Back to December

And suddenly, one morning you wake up and it’s December, and you think, for just a moment, wow, how did that happen? And you try to remember last December….which now seems as long ago and remote as the Middle Ages. I mean, doesn’t it? As I was saying to someone the other day, “remember when RWA burned to the ground? It hasn’t even been a year yet, but that seems as remote in the past now as the Knights of the Round Table and Camelot.

Yesterday was a nice day to ease back into working. I didn’t have any issue getting up, nor was I tired when I got home; good thing, as I needed to go to the gym. I’d skipped Sunday because when I walked there and back on Friday, somehow I managed to rub a blister onto the back of my left heel, and it was painful wearing shoes. It was also cold and rainy, and between the blister and cold rain…yeah, wasn’t feeling it too much, so I decided to wait till I got home from work on Monday and hope that I’d have the energy and the willpower to go. It was incredibly cold (for New Orleans, coming in after weeks of high 70’s/low 80’s weather), but I bundled up into my sweats and off I went.

But despite the cold, a lovely workout was had, and then I scurried home. It was the cold wind, really, that made it so bad.

It was also supposed to get down to 38 last night. It certainly feels like it this morning as I sip my cappuccino, my hands desperately trying to leech all the heat out of the cup. I did manage to work on the book last night as well (another chapter down; roughly eleven left to go, but if I get one per day done it’ll be finished in ten days and then can sit for a moment or two while I get ready for the final polish before turning it in), which was lovely. It’s taking shape and getting better; I really can’t wait to get it turned in. I need to finish a story, too, and I need to really get cracking on the Kansas book when this is all done and behind me.

The sun is rising, which means the gradual warming will begin, which is lovely. It’ll be cold though when I dash out to my car, and from my car into the office, but at least that means I can wear a sweater. I love sweaters, and don’t get many opportunities to wear them, so there’s that part, which I do like. I also like when the apartment is cold, which means wearing sweats and watching television or reading underneath blankets. (I’m under one right now, in fact, and it’s nice and toasty; one of those thin ones that somehow manages to keep me warm, like the ones they used to give you on airplanes.)

The other thing about it being cold is it makes it harder for me to wake completely up. My insomnia came back last night with a vengeance–it’s been awhile, and I figured the cold, plus the exhaustion from the gym, would have put me under in no time at all. Instead, despite how lovely and warm the bed and blankets were, I never really feel into a deep, restful sleep. I am going to be extremely tired tonight, and may even go to bed earlier than I usually do; we shall see once I get home from the office today.

I do worry the world is going to close down again sometime soon–although I am fairly certain that even if we do, I’ll be considered an ‘essential worker’–I kind of think I am, even if I am not a medical professional; I help keep people safe and healthy (at least that’s the goal) and the service I do provide, which is necessary for our PrEP clients to get their prescriptions renewed, is kind of essential–but we did close the program down during the original lockdown, so….I just hope not. As little as I like getting up at six three mornings a week, I love interacting with my clients and getting out of the house and feeling useful. But I do think another one is coming; it’s just a matter of time, and as the infections rise thanks to Thanksgiving…imagine how people are going to be about Christmas.

And on that note, it’s time to get in the shower and pack my lunch and get my day rolling. Have a happy first of December, Constant Reader.

You’ve Gotta Fight For Your Right to Party

Good morning, Thursday, how it’s hanging?

It was bitterly cold in New Orleans yesterday, and of course our heater isn’t working. This tends to happen at least once a winter, and usually the first time we need to turn it on; I think the pilot light goes out? Anyway, the handyman guys should be coming by at some point to see what’s going on.

In the meantime, we shall suffer in silence.

Colder weather means deeper and more restful sleep; it also means not wanting to get out from the warmth of the bed in the morning. But I managed to drag myself out this morning, and the space heater is going next to my desk, and I feel fine–although I need to find my stocking cap.

I just finished paying the bills and, oh how I hate doing that, watching my bank balance drain and all of that, you know. Heavy heaving sigh.

We finished watching Catherine the Great last night, which was extremely well done, and of course Helen Mirren was spectacular in the role. One of the things about the show–and one of the most fascinating aspects of Catherine–was the fact that, as her son Paul kept mentioning, she had absolutely no right to the Russian throne. She wasn’t a Romanov–hell, even her husband wasn’t a Romanov; he was a Romanov only through his mother–and she staged a coup that overthrew him; he was later murdered. At first she was only theoretically a regent for her son; when he came of age she abandoned that pretense and refused to let go of power. She also was a great ruler, if oppressive; she made Russia a great power, and it was her grandson Alexander who toppled Napoleon, and as such, she is worthy of study. Russia today would not be what it is without Catherine, the minor German princess born into poverty who made a great marriage, educated herself, and played a long game when it came to seizing and maintaining power. Her son passed a law forbidding women to rule, so she was the last woman to rule Russia…despite the fact that the vast majority of Russian rules in the eighteenth century were women (Catherine I, Anna, the Regent Anna, Elizabeth, and Catherine II–it’s also worthy to note that Catherine I was also only a Romanov by marriage; she was a peasant who became the mistress of Peter I, who eventually married her and left her his throne).

Catherine, like all women who gained and maintained power in the past, has had her reputation vilified and her sexuality criminalized and stigmatized in the years since she died–it even went on while she was alive of course; her voracious sexual appetite and the hideously misogynistic rumor about the horse, which has come down through the centuries and is often quoted as an absolute fact. Other powerful women throughout history were vilified as sexually promiscuous; while Catherine never hid her passions and her love affairs, they weren’t as extreme as the rumors spread by her enemies made them seem. Eleanor of Aquitaine was also painted as a woman of loose morals, which may or may not have been true when she was young; after she married her second husband there was never any question about her fidelity; England’s Elizabeth I was also painted in sexually unflattering lights by her enemies, but her successes, and being queen of England, countered those rumors coming down through time as fact. Marie Antoinette was also accused of being a whore…sexuality has traditionally been used as a way to vilify and demean women, and despite societal changes, still is today.

I admire Catherine the Great for many reasons, but she was also a tyrant–and her concern for the poor and the serfs really came to nothing in the end.

The writing is still tragically stalled; I am hoping to kick start it into gear today. When I got home yesterday from the office and the grocery store, I was a bit frazzled and worn down; so I chose to sit in my easy chair and make notes in my journal and relax with some wine. I consider this, quite frankly, to be a viable use of my creative time. Prep work is important for writing; it’s much more difficult to write something you’ve not put any thought into. I am looking forward this week to get my contributor’s copy of Dark Yonder, which contains my story “Moist Money,” and I also got the cover art/contract for The Faking of the President, which contains my story “The Dreadful Scott Decision.” I have two more stories out on submission; one which I hopefully know about by the end of the year, the other I’ll find out about sometime in the spring. Both, I think, are good stories, but I think I have–see? the time spend in my easy chair is often helpful and productive in the long run–figured out why I have so much trouble with short stories, and how I can correct that problem in the future, making the writing of them that much easier.

Well, we’ll see.

And since I am falling way behind again on everything, I am going to have to recalibrate my schedule to determine what I can–if I actually stick to the plan and do some work–get done by the end of the year.

And on that note, tis best for me to head back into the spice mines.

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Do That to Me One More Time

New Orleans bipolar weather has sadly struck again. And while it certainly hasn’t gotten as cold as it was a few weeks ago, when the sun is down it’s been in the forties only heating up to the high fifties and low sixties in the sunshine; but in the mornings it hasn’t warmed up enough yet as I sit at my computer, shivering in horror. But the coffee is definitely warming me up. I have a short day at work today and a short day tomorrow; I am hoping I can get most of the errands done on these two days so I can spend the weekend (other than a Christmas party on Saturday night) with my nose in my manuscripts.

Must. Get. Them. Done.

In other exciting news, the cover for Murder-a-Go-Go’s, an anthology edited by Holly West, has dropped this morning! You can view it here at BOLO Books. My story is called “This Town,” and is probably one of the most deliciously wicked tales I’ve ever written; probably deeply inspired by the work of the amazing Megan Abbott (read her books, if you haven’t; her Give Me Your Hand is making all the Best of 2018 lists).

Work on the book has slowed to an incredibly passive crawl; I did have a big burst Tuesday night, as I already mentioned, but yesterday was one of those can’t seem to get started days. When I got home from work last night I was both cold and tired; Scooter was incredibly needy, and for lack of anything better to do, I just got into bed and reread an old Barbara Michaels favorite until I got sleepy. I did sleep incredibly well last night, which was lovely, with Scooter curled up with me, purring non-stop. I hated getting out of bed this morning; after he got up and I fed him, he nagged me to come back to bed and finally gave up about twenty minutes ago. But I am being incredibly productive this morning since awakening; already finished folding a load of laundry and a second is in the dryer; once I finish this I will put the dishes away and do the ones in the sink.

Huzzah!

I am also hopeful that I’ll get the next chapter of Bury Me in Satin finished today. One can hope, can’t one?

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

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I Can’t Make You Love Me

GEAUX SAINTS!

So, it’s another chilly Sunday here in the Lost Apartment. It’s sixty degrees now outside, but it dipped into the forties overnight, so it’s going to take awhile for the Lost Apartment to recover–if it ever does. Today I need to pack up for the trip tomorrow morning. I’m not taking the MacBook Air with me, so I am not entirely sure how I’ll be able to crosspost the blog–should I write any entries–to Facebook and other social media because cutting and pasting on the iPad confuses me.

Don’t judge me.

The LSU game last night was a romp; never in doubt from the first snap, and ending with a 42-10 score. It was 28-3 at half-time and was never in doubt. As such, there was very little-to-no tension on my part, so I was able to sit in my easy chair like a millennial, scrolling through apps on my phone while also taking some time to read. I stopped by the Latter Library yesterday to pick up another book I’d reserved (Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Daniken–more about that later) and also renewed Bibliomysteries Volume 2 for another week. I am taking both books with me to Kentucky, and am also taking A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin; I think it’s time I got started writing A Song of Ice and Fire, now that the end of the television series is in sight with this past week’s announcement that the final season will begin airing in April.

I took yesterday as my day off for the weekend; I didn’t clean anything, nor did I organize or file or edit or write. I was basically just a lazy slug, sitting in my easy chair and flipping between football games while reading. I’m still rereading ‘salem’s Lot but have now reached the end game, the final section of the book called “The Empty Village,” and the tracking down of the vampires concluding with Ben and Mark running away to Mexico while Ben writes his book isn’t as interesting to me as the opening of the book; as I said when I discussed the reread initially, I am more interested in how King depicts the town more than anything else, which was the impetus for the reread. And how much do I love this sentence, which opens section 2, “The Emperor of Ice Cream”:

The town knew darkness.

It’s very Shirley Jackson-esque, and the passage that follows is perhaps my favorite part of the entire book.

I also think I am going to give The Shining  a reread; The Shining is, for most fans, critics and readers, King’s best work. I couldn’t get into it when I first bought the paperback, with the boy’s head with a blank face drawn on a shiny silver cover. I picked it up again a few years later and tore through it in one sitting; but as creepy and horrifying as it was, and how nasty the Overlook Hotel was…it was one of the few I never reread completely. I’ve picked it up and started it again, flipped through it and read sections, but I’ve never read it from beginning to end. I think the complexity of Jack Torrance as a character cut a little too close to home for me, but now that I have over fifty books out there with my name (or a pseudonym) on the spine…I don’t have to be too stressed about the failed author character being too close to home for me anymore.

At least one can hope so.

Tomorrow is the dreaded twelve hour car ride through Mississippi, Alabama, a bit of Georgia, and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. I need to go get the mail before I leave town and possibly stop by the bank, so I am going to be getting a later start than I would have perhaps wished, but a twelve-hour drive is a twelve-hour drive no matter when you get started, and I am most likely going to shower and go straight to bed when I arrive in Kentucky. I am still trying to figure out what digital book to download and listen to in the car–who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?–but none of A Song of Fire and Ice are available as audiobooks from the library, and the library’s app isn’t as intuitive as I would like (translated: I’m too old to figure out the easiest way to use it). I wanted to start Charles Todd’s brilliant series set during the end of the first world war, but the first book isn’t available from my library (BASTARDS!!!!) and so I have to choose something else. I’ll spend some time on there today–maybe on the library’s website, which is easier for a Luddite like me–and perhaps the second Louise Penny Inspector Gamache novel might do the trick.

Or maybe The Shining. Ooooooh.

Most of today is also going to be spent on odds and ends. I may get some writing work done, or I may not. I think after the Saints game we are going to watch either Love, Simon or Call Me By Your Name; both are available for free streaming on one or another services I pay for now. I also am assuming I’ll finish watching Knightfall while I am in Kentucky, as my parents both go to bed early every night.

And yesterday I also managed to read “The Gospel of Sheba” by Lyndsay Faye, from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

Letter sent from Mrs. Colette Lomax to Mr. A. Davenport Lomax, September 3rd, 1902.

My only darling,

You cannot comprehend the level of incompetence to which I was subjected today.

You know full well I never demand a private dressing room when stationary, as the very notion implies a callous disrespect for the sensitivities of other artists. However, it cannot pass my notice when I am engaged in a second class chamber en route from Reims to Strasbourg. The porter assured me that private cars were simply not available on so small a railway line as our company was forced to book–and yet, I feel justified in suspecting the managers have hoaxed their “rising star” once again. The reek of soup from the dining car’s proximity alone would depress my spirits, even were my ankles not confined one atop the other in a padlock-like fashion.

I do so loathe krautsuppe. Hell, I assure you, my love, simmers with the aroma of softening cabbage.

Lyndsay Faye has twice been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel (for The Gods of Gotham, which I adored, and for Jane Steele, which is still in my ever-growing and enormous TBR pile), and she is also a delight to know in addition to her enormous gift for writing. Lyndsay is an enormous Sherlock Holmes fan (Sherlockian?), and even her first novel, Dust and Shadow, was a Holmes tale; she recently published an entire collection of Holmes short stories. “The Gospel of Sheba” is sort of a Holmes story; both he and Watson do appear in the story, but it’s primarily told from the point of view of a sub-librarian, Mr. Lomax; he is married to a professional singer who at the time of the story is currently on a tour–her presence in the story is either through her husband’s point of view or epistolary; we get to see occasional letters from her. Her husband’s point of view is seen through diary entries where he talks about the mystery of the Gospel of Sheba, a grimoire a member of a private men’s club with an interest in the supernatural has discovered and that makes anyone who reads it ill. One of the things I love the most about Faye is she writes in the formal style of the nineteenth century, but it always reads as organic and never forced. There’s never a sense from the reader of Oh I see what you’re doing here or from her as the author of see how clever I am? She’s somehow modernized that formal style, breathed fresh life into it, and uses it to help set the mood and the time and the setting. You can almost hear the hiss of gas in the lamps, and see the flickering gaslight. This is a terrific story, and reminds me of why I loved The Gods of Gotham so much, and also reminded me I need to dive back into her backlist.

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

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Dancing Machine

Thursday, and the weekend looms. The weather has remained cold, gray and damp here in New Orleans; it will stay cold through the weekend but next week the temperatures are going to go back up to something more normal for New Orleans in November; sixties and low seventies, with potential lows in the high fifties after dark.

Work on the book proceeds apace. Not well; I managed to crank out both chapters four and five over the last two nights, and reached, in Chapter Five, a final crucial point in the story, which is cool. I don’t know if that means writing the rest of the book is going to go any better than the beginning, but progress is fucking progress.

I also started–with one sentence, mind you–a new short story called “One Night at Brandy’s Lounge.” I’m not sure what the story is going to be about, but I’ve had the title and the story prompt–a picture my friend Erin posted on social media a few months ago–floating in my head for a while, and last night while I was eking out the last words of Chapter Five the first sentence of the story came to my head (I wouldn’t have even stopped at Brandy’s Lounge that night if I hadn’t gotten fired that afternoon) and I thought I should start a new document so I wouldn’t lose the sentence (which has happened before and is incredibly frustrating and infuriating on so many levels.

I really need to get back to “The Blues Before Dawn,” too. I need to get so much work done before I leave for the holidays on Monday….and the cold weather doesn’t help because my kitchen-office is the coldest place in the house. Those lovely windows that give me so much beautiful natural light most of the year? Well, they are COLD TRAPS when the temperature drops.

Heavy heaving sigh.

But I paid all the bills yesterday, which was lovely; it’s nice to be all caught up and actually have some money left over–which is entirely because of how paydays fell this month and has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of magic spell I unleashed over my checking account and my bills–usually all my end of the month and first of the month bills, along with the car payment, have to be paid from the same paycheck, which is nightmarish. But this time, we get paid again on the 28th this month, so the end of the month bills and car payment fell due from this paycheck, and so I can pay the beginning of the month bills with the 28th paycheck.

Sweet.

Although whenever something happens like this and I have extra money…I always wonder what I’m forgetting to pay. But I kind of went through everything last night and I am relatively certain I’ve paid everything.

I also forgot to leave the water slightly running overnight during the hard freeze so you can imagine how terrified I was this morning when I got up and approached the sink to brush my teeth with some severe trepidation…but no worries; all was well. *Whew*.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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The Way We Were

Cold and damp. That’s New Orleans this week. Which doesn’t really make me want to do anything other than curl up under a blanket with my love-to-cuddle kitty with a good book. I didn’t do that on Monday night, because I made groceries on my way home and then I had to clean the kitchen preparatory to making dinner when Paul got home and by the time we were finished with dinner, I sat down and tried to finish Chapter fucking Four of the book, to no avail. I did manage to get about another three hundred words done, with the ease of extracting an impacted molar; but last night when I got home from the office I was able to–despite shivering–finish that miserable chapter and try to get started on Chapter Five.

Which went about as well as you might expect. Sigh.

But I did get some good news on another front: I sold a short story! Because I am superstitious I don’t want to say what story and to what market, until the contract is signed…but this hopefully will end the long horrible fallow period of no sales I’ve been working through for slightly over a year. I am really pleased, and I really like this story, so I am glad it has found a home–and one that will actually PAY me for using it.

Yay!

I do have two other short stories that will see daylight in 2019; “This Town” in Holly West’s Murder-a-Go-Go’s, which of course is crime stories inspired by the music of the Go-Go’s, and “The Silky Veils of Ardor,” in Josh Pachter’s The Beating of Black Wings, crime stories inspired by the music of Joni Mitchell. I’m very proud of both stories, and look forward to their publication.

That’s the weird thing about this business. Maybe the upper tier of writers–those who are not only making a living but doing very well–might view things differently, but for me it’s a constant struggle to stay positive and believe in myself and what I’m doing–or rather, trying to do–with my writing and my stories. It can be quite disheartening, like when I am struggling trying to get Bury Me in Satin written, or at the very least, continue moving forward with it; rejections from short story markets or non-responses from agents can be a blow, no matter how hard you try to stay focused and positive. So these small victories–even a fifty dollar sale of a short story–really do help.

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

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Keep It Comin’

Hello there, Tuesday–how you doin’?

Today’s high in New Orleans is going to be fifty degrees. Yes, that is correct; and looking ahead, it may get into the thirties on Wednesday. In November. In New Orleans.

Now, I freely admit I overstate my deep and abiding loathing for the cold sometimes. But I don’t think it’s overstating things to say that this kind of cold weather in mid-November in New Orleans is a bit….unusual. I mean, it snowed last year in December–but it was December. We’ve had cold snaps and hard freezes and needed to leave the taps on slightly overnight to keep the pipes from freezing. I’ve sat here at my desk with gloves and sweats and tights and a T-shirt and two pairs of socks and my house shoes with a blanket around me, clutching my cup of coffee and trying desperately to leech the heat out from it somehow into my body. But that was always sometime between mid-December and mid-January; never in November. I remember getting sunburned in Tiger Stadium, wearing a jersey and shorts one year the day after Thanksgiving. Granted, that was unusually warm for late November, but still. 

Just saying–it’s unusual.

I cannot believe that Thanksgiving is next week already. I know it’s kind of early this year because of a calendar fluke, but it really does seem early this year–I don’t think time is passing any faster now than it has before, no matter how much I’d like to believe that for some reason which is probably some kind of subconscious denial that I am old.

I’m struggling with Chapter Four of the novel. I’ve been fighting with it for four days now, and it’s still not finished (hopefully tonight).  This struggle has, naturally, put me behind on the manuscript, which I’d hoped to have finished by the first of December (at least in a first draft). Next week is Thanksgiving and my annual trip up north to Kentucky; I doubt I am going to get very much done there, and I also have to work on Royal Street Reveillon while I am there as well–polishing so it’s ready for the editorial process. I also need to finish revising the two stories I am adding to Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories.

So. Much. Work. To. Do.

I’ve also fallen behind on my Italian lessons with Duolingo. Ah, well. That’s certainly something I can also do in Kentucky every night before going to sleep. I’ve slept well these last two nights, which has been lovely, since I’ve had to get up early both days. I suspect that will also be the case tomorrow; the building is still not completed enough for us to start offering services just yet, which kind of sucks but what can you do? I am not worrying about it as it’s beyond my control. No sense in worrying about things that are out of your control; that’s the swiftest path to madness…and I don’t need any help on THAT particular road, thank you very much.

And tomorrow is payday; I can start getting caught up on the bills and so forth before the trip. Heavy heaving sigh. It truly never ends.

And now back to the spice mines.

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