I Just Want to Love You

Oh, Mondays. The start of a new week, a new beginning–as it were, sort of like a mini-New Year’s in some ways. The cycle of employment. I didn’t sleep particularly well last night–I kept waking up, but feel somewhat rested and not mentally fatigued, the way I usually feel on a morning when I have to get up at the crack of dawn (actually, it’s dark outside and so I am getting up before the dawn) when I didn’t sleep well. AH, well, hopefully tonight I will sleep well–I may even try to go to bed earlier than I usually do to try to make up for last night’s not-so-good sleep.

A good friend passed through New Orleans yesterday, so I met him for a beer at the bar on the corner after I worked all morning. I am such a lightweight–the one beer made me slightly tipsy, and so when I got back home I wasn’t really feeling up to getting back to work. it’s fine–I did manage to get a lot done in the morning, and I never feel like I’ve wasted time if progress is made–and most importantly, I’ve almost managed to get my email inbox almost completely emptied out. Of course, when I send the emails I drafted yesterday this morning, they will beget even more emails in response–which is fine. As long as I keep up with them, and don’t allow myself to get overwhelmed by the volume, I won’t get behind again. There are, however, times when I just can’t face my emails.

We watched the figure skating last night before we went to bed; it’s always lovely to watch Nathan Chen be his usual fantastic self, and then it was off to bed. I didn’t make any progress on the Secret Project, which now becomes a priority going forward. I have to get that finished this week so I can get back to Bury Me in Shadows and the short story I need to write by the end of next month. I also didn’t get a chance to read more of Dorothy B. Hughes’ Dread Journey, but being social, getting out of the house, and spending time with someone I rarely see was actually quite nice. I do wish, though, that I’d cleaned the kitchen. I hate starting the week with the kitchen a mess. But as I make our lunches I’ll see if I can get the sink cleaned out and the dishes in the dishwasher put away. At least tonight I won’t come home to a messy kitchen in that case.

Such excitement, right? It’s no wonder I can’t sleep, given how massively exciting my life is.

But Carnival is coming–the parades start on Valentine’s Day, and my life will become very complicated again. Our office is now too far for me to ever try to get there and back on foot–being old doesn’t help, either–and so I have to either get off work on parade nights early enough for me to get home before the streets close, or I am trapped; destined to be stuck in traffic while trying to take the only possible exit from the highway into my neighborhood–and then of course parking anywhere is completely impossible. I think I can figure out how to do it all without having to take too much time off work–which is a good thing, as I don’t have enough vacation time this year to take the entire second parade week off–but it’s going to be challenging. Very very challenging. I’ve not wanted to deal with it–as well as making my future travel arrangements for upcoming trips and so forth–but this is the week I need to get this all taken care of, and it’s gone on the list.

And frankly, it’s lovely to have to-do lists that I actually pay attention to and use and cross things off from as they get done. I’ve missed that feeling of accomplishment, frankly. I actually think my additional new responsibilities with Mystery Writers of America is going to help me to get better organized as well as be more productive, because I don’t have a choice. I do better when there’s not a choice, as insane as that probably seems.

And now it’s back to the spice mines. I need to make this week’s to-do list, make sure that I don’t miss anything, and get back to work. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader!

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Blue Skies

And just like that, it’s back to reality.

It’s very cold in the Lost Apartment this morning; I have my space heater on as I sip my coffee and try very hard to control my shivering. It is actually only 37 degrees outside, with a high of fifty predicted for the day; #madness. Oddly, not only did I not mind the cold in New York, but it was actually snowing when we walked to dinner Saturday night; and it didn’t phase me in the least. But cold in New Orleans is something I can hardly take–particularly because it never feels warm inside.

Ever.

But today’s my long day at the office–I only have one long day this week, thanks to yesterday’s holiday–and I also need to hit the ground running. There’s no time for malaise anymore. I’ve got to get this new project wrapped up this week, so I can get back to work on finishing Bury Me in Shadows, and then on to the Kansas book, before I can finally get to work on Chlorine and either the next Scotty–maybe even another Chanse novel. The sky’s the limit, right now. Ha ha ha ha! As if.

I am also greatly enjoying my advance copy of Elizabeth Little’s Pretty as a Picture. It really is fantastic–if you’ve not read her debut novel, Dear Daughter, from a few years back, it really behooves you to go ahead and do so while you wait for this brilliance–and as I always say–reading great writers makes me want to do better and also always inspires me to create more. (I often say that’s how I can tell a truly great writer from a good one; when I”m reading a great one, I get ideas for books and stories of my own because my brain is being stimulated.)

We also watched another episode of Messiah, which is really quite compelling. I really do recommend this series, as it makes you think–a lot. I can also see why the show would be upsetting to people of any Abrahamic-descended faith; but at the same time I’ve always thoughts that things that upset those who are of faith, or makes them think about their faith, are rather important.

Then again, few things inflame a conversation more than talking about religion, so I should probably let that go, right? But as I’ve said before, I’ve always enjoyed books about the things that have been hidden for centuries–I recently saw a blurb for Steve Berry’s latest, which called him “the master of the religious-relic thriller” (which I didn’t realize was a thing), which is probably the best way to describe those kinds of books going forward. Watching Messiah makes me think about the Colin thriller I’ve always had in the back of my mind, and also makes me think I should perhaps write the Colin thriller before I do another Scotty, but then again, it doesn’t really matter because any Colin book could be set in the past rather than the present–running parallel to the books in the Scotty series, if that makes the slightest bit of sense?

In my own defense, it’s early and cold and I am still on my first cup of coffee.

But I just ate a small slice of king cake, am brewing my second cappuccino, and am about to jump into the shower to prepare for my day to start. I’m not going to lie–I didn’t want to get out of the comfortable warmth of my bed this morning–but it feels like I’ve not been to the office in forever, and it pays the bills, so I need to get my act together and get it on the road this morning.

May your day be ever lovely and bright, Constant Reader. I’m off to the spice mines.

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I’ve Always Been Crazy

Yesterday was rough. I was so tired all day, but somehow I managed to power through it all–God only knows how. It wound up not being that bad of a day, to be honest–although I kind of just drifted through the day and don’t really remember a whole lot of it, if I’m being completely honest.

But I am still so damned proud of the LSU Tigers. National champions, again. Just amazing, absolutely amazing. What an amazing season, what a fabulous joy ride for us LSU fans. This team will be remembered forever, just like the 1958 national champions are still talked about today. The entire season was a non-stop highlight reel.

Carnival this year is going to be lit.

And now it’s back to reality–although none of that feels quite real yet.

Tomorrow morning I leave for a short weekend in New York; I return to New Orleans on Sunday, and of course Monday is a holiday so I have a day to relax and recalibrate and recover from what is certain to be an exhausting trip; New York always wears me out. I’ll be busy the entire time–it’s a business trip–so making time to see friends isn’t really going to work out this trip; but I should be returning in late April/early May and maybe that trip I’ll be able to see and hang out with friends–I know so many people in New York it’s scary; I could go up for weeks and not see everyone.

But I slept really well last night–I was exhausted, so no real surprise there–and feel rested enough this morning to be able to focus and get back on the get-shit-done train. I need to swing by this morning and get the mail on my way to the office, and I should be getting started packing this morning, as well as cleaning the kitchen. I’ll have to leave for the airport tomorrow morning around eight–flight is at eleven, and have to account for traffic and shuttle from the parking lot to the terminal, so I won’t really have time tomorrow morning to do much more than drink some coffee and shower.  I need to make some headway on a new secret project–which I am focusing on to the exclusion of all other writing, at least for now, and I hope to have it all finished by next week so I can get back to finishing Bury Me in Shadows–and I am taking The Talented Mr. Ripley with me to read, along with Blanche on the Lam by newly minted MWA Grand Master Barbara Neely, and Pretty as a Picture, the new Elizabeth Little novel, which I have in ARC form. I may take one more book with me–just to be on the safe side, since reading is my favorite way to spend time in airports and on airplanes.

And hopefully, this trip will kick my ass into gear when it comes to reading. My reading has fallen off dramatically since I read for the Edgars in 2018–judging almost always, inevitably, burns me out from reading and it takes me a while to get back up to reading for pleasure again (having said that, though, I read some absolutely amazing books in 2019). I don’t think I’m going to judge again–it’s very time consuming, for one, and you don’t really get the chance to enjoy and savor the books the way I prefer; I intend to go back and reread the five books we selected as finalists and winner at some point, so I can enjoy them as reads rather than reading them critically, with an eye to selecting the best; the five books we selected were all fantastic, so they deserve to be read with an eye for enjoyment. Reading for an award also throws me terribly behind on my pleasure reading–I am now perhaps three or four books behind on my Donna Andrews reading, and this shall not stand! It always sucks to get behind on your pleasure reading because new books are coming out all the time and that makes it harder to get caught up and then you end up with a 2 or 300 hundred book TBR list and–

Yikes.

Not to mention how far behind I’ve allowed myself to get with my writing. But my weekends are free now–football is over and so I have no excuses any more for not getting a lot of writing or editing or reading or all three done every weekend anymore. We’ll probably watch LSU Gymnastics every Friday night–and of course, figure skating season is kicking into gear again too–but for the most part, there’s no reason why I can’t get back to work on the weekend as well as getting my fat old ass back into the gym regularly either; I intend to return to the gym on Monday and start slowly whipping this tired, flabby, sagging body back into some kind of shape again. People have been asking my lately if I’ve lost weight–I didn’t think I had, and I weighed myself yesterday to discover that I have not, in fact, lost even a pound since the last time I weighed myself. I’m not so concerned about losing weight, to be honest, this time around; I’ve come to accept 212 as the weight I am doomed to carry on my frame for the rest of my life, but I can at least trim some of the excess body fat off and get the muscles firmed up again.

I also have a short story I need to get written. I really need to make a list, don’t I?

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines for the rest of the morning before I head back into the office. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

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Do You Know You Are My Sunshine

Monday morning, and the first full work week of the new year, and the first in over two weeks. It looms large, doesn’t it? Particularly in the enormous disappointment the Saints served up yesterday–outside of sexy Taysom Hill, who looks amazing in those all-white color block uniforms. This was probably the most ambivalent I’ve been about the Saints since before we moved here and become full time Who Dats; I’m not going to rehash any of the preseason stuff about Drew Brees, but yeah–it just never felt the same this year. Hopefully next year I’ll move past it.

At least I have my Sundays back from now on.

Plus, it’s Twelfth Night and the official opening of Carnival. I get to eat king cake now; I bought one on Friday so I could have it with my coffee this morning. Huzzah for king cake!

Overall, I had a very productive weekend, and this is pleasing to mine eyes. I didn’t read much on the Reread Project–although technically reading these Holmes stories is a part of it, I suppose; but I don’t remember much of them from my junior high school days so it’s kind of like reading something new, so I am not counting them as part of the Reread Project.

I read another Sherlock Holmes story yesterday; “The Gloria Scott,” in Baring-Gould’s Annotated Sherlock Holmes. Like the Lyndsay Faye pastiche I read on Saturday, this story is almost entirely told in dialogue; only this time, it is Holmes recounting the story to Watson; which is interesting; odd that two stories I’ve read back to back are told in similar fashion. I doubt very seriously that my Holmes story will be told that way; but I also haven’t written it yet so who knows? I did start writing it yesterday, however; which is a lovely start. I also revised two more chapters of Bury Me in Shadows, and I also got vaguely started on my website writing. I came up with another story idea, “Just Another Night on Bourbon Street,” which was inspired by my reading further in Bourbon Street by Richard Campanella; we’re now up to the arrival of the Mafia in New Orleans. I don’t know much about the Mafia in New Orleans or organized crime; I do know the mob used to own the gay bars in the Quarter, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of then are still used to launder money.

I don’t know that, I just said it wouldn’t surprise me. Particularly when you see how empty most of them are most of the week,

The sun is rising through the trees–I love how it seems like the sun rises over the West Bank, which is actually due south from the Lost Apartment–another one of the geographic nonsensities created here by the twists and turns of the river.

We watched the Golden Globes last night, which was really kind of a waste of time. Paul and I have gradually grown tired of, and bored by, awards shows. We haven’t really stopped watching many of them, we just don’t really get excited about them anymore. The Globes are more fun than the Oscars, because anything can happen there and there’s no real way of predicting who’s going to win–I would have thought, for example, Eddie Murphy was a long-overdue lock, yet the winner was Taron Edgerton for playing Elton John in Rocketman; I don’t think it means he’ll win an Oscar or even be nominated–but after Joaquin Phoenix’ bizarre acceptance speech, I’m not so sure he’s such a lock on the Oscar either. But that’s really about it; that and Renee Zellweger’s also weirdly awkward and slightly embarrassing acceptance speech were the uncomfortable moments of the evening. But it was nice to see 1917 get some attention; I love that one of the main characters is played by the kid who played Tommen on Game of Thrones, and that’s a film Paul and I actually want to see.

And now, back to the spice mines. Have a lovely post-holiday Monday, everyone.

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He Can Put His Shoes Under My Bed Anytime

As Constant Reader might remember–or if you don’t, here’s the reminder–I’ve been tasked with writing a Sherlock Holmes short story. Being quite mercenary–I rarely turn down opportunities to make money–I of course said yes; I am not a Sherlockian by any means, but it was precisely this lack of knowledge regarding perhaps the greatest private detective in the history of crime fiction (along with the offer of payment) that also was part of my inspiration to respond to the querying email with a most enthusiastic yes, of course I would love tofor there is also nothing such as the combination of payment AND a challenge to my writing skill and ability that I will welcome most gratefully.

Which, of course, was immediately followed by what the fuck were you thinking?

Now, I read most of the Holmes stories when I was in junior high, and they never really took with me. I enjoyed them, don’t get me wrong, but I never became what I call a “Sherlockian”; an enormous fan who devours any and all Holmes-related materials, whether they were written by Doyle himself, or the pastiches/homages, or any of the scholarship. I’ve watched some of the films, yes, and enjoyed both Sherlock and Elementary, even though we gradually lost interest in the latter and stopped watching. I also read the Nicholas Meyer “new cases” published in the 1970’s, The Seven Per Cent Solution and The West End Horror (I believe he’s published yet another one, as well). And a few years ago I bought the definitive annotated Holmes two volume set on eBay. So I figured I could reread some of the original stories, ask some of my friends who are deep into Sherlockiana to help if I needed it (both said yes, because writers are often very kind and generous people–side-eye at Romance Writers of America), and then I remembered a story I meant to read for last year’s Short Story Project, “The Case of Colonel Warburton’s Madness,” by Lyndsay Faye, which was a Sherlock Holmes story originally published in an anthology called Sherlock Holmes in America, and reprinted in The Best American Mystery Stories 2010, edited by Lee Child. I got the book down from the shelves yesterday and started reading.

My friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes, while possessed of one of the most vigorous minds of our generation, and while capable of displaying tremendous feats of physical activity when the situation required it, could nevertheless remain in his armchair perfectly motionless longer than any human being I had ever encountered.  This skill passed entirely unnoticed by its owner. I do not believe he held any intentions to impress me so, nor do I think the exercise was, for him, a strenuous one. Still I maintain the belief that when a man has held the same pose for a period exceeding three hours, and when that man is undoubtedly awake, that same man has accomplished an unnatural feat.

I turned away from my task of organizing a set of old journals that lead-grey afternoon to observe Holmes perched with one-leg curled beneath him, firelight burnishing the edges of his dressing gown as he sat with his head in his hand, a long-abandoned book on the carpet. It was with a view to ascertain that my friend was still alive that I went so far against my habits as to interrupt his reverie.

Isn’t that a wonderful start? And very Doyle-ish, yet uniquely Lyndsay Faye’s style. Lyndsay is a dear friend–and one of the people who agreed to advise me on my story–and we’ve known each other for years. I first saw her at the first Edgar banquet I attended; she was a finalist for Best Novel for The Gods of Gotham, which was fantastic and you should read it–and again more recently for her novel Jane Steele. We later were both on a judging panel for the Edgar for Best Short Story and became friends; I later recruited her for the Mystery Writers of America board of directors, and we’ve been buds ever since.

The story is truly fantastic, and as I read it–it’s a reminiscent story, in which Watson recounts an old story to Holmes from his days traveling in the United States, and this story is set in San Francisco. Colonel Warburton was a war veteran of both the Mexican War and the Civil War who’d made a fortune and built himself a mansion in San Francisco. But now in his latter years he fears he is losing his mind, having flashbacks to his war days, and Watson never really quite figured out what was going on in the Warburton mansion–but in relating his story and observations, he delivers the missing piece to solve the puzzle to Holmes’ brilliant deductive mind.

And thus, I realized that my fears–ever-present, of course–of imposter syndrome and so forth, which had been swirling around in my head about writing this story, began to disappear. I also grabbed one of the annotated volumes and started reading another Holmes story–and the idea that I had, “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy”, began to take even better shape in my head…and I decided that today, as part of my writing, I would attempt to start writing the story. Which is very exciting, I might add.

Yesterday was a most productive day here in the Lost Apartment. I got a really good night’s sleep Froday night, and woke up aflame to get shit done yesterday. I cleaned, I organized, I filed, I did laundry, I cleaned the floors, I did the dishes and I read and I wrote and I did all kinds of things that made me feel quite accomplished by the time I plopped down in my easy chair to relax for the evening and watch television. Paul had gone into the office for the afternoon, and went out for the evening with friends, so I was pretty much alone all day yesterday and was able to accomplish a lot–not having an LSU football game to get stressed over was a big part of my getting so much done. The Saints are playing Minnesota today in the play-offs; I’m debating whether I should watch with my full attention, or stay here in the kitchen writing, checking in on the score periodically. I should, of course, stay in here writing. I need to get further along with Bury Me in Shadows, of course, and of course there’s the Sherlock story, and some website writing I agreed to do by a week from Monday.

So, on that note, I need to head back into the spice mines. I didn’t sleep as deeply last night as I did on Friday night, but it’s okay; I’m neither tired, nor exhausted; I actually feel rested if not completely awake this morning. Perhaps once I finish my second cup of coffee, and sort through my emails, I’ll be more awake.

So, it is off to the spice mines with me now, Constant Reader. Have a lovely Sunday!

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Every Time Two Fools Collide

So I finally went back to work on the book last night when I got home from the office. Huzzah! I was beginning to think I never would work on the damned thing again, but maybe there is something to this “arbitrary date chosen by Julius Caesar to start the new year” thing, after all. I started writing two new short stories, I got back to work on the book–pretty amazing, I have to say, especially taking into consideration that I’ve been such a fucking slug about writing for quite some time now.

Huzzah for the end of that nonsense!

Whether it actually means something remains to be seen, of course, but at least I also started the next chapter as well. It felt good to be writing again, and it felt really good to be making this manuscript better. It’s been so long since I last worked on it that I am going to have to go back to my notes and review them again; but that’s fine. At least I have the notes, you know, and that puts me ahead in a way–look, I’ll take these little victories where I can, thank you very much.

It does seem as though the RWA mess has calmed somewhat on Twitter, and what the future holds for the organization remains to be seen; it’s always sad to see an organization tear itself apart in this way, especially when the real root cause of the whole mess is racism. Sorry, Nice White Ladies, but we’re not going back to the 1950’s–the people of color aren’t going back to the back of the bus and the queers aren’t going back into the closet. And inevitably, there’s going to be issues any independent audit turns up; aren’t there always? I can only theorize the paid staff’s been colluding with the people masterminding this insidious leadership coup, and there are probably irregularities that will turn up in their books once the inevitable independent audit shows up. There’s something terribly rotten at the core of that organization, and it’s just a matter of time before it gets dragged out into the light and exposed.

I am still reading Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, and I’ve now reached the period of time–the 1950’s through the 1960’s–where the street truly earned its name and reputation as a strip for sinning. As always, ideas are flooding through my mind for new stories and perhaps a new series; I think the story I originally started writing a while back, “The Blues Before Dawn”, might actually work better as a short (70k-ish) novel set in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s rather than the WWI/Storyville era I was thinking about setting it…and also makes me wonder about my Sherlock Holmes story; perhaps moving it to a more modern era might be better? But I must get these other two manuscripts finished before I really even start thinking about other novels–and let’s face it, Chlorine needs to be the next novel I write anyway. I wrote a first draft of the first chapter a few months back, and it turned out better than I’d thought it might; and last night, as we watched John Mulaney stand-up comic specials on Netflix, the second chapter came to me, almost fully formed. It’s lovely when that sort of thing actually happens, you know–it’s so organic and I love it, it makes me feel like a real writer when it does–and it doesn’t really seem to happen all that often.

Although I probably should be spending all this time researching for Chlorine while I finish writing these other two books, shouldn’t I?

I don’t have a timetable for finishing Bury Me in Shadows or the final revision of the Kansas book, either. I probably should set one–although I’ve been doing that for the last year and it never seems to motivate me to get the work done.

OH! I also realized the other day when I was listing my favorite reads of 2019 I forgot two: The Better Sister by Alafair Burke and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. Both are frigging fantastic, and you need to read them sooner rather later. Get on it. Don’t make me come over there, because I will.

Tonight after work is the office holiday party, so I’ll be stopping there on my way home from work and probably then proceeding to Rouses so I won’t have to leave the house all weekend. Fingers crossed, at any rate.

I also have some errands to run on my way into the office today. It rained last night–everything is slick and shiny and dripping outside my windows this morning–and I suspect the temperature went south overnight as well; it’s very cold in the Lost Apartment this morning. I always forget how bipolar the weather in southeastern Louisiana is in the winter–it was warm and muggy yesterday. I stand corrected–it’s 62 with a high of 71 forecast for the day, so it’s clearly just cold here inside. Sigh, New Orleans.

I’m still rereading both The Talented Mr. Ripley and Kirkland Revels  as well; once I finish those rereads (and blogs) I’ll go on to my annual reread of Rebecca, I think, and then it’ll be time to read some new things from my TBR pile. The new Elizabeth Little ARC has been taunting me from the top of the TBR pile since I received it (read me, read me, come on and read me, you bitch!), and I was actually thinking about taking it with me as one of my “to reads” for the trip to New York; there will be lots of airport/airplane time involved, after all, and there’s no better time to read then when you’re traveling.

And on that note, I have some laundry to fold before I get ready for work. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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Someone Loves You Honey

The second day of the New Year, and I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. I went to bed relatively late, but still. I stayed up watching Georgia and Baylor play in the Sugar Bowl; yesterday was pretty much a waste as I spent the day in my easy chair watching bowl games while rereading both The Talented Mr. Ripley and Kirkland Revels. I also started writing two new short stories yesterday.

One is a Venus Casanova story–I’ve actually got another started as well, in the files–called “Falling Bullets,” inspired by the stupidity of people who fire guns into the air at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, either not knowing (or not caring) that the bullets aren’t fired into outer space, and that gravity will eventually bring them back down, possibly causing property damage or injuring, even potentially killing, another human being. I’d never heard of this before I moved to New Orleans; as we prepared to go out for the first time ever on New Year’s Eve while living here, there was a news report warning about falling bullets–and Paul and I looked at each other in completely stunned disbelief. As the years passed, and we were reminded, year after year, about the danger–including billboards along the highway that read Falling bullets kill–it just became one of those weird New Orleans things that just became part of the fabric here–the river might rise, a tropical storm might come, someone will be killed on New Year’s Eve by a falling bullet. I was reminded of this–it seems as though after Hurricane Katrina the  city-wide effort to convince people not to fire guns into the air abated somewhat, and I forgot all about it–recently when an article came across my Facebook feed….and it occurred to me that “Falling Bullets” would make a great title for a short story, and the story would have to be about someone who deliberately killed someone else but tried to make it look like a ‘falling bullet.’ The logistics of this are currently escaping me–how one would even try to pull this off–but that’s what the thinking process of writing is all about; figuring this shit out.

The other story is probably something I will never publish–or if I even try to get it published, will take a very long time and will take many, many intense revisions because the subject matter is, frankly, flammable. But the more I think about it the more I want to write it, which again is terrifying. It isn’t easy taking on big ugly subjects, but this one? It kind of wants to be written and so I am probably going to give it an attempt, even if it ends up never seeing the light of day.

I’m planning on getting back to work on Bury Me in Shadows this weekend; I’ve taken long enough of a break from it for it to start to seem like I’ve never seen any of it before, and that’s not really what I was going for, to be honest. This morning, despite being groggy, I feel as though something has clicked and my lethargy is no longer a thing anymore? Perhaps the malaise has passed? Perhaps spending the last two days really not doing much of anything and not stressing about anything was precisely what the doctor had ordered, you know? I feel very rested, sort of energized, and kind of ready to get back to it. It’s also one of the reasons why I despise these completely arbitrary calendar dates–as the year runs down, it becomes ever so much easier to simply say oh, I’ll never get this done before the new year so it may as well wait for then.

Yeah, not exactly productive, you know?

I’m also enjoying both of my rereads. One of the most interesting things about Highsmith’s Ripley is she never talks about his appearance; he’s a complete cipher to the reader. We don’t really ever learn much about his past, other than his parents died and he was raised by an aunt he despises in Boston and eventually ran away from her to New York, where he’s sort of living by his wits–and by his wits, my takeaway is that he is “depending on the kindness of strangers” while running little scams, taking a job here and there before quitting or being fired; and his sociopathic lack of concern for anyone he  encounters is a lot more clear to me on this reread. And yet Highsmith, who writes in what I would best describe as a distant style, manage to engage the reader with Tom–who you start rooting for. He is very clever, and he’s always, surprisingly, refreshingly honest with everyone; he tells, for example, both Dickie and Marge almost immediately upon meeting them that he can mimic voices and forge signatures, along with any number of little, not particularly legal, things he can do. Tom is very quickly fascinated with Dickie, whom he is being paid to convince to return to the United States; his enormous dislike of Marge, almost on start, is a foreshadowing of the future happenings in the small Italian coastal village of Mongibello.

The reread of Kirkland Revels is also quite enjoyable. Victoria Holt was possibly the preeminent author of Gothic novels in the second half of the twentieth century; she not only wrote terrific mysteries with romance (or romances sprinkled with mystery), she also wrote in the style of the classic nineteenth century Gothic writers; her debt to Jane Eyre and the Brontes is apparent on every page. It’s a very distinct, almost too proper style, but it works and it draws the reader into the feel of the story, as well as making one care about her heroine. Kirkland Revels is, if I recall correctly (and there’s no guarantee that such will be true), perhaps her spookiest of all  her novels; Kirkland Revels is a haunted house, and the ruins of the old abandoned abbey near the house are also haunted. I read the book once when I was younger; I read all of Holt’s novels when I was in my teens, and continued reading them into my early twenties–but the quality of the later novels began to slip as my own reading tastes grew more sophisticated, and I don’t think Holt would be as popular were she publishing today. Many of her books take a hundred or so pages before the story actually gets started; often she spends the first hundred or so pages of the book setting up the character’s back story, beginning with her childhood. I also reread Holt novels–I often reread favorites when I was younger and had more free time–but this is one I never reread, and it was only recently that I began to understand why Kirkland Revels wasn’t one of my favorites back then: it was because Catherine, the heroine, is pregnant throughout the course of the main part of the novel, and that added an additional layer of anxiety to the gaslighting she was experiencing. It is sadly all too easy to understand why no one believed her–they simply dismissed it as her pregnancy playing tricks on her mind–and that also made me uncomfortable. I also remembered Catherine as a wimpy heroine; she is not. Victoria Holt’s characters often needed to be rescued, once the killer revealed his or herself to her, and then left them to die somewhere. But these women weren’t pushovers, nor were they wimps; and even as I sit her writing this, I realize that that is a perception that was created in the years since  I read the books; the fact they always needed to be rescued somehow negated their own strength and their not-so-willing-to-give-in-to-societal-expectations attitudes.

So, hurray for me for doing these rereads!

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

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Diamonds

Saturday, and later this afternoon is the SEC championship game (GEAUX TIGERS!). But this morning I am going to focus on cleaning up and straightening things up around here, as well as trying to get some writing done. I’ve been horribly lazy this week; I made some decent progress at the beginning of the week on the Bury Me in Shadows revision–comparatively speaking, I didn’t do that much–and I need to get back on that horse before it escapes the barn and leaves me in the dust.

Last night, we started watching V Wars on Netflix. It’s entertaining, and good enough, but it feels a little…I don’t know, familiar? The premise of the show is that melting ice in the Arctic frees up some biohazard that awakens an inactive gene in human DNA–not everyone has that gene–and turns them into vampires. As the germ (I am calling it a germ; they hadn’t really gotten into what it is yet in the show) spreads, more people become vampires–and these vampires are brutal killing machines, whose victims don’t also become vampires (at least, not so far). It’s okay….entertaining enough but it didn’t grab either one of us, probably because it’s too similar to other shows we’ve watched/seen; The Strain, for one example. Ian Somerholder is gorgeous as ever as the main character–as he gets older he gets better looking; he now looks like he could be Rob Lowe’s brother, and he’s a good enough actor to carry the show. The dialogue was a bit stiff, and some of the situations in the first episode or two seemed a bit over the top, ridiculous, and unbelievable. The problem with plague stories like this is the slow development–the inevitable “only one person who figures out the truth and has to convince everyone else as more people die” trope; who in the cast is going to die, etc. etc. etc. Stephen King brilliantly did this in The Stand; once the plague was spreading he jumped ahead a week or so to the point where most people were dead and the survivors were coming to terms with the end of civilization, trying to figure out what to do next, and then begin having the dreams that drive the rest of the story. The Walking Dead put Rick Grimes into a month-long coma, and when he woke up most of humanity had turned into walkers. Both The Strain and V Wars depend on the “fighting impending doom” narrative to build suspense; but it also makes the story drag a bit. As Paul said, “when do we get to the wars part?” Because the very title makes it abundantly clear that the plague is going to spread and it’s going to come down to a war between those afflicted and those who are not–of course, our noble doctor wants a cure to save the afflicted; the government is more concerned with a vaccine and killing the infected–setting up the inevitable conflict between the forces we’re supposed to be rooting for, even though whether they are on the right side or not remains to be seen. We might come back to it at another time, but it just didn’t grab us. Your mileage might vary. The show is based on a book by Jonathan Maberry, and it apparently became the most-watched show in the world on Netflix the day it dropped–so kudos to all involved. It’s done very well, as I said; it just didn’t grab us. Check it out–you might like it. It’s entirely possible we just weren’t in the right place at the time. And we’ll probably go back to it. Anyway, kudos to Jonathan–who is an incredibly nice and generous man–for having a major Netflix hit.

This morning I have some chores to do around the house before I run to the grocery store to pick up a few things; I really don’t want to go, and am looking for excuses not to. But it won’t kill me to go, and it’s never a bad thing to get out of the house. Today we’re going to have our last “tailgate” of this year’s college football season–barbecuing burgers and dogs for the SEC championship game–and I really need to get this apartment under some sort of control. After I finish this I am going to spend some more time answering my emails and cleaning out that inbox once and for all, and then I am going to work on the manuscript for a little but before I head to the grocery store. I’ve been writing a lengthy entry about this LSU season–I started writing it after the Alabama game, and then realized I should wait until the season is over to post it; that way I can reflect on the entire, magical season; I’ll undoubtedly finish that tomorrow morning and finally post it.

Yesterday I got an ARC of an anthology being released next year that I contributed to: The Faking of the President, edited by Peter Carlaftes and from Three Room Press (who did the Florida Happens anthology and were an absolute dream to work with). It contains my story “The Dreadful Scott Decision”, which, of course, is a play on the Dred Scott Decision, a horrific Supreme Court ruling that made secession and the Civil War just a little bit inevitable; and yes, I wrote about James Buchanan. I’m very pleased with my story, and I am even more pleased to be in this anthology, with co-contributors on the level of Alison Gaylin, Eric Beetner, Sarah M. Chen, Nikki Dolson, S. A. Cosby, S. J. Rozan, Alex Segura, Erica Wright, Angel Luis Colon, Gary Phillips, and several more people whose talents I’ve long admired. You’re going to want to pre-order this one, people.

It’s also the time of the year when everyone is making their best of lists; I am slightly uncomfortable doing that, quite frankly–although I always do qualify my choices by calling such lists The Best Books I Read This Year, which is really what all of those lists boil down to. I read a lot of amazing books this year, and am completely terrified that I’ll miss one in making such a list; but seriously, 2019 was an amazing year in crime fiction–and the women are fucking killing it. Steph Cha, Jamie Mason, Lisa Lutz, Alison Gaylin, Laura Lippman, Kellye Garrett, Rachel Howzell Hall, Angie Kim–I could go on forever.

Which reminds me, I also want to spend some time with Laura Benedict’s The Stranger Inside this weekend.

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee and get going on my day.  Hello, spice mines!

Y’all have a good one, you hear?

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Big Love

Wednesday! How’s it going, Constant Reader?

I slept well again last night, and I am beginning to think that maybe–just maybe–nightly insomnia has become a thing of the past for me. It’s so nice to not be tired every day, or dragging when I get out of bed, or having to take several hours to fully wake up and participate in the day with my full mind. Huzzah! Today is also my short day at the office (one of them, at any rate) and so tonight I am going to make my mac-n-cheese again, even though it will make a mess (I promised Paul I’d make him some last week when I made it for the potluck) and so I am destined to come home to make a mess to clean up, but when I got home from work last night I did some other cleaning and picking up around the house, rather than just sitting in my easy chair and doing nothing. I do have a load of laundry to fold, another to put in the dryer, and I need to empty the dishwasher; but I have plenty of time this morning before I head into the office.

I also didn’t write last night–I was sleepy when I got home, which is why I did chores–and even fell asleep in my easy chair sometime between nine and ten, waking up around quarter to eleven with a start. I do tend to sometimes, when really tired, doze off in my chair for a moment or two, but never for as long as I did last night. So whatever I’m doing in my life regarding sleep is working.

I did realize last night that a short story I am working on for an anthology submission–one I’ve been working on for several years, off and on, now–has the wrong title. This title is its second; the first title was good, but I had to change it because I decided to use that title for another story it fit better. As I was sitting in my chair last night, my mind drifting away to sleep, my mind zeroed in for some reason on this story–which is currently back-burnered, but despite that it’s still in my head, so it’ll pop out from time to time–and as I was reimagining the opening scene–which is set in a grocery store; the entire story takes place during the main character’s trip to the grocery store–it hit me squarely between the eyes: the title doesn’t fit. And when I don’t have the right title….the work doesn’t ever seem right. (Case in point: the current work-in-progress, Bury Me in Shadows, didn’t really start flowing until I changed the original title, Bury Me in Satin..and while no, I didn’t work on it at all yesterday, I feel really good about this final revision. The stuff I’ve done on the first chapter is solid, and I couldn’t be more pleased.)

I was also too tried to do any more reading last night, so I think after the mac-n-cheese goes into the oven, and once I have that mess cleaned up, I may curl up with Laura Benedict’s The Stranger Inside.

Or I might write. I’m feeling a lot better after my vacation about a lot of things, not the least of which is my writing these days. And while I may have only put about 1500 words of revision into effect with the book, those are  great words, and they are completely reshaping the story and turning it into what I’d envisioned it would be from the very beginning. I don’t know what on earth was the problem before–why I was having so much issue connecting with the stories and the characters–but I do feel them now; there’s a lot of family dysfunction that I was simply glossing over, and I always had an issue with contrivance with the story; it was necessary for my main character to spend the summer in Alabama, but getting him there felt completely contrived, and the way I was writing it and telling the story, it simply didn’t make sense for his mother to send him there–and the more I got into the actual story as it developed, the less sense it made; to quote Joan Didion, “the center would not hold.”

And when the center doesn’t hold, the entire cake will collapse.

Hence the stress, anxiety and borderline depression I’ve been suffering through the entire time I’ve been writing this book.

Ah, self-diagnosis.

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

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Rhythm is Gonna Get You

Thanksgiving Eve is here, and I am about to make my famous mac’n’cheese for the office potluck. Yes, I am going into the office on one of my vacation days, but there are worse things I could do. I have some errands to run today anyway, so after I leave the office I shall run them. It’s also payday, so I get to spend a moment or two or three paying the bills this morning. Yay? I guess I should just be grateful I can pay the bills, right? I have a book to pick up at the library and the mail, and I should also stop and get some groceries while I am out; not a major shopping expedition–perhaps enough to get us through until Saturday, as I am not going anywhere near any place to shop on Friday.

That would be madness.

And while that will make a dent in my day, it’s fine. I’ll just do some cleaning and organizing–my electronic files, particularly in the cloud, where I just throw things with a flippant I’ll worry about organizing them later mentality on an almost daily basis, with the end result that the files are a complete and utter mess. I also want to get some more work done on reimagining the current book. I’m now torn as to whether the first chapter is necessary or not; or if I should simply start the book with his arrival at Birmingham airport. There’s something a bit cliche about starting a book with your main character arriving at an airport, and that also would mean a shit ton of back story to shoehorn in, so that it all makes sense–so there, I’ve just worked that out in real time, see how a writer works? I struggled with revising the first chapter yesterday, so naturally my mind went to, this is hard maybe I can just cut the chapter. 

Always, always, always looking for the easiest, laziest way to do something. Shameful, really.

I also managed to waste some time yesterday trying to track down George Washington Cable’s stories about Madame LaLaurie. A post by the Preservation Resource Center here about the LaLaurie house on Facebook yesterday led me down into that wormhole; I shared the post along with the comment I am going to write about the LaLaurie house of horrors someday (see: Monsters of New Orleans) and someone commented that Cable had written short stories about Madame LaLaurie (who is probably most famous outside of New Orleans due to her being a character on American Horror Story: Coven, played by Kathy Bates), and so then I went for a deep dive, trying to see if I could find copies of the stories on-line. I got sidetracked into Project Gutenberg for a while, where I found his novella Madame Delphine, which was NOT about Delphine LaLaurie. I did eventually find the stories I was looking for, and will read them at some point.

Cable is not the only writer from the past to write about New Orleans and Louisiana history that I’ve not read; I’ve also not read much of Arnett Kane or Robert Tallant or Lafcadio Hearn or Lyle Saxon; some, but not much. I’m not entirely sure they are completely trustworthy as sources, but I am going to read them for ideas at the very least. I also need to spend some time at the Williams Research Center and the Historic New Orleans Collection, as well as the Louisiana Research Center at Tulane. I’m greatly enjoying these little journeys into New Orleans’ past that I’ve been taking over the last year; I am still reading Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which is giving me a definite feel for colonial New Orleans, which is going to be enormously helpful.

Especially for this Sherlock Holmes in New Orleans short story I’ve agreed to write; which will also entail reading some Holmes stories, to get a feel for the vibe and the tone and the voice. I’m enormously fortunate that I have two dear friends who are Sherlockians, and have agreed to read my story before I turn it in for pointers and notes and so forth.

And on that note, perhaps it’s time for me to head into the spice mines. I have a lot of cheese to grate for the mac’n’cheese….have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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