Breathe

One of the things I love most about books being turned into television series–or mini-series–is reading the book while I am watching the show. I discovered how amazingly fulfilling and fun and joyous this could be with Big Little Lies, and I’ve tried–sometimes failing–to do this every time Paul and I start binge-watching and loving another adaptation.  (Little Fires Everywhere remains my biggest disappointment; I cannot believe I did not have a copy of the book on-hand, or waited to watch until I had one in my clutches)

When I saw the first preview for HBO’s Lovecraft Country, it literally blew me away. I literally thought to myself, wow, I cannot WAIT to watch that, and was even more delighted to discover that it was, in fact, a novel. I got a copy, placed it on the mantle, and the week the first episode aired, I started reading. (Obviously, I do not read as fast as I used to.) I love love LOVE the show, and the book is actually pretty marvelous, as well. I finished it last night as I waited for the way-outer bands of Hurricane Laura to reach us here in New Orleans–all we got was a tropical storm effect, I am terrified frankly to look up what actually happened where the eye came ashore, and will have to gird myself with more coffee before I do look–and I am pleased to report the book finishes just as strongly as it starts–and that the entire book is fucking fantastic.

lovecraft country

Atticus was almost home when the state trooper pulled him over.

He’d left Jacksonville two days before in the secondhand ’48 Cadillac Coupe that he’d bought with the last of his Army pay. The first day he drove 450 miles, eating and drinking from a basket he’d packed in advance, stopping the car only to get gas. At one of the gas stops the colored restroom was out of order, and when the attendant refused him the key to the whites’ room, Atticus was forced to urinate in the bushes behind the station.

He spent the night in Chattanooga. The Safe Negro Travel Guide had listings for four hotels and a motel, all in the same part of the city. Atticus chose the motel, which had an attached 24-hour diner. The price of the room, as promised by the Guide, was three dollars.

I’m going to be honest right up front: I’ve never read H. P. Lovecraft. Oh, the horror, literally, right? When I was a kid I bought a copy of The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and other Stories, and it just…well, it just didn’t do it for me. I lost interest several pages in, and gave up; and have never since returned to try the Lovecraftian waters. As I grew older and became more and more aware of the horror genre, I also became aware of how much of an impact and influence Lovecraft had, not just on horror, but on the sisters that genre is usually lumped in with, fantasy and science fiction. Lovecraft is honored and saluted and studied and written about, over and over again; new anthologies explore his worlds and “cosmic horror”; so many horror writers and fans claim, on their social media pages, to have attended “Miskatonic University” (which, to be fair, is far less annoying than those who claim “the School of Hard Knocks,” har har); and of course, over the past decade (perhaps longer; who knows? I don’t, and don’t care to find out) you cannot be involved in publishing, or a fan, as I am, of the horror genre and not been aware of what I have come to call “the Lovecraft Wars.” (The Lovecraft Wars, in short, debate the legacy of Lovecraft and his vile, racist beliefs; the standard defense is a shrugged ‘he was a man of his time’–to which the only proper response, frankly, is so was Hitler–and whether or not he should continue to be honored as an influential author; I don’t know the answer to those questions, frankly, and it’s not my writing community so I have no skin in the game. But you cannot help but be aware of this ongoing conflict.)

Anyway, I was pleased when I saw the trailers for HBO MAX’s Lovecraft Country, which clearly centered Black people, and when I found out it was also a book, I decided to get it and read along while watching the series. I was also a little disappointed to see, based on the author photo on the back cover, that author Matt Ruff appeared to be white–which also seemed to be a whole other field of land mines; the #ownvoice debate.

And then I started reading, and watching.

The book is set in a post-Korean War pre-Brown v. Topeka Board of Education United States; when racism was not only permissable and acceptable to the majority of white people but was often enshrined into law; separate bathrooms, denial of service, mob violence and burning crosses were, horrifyingly enough, just a part of everyday life for Black people. The police weren’t there to help protect them; they were there to force them to continue to live their lives on their knees–and kill them if they tried to rise. Lovecraft Country doesn’t flinch away from this or try to downplay it in any way (either book or television show), and there were times I found it hard to keep reading and would put the book down–only to think to myself, that’s some serious privilege there, bud–this is what Black people experience to this very fucking day and they can’t just ‘put down the book’ and walk away from it; refusing to read it because it makes you uncomfortable and makes you squirm makes you even more complicit than you already are. So, yes, there are some parts to the book that will make white people uncomfortable–but you need to get over it, for any number of reasons but at least one is because the book itself is a revelation.

As I’ve said, I’ve not read Lovecraft, but I got the sense from reading the book that the interconnected stories that make up the book are all inspired by, or retellings of, some of Lovecraft’s; only now centering Black people and their struggle against not only supernatural forces but against the casual, every day racism of the society in which they live. Atticus is returning to Chicago from Jacksonville because he received a letter from his estranged father about a family legacy; Atticus’ mother, it turns out, was descended from a slave who was raped and impregnated by a master who was also a very powerful warlock and part of an ancient society with peculiar beliefs centered in the book of Genesis. His uncle George is the publisher/editor of the travel guide mentioned in the opening of the book; eventually Atticus and George go on a road trip to Massachusetts–to Lovecraft Country–along with a childhood friend named Letitia (Tish)–to find Atticus’ father and they wind up in a very chilling and scary place called Ardham (Lovecraft wrote about Arkham–and I will always wonder if Arkham Asylum from the Batman universe was an homage to Lovecraft as well). They deal with racism every step of the way, “sundown towns” (towns where people of color were required to be outside the city limits by sundown or else suffer the consequences), and corrupt racist cops.

Each section of the book focuses on another person who is a part of their immediate family/friends group, dealing with some kind of different, supernatural experience: the next part of the book centers Tish buying a big empty old mansion in a whites-only part of Chicago that also happens to be haunted, and so on–Tish’s sister has her own story; Atticus and his father go looking for journals of another warlock and encounter a haunting; George’s wife and son have their own stories as well–but all these stories are connected by a thread that goes back to Atticus’ family legacy and a war between different covens of warlocks for not only supremacy, but knowledge and power.

The book is exceptionally well-written, and as I said earlier, unflinching in its depiction of a racist society from the point of view of those consistently victimized by it, and it’s a toss-up between who is scarier–the warlocks and the forces they unleash, or the horrible racists, so entrenched in their horrific beliefs and values that they can’t see Black people as human beings. The fact Ruff chose to call his primary character Atticus didn’t escape me, either; Atticus being also the name of the noble white hero of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is, while a beautifully written novel, one which has become increasingly problematic to me over the years for any number of reasons. I greatly enjoyed reading the book–and in all honesty, it made me curious to read Lovecraft at some point after all these years; although it’s certainly not going to be a priority for me.

I will read more of Ruff’s work, though; the descriptions of his other books sound incredibly subversive, which appeals to me.

I recommend this book highly.

If This Was a Movie

I strongly suspect no one would buy into the concept of two hurricanes coming ashore in relatively the same area in such a short period of time. One of Tim Dorsey’s novels had this as a plot point, and I found it so damned far-fetched I actually decided to never read another one of his novels.

My bad, Mr. Dorsey, and my apologies.

Management decided to close the office for today yesterday, due to the state of emergency with Marco heading for us; so I’ll spend most of my day making condom packs and watching HBO MAX films while waiting for his untimely and unwanted arrival, all the while muttering prayers to every deity I can think of (agnostic, but it never hurts) so we don’t lose power. This morning, though, Marco has weakened to a tropical storm and has slowed down; I’m not exactly sure when he is forecast to come ashore; it looks like much later tonight than forecast and it’s going to skim along the coast rather than turning and coming inland–yesterday it looked like we were getting a direct hit. Laura has also drifted west so we are no longer in her Cone of Uncertainty, and has also slowed–it looks like her eye will be making landfall on Thursday rather than Wednesday as originally forecast. I suppose we can now sigh with relief here in New Orleans in dodging two bullets rapidly fired at us; but there’s still potential for wind damage and flooding. Not to mention one of the worst things that could happen in New Orleans in August: a loss of power.

I spent some time on the book yesterday; I didn’t make as much progress as I should have (do I ever?) but I am pleased with the work I am doing. There are good bones to this book; but the muscle tissue and sinew needs exercise and it also needs to lose some body fat. That’s why it’s taking me longer than I anticipated–I often get to a part where I think, ugh, I don’t want to fix this and make it better, it’s good enough and just as I am about to scroll on–I grab the print out with the post-its and scribbled notes on the pages (surprisingly enough, I remember most of it subconsciously, apparently–more on that oddity later) and force myself to fix it. Having the worked-on manuscript pages and post-its and notes in my journal and my notebook is a tremendous help; this is how I learned how to write a novel in the first place and it’s surprisingly helpful in accountability and in correcting laziness. I haven’t done this in years–certainly not this thoroughly–and often only work on electronic files. My working habit of writing books chapter by chapter and dividing up the electronic files that way–Chapter 1-3, for example, is the third draft of chapter one–and I rarely pull it all together into one document before turning it in. Having the actual physical document, and reading several chapters in a row as I correct and edit them rather than doing an electronic chapter file has helped me catch a lot of repetition, contradiction, and holes in the story. The way I’ve been doing this for the last ten years or so, which is undoubtedly faster but far less careful, probably isn’t the best way for me to be doing this. I didn’t reinvent the wheel and make it better after all. I can still write quickly, the way I always have–spewing out anywhere from three thousand to seven thousand words in one sitting–but I shouldn’t, mustn’t, won’t edit and revise that way anymore.

Something peculiar did happen yesterday–this is the more on this oddity later segment of the blog–in which I worked on Chapter Four and got pretty far into it without referring to the manuscript hard copy pages and notes. In fact, I didn’t even realize what I was doing until I got to a part I didn’t want to rewrite (even though it was necessary) and was going to pass through, thinking you can fix this in a later draft and stopped myself, thinking, what if you DON’T catch this next time? And why be lazy and ensure that the next time will take longer when you can just fix it NOW? I reached for the pages and realized that I had been revising/editing/rewriting without referring to them…and then discovered that most of the corrections I had already made were the same as the ones on the pages. Some of the changes were different–and better than the ones in my scribbled notes–and I had made changes to things I hadn’t caught in the hard copy. So, I interpreted this to be mean that I now have the voice and tone and mood of the story so deeply embedded into the creative corners of my mind that I know how it’s supposed to sound–and I also know the story so I can put the pieces in that are missing to make it come together properly.

It was actually quite marvelous.

I also spent some time with Lovecraft Country, which just gets better and better the further into the book I get. There were, as there have been every time I’ve sat down with the book, moments when the racism was so horrific I wanted to put the book down, but I reminded myself other people can’t walk away from racism by putting a book down and kept reading. It’s truly a terrific novel, and I am greatly enjoying it. We also watched the second episode last night, which is also fantastic. The show is pretty faithful to the book, with some minor tweaks and changes here and there, and it actually enriches the story in the book by expanding on it and the changes aren’t jarring; the fit in the context of the story the show is telling. I’m very glad the show was made, glad I am reading the source material–similarly to how I felt with Watchmen and its source material last year. It’s wonderful that so many books are being made into great television series; it’s enormously satisfying to read the book while watching the show. I did this first with Big Little Lies; and of course intended to do it with Little Fires Everywhere but failed; I’ve yet to read that book and am now thinking I should move it up in the TBR pile (I was planning on reading Babylon Berlin  next; I may still go ahead and read that but keep Little Fires Everywhere on deck). I also want to start dipping into reading short stories again–I’ve got the Paretsky collection, and the new Lawrence Block anthology, an so many other anthologies and single-author collections I’ve not finished–but it seems like there’s never enough time in the day, you know?

And it’s almost September already; how scary is that? Time is so weird anymore; it seems like we’ve been living in this pandemic forever, and this year has lasted a century, and yet still I looked at today’s date and freaked out a little bit because it’s like, did I waste this entire year already? There’s always something, I guess, I can berate myself about. It really never ends around here.

I found myself thinking about short stories I have written, or are in progress–there’s a ridiculous amount of them, seriously–and wondering about when I’m going to be able to get back to writing more of them, or finishing some of the ones that are currently in progress. This lengthy birthday weekend, followed up with an extra unexpected work at home day, has me feeling extremely well rested and my batteries recharged; I always forget how necessary that is, and with this weird new world we find ourselves living in these days–I forget that I used to take a three day weekend every six weeks or so in order to do just that: recharge my batteries. It’s just odd because I guess with the  work-at-home days every week where I don’t actually have to go into the office, I had the mentality that I didn’t necessarily need to take time off periodically for mental health purposes; that insidious sense that working at home isn’t really working.

Sigh.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely, storm-free Monday, Constant Reader.

IMG_4162

Come In With The Rain

So we survived Monday, did we not? And here we are,turning into Tuesday like nobody’s business and like there’s no tomorrow.

It’s 2020. Of course there’s going to be a tomorrow, most likely even worse than yesterday ever dared to be; I was joking with one of my clients yesterday about “remember back in December 2019 how much we were looking forward to that horrible year ending? Who knew 2020 would be even worse? I’m afraid to say I’m looking forward to 2021 now.”

The sad part is that it’s true–and that’s why it’s funny.

This is technically my “hump day,” since I am taking Thursday and Friday off, and I’m a little foggy this morning, ain’t gonna lie. I was, as I feared I would be, very drained when I got home from work yesterday; too physically and emotionally tired to do much of anything other than sit my in my car with Scooter sleeping in my lap while I watched videos on Youtube (there’s a great documentary on there, by the way, based on Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August) until Paul got home. Poor dear, he wanted to watch the next episode of Lovecraft Country, and I had to gently let him down with the news that it’s airing weekly, and we’ll have to wait until this weekend to watch a new episode. Instead, I clicked on Apple Plis and queued up The Morning Show….and can I just say wow? I’m not sure what I was expecting with it, but what I got wasn’t it–and it is amazing. A stellar cast, crisp writing, and engaging story; and Jennifer Aniston is perfectly cast and clearing enjoying every minute of playing morning talk show diva Alex Levy. Now, I’ll admit, I’ve always liked Aniston; she was the only reason I kept watching Friends, long after its expiration date (Rachel was literally the only character on the show who grew, developed, and evolved into a better, more whole person from the first episode through the last, and I’ve enjoyed her in the films of hers I’ve watched), but this performance in this role is a revelation, and she’s fantastic. So is Reese Witherspoon-in fact, the entire cast is quite literally perfect, as is Steven Carell. The Morning Show is about an eponymous network news show, similar to The Today Show and Good Morning America–light, fluffy entertainment with some (little) hard news to ease people into their days with their coffee; Steve Carell and Aniston play the long time anchor team (fifteen years!) and the show opens with the perfect premise: Carell and Aniston are kind of America’s “mom and dad”; and Dad just got fired because of sexual impropriety with people working on the show; and the chaos behind the scenes, from the staff to the network, that ensues. Aniston’s character is in the midst of contract negotiations with the network; the firing of her partner has given her, on the ropes because she’s getting older, a lot more power going forward with her negotiations, and the key now is ‘who’s getting the empty anchor chair’?

I had been avoiding the show, frankly, because I wasn’t sure what it was about and ‘behind the scenes’ shows like this, to me, have a very short shelf-life of being interesting; Paul and I were actually riveted and stayed up later than we should have in order to stream yet another episode. And much as I hate to say it, hats fucking off to Reese Witherspoon; her production company makes incredible television–Big Little Lies, Little Fires Everywhere, and now this. She has become one of the most consistently reliable television program commodities out there–and I will now probably watch anything her company comes up with, regardless of what it’s about or who is in it; but her company now has a pretty amazing track record of quality television with excellent and complex roles for women.

And I am here for it all.

I mean, I looked up the Emmy nominations for Best Actress in a Drama Series, and was like, wow, these are all Oscar caliber performances, and great roles for women–from Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer from Killing Eve to Laura Linney in Ozark to Jennifer Aniston in The Morning Show to Zendaya in Euphoria to Olivia Colman in The Crown–I mean, I don’t know that I could pick a winner from those without just pulling a name out of a hat.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a fabulous Tuesday.

 

I Don’t Know What You Want But I Can’t Give It Anymore

And so it is now Wednesday, and we’re already about halfway finished with this week. Isn’t that lovely? Of course, I always hear my mother’s voice in the back of my head whenever I say things like that–you know you’re just wishing your life away when you do that–ah, my mother. Someday I’ll stop hearing her voice in my head.

Although I still do and am staring down fifty-nine this year, so chances are that voice is never going to get out of my head.

We finished watching Little Fires Everywhere, and I have to say, Reese Witherspoon makes a terrific villainess. It’s extremely well done–the writing and acting are top notch–and it really is amazing what you can do with a soap-opera style plot with strong writing and an excellent cast and good directing. As I watched, I couldn’t help thinking what a great Abby Reese Witherspoon would make in a reboot of Knots Landing. But I do encourage everyone to watch. It’s a terrific show, Kerry Washington is also fantastic, as are all the young actors playing the teenagers, and while it reminded me some of Big Little Lies, it’s a completely different plot and a completely different story–although the character Witherspoon plays is remarkably similar in both (although in Big Little Lies she never went completely to the dark side the way she did in this). It also handles class and race and gender issues over the course of the story, showing that it can be done–and done well–with the right creative team in place, particularly if they are committed to properly handling the issues.

Now I think tonight we’ll go back to Gold Digger–I think the next two episodes dropped Monday–and see if it continues to hold our interest as well.

I slept deeply and well last night. I woke up at seven this morning, and was actually awake, but chose to lightly nap in bed for another hour because the bed felt so relaxing and comfortable–plus, I wasn’t really feeling the day, you know? The longer I stayed in bed relaxing the longer I could put off dealing with anything this morning. Not that there is anything I don’t want to deal with– as I am particularly fortunate in that nothing I have to deal with is terrible; I just get lazy periodically–which is why being described as hard working or prolific amuses me endlessly. Granted, I hold myself to a much higher standard than perhaps I should; on the other hand, sometimes I think I wouldn’t get nearly as much done if I were easier, and kinder, on myself.

I also started rereading House of Many Shadows by Barbara Michaels this week, and I am now getting to the meat of the story; all the characters are in place, in the enormous house in the Pennsylvania countryside; it’s established that Meg, the heroine, has been in a car accident that caused some sort of brain damage which causes her to have either visual or audial hallucinations; the caretaker of the place is the owner’s stepson, whom she knew when they were children and didn’t like each other; and the previous tenants were evicted and not happy about it. It’s interesting–I’ve been very careful with Bury Me in Shadows to not mimic Barbara Michaels, and yet…in rereading this one I realize how incredibly similar the set-up of my work-in-progress is to this particular Michaels novel. Not that I’m plagiarizing her by any means, and there are only so many story situations and set-ups one can come up with; but similar enough for me to be a teeny bit concerned.

And now, back to the spice mines.

IMG_1023

How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?

Monday and here we are, getting ready to stare down yet another week.

We watched more of Little Fires Everywhere last night, and it really is extremely well done. It really is an interesting look at race and privilege and power; all while using tropes that were staples of soap operas. As the show amps up and starts racing along to its climax, the basis of the majority of the drama of the show is a custody struggle over an adopted baby–a storyline so stale for soap operas that I don’t know that the few left even use it anymore. But with strong writing, excellent production values, and an enormously talented cast, this stale trope not only works in this instance, but works very well. I am curious, though, as to why the book is set in 1997 rather than the present; the reason behind it isn’t apparent, and it feels incredibly current; although the music at school dances and so forth is rather jarring, and it takes a moment to remember that the story is set over twenty years ago. I don’t even notice the lack of smart phones and social media. I’m just sorry that I didn’t get a copy of the book to read along while I watch, which was such a terrific experience with Big Little Lies. 

And Reese Witherspoon certainly has a type of woman that she regularly plays, doesn’t she? Super Karen?

I finished a dreadful first draft of “Falling Bullets” last night, and it is dreadful. Fortunately there are other drafts to be done, and corrections and edits that can be made to it, but at this point I’m just happy I finished a draft–it’s been awhile since I’ve finished something I’ve started. At first I was rather nonplussed because about 1500 of the 2000 words I’d already written–mostly the stuff I’d written Friday evening–didn’t really work anymore; but I went back to the beginning and started tweaking things, and was even able to tweak enough of the 1500 problematic words to save most of them. So, while I am not pleased with the draft and its condition, I am pleased that it is finished, at around 4600 words.

I also finished reading Thunder on the Right yesterday, and had a lovely time with it. I do think it is one of the lesser Mary Stewart novels–but a lesser Mary Stewart is better than  a lesser writer’s best, so there’s also that.

I have decided to take today off from work; I am not feeling as great as I should, and literally cannot face another day of data entry and condom packing. Fortunately I have enough vacation time accrued for me to take yet another day off–although I really need to start letting the time build up again, for when this is all finally over and done with, so I can take an actual vacation, which is something I am going to be in seriously need of–and so am going to stay home, finish some odds and ends, and then get ready to face the rest of the week. I also have to work early tomorrow morning, so will have to get to bed early this evening; and I think we’re going to maybe start slowly opening the STI clinic next week. I am of two minds about this–I am certain we can do it safely, but at the same time I worry whether clients will be willing to come in to get their screenings done. I miss my old life, quite frankly, and like everyone else, long to get back to it. But unlike everyone else, I don’t see the old normal coming back. This situation has changed so much about our lives and how we do things, and in many cases, things that were considered “impossible” before have now been shown to be possible. I can’t imagine, for example, that the expensive old version of the book tour will return now that we have seen it can be done relatively inexpensively virtually. I easily can see publicists cutting expenses at publishers by arranging on-line interviews and readings and Q&A’s and book club meetings rather than spending money for an author to travel. And for authors who can’t foot the cost of their own tours, well–here’s an inexpensive alternative that may actually work.

Next up for the Reread Project is an old favorite of mine by Barbara Michaels, House of Many Shadows. Dr. Barbara Mertz wrote, of course, wonderful mysteries as Elizabeth Peters (if you’ve never read the Amelia Peabody series, you really, really  need to), and wrote suspense novels that may or may not have a supernatural bent to them–Ammie Come Home is, obviously, by far and away my favorite of these–as Barbara Michaels. I rediscovered the Michaels novels in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, and became just as addicted to them as I would to the Elizabeth Peters novels later that decade; House of Many Shadows is one of my favorites of the Michaels novels; The Crying Child is another. The rest are also good without question, but to my mind those three are head-and-shoulders above the others. The Michaels novels also have great, great titles: Wait for What Will Come, Be Buried in the Rain, The Dark on the Other Side, and Witch, to name only a few. And, if I am being complete honest, Bury Me in Shadows was inspired by the Michaels novels; as was Lake Thirteen.

And the humor in the Scotty books probably owes more than a little to the influence of the Elizabeth Peters novels.

I also gave up on rereading Katherine Anne Porter’s long short story about the Spanish flu, “Pale Horse Pale Rider.” I can certainly understand why critics and literary enthusiasts shit themselves over Porter’s writing, but it just doesn’t work for me. I don’t care about her characters or what happens to them, and Porter is definitely one of those authors who–to me–loves the sound of her own voice; what could be said in a sentence or two turns into rambling pages and pages in which she basically says the same thing, over and over again. And she never wastes any time on making the reader care about her characters, or even getting to know them well. I thought, when I first read her Collected Stories years ago and found them to be tedious and boring (as I was rereading “Pale Horse Pale Rider” I could actually hear a Lit professor enthusing about her works in my head), and I thought I’d give them another chance, thinking perhaps I had matured enough as a reader to enjoy them now; that it was my own immaturity as a reader and lover of the written word that kept me from enjoying them in the first place.

I am pleased to report I am wrong, and that I find Porter’s work as constipated and dull as I did the first time, and there’s nothing wrong with not liking her work. I still dislike The Great Gatsby, even after reading it three times, after all; let the literary snobs come for me. I don’t care. Scoff at me all you like, I will never like or admire Porter.

And on that note, I think I’ll go lay back down for a bit. Have a lovely Monday.

IMG_1024

Sunday Morning Comin’ Down

Well, I don’t know about coming down, but it’s definitely Sunday morning.

Then again, I did have to come downstairs, so I guess that’s somewhat applicable.

I wallowed in bed until nine this morning; I woke up originally at approximately seven AM and chose to stay in bed, it was kind of a lovely thing. The nice thing about football season being over is there’s no longer a need to get up early on the weekends in order to get things done before the games start–I’d forgotten how lovely it is to just stay in bed and relax and stay there until you really feel guilty about staying under the covers for so long. I stayed in bed pretty late yesterday morning–eight or nine, I don’t remember–but it is lovely, even if it throws my sleep schedule off a bit, seeing as how I must rise at six the next two mornings. But c’est la vie, right?

I did get some good work done yesterday on the Secret Project–which is going to be my primary focus this morning before I go to the gym–and I also have emails to answer. I also finished reading Tracy Clark’s terrific debut novel, Broken Places, yesterday, and then spent a good while trying to decide what to read next. As a general rule, I don’t like to read more than one book by a solitary author in a row, particularly when I have three of them to read; I’m interviewing Tracy for Sisters in Crimes’ quarterly newsletter, and so it behooves me to read them all. No worries–I am going to devote an entire entry at some point to Broken Places–probably shortly after I finish this one, to be honest.

I also got the lovely news that the Joni Mitchell anthology i contributed to, edited by Josh Pachter, The Beat of Black Wings, will be out and available in time for Malice Domestic! This anthology is a “crime stories inspired by the music of Joni Mitchell,” and the table of contents is a veritable who’s who of crime writers and people I am lucky enough to call friends. My story, “The Silky Veils of Ardor,” is one I particularly am proud of; I feel like I’ve been doing some terrific work on short stories over the past few years, dating back to the Short Story Project (which reminds me, I have another one I need to get started writing, and soon), and I do hope you’ll get a copy of the anthology. The proceeds are going to a charity; one of which Ms. Mitchell approves, and I believe the anthology is even going to promoted and featured on her website, which is very cool. More to come on that front, of course.

Oh, did I mention I am going to Malice Domestic this year? Yes, that’s correct, Constant Reader, I am going go be at Malice Domestic this coming May; I’ll be taking Amtrak down from Penn Station the morning after the Edgars to Malice Domestic. This is my second Malice, and I am really looking forward to it–particularly seeing friends win Agatha Awards two days after the Edgars. I’ll be flying home the following morning (that Sunday), but it’d going to be an absolutely lovely trip, and one which I hope will once again make me feel once again connected to the writing world.

Krewe de Vieux was last night, but I stayed home; Paul went to watch with friends, but I’m reserving my energy and strength for the St. Charles Avenue parade season, which opens this Friday with three parades. There are four or five more on Saturday, and then another two on Sunday; at least Sunday wraps up early in order for there to be rest and relaxation for the two-day break before the final stretch of six days and seemingly endless parades begins.

I can hardly believe it’s parade season again, but here we are.

I’m thinking, since we’re most likely going to start watching HBO’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Outsider this evening, that perhaps it’s time to crack the spine of the first edition hardcover I own and start reading it; I do like to read the book along with the series adaptation whenever I can–this worked really well with Big Little Lies–but I am also thinking that maybe I should read a cozy next? It’s been a while since I’ve dipped my toe into the cozy waters, and perhaps it’s not a bad idea to read one next? But I simply cannot seem to make up my mind, heavy sigh. Maybe a reread of Where Are The Children  as a memorial to Mary Higgins Clark?

So many books to read, and so very little time.

Well, I suppose I can put off the decision a little longer…and perhaps it is time for me to get back to the spice mines.

Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

1005179_171929099651777_142273027_n

He’ll Have to Go

Saturday morning, and I slept in until nearly eight thirty! Living large here, I have to say.

Yesterday was one of those days; the temperature dropped, as you may recall, and once again when turning on the heat Thursday night, it didn’t really come on–it did, but it never truly got warm in the Lost Apartment, either upstairs or down. So, I wound up having to stay home from work to wait for the HVAC guys, who actually arrived dutifully when they said they would (this is so rare as to merit mention), and worked on it for a while. They did eventually leave, and I went to the gym and ran my errands.  I don’t know if the heat is actually fixed or not; we didn’t need it last night anywhere other than the kitchen, and I have a space heater for in there (it never warms up in the kitchen, ever) but I did manage to get a lot of cleaning and organizing done. I also managed to start watching the film of The Talented Mr. Ripley on the iPad yesterday at the gym (the Anthony Minghella version) and it veers away from the book’s narrative much more than I ever had supposed; the character of Meredith (played by Cate Blanchett) doesn’t exist in the book, nor does the entire subplot about Dickie’s affair with the village girl in Mongibello. But the one thing I will say about this film–and the thirty or so minutes of it I watched–Matt Damon is exceptionally great in the role of Tom; far more so than Jude Law as Dickie (he was nominated for an Oscar; the film made him a star), and this just might be one of Damon’s best performances.

Paul, I believe, is off to the office later today, and has plans with friends to go watch Krewe de Vieux tonight; I intend to stay home and work on the Secret Project, get my taxes together and sent off to the accountant, and emails to answer. There’s also organizing and filing to do, and I need to do the floors; I always leave the floors for Saturday vacuuming. Paul’s absence also gives me no excuse for not reading and writing for most of the day; around the cleaning, at any rate–and I am actually looking forward to getting a lot of both done today.

I’m still reading Tracy Clark’s Broken Places, which is really good, and in fact, once I finish writing this I am most likely going to  head over to the easy chair and spend a few hours with it this morning before moving on to the Secret Project. I am also really enjoying Jason Berry’s City of a Million Dreams, which I am not very far into, but I feel confident in recommending just based on the introduction and part of the first chapter. I’ve not read Berry before–he’s local, and has written quite a few books, including taking the Archdiocese to task for covering up the sexual abuse of children–but I am impressed enough to start adding his canon to my TBR list. We started watching Avenue 5, which was much funnier than I thought it would be–and Hugh Laurie is terrific as the captain; the entire cast is actually quite good. We’re probably going to also start watching The Outsider on HBO, which presents a conundrum for me; I generally like to read the book while I am watching the TV series based on it (I did this with Big Little Lies, and found it to be incredibly enjoyable; I’ve not read the King yet, but once I am done with the Clark, I am definitely going to pull The Outsider down from the shelf and give it a go)., but I guess pulling down The Outsider and moving it up to the top of the TBR list won’t hurt anyone or anything.

Parades also start this coming Friday on the St. Charles Avenue route; the challenge is going to be continuing to write and go to the gym around my job and the parades; parade watching is always a blast–it will probably never get old for me–but it’s also exhausting and keeps me up later at night than I probably need to be awake, given how early I will have to get up the following mornings.

It’s also lovely to wake up and sit at my desk and glance around and see clean, clear counters and a sink that is primarily empty of dirty dishes. There’s a load in the dishwasher that needs to be put away, and a load of laundry in the dryer that also neede to be fluffed and folded, but like I said, other than that and the floors (and these stacks of file folders and scribbled notes scattered around my desk), there’s no cleaning to be done this morning. My muscles are tired this morning from the gym yesterday, but I’m not sore, and I feel more stretched than I usually do, which also actually feels good–I may just stretch out a bit a little later; I’d forgotten how good it feels to have stretched muscles as opposed to tight ones.

So, that’s the plan for today, at any rate. I’m going to go pour yet another cup of coffee, take my book and repair to the easy chair; after that, it’s back to the desk to do some writing and answer some emails (I never actually send them until Monday morning; emails beget emails, and I’d rather not wake up Monday morning at the crack of dawn with an insane amount of emails to answer; it’s too, too daunting to deal with on a twelve hour day).

I was also thinking the other day–thanks to a post by someone on Facebook–about books that should be paired together, like a good wine and some good cheese; how reading the two back-to-back can enhance the reading pleasure of both. Michael Koryta’s The Prophet (which is one of my favorite books), for example, pairs beautifully with Megan Abbott’s Dare Me (and you need to be watching the television adaptation of Dare Me); Alafair Burke recommends pairing Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and there was one more I can’t quite remember, but it was also quite brilliant. (I also think pairing Stephen King’s Carrie and Christine together enhances the pleasure of reading each even more.)

I was also thinking about “event” books; Gone Girl was probably the most recent “event” book–a book that sold a gazillion copies and everyone was talking about. There have always been “event books”, which in the pre-Internet, pre-social media days was harder to have happen, and yet it did, all the time. Two such books from the 70’s include Thomas Tryon’s The Other and Peter Benchley’s Jaws; the fame of Jaws was spread even further by an event film based on it that has almost entirely eclipsed the book. Robin Cook’s Coma was another one of these; I intend to include The Other in my Reread Project this year, but rather than Jaws I am going to reread Benchley’s second novel, The Deep, and Cook’s second novel, Sphinx–which was Cook’s only non-medical thriller thriller.

And on that note, I am going to repair to the easy chair with my coffee and Tracy Clark. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader; I certainly intend to.

1209113_10151802572687778_2028718899_n

It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right

The first Saturday of the new year, and there’s no college football games today. This of course leaves an enormous hole in my day, which I should be able to fill with things like errands, going to the gym, cleaning, and (GASP) writing. One can hope, at any rate….

Yesterday was a glum, chilly, wet rainy day down here in New Orleans, and yesterday was a more-than-a-little-frustrating day at the office; Friday is my data entry day, and the website where we enter our required data for the CDC was recently redesigned…it was never the easiest data entry system (completely counter-intuitive) and this new version is…worse. When you take pride in your speed and efficiency with data entry…a slow, clumsy not-easy-to-navigate system can prove to be a crushing blow to one’s ego….like the death of a thousand cuts. And then sometimes it just kicks you out of the system, so you don’t know if the data you’ve entered actually took or not…needless to say, when I get off work yesterday I needed a drink. Or two. Or three.

Well, it wasn’t that bad, and once I got used to using it, it wasn’t completely horrible–although it took me a lot longer to get things done than it usually does; ordinarily I would have been able to get everything entered and still had some free time for filing and so forth; instead I didn’t get everything entered by the end of my shift–leaving some for another day, alas–and it certainly wasn’t as annoying as the slow, painful death of my desktop computer. Even as I sit here now, typing, I am watching the wordpress page fail to load–it’s been failing to load for nearly an hour now–while I type this on my laptop. I haven’t upgraded the desktop to the new Apple OS–remembering all too well the horror that ensued the last time I made that mistake, going up to Mojave; God only knows what fresh hells Catalina will inflect on my desktop. But I do have this lovely MacBook Air, and I suspect that at the rate the desktop is going, I’m going to probably slowly but surely be turning this bitch into my main use computer.

I mean, it fucking works and doesn’t make me wait for an hour to load a webpage, so there’s that. I am slowly but surely going from an Apple fan to an Apple hater, quite frankly.

Anyway, after the annoyance that was work yesterday, I stopped at Jean’s for our annual office holiday party, which was lovely, and then swung by Rouse’s on my way home so I don’t have to go this weekend. I also picked up Paul, and then we came home to watch the LSU gymnastics meet against Arizona (LSU has one of the top gymnastics teams in the country every year–did you know that? They are currently ranked #2 in the country and finished second at the Nationals championship meet for the last two years running; they’ve finished in the top six for quite some years running now), and after that, we watched the second episode of Dare Me, which is absolutely amazing. It’s incredibly cinematic, in the way Big Little Lies was, and the story is just so compelling, and the way it’s told…you can’t stop watching. It’s absolutely mesmerizing, and now I want to read the book again. As I watched last night I absolutely was thinking I need to put Megan Abbott on my Reread Project list. (I’ve given up on the desktop ever loading the blog page and have asked it to restart, which also takes forever.)

Today yawns open and free ahead of me; Paul is going to the office to work thus afternoon, so I have the entire day here to myself, with absolutely no excuse to get nothing done. I am currently laundering the bed linens, and have a load in the dishwasher, so as I wake up this morning with my coffee, I think I am going to continue to clean and organize; once that’s finished I am going to head over to the gym I think, get in a nice, ease-my-way-back-into-it workout, and then head home to shower and get down to serious work on writing. I want to get back into the swing of writing on the weekends, particularly with football season coming to a close as we speak, with my weekends free from it all, there’s no reason why I can’t get my shit together again. And this next year is going to be a busy one for me; I definitely need to be structuring my life and planning it out to the nth degree else I won’t get anything done.

I’ve also been sleeping really well lately, too–which also helps with the mood and so forth.

And on that note, I’m going to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, everyone.

52980431_2500892309939557_6513032971958616064_n

Could It Be I’m Falling in Love

Monday morning, and I slept relatively well, despite not getting everything done this weekend that wanted doing  and getting done. C’est la vie. I refuse to beat myself up for not getting things done anymore. I needed some down time to relax and refresh my brain, so there is also that. I did manage to finish reading Jay B. Laws’ The Unfinished, and I’ll get started writing that introduction this week. I took some notes about themes for the essay, and I’m not certain what kind of direction I’ll take with it–but I know it’s going to have something to do with the loss to the sub-genre of queer horror, and how important Laws is to the development of said sub-genre; more queer horror writers should read Laws, methinks. This last book of his was published after his death from HIV/AIDS in 1993; I’m sure his death, and the fact that he only published two books, has something to do with that.

I weep when I think of the books we’ve lost because he died so young.

It’s also kind of hard to believe July is almost over. Where did this month go? Between the 4th and my staycation, city flooding (heavy rains in the forecast for today, too, hurray), and the weirdness that was Hurricane Barry, this month has been off-balance and definitely a hard to focus one. I have eight days with which to finish this draft of Bury Me in Shadows, and somehow, I doubt very seriously I am going to get there–but I intend to go it the old college try.

Stranger things have happened, after all.

August, of course, is my birthday month, which means another staycation built around my birthday, and shortly after that is Labor Day, which means another lovely three day weekend. And Labor Day brings with it the return of college football, and of course that means the Saints are back, too. Will the Saints have another great season? LSU is predicted to be really good this year, as well; getting over the Alabama hurdle will be difficult (the game’s in Tuscaloosa), but it’s entirely possible.

We watched Shazam! last night; my Apple credit card sends me the periodic iTunes gift card whenever I “earn a reward” with them (I’m not entirely sure how that works, but using the card and paying the bill has something to do with it) and I still have, even after renting Shazam!, a decent amount of credit left on the gift card. Shazam! was fine; a superhero movie more for kids than adults–which makes sense, since Billy Batson is only a fourteen year old; obviously the film isn’t quite as grim or dark as, say, Man of Steel or any Batman movie, but it was entertaining enough and Zachary Levi did a really nice job of playing an adult super-hero who is actually a fourteen year old on the inside. We then switched over and continued watching the CNN docuseries The 2000’s; and frankly, the ones on politics and world affairs will show, quite clearly, how we wound up in the mess we are in now–suffice it to say the right has been playing a very long game that has been paying dividends, and we’ll leave it at that.

I intend to start reading my ARC of Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay this week, as well; I am excited about this and simply cannot wait to get into it.

Tonight we will watch the finale of Big Little Lies, and of course I need to get through my two long days this week. I’ve been sleeping well again, and am hopeful this will continue so I can keep getting things done over the course of the week. It isn’t always easy motivating yourself to write (or to clean) when I get home from work after a lengthy twelve hour day.

So, before I head back into the spice mines, I am going to make a to-do list, and this time I swear I am going to stick to it.

Later, Constant Reader!

IMG_1926

Rocky Mountain High

I was very tired yesterday. Pretty much the entire day, too. Rolling back into my regularly scheduled work week after a vacation week and a storm-disturbed week wasn’t the easiest task I’ve undertaken lately. I felt terrible all day long, actually, which was incredibly unpleasant. The weather was equally unpleasant; gray and cool but oppressively humid at the same time. I suppose the exhaustion was the release from the stress of dealing with tropical weather over the last few days–the pent-up stress and PTSD and everything else, finally being let go with the tension leaving exhaustion in its wake–which was pretty awful. I didn’t sleep deeply last night, but at least I feel somewhat rested this morning.

I managed to get a little work done on the WIP yesterday; Chapter Eighteen, where it had stalled, just needed a little nudging to get moving, and that’s precisely what I did; I went back to the very first sentence and started rebuilding the chapter. I didn’t get very far–I was exhausted–but it was a start, and I think I can get the damned thing finished by the end of the month again. A month late, to be sure, but finished nonetheless. And that is some progress I can get behind, even if it’s not as much progress as I would like, nor am as I far along with this year’s work as I wanted to be by now. But it happens, and writing, at least for me, isn’t something I can ever really force myself to do. Sometimes I need to force myself into doing it and then the words start to come; some days they never come. I wish I knew how to turn it off and on; but here we are twenty years in and it’s never gotten any easier.

We got caught up on Big Little Lies last night. This season isn’t as strong as the first; the acting is just as good, if not better, and I do like that this entire season is actually about the cover-up of the crime and how that fallout has impacted all the women negatively; how the guilt and keeping that secret has caused ripple effects into the rest of their lives, putting their marriages and/or relationships in trouble. I’ve said before one of the things that has interested me the most about crime fiction lately has been dealing with the aftermath of a crime, how it affects the people involved, how it changes and shapes the rest of their lives going forward.

I am hopeful that today will be a good day; I feel sufficiently rested this morning, and while it doesn’t look particularly great outside, I am hoping the sun will be back and today will be the usual hot, sweaty, humid misery of a normal July day in New Orleans. I do think the weirdness of yesterday’s weather played a part in the badness of my day yesterday. I want to get some writing done tonight, I want to get my email inbox cleared and cleaned out, and I need to get caught up on all of my correspondence as well. I think I made a to-do list over the course of the weekend; at least, I remember thinking I needed to make one and start going through it, item by item. It really does bother me that I’ve stopped making my to-do lists; it helps me with my productivity and helps me keep track of everything I need to get done. I have three short stories to prep for submission as well; even now, sitting here thinking about it, I can’t remember what one of them is for or what it was going to be about.

My once-sharp mind and memory now is as filled with holes as Swiss cheese. This doesn’t please me in the least, but I suppose it’s inevitable and a part of getting older, which makes the to-do list even more crucial than it used to be.

I also need to start thinking about promoting the new Scotty when it’s released. Sigh. It never ends, does it?

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me.

IMG_1713