9 to 5

I actually managed to spend several hours writing yesterday, for the first time in I don’t know how fucking long; it was quite marvelous, and when I finally stopped writing to go to the gym–also for the first time in I can’t remember how fucking long–I was very pleased to see that I had done well over two thousand new words; as I had started by editing and revising the 3552 words or so I’d already written on this piece I may have actually written more than that; it’s really hard to say, but I do know that at my stopping point “Festival of the Redeemer” was clocking in at 5573, and I’ll take it. It felt good, and the story was coming to life for me; I could see Venice clearly in my head and I knew who my character was–it was remarkably easy to slip into his head again and tell his story. At one point, I remember looking at the word count (at that point, it was 4700 or so) and thinking okay, when you get to 5000 you can stop and when I stopped to look again I was at 5573 and was like, damn–it’s been a hot minute since I went into the writing zone like that and not been checking the word count every few sentences to see how long before I could call it quits for the day.

It really did feel amazing.

Ironically, when I got to the gym they were closed; despite the schedule on its Facebook page, they still close at three and I got there just as the poor guy was getting ready to start shutting anything down. Instead of going Chadwick on him, I apologized–he clearly felt bad–and decided that I would make every attempt to go tonight after work. It’ll be more crowded than I would prefer, of course, but as I need to get back into the swing of a regular workout again after however long I’ve not been going–three weeks, methinks–I’ll merely keep the weights the same as they were the last time but only do one set tonight; two on Wednesday, and three on Friday; do three sets of these same weight next week and then add more weight the following week. I actually enjoyed the walk, to be honest; despite the light rain and heaviness of the air. I had some music playing through my headphones and too some pictures, both going and coming back, for Instagram. I’ve made another new goal, and that’s to function on Instagram some more; I live in and write about one of the most beautiful cities in North America, and why not exploit that a little more on a social medium devoted to pictures?

Yeah, well, we’ll see how it lasts, won’t we?

It was certainly fun, and the failed walk to the gym today certainly qualified as something I’d planned to do more of this year: exploring New Orleans, and my neighborhood in particular. I’m starting to get a bit itchy about writing another Scotty book, but that also means going down to the Quarter and having a look around. I feel fairly confident that entire part of town has completely changed in the years since I’ve actually set foot down there; it’s weird to remember that I just can’t walk out my office door and go take a look at the building where Scotty lives, see what business are open around there, and get incredibly annoyed by tourists. I really miss our old office on Frenchmen Street; I miss going to the bank in the Quarter, or going to the Walgreens on Decatur Street to buy Claritin-D, or to get food from one of the corner stores–I miss the Nelly Deli, for one, and Verti Mart for another, or getting something at the Rouse’s on the corner of Royal and St. Peter. I’ll be staying at the host hotel for Bouchercon this August, but it’s also August–and do I really want to go exploring outside during those horrendous dog days of summer?

Meh, like I’m not used to August in New Orleans?

Actually, that was a trick question. Nobody ever gets used to August in New Orleans.

I’ve not looked at the weather forecast for today yet–not sure why I bother; it’s going to be ‘hot humid chance of rain’ every day from now until late September–but it’s also hurricane season, so I always have to start paying attention to what’s going on out in the Atlantic basin as well as in the lower Gulf. But my windows are covered in condensation this morning, and the sidewalk–as much of it as I can see through the wet windows–looks to also be pretty wet, so it probably rained overnight. After the misfire of the gym expedition yesterday afternoon, I am going to try to make it tonight; but I am not sure how I will feel. I slept weirdly last night–I kept having bizarre dreams about drinking too much and getting wasted (not sure what that was about–memories, maybe? But it’s been years since I got wasted, and not terribly sure I ever want to do more than get a slight buzz ever again) and kept waking myself up every now and again, which was also weird–it’s been awhile since I’ve not gotten a deep night’s sleep. Maybe it was unconscious worry about not waking up this morning–no, not dying in my sleep, but rather not hearing the alarm and then having to rush trying to get ready and remember everything I need to take to the office today on my way out the door. I don’t even know why I would even worry about sleeping through the alarm; it’s been so long since I’ve slept so deeply that it was even a possibility (maybe when I was in my thirties?) I’m not certain it’s something I need to have a phobia or neuroses about anymore.

Since when has that ever stopped me from being neurotic?

Never, that’s when.

But it’s a new week, and I am hopeful things will go well, and I will be productive and follow through on everything I need/want to get done this week, and when the weekend rolls around the house won’t be a mess and I can relax and write and clean and get errands done and have another productive weekend like this last was.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

Sub-culture

Thursday!

And no, today’s title does not mean today’s blog will be about the dom/sub dynamic, although it might make for an interesting post at some point.

I slept well again, and apparently Tuesday night in the wee hours of the morning a tornado touched down and rampaged through New Orleans; it touched down in the Carrollton area of Riverbend, kind of followed Carrollton and Canal Street to the river and then hopped across to Algiers. I was a bit confused about this, as people kept tagging me on Facebook to make sure I was okay–which puzzled me; I wasn’t aware it even happened (I knew we’d had some awful storms overnight, but didn’t know there was a tornado) until late yesterday afternoon when I saw there was a news conference about the tornado from the mayor’s office.

Sometimes, it’s best not to know, you know?

I went to the gym after work last night and had a marvelous workout–I’ve noticed that I am pushing myself a bit more rather than just sort of going through the motions, and it feels good, like my body has finally gotten used to the concept of weight lifting and the strain again at last. It also isn’t as exhausting as it used to be, even though I am working harder than I was–but then that could also be a by-product of actually getting sleep at night. Paul’s lorazepam, which is what I’ve use the last two evenings, is marvelous; it actually makes me sleep like I used to when I was younger, shutting down mind function completely and dragging me down in the clutches of Morpheus. I came home from the gym, got cleaned up, and then worked on the outline for Chlorine for a bit, getting the first five chapters mapped out–it was a bit of a struggle; I know the premise, I know the story, and I know the beginning and end, but as always, the middle is going to be a slog because I don’t really know how to write the middle (which is where everything I write always gets bogged down.), so I imagine I will be struggling to figure out the second act for quite some time…but I may go ahead and start writing the first drafts for the rest of the first act; that sometimes helps. So I can hopefully get that started this weekend. Tomorrow morning I am finally taking the old desktop into the Apple Store, and since I am already going to be out that way made some other appointments–eyes, etc.–and had to take a personal sick day from work. Maybe I can start it tomorrow….we shall see how everything plays out, shan’t we?

We also watched the latest episode of Cruel Summer, which remains interesting, but a bit confusing–but the real story of what happened to Kate while she was being held captive in the cellar for a year is slowly starting to come out–but I don’t get the motivation for her to blame Jeannette, or for the whole town turning on Jeannette and her family. But it is still holding my interest, and we will probably see it through to the bitter end. Mare of Easttown is also doing a great job of holding out interest, but this is primarily because of the brilliant performance Kate Winslet is giving at the heart of the show. Mare isn’t particularly likable, and it’s not hard to see her character as the female version of the male detective who usually drives these kinds of narratives–they are also doing a most excellent job of portraying the claustrophobia of small towns like this. I’ve also made a decision on what my next read will be–Robyn Gigl’s debut, By Way of Sorrow, which looks terrific. I’d like to get it finished, since the next book I will read will be James Jones’ massive doorstop of a novel, From Here to Eternity, all over 900 pages or so of it, which I will be taking with me to Kentucky next week while I travel.

I can’t believe the trip is next week already. Wow. So much to do before I fly out on Thursday morning a week from today. YIKES.

The house is, as always, a total mess. I still haven’t reattached the doors to the laundry room–it’s a two person job, and I might see if Paul can help me with it at some point, even though he is terrible at this sort of thing; but if I hold them in place surely he can use the electric screwdriver to put the screws back in? They are taking up an awful lot of space in the living room, and I have also found a drop box to clear out a lot of our excess beads and throws that have accumulated over the last dozen years inside the Lost Apartment. My filing organization also still leaves an awful lot to be desired–so many fucking files piling up everywhere in this place–and I honestly wish I had room for a four drawer filing cabinet, but alas, I do not. (That would take care of a lot of this problem, even if it would take me an entire weekend to organize it and put everything away into it–it would be so worth it to not have files stashed everywhere.) I am thinking after I finish everything I have to do tomorrow morning, with appointments and so forth, that I might start taking boxes of books down from the attic in order to take them to the library sale on Saturday; after all, if the attic is cleared out somewhat, I can start putting boxes of dead files up there. I should really do at least a box a week every week, slow and steady, which will eventually get the attic emptied out.

An old queen can dream, at any rate.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. I have some time to do the dishes and so forth before I have to start making today’s quota of condom packs, and I still have to decide what movies to watch while I do so. Maybe some classic Hitchcock that I’ve never seen will be today’s jolt of classic cinema; I’ll have to take a look around on my streaming services and see what’s available.

And so, until tomorrow, have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

Getaway Car

Saturday was a beautiful day.

I spent far too much time fighting with my dying desktop computer yesterday; in point of fact, I’ve been wasting far too much time lately fighting with the damned thing trying to get it to be functional at the very low level I require.

Since the time lost really cannot be spared any more, I needed to solve this problem rather than just keep bitching about it or else I would be so far behind I could never get caught up. So, I decided I am finally going to have to remove it from my desk and figure out a way to make the MacBook Air my working computer; it’ll also give me a place to put some books (as I will need to raise it to eye level)–some of those coffee table books will do a lovely job, actually–and I already have a keyboard and mouse for it. All I will need else is one of those USB converter things so the back-up hard drive can be hooked up to it (and the printer) and that will have to do until such time as I can afford to buy a new desktop. I know laptops are designed to be used as a main computer, but they just don’t work for me the way they used to. Part of it is the worsening of my aging eyes. The keyboard, the screen…yeah, not big enough, the screen is too small, and the inevitable resting of my wrists on the edge of the laptop simply will not due–it will take some getting used to, but better to start getting used to it now rather than putting it off and wasting more time. So, I need to get batteries for the wireless keyboard, I’ll start picking out the books to stack beneath it, and look for the spare cash for the adapters and so forth I need.

But now that I have made the decision to finally throw away the desktop–or see if I can trade it in, or something–it will be lovely to have that frustration behind me. I am actually writing on the laptop right now, in my easy chair, with it resting on my lap desk and I have the mouse with me as well and this isn’t bothering me near as much as I thought it might.

Maybe switching to a laptop permanently isn’t so out of the question as I had originally thought.

Hmmmm.

And you know what? Just making that decision yesterday loosened a knot of tension between my shoulders blades and my back muscles just unclenched. Clearly, the computer issues have been contributing to stress levels subconsciously; I need to remind myself this regularly from now on–that you can always figure out a way to work around the problem and thus possibly solve it. Look for the work around, rather than just focusing on the head-on approach–I hadn’t realized how stressed this issue was making me.

The weather was gorgeous yesterday as I ran my errands; it’s the fall season that always reminds me how wonderful living in New Orleans is. Our winters–all my bitching aside about how nasty damp cold can be–aren’t that bad, really; they get about as cold as is bearable for me, and the fall and the spring seasons are so amazingly beautiful that our four months or so of brutal summer are worth putting up with in exchange for our glorious falls and springs. I love that it gets chilly (for here) at night; it makes sleeping even easier, and actually using the stove (without setting it on fire) doesn’t turn the kitchen into an unbearable sweatbox. I can start making chilis and soups again; and grilled cheese is even lovelier in the cooler seasons than it is in the summer. Much as I dislike coming home from work in the dark (it’s really the only drawback), I really love this time of year.

Oooh. I should make lasagna.

That actually sounds pretty lovely.

LSU also won last night (GEAUX TIGERS!) and while yes, their 41-7 win over Vanderbilt wasn’t terribly impressive, the defense looked amazing in the second half and Miles Brennan is definitely getting his feet beneath him and is turning into a quite good quarterback. As embarrassing as the loss to Mississippi State was last week (made worse by their home loss to Arkansas yesterday, snapping a 20 game conference losing streak for the Razorbacks), at least the team seemed to gel last night. Who knows how good Auburn is now, but the real danger zones on the schedule now seem to be Florida and (surprise) Alabama, both of whom looked really impressive yesterday and so far this season.

I now have the Air set up as my desktop computer, with the wireless keyboard and Magic Mouse connected to it. I have it sitting atop my The Annotated Sherlock Holmes by Baring-Gould; it may need to go a little higher, but the system is really working well this morning thus far. (Still not a huge fan of the tiny screen, but I can get used to it, methinks.) Just to see how hard it would be, I also started writing a short story from scratch on here yesterday afternoon–a story called “The Last To See Him Alive”, which had no plan, no idea, no nothing behind it rather than the start–which finds police detective Blaine Tujague arriving at a potential witness’s home and finding said potential witness a little the worse for wear; I managed 873 words of a story of which I neither know what the case is, why Blaine is there, and how this is going to end (this happens a lot to me, which is why I have so many damned unfinished short story fragments floating around in my storage), but I showed that if need be, I can write on the laptop keyboard itself, and having the wireless one, along with the wireless mouse, makes it that much easier.

And on that note, it’s time to head into the spice mines.

Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)

And a happy 4th of July to you, too, Constant Reader.

It’s always bothered me that people consider this our national birthday, when it’s really not. July 4th is actually Independence Day; when the Declaration of Independence began to be signed and we officially shrugged off the yoke of the British Empire. Independence was, of course, qualified; it was independence for white men, naturally; women still were second-class, and no slaves were freed with this declaration. It would take almost another hundred years before the abolition of slavery; 150 for women to get the right to vote; and full equality with the straight white man is still a dream to be fought for in our laws and courts and hearts. But we can celebrate the ideal that was established by the flawed founding fathers, who were, as are all men, imperfect–no matter what the mythology we are taught from birth claims.

And it cannot be denied that our country was built over the bones and blood of the indigenous people whose land was taken from them.

So, there will be political speeches, and fireworks displays, and firecrackers going off and scaring pets pretty much the entire day. There will be picnics and barbecues and no mail delivered. Flags and parades and patriotism on display wherever you look. Hell, even I’m going to light some charcoal and cook out later today. But the United States is generally incapable, as a nation, of self-reflection and critical analysis of its past, present, and future; such is seen by a segment of the population as a lack of patriotism (because somehow blind allegiance to a party and its members, as well as slavish devotion to the symbols of democracy, rather than to the democracy itself, is somehow seen as true patriotism) and derided. But it is only through self-criticism, critique, and reflection that the democracy grows stronger with mistakes corrected and the course reset.

For no one is truly free and equal until all are free and equal.

I took yesterday as a day of rest; I answered some pressing emails in the morning and then walked away from my computer. I watched Hamilton (see other blog post) which was truly delightful; we finished Season Two of Titans, which was also marvelous, and Dick Grayson finally emerged from the shadow of Robin and donned the Nightwing costume in the finale (Season 2 was so much better than Season 1, and I liked Season 1; cannot wait for Season 3); and then we moved onto a Mexican series called The Club, which was highly entertaining and fun. We’re not even halfway finished with it, either, so we have several more nights of cheesy fun as our heroes establish themselves as Ecstasy dealers to the upper class of Mexico City–and the lead, Pablo, is absolutely gorgeous.

It was lovely having a relaxing day, as it always is; one in which I cast aside my cares and worries, and simply get lost in being entertained. I slept well again last night–I have quite a streak of that going now, which is absolutely lovely–and so now today, I am going to spend the day the way I usually spend my second day of the weekend–reading, writing and cleaning. The sink is filled with dirty dishes, and the dishwasher is also full (of clean dishes, that must be put away) and at some point this weekend I need to buy a new broom, clean the filter in the vacuum cleaner, and actually clean the floors. Today I am going to work on some in-progress short stories, while tomorrow I am going to work on the Secret Project (it would be lovely to get it finished tomorrow, and sent off to the publisher, but you know how that usually winds up). I also want to spend some time with Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths, perhaps even finishing it, which would be lovely; I really need to get back into the swing of reading every day, else I have no prayer of ever getting caught up on the always-growing TBR pile.

I’m not sure what stories I am going to work on today, to be honest. There are several which are finished in the first draft form and need to be revised, things added and changed; still others are incomplete and need to have a first draft finished in order to get things worked on a bit. I was thinking about trying to take on “Please Die Soon,” “Gossip,” and “You Won’t See Me”; but there are any number of others that are simply begging to be finished. I’ve also got those novellas in progress–four or five, at last count–and it would be lovely to make some sort of progress on some of those as well. I also am quite aware I am most likely being overly ambitious here; laziness will inevitably seep into my bones at some point and I’ll just say the hell with it and walk away from my computer.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Wish me luck.

Rise

Sunday! Yesterday I braved the AT&T store and upgraded my phone. It’s kind of cool. I wanted a red one, but had to settle for silver as they were out of red. Maybe next time.

I didn’t really want a new phone, but since it’s a lease–which I really am not sure I understand how that works, but whatever–it was overdue for a replacement. Other than the lengthy wait–and the usual irritating length of time it always takes for Apple operating systems to load and so forth–it wasn’t that bad. And now I have a new phone.

Now I need to get that pesky brake tag, and I’ll be all set. DON’T JUDGE ME.

I also put some books away in storage, and filed away the last few editions of manuscripts I’ve worked on over the last year. I still have to figure out where that extra seventy dollars in my checking account came from, do my taxes, and clear out all my emails…heavy heaving sigh.

But despite the limited progress on anything of merit yesterday, I am refusing to berate myself as per the usual. I work forty hours a week, after all, and write around my job. I don’t quite have the energy I used to have, so recharging a bit on the weekend is necessary and also kind of the only time I have to do it. So, having a low-energy not get a lot of writing done day is kind of work; I need to recharge in order to get the work done.

I also began reading Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long and once again, I am completely blown away at her mastery of language. She truly has mastered what I think of as Southern Gothic, and when I am reading her work I am always reminded of Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. Gone Too Long has also come along at precisely the right time in my reading; it’s about the Klan in Georgia. One of the things I love about Roy’s work is how patiently and deftly she plays her cards, never letting you know anything you don’t need to know until you absolutely need to know it; there’s also a haunting, dream-like quality to her work that I wish I could figure out how to do myself, quite frankly. I am savoring the book, and not wanting to rush through it. I read some more this morning with my second and third cups of coffee; and now am reluctantly putting it aside in order to get the work done I didn’t do yesterday.

Had I done the work yesterday, I could spend more time today reading Gone Too Long.

Which is yet another shining example of not putting off till tomorrow what you can do today because you will definitely regret it.

On the other hand, if I get everything done that I want to get done today, I can go back to reading it. I also want to finish reading a short story from Hauntings: Is There Anybody There?

Always so much to do, so little time in which to do it, and very little desire to get it done.

But I also got up early this morning, so there’s no excuse. If, for example, I buckle down and start writing now, I can be finished in a few hours and have the rest of the day to enjoy this book.

We also started watching Russian Doll last night, which is holding our interest–more so than The Umbrella Factory–and so we’ll probably delve into another episode of that this evening as well.

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

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Magic

Friday evening, with the weekend looming large and lonely, as Paul is gone and the Lost Apartment is really weirdly quiet without him. He’s not very big nor is he loud, but when he’s gone the apartment just seems enormous and empty.

Funny how that works.

But the Lost Apartment is an utter and complete mess, and I am going to try to focus and get a lot of cleaning done today. I am tired and drained from the work week–despite only working five hours yesterday and merely four today–and so I think mindless cleaning is in order to reset my mind and creativity. Tomorrow I need to run get the mail and return a library book–a short voyage that should over-all take less than an hour; I was thinking about getting the car washed tomorrow but it’s supposed to rain all day so there’s no point in bothering with that (and I am sure the rain means a return of the hideous cold weather; yay!) and so I am going to try to get some writing/editing done–even if said editing is simply rereading manuscripts and making notes.

I also think I need to rework the first five chapters of Bury Me in Satin. They are just so…bare, and I am thinking up new things as I write that need to be threaded back into the beginning. I love when the story starts to emerge from the fog, and I think, oh yes, this makes sense, but I need to go back and put this stuff into earlier chapters because I can’t just spring it on people.

So, the last load of bed linens now agitates in the washer, and the second-to-last is spinning in the dryer. I have another load of laundry to do–how I am creating so much laundry with Paul gone?–and I need to unload the dishwasher. Scooter also is feeling particularly lonely and needy this evening as well–he has been ever since Paul left. It’s really sweet–although I know I am a mere substitute–because he curls up inside my arm every night in bed, purring, and stays there most of the night. (He usually does this with Paul, but you know what? It’s still sweet. Scooter is an incredibly sweet cat.)

All right, I’m going to do the floors.

IMG_4517

You Make Loving Fun

Another good night’s sleep. There must be something to this stay-at-home vacation thing, don’t you think?

I didn’t get as much writing/editing done yesterday as I wanted to, but I also had to run errands and bouncing back into a creative mode after dealing with the General Public is never easy; I find that always to be all too frequently true. But as I waited for Paul to come home last night, I watched the season finale of Versailles (which I am going to miss) and the Netflix documentary Audrie and Daisy, which made me smolder with rage, and made me realize my rape culture novel, sitting collecting dust now for over a year, really needs to get out there for people to read.

Will it make a difference? I doubt it, but change is water wearing away at a rock, and maybe at some point our culture and society will finally recognize that men do not have a right to women’s bodies.

I also read a few more chapters of Falling Angel last night. It’s the Edgar Award nominated novel the film Angel Heart was based on, and while I haven’t seen the film in decades, I remember liking it a lot (it was another one of those films that heightened the connection I felt with New Orleans before I moved here); once I read the book I am going to watch the movie again, see how it holds up. The book is quite good; as I read it I remember the film more and more; the book’s quality lies in that hardboiled noir voice I mentioned the other day having trouble capturing in my own work. I think part of the problem I have with that, frankly, is the straight male machismo aspect of it. One of the reasons I stopped reading crime fiction in the late 1970s (having exhausted Christie, Queen, and Gardner) was because the current stuff was pretty much the straight male gaze and that macho bullshit. (Not everything, of course, and that was, I realize now, an over-generalization; but that was how it seemed to me.) I eventually returned to crime fiction, primarily thanks to Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky; their work led me to a greater appreciation of the genre and enabled me to read and appreciate John D. Macdonald and eventually get back into the genre over-all, and is partly why, in my own work, I tried to develop my own version and style; the gay male gaze. Whether I succeeded or not is for future generations to decide–whether I am remembered at all or not.

Probably not, is the most likely.

And I’m fine with that, really.

Yesterday I did manage to get the kitchen cleaned (not quite organized as I would have liked, but small victories), and today around editing and writing I intend to do the same with the living room and start working on the kitchen cabinets and drawers. It is truly sad how these things give me pleasure, but on the other hand, I like cleaning up my house and feel truly satisfied when it is cleaned and organized and sparkling. (If it remains sunny but chilly, I am going to do the windows in the kitchen as well.)

And that is, really, the genesis of my story “Housecleaning”, in the wonderful anthology Sunshine Noir.

The smell of bleach always reminded him of his mother.

It was, he thought as he filled the blue plastic bucket with hot water from the kitchen tap, probably one of the reasons he rarely used it. His mother had used it for practically everything. Everywhere she’d lived had always smelled slightly like bleach. She was always cleaning. He had so many memories of his mother cleaning something; steam rising from hot water pouring from the sink spigot, the sound of brush bristles as she scrubbed the floor (‘mops only move the dirt around, good in a pinch but not for real cleaning’), folding laundry scented by Downy, washing the dishes by hand before running them through the dishwasher (‘it doesn’t wash the dishes clean enough, it’s only good for sterilization’), running the vacuum cleaner over carpets and underneath the cushions on the couch. In her world, dirt and germs were everywhere and constant vigilance was the only solution. She judged other people for how slovenly they looked or how messy their yards were or how filthy their houses were. He remembered one time—when they were living in the apartment in Wichita—watching her struggle at a neighbor’s to not say anything as they sat in a living room that hadn’t been cleaned or straightened in a while, the way her fingers absently wiped away dust on the side table as she smiled and made conversation, the nerve in her cheek jumping, the veins and chords in her neck trying to burst through her olive skin, her voice strained but still polite.

When the tea was finished and the cookies just crumbs on a dirty plate with what looked like egg yolk dried onto its side, she couldn’t get the two of them out of there fast enough. Once back in the sterile safety of their own apartment, she’d taken a long, hot shower—and made him do the same. They’d never gone back there, the neighbor woman’s future friendliness rebuffed politely yet firmly, until they’d finally moved away again.

“People who keep slovenly homes are lazy and cannot be trusted,” she’d told him after refusing the woman’s invitation a second time, “a sloppy house means a sloppy soul.”

Crazy as she seemed to him at times, he had to admit she’d been right about that. In school after school, kids who didn’t keep their desks or lockers neat had never proven trustworthy or likable. It had been hard to keep his revulsion hidden behind the polite mask as he walked to his next class and someone inevitably opened a locker to a cascade of their belongings. He’d just walked faster to get away from the laughter of other kids and the comic fumbling of the sloppy student as he tried to gather the crumpled papers and broken pencils and textbooks scattered on the shiny linoleum floor.

As I said, I like to clean, and I often joke that my own mother makes Joan Crawford look like a slob. One morning, when I was filling up my blue bucket with water and bleach, the smell of bleach reminded me of my mother and voila! A story was born. I actually stopped cleaning to sit down and write the entire first draft.

Sigh. I love when that happens.

And now back to the spice mines.