Stoned Love

It’s Ash Wednesday and before dawn as New Orleans crawls out from under and returns to what passes as normal around here–which by the standards of everywhere else, ain’t normal.

I’m kind of glad to see it over this year. I’m sort of glad we had it–it felt like a return to normalcy of a kind, even if I didn’t feel excited about it or participated in it much–but I’m also happy it’s over. I feel very weird having been essentially trapped inside the house for the last six days or so, with small windows of opportunity here and there to run necessary errands and get things done. I spent a lot of the time tired–I’m not sure what that’s all about it, but “low energy” has been a thing around here for quite some time–and last night I went to bed at nine. I did submit a story to that magazine that asked for one–I finally gave up on “Parlor Tricks” yesterday morning–it literally was like pulling teeth–and instead edited what. I have on “Never Kiss a Stranger” down to about 4000 words, tacked on an ending, and turned it in as “To Kiss a Stranger (Summer of 94)”. I doubt they’ll use it–hell, I may never even hear back one way or the other; professionalism when it comes to short story submissions, with some exceptions, seems to have gone the way of the dodo over the years–but at least I tried. I now also am wondering if this story needs to be a novella or not; slicing all that extra stuff out of it felt really good, and while the ending wasn’t necessarily stuck (that can always be fixed, of course), the story itself wasn’t bad in its trimmed down state. Which naturally puts me on the horns of a dilemma: keep it as a short story and fix the ending, or leave it as a novella and finish revising/writing it?

Or…why not both?

We finished Toy Boy last night (I keep calling it Boy Toy, which is incorrect) and….not as good or as interesting as the first season, alas. By the time the final episode rolled around I realized I hadn’t been paying as close attention as I did during the first season and thus had literally no idea what was going on in the finale–which ended remarkably well, given how dull the season actually proved to be–and set up the next season quite well…which means we will probably watch the third season, if there is one. Paul’s late night schedule and Carnival has thrown me off on everything we watch; I don’t remember what series that are currently airing that we were watching–but it should show up on my up next on Apple TV.

At least I can hope.

I also have to pay the bills today–always a joy–and probably should go back to the gym tonight. I’ve not been since Wednesday night–Friday was one of those horrible low-energy days where everything was sore and achy; going to Muses Thursday night, even briefly, was undoubtedly a mistake. And I also need to start digging out from under because I am so far behind now I don’t even know what’s what. I know I have a story due sometime in April that I need to start writing; I need to get caught up on my MWA stuff and the anthology I am editing; and I need to start a significant final revision edit of my book coming out in December. So first things first: make a to-do list, go through my notebooks and look through my notes about pending things that need addressing, and try to get my energy levels high and stop allowing myself to feel defeated before I even try.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Ash Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will talk at you tomorrow.

I Second That Emotion

Wednesday and parades start again tonight. I did make a brief grocery run last night and picked up the mail on my way home from work–which was lovely and I am terribly glad I did, since it won’t be an option again until Friday morning. I don’t think I’ll be attending parades tonight–I will probably never attend a Nyx parade again, which is a shame, since they were becoming a favorite, until their descent into controversy; the last time they paraded they had 4000 riders, and are now down to 240, which is testament to the mass exodus from Nyx a few years back–but probably wouldn’t have even had there been no Nyx controversy; I have to get up early tomorrow morning and so standing out on the parade route (the low today is going to be 71, sob) until all hours simply isn’t in the cards for me this Carnival anyway. I will go to Muses tomorrow night, of course–don’t have to get up so early for Work-at-Home Friday, after all.

I slept extremely deeply and well last night, which was quite marvelous. I woke up before the alarm–why is it that those moments between hitting the snooze button and actually getting up are so magical and comfy in the bed?–and don’t feel tired this morning, physically or mentally. I have to leave the office early today–they close the streets early for the parades, plus the parking situation will probably already be out of control by the time I get home–and I am hoping to make a quick dash to the gym this evening as well. It feels good–I feel so much better physically overall–to be working out; my muscles feel stretched and worked, which is nice and I am sure that is also helping me sleep better as well. Yay! I’m not as concerned as getting ripped and lean as I used to obsess over; sure, weight loss would be great, but I am really more concerned about just feeling better physically more than anything else (the stretching alone! Tres magnifique!). And it would be nice to get my blood pressure and cholesterol down so I could stop taking medication for it….and the best way to do that is through diet and exercise. I can do the exercise part but the diet part will be a little rougher, obviously; I’ve always had issues with eating healthy. (I did for a number of years, but then got out of the habit and reverted to my old ways…but as long as I was regularly exercising, it didn’t matter. Once I stopped exercising…yes, well, I should have expected the weight gain, shouldn’t I?)

I have to say I have been in kind of a lull about writing lately. I’m not sure what it is–burnout, maybe–but I have struggled so much with this short story that I am giving up on that it triggers all kinds of other doubts in my head that I really don’t need to be having. I know I can resolve this by getting into writing something and getting some good stuff down on the page, but I am trying to figure out what story to tackle now for this deadline and it’s…not going well. Of course, I could just not submit anything–I certainly don’t have to–but the pay is nice if they take my story–really nice, and they did reach out to me rather than the other way around so…but I have some potentials, I suppose. I just need to take some time to sit down and go through the files and see what’s there, really there, rather than just skimming over the folders and wondering if this one might work or that one might work…after braving the grocery store yesterday, doing two loads of laundry, emptying the dishwasher and doing another load…I was a bit tired.

Of course, the plan is to go to the gym tonight. Maybe those endorphins will help me to decide on which story to focus on. I mean, I only have five or six days left…

Heavy heaving sigh.

It’s also weird adjusting to my new work week. I am delighted, of course, that I slept well last night and feel like I have energy today and can get things accomplished and finished and crossed off the list, but I keep forgetting that oh yeah I have to come in tomorrow this isn’t my Friday anymore and it’s always a disappointing jolt. But…since Mondays and Fridays are work-at-home days, and Fat Tuesday is a holiday…after tomorrow I don’t have to return to the office until Ash Wednesday, and only have to come into the office two days next week. This isn’t a bad thing. And I also have another story to write before the end of March, too.

So, I probably should head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Mid-week Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will be back tomorrow.

Recoil

And now it’s Ash Wednesday, concluding the Carnival that wasn’t.

My God, yesterday was cold.

Gregalicious does not like the cold.

Yesterday’s high was 36; most of the day was in the 20’s, and without heat in the Lost Apartment, it was pretty miserable here. I spent the entire day in layers of clothing, under blankets, and with my space heater blowing directly on me. It’s in the thirties right now as I type this–shivering, with my gloves forgotten upstairs–but at least today’s high will be in the fifties. (And yes, well aware that ordinarily I would complain about the cold with it in the fifties, so yes, the irony doesn’t escape me at all. Last night, as I got into bed with all my layers still on, I said to Paul, “as much as I am dreading getting up at six tomorrow morning, I am looking forward to the drive to work because I know the heat in my car works.“) At least this morning I can feel the heat from the space heater–yesterday for most of the day I couldn’t, unless I got close to it, that’s how fucking cold it was in here…I could see my breath last night as I gulped down hot soup. Needless to say, I got absolutely nothing done yesterday, but I watched a lot of videos about history–I found a great American history channel, with a history teacher going over important points from our history–the compromises of 1820 and 1850 that just kicked the slavery question down the road a bit; the Kansas-Nebraska Act; the Dred Scott decision; and every other point in our history where the government tried to appease slaveholders in order to keep the peace.

Appeasement is never a solution; all it does it buy some time before the inevitable conflict comes.

I also just had a horrid thought–I do hope the heat is on at the office…although if it’s not, I doubt they will keep us there very long.

And I do think I’ve learned my lesson about getting out of bed. If it’s cold like this tomorrow, I am just going to grab my laptop and anything and everything else I have to work on tomorrow, and I am going to do it from under the blankets upstairs. And move my space heater up there as well. I can’t afford to lose another day of work because it’s cold–and the weather it going to remain cold over the next few days before finally returning to normal New Orleans winter weather temperatures on Sunday.

I found myself thinking yesterday, as I shivered and tried to start warm (my iPad was cold to the touch so I didn’t even want to hold it for significant periods of time) I found myself thinking, not only about the Kansas book which needs to be worked on, but about another Scotty book–or what will probably be the next Scotty book, Twelfth Night Knavery, which has a very basic plot already in place, so writing the book will just be putting meat and muscle on top of the skeleton I’ve already got in place. I think the next Scotty will take place a few weeks after the previous one, the one after that will take place during the Carnival of 2020, and then we’ll jump ahead to 2021’s Carnival for the next. I’m not sure if this is workable, in all honesty; three Scotty books over such a short time period will spread the writing out over three years, really, so this third one I am thinking about would wind up being a 2024 release….and that’s if no other writing projects/jobs come along in the meantime to kick the Scotty can down the road a while….this is an awful lot of pre-thinking and pre-planning for Scotty; certainly more than I’ve ever put into these books before….so it feels a little bit weird.

We’ve nearly finished the second season of Mr. Mercedes, which we are enjoying a lot after it’s slow start, and I was also very pleased to see that Season Three is going to drop (or start airing) on March 4th, so we don’t have to go too long between seasons. I also rewatched Scream yesterday, which, despite the advances in telephone technology, surprisingly still holds up after all this time–and despite having seen it any number of times, I still enjoy watching it. It really is one of the best slasher movies ever made–particularly in how it mocks the genre, subverting it while embracing it at the same time.

And on that note, I am off to the office, and to perhaps feel warm again for the first time in days.

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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The Heat Is On

Ash Wednesday, and Valentine’s Day, to boot.

Another Carnival is in the books, and a good time was had by all. We didn’t do as much parading as we usually do; me being in Alabama for the first weekend had a lot to do with that, and I was a lot more tired, physically, than I usually am during parade season. I suspect I am getting to that sad place in life where I am too old to handle the walk to and from the office all of those days in a row. I am, however, going to continue with my new workout routine and hopefully that will make a difference the next time Carnival rolls around.

Fingers crossed, at any rate.

Today an anthology I contributed a story to drops; The Trouble with Cupid. I was very happy and thrilled to be asked to contribute a story–I always am thrilled and happy when I’m asked to contribute to anything, frankly–but therein lay a conundrum for me: what would I write about? I still struggle to write crime short stories, and this call was for romantic suspense, or some combination of romance and crime, possibly; and I was frankly absolutely clueless what to write or how to go about writing something.

So, I decided instead to write a sequel to my story “Everyone Says I’ll Forget In Time,” which I wrote a long time for the Fool for Love anthology, edited by R. D. Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert. In that story, Terry, my main character, was still coming to terms with the death of his partner; his best friends have decided it’s time for him to move on and set him up with a sort-of-blind-date thing; and the blind date turns out to be a guy he had a crush on before; that he met when he and his partner had briefly separated during a rough patch. I’d always wanted to do a sequel to the story, and even had the title picked out: “Passin’ Time,” which is a phrase we here in New Orleans use to describe waiting when you have no other choice; it’s most frequently used to talk about waiting for a parade during Carnival; what we do on the street while waiting for a parade to show up is passin’ time.

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I OPENED THE front door and Trouble wasn’t there.

The food bowl I’d set out for him was empty. The water bowl was upside down next to the cement step. He had a habit of doing that, I’d noticed. I wasn’t sure why, but it was just one of his quirks. I picked it up and walked it over to the sink and refilled it. I set it down and sat down on the step, looking around. This was the first morning since he’d shown up that he wasn’t out there, waiting for me with his eager eyes and twitching black tail.

And it made me sad.

You need a pet of your own, I said to myself, looking up at the blue sky. It was a gorgeous morning, not even ten yet, and already warm. The ladies of Iris and the gentlemen of Tucks had lucked out this fine Saturday before Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday was early this year, so I’d worried my favorite parade day might be cold—or worse, rainy. There had been a downpour on Iris Saturday a few years earlier, but the parades still rolled—the floats speeding past at breakneck speed, the marching bands and dance groups sitting out the parades—and I’d stood out there, soaked through and having the best time, even if my glasses were covered with beads of water and it was also cold out there. It had taken me a while to warm up again after that, curled up on my loveseat under woolen blankets and drinking hot chocolate spiked with peppermint Schnapps while I watched Endymion roll through mid-city on television.

Endymion.

I hadn’t been to Endymion since Paul died.

Trouble is a crime-solving black cat, I should probably add; Carolyn Haines has gathered an extraordinary group of writers together to write a series of books about Trouble; I hung out with the Mad Catters in Alabama at Murder in the Magic City and Murder on the Menu, and even agreed to try my hand at writing a Trouble book, when I have the time. Every story in the anthology had to include Trouble (hence the title The Trouble with Cupid), and all proceeds from the book are going to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary; if you know Carolyn, you also know she’s all about helping the animals, and I can certainly get behind that–given that we have somehow wound up with five outdoor cats and one indoor rescue.

I hope you’ll check out the anthology, Constant Reader, and I also hope you like my story.