Desperado

Sunday morning, and a restful Saturday was had by everyone, I hope?

Who had Greg won’t get everything done he wanted to get done yesterday on their Bingo cards? Congratulations, you just may be Sunday morning’s big winner!

I did finish reading Ali Brandon’s Double Booked for Death, which was a lot of fun and a nice, fun read. I greatly enjoyed the main character, Darla, and the cast and characters around her Brooklyn bookstore, that she inherited from her great-aunt Dee. I also see that  building a mystery series around a bookstore is a good way to gently make fun of publishing and authors and crazy fans; perhaps that’s something I should think about doing? LOL. But it’s a very well-written, well developed novel, and an excellent start to a series. I will undoubtedly read more of Brandon’s series, as well as the books written by her alter-ego.

I also started reading Carol Goodman’s The Sea of Lost Girls, and got sucked in immediately. I was enormously reluctant to put it aside in order to get back to cleaning, and wish I could devote the entirety of today to reading it; alas, I have to get a lot done today that i didn’t get done yesterday. More writing, more emails, and more cleaning; I also have to get that tire aired up that is low, get gas, and go to the gym. I slept deeply and well again last night–I woke originally at seven, but the bed was entirely too comfortable and since I could, I stayed in for slightly more than an another hour this morning; what can I say? I did walk over to Office Depot to get file folders and a new check register (I use small spiral notebooks; my handwriting is too big and sprawling to use the ones banks provide) and I need to get my checkbook balanced again today. It’s also the first of a new month; how terrifying that it’s already March again. The weather was quite beautiful yesterday–sunny and in the 70’s–and it looks as though that will be the weather again today, which will be nice. I am going to work on my emails this morning and getting organized, then I’ll go take care of the car and go to the gym, and then come home to see if I can get some more writing done. I have a short story due at the end of the month; it finally came to me last night how I can actually write the story and have it make sense (thanks in part to reading the Ali Brandon novel; so thanks, Ali. Seriously, many times the solution to problems with my own writing is solved by reading that of others; the Brandon novel bears no resemblance to my story whatsoever, but reading it made me think about plot and structure, and that led to the breakthrough on my short story; so much of writing is reading, really).

I did write some more on some of the stories I currently have in progress–not very much, mind you, and not nearly enough–but it counts as work, so I am going to take it.

I also finally recognized that the primary problem (again, thank you, Ali Brandon) I was having with the Secret Project was (besides a singular lack of imagination) the old problem I always have with writing: I hadn’t really settled on a name for the main character that I was completely okay with. I went back and forth on several names, first and last, and then yesterday the perfect name for her came to me, and things started clicking into place. Naturally, I made a note of it, and to be honest, writing the short story “Gossip”–which was one of the ones I made some progress on yesterday–also clicked into place how to work on the Secret Project and how to make it work. There are also any number of other reasons this hasn’t worked and clicked into place yet–not the least of which is that I haven’t really done the back work necessary to write. I just started writing, thinking I could make it work as I go…but the thing kept stalling because there were things I didn’t know. My goal for this month now has shifted; now not only do I want to get that one particular story finished by the end of the month (which is when it’s due) but I want to get this finished as well. I am going to spend this week writing that story that is due, while doing the necessary back work on the Secret Project. Next weekend I will revise what I’ve already written, based on the back work, and then I’ll go ahead and get the next two chapters finished while building an outline. That’s a lot of work to get done this month–particularly since the Festivals are at the end of the month–but I think if I stay focused and don’t allow other things to distract me, there’s absolutely no reason why I can’t get this all finished.

Other than the usual Gregalicious reasons, of course.

So, perhaps it’s time for me to get back to it. There’s a load of dishes to put away with another waiting to go in; an enormous pile of stuff in my inbox that needs sorting and filing; and a whole  hell of a lot of emails that need responses. Heavy sigh. Lots of spice to mine today, folks, so enjoy your Sunday and think of me toiling away….

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Go Rest High on that Mountain

Saturday morning in New Orleans, and all is well. I slept really well last night–the deep dead sleep I love so much, because it’s so revitalizing–and can’t help but notice that I’ve been enjoying that kind of sleep a lot more since I started back to the gym. Coincidence? I think not.

Yesterday, I’m not going to lie, started out pretty fucking shitty. I got up feeling terrific. Well rested, ready to get out and kick some ass this weekend; as evidenced by yesterday morning’s blog entry. I went to the gym, had a tough workout–the motivation was there, but missing Wednesday had put my body out of sync with the weight-lifting, which made it more of a struggle than it should have been–then I came home. I started doing the laundry (I do the bed linens every Friday), made myself a protein shake, started getting the dishes taken care of, and then sat down at my desk to check my emails and social media. My twitter feed was filled with homophobic micro-aggressions from people who should, actually know better; as I read through I felt my anger and gorge rise. I was just about to send a PM to a friend (who definitely should know better) when Scooter jumped up onto my desk and knocked over my protein shake….all over my desk, my keyboard, my checkbook, my wallet, the research books I’ve been using for a writing project, my lap, and various file folders.

I was not pleased.

That took about half an hour to get cleaned up (thanks again, Scooter) and by the time I was finished I was already behind schedule for getting to work and running errands. I have a tire with low air, so I stopped at a convenient gas station (there is literally only one that’s convenient, and even it is out of the way) and of course, it was filled with morons. WHY WOULD YOU TAKE THE BACK PUMP INSTEAD OF PULLING TO THE FORWARD ONE?

I suspect her name was Karen.

The gas station turned out to be an exercise in aggravation and frustration, so I decided to say fuck it and do it over the weekend sometime. Then I got stuck behind a garbage truck, and when finally–after driving all the way uptown behind this idiot going 14 miles per hour–I got stuck behind a street cleaner on Jefferson on my way to Claiborne. We’ll just pretend there were no idiots on their cell phones on I-10 because I just can’t with people who think a phone call is more important than their life and the lives of everyone else on the highway.

Seriously, days like yesterday make me long for the next meteor and extinction event.

By the time I finally got home from work,  I was essentially done-in and exhausted. I later attributed it to the lack of a protein shake–I mean, the protein shakes I generally have after working out are enormous and have a lot of protein in them; because it spilled I had to have one of those prepackaged ones, which only had about half the protein in it that I usually rebuild with after a good workout–so note to self: should there ever be a repeat of the Protein Shake Incident, drink two of the pre-packaged ones, or you will suffer later.

So, it’s a gorgeous and sunny day outside; it’s a bit chilly here in the Lost Apartment, but that probably means it’s warmer outside. I have to walk over to the Home Depot (I need to get file folders and a new little notebook to replace my check register; yes, I still balance my checkbook, and yes, I still write everything I spend down), and the Lost Apartment  needs cleaning. I am way behind on my emails again (what else is new) and I have some things I need to get taken care of today; I want to finish reading my Ali Brandon novel this weekend, and I also want to pick out my next Reread Project read. I decided that since it’s Leap Day I shall also spend the day working on the numerous in-progress short stories I have; I am also going to try to get the Secret Project planned out and back on track again today, so I can launch myself full force into it again tomorrow. I also want to try to use today (and my new file folders) to get better organized. One of the worst things about Carnival is you literally just try to tread water with everything and you inevitably get scattered, disorganized and behind…and then it’s so hard to get everything back under control yet again once it’s over. I may not get much writing done today–certainly I know I won’t get as much done as I would like to get done–but the most important thing is to ensure that I am organized, know what I need to get done, and that way I can start organizing tasks and start getting them done.

I also got a shit ton of books in the mail this week; some definite treasures, some from authors I’m not familiar with, and once again, I weep at the idea of all the books I will never have the time to read. I am perhaps most excited about Alabama Noir, from the Akashic noir series; edited by Don Noble, it has stories from some of my favorite writers (Ace Atkins, Carolyn Haines, and Suzanne Hudson, among others) and of course, it’s ALABAMA, which I still feel such a strong pull towards, despite having never lived there and knowing deep in my bones and my soul that New Orleans is my home. Do other people feel that way about the states where they were born, where their parents and family are from? Or is it just a Southern thing? One of the reasons I started writing Bury Me in Shadows was because I wanted to write about Alabama, and the complexity of my feelings for the state. I’ve done some Alabama short stories, and I’ve set one book in Alabama–Dark Tide, which was mostly set down in the Gulf beach area–but I’ve always wanted to write more about Alabama. I think the reason Bury Me in Shadows has been so difficult to write for me is because I’m really not sure what the state is like now; and yes, of course it’s fiction, but I also don’t want to indulge in stereotyping and I want to be able to write honestly. I don’t have the time or the money to drive up there, look around, and get a better sense of place than my memories–plus, the part of the state I’m from isn’t the most friendly for people like me–but you never know. All it would really take is a long weekend and a cheap motel somewhere.

And on that note I just heard the dryer click off, so perhaps it’s time for me to get going on everything.

Have a lovely Saturday/Leap Day, Constant Reader!

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On the Other Hand

We made it to Friday again, didn’t we?

Huzzah, I think. I’m ready for things to calm down, or some semblance of what passes for normalcy to come back around, and the sooner the damned better. I slept well again last night–only have a half-day today–and so I am returning to the gym this morning. It’s also rather cold here in New Orleans this morning; my space heater is on and I’m getting nice and toasty warm here at my desk. Yesterday was another slightly off-kilter day; I know Mercury is in retrograde (I’m not entirely sure I believe in that stuff, but one cannot deny that weird things happen fairly regularly whenever this astronomical thing occurs) and so that might sort of explain how things are off-center. I still think it’s just the entire city currently is in a state of low energy.

I really do have to write another book about Mardi Gras.

It occurred to me the other day that I have probably written more books about New Orleans than anyone else; not that means anything, of course. But eight books into Scotty and seven into Chanse puts me at fifteen books about New Orleans, and i don’t think anyone else has written that many that is a contemporary? Frances Parkinson Keyes was very prolific, and she also wrote a lot about New Orleans and Louisiana, but I don’t think everything she wrote was about New Orleans. But she certainly wrote one of the biggest selling books about New Orleans of all time: Dinner at Antoine’s. (It’s interesting, because I just finished reading about Pere Antoine–another, not famous restaurant in the Quarter is called Pere Antoine’s, and I’d always wondered who he was–in City of a Million Dreams–interestingly enough he was a Spanish priest the local French called Pere Antoine; he was also an Inquisitor, and that eventually led to him being sent away from New Orleans by Governor Carondelet)

This weekend I hope to get back on track with the Secret Project as well as finish some of these short stories I’ve got floating around. I worked a little bit on “Festival of the Redeemer” and “Gossip” yesterday; I also did some work on “You Won’t See Me” that I can’t seem to find anywhere. Heavy sigh. I’ve also fallen behind on my reading. I need to finish the Ali Brandon, and I need to read Lori Rader-Day’s The Lucky One, preparatory to our panel at the Williams Festival towards the end of March. The kitchen and Lost Apartment are yet again a total mess; so tonight when I get home from work I need to get the kitchen and the apartment worked on so I can focus on writing and reading all weekend.

I plan on making white bean chicken chili this weekend as well; I may make it today, before I head into the office, so I can have it for dinner tonight. (Or maybe tomorrow. I don’t know. It depends on how much I can get done this morning around going to the gym, of course.) We’re also still watching the final season of Schitt’s Creek; I am going to be terribly sorry to see this show end. It really is funny and charming, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen on television before.

I do feel a little more like myself this morning; that feeling of being able to do anything and get everything I want out of life, which is kind of lovely. I miss feeling like that, to be perfectly honest, and I need to get everything back on track. It’s always difficult to get things going when Carnival is looming on the horizon, and the thing about Carnival is that it’s just long enough for everyone to be sick of it and ready for it to be over when it finally is; Carnival rarely leaves you wanting more.

It really is the perfect way to lead into Lent.

When I was at the grocery store on Wednesday night I saw someone with the cross of ashes on her forehead, which kind of took me aback–I’ve not seen that in quite some time. When we first moved here, New Orleans was still heavily Catholic, and seeing the ashes on people’s foreheads on Ash Wednesday was pretty common. With the influx of the new people after Katrina–they seemed to come in waves–the Catholicism of the city was diluted; that woman was the first person I’ve seen in years with ashes on her forehead–but then again, that may be because I am generally not out that much in public on Ash Wednesday as I used to be. I’d be curious to know if the percentage of Catholics in the city has dropped at all since the 2010 census.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Friday, everyone.

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Kiss An Angel Good Morning

Ash Wednesday and solemnity has descended upon New Orleans, after two weeks of fun and frivolity. Carnival season actually begins on January 6th, on Twelfth Night–but it truly only kicks into major gear during parade season, which mercifully ended yesterday. Now I can drive my car without fearing I’m gone too late to get home or worrying about finding a place to park (the Carnival parking gods were definitely on my side this year; I was able to get groceries and park on my block AND made a Costco run and was able to park near the Lost Apartment, neither of which is a small accomplishment), and having to adjust my work schedule accordingly.

It’s gray outside the Lost Apartment windows this morning, and all is quiet on the Lower Garden District front. I haven’t checked the weather yet, but I am sure rain is part of the forecast; that’s usually what gray skies in the morning mean. I’m not as tired this morning as I thought I would be, and I’m also a little bummed I have to miss my workout today–the gym doesn’t open until noon, and there’s no way I could get home in time and make it to the gym before it closes after work tonight. But two workouts in one week is better than one workout, and so I guess missing the once isn’t really going to kill me. But I’ve gotten into such a great routine of following the regimen…again, I guess we’ll see on Friday morning if I don’t want to get up and go.

And yes, I started writing yet another short story yesterday evening, “You Won’t See Me.” It’s a similar tale, I suppose, to “Festival of the Redeemer”; unreliable gay male narrator who’s madly in love with someone who doesn’t return that affection–but at least that’s how they both start, at any rate. I have to get back to work on the Secret Project this week as well; so that’s at least five or six short story fragments I am working on in addition to the Secret Project. And yes, I am well aware that is complete madness.

We managed to watch McMillions over the past few days; we’d thought the entire series had finished airing so we were, needless to say, completely shocked to reach the end of episode 4 and realize we couldn’t watch anymore. I remember the scandal, vaguely, when the story broke; but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it–and am amazed at how far-reaching and complicated it became–not to mention all the unfortunate people who got suckered into the con and played along, for various reasons. One of the FBI agents discussed how he was constantly amazed at how people didn’t think they had done anything wrong, and how they could justify and explain committing fraud to themselves–the bottom line was whatever the circumstance or the reason, they committed a crime.

True crime–you really can’t beat it for real drama.

I also got some incredible book mail on Monday–Blanche Among the Talented Tenth by Barbara Neely; an old children’s book about the Nazi invasion of Norway and the resistance, Snow Treasure, that I read when I was a kid; Alabama Noir, which I am really interested in reading; and the new Ivy Pochoda, These Women. I somehow managed to finish rereading Mary Stewart’s The Moon-spinners around the insanity (there will be more to come on that front), and got a little further into Ali Brandon’s Double Booked for Death, which I am really enjoying. I’m also still reading Jason Berry’s City of a Million Dreams, which is also quite good.

It doesn’t feel like Wednesday, which means this short work week is going to be weird, and feel weird, the entire time. I do have to put in longer days today and tomorrow than I usually do, because of the holiday yesterday and taking Monday off, but Friday will be my usual half-day and after that, we’re back to normal again. Huzzah? But February is on its way out and March is on its way in, which means the one-two punch of Saints & Sinners/ Tennessee Williams Festival is on its way as well. Kind of hard to believe that’s just right around the corner, but here we are, you know? And then at the end of April I’m off to New York and Maryland for the one-two punch of the Edgars and Malice Domestic. But after that, I’ll be done with travel until it’s time to head to Sacramento for Bouchercon, and then I won’t be doing much traveling unless I go visit my parents this year–which I kind of should. It’s just that the drive is so exhausting, but flying is equally awful, takes nearly as long, and is much more expensive. I suppose I could use Southwest points and fly into Louisville, but there’s no longer a non-stop flight from New Orleans to Louisville, and the things about connections is there’s always, always, a screw-up somewhere at that time of year that delays the return.

I also have an obscene amount of emails to read and reply to, which will engender more emails, of course–the endless cycle of cyber-communication–but I will eventually get dug out, slowly get caught up on everything, and somehow manage. I always somehow manage to do so, at any rate.

And now, back to the spice mines, Have a lovely Ash Wednesday, everyone.

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Don’t Rock the Jukebox

Monday, and after Orpheus finishes passing tonight, Paul and I are finished with Carnival. While we miss participating in the festivities of Fat Tuesday/actual Mardi Gras–it was always the best day–we both have to work on Wednesday and one last fling is too much for us–the penalty of growing older I suppose. But we both decided over this weekend that next year we’ll also take off Wednesday, and head down there for Fat Tuesday, walking up the Zulu and Rex route and enjoying the costumes and the sights and the fun and–DAMN I DO MISS GOING TO THE QUARTER FOR FAT TUESDAY.

But, as I was forced to admit to my neighbor CLM at the parades the other night–I only know how to do slutty costumes, and I haven’t had the body to do that for nearly a decade.

Maybe now that I am working out regularly again…maybe next year I can get away with Ole Man Slut? We shall see.

I tend to doubt it, but stranger things have happened. I could also up my costume game and do something that doesn’t require a lot of bare skin…

I felt enormously well rested yesterday; sleeping in was definitely the smart thing to do yesterday (after retiring relatively early the night before). But I have to say, despite it being a beautiful day for parades yesterday, the energy at the parades I attended seemed off; weird and not festive. To be sure, there were a lot of people out there, but given there was an another parade-related death on Saturday night at Endymion (causing the cancellation of the parade beyond float 12); that two riders fell off Thoth parade floats and had to be rushed to the hospital; and two people watching the parades from a balcony on a house on St. Charles managed to fall off the balcony (the railing gave way)–it’s not surprising the energy seemed off last night. Naturally, there are now stories circulating on social media and around town that this Carnival is cursed–and it’s because the city never recovered two of the bodies from the ruins of the Hard Rock Hotel construction site. I’m not normally superstitious, and I tend to scoff at things like curses and so forth–but then again, it’s very easy to believe in those sorts of things here in New Orleans. For some reason, the supernatural seems very natural here, and it’s always been that way. Reading all the New Orleans history, as I have been doing lately, has shown me plenty of evidence of the darkness and brutality that has always existed here; the history of the city is, indeed, written in blood and human suffering.

And of course, having a crime writer’s mind, the second death at a parade of someone being run over by a float made me think of a spree-thrill killer, going from parade to parade and shoving people under floats. It would be next to impossible to catch someone doing that very thing–and imagine trying to chase a criminal (any criminal, really) through the massive crowds on the parade route, with all the people in costume and bedecked in sequins and glitter and fright wigs and the Mardi Gras colors–and the still, many others, who are wearing actual costumes. A story I’ve got in some sort of progress already seemed perfect to graft this onto; I emailed myself notes I typed up between floats during Bacchus last night. I also, the other night, started writing two new stories that popped into my mind; “He Didn’t Kill Her” and “Gossip”. “He Didn’t Kill Her” is an entirely new story, that just suddenly took shape in my mind–I’m not sure how to finish it; all that occurred to me was the opening sequence and the title–but “Gossip” is one that’s been rolling around in my brain and subconscious for about thirty or so years. The opening popped into my head on Saturday, and so I started writing, as I am wont to do. (I’ve put off working on anything else until Ash Wednesday–but my mind never takes time off.)

I also spent some time yesterday bouncing back and forth between my reread of Mary Stewart’s The Moon-spinners, which is absolutely delightful, and Ali Brandon’s Double Booked for Death, which is equally delightful. It would be enormously fun to write a crime series with a bookstore as the anchor; the ability to make fun of trends in publishing, authors who are assholes, customers that are jerks, etc. would be enormously fun, I would think. The premise behind the book is that an enormously popular author of a series of supernatural books for kids, Haunted High, is doing a booksigning at main character Darla’s inherited bookstore in Brooklyn–and I’ve laughed aloud several times–and I just got to the part where the author in question–Valerie Baylor–was killed. I’m enjoying both books; I will confess I didn’t enjoy The Moon-spinners quite as much on first read as I am on the second read. I think I was expecting the plot to be more like the Hayley Mills film, which in retrospect is terrible. The main character, Nicola, is very headstrong and determined, and very determined to not be pushed aside because she’s a young woman. She’s intelligent and capable and quite clever, with the ability to think on her feet quite brilliantly; in other words, she is a typical Stewart heroine and not a shrinking violet in need of being rescued all the time. There’s a dash of romance in this book, tossed in, I think, to appease her publisher, who saw Stewart as a romantic suspense author when she actually wrote quite excellent suspense novels; but it’s completely unnecessary–if to be expected.

I have errands to run and emails to sort through today; I am getting the mail, making a Costco run, and going to the gym. I also have a business call this afternoon; all of which must be taken care of long before Orpheus begins winding its way through the streets of New Orleans. I do hope the energy is more Carnival-esque tonight; yesterday wasn’t nearly as much fun as it usually is, or could be, during a more normal Carnival.

Tomorrow is a day to rest and relax and get organized as life begins to return to what passes as normal around here; try to do some writing, read some more, get the house back under control after the chaos of the last two weeks.

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

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Tennessee Waltz

Another major parade, another tragic death. Endymion was cancelled beyond float 12 last night, after yet another parade goer went under a tandem float and was killed. Remember how I said, after the Nyx tragedy Wednesday night, that it was a wonder it didn’t happen more often? Yeesh. The city has cancelled tandem floats for the rest of Carnival–what does that mean for the big ones, like the Bacchasaur or the Bacchagator, or the Orpheus train? Remains to be seen, I suppose, and I would imagine next year they are probably going to look at barricading the entire parade route–but I also wouldn’t think that would be practical or even possible. The routes are far too long, for one, and in many places there’s just sidewalk along the route, like in my neighborhood. How awful, how simply awful. I see in this morning’s news both Bacchus and Orpheus are complying with the city’s request…but ugh, how sad and what a pall over this year’s Mardi Gras.I can’t imagine what the families of the two victims are going through, nor how horrible it would be to have such a terrible, terrible Carnival tragedy happen to your family.

And of course, being me and being a crime writer, I did wonder if perhaps a serial killer is going to parades and shoving people under floats. There have been a couple of times, I will admit, during parades where I got so close to the floats and with the crowd pushing forward behind me, worried about going under one. It would definitely be a new twist on serial killers–although I suppose this would be more a thrill killer, wouldn’t it?

I definitely need to write another novel set during Carnival–and not just because of these awful tragedies. I said when I wrote Mardi Gras Mambo that I could write twenty novels about Mardi Gras and never run out of material and would barely scratch the surface. I’ve been thinking more about that ever since the first parades this year–about how the parades bring about a sense of community for New Orleanians that I’ve never experienced anywhere else, and the sense of community persists throughout the year. I even thought about opening another Scotty Carnival book with The Carnival parades used to come through the Quarter on Royal Street back before it became a major tourist event. The route was changed when the crowds got too big for the narrow streets–too much of a fire hazard, too impossible to get medical help in for anyone injured or taken ill during a parade–and so now they all turn onto Canal Street when they get there from St. Charles, and bypass the Quarter, which becomes a deserted wasteland during the parades with only the die hard drinkers not pushing and shoving their way onto the sidewalks and neutral grounds of the city’s major street.

That’s actually not a bad opening, to be honest. *makes note*

While I was doing condom outreach on Friday afternoon (in the bitter cold) I remembered an idea I had about a multi-person point of view novel set during Southern Decadence called No Morals Weekend, but I don’t really experience Southern Decadence very much anymore, other than the occasional sweat-soaked condom outreach experience. I guess I could always write it as a historical; which I am more and more leaning towards doing with some of my work. I almost inevitably and always set my books in an amorphous, cloudy now; but “Never Kiss a Stranger” is set in 1994, and I keep wondering if “Festival of the Redeemer” should be set in the past as well. The early days of the Internet but pre-smart phones seems like a lovely time to write about, quite frankly..although for “Festival”, it’s more about Venice being too overcrowded with tourists than smart phones. Then again it’s set during one of Venice’s biggest events, so of course the streets would be filled with people–which again ties in with my thinking about another Carnival novel: imagine how difficult it would be to follow a suspect along the parade route, through the crowds, trying to not lose sight of someone in a sea of humanity with beads and things flying through the air. I’d wanted to do such a think in Mardi Gras Mambo, and while it’s been so long since I wrote it, or paged through it with a quick reread, I am wondering if I talked about limited availability to get around town because of the parades, etc.

When I had a moment of downtime yesterday, I intended to curl back up with Ali Brandon’s Double Booked for Death, but couldn’t find it, so started rereading Mary Stewart’s The Moon-spinners, which I’ve only read once and not again. I couldn’t remember anything of the plot–as I’ve said before, I primarily revisit and reread her Airs Above the Ground and The Ivy Tree when I do revisit her work–but I did remember two things: it was set in Greece (Crete, actually) and it was made into a Disney film starring Hayley Mills, but the only resemblance the film bore to the book were the Greek setting and a female main character. As I was reading–and the opening is quite spectacular, and Stewart’s writing is Mystery Writers of America Grand Master level amazing and literate; the way she is able to make the setting absolutely real and her main character relatable, likable, and someone you want to root for–I kept thinking about how she is so frequently described or remembered as a romantic suspense author, and how not accurate I believe that to be. Sure, I may not remember all the plots as well as I perhaps should (stupid old brain), and it’s pretty apparent that our ballsy young heroine Nicola Farris is undoubtedly going to fall for the wounded young man she stumbled over in the mountains of Crete and is now helping; but with Stewart, any romance involved is definitely secondary to the suspense element of her novels…like she tacked it on because her publisher or agent or readers expected it. I’ll probably read some more of it today–although I did find my Ali Brandon novel buried in beads on the kitchen counter.

I also remembered, out on the parade route yesterday, that I had an idea for a book or short story about a murder on Fat Tuesday; when a family throws open their house on St. Charles Avenue for an all day open house type party, with people coming in and out all day, and then finding a murdered body in one of the bedrooms upstairs as the party winds down. I also started writing another short story, “He Didn’t Kill Her,” whose opening came to me fully formed last night and so I had to sit down at the computer and write the opening paragraphs.

Carnival definitely makes me feel reconnected to New Orleans and inspired again.

There are five parades today–the final one cancelled on Thursday is rolling today after Thoth and before Bacchus: so today’s order is: Okeanos, Mid-City, Thoth, Chaos, and finally Bacchus tonight. I don’t know how much time I can spend out there, to be honest…but it’s a jam-packed parade day, and then tomorrow is going to be another one of those hideously busy days, as I try to get caught up on the emails that have been languishing, run errands (including Costco, the madness indeed!), go to the gym, and prepare for the evening’s Proteus and Orpheus parades.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Act Naturally

Iris Saturday, always one of my favorite days of Carnival. I love the Krewe of Iris, going all the way back to my very first Carnival, as a visitor in 1995, when the ladies buried me in beads. They have continued to do so, every year, since we moved here in 1996. I love this parade so much that I opened Mardi Gras Mambo, aka Scotty III, at the Iris parade. I had originally intended to make the entire book about the Krewe of Iris–Scotty’s sister, Rain, belongs and rides every year–but life interfered, as it often does, and Mardi Gras Mambo went into a different direction.

Which, of course, doesn’t rule out that I won’t someday write another Carnival novel, and build the story around the Krewe of Iris.

Yesterday was some day. It was sunny but horribly cold–low fifties, high forties–and I had a gazillion errands to run–and because five parades were going to run last night, I had to run them early for fear of not being able to park near the Lost Apartment and having to lug everything several blocks, which would have made me homicidal. I also went to the gym before I went down to the Quarter to do condom outreach; and I skipped the cardio, given I was going to be walking several miles as well as standing for hours. I also swung by the library to pick up the book I’d requested: Four, Five and Six by Tey; which is an omnibus collection of three Tey novels. I’d wanted to reread The Daughter of Time, and as it was the only Tey I read and this omnibus was available, I thought, why not? The other two included are The Singing Sands and A Shilling for Candles. It’s a very old edition, much handled and with stained pages, which makes it seem even cooler to me. I also took down my copy of The Charlotte Armstrong Treasury, the omnibus I’d gotten from the Mystery Guild as a child that introduced me to Armstrong (this is not the original copy I had; I bought it again on eBay several years ago) which included Mischief, The Witch’s House, and The Dream Walker, as I had an eye to rereading Mischief….although someone recently mentioned to me that The Witch’s House is very similar to Stephen King’s Misery–and I thought, blimey, it kind of is, and so I may reread it as well.

But I need to finish Ali Brandon’s Double Booked for Death first.

Anyway, the walk to the Quarter was invigorating; the cold once I was down there and no longer moving not so much. I wore a T-shirt under my sweatshirt; a work T-shirt over the sweatshirt, and tights under my jeans and yet was still cold. I lasted three hours out there, then walked home during Muses and Babylon (both rescheduled from Thursday; neither had marching bands or walking groups, so they literally flew past as I made my way up St. Charles. Paul managed to get our annual shoe–and was home when I got here. We went out to the parade route to catch Hermes and d’Etat, with every intention of staying out there for the rest of the parades, but eventually were too exhausted and came inside. Hey, we saw four parades. And while today is also cold, at least the sun will be out for Iris and Tucks, which will make it a lot more bearable. It’ll be cold for Endymion tonight–so glad we’re not going to be out there. The closest the Endymion route comes to our house is Lee Circle (I hate that it hasn’t been officially renamed, but I get it–the city officials have been busy being corrupt, dealing with the Hard Rock, the issues with the fire department, and of course, the tragic death during Nyx on Wednesday night), and it’s always packed down there. I think Endymion also had to be rerouted, maybe? All of the parades turn towards the river at Canal Street this year (because of the closing of Canal by the Hard Rock Hotel disaster site) which also made walking home last night ever so much easier. Muses hadn’t reached Poydras when I got there, so I was able to crossover there and walk up the sidewalk side of the parade. I caught some things–not much, no shoe bracelet this year for the first time ever–and then after I was past the circle there was Babylon right behind. Dinner last evening was a corn dog.

We wound up hanging out with our neighbors and folks from the neighborhood, and having quite a lovely time, despite the cold. Hermes’ floats are beautiful, d’Etat is rude and satirical, but we were too exhausted and tired and cold to wait out the fifth and final parade of the evening.

I also slept very well–yesterday was quite a taxing day for the old Gregalicious. I even stayed in bed for another two hours; I woke just before seven, but was able to nap intermittently for the next two hours before I finally decided to go ahead and get up.

And now I have to do some cleaning and get ready for the day. Iris is rolling in less than an hour, which means it’ll be here around noonish.

Happy Saturday!

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Green Green Grass of Home

Monday morning, and the  warm-up weekend for Carnival is over. King Arthur/Merlin was a blast yesterday, as always–check out my Facebook page for the ridiculous amounts of beads we caught–and we also got two grails; mine is BURREES NUMBER 9, a combination Saints/LSU grail tribute to Drew Brees and Joe Burreaux! Easily the coolest thing I caught this first weekend.

And now for this week, which is utter and complete madness. I have to get up ridiculously early every day this week so I can get enough hours in to make a forty hour week and get off work early enough to get home to find a place to park before they close the streets. I suspect both Wednesday and Thursday aren’t going to be the easiest days to find parking–Wednesday night is Nyx; Thursday is Muses–and so I am resigned to not only having to walk a few blocks to get home from the car but having to trudge back to wherever I was able to leave it the next morning. Friday I have condom duty all night in the Quarter, and then I don’t have to go back into the office again until Ash Wednesday–but Fat Tuesday is, of course, a complete loss; trapped inside the parade route and nothing is really open anywhere, anyway.

I did manage to get some things done over the course of the weekend–I came up with a few more short story ideas because of course, exactly what I needed is more short story ideas–and actually worked on the Secret Project for a little while. I also spent some time reading Ali Brandon’s marvelous Double Booked for Death (I got the title wrong the other day), and also started working on my entry about Mary Higgins Clark’s Where Are The Children? I collapsed, exhausted and completely drained, into my easy chair last night and watched three more episodes of Rise of Empires: Ottoman. The siege and eventual fall of Constantinople is one of those dramatic events that changed the course of history, and forever altered the face of Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, also giving rise to centuries of Russian interest in the Black Sea and the Dardanelles, and desire for Constantinople and return it to the Orthodox Church. (The show is also giving me a final, deeper and better understanding of the geography of the city, which I’ve never been able to truly grasp before; I never really grasped where the Golden Horn was in relation to the city, nor that it was pretty much surrounded by water on a peninsula.) It’s very entertaining, and quite educational.

Whether I get anything done this week remains to be seen; I am still trying to figure out how and when to go to the gym on Wednesday, or how I am going to get the mail or make groceries, and when as well. #madness.

I also need to make a to-do list, but I think I’ll wait to do that for when I get to the office–I need to reschedule a doctor’s appointment, for one thing, and I also need to try to schedule Entergy to come replace our meter; I am going to try for Lundi Gras, which of course is ridiculous, but worth a try–I am going to have to spend that day getting the mail and making groceries, for one thing, and I making it to the gym because it’s closed on Samdi Gras (I just made that up; Fat Sunday) because there are parades literally all fucking day that day.

And on that note, I have to get ready to head into the spice mines. I slept deeply and well yesterday–combo of the gym and parades–and actually woke up on my own around four this morning, but naturally, went back to sleep for another two. One thing I’ve definitely noticed is an improvement in my sleep since I started back at the gym; and I need to keep going, if for no other reason than the improved sleep, you know? But I seem to be into it now, and I think I am going to be able to keep this momentum going.

One can hope, at any rate.

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Chiseled in Stone

Sunday! It’s raining and gray outside this morning; I’m not sure (because I haven’t looked) what that means for today’s parades (Femme Fatale, Carrollton, and King Arthur–which is over fifty floats and loaded down with gay men, most of whom I know so I always get buried with beads), but I will take a look later. This morning i need to get some work done, and I need to make it to the gym for the start of week three of my workouts–which means today is three sets rather than two of everything. However, I decided it only made sense to cut the treadmill/cardio part of my workouts during parade season; it only makes sense, you know–as I am doing a lot of standing and jumping and walking during the parades. We only went to the night parades yesterday–Sparta and Pygmalion–because Paul was sleeping during the day (it’s festival crunch time, and he stays up really late working) and yes, I could have gone by myself–but it’s not as much fun without him. If the parades are–heaven forbid–rained out, then I will have a lot of free time to get things done, rather than trying to get them done before and after the parades.

Instead of parades yesterday afternoon, I spent most of the day writing some and finishing rereading Mary Higgins Clark’s Where Are the Children? It really is a hard book to put down, which was, of course, Mrs. Clark’s biggest strength as a writer–that, and her ability to tap into women’s biggest fears. I’m writing a rather lengthy post about the book already–so I won’t discuss it too much here. And if the parades are cancelled, I’ll probably get that finished today.

So, I intend to spend this morning prepping for the gym and answering emails, then when I get home from the gym I’ll get cleaned up and write some before the parades get here–if they are, indeed, coming; they might just be delayed. There aren’t any evening parades today, so of course they can all have their scheduled departures pushed back; they may also abandon the marching bands and walking crews to roll in the rain. I don’t know if we have the physical stamina to stand in the rain for four hours–neither one of us can risk getting sick at this point–but then again, there are overhanging balconies at the corner, so who knows? I guess I’ll judge how bad the weather is when I am walking to the gym this morning.

I also now have to make the all-important decision on what to read next. I think I’m going to take a break from books that I have to read and read something just for the fun of it, and I think I’m going to choose a cozy by a writer I’ve not read before. When I said I wanted to diversify my reading–and started, last year, doing so by reading more authors of color–I didn’t just mean reading books by authors marginalized by race or sexuality; I also meant books outside of what I generally read. I don’t read a lot of cozies, and I’m not exactly sure why that is; I’ve read Donna Andrews, Elaine Viets, Leslie Budewitz and others, but I am now questioning whether or not those actually qualified as cozies? I generally get cozies in the gift bags given out at conferences, and I do buy them from time to time–I support women writers, and I do feel like cozies are treated as somewhat less than by the crime  genre in general–and I also feel like it’s time to change that perception, and give cozies their due. I have an interesting looking one on hand from Ali Brandon, Double Booked for Murder, and I think that’s what I am going to read next. My cozy reading is woefully less than what it should be, and I want to start making up for that lost time. After that, I’ll probably move on back to the books I need to read and one of my reading projects, whether it’s the Reread Project or the Diversity Project (I am thinking Mary Stewart’s The Moonspinners is way overdue for a reread), or even, perhaps, some Cornell Woolrich.

Woolrich is one of those pulpy writers from the mid-twentieth century who wrote a lot of books and short stories, but was also a miserable alcoholic and a gay man who lived with his mother most of his life. He wrote the story Hitchcock adapted as Rear Window, and wrote several other important noir-esque pulpy novels. I had started reading The Night Has a Thousand Eyes a few years ago, but got sidetracked by something else–probably reading for an award–and never got back to it, which is a shame; I greatly enjoyed it, and I find Woolrich to be an interesting character. I wish I had the time and the energy and the wherewithal to devote more to writing nonfiction; I think a biography of Woolrich would make for interesting reading (I also have always wanted to do one of John D. MacDonald, but again–would I ever have the time to read his–or Woolrich’s, for that matter–entire canon? Not entirely likely; maybe once I’ve retired from the day job and have days to fill with writing and reading and research); I am also curious because it seems most writers from that time period–including Faulkner, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald–all had drinking problems; as did Woolrich. I’m not surprised a gay man living in those times lapsed into alcoholism–it’s a wonder more gay men of my generation don’t have lingering addiction problems.

I’m still dealing with my creative ADD problem, alas; being aware that it’s going on and happening doesn’t make it easier to control. I just realized yesterday–as I was writing notes in my journal about another short story idea (“Die a Little Death”) that I’d also completely forgotten about “Never Kiss a Stranger”; which is still yet another long story (novella?) I am in process with, along with “Festival of the Redeemer,” and still another I’ve not pulled out and worked on in over a year. It’s absolutely insane how many works I currently have in some kind of progress, which means ninety-five percent of them will most likely never be finished or see print. (Well over a hundred short stories or novellas; I have at least four novel manuscripts in some sort of progress; and fragments of at least five other novels–and none of this is counting essays in progress, either…yeah, it’s unlikely that I will ever finish all of this. And still I persist. Just like I will never read all the novels I want to read, I will never finish writing everything I want to write. Sigh.)

All right, I’m going to go read for a little while before I brave the rain to go to the gym. Have a lovely Sunday, everyone.

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