Girl, You Make My Day

One of the things I’ve greatly enjoyed over the last few years has been the sea change in how publishing views works by non-white and non-straight authors; the push for more diverse voices in the publishing community has already borne wonderful fruit. I’ve been saying for years that the world of crime fiction was in danger of getting stale again, much as it did in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s; particularly the private eye novel. The arrival of Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, and Marcia Muller on the scene shook things up and shook things out; the private eye novel got a much-needed shot in the arm of adrenaline with these three women and the others their work inspired; I strongly believe the move toward diversity is going to bear fruit in much the same manner–and it already has, frankly; the works of diverse writers like S. A. Cosby, Kellye Garrett, Rachel Howzell Hall, Alex Segura, Tracy Clark, Cheryl Head, and so many others have joined the great pioneers like Walter Mosley and the wonderful Barbara Neely to open up new perspectives on crime and crime fiction; our society and world; and again, this was desperately needed–and is necessary every so often, for our genre to refresh and expand and become more inclusive. We’re also seeing more queer books being sent out into the world from the big houses in New York, which is also incredibly exciting (another shout out to Yes Daddy By Jonathan Parks-Ramage and A Beautiful Crime by Christopher Bollen).

It’s a very exciting time to be a fan of crime fiction.

Noir has always been one of my favorite sub-genres of crime fiction, and I always enjoy reading modern takes on it. I want to write more noir, quite frankly; Chlorine would be the first of at least four I want to write, if not more (for now, I have ideas for four of them, with Chlorine being the most full formed). I always enjoy modern takes on noir–Laura Lippman’s Sunburn was quite marvelous, as was Christa Faust’s Money Shot and Choke Hold)–and of course, S. A. Cosby is a master of rural Southern noir; both Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears are destined to be considered classics, I think.

So, I was very curious to read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s take on modern noir, Velvet Was the Night. It took me a very long time to finish–which is not indicative of the quality of the book, I hasten to add–because after I read so much during the post-Ida power outage, I kind of broke my brain and thus haven’t been able to really focus as much on reading as I would like; yesterday after the LSU game I sat down and finished it with Georgia-Kentucky on as background noise.

And what a fun ride it was.

He didn’t like beating people.

El Elvis realized this was ironic considering his line of work. Imagine that: a thug who wanted to hold his punches. Then again, life is full of such ironies. Consider Ritchie Valens, who was afraid of flying and died the first time he set foot on an airplane. Damn shame that, and the other dudes who died, Buddy Holly and “The Big Bopper” Richardson; they weren’t half bad either. Or there was that playwright Aeschylus. He was afraid of being killed inside his house, and then he steps outside and wham, an eagle tosses a tortoise at him, cracking his head open. Murdered, right there in the stupidest possible way.

Often life doesn’t make sense, and if Elvis had a motto it was that: life’s a mess. That’s probably why he loved music and factoids. They helped him construct a more organized world. When he wasn’t listening to his records, he was poring over the dictionary, trying to memorize a new word, or plowing through one of those almanacs full of stats.

No, sir. Elvis wasn’t like some of the perverts he worked with, who got excited smashing a dude’s kidneys. He would have been happy solving crosswords and sipping coffee like their boss, El Mago, and maybe one day he would be an accomplished man of that sort, but for now there was work to be done, and this time Elvis was actually eager to beat a few motherfuckers up.

He hadn’t developed a sudden taste for blood and cracking bones, no, but El Güero had been at him again.

The recent rise of Silvia Moreno-Garcia has been meteoric, although I am sure to her it has seemed anything but. I read her terrific vampire novel, Certain Dark Things, a while back, loved it, and have been following her career ever since as she has turned out novels at a terrific rate–Gods of Jade and Shadow, Untamed Shore, Mexican Gothic–all of which have been critically acclaimed and sold very well; I love that she bounces from genre to genre–horror to fantasy to crime; even bouncing around in the sub-categories of the crime genre. This is only my second read of her work–I have them all, of course–and had been meaning to get around to her take on noir with a Mexican flourish for quite some time. (I am really sorry I broke my brain with all the reading I did after the power went out; I greatly enjoyed this book, but it was so hard for me to focus for some reason…but am glad I sat down yesterday with the book, determined to finish it at last.)

One of the things that strikes me about Moreno-Garcia’s work is that I am seeing Mexico, a place I greatly love, through a fresh new perspective; like all Yanquis, I always view Mexico through the prism of a tourist. I’ve always wanted to write about Mexico, and have several short stories in the files that are set there (I did write one erotica story as Todd Gregory set in Acapulco; from the perspective of a tourist, of course: “Oh, What A Friend I Have in Jesus”)…but reading Moreno-Garcia makes me aware of how scant my knowledge of our Southern neighbor is–all of the counties south of the Rio Grande, frankly–which is a stinging indictment of our education system. (Don’t even get me started on the concept of Latin America vs. “America”) I know very little of Mexican history after the Spanish conquest, other than the Mexican War and the French empire set up under a Hapsburg by Napoleon III during our civil war. I know very little history of any of the countries that make up the rest of the American continents, really–and isn’t that more than a little bit disgraceful? I also know very little about their cultures, their politics, and what goes on there; a quick glance through the news also will show very little information or news being reported about those non-United States/Canada American countries, which is really a shame.

Velvet Was the Night is set un 1971, a particularly politically rife period in Mexico. The US was terribly concerned about communism being spread by the Soviets in what has always been considered the American soft underbelly–I mean, look at our reaction to Cuba–and there’s no question that CIA operatives and money were working to subvert Communism while supporting borderline Fascist governments because that was preferable to Washington than another potential Soviet satellite state in our hemisphere. The vast paranoia of that time–which really lasted from 1945-1990, really–cannot be underestimated or understated. By rooting her story in actual events of 1971–the crackdown of the Mexican government on dissidents–Moreno-Garcia slyly gives us a taste of how American foreign policy of the time affected everyone in Mexico, as well as a history lesson. (One of the great modern deceptions of our society is this idea that we always act benevolently as a nation; we’re doing this for your own good.) The book has two point of view characters; one, depicted in the opening above, is “Elvis”, a very young man who works as a thug, basically, for an oppressive group of anti-Communists that try to infiltrate dissident groups and haunt protests in order to make them turn violent, so the military can intervene on behalf of the “people.” Elvis grew up very poor and sometimes imagines what his life would be like if he were able to pursue his primary interests–educating himself and music. He doesn’t know what his future holds but is vaguely aware the path he is on–violence and more violence–will not end well. Over the course of the book he begins to question the values he’s been taught to believe in his gang, and begins to aspire to get out of it.

The other main character is Maite, a legal secretary barely getting by on her low salary and barely able to afford food. Her car has been in the shop unclaimed because she cannot afford the mechanics’ bill. She leads a lonely and solitary life, has a very vivid imagination and fantasy world she prefers to inhabit, colored strongly by her love of romance comic books and the music she likes to listen to. Maite’s lovely neighbor, Leonora, asks her to feed her cat while she is away, and when she agreed, Maite unknowingly enters the world of political struggle and upheaval. The riot depicted in the first chapter, that Elvis helps engineer? A friend of Leonora’s has taken pictures that prove that the riot was started by government forces, and those two rolls of film are the McGuffin everyone in the book is after–except poor innocent Maite, who, like any main character in a great Hitchcock film, becomes involved in something life threatening by simply agreeing to feed a neighbor’s cat–something she resents agreeing to do. When Leonora doesn’t come back, Maite starts looking for her–primarily motivated by the fact she can’t afford to keep feeding the car, and Leonora promised her money for feeding it–money she needs to get her car back. Motivated by her own poverty, Maite finds herself getting involved more and more in this clandestine world, and her own life is in danger soon.

The true strength of the book lies in the careful characterizations of both Elvis and Maite; two desperate people trapped by poverty in lives they want to escape, and the parallel journeys they both follow that lead their paths to cross; and the richness of the reality of what life in Mexico City was like during the turbulent time when the book is set. Moreno-Garcia shows us, as she did in Certain Dark Things, what the reality of life is like in one of the world’s largest cities, the reality the tourists rarely, if ever, get a chance to see. And while the hopelessness of both their situations seem unresolvable at times, the pacing is strong and the story construction so tight, and you the readers finds yourself rooting for them both to get out safely.

I really loved this book, and am sorry my inability to focus forced me to take so long to finish reading it. It’s extraordinary, and I recommend it highly.

Storybook Love

Sunday morning and I slept incredibly well last night. I haven’t checked the Fitbit, but I would think–it certainly feels–like I slept deeply and got a lot of rest. I think the way I feel is more important than what the Fitbit will show as the actuality, but it’s always nice to know, and I also think I need to start looking into what is a good night’s sleep, per Fitbit and sleep experts, to see if I need to adapt or change or do anything to get better sleep.

Yes, the saga of Greg and sleep–never-ending yet always fascinating, right?

I wasn’t glued to the television all day yesterday, but I did have it on so I could check in periodically, or watch whatever game was on at the moment I chose to take a rest from what I was doing. Could I have gotten more done yesterday? Highly likely, but I don’t play those games of “coulda-shoulda-woulda” anymore. I managed to make groceries, return something I’d ordered, get the mail, and drop off three boxes of books at the Latter Library Sale. I also did a load of laundry, a load of dishes, cleaned places that I usually don’t, and redid the rugs on the kitchen floor (a long story, but now I have all matching rugs and the floor is almost completely covered). There’s still some cleaning and organizing work to get done this weekend–hello, today’s chores and to-do list–and I need to head to the gym at some point today as well (there’s also another sink full of dishes to get done), and perhaps some writing to do and some reading as well.

I reread several things yesterday that are in progress–the first four chapters of Chlorine, which desperately need work–as well as the finished first drafts of both “Never Kiss a Stranger” and “Festival of the Redeemer.” I also took voluminous notes on all of the three–Chlorine is a much bigger mess than I thought it would be, so yikes and yeah–and the linear nature of “Stranger” needs to be redone; I believe the opening of the story is when he finds the apartment to rent in the Irish Channel and everything in the rest of the opening three or four pages can be scattered through the rest of the story, as flashbacks, conversation, or memories. I also made some notes for the revisions of all of them, too.

College football is a mess this year–2021 is going to be one of those weird years of college football, like 2007 and 2014 were–but that makes it interesting to watch rather than the other way around. I certainly didn’t have Alabama losing to a twice-beaten Texas A&M on my scorecard for the season; nor did I have Georgia moving into the Number One spot, either. I just assumed Alabama and Georgia would roll over everyone on their way to the SEC title game, with the loser of that angling for an invitation to the play-offs; but Alabama’s loss makes that game now a must-win for them to have a shot into the play-offs at all. The Arkansas-Mississippi game was simply insane; props to the winners, but my hat is off to the Razorbacks for going for two and the win after they scored on the final play of the game; going for the win rather than overtime is something I will always respect. The Oklahoma-Texas and Penn State-Iowa games were also insanely fun to watch; that loss has got to sting for the Longhorn fans. As for LSU, well, good for you, Kentucky. Your make-or-break game is this coming weekend at Georgia, and while i don’t hold out a lot of hope for you, I kind of want the ‘cats to make a run for the East title this year. I wound up switching over to A&M-Alabama at half-time of the LSU game, and it was so much more fun to watch I kind of got sucked into it and never went back to the LSU game other than to check the score to see how bad it was. Much as love and respect Coach O, I suspect this will be his last season as LSU head coach. Still, he will go down in history as coach of the best LSU team of all time and possibly one of the greatest of all time in general, and as one of our four national championship coaches.

Not the way I wanted to see him go out, but 8-8 over two seasons isn’t going to cut it in Baton Rouge. (Jimbo Fisher definitely saved his own job last night by beating Alabama.)

The Saints game is at noon today–so I’ll probably go to the gym during it.

This morning i am going to try to get the cleaning and organizing and filing of the office space finished so I can go into the serious stretch of writing A Streetcar Named Murder with a productive workspace and a clear conscience of sorts. I feel good about writing again–even if I am not doing it as much as I would have liked–and I am getting excited about this book project. I am going to try to get some editing done today around cleaning and everything else and the Saints game; I think tonight we may watch Everybody’s Talking about Jamie, which I’ve been looking forward to watching for quite some time, and there are some of our shows we need to get caught up on. The weather has been simply stunning lately, and part of what I am going to try to do today is get the outside sitting area cleaned up and functional (it never has been, other than for brief spurts of time, the entire time we’ve lived here) so that I can sit outside and read if I’d like, or take the laptop out there and actually work in the outside fresh air. How lovely would that be? Quite, I’d think.

I also have some more BSP posts to finish writing. Heavy heaving sigh. It never ends.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely and peaceful Sunday, Constant Reader.

It’s All In Your Mind

Wednesday, which is also Pay Day, which means it is also Pay the Bills Day. Huzzah! (That, in case you were wondering, Constant Reader, was sarcasm.) At least I can pay the bills without bankrupting myself, so that’s a plus.

I just booked my hotel room for Bouchercon Minneapolis. I am, needless to say, very excited about the possibility of actually going to Bouchercon this year–I’ve not been in years; the last one held in person was Dallas and I got an inner ear infection the week of that prohibited me from flying, which kind of sucked; I would have driven had I known it would be four years between attendances for me. Paul will be coming with me, methinks; we did use to live up there (he was there much longer than my eight months) after all, and I am thrilled at the thought of traveling again. I still am hoping to get to New York and Boston for Crime Bake in November; we’ll see how that turns out.

It rained yesterday afternoon, and my final client was a bit late so I ended up staying much later than I normally do–and by much, I mean a half-hour (in fairness, the difference in traffic between 4:30 and 5 pm is significant)–but it was also pouring rain as I drove home. I had considered stopping at the grocery store AND going to the gym last night after work, but the rain put the kibosh on that. I was a little tired last night also, so I didn’t get as much done as I probably should have. There’s a load of dishes in the dishwasher that need to be put away, for example, but at least I got the laundry done. I also spent quite a bit of time organizing. My computer files are an absolute disaster, frankly; but I am getting there. I also need to stop downloading images and articles that *may* come in handy later at some point (I am constantly seeing something and thinking oh this would be the good basis for a story at some point and then I need to have it available to me at some point, so I download it and save it; this includes photographs and images (my Chlorine folder is filled with images of men being intimate in some way, going back over a hundred years, so whenever I get the “I don’t know how they would have looked or dressed or whatever” I can just scroll through the images and think, “ah, yes, here we are”); I am also worried about transferring files from computer to computer and am always worried I am going to wind up deleting something I’ll need later, so I will end up with, for example, five copies of the same word document. It does make finding things a challenge, and this is also helping me. Organizing and filing are always a pain in the ass to do, but I always find it soothing in some way; like when I am folding clothes or doing the dishes.

I did do some editing yesterday; not much of anything, really, but progress was made and it was good. I should be able to finish that listicle article thingamabob today and get it sent off to the website it’s for; which will be lovely. I’m going to push to get some things edited and revised over the next two days, and of course, once it’s October first, I have to get to work on the new mystery, A Streetcar Named Murder. I also have to figure out what name to use for it. Also beginning on October 1, I have to start really pushing and promoting Bury Me in Shadows, which officially drops on October 12–and I’ve done very little on this front in quite some time. Seriously, I really do wonder sometimes how I have managed to have a writing career for as long as I have…

I am a bit tired this morning. I woke up several times throughout the night, sadly, and it took me a while to fall asleep as well. I wouldn’t call last night’s sleep insomnia, but it wasn’t as restful or as relaxing as it could have been (I should have gone to the gym; that would have tired me out enough to sleep, surely) so I am sure sometime around three this afternoon I will undoubtedly run out of energy and just drag through the rest of the work day. It’s also supposed to rain all day, which will inevitably also make me sleepier. Great.

And on that note, tis time to head back into the spice mines. Have a happy Wednesday, Constant Reader, and will chat with you again tomorrow undoubtedly.

I Would Have Loved You Anyway

And suddenly, it’s Friday again: WEEKEND EVE!!!!

Late September is a gift Mother Nature gives to New Orleans; one that’s kind of owed to us after the brutality of a normal New Orleans summer. I greatly enjoyed my walk Wednesday afternoon, and walking to the gym after work yesterday was equally marvelous. The gym workout felt incredible; my muscles had clearly been aching to be worked and stretched, and they feel absolutely wonderful this morning. My creativity is slowly coming back–the walk on Wednesday kind of kick-started it all; and I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about this upcoming new series book I have to write, that I am looking forward to writing. First and foremost, as with all my books set in New Orleans, it needs to be more about New Orleans than what I’ve already written on it; I think I am going to spend some time over the next few days revising and rewriting those first four or five chapters to get more of a “New Orleans” feel to them; I think that’s what is missing and why I feel so dissatisfied with them.

I definitely need to reread them, at any rate.

I also need to reread and edit the first three chapters of Chlorine; I’d like to get chapter four written this weekend as well as–if not an actual outline for the rest of the book, than at least– a working synopsis of how it all is going to come together in the end. I am very behind and i need to start getting caught up, even if that means no more lazing around in my easy chair watching documentaries from the BBC/Odyssey about ancient Egypt with a bizarre British Egyptologist/historian with raspberry colored hair as the star–but the woman clearly loves not only history but all things Egypt, so it is very difficult to not get caught up in her enthusiasm about her subject. Each documentary is about an hour, and I’ve not been watching them in order; I’ve watched the one about Amenhotep III and the Armana revolution, as well as the one about the foreign conquerers, leading eventually to the final recognized dynasty of pharaohs, the Ptolemies–who fascinate me; there’s so much more there than the story of the final and most famous Cleopatra (yes, she’s fascinating, but I’ve long been more interested in her sisters/rivals, Berenice and Arsinoë).

I also watched, for the very first time, the original film of The Postman Always Rings Twice, which, surprisingly enough, I’d never seen. I’ve never really been much of a Lana Turner fan (I’ve never had a lot of respect for her as an actress–certainly in Peyton Place and Imitation of Life she never seemed to inhabit her characters and simply followed her director’s orders) and I’ve never really thought she was all that pretty; there was always something artificial about her to me–though the body was definitely stunning. The costume designer was incredibly smart in putting her always into white ensembles, that went with the stiff white hair, and John Garfield was pretty good as the homicidal, lovesick drifter; he had the right “beaten around by life” lived-in look that was perfect for the character. Cecil Kellaway as Cora’s husband was the best performance in the film, really; he stole every scene he was in, but was the movie progressed Turner seemed less stiff and mannered, and Garfield’s performance of a man so driven mad by lust and love that he would cold-bloodedly murder Cora’s husband to be with her (Body Heat was often compared to Double Indemnity, but I think it’s more like Postman, in all honesty). I also felt the changes to the script and to the ending actually worked better than in the book (same with Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce, even though I love Cain as a writer). I also couldn’t help thinking, as I watched, what Marlon Brando or Montgomery Clift could have done with the role of the drifter, and Marilyn Monroe could have done with Cora. (Dream casting: filmed in 1954 with Brando and Monroe; with Karl Malden as the husband–what a film that would have made!) But it’s a very good movie, very well done, and I greatly enjoyed it; it’s definitely a classic. I’ve never seen the remake with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange, but what a terrific version could be made today, starring someone like Robert Pattinson along with Margot Robbie or Rosamund Pike.

It also got me thinking about noir again, and what fun it is to write, plot, and think about; as well as got me thinking about Laura Lippman’s marvelous Sunburn and everything by Megan Abbott.

I’ve also been, since my walk the other day, thinking about my noir story about the condos built recently on my street, “Condos for Sale or Rent” and so maybe I can squeeze in the time to work on it a bit this weekend…

Big dreams, as always, but at least I am thinking in terms of getting things written again, which is a big step in the right direction.

We also finished watching season two of The Other Two, which is fantastic and has one of the best, most honest and realistic gay characters–struggling actor Cary Dubek–that I’ve ever seen on television. The premise of the season finale–Cary takes a photo of his butthole to send to a potential Grindr hook-up, only he has his camera on LIVE rather than PHOTO, and the little LIVE feature means you can not only see his face at the beginning but you can also hear the flight announcements (he does it in the First Class bathroom on a flight from New York to LA)…and it kind of goes viral. It’s hilarious, and the fact that this is the primary STORY for the gay character in a TV show (granted, it’s HBO MAX) had me impressed for the writers’ willingness to go there, but how fucking funny it all turned out to be.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines, and a happy Friday to all.

One Night Stand

Saturday morning and I slept late again. I am feeling better this morning–I actually think recognizing what was going on inside my brain and calling it by its true name yesterday morning (in the blog post I forgot to post yesterday) helped me get past it in some way; like finally knowing what it is assists in getting past it in some way. I also know that it’s insidious and sneaky, and comes in waves, so will probably go back and forth between waves of depression and possibly manic bursts of energy and creativity; I need to really get focused on channel the energy as productively as I can because of the time I’ll lose when depression’s cold fingers wrap around my subconscious again. Ugh, it’s so awful, really; but I also know from cold hard experience that anti-depressants inevitably always make me feel numb all the time…which can be in some ways equally as bad as the depression itself as far as living my life and being productive is concerned.

I am hoping to get some writing done today, as well as running some errands before today’s college football games start airing. I’ll clean while the games are on, and possibly get some reading done if I can–I really want to finish Velvet Was the Night, in no small part because the new Rachel Howzell Hall, These Toxic Things, finally arrived yesterday. We made a late Costco run last night after work, and it was sad to see how understocked even Costco was (I don’t know why I was thinking Costco would be immune to the delivery issues affecting the city’s grocery stories) but we still managed to spend a ridiculous amount of money there; part of it was buying new throw rugs for the kitchen because the old ones are kind of gross now. But we were able to get almost everything on the list (there were a few things they didn’t have that we wanted, alas) and of course, we went off-list big time in order to spend the amount of money that we did…and we still didn’t replace everything completely. I had to clean the refrigerator out again last night–I either missed some spots on the initial clean or mold spontaneously reappeared somehow–but I am hoping that I simply wasn’t as thorough with the cleaning as I thought I had been–another side effect of the depression is doing something half-assed and then giving up, thinking meh it’s good enough.

It’s literally the worst.

Today I have some errands to run–yet again to make groceries, pick up the mail, that sort of thing–and then I am going to probably park in my easy chair with my journal while the games play on television. I am primarily interested in Auburn-Penn State and Alabama-Florida, with tonight’s LSU-Central Michigan game on deck; but we are also a bit behind on our shows that we watch; everyone dropped a new episode in the last few days, and we also started the new season of Sex Education on Netflix, which hasn’t dropped it’s delightful teen gay romance (huzzah!) and seems to be just as delightful, since the characters have actually grown some emotionally since the end of the last season, which is very cool and something I all too often complain about with shows; usually if characters don’t experience some degree of growth I lose interest.

I also have a book I need to write. YIKES! (Two, actually.) The Saints play early tomorrow, which is kind of a drag–I prefer them to play later in the day than noon, which means I will need to go to the gym earlier than I would prefer tomorrow–but it’s workable. I really really really need to get through everything today and make a complete and incredibly thorough to-do list; I am still so disoriented and disconnected from the pre-Ida life that I can’t remember everything I needed to get done, get going on, and of course the insidious depression at work inside my fevered brain keeps whispering you were supposed to finish a draft of Chlorine this month, remember? Honestly, depression is such a son of a bitch! Like I need any help undermining myself?

I also need to sign books and ship them off to people to whom I owe copies of the next one. I had hoped to get that done this morning so I can mail them today when I pick up the mail, and perhaps there will be time for that before I get up from my desk and get a move-on for the day.

Heavy heaving sigh.

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

There’s No Doubt in My Mind

Wednesday and Pay-the-Bills Day again. It seems like it’s been about a million years since the last time I got paid, but at the same time I am also very well aware of how weird the flow of time can be after a disruption–and let’s face it, I wasn’t the best with the passing of time before the disruption. August was indeed a bizarre month for one Gregalicious; one in which I turned sixty right before a New Orleans was hit by a Category 4 hurricane…and life, for that brief period between the birthday and the hurricane, really seemed to speed up ridiculously. A lot happened in that eight day or so span, which is part of the reason why I am still feeling a bit discombobulated and really need to focus to get my shit back together–and get it together in a fucking hurry at that.

I did find the old to-do list; the last one I made before Ida, and ironically…not a thing was scratched off from it, and yes, everything on it remains things I need to do and get done. It was weird, in a way; glad I was able to put my hands directly onto it, of course, but at the same time, it was still a little odd to come across something I did before and see that nothing really changed in the course of the two or three weeks that have passed since. I literally forgot yesterday that Labor Day had been last week, for example; and had to remind myself that oh yeah I was on vacation when Ida hit, wasn’t I?

Seems like it was all so long ago that sometimes it’s hard to believe it hasn’t even been a month yet since I turned sixty.

I am still a little disoriented, and trying to get a hold on things, regain my grip on things as it were, but I do think going into the office (being able to) was an enormous help, and getting up ridiculously early today and being back on my usual work-at-the-office time schedule should help even more, methinks.

The weather looks weird outside the windows this morning, and probably has something to do with Nicholas. We are in a flash flood watch for most of today through tomorrow morning, so yay? According to the weather, it’s apparently going to rain every day for ten days…again, yay? It could be worse, of course–it can always be worse, never forget that lovely part of it–but hopefully in spite of everything the grocery store supply chain can get back into place and the stores here can get stocked again. But since everyone had to empty their refrigerators, everyone needs to restock and so it can be a Sisyphean task to get the grocery stores back to pre-Ida stock levels. Of course, comparatively speaking, our grocery stores probably always look like an overabundance to foreigners.

I really didn’t want to get up early this morning, but I eventually did. It’s going to take some getting used to for me getting up early three days a week again, but much as I loathe having to go to bed early and even more so loathe getting up before dawn, it’s also a part of the routine I need to get back into. I’ve not written hardly a word since Ida’s bands starting coming ashore several weeks ago (now); other than “Parlor Tricks”, which I wrote in my journal and have since transcribed…I need to go through my calls for submissions folder and pick out stories to submit; I can start revising and reworking stories and novellas, which is an entirely different thing than writing from scratch…but I am hoping to get back to Chlorine at some point this weekend. I am not going to get the draft finished before the end of the month and having to start writing my newly contracted cozy mystery–more on that later, of course; we finally have settled on a title which I really like and have always wanted to use, even if its not the one I wanted to use–and so I think I should use the rest of the month to try to wrap up some other loose ends–like that novellas and some of these short stories.

It was raining pretty hard when I came home from work yesterday afternoon, and as such I had little to no desire to walk to the gym and back in what threatened to be a steadily drenching downpour at any moment, so instead I stayed home and didn’t really do a whole hell of a lot of anything. I started reading Velvet Was the Night again, but unfortunately my focus and attention were not having any of it, alas. I am endlessly hopeful that my focus will come back together soon. I suspect this is a transitional week and next will feel more normal–seeing clients the first three days of the week will help me feel like my life is back on track again; and am hoping that seeing clients today will help in that regard as well.

We did get caught up on Only Murders in the Building, which I am really enjoying–although I don’t see how there can be another season, unless the building in question is going to turn into a Cabot’s Cove of sorts, where someone gets murdered every season.

So, today should be an interesting one at the office, I’m not sure how many of our clients will show up; some may not even be back in town as of yet–one never knows, even though it seems as though most of Orleans Parish has power, I don’t think it’s all back in Jefferson Parish yet and of course, the outlying areas suffered even more from that skanky bitch Ida than the city itself did. I don’t think Nicholas is going to be nasty enough to require evacuation again, but there’s also the possibility of the power going out again, which would absolutely be beyond suckage, but at least it’s cooled off; there’s always a slight, barely perceptible break in the heat and humidity after Labor Day, but it does happen–even if the big change to autumn doesn’t come until later in the month/early next month.

It’s weird, but the summer–the brutal dog days, at any rate–are pretty much over at this point.

Something to be grateful for, at any rate.

And now for the spice mines. Have a lovely middle of the week Wednesday, Constant Reader.

To Be Lovers

Tuesday morning and still no Internet. The phone hotspot still seems to be working fine–I’m actually surprised at how quick the Internet connection is; I am so glad I upgraded my phone back in July to a 5G, praise be. I have to work from home today–but am probably going to swing by the office tomorrow to get some more work to be done from either here or there; it all depends, I suppose. My office still doesn’t have power; our other office does (I also need to swing by there as well–there’s a prescription for me waiting there) but my office is running on generators. I am assuming that means there’s no Internet there; but I will go by there to pick up things to work on from home tomorrow anyway and see how things are going there at any rate. Yesterday I was exhausted; the tired went all the way to the bone yesterday. I managed to get some things done around here in the morning, continued to do laundry and organize and clean out cabinets and so forth, but by around four in the afternoon I was so exhausted I could hardly move; so I just put on Spotify and collapsed into my easy chair and started rereading things I’ve been working on–the first three chapters of Chlorine, the novellas, some short stories–and while I am not as pleased with that work as I would like to be this morning, there are some good parts in those works and the skeleton/baseline of them are all very good, very well done, and have the potential to be really good, which is indeed something. Before I get started on my data entry I am going to try to get caught up on my work emails and messages and so forth; while I swill coffee and before I take a shower to face the day. I am going to run some errands at lunch time, and hopefully will be able to go to the gym and at least get some work done on my muscles–I think a lot of the stiffness and so forth is my body protesting the lack of exercise, which does happen; your body gets used to being worked out and when you stop, your muscles are not happy about it in the least. I also have some book review posts to get scheduled for today; I wrote them all yesterday in my exhausted state, but didn’t want to bombard you, Constant Reader, with a slew of book entries…they will be forthcoming, to be sure.

It’s very weird this morning to be readjusting back to some semblance of normality. Remember, Hurricane Ida came ashore during my vacation (sobs softly to self); I had taken a vacation for Bouchercon and kept the time off–only to have a hurricane hit on the final Sunday of the vacation and throw everyone in New Orleans off course for quite some time. At least I don’t have to go into the office today; I have plenty of things to keep me busy around here for the day, and I am curious at some point to go drive around the city and see what’s up everywhere else around here. I know the things that are open are only open for limited hours–staffing AND supplies, I would imagine–so am more than a little curious to see what exactly the grocery stores have in stock and so forth, or if deliveries are coming into the city. I also have no idea whether or not we have mail service, either–so will have to be looking into that. I had packages coming, and Paul’s medications come through the mail (or UPS, we aren’t sure which; but they do come to our postal service). I’m also curious as to whether my CVS is open–going to need to refill that Xanax soon, and believe you me, no one wants me to not have the stuff that takes the edge off and smooths out my corners.

It’s also weird not having television–I guess I didn’t realize how much time I waste sitting in my easy chair with the television on, at the very least for background noise. My wonderful new computer actually has better picture and sound than the television, but the problem is my desk chair isn’t as comfortable as my easy chair (natch) and my muscles again were all tense and knotted from stress and aggravation yesterday–they are still tight this morning, actually–and not only do I need to stretch them, I need a deep tissue massage. (Good luck with that right now, right? Sheesh. It’s too bad we couldn’t have evacuated to a spa hotel somewhere…sauna, steam room, and massage sounds mighty marvelous about right now, quite frankly) I was also a little too tired and loopy to focus on reading, so I didn’t pick up SIlvia Moreno-Garcia’s marvelous Velvet was the Night yesterday; I could reread my own works in progress without a great degree of difficulty or requiring a high level of focus or concentration, but not something new…interesting how I powered through all that reading when there was no power or anything to distract me, but as soon as I had television and Internet in the hotel, my reading came to a sharp halt.

Curious, indeed.

I am also exhausted this morning but not nearly as bad as yesterday. I think it all kind of came crashing in on me yesterday–all those nerves, stress, and tension of the last eight to ten days, and I was literally drained. I hate having lost the time–I’d hoped to be to at least to Chapter Ten of Chlorine by now, so I am behind. I am behind on everything, and now get to play catch up while tired and worn down. Ah, well, I know the drill–make a list, start crossing things off while adding more as you go–and so, I should probably get started on my work day.

Have a lovely post Labor Day, Constant Reader.

Somebody Wants to Love You

I still feel a little bit disoriented, to be honest. I have to stop and think about what day it is–wait, it’s Friday, right?–and then have to check my phone (blessedly charged now, thank heavens) to see the day and date. I had posted something on my phone the other day about the misery of late August in New Orleans without power, and my friend Leslie commented, good thing it’s September now–which sent me into a tailspin of panic and fear (which was certainly not her intent) about paying the bills. I knew I was ahead on paying them, but couldn’t remember if I had paid everything and couldn’t check my Google calendar to be certain…which was one of the first things I did when we got all settled in last night. Apparently, I was even more efficient than I’d remembered–I’d paid almost everything except two credit cards (not due until next week) and in fact, other than those two, nothing is due again until I get paid again. Quite marvelous, to be honest; money has been such a stress factor for the last few years that I’d forgotten what it was like to be ahead on everything–which is always my preferred state.

And once I post this, I have about a gazillion emails to get through, try to figure out where I am with things, and then I can completely relax. This motel has a nice continental breakfast set up (only from 6-9 in the morning though) so I had to slink down there this morning to grab two cups of coffee before they closed down. It’s not the best coffee by any means, but it’s coffee–and I’ve not had any since this past Sunday. I didn’t sleep great–getting used to a bed that is not my own is always an issue whenever I travel–but I rested, which makes all the difference in the world. There’s an all-staff phone call at noon today that I obviously am going to try to get in on.

I checked with Entergy this morning as well, and there’s not even a rough estimate of when we’ll have power at the once again Lost Apartment. Heavy sigh. But that’s okay; I don’t know how long we’re going to be wandering this time but at least this time there’s definitely an end to it in sight; we were out of the Lost Apartment for 15 months (which, for those of you who are new here, is why I started calling it the Lost Apartment in the first place; we’d just moved into it like two months before Katrina from the much smaller carriage house before we lost the apartment for over a year); this time won’t be anything like that, thank God. Currently, our fluid plan is to drive back to New Orleans on Sunday, see what’s up, drop off the dirty clothes and repack with clean ones, and head back out again if we need to. We obviously don’t want to come all the way back up here to Greenville, but hopefully with Labor Day over we can possibly stay somewhere closer to home, like Biloxi or Gulfport. (And I can make those arrangements here before we check out Sunday morning, while I still have WiFi.) Ah, well. At least we have the privilege to do these things–other people don’t have credit cards or savings accounts or a working car or any of the myriad of little things you need to get out of town. And we can watch the LSU game Saturday, which is also terrific. GEAUX TIGERS!

I only brought two books with me–Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Six Days of the Condor by James Grady–but I do have the iPad–so I can always read the shit ton of books I’ve bought on sale for my Kindle over the years but never seem to get around to. I did get over my aversion to reading electronically during the early days of the pandemic, when I couldn’t focus on reading new things so I went back and reread some old Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt favorites; that cured me of not reading electronically (but it’s still not my preference, thank you very much). I also want to transcribe the short story I started writing in my journal that last Saturday night we had power (“Parlor Tricks”), and maybe work on Chlorine a bit. It will probably take me HOURS to get through all the emails that have accumulated, but that’s fine. Paul got up for breakfast, and he and Scooter went back to sleep shortly thereafter, so I have some definite down/quiet time here for a while. I had thought I had started blog entries already for the books I had read during the week, but had not–so am not sure when I will be able to get around to writing about those wonderful books; but you can be sure I will at some point–even though I don’t have the books with me for reference, and of course, my memory–already shot to pieces–is never very good after a catastrophe.

A lot of people have been recommending the Bates House of Turkey as a place to eat here; so we’ll be checking that out at some point. The only other options are fast food–blech–but we are going to need to eat and what choice do we have? I can always, once normality has been restored to New Orleans, hit the gym really hard. The wake of catastrophes are always good times for my body, really; as my body is something I can control (to a point, of course) I inevitably, when reminded that I don’t really have much control over my life and my destiny, tend to focus in on the things that I can control; my body being one of those things. Paul and I really do need to eat healthier–we ain’t getting any younger, hello sixty year old Gregalicious!–and the irony was the night I had dinner with Ellen Byron at Red Gravy (it seems like a million years ago, hello again, complete loss of any sense of time) was the first time I had worn a Polo style shirt since before the pandemic, and I was stunned at how the shirt fit–how big my chest, shoulders and arms looked; how much narrower my waist had become, just with the mostly half-assed workouts I had been doing. It felt nice, if you don’t mind my confessing to my own vanity–so if I actually started eating healthier….who knows?

And on that note, it’s time to head back into the spice mines and try to get on top of the email situation. Will check in again with you soon, Constant Reader, and have a lovely Friday!

Bandala

And top o’ the morning to you, Constant Reader, on this last day of work before I start my little stay-at-home vacation!

Hurray for Vacation Eve! It sure does seem like I’ve had a lot of time off from the office this month, doesn’t it? Probably because there has been so much of it lately; I don’t think I am working a full week again until after Labor Day–and haven’t the last three weeks, either, including this one–so yeah, that’s actually quite a bit. I really didn’t want to get up this morning, either–yet here I am, swilling coffee and watching it getting light outside and hoping that it’s an easy day to get through.

I got more work done on the revisions; the manuscript is somewhere between thirty and forty percent finished, which isn’t bad. As I was reading it again last night and catching all these horrific little mistakes, again the sympathy for my editor came out again–not to mention embarrassment: you let your editor see a manuscript this fucking sloppy? What the hell is wrong with you? A very good question, indeed.

Yesterday I signed, and got the electronic counter signature on, a contract for a new book which could be the first in a new series. This is both exciting and daunting; it’s going to be something utterly and completely different from anything I’ve ever done before–and Constant Reader knows how much I enjoy a challenge–and of course, after I got bleary-eyed from corrections last night my mind started wandering all over the place with potential ideas for the book and for future ones in the series. I also started fleshing out the supporting cast for the series, and had some (what I think) really good ideas. It was actually a lot of fun–part of the reason I write in the first place is because I enjoy it so much; at least the exercise of my creativity, at any rate–and whether any or all of those ideas and thoughts will make it to the final product certainly remains to be seen, it was a lot of fun sitting in my easy chair and writing them all done and letting my mind wander freely. This is pretty exciting, all in all, and as I said, a bit of a departure for me writing-wise. The manuscript is due on January 15th of next year, which means I am having to adjust my writing schedule (sorry, folks, Scotty will be pushed back to the first quarter of next year) but again, it’s not that terribly big of a deal to do so in the first place…and while I am still saving September for Chlorine, I am going to start the work on this new one–background and so forth–while doing so. Wednesday I am going scouting for locations; that will also be incredibly fun, methinks–and I am also going to have to try to remember what things were like here in the past (not too much, of course, but somewhat), which will also dovetail a bit with “Never Kiss a Stranger” as well.

I guess all the New Orleans/Louisiana history I’ve been reading will come in handy a bit, won’t it?

We had a particularly intense thunderstorm–or string of them–last night beginning around six pm; it was nice, as always, to listen to the thunder and the continuous downpour while snuggled into my easy chair under a blanket with a purring kitty sleeping in my lap as I made notes in my journal. I was tired by the time I got home last night–I really need to make a to-do list and focus on things–and so I wasn’t really in the mood to do a whole lot of editing or anything else (hence why I am not as far along with the manuscript as I would have hoped to be by today); I did some laundry and discovered the my leaking dishwasher–well, the leak from the dishwasher–might not actually have a whole lot to do with the dishwasher and everything to do with my garbage disposal, which hasn’t been working lately. I was doing the dishes last night, not using the dishwasher, but water was pooling up on the floor in front of the dishwasher. I know they are connected somehow–sometimes when the dishwasher runs, soapy water will come up into that sink–but that could solve the mystery; there’s probably nothing more than a pipe that needs to either be tightened in some way or replaced. I suspect, however, that this will involve a process of moving the dishwasher out and getting back into there and–ugh, just the thought of having to deal with any of this is making me tired already.

It is always something, isn’t it? But it’s okay. I am kind of looking forward to doing a deep clean of every room in the downstairs while I am on vacation; perhaps one room per day, or something, I don’t know–but I definitely want to get a lot of this stuff all taken care of while I am home all those days. I am also very well aware of my own tendency to procrastinate AND be lazy–oh, I can skip doing anything today because I have five more days off–but the plan, for right now at any rate, is to get as much done this week so that I can take three days off this weekend (Saturday thru Monday) to read and do as little as possible and just relax and get all rested up so I can really do a deep dive into the first draft of Chlorine next month.

One can hope, at any rate. And now to get ready for an exciting day at the office. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

It’s Not Right But It’s Okay

Sunday morning and it’s probably about time that I get back to work. I don’t want to–this birthday mini-vacation has been quite lovely–but I have things that need to be finished and turned in by the end of this month (hello, edits and revisions) and I have to stop putting that off. I only have to go to the office twice this week–tomorrow and Tuesday–before my Bouchercon vacation begins–but my plans for that time is to get things done and then take time to myself.

Well, I may take Wednesday as a day off. I need to drive around New Orleans and do some research; Wednesday should be perfect for doing that, methinks….so maybe taking a day off to begin with to get into the groove of getting everything done that needs to be done by the end of the month could wait until Thursday to get started…but then on the other hand, maybe it a sight-seeing research trip around the Irish Channel wouldn’t be a huge distraction from getting things done that day….alas, I was supposed to have dinner with great friends that night (fucking Delta variant anyway) but I am going to try, very hard, not to let these things disappoint or depress me. That’s a sure way to guarantee I’ll get nothing done.

I started reading Megan Abbott’s The Turnout yesterday and was, of course, immediately enthralled. She manages to somehow lure you in with the opening sentence, something cryptic, eerie, and yet compelling. Her books always have this same voice–I’d say mournful, but that’s not accurate either–always a variation that fits the story and the characters, but that lyrical, poetic, economic way of establishing mood and dramatic tension is almost ethereal and dream-like; even if the dream will, as always, eventually bare its teeth at the reader. God, how I wish I could write like that. I always wonder how writers as gifted as she write their books–do they write a sentence and then agonize over how to find the right words that create the right rhythm, or do they agonize over which word to add as they go? Me? I just vomit out three thousand or so words at a time and then go back and try to make it say what I wanted to say how I wanted to say it; nothing poetic, lyrical, or dream-like about my work. But I write the way I write–I used to want to be Faulkner when I was in college; I think it’s fairly safe to say that ship has sailed–and I cannot be terribly disappointed by anything I write anymore. I am pleased with the work I am doing–have been doing–and as long as I remain pleased by everything I write going forward, I am going to be just fine. I am intending to spend some more time with Megan Abbott this morning before diving into the edits/revisions before heading to the gym; and intend to do even more revisions/edits after my brief workout this afternoon.

We started watching The White Lotus last night and I am on the fence. I really don’t care much for any of the characters–the acting is terrific, the writing is fine, but I can’t wrap my mind around a point, if there even is one, you know? I rewatched this week’s Ted Lasso, and one thing I’ve noticed–there are so many lovely little touches to this show–that is one of my favorite things is that Keeley always laughs at Ted’s jokes, no matter how corny, no matter how bad the pun–she always laughs, and she always did, from the absolute beginning. In fact, Keeley was the first character on the show to see and accept and like Ted; which made her even more likable.

I also managed to finally get my TCM app working on the Apple TV yesterday–you’ve always needed a television provider for access; once I let Cox go it wouldn’t allow me to use Hulu, but now it does–and I immediately cued up and watched The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, a terrific noir with Barbara Stanwyck as Martha…and as I watched, I realized how much that plot device–a murder committed and covered up by kids, only to have everything come home to roost when they’re adults–gets used a lot today. I saw this movie for the first time when I was a kid, with my grandmother; WGN used to show old movies after the 10:00 pm news in Chicago as well as every afternoon at 3:30 (which is where my educational grounding in classic old films started). I’d forgotten that the magnificent Judith Anderson played Stanwyck’s horrible old aunt that she winds up killing; Anderson was robbed of Oscars at so many turns in her film career–Rebecca, And Then There Were None, this–it really is a shame; but at least those great performances are preserved forever on film. I am very excited, to say the least, about having access to the full range of TCM again; I can now watch movies instead of getting sucked into watching old LSU games on Youtube or history videos (I’ve been watching a lot of biographies of the Bourbon royal family of France during the seventeenth century, and will ask again: why has no queer biographer/historian/novelist written about Louis XIV’s openly gay brother, Monsieur, Philippe duc d’Orleans?). Just glancing through the app yesterday, there were so many movies I wanted to either see for the first time, or rewatch for the first time since I was a child…and of course, watching old film noir (along with reading old noir novels) works as research for Chlorine.

That’s me, multi-tasking and always finding a way to justify wasting time/procrastination. I am quite good at it as well, in case you hadn’t noticed.

I also woke up earlier–well, I woke up around the time I usually do, just got out of bed earlier than usual. The last few days of not getting up before nine, while lovely and restful, also managed to somehow keep the lethargy going throughout the rest of the day. I am hopeful that will not be the case today. I am going to spend an hour or so immersed in Megan’s new book, and then I intend to straighten things up around the kitchen before digging into the edits/revisions of the Kansas book–which I have allowed to languish for far too long–and I also need to clean out some things (spoiled food) from the refrigerator as well as try to get my lunches prepared for the two days in the office this week.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you on the morrow.