Gold

Everyone has heard of Constantinople at some point in their life, I should think–at least they’ve heard that annoying song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”. Some may even know that it fell to the army and navy of the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmet II in 1453, ending the Eastern Roman Empire after a thousand years of existence. The Ottomans relocated the capital of their empire there, renaming it as Istanbul. (Christian Europe continued calling it Constantinople for centuries; it’s only over the last hundred years or so that Istanbul has come into more common usage.) But few know much more about the city and the empire it served as capital for over a millenium. Of those, some may know the basics–the Emperor Constantine, the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, recognizing that the enormous Roman Empire had become impossible to rule or enforce law or protect, split the empire into eastern and western halves, and founded a capital for the east on the site of the village of Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople. The Western Roman Empire collapsed in 473 when the city fell; yet the eastern empire continued until 1453. Western Europe, always trying to reclaim the heritage of the Roman Empire (and ambitiously planning to rebuild it), always referred to the still existing Roman Empire as “Greek” rather than “Roman,” although the citizens of that great city and the vestiges of its empire continued calling themselves Romans until the Turks finally ended it.

But that thousand year history? It’s not easy to find information or books with much information; even the one history of the Empire I did read–Lost to the West by Lars Brownworth, along with his City of Fortune, a history of the Venetian Empire–glossed over centuries and only hit highlights. I’ve always wanted to write something historical set in the new Rome.

The Eastern Empire out-lasted its western counterpart by nearly a thousand years. Constantinople was one of the greatest Christian cities of all time; there was certainly nothing even remotely close to it in western Europe in terms of population, art, culture, education, and trade. It’s location put it in control of access and egress from the Black Sea; it also controlled the trade routes between Europe and Asia. Its fall in 1453 meant that those trade routes were now controlled by the non-Christian Islamic Ottoman Empire–and as such, other ways to reach the far east became necessary to the western Europeans, hence the Portuguese circumnavigating Africa and the Spanish attempt to sail west to find a route, leading to the “discovery” of the Americas. The fall of Constantinople was an incredibly important and necessary piece of the interlocking puzzle that led to European colonization and the global empires that resulted from it (as well as the oppression and enslavement and genocide of native populations); but Western historians–in particular, those monastic scholars in Catholic orders–have always tried to erase and /or lessen the importance of the eastern Empire and its capital, calling them “Greeks”, renaming the Eastern Roman Empire as the “Byzantine Empire,” etc.–and in no small part, this was also because of the Christian Schism of 1054, in which the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church split in two over questions of dogma. Therefore, it was in the interest of the Western Europeans to underplay the vital importance to European history of the remains of the Roman Empire because western Catholics considered their Orthodox brethren as heretics; their church was the true one, even if it was in the east that the religion originally came from, and it was in the eastern half of the empire the tenets and dogma of the “true” faith were established. The Pope in Rome always tried to assert his own authority over the Patriarch in Constantinople; the Patriarch considered himself to be the head of the faith and the Pope just another bishop. Thus, when Charlemagne conquered most of central Europe, he and the Pope created the Holy Roman Empire (which wasn’t holy, or Roman, or even really an empire in the traditional sense); the Romans in Constantinople were not pleased. (At the time, through some political machinations and drama, a woman was seated on the throne in Constantinople–the Empress Irene, one of the most interesting women in European history; she was also pretty terrible. The Pope decided there could be no such thing as a female Emperor, and so he crowned Charlemagne.)

The Holy Roman Empire also lasted over a thousand years.

Anyway, I’ve always been interested in the eastern Empire, even though it’s largely neglected in European histories. But one event in its history has always been interesting to me in particular –the fall of Constantinople to the Catholic 4th Crusade in 1204, which essentially set the stage for the second fall of the city, to the Ottomans in 1453. I also have an idea for a Colin book–which I’ve had for a very long time–that would have its beginnings in the 1204 sack of Constantinople.

It’s remarkably hard to find much information–granted, it’s not like I’ve tried very hard, but the fact that you have to try hard to find histories and/or books about the Empire and its capital, let alone the 4th Crusade–even histories of the Crusades themselves gloss over the fact that a Crusader army, blessed by the Pope, allowed itself to be diverted by the Venetians to capture and sack two Christians cities (Zara and Constantinople), and established “Latin” (western European) kingdoms and principalities out of the provinces that were once the Eastern Roman Empire. These Catholic kingdoms were so despised by their subjects that they didn’t last long, with another dynasty of the old empire arising to drive them out. The sack of the city and the pillaging and destruction that followed created such a deep hatred for the Catholic Church and the kings that followed the Pope that they preferred the Ottomans to a reconquest by the Catholic nations–which is saying something. Ernie Bradford’s The Great Betrayal: The Great Siege of Constantinople is a very thorough account of the tragedy and how it came to pass; the destruction of the mighty city–along with the destruction of priceless books and documents and art forever lost to us–was on a par with the burning of the Great Library at Alexandria.

The book itself is very interesting; the siege took nearly a year, and it’s actually kind of shocking that the Crusaders succeeded in taking the city, bearing in mind the strong defenses and so forth. A lot of things had to fit into place for it to happen, and they all did. The city came so close to holding them off successfully; it’s almost as though, as they would have said at the time, it was God’s will for it to happen. The city was also filled with all kinds of priceless Christian relics; after all, the religion was founded in the east, and as city after city fell to foreign invaders, a lot of priceless artifacts and holy relics were moved to the capital. (The great horses from the Hippodrome, for example, are proudly on display in the Piazza San Marco in Venice to this day.) A lot of the art was destroyed, jewels picked out of reliquaries, the gold or silver or bronze melted down for coin, and so forth.

As someone who has always loved history, and also has always loved treasure hunts–especially those that are involved with the history and development of Christianity, many years ago (I will freely confess to being inspired by Indiana Jones movies) I thought about writing such a treasure hunt story–where the ‘treasure’ being hunted was some important document or book or relic from the earliest days of Christianity that would revolutionize the faith as well as show how off-course it had gone since the earliest days…and wouldn’t it have made sense that whatever it was could have been kept in Constantinople, deep in the archives of the Orthodox Church? And with western, Catholic Europeans besieging the city, wouldn’t the Patriarch have wanted to keep it out of the hands of the Pope, and smuggled it out of the city to be hidden somewhere else, safe from the prying eyes of Rome?

And of course, when I created Colin–actually, when I brought him back in Jackson Square Jazz–I loved the character so much that I considered spinning him off; what about the jobs he’s on when he’s not in New Orleans? “Oh,” I thought, “my fall of Constantinople story! That could work for Colin!” And it even occurred to me the other day that I could even do them as “case files,” setting them throughout the past, both before and after he met Scotty and woven in between the Scotty stories. (It also occurred to me that I could do Scotty stories to fill in the years between books, if I wanted to…)

And reading this book–which i recommend if you want to know more about “holy wars” and how corrupt and unholy they actually were–made me think about it even more. I do want to include something about the Empress Irene, too.

Something to brainstorm at some point. Like I have the time to squeeze in another book…but it would be fun; although I don’t know how good I would be at writing action/adventure/thrillers.

It would be fun to find out, though.

Outside the Rain

Wednesday and the week is half gone by, and there’s a three day weekend on the horizon. Thank you, Juneteenth!

I slept well again last night–although my Fitbit claims otherwise, which doesn’t make sense to me–and feel pretty rested today. I did run out of steam yesterday afternoon, but managed to make it home and to do some more work on “Never Kiss a Stranger,” which is getting longer but I’m not sure if it’s getting better, either, for that matter. Ah, well, I can always trim it down later once I have a strong complete draft done. We continued watching The Victim last night, which is very well done and very well acted–I love stories about moral dilemmas, justice, and the fallout of damage created by a crime/tragedy–and the lead actress was the lead in one of the seasons of Line of Duty, which was an extraordinary show. We also watched another episode of Why Are You Like This?, which is a kind of funny show about young people navigating the modern world.

I also got my second booster yesterday, and the only reaction seems to be having a sore shoulder this morning, which I can certainly live with. The last few times I got the vaccine, it made me a bit sick, so I am looking at this as a major triumph (I take my wins where I can get them). The weather here has been horrifically hot–this is going to be a brutal summer, methinks–and I also have some concerns about the hurricane season. But there’s nothing to be done about that other than, as always, trying to endure and survive it all and try to be prepared and planned for it. (What did I do with that cooler we bought? Must make a note to check the attic for it because otherwise it needs to be put on the shopping list for another Costco run or something.) Well, we’re in yet another air quality alert–fortunately I am not in one of the groups that need to be concerned about the air quality, but yesterday was very weird on that score; I walked into one of the lounges at the office and it looked smoky in there; but it wasn’t. It’s still concerning, though.

But the tropical storm map is clear other than some disturbance down near Panama, so…so far so good at any rate.

I was too tired to start John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind last night, but hopefully today I will be able to jump into it. I did read a bit of The Great Betrayal last night; and really, the more I read about about the 4th Crusade and the sack of Constantinople the more egregious the crime against humanity appears–it’s really on the level of the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria. Priceless pieces of art, Christian relics, and valuable documents and books from the long history of Greece and Rome–knowledge–lost forever. This sack, and the later fall of the city to the Turks two hundred years later, had an enormous impact on Western civilization because the artists, the thinkers, and the historians all fled to western Europe and kind of triggered the Renaissance…and yet this pivotal moment in European history is almost constantly ignored and dismissed as unimportant when it actually was vitally important…it’s just always been hard for Western historians to deal with the fact that European Catholics attacked another Christian city while ostensibly on a crusade to rescue the Holy Land from the infidels. (There’s a marvelous book called Lost to the West I read a few years ago that ostensibly explains the history of the Eastern Roman Empire and how the west tried to reclaim “Roman” from the actual Roman Empire’s vestiges, calling them Byzantines and Greeks and almost anything else other than Roman–when that was how they actually identified.)

It’s already eighty-six degrees outside this morning with a high in the nineties–which will feel like over a hundred–which means, as I have already noted several times–that we are experiencing August weather in mid-June; which means, with the price of oil going up all the time (thank you, greedy opportunistic oil companies who own our government!) that my power bills are going to be completely insane this summer. Yay. Can’t wait for that to start. Ah well, I need to lose a few pounds anyway.

And on that note, tis time to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

Right on the Tip of My Tongue

Tuesday and it’s back into the office with me today. Huzzah.

Yesterday I entered data until my eyes crossed, but I got everything caught up. I also, once I was finished with my work for the day, walked over to Office Depot and got some more organizational items to try to make the kitchen workspace–and the kitchen overall–better organized and pulled together. It’s better now–looking around at the space this morning it certainly looks better than the hot mess it’s been for quite some time–so that’s something, I think. I slept fairly well last night, so as I am slowly waking up this morning over my coffee I am thinking this looks pretty good around here this morning. I also decided that since it’s still Pride Month my reading should continue to be queer books, at least for this month, so I plucked John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind out of the TBR pile (it did win the Lambda Award for Best Mystery this past weekend after all) and hope to start reading it this evening when I get home from work. I made a binder for “Never Kiss a Stranger” as well as ones for Chlorine and Mississippi River Mischief–which definitely helped getting loose piles of paper and file folders off the counter tops, and at the same time felt strangely like I actually was making some kind of progress, which is always enormously helpful with feeling like you’ve gotten some place, accomplished something.

I just feel like I’m not getting anywhere with anything these days, but my mind has really worked strangely over the past few years. My concept of time is completely altered–not that it was ever really strong to begin with, honestly–and I struggle with memory lapses; my memory doesn’t really work the way it used to, which is incredibly concerning, or used to be; it seems like everyone is having the same kind of problems, and it probably is pandemic/interesting times causing it for everyone that seems to be affected (of course, if this was a suspense thriller, some mad genius would have done something to trigger this in people around the world for their own nefarious purposes–you can tell I watched a James Bond film last night), but it still is distressing to say the least.

I am also glad I took the weekend off. I feel like it was absolutely necessary, and there’s a three day weekend coming up this weekend, which is really nice as well. I don’t think I’ll be able to take the entire weekend off again this weekend–certainly not all three days–but it’s a very pleasant thought, I must say, and I am looking forward to getting through the rest of this week so I can rest up this weekend.

Whine, whine, whine.

And yes, we did watch the final Daniel Craig as James Bond thriller No Time to Die last night. It was gorgeously shot, and Craig is much closer to the Bond Ian Fleming wrote about in the books so many decades ago (I was very young when Fleming died), and while watching last night I thought about the original thirteen Bond books that Fleming wrote all those years ago and how badly those stories have aged–and how little the movies based on them resemble the books. The book Live and Let Die was horrifically racist (I read it again a few years ago, since it’s been decades since I read them) and then watched the movie again, which is also bad in that respect. Live and Let Die was also the first Bond movie I saw in the theater–and parts of it were filmed/set in and around New Orleans, so that part of it has always been sentimental for me in some ways…but yikes. The stereotypes! And the Bond books themselves celebrated imperialistic colonialism–many of the books are set in Jamaica or other possessions of the British empire, and that oh-so-British sense of superiority is very present in the books. But No Time to Die was a perfectly adequate Bond thriller film; Daniel Craig is a commanding presence on the screen, even if the villain, played by Oscar winner Rami Malek (which prompted me to say, “Freddie Mercury would have made a great Bond villain”) wasn’t really developed enough to really hit hard as the bad guy.

Then again, are any of the Bond villains ever really developed?

But watching a James Bond movie, coupled with me reading The Great Betrayal about the 4th Crusade, has me in mind of writing a Colin thriller again–I could of course set it at any time, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be current; the lovely thing about a Colin series is I could literally go back and set them in and around Scotty books, which would/could be very fun to do–but I am just not so great about writing action, I suppose–and thrillers are a lot of action, from beginning to end. I also don’t know enough about guns, really–how can I write about a gunfight or being shot at, or shooting back–but it could be fun….I already know the opening scene (set in 1204, as the city is on the brink of falling; the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church calls in a couple of warrior priests to smuggle something to safety, and that something is the MacGuffin the entire story turns on: the Pope/Rome wants whatever it is, and the Patriarch would rather burn in hell than let what he considers the Roman heretics have it) and I also know what the first chapter would be–Colin rescuing a politician’s daughter from the terrorists who kidnapped her–and then we would get into the MacGuffin/treasure hunt, with of course the Vatican being the bad guys (seriously, only Nazis make better bad guys than the Vatican) and all kinds of fun stuff.

Someday, perhaps.

And on that note, tis time for me to get back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

If I Were Your Woman

Today’s emergency weather situation in New Orleans is an air quality alert; per the email I received this morning, people with breathing issues are encouraged to not go outside unless absolutely necessary; our air quality is at an “orange” level–not sure what that means precisely, but suspect it has something to do with a color-coded charted that I kind of don’t want to go look up, just in case. There was a heat advisory yesterday (IN JUNE); it’s clearly going to be one of those summers here in New Orleans.

I wound up taking the entire weekend off for the most part–no writing, no emails, no stress or anxiety. I finished reading Tara Laskowski’s marvelous The Other Mother yesterday afternoon; I kept reading my 4th Crusade/sack of Constantinople book; and then last night we finished off Gaslit (Julia Roberts was amazing; and yes, Martha Mitchell was right from the very beginning) and started watching a new show (for us) on Acorn, The Victim, which is actually quite interesting and has a great concept and a truly terrific cast. We watched the first episode, and I am rather curious to see where this is going to go. One way in which British crime series are superior to the American counterparts is in that there are always so many layers to the British ones, and they often tackle complex situations that made you wonder, who is the good guy, who is the bad guy, or is the entire system bad and in need of overhauling?

I also have to decide what to read next, and there’s such a plethora of good things to read in my TBR pile I am not sure where to go next. I am torn right now between John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind (which just won the Lammy for Best Mystery this weekend–go John go!), Curtis Ippolite’s Burying the Newspaper Man, Rob Osler’s The Devil’s Chewtoy, or another Carol Goodman. I’ve also been wanting to revisit some classics I’ve not reread in a while–anything by Mary Stewart, really; or du Maurier’s Rebecca or Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, or maybe one of the du Mauriers I’ve not already read before.

Taking the weekend off felt absolutely lovely, if I am going to be completely honest. I did do some minor chores around the Lost Apartment–laundry, dishes, etc.–but nothing major; the place is a bit of a mess this morning. I do have to run some errands later today–prescriptions, mostly, and I need to put air in a tire–and I am going to swing by Office Depot as well to get some file organizational items so I have place to put all these files that are piled up all over the place around my desk area. After I am done with the day’s data entry (always a happy chore for me) and am free for the evening, I will spend it doing some cleaning up/organizing around here. I had hoped to start going to the gym again today, but I suspect I am not going to wind up making it over there after all. I also need to start getting binders together for the new book projects; I think I will make one for the novellas as well as one for the other three books that are currently in progress (yes, I am a glutton for punishment) but I do find that the binders are helpful for also editing and making notes and so forth.

And of course as always I need to make a to-do list for the rest of the month.

Heavy heaving sigh.

But one thing that is true after this weekend is that I feel refreshed, rested and recharged. I don’t know how long that will actually last or not–it’s always a crap shoot, let’s be honest–but fingers crossed it lasts for a long enough time to make a serious dent in the weekend. We have a paid holiday coming up on Monday, which is lovely–three days weekends are always nice, and July 4th also falls on a Monday so that’s another lovely three day weekend coming up in a few weeks–and of course, later that week I am off to Fort Lauderdale. Woo-hoo? Woo-hoo!

Paul and I also booked our plane tickets for Bouchercon last week, so that’s a go for me as well. Woo-hoo!

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Without The One You Love

Tuesday morning!

The weather turned surprisingly lovely yesterday–seriously, March madness is how you can describe New Orleans weather in the merry month of March–which made those errands I had to run not seem nearly as irritating or awful or tedious as they usually do. It’s even darker outside this morning than usual–thanks again, Daylight Savings Time; I can’t tell you how much more I appreciate getting up when it’s darker than it has been. Hurray? It rained overnight as well; things are glistening out there in the light from my windows. I thought when I was in bed that I heard rain–not heavy–but wasn’t sure if it was my imagination or not. I woke up around three thirty, and was off and on the rest of the morning until my alarm finally went off. That means I will probably be very tired today, will probably hit a wall around two or three in the afternoon, and better sleep tonight.

God, how I hate Daylight Savings Time. My body had finally reset its clock, only to have DST fuck it all up all over again. Yay.

I finished the final revision of the book last night and sent it to my editor, who hadn’t started yet on the sloppy mess I turned in (thank God). I think there’s still some clean-up and tightening of the story that needs to be done as yet, but I feel better about getting it revised again. I also need to stop worrying about it. I think part of my problem with sleep last night had to do with that stress–ugh, fucking stress–and I really need to focus going forward on making sure that my stress levels not only go down but stay down. I already made some decisions about the future over the weekend about going forward with my life–looking ahead to the years leading up to retirement–and I really do need to make plans. I also have to get my taxes pulled together for my accountant. Heavy heaving sigh.

But I don’t feel sleepy this morning, despite the shitty night’s sleep; but I suspect I will feel very tired later. Yay.

Paul actually got home last night before I went to bed–which hasn’t happened on a weeknight in quite some time–and we watched some more war coverage before we both went to bed. I’ve often wondered what it was like to live in the United States after September 1, 1939; I guess we’re learning. (Ah, thunder just boomed. And there’s the rain. A torrential downpour, yay. That’ll make walking out to the car a lot more fun than usual. Hurray.) I’ll probably swing by and get the mail on the way home tonight. Alex Segura’s Secret Identity should be waiting for me when I get there this afternoon; an ARC of Chris Holm’s Child Zero was there yesterday. (Aside: it is pouring outside. But my morning weather alert was just about thunderstorms and wind; nothing about street flooding, which is a plus because it is really coming down out there. Definitely will need to take an umbrella with me this morning. Hopefully it will slacken before I have to leave….ah, so let it be written, so let it be done. It’s already stopped.)

Shouldn’t have looked at Twitter. Apparently it’s hailing in the Marigny.

Great.

Ah, well, the coffee is kicking in and even though my eyes feel tired (ugh, I hate that tired-eye feeling) I think it’s going to be a good day. One can keep hoping, at any rate, right? And it’s the Ides of March! Fortunately, I don’t think I am going to be stabbed by a mob in the Roman Senate…mainly because I wouldn’t be going to the Roman Senate today. I’ve always thought it was interesting that Julius Caesar was, if you want to look at this in American terms, considered to be a hero in history and is certainly taught that way; the winners write the history, after all, and while Caesar was certainly murdered–his great-nephew/adopted son Octavian eventually became the first Roman Emperor, so of course history would be written sympathetically. But…Caesar was a despot who seized power and undermined the Roman Republic; Octavian took it one step further and turned the Republic into an Empire, with himself as a god-emperor. Since the Roman Republic was really one of the very few in history, naturally Americans, in their hubris, look to Rome to compare and contract our democracy to (I am always amused when clueless Christians insist that the collapse of Rome was due to its godlessness…um, Rome reached its apex of power before the birth of Christ, and one could quite easily make the argument that Christianity undermined the Empire to the point where it finally fell…and of course, Western-centric historians never like to point out that the Roman Empire actually didn’t finally fall until the Ottomans took Constantinople in 1453.); but they rarely draw the proper conclusions. History is always taught with a sympathetic eye to the tyrants who ran Western European countries until the monarchies fell. Current events are rarely, if ever, placed into the proper historical context which makes understanding them easier.

Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day Constant Reader; I certainly intend to.

Everybody’s Got the Right to Love

Thursday morning and my last day (of only two) in the office this week. I went to bed early again last night–I was surprisingly productive when I got home from work last night, which was a pleasant surprise–and woke up well before my alarm again (I did stay in bed until the alarm went off, though), and so am pretty well awake this morning as I drink my coffee and prepare to face another day. I still have an insane amount of work to get done today–over all, in general, what else is new, right?–and frankly I’m just hoping to be able to keep everything in at least a holding pattern until this weekend when I can make serious inroads. I never got around to making that to-do list yesterday, which catapults it to the top of what I need to get done today, really, and so I’ve got to really buckle down and focus and do what I need to do.

Yesterday I managed to get Kellye Garrett’s Like a Sister in the mail, and I started reading. As Constant Reader is aware, I’ve had issues reading lately for pleasure, and with Kellye’s book in hand, I decided to sit down and give it a shot. I was a few chapters in before I knew it, and regretfully had to put the book aside so I could do some chores that needed to be done. And of course, by the time I was finished with the chores I was tired and Scooter wanted to sleep in my lap so…I decided to try watching the news, and then found something else on television to watch to try to distract me from that…but it didn’t really hold my attention and finally went to bed early. I finally saw someone last night on the news talking about the history–finally–and why Ukraine…Kyev in particular… is so important to Russian leadership. It goes back to Peter the Great’s desire to make Russia a world power–access to the Black Sea being crucial for trade and for naval matters–because Russian history dates back to the days when Kyev was the capital of the Kyevan Rus; Kyev eventually fell to the Mongols and the Russian nation retreated north. The dream has always been to restore the empire that once was; the Russians have always considered themselves to be the heirs of the Eastern Roman Empire and Moscow to be the third Rome (Rome being the first, Constantinople being the second–tsar or czar is a Russianization of caesar). Ukraine is the heart of the Russian nation, and its true homeland…so a Ukraine independent of Russian control flies in the face of everything Russians have always believed about themselves as a people and as a nation. (It is lovely to see how much the Russian people hate and oppose this war, though.) Ukraine and the Black Sea were always the goal of first Peter the Great and then Catherine the Great….Putin sees himself as one of those great leaders, hence the need to return Ukraine and Kyev to Russian control. I don’t know how this is going to end, and I fear many of the possible outcomes…but I am also glad I have a smattering of knowledge about Russian history.

I’m not sure why I’ve always been drawn to Russian history, art and culture–particularly since I grew up in the shadow of the mushroom cloud with the idea that Soviet Union was the ultimate evil empire drilled into my head daily–but there it is. A friend bought me, as a birthday gift, a reading with a psychic (I’ve had two of these in my life–the second was a tarot card reading after we moved to New Orleans); it was an interesting experience. She kind of just read my past life history–but it was interesting. In my most recent past life, according to her, I had been nobility in Russia at some time in the past. I had a good, fruitful, productive life, and in my old age retired to a monastery. It was interesting–because I had always been drawn to Russia (and yes, well aware that I could never live in Russia; way too cold, of course)–and there was no way she could have known this; it’s not one of those “read body language and facial expression” things most psychics do; in the tarot reading the answers to my questions were ambiguous enough so they could be read as pretty much fitting anything. (This has been on my mind as I’ve been writing a psychic character lately in my short fiction–and of course, Scotty is psychic, although I’ve not really done much with that in the later books in the series.) But I’ve always been interested in Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra…the Romanov dynasty and Russia have always interested me. (I highly recommend any of Robert K. Massie’s Russian histories and biographies of the czars.)

I also need to get revising my manuscript and start working on “Solace in a Dying Hour,” which is due in early April. Sigh, so much to do. But I was really proud of myself for doing cleaning chores around the apartment last night–I even vacuumed–so the apartment looks sort of better; at least neater than it has in a while. Tonight I’ll fold the clothes in the dryer and put the dishes away from the dishwasher, and hopefully can carve out some time to read more of Like a Sister–it was very hard to put down last night; it’s really good, y’all–and of course, I don’t have to get up before dawn tomorrow so can stay up a little later tonight if I want to….although going to bed early has ceased to be a problem for me lately.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely and marvelous day, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow.

Oh L’Amour

Well, we made it to Wednesday again, Constant Reader, and it’s Pay-the-Bills Day. Huzzah!

Yesterday was a very good day, overall–maybe a little too low energy for what all I need to get done, but I really cannot complain. I was a little distracted for most of the day–the inability to focus was almost Olympic level, seriously–but I’ve certainly had worse days. Paul was late last night–board meeting–so I sat in my chair with the purr-kitty in my lap and watched Youtube documentaries about a historical woman who has always fascinated me since I read about her in a biography of Charlemagne: Irene of Athens, the only woman to rule as Roman Emperor (she took the title of Emperor rather than Empress) in Constantinople. She was ruthless and cruel–she had her own son blinded for daring to challenge her for power (it was his throne)–and she was later sainted by the church for her belief in and promotion of icons; after several emperors, including her late husband, violently opposed as idol worship. (Icons are images of holy figures, whether paintings, statues, etc.; despite the 1054 schism, both Orthodox Christians and Catholics continued to worship them. The Eastern Roman Empire (forever branded as Byzantine by western Europeans, to deny them the Roman title which they felt they inherited rather than the actual, continuing Roman empire based in Constantinople) is fascinating to me; the court intrigues and palace revolutions; the murders and conspiracies and plots would make the basis for great historical novels. It’s very strange to me that we don’t have more of those, really; an indication of how the West has very determinedly erased and forgotten the East.

We watched the latest episode of Only Murders in the Building, which we are continuing to greatly enjoy; and it’s also nice to see Steve Martin and Martin Short both working on something high quality. I’m sorry there’s only one more episode; but I am sure it’s successful enough that they’ll try to do a second season–which is rife with the possibility of enormous disappointment, but could also have a lot of potential. (Obviously, there can’t be another murder in the same building.)

I slept really well last night–at any rate, without checking the Fitbit (which, seriously–if I feel rested, is there any need to actual check the sleep statistics? Probably not) I think I had a really good night’s sleep; I certainly feel more rested and a-rarin’-to-go than I did yesterday–which, granted, was a pretty low bar. But feeling rested rather than tired really makes a difference; my fuse is much shorter when I am tired, and it’s also much easier for me to give in to meh I don’t want to deal with this now…which is definitely not a good thing. But tomorrow is a work-at-home day and I can sleep later, there’s also a lot less stress when I am working at home, and I have a lot of trainings to get done tomorrow while I am at home, which will certainly make the time pass a lot easier. I didn’t go to the gym last night because I felt so drained; I cannot go tonight because of my event tonight at Murder by the Book, click here to register!

So, I will go after work tomorrow. It’s Leg Day anyway. Sigh.

Bury Me in Shadows had a lovely release day yesterday, which wasn’t easy because a shit ton of new books by terrific authors dropped either yesterday or on Monday: The Savage Kind by John Copenhaver; Death at Greenaway by Lori Rader-Day; Tara Laskowski’s The Mother Next Door; and of course, the newly launched Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021, edited by Steph Cha and guest editor Alafair Burke (yours truly made the “other works of distinction” list in the back of the book; cannot wait to get a copy–the stories included sound fucking fantastic). Yeah, that’s a lot of noise at the same time–it’s easy to see how my book could get lost in all the noise and thunder there. It’s going to be a lot of fun talking to John at Murder by the Book tonight, along with David Slayton (whose Trailer Park Trickster also dropped yesterday; so much goodness out there in such a short period of time!); I just hope I don’t, as always, talk too much and babble like a moron.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will see you again tomorrow.

Academic

Friday morning, and I slept well again last night. The washing machine arrives this morning (between 9:15 and 11:15) so I am up earlier than I would be ordinarily, but despite using an alarm to get up (I need to be sufficiently caffeinated when they get here to remove the old one and install the new one) and then it will be “catch up on the laundry day” while I do my home data entry today–which means the new one will be getting quite a workout today. I also had to remove the doors to the laundry room last night–it’s going to take some serious maneuvering to get the old one out and the new one in, and I figured the doors would be in the way–which made me feel quite butch and masculine. The feeling didn’t last.

The electricians came and replaced the fuse yesterday as well–so now I can use my dishwasher and the coffee maker can be on the proper counter where it belongs again. Slowly returning to a sense of normality here at long last, and starting to not feel quite so fried and exhausted, which is actually lovely.

I also have to do a conference tomorrow, which I need to prepare for, and honestly–my brain is so fried I keep forgetting that it’s happening and that I agreed to do it. I cannot remember being this discombobulated and fried before when I finished writing a book–but then again, it’s also been quite a while since the last time I finished two books in such quick succession without a break in between. Having everything around the apartment go on the fritz almost immediately thereafter was also not much of a help in that regard, and of course, that created more stress and insomnia…I’m really surprised I was able to sleep so well the last two nights, to be completely honest; but that was probably a result of exhaustion from the stress of things.

And of course, I also had to take down one of the laundry room shelves, just in case, and will have to put that back together once the washing machine is installed again.

So yeah, pretty big day around the lost apartment this morning….hopefully I can get going on my data entry before they come, and it’s probably what I am going to be doing for most of the day today. I make condom packs for hours yesterday–and ran out of condoms, so I don’t have that to do today, unless I run by the office to take these others and drop them off, and pick up some more…but I don’t really see that happening today…although….hmmm. Something to ponder before the washing machine gets here. (Of course, it would also depend on when the washing machine gets here as well…if they get here early I could run over to pick up my prescription, then head to the office, drop off the finished condom packs and pick up at least one more box….never mind, I shouldn’t think out loud on here. Suffice to say I have options.)

I actually don’t remember what all I watched yesterday while I was making the condom packs, but I am proud and happy to say that I broke the streak of serial killer documentaries at long last. I know I watched some interesting documentaries about queer horror movies, or why horror appeals to gay men (I honestly have no memory of Nightmare on Elm Street 2, which apparently is the gayest non-gay horror movie ever made?) as well as some documentaries about apocryphal books on the Bible, including Enoch–which led me down a rabbit hole into videos about the nephilim and pre-Flood Biblical history, as well as some interesting discussion about how things get mis-translated from the original archaic Hebrew into other languages over the years and then became stuc–like how “Lucifer” wasn’t really a reference to the devil (or Satan, or whatever) but a literal mistranslation of a verse probably referring to the recent fall of the Assyrian kind and his empire, rather than a reference to angels being cast own from heaven and sent to Hell to have dominion. I’ve always found that sort of thing to be interesting–potentially lost books of the Bible and prophecy, etc.–have always wanted to write a book about a missing or secret book of the Bible that was smuggled out of Constantinople before it fell to the Crusaders in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, to keep it out of the hands of the Roman Catholic Church, only to disappear for centuries; a lost book that would revolutionize and change Christianity forever (not really an original thought–this sort of thing has been done before, most notably–for me, anyway–in Irving Wallace’s The Word); I’ve always seen it–since 2001, anyway, as a Colin novel (yes, the Colin stand alone novel I’ve been thinking about for twenty years; I’ve always kind of wanted to spin him off into his own espionage thriller series–think gay Dirk Pitt/Indiana Jones/James Bond hybrid), but again–when will I ever have the time to write such a book?

So, in a moment I am going to start doing my data entry for the day; while I wait for the washer to arrive and be installed. When I am done working for the day I intend to get down my Henry Willson biography and start mapping out Chlorine–yes, world, I am finally ready to start writing Chlorine, or at least work on it, anyway–and I also am going to start figuring out what to do with these short stories and so forth that I want to get out for submission. So, the goals for this weekend–after getting my work done and the laundry room reassembled–is to finish reading The Russia House, get some work on short stories done, and fill up another box to donate to the library sale (maybe two), and get the outline/character bios for Chlorine started. (I’m very excited about this….although I am getting a little more excited about the next book I want to write, Where the Boys Die.)

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines for the day. Have yourself a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

Waiting for the Sirens’ Call

Well, it’s now Thursday and let’s see how the rest of this week goes. I don’t have to go back to the office until Ash Wednesday–working at home today and tomorrow–and then over the weekend (all four days of it) I can leisurely clean and write and get things done, which is always a plus. Paul hasn’t been getting home from the office until almost ten every night this week–making me a Festival widow, as I always am every year at this time; the primary difference being Paul would come home for the parades and then work on things at his desk until all hours of the night while I went to bed. Last night’s Youtube wormholes included Kings and Generals videos about the Ottoman Wars; short documentaries about Henry VIII’s sisters, Margaret and Mary (who don’t get near as much attention as their famous brother– had Henry’s matrimonial efforts been a bit more in line with those of a normal king, Margaret and Mary would have most likely gone down in history for their own notoriety and scandalous lives…as it is, they are most forgotten footnotes to Tudor history. But all the British monarchy after Elizabeth I is actually descended from Margaret Tudor rather than Henry VIII); another couple about another favorite sixteenth century royal woman Marguerite de Valois (immortalized as Queen Margot in the Dumas novel); famous courtesans of history; and the decline and fall of the Byzantine Empire. (I really have always wanted to write about palace intrigue in Constantinople–there’s a reason why “byzantine” has come to mean interconnected elaborate conspiracies with twists and turns and surprises)

I was also very tired yesterday, after my third “get up at six and go to the office” day in a row. I am acutely becoming more and more aware of my age and the increasing fragility of my body; nothing terribly original or insightful, really. The decay of our bodies is something we can generally spend a good portion of our lives not thinking about, and of course, we consistently always push aside thinking about our own mortality because–well, because no good can come of it, really, other than paralyzing depression and panic about the shortening of the life string held by the Three Fates. I have become very used to the idea that I am not going to be able to write all the things that I want to write in the limited time I have left to me (see what I mean about paralyzing depression? Just typing those words made my entire body shudder), particularly with all the new ideas I get on an almost daily basis.

And the more research I do about New Orleans and Louisiana history, the more fascinated I become. I was actually thinking the other day, as I idly went down a research wormhole about Alice Heine (the first American born princess of Monaco was NOT Grace Kelly, but Alice Heine–born and raised in the 900 block of the French Quarter in New Orleans), I couldn’t help but think man, I should have started studying all this New Orleans/Louisiana history YEARS ago–at least when we first moved here. There is so much rich, vibrant material in New Orleans’ checkered history; and when you expand it out to Louisiana as a whole, it becomes even more interesting. I had, in fact, primarily always assumed the prevalence of Spanish names in the state and region came from when the Spanish owned Louisiana….which in a way it kind of did; but it was because to populate their new lands and territories as a protective measure against both the British and the Americans, the Spanish governors encouraged immigration from the Canary Islands–their descendants are called los isleños; I knew about the isleños, but I never really knew when they came here and to what part of Louisiana they came. (There was also a Filipino settlement at a place called St Málo; outside the levees, that settlement was completely destroyed by a hurricane in the early twentieth century…which just goes to show precisely how much of a cultural and ethnic melting pot New Orleans is and always has been.) It’s all so goddamned interesting…the main problem is the older books about the state and city’s history aren’t necessarily reliable–Lyle Saxon, Harnett Kane, and Robert Tallant, in particular; their works weren’t always based in fact but in rumor and legend, and all too often in upholding white supremacy–but the stories are highly entertaining, if inaccurate, biased, and with perhaps too high a degree of fictionality built into them. But the stories themselves are interesting and could make for good stories–in particular Tallant’s book Ready to Hang: Seven Famous New Orleans Murders, (one can never go wrong with historical true crime, even if Tallant’s sources were faulty and included rumor and speculation)…the title tale is, in and of itself, one I’ve been interested in fictionalizing since I first became aware of it–I can’t recall the murderer’s name, but a very good-looking young man, he used to lure men in to rob and kill; and while he always had a girlfriend–sometimes accomplices–and Tallant never comes right out and says so, my takeaway from the story is that the guy basically preyed on older men with either gay or bisexual tendencies, which puts it right into my wheelhouse, really.

And of course, so many of these stories would work in my Sherlockian world of New Orleans in the first decades of the twentieth century.

And this, you see, is why I will never be able to write everything I want to write. Heavy sigh.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. May your day be as splendid as you are, Constant Reader, and I’ll catch you again tomorrow morning.

Starlight

And so now it’s Sunday.

I won’t lie; I’ve lost my sense of time and date and day already this weekend and I’m perfectly fine with it. I hope everyone who has the good fortune to have the weekend off–I know there are many who do not–are in the same state of what day is this that I found myself in most of yesterday and when i woke up this morning–I overslept again, which was amazingly lovely, but i really need to stop indulging myself this way–and am now awake, on my first cup of coffee, and ready to get shit done today. I did get shit done yesterday–I cleaned and organized quite a bit (not enough, it’s never enough) and while I do have some little bit of cleaning and a lot of organizing left to get done, at least I made a start on it yesterday. My desk, for example, this morning is clean and clear; which will make writing later much easier.

I finished Little Fires Everywhere yesterday–I blogged about it already, so I won’t repeat anything other than that it’s a fantastic book I encourage you all to read–and started reading The Coyotes of Carthage, which was originally recommended to me by my friend Laura, who was lucky enough to receive an advance copy. It, too, is fantastic and unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I am really looking forward to getting more into it–I will undoubtedly take a reading break or two at some point today. It seems to be a political thriller about dark money and political consultants in a very rural county in South Carolina, with a Black male protagonist, so I am sure it’s going to be quite interesting to read.

But I really also need to write today; I’ve not looked at the manuscript since last weekend, and this “only writing on the weekends for one day” simply cannot continue to stand, really. I have too much to write, and I need to stop giving into the laziness or the tiredness or self-destructive patterns or whatever the hell it is that keeps me from finishing this damned book. Heavy sigh. I also have any number of short stories I need to wade through to pick out some to work on for submission calls.

Again, I think there’s something to that I am so overwhelmed believing I’ll never get everything done so why bother doing any of it thing.

Repeat after me: SELF-DEFEATING.

While I waited for Paul to finish working on a grant last night I watched, or rather, rewatched (although I didn’t really remember watching it before, and I figured, meh, if I’ve already seen it I can do stuff on my iPad while it’s on in the background) a documentary called Master of Dark Shadows, about Dan Curtis and how the show came about, and its legacy (I’m sure most people don’t remember Curtis also produced and directed the mini-series based on Herman Wouk’s novels The Winds of War and War and Remembrance). I was one of those kids who watched Dark Shadows only in the summertime, because my elementary school didn’t get out until 3:15; even though we lived only a block away from the school I couldn’t ever get home fast enough to watch even the end. I did love Dark Shadows–our sitter/caregiver, Mrs. Harris, also watched One Life to Live and General Hospital, which were my first exposures to soaps–and it always stuck in my mind; I always give it credit for my interest in horror and the supernatural. I enjoyed watching the documentary (and for the record, I loved the NBC reboot of the series in prime time in the early 1990’s, and was crushed when it was canceled; I rewatched it with Paul and he too was disappointed it ended on its cliff-hanger) and then we started watching a documentary about a double murder in India called Behind Closed Doors, in which the investigation was so incredibly fucked up–I mean, if the primary take-away from all the other true crime documentaries we’ve been watching has been man is our system seriously fucked up, the takeaway from this one is yeah, but ours is clearly better than others.

Which is kind of scary, really.

While I was also bored yesterday waiting for Paul–and only really sort of watching Master of Dark Shadows–I was right, I’d seen it before–I started looking things up on-line; which was an absolutely lovely example of how one can fall into a wormhole on the Internet. As you know, I’ve been having this Cynical 70’s Film Festival, and thinking about the rise, and proliferation of, conspiracy theories in that suspicious, paranoid decade, and one that I hadn’t remembered until yesterday sprang up into my min, completely unbidden, while I was reading about the Bermuda Triangle: Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Daniken. Does anyone else remember von Daniken and his theories, which were based in nothing scientific or archaeological? Von Daniken believed that ancient texts–the Bible, the Code of Hammurabi, etc.–all contained evidence that in Ancient Times the Earth was visited by space aliens–Alien Astronauts, as he called them–who brought knowledge and information with them to the primitive creatures of our planet at the time, and also assisted them in the massive building projects that modern man cannot conceive of them building back then–the pyramids, for one thing, and the lines on the plains of Nazca (which I first read about in the Nancy Drew volume The Clue in the Crossword Cipher)–and those aliens with their vastly superior technology, were seen as gods by the primitives and those visits have come down to us in the form of mythology. It’s an interesting idea for sure–but it was all conjecture, with no proof. I read all of von Daniken’s books back in the day; others included The Gold of the Gods, and were simply further conjectures, but he developed quite a following, and set the stage for what is called the pseudo-science of Graham Hancock, his modern day successor. (I’ve also read some of Hancock’s work; his theory that the Sphinx is far older than we suspect based on water wear on its base is interesting, as is his other theory that the Ark of the Covenant’s final resting place is in Ethiopia; before reading that book I had no idea that Christianity was so firmly entrenched there) So, I spent some time looking up von Daniken’s theories yesterday, as well as some other conspiracy theories of the time–I also did a deep dive into the entire Holy Grail Holy Blood thing which provided the basis for The Da Vinci Code and Dan Brown’s entire career; and of course we certainly cannot forget the apocryphal writings of Hal Lindsay and The Late Great Planet Earth–which, really, is where The Omen came from; we forget how “end times” theory truly began flourishing in the 1970’s.

I’ve always been interested in stories about lost books of the Bible, or lost Biblical theory, along with the end-times prophecies Lindsay wrote about; Irving Wallace’s The Word, which was built around the rediscovery of a lost testament of Jesus which would revolutionize and make-over the Christian theology was one of the first novels of this type I read; it was also made into a mini-series, which made me aware of it in the first place (Irving Wallace isn’t really remembered much today, but he was a huge bestseller back in the day, and he wrote incredibly thick novels, mostly about international conspiracies or legal issues–The Seven Minutes, for example, was about censorship and “blue laws”; The Second Lady was about a Soviet conspiracy to replace the First Lady with a lookalike imposter who was a Soviet spy; The Prize was about the machinations around how the Nobel Prize was given out; etc etc etc). The Da Vinci Code fits clearly into this category, as does The Gemini Contenders by Robert Ludlum and The Fourth Secret by Steve Berry (which is about the fourth secret Our Lady of Lourdes–or was it Fatima?–revealed to either Bernadette or the peasant children; Irving Wallace also covered this in The Miracle); Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade also kind of fit here, as both films are about the search for Biblical relics. I’ve always, always, wanted to write one of these. Years ago I had the idea for one, in which there was a secret document or testament hidden in the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople for years, and that part of the reason the 4th Crusade sacked the city was the Pope’s desire to get his hands on those documents, which were thus smuggled out of the city by the Patriarch and lost forever…this is the idea I always come around to for a Colin stand-alone (I also realize I could do Colin stand-alones set at various times throughout the last twenty years or so of Scotty books, as he is gone a lot of the time on missions), and the working title for it always is Star of Irene, because the Byzantine Empress Irene–contemporary of Charlemagne–has always fascinated me.

But I will never write a Colin stand-alone, or series, unless I get this fucking book finished, so I suppose it’s time for me to head back into the spice mines.

Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.