Mama’s Pearl

I’ve never much cared for the term domestic suspense, because, as someone whose mind works primarily in playing around with words, it has always seemed to me that the inverse would be international suspense, which, to me, sounds like downplaying the work of women and its importance, since books primarily given this”domestic suspense” label generally are women. (Although one can make an argument that men cannot, or do not, write domestic suspense because they traditionally are more involved outside the home and family? Interesting premise there…)

I know there has been debate over the years about the differences between crime fiction written by men or by women, and that women’s crime fiction isn’t always taken quite as seriously as that written by men. I’ve tried puzzling this out, and have made my own brain hurt trying to come up with reasons for why this injustice has always been perpetrated on women crime writers; it’s almost as though the ideation is that women’s fiction is somehow more internal and more contained and almost smaller; the themes of their work being about relationships and family rather than big universal save-the-world themes in male-written fiction. That might have a small kernel of truth to it, as a starting point for a much broader discussion that should be held by those with bigger brains and more knowledge of our genre than my limited knowledge and experience; I just know that while I can occasionally enjoy one of those BIG style books about saving the world with lots of action and gunplay and danger, I prefer as a general rule the stories where the crime story comes from the fracturing of relationships and the emotional damage inflicted by personal cruelty and thoughtlessness from those we know intimately.

Alison Gaylin has, in the slightly more than a decade and a half since she published her first book, Hide Your Eyes (which is absolutely delightful), has become one of the best in what I suppose would be classified as “domestic suspense.” Her If I Die Tonight won an Edgar Award; she was nominated three or four times before, and her What Remains of Me remains one of my favorite reads of the last decade. She writes about mothers and their children; how families can disintegrate in the face of criminal tragedy, or how the scars from a long ago tragedy can continue to break open and bleed in the present.

But with her latest, The Collective, she has somehow managed to kick it up into another gear.

The ceremony starts in twenty minutes. I’m climbing out of the subway tunnel, a thousand unwanted smells in my hair. I’m not used to being around this many people–the stink of them, the heat, the noise. The noise especially. I just shared a subway car with a group of high school girls, and their laughter still swirls in my ears. I probably should have driven, but it’s been hard for me to drive long distances since Emily’s death. My thoughts start spinning along with the wheels, memories of road trips, of carpools and radio sing-alongs and petty arguments and before I know it, I am aiming straight for the divider.

The venue is just three blocks away. I walk slowly, slower than everyone around me, trying to catch my breath, to still my thoughts, to think of nothing but the sidewalk and the cold night air and where I need to be.

From half a block away, I recognize the Brayburn Club. I know it from the photo I found online. It’s located in a Gramercy Park brownstone with leaded windows and wide, majestic steps. It’s a week past New Year’s. but the Brayburn Club is still decorated for the holiday season, a lush wreath filling the front door, icicle lights dripping from the window sills like fresh beads of sweat.

I pass a group of young women smoking last-minute cigarettes–friends of his, maybe?–and I think back to the time I caught Emily smoking weed with her friend Fiona. She must have been fourteen, always a little old for her years and bored of our small Hudson Valley town. I got so angry with her. Grounded her for two months. Her dad thought it excessive. We smoked pot when we were that age, Matt said, missing the point. Yes, we smoked pot when we were fourteen, but Emily wasn’t us. She was better than us.

I won’t do it again, Mom. I promise. Her voice in my head is as clear an real as the shrieking laughter of the girls on the train. I want to lose myself in it and never come back.

It isn’t until I’m at the top of the stairs, after I’ve handed the boy at the door my invitation and I’m in line for the coat check that Emily’s voice quiets and I remember where I am and why I’m here.

The book focuses on a web designed in the Hudson valley named Camille whose life–and family–has been disrupted by a horrible tragedy; the death of her daughter Emily. Her overwhelming and all-encompassing grief has ended her marriage (her ex-husband has moved far away and remarried; finding solace in alternative spirituality), and made her friends very uncomfortable to be around her so they slowly have dropped away…leaving Camille alone with her anger, her bitterness, and her memories. Unable to handle her grief, she focuses on the boy responsible for Emily’s death–who has gone on to academic success and great popularity at his college–with the end result that she crashes an award ceremony for him, creates a scene, and winds up in jail. After she gets out, a woman who was also present at the ceremony and was sympathetic to her presses a business card with the word Niobe on it (not a spoiler here–anyone who knows Greek mythology will recognize the name of the proud woman with twelve children who dared to compare herself favorably to Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis; the twin gods who then slay Niobe’s children in front of her). Camille’s actions have gone viral–someone recorded the scene she created at the ceremony, and not the good kind of viral where everyone is outraged at her suffering and goes after the young man who essentially killed her daughter.

Soon, she is lured into the dark web world of Niobe, a collective of women who are all grieving mothers, their children all killed through the misadventures or deliberate acts of others who then got away with it. The collective all work together to make sure that justice–vengeance–is done; it’s actually very clever how it all comes together (no spoilers here) but Camille is assigned tasks to do. She has no idea why, or what they are for, or how they all act in concert with simple chores or errands done by any number of other women, but all together the end result is vengeance.

Or justice, depending on your point of view.

But the further Camille ventures into this exhilarating, if questionable, world, the more questions arise in her head: is this actually justice? The other women she comes into contact with–who can she ask questions of, who can she trust? And of course, the first rule of the Collective is that you don’t ask questions or talk about the Collective…

Camille is a deeply flawed woman, and yet Gaylin taps into the character so deeply that even as you think to yourself, oh no girl don’t do that this will not end well, the reader can also connect with the unsurmountable grief she feels; the wonderful feeling of doing something, even if it’s not legal or moral–there really is nothing worse than that helpless feeling–and you can’t help but root for her as she gets more and more deeply involved…and the suspense! Gaylin is a master of building suspense to the point you cannot stop reading–and resent even having to stop for a bathroom break.

I do recommend this very highly. It’s exceptional, and a master of the form firing on all cylinders.

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.

The Search Is Over

Wednesday! Pay Day! Pay the Bills Day!

Man, was I tired yesterday. The insomnia had continued, but I was finally able to get my prescription filled yesterday, so last night I slept slept slept. In fact, I’m still a little groggy this morning–but it’s so much nicer to feel rested, have my emotions feeling level, and a bit groggy from getting up before I wanted to, rather than groggy from lack of sleep, with my eyes burning from being tired and my muscles tired and my brain exhausted. I had to speak to the director of patient care at the practice I go to to get this resolved (I may have been testy and rude with him) but it finally got taken care of, and the problem–as frustrating as it was–finally was explained to me so I understood the problem…which had someone simply explained it to me in the first place, would have been fine and I would have figured out what to do much sooner and how to resolve it all.

But it’s also nice to know there IS someone at that practice who can resolve issues patients are having–something I didn’t know before.

The martini glasses I ordered arrived yesterday, so I also stopped at the grocery store on my way home and got dry vermouth and Spanish olives (I looked them up on line; they are the best kind of olives, apparently, for martinis on the home front) and so tonight I am going to try to make my first martini–this is going to take practice, obviously, and I am kind of looking forward to a nightly martini, to be honest. I do need to get a cocktail shaker, but can make do with some of the things I have on hand to begin with. I put the vodka into the freezer last night, too. Yay!

I am starting to dig out from under after the trip–sleeping well last night will certainly go a long way on that score to getting more of a handle on my life and what all I need to get done and so forth. I folded the laundry in the dryer; put away the load of dishes in the dishwasher, and did another load. I also took out the recycling last night, and now tonight, before Paul gets home, I will probably work on this filing/organizing mess here in my workspace to get it under control again. I need to get back to work on my writing again, which I should be able to do tonight, and of course I want to get back to Alison Gaylin’s The Collective, which is fucking fantastic.

We got caught up on last week’s episode of Cruel Summer–we still aren’t completely sure what the truth is there, but I suspect that both girls are lying and the truth is somewhere in between their own contradictory stories; it may not make for a satisfying ending, but it certainly would be a more realistic one. I am also looking forward to the series finale of Mare of Easttown that will be airing this weekend–it’s Memorial Day, a lovely three day weekend which will help me catch up on my rest and help recenter me and get me back into the groove of everything. I really do want to get moving on Chlorine again, and there’s the stories and the novellas as well that need to get working again.

And the gym! I really need to get back to the gym! I am going to head back over there tomorrow after I finish my work-at-home duties; I suspect that I won’t be in the mood after work tonight, but Thursday/Saturday/Monday will put me back on schedule for three days weekly next week, and I can hang with that. I’d like to continue to drop some weight–the twenty pounds I’ve lost so far has been nice, but I am probably going to have to start adding cardio on some level to my workout schedule to kick me past this plateau, which hasn’t seen me lose another pound since the twenty trimmed off earlier this year.

And on that note, I should head back into the spice mines this morning. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader. I certainly intend to!

Endless Love

It’s so lovely to be home again. There’s just something about your own bed, isn’t there? I mean, I still have insomnia, but my own bed just feels so better and more relaxing and so forth.

My flight home, with the change of planes in Tampa, went completely smoothly, which was nice. I didn’t think I could handle delays and changes in schedule on the scale of what happened on my trip up there. I’ve pretty much decided not to fly up there anymore; it’s always a weird routing, it’s rarely inexpensive, and most of the times I’ve flown it’s not gone well, either coming or going and sometimes both. Yes, it sucks to spend almost eleven hours on the road driving, but at least then I have control over the trip and if I need to stop, I can. There’s something about that powerlessness when you fly somewhere…and it’s a lovely, if long, drive. I can also listen to books on tape, which is what I did the last time I drove there and back, and that, much more so than music, makes the time go by much more easily and faster, or seem to, at any rate.

I did read some more Purdy short stories on the flights back, and I also read ebooks on my iPad: I had galleys of both Laura Lippman’s Dream Girl (dropping this summer) and Alison Gaylin’s The Collective (dropping this fall) and wow, both are incredible works. I’ve not finished the Gaylin yet–will probably dive back into it this evening after work and writing duties–but I was rather resentful when my flight landed and I had to put the iPad away. The drive home wasn’t bad, and of course the new airport here in New Orleans is pretty amazing; the old one was fine, but it really pales in comparison to the new one. Of course, it’s weird getting there and all–they haven’t done all the off-ramps and on-ramps and so forth for I-10 yet, so there’s congestion and so forth…but the trip home was so much easier than the trip out, and if one had to be fucked up, I would rather it be the trip up.

I feel completely disconnected from my life now–I’ve got to pick up the strands of what I was doing last week before i left and remember what I need to get done in the meantime. The house is in disarray, and that needs to be handled. I’ve also got other things to get taken care of that I need to remember, and I need to decide what I am going to be writing/working on for the moment. (I was thinking while traveling yesterday about several stories in progress I want to get back to, as well as one of the novellas that is stalled for the moment; there were some tweaks that could be made to “Festival of the Redeemer” that came to me yesterday on the plane, as well as some more thoughts about my story “Please Die Soon” that would make finishing it a little easier; this is what happens when I read great writers like Lippman and Gaylin–it inspires me and also unlocks creativity in my own brain, and since the door has been rather firmly shut on my creativity for a while, it’s nice to have the door opened again)

We also got caught up on Mare of Easttown last night–Jesus, what a great show; give Kate WInslet all the Emmys already–and then Hacks (Jean Smart is heading for potentially winning Emmys for each show) which we are also enjoying. Tonight we’ll get to season two of Who Killed Sara? and I also have errands to run after work tonight. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get back to the gym and get back into the swing of my workouts.

Baby steps back into my life…

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

Rock the Shack

Wednesday, and the day my income tax refund is due to hit the bank. It’s too early to check; the bank doesn’t update accounts until 8 am–which is actually pretty annoying, particularly since this is a new development since my bank was bought out by another. Well, hello and surprise–it was actually there! Huzzah!

We had an amazing thunderstorm last night–it’s still pretty nasty outside this morning–and yes, I was awake through the storm because yet again I passed another sleepless night. That’s three nights of insomnia in a row. Heavy sigh. Maybe tonight I will be able to sleep. I had hoped to make it to the gym tonight, but I can’t imagine not being tired after I get off work this afternoon. Looks like we are also in a flash flood warning for most of the day–not really feeling like I’d want to walk to the gym in torrential rain, either. But…if i do go, perhaps that would wear me out so I could sleep tonight? One can dream, I suppose.

We only have one episode left of The Innocent, and we really have enjoyed the hell out of this show. I’m going to terribly sorry to see it end tonight–and I am sure there are some twists and turns left to play out in this story.

Not sure what we are going to watch next, but there’s a Spanish language show on Netflix called Who Killed Sara? that looks interesting.

I am still trying to decide what to read next–I have such a plethora of riches on hand to go through as it is already, and some of my favorite writers (Alison Gaylin, Megan Abbott, and Laura Lippman) are releasing new books later this year, and S. A. Cosby’s follow-up to Blacktop Wasteland drops in July. Can’t wait to get my grubby paws on all of those, believe you me.

I’ve been too tired to write or do much focusing of any kind this week–three days of insomnia and counting will do that to you–but I’ve been thinking about a couple of my short stories lately and wanting to get to work on those at some point. Maybe tonight I will get some sleep so I can both read AND write tomorrow night, which would be lovely.

And, tired as I may be, it’s time to drag my tired ass into the spice mines. Have a great Wednesday, Constant Reader!

Shake it Up

Well, I wrote the timeline for Bury Me in Shadows last night–lame as it was; I am waiting for my editor to write me back and say, um, you could have made more of an effort on this. But it’s done, and I am well relieved to be out of those woods–for now, at any rate. I am kind of mentally fatigued; two books back to back like this will tend to do that to one–although I used to do it all the time; book after book after book. But I also didn’t used to have to get up at six three days a week, either, nor did I ever have the insomnia issues like I do these days. Last night was another of those nights where Morpheus chose to not visit my bed, but I feel relatively okay at the moment, as I swill my first cappuccino. I am sure I will hit a wall later today. Tonight is also supposed to be a gym night, but…we’ll see how that goes.

I’ve decided to put aside the Thomas Perry novel for now. It’s very well done, but I am not connecting with it, which is more my problem than Perry’s; I am just not in the mind space right now for a hired killer thriller. I’ll come back to it at some point, I am sure; so it goes back into the TBR pile rather than into the donation box. I’ve actually gone on a tear with buying ebooks on sale (or for free) lately, and I’ve also gotten some wonderful e-galleys stored in my iPad–including this year’s titles from Laura Lippman and Alison Gaylin, not to mention some sparkling debuts and some wonderful classics. Yesterday I finally figured out how to sort my ebooks (I am such a Luddite) in the iPad by title, so I could see how many duplicates there were–and there were quite a few, so I deleted all the duplicates to free up space as well as make it easier to find things in there. I think when I go visit my parents, I may just take my iPad instead of books with me to read–although I am taking the hard copy of From Here to Eternity with me–that way I can read through take-off and landing…although I suppose one could just put the device on airplane mode but I still think they make you power it down. It’s been so long since I’ve flown anywhere, it’s hard to remember. I just ordered some more books with points from credit cards that should be arriving this week–yes, yes, I know; I shouldn’t continue buying more books when I still have massive TBR piles–but I’ve cleaned out so many books over the past few months that I thought why not use the points and get some new titles, as well as the Laurie R. King backlist. I am still planning on reading something else before treating myself to A Letter of Mary–I just haven’t decided what just yet. I am torn between She Who Was No More by Pierre Boileau (which Les Diaboliques was based on) and The Cook by Harry Kressing, which was filmed as Something for Everyone with Michael York and Angela Lansbury–a classic and bizarre queer film from the early 1970’s–it’s on Youtube.

Or…maybe something else.

We watched another episode of The Innocent last night; this show is so damned good and full of didn’t-see-that-coming plot twists! Of all the Harlan Coben shows on Netflix, this is my favorite so far–not really surprising, since Paul and I have fallen in love with Spanish-language crime shows (cannot WAIT for season 4 of Elite to drop)–we talked about this last night, and Paul said–and I agree–this particular show wouldn’t be as good in English, or if it was set in the US or England or France.

Of course, hot Spanish and/or Mexican actors might play a part in our thought process. Just sayin’.

I also have a story in yet another anthology that is dropping in June and can be preordered now: Unburied, edited by Rebecca Rowland, from Dark Ink Press. My story is “Night Follows Night”; which I wrote an original draft of years ago for an MWA anthology–I think–that didn’t get accepted. I revised and rewrote it a number of times, and when this call for submissions was forwarded to me by Felice Picano (thanks, Felice!) I thought, well, “Night Follows Night” loosely fits this call, and sent it off–and was very delighted to hear back from Rebecca that she loved it and wanted it. Yay! This was the same period last year where I sent off five stories in one day and sold three of them within 24 hours–which was exactly what I needed to have happen at the time, as I was going through one of my malaise periods…nothing like selling three stories in less than twenty-four hours to get you past that hump (the other two were rejected, but that was expected; they were long-shots to begin with).

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. I hope I have enough energy to make it through this day–I was planning on going to the gym tonight, but the lack of sleep for two days running means that probably won’t happen….

Skullcrusher

Well, yesterday was not one of my better days; it started off not great–right around the time I started getting ready to leave for work–and continued through the beginnings of my day at the office. No need to get into the frustrations and irritations involved (one of them being not being able to find a check for a short story I last had my hands on Saturday but the fucking bank was closed and now I can’t find it), but just before my actual clients started showing up I took a very deep breath and cleared my mind and cleansed it of everything poisonous that the incompetence and thoughtlessness of others put there and sallied forth into my day.

Ah, the joys of being a professional.

After work I went to the gym–had been blowing it off for just over a week, he admittedly shamefacedly, but it was cold–and that was lovely. I came home and cleaned the kitchen, and when Paul got home we watched two more episodes of Bridgerton, which is oddly enjoyable and addicting. My favorite character by far is Eloise Bridgerton; what a delight she is, rejecting everything having to do with being a proper lady and just wanting to live her own life and expand her brain. We have yet but one episode left to go before it’s all over until the next season drops, and I shall sorely miss it; it’s just pure unadulterated fun, while at the same time making me wonder that for so many centuries we put so little store by women other than for them to be wombs, property of their husbands. It’s also a bit racy–I can’t believe one of the major plot points revolves around Simon not, er, um, shooting his load inside his wife, our heroine Daphne. But Regency England society was pretty racy; I was just talking to Paul last night about how this period has never been of much interest to me because of the Regency–Prince George was a bit of a monster–and of course by the time of the events of this show, Queen Charlotte was already dead; but frankly I am glad Charlotte is the one in charge instead of her wretched son.

Today is also pay day, aka pay the bills day (huzzah?)–it seems like we just got paid, really–and so at some point this morning I shall have to make the car payment as well as pay the other bills as well. Oh, how I long for the day when the car is finally paid off; it seems like I’ve been making that enormous monthly payment forever now. I didn’t sleep all that well last night–worry about all the things I have to do, no doubt; I feel as though there are several swords of Damocles hanging over my head at this point in time–but as always, there is nought to do but simply put my head down and start ploughing through everything until I can get as caught as I can while other new and interesting and sometimes tedious tasks and chores pile up around me. But at least this morning I came downstairs to a clean kitchen, which was lovely, and my desk is completely in order (I looked for that check again last night when I got home; nowhere to be found, alas; but it shall eventually turn up somewhere, I am certain), which was even lovelier, quite frankly. Although I didn’t sleep much or well over the course of the evening I don’t feel tired this morning–that will undoubtedly come along later–so I am very hopeful that the tiredness won’t be too terrible this afternoon and so I can get some writing done this evening. I have another short story I want to reconstruct for a submissions call with a deadline later this spring; I have a story that is absolutely perfect for the call–I just need to make some serious adjustments to it (I actually borrowed the entire structure and setting of this particular story for my Joni Mitchell story, “The Silky Veils of Ardor”, for Josh Pachter’s The Beat of Black Wings), but I already know how to revise it and make it work; it’s just finding the time to sit down and go through the many drafts it’s already been through and figuring out how to get it done properly.

I’m also trying to decide what to read next–I have e-galleys of the new Hilary Davidson as well as the new Alison Gaylin; both look superb–but I have so many wonderful books on hand in the TBR pile already! A plethora of riches, as it were.

I’ve also fallen down a massive Louisiana history black hole, something that may come in handy when I want to write another Sherlock story. Belle Grove was one of the biggest houses in Louisiana; located in Iberville Palace not far from Nottoway–the White Castle–Belle Grove was actually pink and called the Pink Palace. It burned to the ground and was never rebuilt; I can’t imagine the upkeep on a place like that, or, for that matter, the upkeep on Houmas House or Nottoway or Oak Alley must be outrageous as well. I think my version of Belle Grove will be set in my fictional Redemption Parish; I always tie my stories together, remember? The modern Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock updated “A Scandal in Bohemia” to “A Scandal in Belgravia”; why should I not title mine “A Scandal at Belle Grove”?

These are the things I think about when my mind wanders, as it is so apt to do when given such an opportunity.

And on that note, tis back off to the shower with me, and off to the office. Have a lovely Inauguration Day, Constant Reader!

60 Miles an Hour

So yesterday I was a guest at Chicks on the Case blog, which was a lot of fun. I was invited to guest post by the delightful Ellen Byron, an accomplished mystery writer who writes a wonderful Louisiana Cajun country-based series beginning with Plantation Shudders, and also writes as Maria DiRico, who writes the catering hall mystery series. (you can read more about her, and order her books by clicking here!) I’ve not done the guest blog thing in a while, and it was quite fun. I tackled one of the weirder parts of my writing process–how I have to always start with a title, whether it is the final title or not–and was pleased to find out, based on the comments, that it’s not as strange as I had originally been led to believe! Yay, me!

Go Greg, go Greg, go Greg!

I am desperately trying to get my short story done; it’s due tomorrow, and writing it has been a real chore recently. I think my creativity feels like a worn out, dried out old husk right now–probably the push to finish the book, which I am still not sure is completely finished–and so have been forcing myself to have to write it. It’s not a bad story, by any means, it’s just been so damned hard to finish it I don’t know what to do with myself. But while today is a Greg-maintenance day–doctors appointments and so forth-I am hoping to get it finished today so I can polish it tomorrow and get it turned in and out of the way. I am daunted by how much work I also must get done this weekend–truly daunted and terrified–but there’s nothing to do but put my nose to the grindstone and start plugging away. The Lost Apartment is also a disaster area–I’ve somehow managed to keep the kitchen under control for once this week, so it’s mostly the living room that is the tragic mess–so I’d like to get the living room under control this weekend as well. I am going to try to repair my old desktop computer–the things they had me do to the laptop to try to make it functional should also work on the desktop, so keep your fingers crossed for me; it would be lovely to have an actual functional desktop computer here rather than having to keep fucking around with this piece of shit MacBook Air–but I am also not going to waste a lot of time on it. Either it works or it doesn’t, and if this fix doesn’t work I’ll have to figure out a way to dispose of it and get it out of the living room once and for all. There’s just so damned much clutter in the living room–and believe me, the more annoyed I become with the clutter, the less attached I remain to the stacks and piles of books. (If it weren’t for the damned coronavirus, I would have been able to get rid of many of these already; I don’t simply want to throw them away. I have a library book to pick up today as well, so when I call them to have them finish the check-out process and put the book outside on the gallery, I will ask them about how to donate books to them…because this shall not stand)

I also need to get back to reading rather then spending my evening streaming either CNN or MSNBC. The events of the past week have been historical, watching history unfold, and I felt an obligation–still do–as an American citizen to watch and stay informed of what is going on in the country. There’s an inevitable feeling to all of this, really–I always suspected in my heart of hearts (while hoping desperately to be wrong) that it would come to something like this, and as a long time citizen who actually believes, has always believed, and will continue to believe, that the ideals behind the founding of this country are something to always strive for, even if we have all too frequently, as flawed humans, failed to get there and always fallen short. Nowhere and at no time since the Civil War has the union and the Constitution been so threatened; and we remain very lucky we didn’t watch the wholesale slaughter of Congressional Democrats and the vice-president in real time.

And so many of this vile mob of seditious treasonous traitorous insurrectionists only have regrets because they are being arrested and losing their jobs. White supremacy is a potent and addictive a drug as heroin or meth, clearly.

But as I have said before, the world doesn’t stop because of events. The planet keeps turning and going around the sun at the same pace as ever; it halts for no man. As difficult as it is to tear one’s self away–the all-too-real fear of missing something horribly important–I must. Today I will get my routine maintenance done, pick up my library book, get the mail, clean and write my story. Tomorrow I will work at home making condom packs and trying to get back on top of all of my responsibilities, my emails, my writing, my career–and I also want to watch some more cynical 70’s movies while I make my condom packs. (Probably Saturday Night Fever and maybe Play Misty for Me) I also am hoping Paul and I can settle in for some more Bridgerton–we’re only two episodes in–and I also want to get some reading done; I want to tear through the first Mary Russell novel by Laurie R. King, and I have some e-galleys from two terrific authors (Hilary Davidson and Alison Gaylin) I can’t wait to dive into, as well as getting back to the Short Story Project, and also to get back into the swing of going to the gym again.

And with that, I need to start getting ready for my first appointment. Have a great Thursday, Constant Reader! I certainly intend to.

Temptation

A very cold Monday morning in New Orleans, and the sun has yet to peek its head out from under the blankets this morning. I slept deeply and well last night also, which made the getting up even more difficult this morning. My space heater is going on HIGH right now, and my cappuccino feels wonderful to my incredibly cold hands. This morning’s shower is going to be quite the challenge, though. But I do feel rested this morning, which is lovely, and while dealing with today’s cold temperatures will indeed suck, I feel like I am somehow up for the challenge.

Walking to the gym tonight after work will be a considerably different tale, I fear.

We started watching Bridgerton last night (that’s us, always on the cusp and cutting edge of what’s new and exciting) and as I watched, I found the word charming popping up in my head when thinking about the show, which is a word that has fallen out of favor and use as a descriptor for fictions, but I think needs to come back. (Ted Lasso, for example, is also a charming show.) As I watched, I began to understand the pull of romance novels again. It’s been quite some time since I’ve read a romance, and I think this has been a grave disservice, not just to the romance genre in general but to me as a critical thinker and writer. I loved romances when I was younger, with a particular appeal for those novels and authors who carried the label romantic suspense–because those combined my two favorite genres, romance and mystery. I also read an awful lot of historical romances–mostly ones based on true history; romance of queens and empresses and princesses and royal mistresses (one of my all time favorites is Anya Seton’s Katherine, which told of the great love story of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and son of Edward III, and his commoner mistress, Katherine Swynford; whom he had an entire brood of children with and married after the death of his second wife, raising her to be the highest ranking women in England, second only to the Queen herself), and as I watched the show last night, I thought to myself in an alternate universe you would have been a romance writer. The Regency period has never interested me much in England–although the clothes were quite marvelous, and any number of women today would benefit from the Empire style high-waisted dress–primarily because it wasn’t, to me, a particularly interesting period, what with the mad King and his awful sons, who created a succession crisis as they refused royal marriages while living with their commoner mistresses and having hordes of bastard children by them. The show is sumptuous and the attention to details of the period exact; it has the look and feel of care and money, and we were, as I said, quite charmed by it–and we certainly weren’t expecting that.

There is an interesting essay about how Americans enjoy watching rich people suffer as entertainment formulating in my brain as I type this–going back to the 1980’s prime time soaps and mini-series.

I tried working on my short story yesterday, and I did manage to get the 1600 words I’d originally written revised and polished and in better working order, but I did not write into the second act of the story, which is the part I always struggle with on everything, from short stories to essays to novels to novellas. The story is due on Thursday, so I think I am going to have to buckle down, avoid Twitter (yes, I continued trolling right wing politicians and Trump administration appointees yesterday. It’s so endlessly satisfying calling Sarah Huckabee Sanders a fake Christian, a liar, and a traitor to her face…or asking trash like Tomi Lahren why she hates the Constitution, reminding Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio they are cucks and traitors…but effective today I am banning myself from anything other than bantering with friends on there anymore–I have too much to do to bother with stating the obvious to treasonous traitor trash.)

The sun is now rising over the West Bank, and the light is very gray. The sky is covered with clouds–it may even rain today, if I am not mistaken–and this cold spell is supposed to last most of the week, dipping into the low forties after sundown.

I also read a marvelous short story yesterday called “The Fixer”, a collaborative work by Edgar winners Laura Lippman and Alison Gaylin, which was in the Mystery Writers of America anthology Deadly Anniversaries, edited by Grand Masters Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller–released in the midst of the lockdown last spring, so it didn’t get the attention it truly deserved. The story is quite marvelous–you can never go wrong in the hands of either Lippman or Gaylin, let alone when they collaborate–and I greatly enjoyed it. It’s kind of a “#metoo” story in some ways; it tells the story of a faded child star who appeared in a science fiction television series who now makes most of her living selling signed photos of herself at Comic Cons, who in the present day runs into someone who was her ‘handler’ some years earlier when she was making a movie that eventually was shut done and never finished–ending her career with it–and what happened back then. It’s quite chilling, and a very hard look at how women’s bodies, regardless of age, are seen as property by men in the industry–property those same men have a right to use and abuse how they see fit. There have long been rumors about pedophilia in Hollywood–both Michael Nava and John Morgan Wilson wrote mystery novels around that very subject, which were two of their best books, I might add–and I highly recommend this story, and this anthology; every story in it was written by an Edgar winner, and I will be posting more about the stories as I read them.

The Saints also won yesterday, beating the Bears 21-10 (hey Bears fans, finished what Katrina started yet? Yeah. I have a looooooong ass memory) in an underwhelming game I had on while I cleaned the kitchen and made dinner. Next up are the Buccaneers, whom we’ve already beaten twice; will the third time be the charm for Tom Brady and his new team? Tonight is the Alabama-Ohio State game for the national title in college football, and I don’t find myself caring too terribly about that, to be honest. I might have it on? We’ll probably watch Bridgerton instead, and I’ll see who won when I get up tomorrow morning.

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

Peace

And we have now slid into Saturday. I have to make groceries today–the first exploration of non-Rouse’s grocery making in over a decade- -get the mail and pick up a prescription, but other than that I have the entire day to myself to work on writing, read, try to get organized, and clean. It’s an ambitious program, but I suspect I can get much of it done today. I want to get the draft of my story for MWA finished this weekend, so I can polish it before I send it in (on the last possible day, of course) and I also have a lot of other work to buckle down and do for MWA.

I just need to focus, keep my head down, and not worry about how much I have to get done; that’s when I’ll get overwhelmed and literally get nothing finished, which I cannot allow to happen.

This also means I need to stop scrolling through Twitter and checking the news–but I have to say, yesterday was one of those days where I alternated between fury at the terrorist attack on the Capitol and laughing at the fucking stupidity of the treasonist traitors and their mea culpas as the terrorists get arrested, lose their jobs, and issue public statements claiming that’s not who I am. Um, it’s is EXACTLY who you are, you fucking treasonous trash, and I do really hope the rest of your life was worth it–because you aren’t heroes, 88% of Americans strongly disapprove of your behavior, and your own family, friends and co-workers are turning you into the FBI and other law enforcement. And Republican enablers? Miss me with that “healing” talk until they are all in jail–and I include Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley in that, as well as the entire Trump family other than Barron. I also think Melania should be stripped of citizenship and deported for committing immigration fraud, not just for herself, but for her parents as well. There needs to be consequences and no leniency, otherwise it will happen again–and next time, they might be better organized and actually succeed.

I seriously can’t wait for the trials to begin, and the Congressional investigations. More people died at the Capitol than at Benghazi.

As I tweeted at Kellyanne Conway, your harvest has come in, Tokyo Rose, and you’re never going to wash the stink off.

But I am going incommunicado today, because as much I feel it’s important to witness history as it occurs, that witnessing isn’t going to pay the bills–and the bill always need to be paid. I also need to do some reading–I’ve got the ebooks of the latest MWA anthology, Deadly Anniversaries; an advance copy of Edgar winner Alison Gaylin’s The Collective, and am about to, at long last, start reading Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series*, beginning with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. The threat to our nation from this past week is going to have to be put aside for me this weekend–no promises on next week’s between-client activities–so I can make sense out of the mess the Lost Apartment is in, and try to get some of these other things caught up as well. It’s very cold, if bright, this morning in New Orleans; I slept magnificently last night and feel incredibly well-rested this morning for the first time in a while. (Also, good news from the friend who had to have emergency surgery this week; that had also been weighing heavily on my mind.) Paul and I also need to find some new things to watch…

Yesterday as I made condom packs I watched an HBO MAX documentary called Alabama Snake, which was fascinating. The rural part of Alabama this happened in is a county in northeast Alabama, on the Tennessee state-line and very close to the Georgia. The highway I take when I drive north to Kentucky misses this county by quite a ways–swinging into Georgia, where I switch to I-75 in the lower Appalachians to head north through Chattanooga and Knoxville. It was, obviously, about a snake-handling pentecostal church whose preacher was convicted of trying to murder his second wife with rattlesnake bites. This all happened in the early 1990’s, and while I’d like to think things have changed in the nearly thirty years since, I suspect they haven’t changed that much (I have plans for my Corinth County where Bury Me in Shadows is set; there will be more stories and books set there methinks, and watching Alabama Snake helped a lot with that), which makes me feel a bit better about the manuscript I just turned in.

I seriously keep looking around at this mess and chaos I am in the midst of and every time, I am a little surprised someone hasn’t come along and taken care of it all for me! Which is probably the segue I need to bring this to a close for the day and get started on everything I need to get done around here. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

*Laurie R. King’s Kate Martinelli series is one of my favorite mystery series of all time, and I strongly encourage you to read it, Constant Reader.