At some point, with all the book -bans and censorship that’s going on, I am going to have to recap and go over my own experience with being banned; but that will require logic, rational thought and revisiting my blog entries from that period to refresh my memory. Yesterday I got political on here for the first time in a long time, and you know–it kind of felt good to get that out of my system and into the public sphere. I do feel very complicit for not speaking out sooner, but…I’ve always worried, more so after turning fifty, that my opinions might cause trouble for others I am associated with; I work at a non-profit for one, and of course, I had a very long volunteer service ‘career’ with Mystery Writers of America. It was probably at least nine years of service all told; and I didn’t want anyone claiming I was speaking for MWA (particularly when I was serving as Executive Vice President) when I was expressing myself personally; nor did I want anything I might say or do to reflect poorly on the organization–or have my words used against it in any way. As EVP, I was one of only two people authorized to speak for the organization publicly; and that last year after pandemic restrictions were lifted I traveled a lot, representing the organization at several conferences and events. And even though I personally knew where the lines were drawn and what was and wasn’t separate, I couldn’t count on other people to keep or recognize those same distinctions…and I was far too busy with everything to willingly risk more things to have to deal with by opening my mouth on here. That’s part of the reason I dialed that all back–along with the “preaching to the choir” element–but yesterday morning I realized you don’t have to be careful about what you say publicly anymore and it was incredibly liberating. So yes, I will sometimes be taking on things that I feel strongly about and not keeping my mouth shut the way I have for so long. (In my narcissistic hubris, I also sort of blame myself for the state of the world right now because I kept my mouth shut for so long.) Besides, if you read this blog or my books (hopefully both), it should be readily apparent that politically I am basically a Jacobin–albeit one who understands how our government runs and functions and how it is supposed to work…which some people serving in Washington don’t seem to know, which is odd. Surely the ones in my age group had to take Government or Civics in high school? I don’t see how they could have passed it, but here we are.
So be prepared, Constant Reader. There’s a lengthy tome coming on the Virginia Incident.
But I finished editing the manuscript I was working on (not one of my own) last evening and sent it back to the author, and I can breathe. I have a ZOOM call scheduled with my editor, so we can talk out all the issues and scheduling for Mississippi River Mischief, which I am actually itching to get back to work on. I think I’ll take today and tomorrow as free days from writing, and then I will jump back into the book on Sunday. I want to do it the way I always do my editing and revisions; by chapter as opposed to entire manuscript, which is what I had been doing and I think this change of work habits, on top of the depression and everything else, made it impossible for me to get the book finished. I don’t think I’ll get it done by the end of May, but surely I can get it finished by mid-June, and then can move back to Chlorine–which will also require me going over and revising the opening chapters again so I can get the voice down again. I am also going to go back to my chapter-per-week project I was working on before my life blew up late last year, and I feel marvelous about everything. I feel very excited about this, and about getting back to writing again. This hasn’t been the best year for me thus far, really, and I also need to stop thinking oh I need to understand why I feel like this or trying to deconstruct everything in some kind of pseudo-psychological processing. My mother died after a slow, lengthy decline, at an extremely difficult time for me professionally. I need to stop feeling guilty about grieving, or being unable to do anything because of depression. Of course I am experiencing some depression; I’d have to be inhuman not to feel anything. And like with all previous traumas, I am learning to navigate grief as I go–although maybe I should read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking–and like all previous traumas, it creates a bipolar existence where one day you are fine and the next you’re back in the pit of despair. Sometimes the day will start out great and will flip as it goes on. I have nothing wise or profound to say about loss or grief; although there is something to be said about the numb emotional deadening the HIV/AIDS crisis brought in its wake. I would never want to be that zombie-like ever again, drifting through the days waiting to hear someone else is in the hospital, someone else has died, and there’s another funeral in a few days–but I also have to start recognizing, at this great advanced age, that I’ve never processed or dealt with that time either. (It’s a Sin was a strong reminder of that very thing. I was also thinking Longtime Companion deserves a revisit; it’s always been hard to watch for me, but the beach scene at the end always makes me sob. I’ve also been thinking about the literature of the plague; has anyone ever compiled a list of the classic HIV/AIDS writings? There’s a thesis for a grad student.)
Last night I slept like a log; the sleep of the righteous for finally finishing that editing job. I feel great this morning–rested and relaxed. I do have some work at home duties to accomplish today, and the kitchen is a complete disaster area. I have decided that I am going to finish reading Lori Roy’s Let Me Die in His Footsteps (which is fucking brilliant in every way), as well as reread the openings of the Scotty books this weekend, to see if I can get his voice back into my brain–I feel like that’s the big problem in Mississippi River Mischief–I haven’t nailed the voice and tone in any of the drafts yet, so I need to re-familiarize myself with Scotty’s voice and his wicked, wicked ways. I am actually excited about getting reacquainted with him. This is our ninth outing together, and I always wonder with each one if this is the last or not. I think there’s at least two more Scottys within the reaches of my brain–Hurricane Party Hustle and Quarter Quarantine Quadrille for sure–but you never know what is going to happen next and what may come along your road to write from out of nowhere. I’d like to get both Chlorine and Muscles finished this year, as well as the novellas, and maybe a short story collection by the end of the year. I have also been thinking that one thing that is missing from the annals of New Orleans (or Louisiana, for that matter) crime fiction is the environmental novel. John D. MacDonald deplored what politicians and greedy developers were doing to the tropical paradise of Florida, and slipped that social commentary into almost every Travis McGee novel and many of his stand alones (Barrier Island comes to mind). Louisiana has been in an environmental crisis for decades, and yet no one ever writes about the eroding coastline, the greed of the oil companies and the politicians they buy and pay for every year; Cancer Alley along the river between Baton Rouge and New Orleans being a hotbed of toxic waste; and of there was the Bayou Corne sinkhole a few years ago. I don’t know that I have the knowledge or the time to do the necessary research to write such things, but it’s something someone needs to write. And you know what I always say–if you think someone should write it, that someone should be you.
For me, though, the problem with research is how do you stop from going down wormholes and wasting days? Where do you draw the line, and when do you know you’ve done enough? As Constant Reader knows, I can never get enough of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries of European history; I can spend days in wormholes of research about politics and wars and the powerful; it was an interesting time–when white Europeans began their colonization of the world, when Christianity had it’s huge splintering that led to war after war after war, the Hapsburgs continuing to expand their empire by marrying it, and on and on and on. Remarkable female leaders proliferated in the sixteenth century more than perhaps any other century before or since; which makes the sixteenth a bit more interesting than the seventeenth. The seventeenth interests me because it was the century when the world empires continued to grow and oppress natives around the globe, but it was also the time of the rise of the modern state, when the political games became more about state power rather than faith or old inheritance claims–when politics became more about the country than the King’s whims. I also go down New Orleans and Louisiana history wormholes a lot, too. I will never have the time to write everything I want to write, or research history enough to write about it. I really, for example, want to write about the German Coast rebellion of the enslaved; I want to write about Freniere, Louisiana being wiped off the map; and I want to write more historical stories set in New Orleans.
And I want to write a romance. I had that on my list of projects for this year, but then everything blew up in my face and my control over the year slipped right out of my fingers. But even though it’s mid to late May, it’s not too late to salvage the rest of the year from the wreckage of the first five months.
And on that note, I’m heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will check in which you again later or tomorrow.