Yes We Can Can

It’s Friday and we survived another week, Constant Reader!`

I switched my schedule today to work in the afternoon–we’re short-staffed–and thus was able to get a nice, relaxing night’s sleep (to make up for Wednesday night’s restless night) and hopefully allow my back to get some rest and heal up whatever the hell I did to it on Wednesday. I got a lovely night’s sleep last night, and so today I am going to get caught up on a lot of stuff that had slid while I was working on the massive volunteer project–my email inbox in particular, has raged out of control for quite some time now–and finish paying my bills before heading into the office this afternoon. I did get some work done on a short story last night, and managed to get to bed fairly early.

Royal Street Reveillon officially is released in about four more days, and yes, I am going to talk about the book pretty much every day until it is officially born into the world. The cover is completely fantastic; it might be my favorite Scotty cover ever, and I’ve pretty much loved them all.

When I first wrote about Scotty, obviously the first book was set during Southern Decadence. When I got a two book contract, essentially turning a stand alone novel into the nascent beginnings of a series, I thought well, the personal story can work through a trilogy; and I’ll set the three books during the gay holidays–Decadence, Halloween, and Mardi Gras. And when the series continued beyond the original trilogy, the next one, Vieux Carre Voodoo, opened with the Gay Easter Parade. Eventually, the holiday theme was discarded as the series continued–Who Dat Whodunnit was built around the Saints’ trip to the Super Bowl; Baton Rouge Bingo was built around Louisiana history and the legacy of Huey Long; and Garden District Gothic not only set up the new book, but was built around an unsolved crime in the past that was affecting the present day negatively. With Royal Street Reveillon, I decided to go back to the holiday thing; it’s set during the Christmas season, as the title implies, and the gorgeous cover reflects that (one of the things I love the most about the cover is that one of the lanterns at the entrance to Jackson Square isn’t lit; nothing is more New Orleans than only three of the four lanterns actually working).

It’s funny that it took me so long to write about New Orleans at Christmas time; I wrote and published a Christmas story over a decade ago, “The Snow Queen,” which was included in my anthology Upon a Midnight Clear, which has been out of print since around 2008, and will probably be included in my short story collection Monsters of new Orleans, should I ever get around to finishing writing the stories for that. I love New Orleans at Christmas time; the city always likes decorating for the holidays, and people go all for Christmas. The French Quarter almost becomes like a little Christmas village, with the fronts of houses decorated and bushes and trees and balconies festooned with decor. The massive live oaks that line our streets are often filled with lights; the enormous facades of the houses on St. Charles are also decorated with lights and the yards are filled with reindeer and Santas and snowmen. Celebration in the Oaks is something we try to go see every year–the trees in City Park along the drives are all decorated and holiday decor everywhere–and is simply breathtakingly beautiful.

As I’ve gotten older, I care less and less about Christmas; Paul and I have always been astonishingly not sentimental, and the older we get the less sentimental we are. I generally view Christmas as little more than a paid two days off from work (we also get Christmas Eve as a paid holiday). Scooter’s inability to resist attacking the decorations has resulted in us not decorating the Lost Apartment since he destroyed the Christmas tree that first year he spent the holiday with us; he also tries to chew the wires for lights, so we no longer string lights along the railing for the staircase (Skittle would knock a low-hanging ornament off the tree and then get bored). We still get each other gifts, of course, and I try to remember to send cards every year but don’t always succeed. I don’t watch Christmas movies anymore, or Christmas specials, and we certainly don’t play Christmas music in the apartment–it’s so incessant everywhere else in the world during the season that there’s no need–and other than going to Pat Brady’s annual Christmas party, we don’t really do much for Christmas anymore.

Sometimes I wonder if that’s sad, but then remember it doesn’t bother me in the least, and cease worrying about it.

Writing about Scotty during the Christmas season did raise an interesting question: how would Scotty and his immediate family celebrate the holiday, given his parents aren’t Christians, nor was he or his siblings raised that way? But Christmas, originally a Christian usurpation of a pagan holiday, has really lost its religious meaning here in the United States over crass commercialization (A Charlie Brown Christmas actually explored the true meaning of Christmas versus the growing commercialization of the holiday, seeing it as a huge problem, back in the early 1960’s, and the lesson was clearly lost on its audience as the commercialization has only gotten worse in the decades since, despite the show airing every year)m and it’s actually become a secular holiday; everyone gets the day off from work, pretty much, and much of the symbolism of the holiday as we know it today has no basis in faith. (This is why “merry Christmas” doesn’t bother me–I no longer consider myself to be a Christian, and haven’t for decades, but to me, saying “merry Christmas” is no different than “Happy New Year” or “enjoy your 4th of July” or “happy Thanksgiving”; but that could also be the unconscious privilege of being raised Christian, besides, saying “happy holidays” instead doesn’t hurt anyone other than those whose faith is so shallow it needs to be reinforced by others every time they turn around.)

But one of the great joys in writing Scotty, and why I still write about him, and enjoy almost every minute of it, is that Scotty finds such great joy in life, no matter what’s happening or how bad it may be; his eternal optimism and belief that the world is actually full of good people, and is actually a good place, and bad people are outliers makes writing about him one of the great pleasures of my life as a writer. As I wrote in Mardi Gras Mambo, Scotty loves Carnival and doesn’t understand people who don’t; even saying “You don’t get sick of Christmas, do you?” And there’s really the key; of course Scotty would love Christmas, would love decorating and buying presents and all the things that come with Christmas; he has an almost child-like love of the holiday, and another one of his appeals is that no matter what has happened to him–and bad things have–he never loses that child-like sense of love and wonder and awe for the world at large. Of course he would love Christmas.

Of course he would.

And despite all the crazy shit dropping in his lap this particular Christmas season, never once does Scotty ever think the holiday is ruined. Because of course it isn’t.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Silent Night

Friday and we are somehow getting through this infernal time between Christmas and New Year’s. Every year I think to myself self, next year you need to take this time off, and every year I forget. Like an idiot.

I’m putting this on my 2019 calendar right the fuck now.

Seriously.

But we’ve made it to Friday, haven’t we, Constant Reader? I’ve managed to get back to work writing–although I should be working on polishing the Scotty, I’ve been bogged down with Bury Me in Satin so keep trying to work my way through it. But I need to get back to the Scotty and cleaning it up; the problem being I am so heartily sick of the opening chapters I don’t even want to look at them anymore. I am going to try to revise and polish the last six chapters, and then work my way back through the entire manuscript, and I still have to write the epilogue. I need to snap out of this malaise/funk I’ve been in ever since the Great Data Disaster, and seriously climb back into the writing and editing, else it will never be done. NEVER. I also need to start reading again. I’d like to finish my reread of The Shining, so I can move on to my reread of Pet Sematary, and then I am going to work my way through the TBR pile….as I’ve said before, I’m going to try to read more minority and diverse writers this next year. I’ve been buying their books all this time, of course, but the books have been languishing in my TBR pile–along with a lot of other books and authors–and I also need to read outside of the crime genre for a while, as well.

I’ve always believed reading is a crucial part of writing; you can’t be a good writer if you don’t love to read, and reading is also an excellent education in writing. The best writers should inspire you to want to equal or better them, or at least to do better with your own writing. I think not publishing anything for quite some time has also done a number on my confidence as a writer; I think we all tend to be our own harshest critics. I need to stop listening to those horrible voices in my head with their nasty whispers that undermine my confidence and make me worry about my writing; that give me Imposter Syndrome and encourage me to not bother writing anything.

Which is also self-defeating, and self-annihilation, and self-destructive.

So I am going to try to use this long weekend to reboot my life and reboot my brain and get back on track with everything. I need to read some more New Orleans history, and I need to figure out what short stories need to be finished or reworked; I realized the other day what is wrong with my story “The Problem with Autofill” and I don’t know if I can rework it properly; I don’t think the premise actually works. I probably need to free-associate the story and the root problem at its core, and figure out how to fix it. The title is probably going to have to go–perhaps I can use it for another story with a different plot–but I think there’s something there with the story and I can make something work with it.

Heavy heaving sigh.

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

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White Christmas

Christmas is now over, and New Year’s looms; Carnival is just around the corner. Mardi Gras is late this year, I believe; but I can’t be bothered to look it up at the moment so take my word for it.

Our holidays were lovely and relaxing; now there are simply three days to get through before the next holiday, so getting through the rest of this week should be relatively simple. One would think, at any rate. I am quite pleased with how the weekend turned out; I didn’t read or write or edit nearly as much as I should have, but that’s the way the holiday weekend goes sometimes, you know? I did get some brainstorming in, which is always important, and I got a lot of computer filing done. I almost got all the physical filing done as well. There’s a sink full of dirty dishes that I hope to take care of this morning as well; but we shall see. I am a little groggy this morning; as I suspected, getting up to an alarm earlier than I’ve been doing these last four days was just as problematic as I had feared it would be this morning. And I have to get up even earlier the next two mornings…heavy heaving sigh.

But I am sure the coffee–once it kicks into gear–will be most helpful.

We continued watching that Australian series Wanted yesterday, and paid to stream Avengers: Infinity War from iTunes. It was quite enjoyable, and very well done for what it was, despite having to juggle all these stars and super-heroes and story-lines, and the ending was just as sad and heartbreaking as everyone said it was when the movie was released. And yet….being an old hand at comics and super-heroes, isn’t it obvious how this will go? Thanos will somehow either be defeated in the sequel, and/or convinced to use, the Infinity Stones that control time and space to go back and not allow him to erase half of the life in the universe.

Which is fine, and makes for great drama, but it’s precisely the problem that eventually drove us off from watching Arrow and Flash: the stakes aren’t high when people can be brought back from the dead, or you can change the time-line to save them.

Although watching this movie gave me the idea of how to write the epilogue for the new Scotty, which is incredibly cool. Yay?

Well, not so much as gave me the idea as the idea came to me while I was watching the movie.

Which is a completely different thing, really.

Maybe for New Year’s, I’ll watch The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi again, back-to-back.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader!

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All I Want for Christmas Is You

It is December 25th, the morning, and I managed to again sleep until almost nine; which I’ve done every day since this fabulous four day weekend began. Getting used to getting up early again is going to be a bitch; I will find out for certain this Thursday morning, heavy heaving sigh.

We opened our Christmas presents last night; a tradition that began early in my family when my sister and I were too old to believe in Santa anymore and my parents were still young enough to want to sleep late on Christmas day. Paul, as always, has spoiled me terribly; he got me everything I wanted 2 twelve-watt iPhone chargers, a contraption called Yogatoes-more on that later, new LSU house slippers, and some things I didn’t ask for–three sessions with a trainer (one of those gifts that can be taken as back-handed, if you choose to think that way), a package of Turtle candies, caramel M&M’s, some really cool post-it notes, pens, and a can of cashews. I also got my annual Hog Days T-shirt (his hometown is famous for Hog Days, and he gets me one of the plethora of options for a T-shirt every year), and some other knick knacks, shoved into a Christmas stocking. It was quite lovely, actually. He’s so much more thoughtful than I am (surprise!).

We also watched, or rather tried to watch, Call Me By Your Name last night, streaming it from Amazon Prime. We stopped with only half an hour to go; Paul wanted to have a cigarette and I wanted to use the bathroom, and when we reassembled in the living room we weren’t all that interested in continuing. It’s a very pretty movie to look at (ITALY!), and the acting was fine…but it just didn’t connect with either of us. Love Simon didn’t either; and I have some thoughts on that, but I will save that for another time. After shelving Call Me By Your Name, we started watching a really interesting Australian series on Netflix, Wanted, which has a great concept and I am curious to see how it will play out.

I spent most of yesterday cleaning out computer files. This is long overdue, and I’ve talked about doing it extensively, but yesterday afternoon while Paul was at the gym I plopped my ass down in my chair and started getting rid of duplicate files and combining many different files about the same thing into one (who knew I had five completely different folders for my story “This Thing of Darkness” with completely different contents? NO MORE), and while there is still a lot of work to be done, I am quite pleased to have gotten all I got accomplished yesterday done. I also am going to try to take the time to make sure duplications don’t occur again in the future, and make sure things don’t simply get put into folders marked SORT or MISCELLANEOUS in the future.

Hmmm. Sounds like a goal for the new year, doesn’t it?

Today, once I finish this, I am going to start Christmas dinner–time to put the turkey in the slow cooker, etc.–and try to revise early chapters of Bury Me in Satin. I don’t intend to spend the entire day working; it is a holiday, after all, and I’d like to spend some time rereading The Shining as well as making some plans for the rest of the week and the weekend. I also just realized that Georgia and Texas fans will be descending on us for the Sugar Bowl over the course of the weekend.

It also looks like a beautiful day out there.

Okay, yoga toes. 

I realized in early December that Paul and I’s methodology of Christmas shopping was predicated on passive-aggression: I don’t know what I want. This rang home to me as I sat at my computer, ready to order iPhone chargers and LSU slippers and the yoga toes, so I closed the shopping carts and instead sent the links to Paul. But I discovered the yoga toes thanks to Jamie Mason, who posted about them on Facebook along with a link to the website. I have fallen arches/flat/very wide feet, and most of my life I have not taken proper care of them; including many jobs which required me to stand on them for hours on end, day in and day out. In one of those oh you are SO fucking smart aren’t you moments I realized about ten years ago I’d been buying my shoes too small for years; I went up from 10 1/2 to 11’s, which was marvelous and made an enormous difference. My doctor recommended shoe inserts as well, which was also life-changing and guaranteed that I no longer needed to buy new shoes every six weeks or so. I also discovered you can buy shoes wider than normal; so my shoes now fit properly and my feet/ankles/knees/calves/hips no longer start aching as quickly as they used to. But years of shoes, and shoes that were too small and not wide enough, compressed my toes (kind of like how the Chinese used to bind girls’ feet) to the point where I couldn’t splay them without reaching down and doing it with my fingers. The yoga toes device is a geloid thing you put on your toes which forces them apart; you leave it on each foot for ten to fifteen minutes to begin with, working your way up to an hour and you do it every day. And let me tell you, Constant Reader, already, after only doing it once for fifteen minutes, that the yoga toes have already made a difference. My toes and feet feel better, and the pressure on my ankles and calves has somewhat lessened. It also makes walking and balancing easier–because your toes aren’t supposed to be compressed together. 

Highly recommended.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Santa Baby

Well, yesterday was interesting.

I have some thoughts about yesterday’s recent blow-up within the crime fiction world; deep thoughts that I’ve not been able to coherently pull together in order to share as of yet. These thoughts began to form, and swirl around, inside my head during the last dust-up within my chosen world of crime writing; I’ve been playing with them and trying to put them into a some sort of sense ever since. Yesterday I was busy almost my entire twelve-hours at the office, only able to check in with social media via my phone periodically–and watched, in horror, as the fire not only spread but gasoline was thrown onto it. But as I’ve said before, I no longer want to say things in the heat of the moment, when emotion is running rampant within my head and through my body, and would prefer to sit on it for a few days, think about what I am going to say, and try to say it ina  reasonable way.

Even despite the fact that quite a lot of what’s been happening in my community has been, quite frankly, un-fucking-reasonable.

But sometimes…to effect change you have to wait and allow a cooler head to prevail. Sigh. I hate being more mature.

Needless to say, I got little to no writing or editing done yesterday. Having the lengthy work day is part of the problem, of course–at the end of one’s second twelve-hour day one is a bit tired–so when I got home last evening I simply collapsed into my easy chair and spent the rest of the evening bingeing Schitt’s Creek until I actually fell asleep in the chair. So, yes, in case you’re wondering, I did sleep really well last night. I moved from the chair to the bed and immediately fell back asleep; I think I woke up once around three in the morning but embraced Morpheus again almost instantly. I feel most wonderfully rested this morning; and hopeful that I’ll be able to get back on the horse from which I’ve fallen and get some more work done. I have to get through three more days of work before a four day weekend–and I do think we’re going to go see Aquaman this weekend–and I am equally hopeful I’ll be able to get a lot done this weekend as well.

Fingers crossed, for sure.

I’m also really glad I did all that cleaning on Monday night during the Saints game. *Whew*.

And Christmas is less than a week away now. YIKES.

I am swinging by the post office this morning, hopeful that the last of the gifts I ordered for Paul will have arrived, so I can hide them in the back of the car until such time as I can sneak them into the house and wrap them. I also ordered some gifts for myself–what can I say, I’m a giver, and sometimes you need to order something extra for the free shipping–and hopefully all those have arrived. I actually ordered copies of two comic books from my childhood that, for some reason, resonated with me: DC’s The Brave and the Bold, issue 98, and Charlton Comics’ Ghostly Tales from the Haunted House issue 91: “Bloody Mermaid.” I recently reread The Brave and the Bold #98, and regret to inform you, Constant Reader, that the tale doesn’t stand the test of time; but it did provide me with a kernal of an idea for a book (and in all honesty, when I first read it when I was ten it inspired an idea for a book, and part of the reason I ordered the comic was to see if the idea still remained okay–which I think it does). I have yet to reread “Bloody Mermaid”; I’ve already discussed how it inspired a germ of an idea that eventually became my novel Dark Tide.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a fabulous Hump Day, Constant Reader!

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Drummer Boy

And just like that, it’s Friday again. It’s supposed to rain all day today–hurray–but again, I have a very short day at the office, and then it’s back home to get started on cleaning and organizing. I like being able to get the stuff done on Friday that I used to have to do on Saturday; I’m hoping to get the edits on the stories I’ve done this week input today, so I can start polishing the new Scotty, and maybe even get a few chapters worth of work done on Bury Me in Satin. I have two four day weekends coming up after this one, and so I should be able to get everything finished by January 1 that I want to get done.

As long as I don’t get another case of the lazies, which is always possible.

I think I am finished with Christmas shopping for Paul; one gift won’t arrive until after Christmas, but it’s just a fun little gift to make him laugh, rather than anything major that will be missed.

The kitchen is also a terrible mess this morning, as always on Fridays. I just can’t seem to find the energy on weeknights to keep up with this stuff, so it always falls to the weekend for me to get back on top of this stuff. I slept fairly well last night–not great, but not bad; I woke up fairly regularly but was always able to go back into a nice deep sleep, and so I am not tired this morning as much as one might think one would be. But I also don’t have the drive to get anything done before I leave for work…other than maybe folding the clothes currently running in the dryer and maybe moving the stuff from the washer to the dryer to run while I am at work. I also have to swing by and get the mail this morning on my way to the office. I have one more gift for Paul to order, and then I have to order my parents’ presents, and that will wrap up Christmas once and for all with a lovely little bow and maybe some tinsel.

Yay!

We have a Christmas/birthday party to attend on Saturday evening, and I think Paul has plans for the evening, so I am going to be home alone tonight with a needy kitty and lots to do; no real excuse for not getting a lot done tonight other than, of course, the need for attention from Scooter and the tired old mentality well I can always get everything done tomorrow which so frequently seems to affect me on Fridays. But the cleaning is important to get out of the way. And I have to leave the house tomorrow to grocery shop, get the mail and pick up prescriptions, then the party is tomorrow night, so I can be fairly certain that I am going to blow off doing anything tomorrow. And I need to get back into the swing of doing my reading of New Orleans history. It’s amazing how off the Great Data Disaster of 2018 has thrown me.

Ah, well. Tis back to the spice mines with me.

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Do You Hear What I Hear

Wednesday. Paul made it home late last night, and is sleeping away this chilly morning in the Lost Apartment. I started feeling a bit under the weather yesterday–scratchy throat, usually not a good sign–but am hoping I can power through today and hopefully will feel better tomorrow. I hate to call in sick, but at the same time I don’t particularly want to get any of our clients sick, either.

I finished editing “Don’t Look Down” and “This Thing of Darkness” last night; I am hoping to get through “The Snow Globe” and “Moves in the Field” this morning, and have my fingers crossed that I can get back to work on Bury Me in Satin tonight. One can hope, at any rate. I also want to get some work done on the revision of Royal Street Reveillon, and I also have to get the afterward to that one written as well. So, I am hopeful by the end of the weekend I’ll have Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories completely banged out and ready for the copy edit, so I can get RSR finished over the Christmas weekend, and maybe–just maybe–get Bury Me in Satin finished by the end of December–a reach, but something I am going to still try to accomplish.

I’d also like to have a strong first draft of “Never Kiss a Stranger” done, but let’s not get crazy.

I can’t believe Christmas is less than two weeks away. I think I’ve done all my shopping for Paul; all I need to do now is buy something for my parents and it’s over. (I know what to get them, so not an issue.) This has been a kind of weird holiday season. Thanksgiving was early, and that built up a false sense of security that there was plenty of time before Christmas…then BLAM, it snuck up on me.

But…I have four day weekends for Christmas and New Year’s, and our annual trip to Commander’s Palace for lunch on New Year’s Eve with Jean and Gillian to look forward to, which is lovely, and LSU is playing in a New Year’s Day bowl, so there’s that. The Saints won their division and are going to the play-offs, hopefully with a bye the first week and maybe even home field advantage the whole series…so maybe, just maybe, we could end up in the Super Bowl again this year. (I probably shouldn’t have said that…because I truly believe that my fandom has enough power to jinx the teams I root for, because it’s all about me.)

But I am thrilled to have made it through the roughest part of the week. Monday and Tuesday’s twelve hour days are rough; yesterday it felt like I was coming down with something–I had a scratch at the base of my throat–and I wondered if I was really getting sick or if it was just from being tired. I slept really well last night–even slept in later than I wanted or planned–and this morning I still feel a bit off…but much better than yesterday. I don”t feel quite the same way today–the little tickle is still there, but not as bad as yesterday–and I may have to stop and buy some teabags so I can just drink tea with honey and lemon all day. I’ve also been really dehydrated lately, so have been drinking Gatorade a lot.

I hate being sick, so here’s hoping it can be warded off.

Last night before I retired to bed early, I also managed to revive the next and final draft of Royal Street Reveillon. I work by chapters, which I know is probably weird to most other writers; they write usually in terms of pages, i.e. “I wrote ten pages today”. I don’t. I go by word counts and chapters; I always try to write a chapter every day, and in early draft form those are anywhere from 2200-3000 words; sometimes less, sometimes more. The Great Data Loss of 2018 took all the final chapter drafts of the manuscript as it was turned in, including the version where I pulled it all together and sent it in to Bold Strokes as one document. This, as you can imagine, was a disaster almost unimaginable; trying to recreate to copy edit and tweak a manuscript you no longer have the final version of is the worst nightmare any writer could have (at least in my opinion). However, the manuscript was in my “sent mail” file; so I was able to download that copy and last night I started breaking it down into chapters again for me to work on. I am also trying something different this time–I am going to work backwards. So I created new draft chapters for the last five chapters, and hopefully will be able to get to work on them this weekend as the end draws near.

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

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