reached the one year anniversary of that, isn’t it?).

One of the most enjoyable things I’ve watched/read/scrolled through was the conservative reaction, led by Grifter Supreme Candace Owens, to Harry Styles appearing on the cover of Vogue in a dress. Harry, obviously, doesn’t have a fuck to give about pearl-clutching trash like Owens and her audience; it’s actually lovely to see such a handsome young man with a big career secure enough in his own masculinity to don a dress on a major fashion magazine cover–and it’s also historic, as he is the first male to ever grace a Vogue cover (something Owens herself will never do, but the thirst for it is fucking real). As RuPaul has famously said, “we’re all born naked and everything else is drag.” Fashion and styles change all the time–and it really wasn’t all that long ago that men wore make-up, wigs, heels, and tights. So, apparently, Owens doesn’t believe the Founding Fathers were masculine enough for her?

Anyway, it was thoroughly enjoyable watching her get dragged for the filth she is on Twitter. Like so many on the right (and let’s be honest–there are some on the left as well) she’s in it for the grift; being the go-to female black voice for the right is apparently lucrative enough for her–married to a white male whose own “masculinity”, as defined by the right, is questionable–to continue being a sideshow barker trying to stay relevant and keep the cash coming in.

And speaking of grifts, Ann Coulter certainly has become irrelevant, hasn’t she? (I am NOT complaining. Back in the day, I used to read her books–I used to read a lot of right wing polemics passing as non-fiction political tomes because I thought it was important to not only see what they were actually selling and saying, but to try to understand their position. All it did was convince me that they were sideshow hucksters hawking snake oil and grievance, so I abandoned that around 2003. And trust me, if you’ve read one Ann Coulter pack of lies from cover to cover, you don’t need to read any others.)

There’s only so much toxicity one brain can handle, frankly.

We started watching an Australian series on Acorn last night, Mystery Road, which stars Judy Davis and a lot of indigenous Australians (which is awesome); it’s interesting and entertaining, and I would imagine is going to have a lot to say about Australian racism and how the indigenous there are treated. Judy Davis is always marvelous in everything (I can never watch the Renee Zellweger Judy Garland film because I’ve already seen a definitive Judy Garland, and that was Judy Davis’), and the rest of the cast are quite good as well. The premise is very simply that two young man vanish in the middle of a wasteland–taken from their vehicle, with the doors left open and the motor running–and it also is taking a look at the community itself; I suspect the show is a slow burn. They also bring in police detective from elsewhere who is indigenous himself (played by Aaron Pederson). The two boys who disappear are a white backpacker and a local indigenous soccer hero; it’ll be interesting to see where the show goes. (I had to look up the actor, and apparently the second season is set elsewhere, with Pederson working with a new local cop in a different location)

I’m not sure how we’ll spend today, but whatever we do, it will be relaxing and chill.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!