All Down the Line

I did not want to get out of bed this morning. I didn’t sleep as deeply or restfully last night as I have been, but it was still a good night’s sleep–at least, one that wasn’t riddled with insomnia, so I’ll take it and be grateful. I mean, I don’t feel fatigued or anything. I’m still fighting this cold I caught in New York (the COVID tests have been consistently negative since my return, but I haven’t taken one this morning yet, either) which is miserable, and means I’ll probably continue masking at work. They lifted the masking requirement yesterday, which was kind of a surprise, but…making those kinds of decisions is way above my pay grade. I don’t know why people were so hateful and nasty about the masks, but I know I’ve kind of enjoyed not getting sick (other than COVID) over the last three years–which is why I hate this cold even more than I ordinarily would because I haven’t had one in three years.

Sigh.

I made more than quota yesterday, which was also nice–the deadline looms, which makes every word more important–and I hope to do so again tonight. I also managed to get some dishes done last night, some cleaning up around the kitchen, and even made dinner, which I rarely do on weeknights (mainly because Paul gets home so late, but yesterday was his work-at-home day, so he was here and it wasn’t an issue). I need to do some more dishes tonight and more clean-up/organizing around the kitchen. I have to do that signing event for two hours at ALA on Saturday at the Convention Center (which I keep forgetting about, like I keep forgetting about my doctor’s appointment tomorrow, which isn’t good or smart), so getting ahead of the game is better for me and I should take advantage of the writing being easy and write as much as I can when its flowing, right?

We also started watching Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime last night. I like John Kasinski, but have never been much of a fan of Tom Clancy’s. I did read The Hunt for Red October when it was the “it” book of the year, but didn’t much care for it and never went back to Clancy afterwards. It’s just not my thing. I preferred Alistair MacLean, to be honest–no one really talks about him anymore, but I read a lot of his canon; I think if there’s any one book he might be known for it’s either The Guns of Navarone or Where Eagles Dare. My personal favorite was the one whose name I cannot recall right now, but it was about a lifeboat full of people escaping Singapore in December 1941; their ship is torpedoed and sinks, and they are trying to make it to Australia. South by Java Head! I also enjoyed Circus and Bear Island. I’ve been meaning to revisit MacLean again now that I’m an older and more sophisticated (!) reader, just as I’ve been meaning to revisit Robert Ludlum (the actual Ludlum) in the last few years. I’ve also been meaning to revisit Helen MacInnes–her The Salzburg Connection is one of my favorite espionage thrillers (you can never go wrong with Nazis as your villains, seriously). I’ve also wanted to reread Ian Fleming for the first time since I was a teenager as well; I think I would appreciate the books more than I did then. Anyway, we weren’t terribly engrossed by Jack Ryan and I don’t think we’ll be continuing with it.

This morning’s COVID test is negative, as I had suspected and hoped, so I know this is just a cold. Is it annoying that I still have it? You bet your ass it is. I can’t believe I used to get colds and think nothing of it and just went about my day and business like it was nothing. Clearly, I am out of practice with being ill. I don’t think it’s just me, either; I finished off my DayQuil yesterday so it was on my list on the way home from work and they didn’t have much in stock–either DayQuil or NyQuil, and none of the extra strength kind I always use. Supply chain issues? One thing I’ve really been noticing over the last year or so is how empty the shelves in the grocery stores are, and things that I used to pick up regularly without concern sometimes aren’t there. I don’t know if this is a New Orleans issue–it really became noticeable after Hurricane Ida, and the stores here never have seemed to bounce back from having to toss all that food back then–or if it’s across the board, but it’s strange and one of those things that makes you wonder about how serious the decline of the American democracy actually must be. (It also goes to show how spoiled we are–do other countries even have supermarkets? They didn’t in the village in Italy we vacationed in all those years ago–and I never saw one in either Florence or Venice, but wasn’t looking either. Or is even thinking that part of American exceptionalism? It’s hard to know anymore.)

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Heart of Stone

Another new year. 2023. This year it will have been forty-five years since I graduated from high school. That feels weird to me, but it must be true. Forty-five years. Kids born the year I graduated from high school are full on having mid-life crises already. Not exactly a cheery thought to kick off a new year, though, is it?

I got my writing done yesterday and have a daunting day of more writing ahead of me. I managed to get it all done in a little less than three hours yesterday (what can I say? I was on a roll, and the book is really coming together here at the end), and I was thus able to watch some college football games yesterday, namely TCU-Michigan and Georgia-Ohio State. Both games were completely insane, but I am sure OSU fans are not happy with their unfortunate head coach. I imagine now, after two straight losses to Michigan and no national title wins, they are every more unhappy than they have been with their head coach; it’s almost like Ohio State and Michigan have switched their annual trajectories. I also spent some time reading A Walk on the Wild Side, which I am starting to appreciate more. I am not a fan of twentieth-century straight white male MFA writing, which is what this kind of is (look at me! my book will be taught in universities!) and I’ve never cared for (Hemingway comes to mind) but I’m starting to like it more. There’s a dark, noir undertone to it that I am appreciating, and now that the main character (Dove) is making his way to New Orleans now–well, it’s going to be a lot more interesting to me once the action moves here, which is the entire reason I am reading the book in the first place. We also finished off season two of Sex Lives of College Girls, whose second season didn’t live up to the first, but it was still enjoyable. Tonight we’ll probably go back to Three Pines and watch a movie; there was something Paul mentioned last night that he wants to watch but I’ve already forgotten what it was.

I felt remarkably rested and relaxed yesterday; the writing going so well had a lot to do with it, I am sure. I slept well again last night and feel rested again this morning–I really do like these lengthy weekends, and am going to miss them once they are over–so I feel confident I can bang out the word count i need to get done for today as well. Yay! So, I am going to do exactly the same thing I did yesterday; read this morning over my coffee, then take a shower and get cleaned up before diving into the next chapter I need to write.

As is my wont, I am setting goals for 2023 rather than making resolutions–and while this hasn’t been as successful for me as it should have been over the years (some goals remain the same, year after year after year), I still like goals better than resolutions. So, without further ado, here we go:

Get an agent

This has been at the top of my goals every year since i started setting goals rather than resolutions, which goes back to the beginnings of my blog, way back in December 2004. I have made running lists of potential agents to try for years, always adding someone new whenever I come across their information or someone being excited to be signed by one. Having an agent doesn’t mean a significant change to my writing or my earning potential or the possibilities of my career getting bigger, but none of those things are likely to happen without an agent: I am not getting signed to a major publisher like William Morrow or Random House unless and until I have an agent. I may never sign with one of those houses–I may never get an agent–but I also never really try, either. So, the goal isn’t necessarily to get an agent in 2023, but to at least make an effort.

Finish everything on deck

I have five novellas in some sort of progress, as well as two other books I am at least four or five chapters deep into. I want to finish all of these projects in 2023 and get them out of my working files. I don’t think I will ever finish every short story or essay I’ve begun over the years, but getting some sort of completion here would be really nice. I would love nothing more than to have a working first draft of both Muscles and Chlorine by the midpoint of 2023. I also would like to pull together a second short story collection, which would be incredibly cool (This Town and Other Stories). It would also be nice to get those novellas completed. It is very tempting to turn them all into novels–a couple of them might be able to be stretched out that way–but I know some of them simply do not have the depth or story potential to play out that way. The nice thing about novellas is the length is up to you; I know these stories are all too long to pare down to something readable and enjoyable for six thousand words or less; but some of them need to be longer than the twenty thousand words I was shooting for.

More short stories sent out on submission.

I really do need to finish some of these other short stories I have in progress to try to get them out on submission. I have over eighty stories in some sort of progress, with still others yet to be started and/or finished. I’ve not been doing so great with the short stories as I would have liked over the last few years. I have some really good ones to work on–there’s one I fear that’s going to end up being longer than a short story, because there’s more to the story than can fit in the confines of six thousand words or less, but then you also never know.

Clean like we are moving.

I really need to get rid of things that have accumulated over the sixteen or so years we’ve been living in this apartment. I need to clean out the storage attic and the storage unit; donate a shit ton of books to the library sale, and just in general rid the apartment of all this clutter that seems to be weighing us down and closing in on us. Part of this is my inability to rid myself of books once I’ve read them, but I’ve also become much more ruthless when it comes to pruning them–I still can’t believe I donated so many of my old Stephen King first edition hardcovers, and my Anne Rice first editions as well, but they were just collecting dust in boxes so what use were they? Paul and I set this goal–clean like we’re moving, which in other words means would you move this or trash this? The first few times I pared down the books it literally was painful, but I am getting better. And after being a lifelong book hoarder, well. you can’t just turn that off after decades of doing it.

Volunteer less of my time.

All due respect, I’ve done my time. I have volunteered relentlessly for the overall betterment of the writing community–whether it’s the mystery community or the queer writing community–for quite some time now. I write stories for free for charity anthologies all the time. I step up and judge awards because I think they’re important. I’ve served on the Mystery Writers of America and Bouchercon boards. But now that I’m older, I need to scale back. I don’t have either the time or the prodigious energy that I used to have, and while I’ve enjoyed all the volunteer work, something has to give. I just can’t do all the things that I used to do because things have changed: my day job takes more out of me physically, emotionally, and intellectually than it ever has before (the switch to working early mornings didn’t help); I tire out much earlier than I used to since my COVID situation last July and I can’t write or be productive or even read when I am bone-tired exhausted the way I am when I get home from work some nights. This also includes giving blurbs, I am sad to say; blurbing means reading the entire book, and I just don’t really have the time or mind-space to do much of that anymore; same with judging. I want my reading to be for pleasure or education for the rest of my life. This doesn’t mean I’ll always say no when asked, just that I am going to be more discriminatory. I need to be more jealous of my free time, and I can honestly say few people in the mystery community have done more volunteer work than me. I’d just like to start getting paid for working.

Take better care of myself.

The one-two punch of getting older and having COVID last summer has brought home very clearly to me that I need to take better care of myself and that physical things are just going to get harder. It’s been incredibly difficult over the last few years getting into a gym/workout routine with everything else I had to do plus the exhaustion thing; but the truth is physically I need to start working my body more–and the longer I go, the weaker my body gets and the harder it will be to get back into decent physical condition again. I also need to start paying more attention to my diet now than I am in my early soon to be mid-sixties–my diet needs to be healthier and I need to eat better. I weighed myself last week at the office and I am back up to 218; which is better than 220, but I had gotten myself down to nearly 200 at one point and I’d like to get back there. I don’t like this extra weight on me, and sure, maybe I can carry it and it would surprise people to know how much I actually do weigh, but I’m aware of it. And while it would be easy to think who cares, you’re almost sixty, you’re practically in the grave so why start depriving yourself of things you love at this age? But there’s a defeatist mentality there, a laziness speaking that is far too easy for me to go ahead and give into, and I don’t think that’s perhaps the wisest decision to make? I also need to get some more work on my mouth done–I’m tired of looking like an inbred hillbilly.

Read more.

It’s incredibly easy to come home and collapse into my easy chair and flip on Youtube videos–whether its football highlights, lists, music or military or European history, or reaction videos–it’s easy to just mindlessly lay there in the chair while watching endless videos, one after the other, about whatever subject catches my fancy. But I could read instead–and there’s plenty of nonfiction lying around the apartment. Over the past few days I’ve been reading either Bad Gays or Lost Heirs of the Medieval Crown by J. F. Andrews–about heirs to thrones that got supplanted by people with more spurious claims in the Middle Ages–or Holy Wars by Gary L. Rashba (about crusades and ancient wars in the Holy Land, going back to Biblical times); and there are plenty of other non-fiction books lying around here that I could get to more quickly if I read rather than watched Youtube videos. But at the same time, when I am exhausted, it’s almost therapeutic. I guess we’ll see how it goes, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to try to read history or other nonfiction while trying to rest, relax and decompress from a day in clinic.

Be more assertive and less self-deprecating.

In general, this is a good idea. I need to break the conditioning I was raised with, in which you never praise yourself and simply wait for others to notice and do it for you. No, this just doesn’t work and it’s not a good trait for a writer to have. I need to stand up for myself, my work, and my career because let’s face it, nobody else is going to do it for me.

New years can be daunting as they are not only full of potential for either good or bad but they are unknown. You can’t know what’s coming, so all you can do is be hopeful things will always work out in the end. I want to also try to be more positive, and try to enjoy the good things without fear of the inevitable bad things that will inevitably come along. I also need to get out of the mindset that enjoying good things that happen will trigger bad things to happen as punishment; I need to learn to navigate that line between self-confidence and arrogance, which isn’t an easy task.

And on that note, I am going to go read for a little while before i dive into today’s writing. Happy New Year, Constant Reader!

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

And here we are, on the final day of the year 2022. Happy New Year, I guess? It doesn’t feel like the year is turning, but everything has felt so totally out of whack since the 2020 Shutdown that it’s not a surprise, really. As I sit here bleary-eyed with my coffee trying to wake up for another thrilling day of writing and cleaning, it seems very weird to look back to a year ago at this time. I was on deadline then, too–and was way behind on that book, too (A Streetcar Named Murder, for the record), but other than that I don’t remember what my mood was like or what I was thinking about going into the new year. We were still in the midst of the pandemic (that hasn’t changed–what’s changed is it isn’t news anymore and everyone seems to be pretending it’s all over), and I know I wasn’t exactly going into 2022 thinking oh this is the year I’ll get the coronavirus! That did happen, and my ten-day experience with COVID-19 was bearable for the most part. I just had intense and severe exhaustion as well as the brain fog, which hasn’t entirely lifted. I still have no short term memory, and am struggling to remember things every day–which has made writing this book more difficult because I can’t remember small details and things that are kind of important. I also think being so scattered isn’t much help in that regard; I’ve never been able to handle getting a grip on things and have felt like I’ve been behind the eight-ball for the last three years, floundering and struggling to keep my head above water, and never confident that I had a handle on everything. It’s been unpleasant, really; I prefer to be better organized and to have things under some sort of manageable control, and this constant feeling that I am behind and will never catch up on everything has been overwhelming, depressing, and damaging.

I read a lot of great books this year–I was going to try to make a “favorite reads of the year” list, but as I went back through the blog for the last year looking at all the books I talked about on here, there’s no real way for me to quantify what were my avorite reads of the year. I managed to read both of Wanda M. Morris’ marvelous novels, All Her Little Secrets and Anywhere You Run; Marco Carocari’s marvelous Blackout; John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind; Carol Goodman’s The Night Villa, The Lake of Dead Languages, and The Disinvited Guest; Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway and The Woman in Cabin Ten; Raquel V. Reyes’ Mango, Mambo and Murder; Ellen Byron’s Bayou Book Thief; Rob Osler’s debut Devil’s Chew Toy; Mia P. Manansala’s Arsenic and Adobo; Kellye Garrett’s Like a Sister; Alex Segura Jr’s Secret Identity; Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden; Tara Laskowski’s marvelous The Mother Next Door; James Kestrel’s Five Decembers (which would be a contender for favorite read of the year, if I did such things); and of course several Donna Andrews novels as well. I am forgetting some great reads I truly enjoyed this past year, I am sure–I will kick myself later for not remembering I Play One on TV by Alan Orloff, for one example–but it was a year of great reads for me. I know 2023 will also be a great year for reading.

I also watched a lot of great television this past year as well, and again, I won’t be remembering everything and will kick myself later. If nothing else, it was a year of some amazing queer representation on television; this was, after all, the year Netflix not only gave us the wonderful, amazing, adorable Heartstopper but the equally charming and adorable Smiley (which you should watch, absolutely). It was also the year where Elité continued, but the shine is starting to go off the show a bit. I was very vested in their Patrick/Ivan romance, which they ended in this last season with Manu Rios, who plays Patrick, leaving the show at the end of the season along with his two sisters (spoiler, sorry), which was dissatisfying. I am looking forward to seeing what else Manu Rios gets up to in the future…we also enjoyed 1899, Andor, Ted Lasso, Sex Lives of College Girls, Peacemaker, The Sandman, House of the Dragon, Ozark, and so many other shows I can’t possibly begin to remember them all this morning. But I have no problem saying that without question my favorite show of the year was Heartstopper. Even just looking at clips on Youtube, or those “Ten Cutest Moments on Heartstopper” videos, always makes me feel warm and fuzzy when I view them. The soundtrack for the show was also terrific, with some songs so firmly engrained in my head with scenes from the show (one in particular, Shura’s “What’s It Gonna Be” always makes me think of that scene where Charlie comes running after Nick in the rain to give him another kiss, which is what was playing in the background). Wednesday was another highlight, a surprising delight when I was prepared to have my hopes dashed, and The Serpent Queen was also a lot of fun. We also enjoyed The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself, but it was cancelled after its first season, which was disappointing.

Professionally, it was a pretty good year in which I had three book releases: #shedeservedit in January and A Streetcar Named Murder in December, with the anthology Land of 10000 Thrills, thrown in for good measure in the fall. I sold some short stories that haven’t come out yet, as well as some that did this last year: “The Rosary of Broken Promises,” “A Whisper from the Graveyard,””The Snow Globe,” and “This Thing of Darkness” all came out in anthologies this year, with “Solace in a Dying Hour” sold and probably coming out sometime in the spring. I also sold another story to another anthology that will probably come out in the new year as well, and I still have one out on submission. In what was probably the biggest surprise of the year, last year’s Bury Me in Shadows was nominated for not one, but TWO Anthony Awards (Best Paperback Original and Best Children’s/Young Adult) which was one of the biggest shocks of maybe not just the year, but definitely one of the highlights of my career thus far. I lost both to friends and enormously talented writers Jess Lourey and Alan Orloff respectively, which was kind of lovely. I had been nominated for Anthonys before (winning Best Anthology for Blood on the Bayou and “Cold Beer No Flies” was nominated for Best Short Story), but being nominated for one of my queer novels was such a thrill–and to have it nominated in two different categories was fucking lit, as the kids would say. The response to A Streetcar Named Murder was an incredibly pleasant surprise; people seemed to genuinely love the book, which was very exciting and cool.

I traveled quite a bit this year as well–going to Murder in the Magic City/Murder on the Menu, Left Coast Crime, the Edgars, Sleuthfest, and Bouchercon. I went to Kentucky twice to see my family, which further fueled my love of audiobooks for long drives–on both trips I listened to Ruth Ware on the way up and Carol Goodman on the way back–and also did some wonderful podcasts and panels on-line, which was nice. We didn’t go to any games this season in Baton Rouge, but in all honesty I don’t know if I can hang with a game day anymore–the drive there and back, the walk to and from the stadium, the game itself–I would probably need a week’s vacation afterwards!

College football was interesting this season, too. This season saw the reemergence of Tennessee, USC, and UCLA to some kind of relevance again; the slides of the programs at Texas A&M, Florida, Oklahoma, Auburn, and Texas continued; and LSU turned out to be the biggest surprise (for me) of the year. Going into the season I had hopes, as one always does, but after two years of consistent mediocrity (with some surprise wins both years) they weren’t very high. The opening loss to Florida State was a surprise and disappointment, but at least the Tigers came back and almost made it all the way to a win. The blowout loss to Tennessee at home was unpleasant, certainly, as was the loss at Texas A&M. But LSU beat Alabama this season! We also beat Mississippi, so LSU was 2-2 against Top Ten teams this season–and I would have thought it would be 0-4. And 9-4 is not a bad record for a transitional year, with a new coach rebuilding the program. And LSU beat Alabama. The Alabama game will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium. It was incredibly exciting, and I still can’t quite wrap my mind around it or how it happened. It certainly shouldn’t have; LSU was simply not an elite-level team this past season, but what a job Brian Kelly did coaching in his first season in Baton Rouge. Did I mention that LSU beat Alabama this year? (And one really has to feel for Alabama, in a way; they lost two games by a total of four points on the last play of each game. Four. Points. That would probably be what I would call this season for Alabama: Four Points from Greatness. The LSU-Alabama game this year is definitely one of those that gets a nickname from the fan base, I am just not sure what it would be. The Double Earthquake Game? (The cheers when LSU scored in overtime and then made the two point conversion registered on the campus Richter scale) The Conversion Game? I don’t know what it will be named for all eternity, but it was an amazing game. I do think it also bodes well for the future for LSU. Will both LSU and Tennessee (which also beat Alabama for the first time in like fifteen years) be able to consistently compete with Alabama now? Has Georgia taken over as the SEC behemoth? Has the Alabama run ended? I don’t think so–they have an off year where they lose two or three games periodically (2010, 2019, 2022)–and they could bounce right back. next year and win it all again. You can never count them out, even in their off years.

As for the Saints, they swept Atlanta again this year, and that is enough for me.

I did write a lot this year, even though it didn’t seem like I actually did while the year was passing. I also worked on Chlorine and another project I am working on throughout the year, as well as the novellas, and of course, I was writing short stories and essays for much of the year. I also read a lot more New Orleans and Louisiana history, and I had tons of ideas for things to write all year long. I did make it to the gym on a fairly regular basis at the beginning of the year, but then it became more and more sporadic and after my COVID-19 experience, never again. I also injured my arm a few weeks ago–when I flex the bicep it feels like I have a Charley horse, so not good, but it doesn’t impact my day to day activities. I also had my colonoscopy at last this past year–the prep was horrific, and I am really dreading doing it again at sixty-five, should I make it that far.

Yesterday was a nice day. I was exhausted, and after my work-at-home duties were completed I did some chores–laundry, dishes–and I also spent some time both reading (A Walk on the Wild Side) and writing. I also watched the Clemson-Tennessee Orange Bowl last night before Paul got home from his dinner engagement and we watched a few more episodes of Sex Lives of College Girls. Today I am going to read a bit this morning with my coffee before getting cleaned up and diving headfirst back into the book. Paul has his trainer today and usually either goes to the gym to ride the bike or to his office to work for the rest of the afternoon, so I should be able to have some uninterrupted writing time, which will be lovely. And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve, Constant Reader, and I will check back in with you later.

You Better Move On

I woke up not feeling so hot this morning. There was a touch of fever, a lot of sinus, and just over ickiness. I did take a COVID test that came back negative–praise the Lord–but I am achy and not feeling myself, so I bit the bullet and called in sick. Yay. And then to add insult to injury, my Internet went out. Grrrreeeeeeaaaaattttt. I turned my phone into a Hotspot, and Cox is quite generously sending someone out today between 5 and 7 because unplugging it and resetting the modem simply isn’t doing the trick the way it is supposed to. In fairness, I think we’ve had this modem since we moved back into the Lost Apartment just before Christmas of 2006, so I suppose it has lasted a really long time. But it is still fucking irritating to risk a data overage on my phone simply because Cox has a shitty customer service mentality. I’d switch to another provider but…I’ve heard terrible things about all of them, so maybe this is yet another case of the devil you know. I expect Cox to suck, so it’s frustrating but not a surprise.

My Apple TV router is also getting up there in years, too. Probably will need to replace it sooner than I’d prefer as well. Heavy heaving sigh.

I feel a little better now than I did this morning–I took a Claritin and it seems to have helped some–but I still have stomach upset and everything feels a little more tired than it should. I also have a mild headache–it was a major one before I took the Claritin, so it’s sinus-related. Our weather has been weird the last few days–very humid but not super-hot, even coldish–so we’ve had a lot of foggy mornings and nights which are never good with my sinuses. So I am assuming I’ve developed yet another sinus infection (hurray!) which hopefully the Claritin will spare me the worst of. But at least I didn’t feel good this morning, so I was at home for the Internet shenanigans. Imagine if I had gone to the office, come home to this after their hours, and had to deal with it? Who knows when they would deign to come fix is? I probably would have had to call out for work on another day, so at least this is all going to be handled today.

Sigh.

I’ve spent part of the morning under my blanket in my easy chair reading Wanda M. Morris’ Anywhere You Run and Constant Reader, it is marvelous. It’s even better, I think, than her debut All Her Little Secrets and if I’m not mistaken, I believe the two books may actually be connected, which is super cool. I had the great pleasure of meeting Wanda this year, and she’s just as kind and warm and lovely in person as she is a talented writer, which is amazing.

I was feeling off yesterday–which I guess was the start of this whatever the fuck it is–and so I wrote for a while yesterday morning before collapsing into my easy chair around three yesterday afternoon. We watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which has been recommended to me by several people whose opinions I respect, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have hoped, predicated on the enthusiasm with which it was recommended to me. I do love Robert Downey Jr. (pre-Iron Man; I never cared for his Tony Stark but hey, congrats, it made you richer than you could have ever imagined) and I thought the story was clever. I don’t really care for the breaking of the fourth wall so much, but I also loved that it was sort of based on a Brett Holiday novel (i’ve never read Holiday; I should rectify that sometime but I am not really a huge fan of the tough-guy books that proliferated in the pulpy post-war era. I absolutely hated I the Jury, and there’s not enough money in the world to persuade me to read another Mickey Spillane novel, and I suspect his Mike Shayne books fall into that category–the hard-nose tough guy, sexy two-dimensional “broads” who are devious, and so on) and it did have a lot of clever things that I appreciated. We then moved on to watch another episode of Welcome to Chippendales, which is interesting but could be better, and last night we watched The Texas Killing Fields docuseries about the I-45 murders between Houston and Galveston, which I vaguely remember from when my parents lived in Houston. (I also thought it was interesting that the first batch of killings, mostly young girls, teenaged or younger, was going on at the same time the Candyman was killing teenaged boys in another part of Houston. Houston: serial killer capital of Texas, clearly.) I was dozing off during the docuseries, so I missed a couple of important pieces to the story, but it wasn’t hard to stay up on the story and get caught up when I’d wake. We also got caught up on Andor and some of the other shows we’re watching.

Okay, I am feeling a bit woozy again so I am going to go back to my chair and Wanda’s book. Hope you have a better Monday than me, Constant Reader.

For All We Know

The world shut down in March of 2020, in the face of a deadly new virus that was spreading around the world, and spreading quickly. It was a major paradigm shift; everything changed and the world would never be the same as it was before. As everyone locked down and adapted (or decided it was all a hoax and chafed against the intrusion), the question began being asked of writers: how will you handle the pandemic in your work, or will you address it at all? A lot of authors said that they wouldn’t address it, because they couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read about it, or revisit it again after it was over. I came down firmly on the side of “we have to address it”; pointing out that Hurricane Katrina was a paradigm shift for New Orleans and Louisiana authors, and we all had faced the same issue and question. Some writers chose not to deal with it at all, some stopped writing entirely, and others–like me–addressed it. I found it incredibly cathartic to write about the disaster by viewing it through someone else’s eyes, and of course, much of what Chanse saw and dealt with was taken directly from my own experience. Writing the book in some ways helped me to heal from the emotional trauma and deep depression I was experiencing, and I don’t think I would have possibly gotten over it had I not written it out of my system. I will undoubtedly deal with the pandemic in a Scotty book at some point–I already have the title for it picked out and a folder created to keep my notes and ideas in–but I am not quite there as yet.

Leave it to Carol Goodman to not only do it, but do it incredibly well.

“We’re here.”

Reed’s voice wakes me from the fitful sleep I’d fallen into somewhere north of Portland, the slap of wipers and the sluice of tires accomplishing what bourbon and sleeping pills had failed to do for the past two weeks. I open my eyes to a wall of sodden gray the color of wet cement. I can feel it pressing down my throat–

I cough.

Reed swivels his head toward me, blue eyes feverish in the gloom above his white surgical mask.

“I’m fine.” I reach for the water bottle and swig lukewarm water that tastes like copper. “The others–“

“Behind us. Crosby’s driving like an old woman, trying to protect his precious Volvo’s paint job. Honestly, for a supposed socialist he likes the trappings of the bourgeoisie.” He grins, his bones sharpening under sallow skin. With all the stress of the recent news and preparations to come to the island, neither of us has been eating much for the past few weeks.

“They could have gotten lost.”

I’ve been a huge fan of Carol Goodman’s since my first dip into her canon, The Sea of Lost Girls. I have since been dipping back into at times as a reward to myself; she’s easily moved into my top ten list of current writers and won’t be dislodged anytime soon. She’s won numerous awards–deservedly–and is, to me at least, the modern incarnation of the great Mary Stewart. Goodman’s novels are decidedly Gothic and extremely smart and literate, with strong characters that are sharply defined and well rounded that the reader can easily identify with as well as like or dislike.

The premise of The Disinvited Guest is that another pandemic has descended upon the world after the 2020 COVID-19 one. Wealthy Reed Harper has decided to quarantine on an island his family owns–Fever Island, off the coast of Maine and near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River–since his wife Lucy has residual health problems since the first pandemic. Invited along are his lesbian sister Liz, a painter; Nico, Liz’ partner, a photographer; Ada, an old college friend of both Reed and Lucy who works now as an ER nurse; and her husband, also a medical professional in hospital administration, Crosby–who’s a bit of a dick. The remaining character is Mac, whose mother was a housekeeper for the Harper family working on the island. Mac knew Reed and Liz as children, and now he lives on the island as a caretaker. Reed, who also suffers from OCD, has carefully planned out every last aspect of this quarantine adventure–and while the quarantine and safety is the primary issue at stake here, any reader of crime or suspense knows that having seven people living together on a remote, isolated island is the perfect set-up for personality clashes and battles and intrigues and, of course, for murder. How many horror films or murder mysteries are set in such locales? (Goodman of course is wise enough to make an Agatha Christie/And Then There Were None reference in the text; the geographic elements of the island–the Dead Pool, the bog, Dead Man’s Cove, etc.–also sound like something out of the Hardy Boys, and she acknowledges that several times as well.)

There’s also some excellent backstory. Fever Island is named this because during the Irish immigration period of the late 1840’s–the potato famine and typhus epidemic–the ships with ill passengers were sent to Fever Island to quarantine before being admitted into Canada. A makeshift hospital is set up on the island, nuns come out to operate it along with several doctors–including a Harper ancestor–and so there is also a makeshift cemetery on the island. There’s also another legend, going back even further than the quarantine days; the earliest settlers believed a woman was a witch and essentially buried her alive on the island. The story claims she placed a curse on the island and summoned the devil. This is enough of a horrible backstory to make easily the possibility of supernatural forces at work on the island completely believable, which only adds to the suspense. There’s also the backstory of Reed and Liz’s own experiences spending their summers on the island with their horrible father and alcoholic mother; Reed’s dead former girlfriend, who died on the island during the first pandemic, along with his parents; and of course the diary of Dr. Nathaniel Reed Harper, who details life on the quarantine island and the growing suspicion amongst the superstitious fever victims and a group of sailors stranded their by a shipwreck that the witch’s curse is haunting them and that maybe even one of their party has been possessed by the witch and has summoned the devil.

Ada and Lucy were best friends and roommates in college, with Reed as the third side of their triangle. Lucy has also written one well-received novel, but hasn’t written anything since…and her discovery of the diary begins to inspire her to write about the island. Goodman is quite excellent at weaving the multiple storylines and multiple time-lines–Lucy is flashing back to the original pandemic, which is what brought her and Reed together as a couple; the incidents from the 1840’s as revealed in Dr. Harper’s journal; and of course, what happened on the island during the original pandemic.

Strange things start happening once they are all safely ensconced on Fever Island, and of course there are the inevitable personality clashes, which amp up the tension and then, of course, the deaths begin. At first Lucy can’t help but wonder if the island is indeed cursed–but slowly begins to realize that there is a very clever murderer on the island pursuing a definite agenda, but who?

And I love how Goodman chose to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than setting the book during that shutdown, she instead chose to write about a future quarantine/shutdown, with the COVID-19 one in the distant past (ten years or so) but having a lot of impact on what is happening in the present.

I loved every minute and every word of The Disinvited Guest, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Mystified

Monday morning and all is quiet in the Lost Apartment. I am heading back into the office this morning–I have a lot of trainings to get done today, as well as plenty of my own day job work that needs to get finished–and then I hope to come home and get some work on the book done, as well as some cleaning up around here. I made dinner last night and I made chili in the slow cooker, so the sink is full and the counters a bit on the sloppy side. I feel well rested this morning, which is something I’ve noticed happens on Monday mornings now that I have shifted my work-at-home days again; when it was Monday I always somehow woke up tired every Tuesday morning and starting the week off being tired was always unpleasant, as it continued building until the weekend. I think I needed this past weekend to get rest, to be honest; I’ve been feeling a lot of fatigue lately. I’m also worried a bit about burnout, too–I am not feeling 100% this morning, to be honest, but my COVID test was negative, small victories–and I am wondering if it might not be my blood sugar. I’ve noticed lately that my blood sugar sometimes spikes and then wanes, and again, I have to wonder if that has anything to do with my eating habits and so forth. I felt hungry a lot all weekend, yet nothing sounded either appetizing or appealing to eat. I didn’t make dinner on Saturday–I was going to make Salisbury steaks–and so while the chili cooked yesterday I made the steaks. They were good–Paul didn’t have any, he waited for the chili–and then this morning again I felt like my blood sugar was low enough for me to be concerned about it. (the last time I had lab work done it was high; which reminds me, I need to have it done again soon.)

I worked on the book this weekend around my fits of fatigue and television watching; yesterday we watched House of the Dragon (enjoyed), The Serpent Queen (not one of the better ones), and Interview with the Vampire (I was rather disappointed with this episode, which is a shame; I loved how they were doing Claudia when they first introduced her but missed the mark with this one, methinks). We also started watching A Friend of the Family, which led me to remark at some point, “You know, the 1970’s really were awful for the most part, weren’t they? The clothes, the cars, the furniture, the home decor, the hair…everything was a style crime.” Watching this, it’s very hard to imagine that such a thing could happen–there seems to be this sense of innocence in non-urban areas (sorry, but Pocatello, Idaho doesn’t really count to me as an urban area, apologies to Idahoans) that lasted from the 1950’s through the 1970’s so things like this could happen. And while fathers and mothers were always deeply concerned about their daughters’ sexuality and keeping it locked down until they were “safely” married; it would never enter the minds of good Christian people that someone who went to church with them and was a close family friend (although there was some incredibly questionable behavior, and the ‘family friend’–played with just the right dose of charm and smarm by Jake Lacy–really crossed many lines) would be a child molester or a pervert or a sexual deviant; people were sooooo convinced back then that you could actually spot such a person because they were so vile and depraved it had to show; the character I find the most interesting is the family friend’s wife, who was clearly emotionally (if not physically) beaten down by her husband and clearly had what we now call ‘Stockholm syndrom’–that, to me, is the interesting story. How could you write such a story from her perspective and gain the reader’s sympathies and understanding?

Paul is leaving for slightly over a week on Friday and there’s no LSU game this weekend–there are some interesting games on this weekend, but nothing I actually need to watch; I can always check scores and watch highlights if I need to; the big conference games this weekend are Georgia-Florida and Tennessee-Kentucky–no need to watch either, other than they are rivalry games and thus one can never be sure of how might actually win the game; Florida and Kentucky certainly needs the wins more. How wild would that be if both undefeated teams in the East went down to defeat in the same weekend? So, I think I’ll spend the weekend writing, reading and cleaning. I don’t really need to hit the grocery store for much since Paul will be gone, either. We’ll see how much I can get done, and we’ll see how productive my evenings are going to be. Scooter will be much more needy than usual, but rather than just hanging out in my chair and watching tv with him in my lap I can actually watch television in bed when I get home at night…an interesting thought.

I am also enjoying my reread of The Haunting of Hill House, and my God, how much do I love the way Shirley Jackson writes? I think my holy trinity of women writers of dark fiction (I can’t really call Jackson a crime writer, although there’s some terrific overlap) are du Maurier, Jackson, and Mary Stewart. Stewart isn’t really a dark writer, though; I don’t know what to call them but those three women are probably, if I had to pick three, my holy trinity. The Haunting of Hill House is so melancholic and dreamlike; the word choices and the sentence structures and the paragraph construction things of absolute beauty. I also love the character of Nell (I wonder how much she influenced Stephen King in his creation of Carrie?) and how sad and lonely and despondent she is, particularly since she is so young (just past thirty). Then again, at the time it was written that was pretty much middle-age and she would have been considered a spinster.

The weather has turned into the beautiful fall we always enjoy in New Orleans; that we long for yet forget about during those long, hot, damp hideous days of summertime. I am also expecting some things in the mail; an anthology I contributed a story to a very long time ago is supposed to drop this month, and when I met with the Crooked Lane publicist at Bouchercon she told me I’d get my box of author copies in late Halloween; so I am resisting the urge to run to the post office every day just in case. It has been eighteen years since I had a hardcover release of any kind; it’s kind of lovely to have one again after all this time. I need to start posting about the new book a lot more once November 1 pops up on the calendar; as the countdown to the release date draws near I need to amp up the promotion. Does it work? I don’t know, to be honest, and that often makes it hard for me to want to make the effort at all.

And on that note, I need to get cleaned up and head into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will speak to you again tomorrow morning in the darkness of the predawn.

Can’t Go Back

And here we are on Wednesday again.

It’s really amazing to me how sometimes it feels like the weeks just fly past; I think a lot of it has to do with Monday being my work-at-home day instead of Friday. By the time I come into the office what feels like Monday is actually Tuesday, and then Wednesday I wake up stunned that we’re already in the middle of the week. Maybe I should go back to working at home on Fridays instead? It’s definitely a thought. Working at home on Mondays has really kind of fucked with my sense of time and day and date significantly; not having cable television anymore has also messed with that since I no longer really pay much attention to what day of the week any show I am watching actually airs–I just check my “up next” list on the Apple TV every day and see what’s ready to be watched again.

So weird how my television viewing habits have changed so much since the introduction of Netflix, marathons, and binge-watching. I mean, I used to subscribe to TV Guide, which I don’t think even exists anymore, does it? Ch-ch-ch-changes.

I had a restless night’s sleep last night, spending most of the evening waking up every hour or two all night before the alarm finally went off this morning, so I suspect I will spend most of my day fending off the creep of weariness into my body. It’s very dark outside this morning, too. Heavy heaving sigh. I imagine the time doesn’t change until after Halloween–it’s been getting later and later it seems every year–but this getting up in the dark is very unpleasant and not conducive to me waking up. The weather has remained cool in New Orleans this week, too–not humid, mid to high 70’s, windy but sunny at the same time–which has been a very lovely thing.

I also rewrote Chapter Four yesterday; I took the 1677 words from the other day that were absolutely abysmal, picked them apart and pulled them back together, and wound up with slightly over 3000 words on the chapter yesterday, which was a pleasant surprise, particularly taking into consideration how tired I was when I did get home last night, having run some errands after work. Paul didn’t get home until late, and so we caught this week’s Reboot (seriously, this show is hilarious) and one of Little Demon, an animated Netflix show whose premise is the main character is the anti-Christ; her mother had sex with Satan and now the child is 13 and coming into her powers. It’s slightly twisted, obviously, so we clearly are enamored of it; I’m curious to see where it goes in the rest of the season, plus it’s also short–half hour, tops–which helps somewhat since we are always trying to find something to kill a half an hour with before we got to bed every night, and we should probably check out Abbott Elementary at some point.

But it felt good to start writing the book again yesterday; and it actually flowed relatively easily, too–which is always a plus; it means the well hasn’t run dry quite yet and I can still potentially write books. Saturday the LSU game is at the absurdly early hour of eleven, which means I can probably do things after two when the game is over–like run errands or clean or write–or I can spend the day reading with the football games on the television in the background. I need to finish reading my book because i’d like to revisit some horror this month before the month ends. I got my second monkeypox vaccination yesterday, and now to get the fourth booster for COVID at some point as well as a flu shot. I am hoping that continuing to mask this winter will help me get through any year without getting sick–really, what a difference wearing a mask has made these past few years; other than actually having COVID this summer, I’ve not been ill at all since the pandemic started, really.

Which is something I’ve never really understood about anti-masking, really; why wouldn’t you do something simple that would help you not get sick? Not just with COVID but every other germ and virus out there? I’ll show you libtards by spending the winter dealing with colds and the flu! FREEDOM! (Not to mention that even saying “libtard” is offensive to disabled people–I’m not insulted when someone calls me that, frankly, because it says everything about the speaker and nothing about me–because it’s a derivative of the pejorative term “retard,” which we really shouldn’t be saying in 2022 anyway. Ah, yes, the United States in the twenty-first century, when the words liberty and freedom have been so bastardized and robbed of meaning that now it essentially means I can be a complete and total asshole and tell OTHER people how to live!

Heavy heaving sigh. And on that lovely note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader.

Silver Springs

My back still hurts today, and while at the moment it’s better than it was yesterday…it’s always best when I get up in the morning, so I don’t know how the rest of today is going to go. I have to go pick-up the groceries I ordered yesterday–which has me nervous–and I’ve even decided to wait on ordering Costco until tomorrow or Work-At-Home Monday. I was hoping it would be okay enough for me to be able to at least spend a few hours at the computer this morning writing; but taking yesterday off to just lie flat while alternating heat and cold (thank you, Eric Andrews-Katz, for reminding me to do that yesterday and not just use heating pads and generic Ben-Gay; I will be doing that today as well)was enormously helpful in the healing process. I was also taking pain killers yesterday to make myself more comfortable, and by the end of the day yesterday I felt–I really don’t know how to describe it, but I felt like all of my muscles and joints needed to be stretched, so I started doing that in my chair and it felt ever so much better before I went to bed last night. I didn’t read much of anything because the pain killers were fogging up my brain something terrible; but I did get my three-ring binders containing everything I am currently working on out to reread where I am at on everything. Scotty’s Chapter Three needs a revision (or a re-ordering of its scenes) to match up to the changes I made on the first two chapters; I know where this story is going now and I really like the decisions I made before Bouchercon to turn this into something worthy of a Scotty novel. Today, other than the making of the grocieries, is going to be mostly me doing the same as I did yesterday–lying prone in my easy chair unfolded out, alternating between heat and cold, while hopefully reading the new Donna Andrews while managing my pain with Aleve while college football plays on the screen. LSU plays Mississippi State tonight in Death Valley, so we’ll get some sort of idea of how well the Tigers have regrouped since that opening loss (last week’s blowout of Southern doesn’t really count–no offense, Southern). And tomorrow is Saints-Buccaneers, so I can swear at Tom Brady some more, which is always an enjoyable experience.

So, looks like today–other than the groceries, getting the mail, and getting as–is going to be another enforced day off. I am afraid of doing my usual “oh it feels better so I can do more things only to make it worse and last longer” thing, so much as I am loathe to fall even further behind on everything, I really don’t have much choice. Your back is not something you want to fuck with a whole lot, and the last thing I need at my age–at any age–is to continue having chronic issues with my back. I hurt it at the gym years and years ago, always assumed it was safe to go back before it actually was, and then consistently made things worse. This was when my serious 3 to 4 times per week workout routine was finally and completely disrupted, and I’ve never really been able to consistently attend the gym to workout ever since.

The Lost Apartment is also a disaster area, but…don’t push it, Gregalicious. Just relax and allow yourself the time to let whatever-the-fuck-it-is you did to your back to heal. You’ve got college football games to watch and a Donna Andrews novel to read, and in a worst case scenario you can lay back in your easy chair and use the laptop to do things like write or something…until of course Scooter wants to go to sleep in my lap.

I also overslept a bit this morning, but the benefit of that is I no longer feel exhausted, which is yet another step on the needed path for me to feel like Gregalicious again. I got the Bouchercon email this morning in which sixteen (!!!!) attendees have tested positive this far, but so far I’ve dodged that bullet again. I have wondered, with the exhaustion, but that second line keeps on not showing up on my tests so as far as I can tell, everything else is fine. (Excuse me for a moment while I stick a swab up my nose; seriously, at this point I’d rather stick my finger and use blood to run the test. Why can’t this be an oral swab like the HIV tests used to be like?)

We did get caught up on Bad Sisters last night, and then moved on to the series premiere of The Serpent Queen, with Samantha Morton as Catherine de Medici. The show is actually–at least so far–seems historically accurate (other than she married Henri duc d’Orleans in 1533 rather than 1536; that year is fixed in my head because that is also the year Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn and had her crowned), and of course, Catherine is one of my favorite historical characters of all time. She is often depicted in history as evil and cruel and malignant–but imagine loving your husband so much and enduring the humiliation of his disinterest in you while being utterly devoted to a woman twenty years older…and this goes on for 26 years before he dies. Wouldn’t you be a little warped? Ignored, dismissed, laughed at…and then with her husband’s death she becomes one of the most powerful women in Europe, trying to preserve the crown and an intact France for her sons during a time of almost constant religious and political strife. She fascinates me, much as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Anne Boleyn, Blanche of Castile, and several other great queens of history do…which again leads me to my idea of writing a history of the sixteenth century in Europe through the tales of the great and powerful women of that century, A Monstrous Regiment of Women. There was also a time when I wanted to write historical novels of political intrigue, and what better place to set such a series than during the second half of the sixteenth century in France, which was a time more akin to Game of Thrones than most periods (the Wars of the Roses is another; the dying out of the Capetian dynasty in France in the early fourteenth is another).

Yes, a series centered around one of Catherine’s Flying Squadron (beautiful women trained in the arts of seduction and eroticism, who took lovers strategically so they could spy on them for the Crown) during the period of 1570-1589 would be a lot of fun to write, and the research! What fun would all that reading be? Perhaps someday when I have more time and energy…ha ha ha, I somehow managed to type that with a straight face.

I’ve also always wanted to write a sixteenth century murder mystery where Robert Cecil hires someone to investigate the death of Amy Robsart in 1560–which jeopardized Queen Elizabeth’s throne within the first two years of her reign.

And that’s not even taking into consideration my retelling of The Three Musketeers from Milady de Winter’s point of view.

Yeah, I will probably never write anything more historical any further back than my lifetime.

And on that note, I am retiring to my easy chair with Donna Andrews and some ice packs. Have a happy Saturday, Constant Reader.

World Turning

Wednesday and Pay the Bills Day yet again. Huzzah?

Whatever, bill BASTARDS!

I also woke up this morning to a lovely review of A Streetcar Named Murder in Library Journal; what a lovely way to start the morning even before I’ve had my first sip of coffee. I can’t remember the last time I was reviewed there, if at all; I think my Scotty books with Kensington (the first three, in other words) were reviewed by LIbrary Journal, but it’s also been a hot minute since the release of Mardi Gras Mambo–Fat Tuesday, 2006, to be exact–so I don’t think it’s too beyond if I don’t remember.

Yesterday was a very busy day at the office; we were short-staffed during walk-in testing to I had to pitch in and help out, which put me behind with my appointments and got me out of there later than I usually get out of the office. I’d planned to run uptown to get the mail, but I was pretty worn down by the end of my shift (oh, yes, everyone showed up for their appointments as well, which never happens; there’s always at least one no-show every day) and so decided simply to drive straight home, especially since there was inclement weather; the air felt like with maybe one more degree of humidity the air would turn to mist or water or something–which is par for the course in late August in New Orleans. I always forget, from year to year, how dreadful late August can be and that the heat/humidity generally doesn’t break until about a week after Labor Day. It’s been so miserably hot for so long already this year that it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the summer heat lasted all the way until October this year. I didn’t write at all yesterday either, because when I got home I was drained, as I said. I didn’t even have the energy to do the dishes or anything around the house–which of course made Scooter enormously happy, since i just collapsed into my easy chair and made a kitty lap-bed for him almost as soon as I changed out of my work clothes. I’d slept well Monday night–I did again last night–but like I said, sometimes my clients require a lot of assistance and yesterday was one of those days, so I was tired by the time I got out, and it was later than usual, too.

I like it when my clients require assistance from me. I mean, it’s my job, and I like knowing when the appointment is over that I’ve helped them in some way–whether it’s easing their mind, helping them strategize how to reduce their risk of infections, and giving them a plan for what to do if they think they’ve put themselves at risk. It was also a pleasant reminder of how and why I love my day job. Maybe one of these days I’ll talk about my day job; maybe on my next work anniversary, this coming January when it will mark eighteen (!!!) years of my employment there.

I did watch Rafa play his US Open match last night; having Serena retire after this tournament made me also recognize that soon he, Roger Federer, and probably Novak Djokovic as well as Andy Murray will all be retiring from the sport. It’s the end of an era–an era of giants in tennis. Will we ever have a span like this, with so many great top-tier players in the sport ever again? Between them all–Serena, Venus, Roger, Rafa, Djoker, and Andy–they account for over 100 grand slam titles since 1999. That’s fucking incredible, especially when you figure there have only been about 172 titles awarded in that same time period. That’s pretty fucking impressive.

But I slept very well last night, and feel rested this morning. I don’t want to jinx anything but I’ve been consistently getting good sleep pretty regularly now, and I think it’s changing my perspective. I know having COVID changed something in my brain–I know when I came out of it I felt more rested than I had in I don’t know how long, and my brain had kind of reset. My memory is still shot–I asked a co-worker a question yesterday that I already knew the answer to but had completely forgotten which resulted in a very weird look and you knew that already and of course, once I’d heard the answer I was like d’oh, you’re right, I did know that, sorry. But I feel better emotionally, if that makes any sense, and I feel like whatever malaise/funk or whatever you want to call it that I’ve been in since the pandemic shutdown was finally lifted after I actually had the goddamned plague.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

Monday Morning

And here we are on another work-at-home Monday.

It has been quite a while since I managed the kind of word count that I did yesterday. I got up at seven yesterday morning, wrote my morning blog entry and then finished writing about how my novel Sorceress came to be (I am gradually working my way through all of my books), started another entry on Lake Thirteen (still to come), and then went to work on my Scotty book. I banged out Chapter Three, and then moved on to another project I am working on for a friend; I was writing a chapter of that book per week to send on to him but it went off-track and I knew it. So, I had to go back and reread those first four chapters that are already completed to see–and the fix was so much easier than I had been fearing, with the result that rather than actually fixing the problem, I simply made notes on how to fix it for the binder where I keep the printed pages (I do this with every book the last few years or so; it’s just easier to print it out, three-hole punch it and put it in a binder where I can access it easily and make notes whenever necessary). So I wrote Chapter Five of that project, bringing today’s word count to six thousand, not counting the blog entries. Whew, did my shoulder hurt once I was done for the day, but I actually felt like I earned the rest of the day off.

So, overall it was a pretty good weekend. I am working at home today with lots of data to get entered before I can take off my spice-mining helmet and head to the easy chair to relax. Labor Day is this weekend, which means it’s also Southern Decadence in New Orleans, and I haven’t really checked the schedule to see what I am going to have to do–if anything–for the day job this weekend. Next week we’re off to Bouchercon, which I am looking forward to; it’ll be lovely, even if smaller than it usually is. It’s the first in-person one since Dallas in 2019 (I still swear sometimes that LSU had the best football season of all time in 2019 and that broke the world) and there will be people I’ll get to see that I haven’t seen since St. Petersburg in 2018. My schedule is already filling up; I had to create a day by day schedule of where I have to be and what I have to do and dates I’ve made with people already (to avoid double booking as well as to keep track); it’s going to be hectic, and I also bet I am not going to get to sleep a lot because of my hotel room insomnia issues, which makes the trip even more tiring and draining. And then I get to come back and go to work at the office all week. Yay.

I’ve done a lot of thinking this summer in those rare moments when I have some time to sit and think about things–I really don’t get to do this as often as I should; I am thinking that maybe once every three months I just need to take a three day weekend and go stay in a hotel by myself somewhere–maybe do some exploring of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, I don’t know–to take stock of my life, evaluate where I am at and where I want to go, and what do I need to do to make the things I want to happen for me actually, you know, happen. The nine-day bout of COVID, with its exhaustion, fatigue and continual brain fog, forced me to not work, to not do much of anything other than trying to just stay on top of my emails. The forced rest actually gave me time to deconstruct my life and everything I do and all of my commitments, and recognize some things about my life and what I want out of it. One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result; I’ve been doing just that for quite some time now. I’ve missed a lot of opportunities over the years with my writing career–and while I am certainly of the mindset that everything happens for a reason and grabbing on to one of those opportunities might have changed my life in ways I cannot conceive, making it entirely possible that my life could be worse than it is now–one of the primary reasons I adopted the old “no regrets about the past” mantra–but I am getting old and many of those opportunities may never present themselves again. Now, I am at the point where my energies and abilities are growing more limited, yet the demands on my time, energy and ability don’t ever seem to ease up or abate in any meaningful way. I’ve made some decisions about my life and my future going forward; I also feel like they are the right ones to make and my mind is made up. (There are few things I find more annoying than making a decision and having that decision questioned, or having people try to talk you out of it. I rarely, if ever, change my mind once it’s definitively made up.)

I need to make writing a major priority again in my life. Yesterday it felt marvelous to get up in the morning, drink some coffee, and then sit down at the computer and start writing. I don’t know if my Scotty book is coming along well or not–it could be shit; and first drafts are usually pretty awful anyway–or if the other project is working or not, but it literally was so satisfying to sit at the computer and just create for hours. When I was finished for the day, too, I felt like I’d actually accomplished something and I liked the feeling. If I write a chapter of the other project every week while still managing to get two or three chapters of Scotty done every week, the Scotty will be finished on deadline and the other will have a completed first draft in another fifteen weeks. Juggling two completely different books and two entirely different styles is going to be a challenge, but I’ve always been about challenging myself when I write. (Even if it doesn’t seem like it.) I’ve also really been enjoying revisiting my books and remembering where the ideas came from, what I was trying to do with the book and story and characters; I hope those blog entries are entertaining. But…if they aren’t, you can always skip them, Constant Reader. I won’t mind. I’m also trying to write the book entries slowly, take my time with them, not write them all in one burst in one sitting the way I do the daily “this is what I am doing” entries.

I suppose I’ve always used this blog incorrectly. I probably should use it to do giveaways of copies of my books or engage with readers more, or turn it into a writing advice blog or something like that; develop a plan for it and stick to it rather than just pantsing it every morning. But that’s how I’ve always done it, and maybe when I’ve retired and don’t have to get ready for work every morning (the blog is part of my waking up to go to work process) I can take it another direction. Ah well, that’s about four years into the future, so I can worry about it then–if I even live that long.

We also binged Bad Vegan last night, which was insane but interesting, and of course episode 2 of House of the Dragon, which was markedly better than the first episode. (I did laugh at the opening credits of Episode 2, which weren’t included in episode one…reusing the Game of Thrones theme and using the same kind of “model” assembling itself was an interesting choice.)

And on THAT cheery note, I am heading into the spice mines.