I Love You For All Seasons

I really really love my life.

Sunday morning in the Lost Apartment, and my sleep schedule appears to have snapped back to normal. I slept decently last night–not as decently as I was sleeping in New York, for some reason, but at the same time I was worried that my sleep patterns were going to need to be reset once I got home and that would be problematic–and feel pretty decent this morning, although my coffee doesn’t taste right (which is concerning, obviously; loss of taste is a symptom of the dreaded COVID-19 but I decided to snack on something and I can taste it, so I’m not sure what the deal with the coffee is this morning; it tastes watery to me). I started doing laundry last night (unpacking the suitcases directly into the washing machine) so I have to get that finished today, and there are some other tedious chores I need to get done. I also need to make groceries and go to Costco at some point.

The flight home was uneventful, but you could see the differences between the red and blue parts of the country in evidence: LaGuardia Airport almost everyone was masked, no one was in Nashville. But everything was on time, our bags arrived, the shuttle to the parking lot came almost immediately, and we were able to get home within slightly more than an hour after our flight landed. I miss Scooter, of course; we can’t pick him up until tomorrow from the kitty spa so the Lost Apartment feels very strange not having him bitching at me for food or cuddles every so often. After the inevitable re-acclimatization to being home, we watched two episodes of Ozark, which is heading for its finale before retiring for the evening for bed. I am going to hate finishing Ozark, a show I’ve loved from the beginning for its intricate plotting and exceptional character development. Today I’ve got to dig through the emails and start making lists and getting shit done. I need to finish this short story, I need to make a lot of plans, and I need to get my life and career kickstarted. New York was lovely, as always, and it was probably one of the best trips I’ve had in a very long time. (Not much competition, I have to confess, but still.) Because I slept so well the entire time I was gone I didn’t come home exhausted, and all I am really experiencing this morning is “I flew yesterday” fatigue of a bit. But I am feeling just as motivated as I was feeling while I was up there, and it is lovely to be back staring at my enormous computer screen again (note to self: make eye appointment stat) with something other than dread and that horrible overwhelmed feeling. Sure, I have a lot to do, but let’s face it–I can do it.

I finished reading Mango, Mambo, and Murder on the flight from LaGuardia to Nashville (chef’s kiss, Raquel; more on that later) and then started reading Carol Goodman’s debut novel, The Lake of Dead Languages, originally published twenty years ago. I’ve become a big fan of Carol’s and need to read more of her canon; I’ve loved everything she’s written that I’ve read and this book is no exception. (If you’re not reading Carol Goodman, shame on you and correct that immediately) She is also as delightful in person as she is on the page–I met her at St. Petersburg Bouchercon at the HarperCollins cocktail party, and I fanboyed all over the place and I regret NOTHING. I’m also looking forward to digging into more of the TBR pile as well as some of the new additions I picked up off the book table after the banquet. I also read Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not while I was on this trip (more on that later), so my reading mojo seems to be back; I think I am going to try to have at least an hour set aside every day to read. I also have to read Ellen Byron’s Bayou Book Thief before our bookstore event in a few weeks. Such an odious chore! Anyway, the Goodman is fantastic, as I knew it would be, and am enjoying the hell out of it.

But as I reflected in my easy chair last night while watching Youtube videos about Heartstopper (more on that later; but I am obsessed with that show; and want to watch it again), I’ve been incredibly lucky with my life and last week was a very strong reminder of that. I think, in some ways, this past week in New York snapped me almost completely out of the pandemic funk I’ve been in since the beginning and as I said the other day, I feel like me again. This trip had a lot to do with it, for sure. It’s lovely when you can get some clarity, and it was lovely that I was able to travel and get some rest and not be tired all the fucking time while I was away. I am hopeful that will be an exciting new trend for me going forward: sleeping well while not at home. One can hope and dream, at any rate–but that’s not the right attitude to have, and I think that’s been a lot of the problem over the last few years; my attitude has been negative about everything and that’s not helpful or workable. Here’s hoping those days (well, years) of a poor attitude are in the rearview mirror.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. I have a lot on my plate and I need to start cleaning it so I can make another trip to the buffet of life and load ‘er up again. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

I’ve Found Someone of My Own

Ah, Tuesday, and so much to get done. Heavy heaving sigh.

What else is new? I am trying my hardest not to give in to that overwhelmed feeling I am currently experiencing this morning; I even woke up before the alarm, but while still a bit on the groggy side, I must confess I actually feel rested this morning. We’ll see how long that lasts, but I hope to be able to ride that feeling through the day and get a lot done; at the very least, check things off the list (which is really growing and more than a little out of control). I worked on my story a bit last night–Paul was out having dinner with a friend–and also managed to finish Eli Cranor’s Don’t Know Tough, which I have a lot of thoughts about; I just have to get them cleared up in my head and maybe digest them a bit more. I really enjoyed the book, if you’re wondering; it’s very well done and tightly, beautifully written, with more than a few hints of Megan Abbott, Daniel Woodrell, and some Kelly J. Ford tossed in for good measure. It’s definitely an excellent addition to the canon of Southern rural noir, that’s for sure.

I now have to decide what to read next, and that’s not going to be easy. There are some other amazing and well-reviewed and award-nominated debuts still in my TBR pile. (DAMN, I could have made that a project: The Debut Novel Extravaganza!)

I did some work, as I said, on the short story yesterday; it’s still nowhere near a complete first draft but that’s okay; it will get there eventually, and there’s always this weekend (I am going to be deeply panicked this weekend, pushing to get a lot of things finished before heading off to New York next Tuesday) but that’s okay; I don’t mind. I have to only work on Monday next week, and then have the rest of the week off to travel and do the Edgar banquet and everything else I have to do while I am in New York next week, but even just thinking about it makes me feel very tired. Heavy heaving sigh. But there’s naught to be done but to start tackling the list, is there? After all, ignoring the list only makes it grow exponentially larger…as I have often learned to my great dismay.

So, I feel good this morning. We’ll see how this day plays out as it goes forward, won’t we? I will try very hard to not allow myself to get sidetracked and distracted as I go through my day at the office; I will also need to swing past the mail on my way home from work today–I think more books are waiting for me there, to be completely honest–and when I get home I am going to try to keep my head down, make a protein shake, and spend a few more hours with my short story. I am also getting very excited about my trip to New York next week–although the infection numbers there are not a little unsettling, and the lifting of the mask mandate on airplanes by an unqualified judge isn’t very pleasing for me, either. But I can take rapid tests along with me so Paul and I can test each other every day, and of course, I will definitely have to take one before I return to the office the following Tuesday.

I am trying not to think about the potential irresponsibility of going on this trip, to be honest.

But overall, I think I’ve recovered from the trip to Left Coast at long last–it took longer than necessary–and hopefully I have this New York trip planned perfectly so that there will be recovery time before I have to return to the office.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you some more tomorrow.

Boogie Fever

In March of 2020, something I had only been vaguely aware of became something I was acutely aware of, seemingly overnight: the world, in fact, shut down in the face of a virulent and potentially deadly disease that was communicable. I went to work one morning and all of our appointments had been cancelled; they’d put up shields everywhere in the testing rooms and at the front desk; and after we were there for about a couple of hours the word came down from the chief medical officer: we were shutting down. It happened so fast my head spun. Within days the Tennessee Williams Festival was cancelled, the Edgar banquet was in jeopardy, and false information was spreading even more quickly than the virus. I also remember thinking that the measures we were taking as a country were so drastic that “surely it would be over in a few weeks.”

Ah, naivete.

Stressed out and concerned about everything and everyone, I did what I always do in stressful times: I turned to books. And, as is my wont, I decided to read about plagues. I got down my copy of Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror to read the bubonic plague chapter again; I have a copy of a book called The Black Death (whose author I cannot recall) that I also read; I revisited The Stand by Stephen King (an all-time favorite of mine); Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice; Camus’ The Plague; and even got down Katherine Anne Porter’s short story collection to reread “Pale Horse Pale Rider.” I was, as you can obviously tell, interested in seeing how previous plagues had been dealt with, survived, and the changes they wrought on civilization and society. I also wondered how to write about the pandemic (it not being my first pandemic, either; I always felts queers of a certain age were a little better prepared for the coronavirus outbreak than the rest of the world because we’d already been through HIV/AIDS), and if I would eventually; I wrote a short story called “The Flagellants” which I hope to publish someday somewhere, probably in a short story collection of my own, and even came up with an idea for a Scotty: Quarter Quarantine Quadrille.

But I was also seeing people saying they wouldn’t read fiction set during pandemic times; and other authors shying away from it. I kind of shook my head but understood; I remember how New Orleans writers didn’t want to deal with Hurricane Katrina afterwards–I certainly didn’t when I was living through the aftermath–but we all eventually came around to writing about it. Even if it’s fiction, I feel like we need to have documentation of what it’s like to go through things like hurricanes and pandemics and other paradigm shifts that change the world as we used to know it before the shift.

This past week I started reading an advance copy of the new Chris Helm book, Child Zero, and finished it yesterday–and yes, it’s a pandemic story, and no, it’s not about COVID-19…but what it is, is one hell of a read.

Pike and his men reached the encampment’s southwest gate at precisely 3:15 a.m.

Twelve minutes earlier, their sleek black SUV’s–three in total, armored, tinted, and stripped of emblems, license plates, and VINs–entered the Lincoln Tunnel in Weehawken, New Jersey, having passed the darkened tollbooths without slowing. Two minutes after that, they emerged beneath the murky waters of the Hudson River in Midtown Manhattan and zigzagged until they reached Eighth Avenue.

The stoplights blinked yellow in all directions. They encountered neither traffic nor pedestrians. Three years ago, Pike thought, these streets would’ve been bustling–even at this time of night. Now, thanks to the citywide curfew, they were empty save for police cruisers and sanitation crews.

The forer rolled lazily through intersections, or idled nose-to-tail beside one another so their drivers could converse. The latter clung to the side of tanker trucks in hazmat suits, or wandered two-by-two with smaller canisters strapped to their backs spraying bus stops, subway stations, and other public spaces with disinfectant foam. Fresh from the nozzle, it was enough to make your eyes water, but within minutes it dissipated to a lacy film that turned to fine white dust when touched, and smelled like some fragrance chemist’s idea of clean.

My assumption is that smell was either lemon or pine, or a combination of both?

Child Zero is, more than anything else, a rapid-paced thriller about a future world in which antibiotics have become useless; a virus has spread throughout the world rendering them (I won’t go into the technical details here; it’s explained much better within the pages of the novel and I am no scientist) ineffective in stopping infections or bacteriological diseases of any kind. A cut or a scratch can literally lead to death, and the world has clamped down into an authoritarian society that is even more frightening to contemplate than the pandemic itself. Would this be considered a science thriller? I’m not sure how you would classify this book within the world of crime fiction; it’s definitely a page turning thriller (once I got going yesterday there was no way I was putting it down until I reached the end), and kind of reminded me of Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain, only better (The Andromeda Strain scared the shit out of me when I read it as a teenager a gazillion years ago); Chris Helm is a better writer than Michael Crichton at his best, and it’s amazing what a difference sentence structure, word choices, and intense character development can make in a thriller. Focusing on a pair of cops, one white male and one Muslim woman, who get drawn into an investigation into a mass shooting event at a quarantine camp in Central Park (“Park City”), their investigation soon runs afoul of powerful people, within the government and without; Jacob Gibson is soon put on leave but soon they are witness to another mass death event; and find themselves helping a young illegal immigrant, twelve-year-old Mateo–who is the target everyone is looking for.

You see, all the murder victims in Park City were, surprisingly enough in a time of pandemic, completely healthy–which makes no sense. Somehow, Mateo is the key to everything…and time is running out because Jacob’s four year old daughter is sick.

This is a non-stop thrill ride from start to finish, but what makes it better than your average thriller is not just the timeliness of the story but the fact that the characters aren’t two-dimensional Hero, Sidekick, and Target, the way they so often are in thrillers. They have interior lives, are sharply drawn, and you care about what happens to them–which, to me, is perhaps the most important part of a thriller (and why so many thrillers, in my opinion, miss the mark).

Get it pre-ordered if you haven’t already. It’s truly terrific.

No Matter What Sign You Are

Happy Mardi Gras! Everywhere else it’s just Tuesday.

It’s a beautiful day and I feel rested this morning. Granted, I’ve felt rested every morning for the last six or seven days upon arising only to run out of proverbial steam and become exhausted by the late afternoon–yesterday was another one of those; once I ran my errands and did my work I was burned out and worn out by five pm; there was no Orpheus for us last night–so we’ll see how things go today. Ukraine still seems to be standing this morning, which has been on my mind non-stop these last few days since the invasion started, and I really need to block that out. I’ve been thinking a lot these last few days about the other places in the world being visited by the horrors of war and oppression (the Uyghurs in China, Yemen) and how those stories aren’t (or weren’t) being covered with the same kind of blanket 24/7 reporting. That saddens me, as it does send the signal that Americans don’t care about Uyghurs or Yemenis, but do care about white Ukrainians.

Even when it comes to foreign policy, we can’t escape racism, can we?

Today is a day off, obviously and I am going to take full advantage of that. I am going to try to finish writing that story this morning–it’s been a struggle–and I am going to be productive and effective today; which means closing social media completely and only checking in periodically when I take a break from working. The house is a mess, filing needs to be done, and I am going to use today as an organizing/writing/get caught up day. I am going to not bother with emails this day because that is exhausting and I don’t want to get off track. I don’t hear either Zulu or Rex down at the corner–I’ll probably wander down there at some point–probably when I am barbecuing lunch–to get an idea of crowds and so forth.

Paul and I watched Toy Boy last night after he got home from work–I was actually half-dozing in my easy chair when he got home–and we have only two episodes left. It’s very strange and different this season from the last; there’s a new villain (and he is sexy as fuck) and the restructuring of the corrupt wealthy people who run the city in order to deal with this new threat has been interesting. Lots of sex and nudity, lots of male strippers in bikinis, but some also seriously strange side subplots that indicate that the producers and writers may not have a real idea of what they are doing. The gay couple from season one is hardly in this at all, and their relationship doesn’t make any sense this season at all; them meeting and falling in love while dealing with rejection and mental illness and disability was quite powerful in season one; this season they aren’t doing much of anything and are hardly in the show at all, which is disappointing.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and while I am always sad to see Carnival end, this year was a bit bittersweet. I only went out to King Arthur to see friends; we went to Muses to get Paul’s shoe (mission accomplished) and I went to Iris on Saturday; a significant difference from our usual “out there every night” type parade season. But I never felt entirely comfortable out there in the crowds–it’s going to take a while before I stop thinking everyone is contagious–and of course, this year was a more difficult one for Paul with his events at the end of this new month; people having to cancel because of nervousness about traveling, etc. I always look forward every year for the festivals to be over–I worry about Paul’s long hours and stress levels–but I think this year more than any other year I really want to get to April intact. I tested myself for COVID this morning and I am not infected; I will test myself again tomorrow before I go into the office just to be certain, and probably will again this coming weekend. I always wear masks in public anyway, so even if I am contagious the odds of giving it to anyone else are decreased; and I wash my hands (or use hand sanitizer) a lot. But I will be really glad and happy once the threat has finally passed, you know? I don’t know if this is how we are going to be living from now on, or if work is going to continue to change or evolve or go back to what it was before the pandemic (which I rather doubt); everything is still uncertain, and uncertainty isn’t something humans–especially this one–cope with very well.

And on that note, I am going to get cleaned up and get to work. Happy Mardi Gras, everyone!

He’s My Sunny Boy

Friday and working at home. I don’t have to return to the office until Wednesday. I don’t know if I am going to attend any of the parades tonight, but I will most definitely attend Iris tomorrow, and Orpheus on Monday. Sunday is a madhouse out on the corner, with four parades running and the last two (Thoth and Bacchus), so Paul and I will sometimes go out for the earlier ones–but it’s so crowded by the time Thoth comes down the avenue we can’t stand it so we come inside. It’s weird. I intellectually know that it’s probably not a good idea to go out there–no one masked, everyone drinking and in close proximity to each other–and if I get sick I have no one to blame but myself. I still go back and forth on it–there’s a pandemic! But it’s Carnival!–so I may end up not attending rather then severely curtailing my parade attendance (I certainly don’t ever want to get Bad Carnival Karma); we’ll see how it goes.

I did spend some time last night filing, cleaning and organizing so I don’t have to do any of that this weekend. I have a short story to finish by Tuesday, a thousand emails to answer, another thousand tp generate (you think I’m kidding; I quite literally am not) and I’d like to get the floors done. I also have to run some errands at some point today–mail and make groceries (not much, just to get through the rest of the weekend)–and I also don’t have to go back into the office until Ash Wednesday (thank you, Fat Tuesday paid holiday), so I am hoping to get caught up on all kinds of things that will help ease off the pressure I feel like I am constantly under. One of today’s chores is to make that updated to-do list I’ve been meaning to get written all week, and to try to gather all my scribbled notes and idea scattered over various notebooks and legal pads compiled into one place. Once I get this short story finished, I am going to start working on Chlorine again–the goal is to have a workable first draft by the end of March, fingers crossed–but it’s going to be a shorter book, fast-paced with machine-gun like word rhythms. I am also becoming more and more fond of my main character–a not particularly talented but incredibly hot and sexy closeted film actor, cynical about using his face and body to get ahead because he is really only out for himself…understandable, given the climate of the times and his backstory–and creating him is probably the most fun I’ve had creating a character since, well, Scotty.

But he ain’t nothing like my Scotty. At all.

I also need to start pulling together the various threads of Mississippi River Mischief together; figuring out the various subplots to gel around the main story of the book, and I also have to map out Redemption Parish a bit more than the amorphous bounds I’ve already given it. I think it first appeared in Murder in the Arts District–no, not entirely correct; it was where my story “Rougarou” was set, and I think that was my first time writing about Redemption Parish and the town of Bayou Shadows–and I know The Orion Mask was also set there. I should probably go through everything and make notes for the sake of continuity–ha ha ha, just checking to see if you’re asleep–but yes, I think I originally envisioned Redemption Parish as being further upriver than where I want it to be for this book; I’ll definitely have to recheck Arts District and The Orion Mask to get a better idea of what I wrote and where I placed it so I can figure out how to finagle moving it and how to justify it…but….this is a different series than Arts District, and Orion was a stand alone, so…I definitely can get away with moving the parish if I need to. (As much as I want my books to all be connected together in some amorphous way–a la Stephen King’s Maine–I can also look at Scotty and Chanse and every other New Orleans thing I’ve written as different universes, like a multi-verse; so I can use characters from across all the books as well as places, but it’s a different world.

I also tend to worry about things no one else notices in my work, so there’s that.

But it wouldn’t hurt me to start a reread of the Scotty series. I am having trouble focusing on reading these days–it comes and goes–and so why not reread the Scotty books? Why not spend some time putting together the ultimate Scotty Bible, so I have an easy reference to check things? This actually sounds like a good idea, and it’s been so damned long since I wrote the first books I probably wouldn’t even remember who the killer was…so it would almost be like reading something new? And it could help put me back into the Scotty mindset. (Also, for the record, Mississippi River Mischief is set in the spring after the Christmas of Royal Street Reveillon, which will make it spring 2019. The next Scotty will be Twelfth Night Knavery, set just after Christmas 2019–January 2020–followed by French Quarter Flambeaux (Mardi Gras 2020) and finally Quarter Quarantine Quadrille, April 2020. So, the plan is for there to be at least four more books in the series, if I live that long. But I also reserve the right to change my mind and discard any of these books along the way–but this is what I am currently thinking.

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

I’ll Try Something New

Yesterday was not only Work-at-Home Friday, but also one of the rare days where I never finished my blog entry for the day. I got up earlier than usual–part of my plan for days when I don’t have to go into the office early is to get up early anyway, with the weekend (like this morning) designated as sleep-in days where it doesn’t matter. I had to do a visit with a college fiction class–I’m not sure whether it was a writing class or a short fiction class, to be honest–over ZOOM about my story in Josh Pachter’s anthology The Beat of Black Wings, which was themed as crime stories based on Joni Mitchell songs. (My story was “The Silky Veils of Ardor”, for the record) That was nice, and then I did some condom packing before I had to go into the office for a meeting with the new head of my department at the office (another transition I have to get used to, not easy for someone who easily falls into routines and ruts) before returning home for some data entry work before Paul got home. I was drained last night from unusual Friday activities, so I just settled in to wait for him to come home while starting to watch this season of Real Housewives of Orange County (I’ve become ambivalent about these shows which I used to love; but that’s a topic for another time). Paul got home in time for the LSU-Alabama gymnastics meet (LSU won, GEAUX TIGERS!), after which we watched the season finale for Peacemaker (which was terrific) and then watched the first episode of Reacher, which we both loved (Alan Ritchson is perfect, an excellent cast, great production values, and good writing; what more can one ask for? We’re all in on Reacher). There were parades last night, but I was tired and worn out and I am also kind of iffy about parade attendance….but I do have at home COVID tests, so I can at least self-test if I do go to the parades before I go into the office as Typhoid Mary. There are parades all day today, starting at one.

So, this means St. Charles Avenue will be closed by noon, and I will be trapped inside my neighborhood essentially until King Arthur passes tomorrow.

Today I intend to work on stuff and clean the house. It feels cold and chilly in the Lost Apartment this morning, and it’s not as sunny as I would like for a day of parades (clouds everywhere) but by Wednesday it will be 81 degrees in New Orleans. Yikes! Talk about unseasonal weather…sure, sometimes we do have gorgeous and warm weather during Carnival–I remember any number of gorgeous weather Fat Tuesdays over the years–but it’s been a hot minute since we’ve had that kind of weather on the last weekend of Carnival, which means the corner will be INSANE for all the big parades. I didn’t go out there myself last night, but Paul walked up the parade route to come home from work and eventually detoured off St. Charles because it was so crowded and insane. He did go look at our corner to see how big the crowds were here–not too bad, certainly not as bad as further down river, but still more people than usual for the first weekend of parades with not terribly pleasant weather–but if it’s sunny and warm next weekend it will literally be insane out there.

I had also intended to go to the gym yesterday but that never happened; as I said, when I got home from my meeting I was exhausted and it just didn’t seem like the smartest decision. I will probably go later this morning/early afternoon most likely; after getting some things done around here. I hate that I was so tired yesterday, but in retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised. Doing events where I have to be “on” are always debilitating to me and wear me out; even if it is on ZOOM and not in person. I don’t know why I always forget that…but it was a wonderful experience–those sorts of things always are, really, I just wish I weren’t so damned introverted and shy that putting forth the effort to not be introverted and shy is inevitably so exhausting. I really felt drained the rest of the day–I still have a bit of residual hangover this morning from it, despite not getting up until after eight. But I am having coffee and king cake–if caffeine and a plate full of sugar doesn’t revive me completely, it’s really a hopeless case–and hope to really kick it up a notch. I need to finish the first draft of “Condos for Sale or Rent”, and I would also like to start editing my manuscript. Reading would also be nice–I’ve not read a novel in a while, and I really do need to get back into the reading habit. I’m hoping we can watch more Reacher tonight…but I have to get a lot done today in order to watch and enjoy without guilt.

I’ve not commented on the Olympics in a few days, but seriously–I am so utterly appalled by the disgusting exhibit put on by the Russians, particularly when it comes to those young girls. The entire world got to see child abuse put on full display in all of its ugly callousness this week, and my heart breaks for all three of those girls, but especially poor Kamila. Shame on the Court of Arbitration for Sport– which really needs to be investigated itself and perhaps recalibrated–because what they did in allowing that poor girl to skate has psychologically damaged her for the rest of her life. I doubt seriously we will ever see or hear anything from or about her again after she returns to the hell her life will now be in Russia, and those disgusting abusers will not be punished and this torture and abuse of young girls will continue for the greater glory of Mother Russia. I refused to watch the ladies’ final, and I am now incredibly glad that I didn’t–I won’t even watch highlights (or lowlights, as it were) because I have no desire to see abused children suffer more. The CAS destroyed these Olympics, and perhaps it’s time for there to be serious consideration of ending the entire Olympic movement. If ever there was a time when the world needed to come together to celebrate athletic accomplishment, it was this year–and boy, were we ever let down. If this is what we are going to have to witness in future Olympics, count me out–and I am a lifelong fan.

And on that note, these dishes aren’t going to wash themselves, the floors aren’t going to vacuum themselves, and my stories aren’t going to write themselves, either. Have a lovely first Saturday of Carnival, Constant Reader, and I will shout at you again tomorrow.

The Way You Do The Things You Do

Sunday morning, and not only is the Super Bowl today, but it’s also our Costco run day. Hurray! And in a moment of perfect timing, this morning I also got the emailed rebate coupon from my Costco Visa, so we have almost a hundred dollars off whatever we spend there today. One really has to love serendipity when it happens, doesn’t one? It’s been a hot minute since we’ve been to Costco, and I am really missing my dark chocolate sea salt caramels…we’ve been out for a while. And with the next two weekends lost to parades, this is the last opportunity we have to go until after March.

Is it insane that I am excited about going to Costco? It also says a lot about the quality of my life, doesn’t it? LOL. Yesterday was a good day–I also had another good night’s sleep, which was lovely–and I got a lot accomplished around the Lost Apartment as far as cleaning and organizing are concerned. Everything looks, if still a bit cluttered, neat and tidy–at least the clutter is stacked nicely–and it really does make a difference in how I feel about the place. I also worked on “Condos for Sale or Rent” for a bit yesterday, made groceries (got Doris Day parking and everything), and settled in to watch the Olympics. I wasn’t thrilled with the ice dancing results–as always, the Americans were under-scored–but we’ll get a medal of some kind; the French were always a lock on the gold anyway. And both of our top teams won a silver medal in the team competition, so…really, can’t complain about too much at all here.

I got the edits for “The Rosary of Broken Promises” yesterday, and it took me about ten minutes to get through them and make corrections where necessary. The story turned out a lot better than I had obviously thought, but the good news is the story is finished and turned in and the edits are done; so I can put the file away, add the title to the Table of Contents for my next short story collection, and move the electronic file into the This Town and other Stories folder. I have ten published stories, which is about half of the new collection, and of the other ten, well, four have complete drafts–and of course, I have two more stories to finish in the next few months as well. So, that will give me sixteen at some point, which is lovely, and even closer to a finished collection–would be, should I decide to throw a novella in there at some point. I also retrieved my folder on Chlorine so I could again read over what I’ve already written–with an eye to getting back to it in March or April; I’ve not really decided yet what I should do next other than these short stories. I also started writing a blog post about Joey Burrow that I will try to get finished today–I don’t think I’ve been such a fan of any pro quarterback since the glory days of Drew Brees–otherwise there isn’t much point. I won’t be watching the Super Bowl–or certainly not all the entire thing–since I have to get up early tomorrow (all week, in fact; I have to go into the office four mornings and I have to get up early again on Friday to take the car in for its oil change), but obviously the first thing I will do upon rising tomorrow is see how it all turned out.

I also want to go to the gym today after we go to Costco–I know, crazy, right?–but it looks lovely outside today (yesterday was so beautiful I got out the charcoal and barbecued burgers) so the walk to the gym will undoubtedly be lovely, and I want to get a lot of work done today once that’s over and done with. Paul is still working on Festival programming, so I need to make certain I am utilizing my free time wisely. After organizing the books and making them look more orderly yesterday, I am debating not buying any more books until I can get some more of these read and donated and out of the house. It does seem weird to be continually buying books when you have so many that you’ve never read–many of them classics and award-winners–and so maybe, just maybe, the time I usually was spending in the evenings writing could be utilized for reading for an hour or so every night, which will gradually bring me through the books. (I doubt I will get much reading done during parade season, frankly.) The only parades I really care about this year are Muses and Iris, frankly; but there are reasons Paul and I might end up going out there every night of parades, or many of them, at any rate. (Not my story to tell, but being supportive of a friend.) Note to self: get more take home COVID tests from the office.

And on that note, I am going to bring this to a close and start doing some more clean-up around here before we go to Costco. Paul’s alarm just went off, which means he’ll be getting up soon (later rather than sooner, of course) and I need more coffee to fortify myself for the journey.

Have a lovely Super Bowl Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

My Heart Can’t Take It No More

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment and I slept fairly well. I will be spending most of my day on ZOOM with the new Board of Directors for Mystery Writers of America doing Orientation (we should be doing it in person in New York today, but yet another event is a victim of the coronavirus variants). I am not a fan of ZOOM, for obvious reasons–I cannot stand seeing myself on camera, and hate the sound of my voice–and while I can’t necessarily hear my own voice, I can see my face on screen, and I really don’t like that. I don’t really have space for a ZOOM studio in my little nook office right off my kitchen–and I need to make sure all the counters are cleared off and the cabinets are closed, etc.–and so I’ve avoided doing ZOOM things like the plague during these plague years. I am not an extrovert by any means (and yes, well aware that my claims to be painfully shy, socially anxious, and introverted are often greeted by laughter; but the appearance of calm and ease I project in these situations is always just pure dumb luck because I am always a twisted tangle of anxiety-ridden knots on the inside the entire time, and completely exhausted when it’s over), and thus these things are never easy on me. I imagine this afternoon when the calls ends I will adjourn to my easy chair with a drink and will spend the rest of the day there.

Yesterday we started watching Peacemaker with John Cena on HBO MAX; it took a minute for us to get involved in the story but we eventually got sucked in. It’s an odd kind of super-hero show, really; Peacemaker is theoretically a villain (I’m not familiar with the Suicide Squad and haven’t seen any of the movies) but he sees himself as a hero. John Cena is a very charismatic leading man; there’s something about him that is very watchable, and he plays comedy very well; which is surprising, since he comes from the world of WWE (then again, Dwayne Johnson and Bautista also did, and also play comedy very well, so maybe it’s not surprising), and he really shines in this part. I’ve always been a fan, and am glad to see his career outside of WWE taking off. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the show. We also started watching a docuseries on HBO MAX after we finished the three episodes of Peacemaker that have been loaded for streaming called Murders at Starved Rock, which is interesting enough but probably isn’t going to have a resolution.

I did started reading Alafair Burke’s Find Me yesterday and am enjoying it thus far–maybe when the meeting is over I can spend some time with the book, which would be marvelous and a definite reward for spending so much of the day talking to my computer (which is some seriously weird Jetsons shit). I started making a to-do list yesterday so I can keep track of everything I need to do and need to get done and with some sort of time-line involved; I am confident I can get everything done but it’s going to take some serious focusing on my part to get it all done. It’s a bit overwhelming and stressful to be sure, but as long as I can get a handle on everything I need to do, it can all get done. Over the next two days I am going to work, over my morning coffee, on getting my email inbox cleared out once and for all; I am going to get some filing in order; and I’d like to finish reading Alafair’s book. I think we’re probably going to watch some movies in the evening–Power of the Dog and The Tragedy of Macbeth are at the top of my list–over the next couple of days, and I am also hoping to start back at the gym tomorrow morning (after getting all my morning chores finished); hope springs eternal. My weight has climbed back up somehow, and so getting back to the gym is a lot more important than it has been. I hate that my weight is climbing again, and I am sure it has to do with me being more sedentary over the last few months than I had been in the months before. (Just thinking about how good it will feel to stretch and work my muscles out again just sent a shiver of delight down my spine.)

But making the list made me feel much better about things, honestly; I don’t know why I have so much trouble falling back into the habits that help me get things done and reduce my stress.

I bought our first King cake of the season yesterday–and yes, it’s quite delicious. I don’t think I bought any last year, since there were no parades or hardly anything Carnival-like; I doubt very seriously that Paul and I will be heading down to super-spreader central out on the corner this year. It’s a shame because we’ve always loved the parades and catching throws, even when the weather is bad; how many times have we stood out there in the rain to catch things? (It’s actually more fun in the rain because most people leave and there’s more room and they throw more because there are less people to throw to…) But I just can’t see taking the risk of getting sick out there–and you know there are going to so many unvaccinated people out there who won’t wear masks at all; the parishes surrounding Orleans are ridiculously defiant when it comes to taking measures to protect other people, which is terribly sad–but those are also the people who drive in to the city and hang out along our parade routes (while posting comments on news articles about how much they hate New Orleans and how the city is so dangerous and riddled with crime–keep your racists asses out in your paradise parishes then, trash), so yeah, no desire to put myself at that much risk, thank you very much. I can only imagine what Carnival is going to do to our infection rates.

Given how many people used to die annually in New Orleans AND Louisiana from malaria, yellow fever, and other pandemics that used to rage through the population, you’d think we’d handle things better as a state, city and parish, but nooooooooo….(if you ever want to read a great book about the horrors of a pandemic and massive death in New Orleans during the nineteenth century, Barbara Hambly’s Fever Season is pretty amazing)

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. I have to hide things from the computer camera and do some straightening up as well as preparing. Heavy heaving sigh. And I will see you tomorrow, Constant Reader.

Yesterday Once More

I’ve always believed that it is smarter to set goals every year rather than resolutions; resolutions have almost become kind of a joke in that no one ever really keeps them past the first few weeks of the new year. Years ago, I decided to change that up and set goals to achieve rather than resolutions to change behavior, and that has worked out much better for me. Sure, there have been some of the same goals set every year that have never been achieved (I’m looking at you, find an agent) but I find that it all seems to work out in the end, and the goals I never achieve and carry over just maybe need some more of my energy and focus applied to them

Before, however, I get into the goals for one Gregalicious in 2022, I’d like to go over some of the things that stood out for me in 2021, both good and bad.

HIGHLIGHTS OF 2021: I was able to visit New York in November and then head up to Boston by train for Crime Bake, and it was a marvelous experience; I learned a lot more family history; made the list of
“other distinguished work” in Best Mystery and Suspense; finished writing and published Bury Me in Shadows at long last; finished the Kansas book finally; I read some great books and watched some great movies and television shows; signing a book contract with Crooked Lane; sold some short stories (“The Snow Globe”, “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” and “Night Follows Night”, among possible others I cannot recall at the moment); a visit to the Gardner Museum whilst in Boston; I bought a new computer with which I am still rather pleased; and I did some more deep diving into New Orleans history, which has been incredibly fun.

LOW LIGHTS: Hurricane Ida and the ensuing horrific power loss at precisely the worst time of the year to be without climate control in New Orleans (will never ride out another storm of that size again, ever); the on-going pandemic canceling the Edgars and conferences and limiting/prohibiting travel; no Williams Fest/S&S again; the horrible polar vortex that brought record low temperatures to New Orleans during Carnival and we had no heat, so I spent Fat Tuesday freezing under many layers of clothes, layers of blankets, and with a space heater on and still was shivering and cold and miserable; my inability to finish writing the first draft of Chlorine; and of course, not finishing any of the novellas I really wanted to get finished this past year–and any number of short stories as well.

I think the biggest goal I want to set for 2022 has to do with Chlorine. I want to get a viable first draft finished as soon as I can, because the second part of the goal with Chlorine is to finally get representation, or at least try again. I think once I get this current manuscript finished and some of the stories and novellas I have in progress out of the way, I can focus on getting Chlorine finished and out on spec. My goal is to make that my March project, giving me January and February to finish all the other stuff and get it out of the way.

My second goal, also to do with writing, is to get the next short story collection pulled together as well as the novella collections. I think I have enough completed work to get the story collection turned in this year–some of the stories I have in mind for it are still in progress, of course, and of course I have three completed drafts of novellas that need to be redone, revised, and two others that need to be written (or do I? I am now remembering that there’s a third that needs a revision but has a completed draft, so that’s four–and now that I think about it more deeply there are three in some sort of progress that I should be able to get finished in the new year). There’s also the essay collection, which is going to take some serious focus and concentration to pull together. I also want to write a Scotty book this year…which is a LOT to have on one’s plate in one year. (This could, of course, all change should Crooked Lane want a follow-up to the book I am currently writing; this is the sort of thing that makes someone like me–a planner–crazy because I cannot control what requests are going to be made for work from me.)

Next goal is, naturally, work out related. I need to make it to the gym three times per week, going forward into this new year. My fitness regimen has been all over the place since the pandemic started, but it’s been a lot more consistent since the pandemic started than it was in the (many) years prior when I just stopped going entirely and allowed my body to not only go to seed but to start breaking down. I feel better when I lift weights and stretch, and I should also add a cardio day to my workout schedule. I want my goal weight to remain 200–I’m not sure what I weigh now, frankly, but I know it’s not 225, which was where I’d allowed myself to get–and I’d like to get into 32 waist pants (comfortably) again in the new year. (I can get into 32’s in stretchy jeans, but 33’s in regular jeans, while I can fit into them, aren’t as comfortable as I would like them to be, and right now comfort above all else.) I don’t think I’ll ever get my Gumby-like flexibility back again, but the stretching does feel incredibly good when I do it (I also want to add stretching daily to the regimen; I can stretch at home just as easily as I can at the gym) so it needs to become more of a routine thing for me.

My next goal is to break my lifelong habit of falling into procrastination at every opportunity. While I will be the first to admit that it’s best to listen to your brain and your body and to not try to push them into things when they are exhausted or tired or fried, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s just laziness, and I own that completely: oh, there’s plenty of time to do this or oh I will just get this done tomorrow is too easy a habit to fall into; even as I write this I am thinking Oh I can go to the store tomorrow and I can also write tomorrow and there’s no need for me to do any of this today despite the fact I feel rested and relaxed and creative. So I am going to finish this and then I am going to get cleaned up and get back to my writing (the groceries, on the other hand, can 100% wait until tomorrow).

Another goal is to keep on top of the housework and the filing–and by that, I am also including the storage attic and the storage facility. I want to get the attic cleared out, and I want to clear out the storage as well so i can stop spending that money every month. This isn’t as easy as one might expect, but I figure if I can get rid of a box in the attic every week–again, not as easy as one might think–I should be able to get a handle on this all by the middle of the year. One box a week doesn’t sound too difficult, does it? And yet…

All right, on that note I need to get back to the writing. I think I can push through quite a bit today, even if I don’t want to–which I don’t–but I also have no choice. The book is due exactly two weeks from today, and I don’t want to turn in something as sloppy as what I have on my hands right now.

Have a wonderful New Year, Constant Reader!

My Favorite Things

And so we have reached the last day of 2021 at last (it’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that it has been 2021 for a year; 2022 is going to seem even stranger, methinks). I’m on a holiday, so there’s no work for the day-job to be done today, but there’s plenty of other things that need to be done. I need to work on the book some more, I need to clean, I need to run some errands, and I’d also like to do some reading. It’s a lot, I know, and who knows how much I can or will actually get done around here? Yesterday I did data entry, made condom packs and rewatched the original Clash of the Titans (starring a very young Harry Hamlin and his nipples; seeing this in the theater made me a Harry Hamlin fan for life) while I did so. I also was able to pick up two boxes of home COVID-19 tests (the day-job procured you them for the staff as a preventive measure, which are apparently like gold these days.

It was a very challenging year in many ways. I suspect that if I looked back at a list of my goals for the year, two of the most key things–getting an agent and finishing Chlorine–would not be able to be checked off the list. My faulty memory–I keep, for one thing, conflating the last two years as one and the same mentally–has something to do with it. I know I wanted to write more short stories in 2021, and I don’t know that I succeeded at that. I know I had a couple of stories of which I am very proud come out this past year (my first ever attempt at writing a Sherlock Holmes story for one), and of course I finished writing two books while trying to finish yet a third under contract, and trying to get Chlorine done.

I always feel sort of weird at the end of the year when I compile my favorite things (books, movies, television) because I never limit myself to things that were new to the year, but rather new to me during the year; I am always so woefully behind on everything I read and watch that it doesn’t seem fair to leave off things that didn’t debut in 2021. Besides, it’s always kind of fun, I think, to remind people of things they themselves might have missed and forgotten about. But when I started thinking about all the books I read this past year, I would have sworn that I hadn’t read this much, or that I couldn’t have possibly read this many books–and I know I am also forgetting some, and these are the ones that stand out enough to be remembered. My favorite reads of the year were, in no particular order, The Turnout by Megan Abbott; The Collective by Alison Gaylin; Dream Girl by Laura Lippman; The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews (I read three or four Andrews novels this past year, and loved them all, frankly); Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier; Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby; A Beautiful Crime by Christopher YBollen; Yes Daddy by Jonathan Page-Ramage; The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris; These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall; Invisible City by Julia Dahl; and By Way of Sorrow by Robyn Gigl. I also read a lot more cozies than I generally do, which were quite fun–I highly recommend checking out Leslie Budewitz, Vivien Chien, Sherry Harris, Ali Brandon, Miranda Harris, and Carolyn Haines, among many others–my TBR pile is nothing if not a treasure trove of terrific reading–and I am hoping to get even more reading done in the new year as well.

As for movies, I also watched a lot of movies. I saw a lot of classic cinema of the past I’d never seen before–my Cynical 70’s Film Festival had some marvelous entries this past year–as well as revisited some favorites. I greatly enjoyed Dune, which I thought was incredibly well done, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was a great super-hero film, with just the right amount of spectacle, humor, and humanity to ground it in enough reality that an audience could relate to it. I don’t remember any other new films that we saw in this past year, but I am sure there were some–the direct-to-streaming/limited theatrical release model for the pandemic ensured that I saw some things much sooner than I probably would have otherwise–but give me a break, I am still on my first cup of coffee after a lovely and deep night’s sleep.

Television again is something a bit blurry for me; the lines between 2020 and 2021 also blurring a bit here. I know we loved Mare of Easttown, Ted Lasso (a true gem of a show), The Mandalorian, Elité, Superman and Lois (probably the best version of Superman since the first two Christopher Reeve films), the original Gossip Girl (which is winding down now with a last season that is rather disappointing, alas), Hacks, One of Us is Lying, Cruel Summer, and Only Murders in the Building, which was also a jewel. But maybe my favorite show of the year was HBO’s It’s a Sin, which was not only well done, but powerful and thought-provoking. I had debated whether I wanted to see it or not; entertainment about HIV/AIDS, particularly about the height of the plague, has never sat well with me–either pandering nonsense or heavy-handed. The gold standard for me has always been Longtime Companion, but after watching I had to say It’s a Sin belongs up there. It was hard to watch at times–and I realized that the reason was the characters were all the same age that I was when it all started, which was a big part of it–but it also made me acknowledge and understand any number of things about myself and my past; namely that I had never grieved, just going numb at one point and deciding to keep moving forward and not think about anything. Watching the show brought back a lot of memories which, while painful at times, was necessary and needed.

I also spent time writing and working on two novellas, “Festival of the Redeemer” and “Never Kiss a Stranger”; one thing I really want to be able to do in the new year is get the novella collection together as well as another collection of short stories. Lots of plans for the new year, including a new Scotty novel I’ve been itching to get to, and another stand alone, in addition to Chlorine. I was able to visit my parents twice this past year, and I was also about to make it to New York and then Boston for Crime Bake, which was simply marvelous. I have lots of travel plans for the new year that I am hoping new pandemic variants aren’t going to jettison–I really do want to be around writers again, seriously–and over all, the year wasn’t as terrible as it easily could have been (2022, do not take this as a challenge). I got a new computer, paid off a lot of debt, and over all, I have to say, all things considered, 2021 wasn’t altogether terrible. I wish I had been more productive, but I also wish that every year.

And on that note, this next chapter isn’t going to write itself, is it? Have a lovely New Year’s Eve, Constant Reader, and I’ll talk to you next year!