Wednesday and Pay the Bills Day has rolled around yet again. Woo-hoo!
Yesterday I was working on cleaning out my inbox–an ongoing struggle, but it’s suddenly gotten easier lately–and around noonish an email from Left Coast Crime dropped in letting me know that A Streetcar Named Murder had been selected as a finalist for the Lefty Awards! I certainly wasn’t expecting anything like that to ever happen, so thanks to everyone who listed me on their ballot. It’s a tough category–the other nominees are Ellen Byron for Bayou Book Thief, Catriona McPherson for Scot in a Trap, Jennifer Chow for Death by Bubble Tea, and A. J. Devlin for Five Moves of Doom. Such a thrill, really, and to be nominated against authors for whom I have so much respect and admiration for their talents and achievements already? And so many other amazing nominees in the other categories as well–including lots of friends! Kellye Garrett, Alex Segura, James L’Etoile, Karen Odden, Laurie R. King, Gigi Pandian, Rob Osler, Eli Cranor, Wanda Morris, and Catriona again (nominated TWICE!!!!). I’m really sorry I won’t be going to Left Coast this year. I had a marvelous time last year, but it’s also the week before TWFest and Saints & Sinners, and there’s no way I could take that much time off so close together–let alone leave the week before the festivals. I’d come home to find the locks changed, seriously. So many amazing reads this past year on this list, and there I am, right there with some of my favorite people.
It’s always lovely to get recognized, of course. Award nominations are always a lovely pat on the back, and yes, while I often joke about always losing everything I am ever nominated for (I love pretending to be bitter and cynical about losing awards), it is indeed a great honor and a thrill and all those things they’re supposed to make you feel like. Being nominated for mainstream awards, like this and the Anthonys, was never in my thoughts or calculations (to be fair, I never think about awards when I’m writing something)–so yes, for the kid who used to give acceptances speeches to the mirror holding a shampoo bottle as a stand-in for an Oscar, it’s an honor and a thrill and a privilege. I mean, winning isn’t really in my control–anyone who’s ever nominated’s control–so I just look at it as a lovely nice job thumbs-up from the community and add it to my author bio.
I slept really well again last night and this morning I don’t feel tired or sore and my mind is completely alert–yesterday there was some residual fog from my trip still, and leftover exhaustion–but today feels absolutely great. I ran errands after I got off work yesterday–some books and other things came in the mail yesterday, including my Rainbow candles (a client gave me one for Christmas; I loved the smell, and then had to go searching on line to find more of them) and the leather-bound copies of Rebecca and Echoes from the Macabre by Daphne du Maurier as produced by the International Collectors’ Library (about time I got two really nice editions of two of my favorite books). I was terribly tired when I got home from work yesterday so I pretty much melted into my easy chair with Scooter asleep in my lap and just watched videos on Youtube (I went down a Rihanna wormhole for a good while–I’d forgotten how amazing her music was–while also looking up videos from Hadestown, whose score I’ve been listening to every since I got home; I cannot tell you how much I loved this show). I need to pay the bills today and get back to work on the book–I’m behind again and am really going to have to work my ass off to get it done by the end of the month now, no time for goofing off or anything other than a major push; I also have a short story to finish that I’ve promised to a friend for an anthology; that will be a nice creative and intellectual challenge to try to get finished around the book, too.
So, yes, Constant Reader, as you can probably tell I’m in a really good place this morning. My coffee is marvelous, I got a lovely pat on the back from the mystery community yesterday (“they like me! they really like me!”), and I am feeling great about my writing and my future. We’ll see how long this happy feeling and inspiration lasts, won’t we? I also think the cold or sinus thing that’s been going on with me since I flew to New York has finally been given the boot by my immune system, which is really nice. (I always feel terrible when I travel–part of it is the lack of sleep and the dehydration caused by the pressure changes required for flying; one of these days I’ll learn to drink water and replenish electrolytes when I travel instead of just drinking Cokes and coffee and alcohol; you’d think I’d know better by now but I clearly do not) But I feel like me again for the first time in what seems like a really long time, and it’s going to take some getting used to and adjusting again. (This weekend especially is going to feel weird as fuck, to be honest.)
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will chat with you again tomorrow.
Nothing will get my attention more quickly than a Daphne du Maurier comparison.
I’d been meaning to get around to reading Ruth Ware since her The Woman in Cabin 10 broke her out in the crime writing community. I’d heard lots of good things about her work from reviewers and people on social media, and as her career continued to grow and develop it seemed like all of her books–while similar, in some ways, to each other–were rather dramatically different from each other. I began acquiring copies of her books, unable to decide where to start while each new one joined the TBR pile and began collecting dust. When I saw someone had compared her The Death of Mrs. Westaway to du Maurier and Rebecca, that got my attention and I decided to start there. I listened to it on one of my drives to Kentucky and loved, loved, LOVED it.
So, while planning for my recent trip up, I decided to listen to The Woman in Cabin 10, and have been admonishing myself for the lengthy delay in getting to it ever since finishing. It is quite excellent, and I am finding myself becoming quite a fan of Ruth Ware.
The first inkling that something was wrong was waking in darkness to find the cat pawing at my face. I must have forgotten to shut the kitchen door last night. Punishment for coming home drunk.
“Go away,” I groaned. Delilah mewed and butted me with her head. I tried to bury my face in the pillow but she continued rubbing herself against my ear, and eventually I rolled over and heartlessly pushed her off the bed.
She thumped to the floor with an indignant little meep and I pulled the duvet over my head, but even through the covers I could hear her scratching at the bottom of the door, rattling it in its frame.
The door was closed.
I sat up, my heart suddenly thumping, and Delilah leaped onto my bed with a glad little chirrup, but I snatched her to my chest, stilling her movements, listening.
I might well have forgotten to shut the kitchen door, or I could even have knocked it to without closing it properly. But my bedroom door opened outward–a quirk of the weird layout of my flat. There was no way Delilah could have shut herself inside. Someone must have closed it.
I sat, frozen, holding Delilah’s warm, panting body against my chest and trying to listen.
How’s that for a beginning?
I defy anyone to stop reading after those opening paragraphs, seriously.
Our main character turns out to be Laura Blacklock–nicknamed Lo–who is an aspiring travel journalist working as an assistant at Velocity magazine. Usually her boss is the one who gets to go on trips to write about the experience, but pregnancy has forced her to turn over a rather plum assignment to Lo; taking a cruise on a luxury ship through Scandinavia, including a look at the Northern Lights and exploratory visits to fjords. But as she is preparing for the trip, her flat is broken into while she is in it. This understandably causes her some trauma, and she is already taking medication for anxiety. Shaken up and still having nightmares, she boards the Aurora Borealis in a determined attempt to fulfill her job responsibilities well enough to get a promotion or better assignments. Easier said than done, really; on the first night she hears the toilet in the next cabin–Cabin 10–at the same time realizing she doesn’t have any mascara. She goes to Cabin 10, borrows mascara from a beautiful young woman, and returns to her cabin. Having a few drinks at dinner to calm her nerves even more, she keeps an eye out for the young woman, who never shows. In the middle of the night a sound in the next cabin wakes her, and she goes out onto her veranda to glance around the privacy screen. Before she can get out there she hears a cry, a clank, and a splash; once she is out there she thinks she sees a human hand disappearing into the water, and smear of blood on the glass screen next door. She gets the ship’s security, but Cabin 10 is empty. The man who was staying in there cancelled at the last minute. There is no trace of the girl she met, no trace of anything exceptional having happened in Cabin 10–and the only proof of her story is the mascara tube, which she still has.
No one believes her–and her recent break-in and the anxiety medications, along with the drinking she’s done, make it relatively easy for her claims to be dismissed. Certain she’s a peripheral witness to a murder, Lo starts poking around–eventually finding herself in danger.
I really enjoyed this book. Ware makes you care about Lo, and you root for her to get to the bottom of what’s going on aboard the Aurora. Ware is, indeed, a modern day writer of Gothics in the mid-to-late twentieth century traditions of duMaurier, Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, with a generous dash of Mary Stewart as well. Is she being gaslighted, and if so, by whom and why? Who was the woman? What was she doing on board? Why was she murdered? The reader knows Lo is telling the truth, which is a brilliant way of getting reader buy-in for both the character and the story, and the gaslighting is done so well that even the reader sometimes has to question Lo’s sanity; was it alcohol and drug-related PTSD? But as the story progresses and Lo learns more and more about her fellow passengers–this is a press junket, so everyone on board is a professional travel journalist of some sort–she starts putting together the pieces and fragments of information she gathers that gradually reveal the picture of a very clever murderer who won’t stop at anything to get away with their crime, even if it means killing Lo.
Highly recommended–especially if you, like me, love the old books with the woman in a nightgown running away from a scary looking house with a light on in one window on the cover. Cannot wait to read some more of Ruth Ware.
Sidebar: the story itself is very Hitchcockian in style, and of course the gaslighting made me think of the great film Gaslight which defined the word into the vernacular…and made me also think, sadly, of what a greater masterpiece Gaslight might have been had Hitchcock also directed it.
Monday morning and it’s very bright this morning. The time change–I’d forgotten that it means getting up in the light and coming home from work in the dark. It’s also interesting how much that changes in one day. It was already getting dark before four yesterday, and was completely night by five. I don’t like the change, to be honest; it doesn’t help me get up in the morning and it makes me feel like the day’s been wasted by the time I get home because there’s no more daylight. It’s another one of the reasons I don’t like winter, to be honest, but at least down here in New Orleans it never gets super cold or snows, which does make it somewhat more bearable. I still don’t like coming home after dark, though.
Yesterday wasn’t a great day for me. I was very tired all day, despite sleeping really well, and never really felt like I had any energy. I tried to write for a while yesterday morning but got nowhere with it, which is causing me more than a little bit of stress today, and so I ended up watching a lot of television. We finished off the first season of Interview with the Vampire (more on that later), the first season of The Serpent Queen, watched the most recent Andor, and got caught up on American Horror Story. We also watched a movie called Nobody with Bob Odenkirk, which was interesting and a bit of a different approach to the usual “Dad gets vengeance” movie before finally toddling off to bed. I didn’t sleep especially well last night either–I kept waking up and had trouble falling back asleep, but it was a better night’s sleep than Saturday’s, so I will take it.
I think I had trouble sleeping Saturday night because I was so emotionally caught up in the LSU-Alabama game; I was a bundle of nerves and raw energy and anxiety the entirety of the game (which I still can’t believe we won; who would have ever thought we’d beat Alabama this year; everyone is very high, obviously, on Coach Kelly now). And now, of course, that we’ve actually beaten Alabama (first time in Baton Rouge since 2010) people are talking about LSU running the table this year and making it to the play-offs as the first-ever two loss team to get that far. One thing for sure is that LSU could certainly mess things up for the play-offs this year; who do they take if LSU does the improbable and hands Georgia its first loss of the season and wins the SEC? One loss Tennessee, who lost to Georgia and didn’t win their division? Georgia, defending national champion with one loss but didn’t win the SEC and lost to LSU? A two loss SEC champion LSU that lost to Tennessee? How do you decide between the three of them? And if you take two, as has been done occasionally in recent years, which two? This year is very reminiscent of the chaos of 2007–when a two-loss LSU team won the BCS title over Ohio State; the only two loss team since 1960 to be crowned national champions, and the only one of the championship game era (Georgia also only had two losses that year, and were highly ranked; they had a good argument but losing their division and not playing for the conference championship ruled them out–although both Alabama and Georgia have both won the national title without being SEC champions). It will be interesting. I am that Doubting Thomas still; certain we can win out the regular season by staying focused and disciplined, but I don’t know if LSU could match up with Georgia. I still think it likely that both Tennessee and Georgia are the most likely two to go to the play-offs, if the SEC winds up with two; but I also didn’t think LSU would beat Alabama this year, either.
Which shows how much I actually know, you know?
I wasn’t able to finish this before leaving the house for work this morning–I told you, the time change, combined with some insomnia and low energy days, have really messed with my mind; I was so tired this morning I even considered hitting the snooze button a third time–so here I am on my lunch break, trying to get it finished and posted so I don’t miss a day. (Being a completer can sometimes be a real problem, you know?) After I get off work today I have to run uptown and get the mail as well as pick up some groceries from the store–nothing much, just a couple of things, but might as well stop and get it over with, you know? I also hope to get some serious work on the book done tonight as well. I hate having lost the weekend, but low energy is low energy.
I did manage to read some of Wanda Morris’ new book this weekend (at the rate I’m going I won’t finish it until probably my trip to Kentucky), but also managed to read a new-to-me Daphne du Maurier short story, included in the collection Not After Midnight and Other Stories (it also includes, as every du Maurier collection does, “Don’t Look Now” and “Not After Midnight”). I’d gotten the book from eBay after finding out that it included “A Border-line Case”–which I enjoyed–as well as two other stories I’d not read, “The Way of the Cross” and “The Breakthrough.” This weekend during Georgia’s mauling of Tennessee I read “The Way of the Cross”, and really liked it. It’s long, as all du Maurier stories often tend to be, and it’s actually quite a nasty little story that spins out over the course of a twenty-four period with a small group of British tourists visiting Jerusalem and the Holy Land, most of them from a small village. Their vicar was supposed to be their tour guide for this visit; but he was taken ill and another available minister-type, who doesn’t know any of them and isn’t really completely comfortable taking over, has been asked to fill in. It’s one of du Maurier’s nastier little stories, but the reason it is so nasty is because of its brutal, unflinching honest view of the characters, none of whom really come out of the story well. What is particularly interesting is how illustrative this story is of du Maurier’s own cynical view of humanity, but her gifts make the characters so absolutely real it feels like the reader is literally looking inside their souls. The characters all have definite opinions of who and what they are; as well as their own histories. What happens throughout the course of this story is everyone is gradually humbled and made to take off their own rose-colored glasses and inevitably are forced to look at themselves and their lives very clearly–usually by overhearing two of the other characters talking about them. It’s a terrific story, and one I will definitely be revisiting at some point. (I also like they are visiting the Holy Land but definitely are not very Christian…)
And now it’s time to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader–and oh yes, for the record: the reaction to Jayden Daniels’ overtime touchdown and later, the two point conversion did, indeed, register on the seismograph on campus. So, it, like the 1988 Auburn game, qualifies not just as an “earthquake” game but a double earthquake game.
Well, Paul left yesterday and suddenly I find myself living alone in this enormous apartment. It’s weird how that works. I guess Paul just is a very large personality or something like that? It’s just weird to me how the apartment can seem so different while he’s gone. I do sometimes, as I am morbid by nature, sometimes think when he goes away like this and I get bored and/or lonely and/or feel like I’m rattling around in this big huge empty space, well, if you outlive him this will be your future and I’m not quite sure how I feel about that? I know I don’t like thinking in those terms, but as the years pass and more things happen and we have different things happening to us health-wise and so forth, you do start getting a stronger sense of your own mortality, whether you like it or not. I always thought I would die relatively young, so I always feel like I am already living on bonus time I wasn’t meant to have–and yet, I keep going on somehow. It’s a complete mystery to me.
Sometimes I feel like Ishmael.
LSU has the weekend off like they always do the week before the Alabama game, so there’s no reason for me to have the television on for much today. Oh, sure, I won’t be able to resist having Georgia-Florida (“The World’s Biggest Cocktail Party”) game on, as I am expecting Georgia to humiliate the Gators (sorry, UF fans, I very rarely–if ever–want your team to win, but I am sure you return the favor and want LSU to lose every game they play as well), and I am not really all that sure who else is playing today, to be honest–I know Mississippi is at Texas A&M, which is a tough one for me to chose a favorite in; although I think I am going to have to lean towards Mississippi a bit–but again, my plan is to work this morning, run my errands (including making groceries–not much, but some), and then come home to clean and organize the apartment. I’m also going to take my laptop upstairs as well as a flash drive so I can use Paul’s computer if I need to write (and don’t want to use the laptop), and spend the rest of the day cleaning upstairs and trying to get things under control somewhat more up there. One can hope, at any rate.
I like my new espresso maker! I tried it out yesterday morning and it worked wonderfully. I think I may go back to having one in the mornings before I head into the office; that bold shot of caffeine certainly did its trick yesterday morning. I am currently having a homemade cappuccino as I type this, and it’s quite delicious, if I do say so myself. Having one yesterday didn’t affect last night’s sleep, as I feared would turn out to be the case. I slept great last night, despite being alone in the bed–Scooter helped a lot, as a cuddly purr-kitty–and I feel very rested and well this morning. Which is good, because I have a very big day planned here around the Lost Apartment–cleaning and writing and organizing–and I also have those errands to get to.
I must confess that after my work-at-home duties were completed yesterday I was terribly lazy. I didn’t write a word, which is shameful–I was mentally fatigued, plus off-balance because it was my first Paul-free evening–and so I rewatched Nicholas Roeg’s film of Daphne du Maurier’s Don’t Look Now on HBO MAX. I highly recommend the movie and the story; it’s really one of my all-time favorites, and the film does an excellent job with the story–far more so than Hitchcock did with her story The Birds (if you like Hitchcock’s film, you really need to read the original story, which is vastly superior in my opinion). I also finished my annual reread of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, which as always was completely captivating. I cannot get over marveling at what an incredibly lyrical writer Jackson was, or how her prose just sings from the page while magnificently creating a morbid, melancholy tone that is, in and of itself, haunting. (I was thinking about watching the Netflix adaptation of Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, another one of my favorites; Merricat Blackwood is one of the great fictional characters of the twentieth century in my opinion) I may dive into some Paul Tremblay short stories this weekend since I don’t have the time to finish reading another Halloween Horror novel, but tonight I may rewatch the original, classic film of Halloween again. I think I do owe it to myself to watch some horror films leading up to Halloween, don’t you think? Don’t Look Now, while not quite horror, certainly does fit the bill somewhat for my mini-film festival…I wonder if Robert Wise’s The Haunting is free to stream anywhere? That is probably my favorite horror film of all time–it scared me shitless when I was a small child, and still does to this day; skip the execrable remake, but the Netflix series adaptation is quite good, actually; the episode called “The Bent-neck Lady” is one of the best episodes of television ever filmed, in my opinion. I also want to spend some time today revisiting what I’ve written so far for Mississippi River Mischief to get an outline done and a character list, which I really need to get done, and I also plan to revisit another project I’m working on and am quite far behind on now.
I do have some laundry to do, some clean dishes to put away, and of course the floors always need to be done. I am going to spend the rest of this morning cleaning the kitchen and making a list for my mini-grocery making today; there are a couple of things I need to pick up–nothing much, really–and of course I have to drop off yet another box of books to the library sale. I also need to put air in one of my tires, and ugh, I have so much to do before my trip home for Thanksgiving. Heavy heaving sigh–sometimes it doesn’t help to look ahead, does it?
And on that note, I am going to bring this to a close and head into the spice mines. Happy Saturday, Constant Reader, and may your day be as lovely as you are.
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.
Friday and a work-at-home day that is going to be taking up mostly by meetings, alas. I actually have to go into the office for the first one, but the rest I can do remotely from home, which is nice. I slept really well last night–odd how going to bed and getting up one hour later makes such a difference in feeling rested. I have a lot to work on this weekend–so much to work on this weekend–but that’s okay. The Saints played last night apparently–I watched for a while but got too tense so turned it off; getting stressed and tense before bed is never a good idea, really–but then we watched the first two episodes of American Horror Story: NYC, which so far is one of the best and most interesting they’ve done in a long time.
It’s also the gayest season I’ve ever seen–with elements of Cruising and hints of the coming HIV/AIDS crisis as a serial killer is apparently stalking the gay community of New York. I wasn’t out at that time and had never been to New York before 1991, so I can’t say if the show is accurately capturing the time and feel of what it was like to be gay in those times in the big city; I’ve certainly read enough books to feel like the show is capturing the same vibe as the books I’ve read either written or set in that time period. I also like the idea of the serial killer stalking the gay community in a time when not only would no one give a shit, especially the cops; there’s a closeted at work gay cop character played by Russell Tovey who, at least so far, has done an excellent job of capturing that duality, that horror of living/leading two completely separate lives and having to really, split in two. I know that’s been explored exhaustively in fiction; but it’s something I’d like to explore a little bit more deeply in something. (I am now thinking about crime fiction about doubles, like Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree and Daphne du Maurier’s The Scapegoat; and somehow factoring in that kind of duality into such a story) The show has been a pleasant surprise so far–and the cast is actually quite good (Murphy’s primary strength lies in casting): Russell Tovey, Charlie Carver, Zachary Quinto, among others, and the best is Patti LuPone as the bath house singer. bedecked like a proud drag queen in flowing gowns and tiaras singing for the towel-clad gay men between their hook-ups. (Note: I’ve been told this may be based on the same case Elon Green wrote about in Last Call, which won the true crime Edgar Award earlier this year–so now I really want to read my copy of that soon!)
See what I mean? Here it is late afternoon and I am done for the day at last, worn out and a bit tired, but glad to have made it through another day. I am meeting a friend for drinks later this evening, which will be lovely–it’s nice to get out of the house periodically for something besides work or errands–but yes, I am tired. I want to work on the book a bit before I have to leave this evening; I am trying so hard not to freak out or get stressed out about everything I have to get done, but I am hopeful that I’ll be able to get somewhere with everything this evening, and make even more progress this weekend. Paul is also going away to visit his mom for over a week, leaving a week from today–and there’s not an LSU game that weekend, either so I have no excuse for not getting a lot of shit done next weekend, do I?
But there’s naught to do but put my head down and head into the to-do list and the spice mines, is there? I find that while it is often easy to get discouraged and depressed and overwhelmed when thinking of everything I have to do and get done and how behind I am on it all (I am often singing that same old song, am I not?), the best way to deal with it is the ever popular, almost always works magical to-do list. That organizes everything into one neat and tidy place, and even when it is lengthy there’s something about having everything numbered, sub-categorized, and written down in one place to fool my mind into thinking oh, sure I can get all of this done in no time at all. Email, of course, being the worst chore and the one that has the most variables involved so it can never ever be finished or completed–which is one reason why I stopped putting “empty inbox”on my to-do list. I am looking forward to the day when my email becomes manageable again…
I also weighed myself the other day and was delighted to discover that I actually only weigh 214, so give or take a pound here and there, I still weigh the same as I have since I put weight back on after getting down to 202 for that all-too-brief period of time when I thought 190 was a possibility again…I’d like to get back down to 200 and then decide if I want to try for 190 again…I’m not even sure that it’s possible anymore, given the energy limits I now operate under and how tired I am most of the time these days; although maybe recalibrating and resetting the way I eat again might help–I usually eat the same when I am working out than when I am not; i don’t change up that much other than adding protein shakes to the mix after workouts. But ugh, going back to eating ground turkey instead of hamburger and subsisting on salads and greens and chicken and brown rice….just makes me think you’re too old to be that vain and if you drop dead tomorrow…defeatist thinking, I know, but welcome to my brain.
It’s been a week, for sure, and I am really glad–despite the loss of time to get everything done–that this one is in the books now. I am going to work on the book now for a while and clean the kitchen and do some other things that I can do when I need to get up from the computer, and will check in with you again tomorrow, Constant Reader. Have a lovely Friday.
Friday has arrived, Constant Reader, and it’s glorious (although I keep thinking it’s Saturday because I’d gotten used to going into the office on Fridays). After all the week’s insomnia, I slept gloriously last night–when I first went to bed Scooter joined me, cuddled up to me and started the purr machine, which draws sleep like a moth to a flame. Paul got home later than expected, so we watched Andor and an episode of Chucky, which we are about to give up on. It’s campy and funny, but it literally makes so little sense–which is admittedly also a part of its charm, and I do love that two of the three main characters are a young teen gay couple–we might be giving it up fairly soon. I also have some errands to run today–I have to get my flu shot and pick up a prescription–and I am also debating whether to make a Five Guys run while I’m out there. It’s been a while since I’ve experienced the glory that is Five Guys…but on the other hand, I could look at it as look how well I’ve done not eating any fast food for so long and not go, too. Decisions, decisions.
Then again it is Halloween season–we’ll probably stream Halloween Ends tonight–so it doesn’t seem right to not be watching horror, you know? I hope to finish my revisit of Interview with the Vampire today and move on to a reread of salem’s Lot; I also have Paul Tremblay’s short story collection and Joe Hill’s so perhaps I should consider diving into some short stories for a while as well. I think I only got one story into each–and I also want to read Shirley Jackson’s Edgar Award-winning short story at some point as well as part of another long term project I am working on (because how many things can I be working on at the same time? Let’s find out!), and I also got both the new Donna Andrews and the new Raquel V. Reyes novels (Dashing Through the Snowbirds and Calypso, Cooking and Corpses, respectively). Lots of good reading in my future, really–but there always is; my TBR stack is a who’s who of brilliant writers, really.
And when I am finished with my work for the day, I think I am going to start planning out the rest of the Scotty book (after finishing the chapter I am currently struggling with). It certainly can’t make writing it any harder, right?
A few weekends ago I talked to Ricky Grove, the host of The Paperback Show podcast about Daphne du Maurier and My Cousin Rachel (you can listen here if you’d like), which was a lot of fun–any excuse, really, to talk about Daphne du Maurier will be leapt at here in the Lost Apartment, for future reference–and Ricky is always fun to talk to; I can’t believe how long I’ve known Ricky now, where does the goddamned time go, anyway?
It has been quite a long time since I got into this business–as I said the other day, I’ve been doing this a third of my life now, which is simply insane, really, to think about–and it’s been quite a ride, to be certain. I’m a totally different person than I was twenty years ago, and there’s no way in hell twenty years ago I could have foreseen what those two decades held in store, just waiting for the time to be right to pounce on me. But it’s cool, you know; I’m pretty happy with the life I have and the direction it’s heading, even if I am more aware of the ticking down of the clock than I was before, to be sure. I’m behind on everything as always but progress was made this past week, and now that I have the schedule back that I prefer for the day job, I am hoping I will adapt to it rather quickly again and so I won’t have the insomnia or the “tired all day” feel that brings with it. There’s a short story deadline tomorrow that I wanted to make, so I thought last night about potential stories I have on hand that I could possibly polish tomorrow and try to get turned in–if they say no, they say no, and you can’t be accepted if you don’t turn anything in at all–so that’s a potential thing for me to do tomorrow. I also want to drop some books off at the library sale, and maybe wash and clean out the car. LSU plays a night game tomorrow, so I have the entire day free (I’ll probably have the Alabama-Tennessee game on in the background, ROLL TIDE!) to get things done and write and read and clean and…I guess we’ll just have to see how it all goes, won’t we?
And on that note, I am. heading into the spice mines before i head over to the office to get my flu shot. Have a happy and productive day, Constant Reader.
Oddly enough, as I sat in my easy chair the other day watching college football games and letting my body and mind and creativity rest, I had an idea for either a stand alone book or a new series, one way or the other, and it’s something I find interesting enough that I might even consider it. It would be a difficult proposition, to be sure–given the decline in retail sales and everything going to an on-line and electronic model–but I was looking at a map of New Orleans on my iPad because it occurred to me that I didn’t know where Tulane’s not-so-new-anymore on-campus football stadium was; so I pulled up a map to look because I was thinking that was a great line for a Scotty book–I always forget there’s a football stadium in Uptown-so of course I had to go looking for it. The map also brought up businesses in the area and lo and behold, there’s a comic book shop uptown on the lake side of Claiborne and it hit me: no one has ever done a cozy series about a comic book shop and that opened up an entire world of possibilities for me: the main character is an aspiring comic book artist who works in the shop, and of course, you can get into the whole thing about who actually is into comics and the history of comic books and it would give me an excuse to actually learn more about comics and their history and…
You see how this ends up going, don’t you?
I know any number of comics geeks–Alex Segura Jr, author of this year’s brilliant Secret Identity, about the business side of producing comics, is one–and one of my best friends from college owns a comic book shop in central California, or did at some point–and of course my neighbor Michael is also heavily into comics, having gone to Comic Con in San Diego, even. And of course I’d get to make up shit, which is always a huge plus for me. I love making up shit! And of course, it would be fun to write from the point of view of a struggling artist.
I mean, it’s not like I wouldn’t know anything about that…
The Saints played terribly yesterday and logged another “L” in the record book (how bad are the Falcons?) yesterday; I didn’t watch but rather followed on Twitter while I did things around the house. The Saints games sometimes cause me too much stress and then I am emotionally exhausted afterwards–too drained to be of much use, so sometimes I just follow it on Twitter or it’ll be on in the living room while I work in the kitchen. I did get the Costco delivery yesterday, and should probably run some errands at some point today, but it is Work-at-Home Monday and I have work I have to get done. I am behind still from the Bouchercon trip and the ensuing back injury, but am hopeful I will start getting caught up somewhat soon. Emails beget emails, though, and therefore that is a sisyphean task indeed.
We watched the new Star Wars show Andor last night, and I am so happy Deigo Luna’s character is getting an origin story. So far, the only show they’ve done I didn’t buy into completely was The Book of Boba Fett, and am thinking maybe we should give that another try at some point. After those three episodes we moved on to The Serpent Queen and American Gigolo, which I think we’re going to give up on. I love Jon Bernthal, but I’m just not buying this story for the character. It’s an interesting idea–and full props to them for turning it into a sequel series in which Julian actually goes to jail for the murder he was accused of committing in the film, but I’m just not really getting vested into the show, either, no matter how much I want to. The Serpent Queen remains fantastic, and gets better with each episode as Catherine explains to her new maid her philosophy of survival, illustrated with scenes from her past. Samantha Morton is fantastic as the older queen and the actress who plays her as a young woman is also equally good. But it’s a period of history I particularly love, and of course, Catherine de Medici is one of the most fascinatingly complex women to hold power in history. The reality of her life was dramatic enough to drive a series, and they’ve done a pretty decent job of following the actual history, with some adjustments here and there.
Also keeping an eye out for Hurricane Ian, which seems to have Florida’s Gulf Coast clearly in its sights. We are just outside the Cone of Uncertainty, which doesn’t mean we’re safe–there could always be another westward shift to the potential path–but I do concern myself with Florida and friends there. I don’t remember the last time Tampa took a direct hit; I don’t think they have in quite some time, and I can imagine a storm surge into the bay and into the rivers that drain into it would be enormously problematic for the city–as well as for Clearwater and St. Petersburg on the peninsula on the other side of the bay. Stay safe, people.
My podcast interview about Daphne du Maurier, with a particular emphasis on My Cousin Rachel, went really well. It was for my friend Ricky Grove, whom I know from my days in the Horror Writers Association and when I put on World Horror Con back in the day here in New Orleans (he is the author Lisa Morton’s partner–have you read Lisa? You should read Lisa). I can talk about du Maurier all day, and we did continue talking for at least another hour after we stopped recording; I do love to talk books and writing, after all, with the end result that I felt horribly drained when it was over. Ah, yes, the age-old problem of the introvert having to be an extrovert on a day when he usually doesn’t have to do anything of the kind. I retired to my easy chair, but found the draining of my energy to have been far too effective for me to focus clearly on anything. I did do another blog entry about my work–this time my Todd Gregory erotic novel Every Frat Boy Wants It, while starting others about Baton Rouge Bingo and the second Todd Gregory book (Games Frat Boys Play)–but when I tried to work on the book or anything else (including trying to read) I couldn’t get anything done so finally gave up and made myself useful around the house. Hopefully after an eyes-crossing day of data entry and quality assurance on testing logs, I’ll be able to dive back into the Scotty book. I know I am procrastinating with Chapter Three and should probably just stop worrying about it and move on, but that’s just not how my creativity works. Heavy heaving sigh. But that’s okay, the stress of being behind will come in handy as December 1 draws ever more near.
Or so I tell myself.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Hope you have a marvelous and lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.
Yesterday morning when I got up my back felt like it was on the mend; it was still a bit painful and tight, but better than it had been the day before so I thought, oh thank you baby Jesus–there’s an end in sight. Unfortunately, as the day progresses it began to hurt more and more until the end of the day, when picking up my back pack was agonizing, as was the drive home. I immediately changed into my sweats (which was painful) and repaired to my easy chair. Scooter climbed into my lap and went to sleep immediately while I caught up on this week’s episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (which really deserves its own entry or an essay; the phenomenon of these shows fascinates me–which is probably why I explored it in Royal Street Reveillon) and then…I don’t remember much of the rest of the evening, really. Paul came home, gave me a pain killer, and I know we watched the final two episodes of Five Days at Memorial (which posed some pretty interesting ethical questions that I don’t know the answers to) and then another of Bad Sisters (which I really like) before collapsing into bed and praying that this morning would be the same as yesterday….
…for naught. The painkiller didn’t really help all that much (although I can see why the drugs with oxy in their name are so addictive) but made me comfortable–I was still aware of the pain, but it was slightly more bearable. Yesterday afternoon I made the right decision–I told my supervisor I was taking a personal day to let my back get better; all that getting up and sitting down yesterday was no help at all–and so I am literally going to spend the day sitting in my easy chair, slathered in generic Ben-Gay with the heating pad attached to my back.
Getting old really and truly sucks. But I do have some reading to get caught up on–I need to reread everything I am working on, I also need to reread My Cousin Rachel as I am being interviewed on a podcast about it and du Maurier in a couple of weeks (seriously, how fucking thrilling is that?) and of course, I want to read the new Donna Andrews. I never did make the to-do list I’ve been talking about on here all week–the back pain really is excruciating–so maybe I can gather everything around me that I need to get to today while sitting in the chair and letting highlights of old LSU games stream on Youtube in the background (oh yes, I rewatch highlights of old LSU games–only big wins, of course–and it always puts me in a better mood, and yes, I am aware how weird that actually is. Sue me.), and hopefully Scooter will sleep in my lap for most of the day. I need to order groceries for pick-up (and Costco for delivery) but I am a little worried about carrying everything into the Lost Apartment.
I also slept later than usual this morning; I’ve been feeling exhausted all week and figured the world wouldn’t end should I stay in bed for an extra hour or two. The good news is I do not feel tired this morning–I am so tired of feeling tired–but, of course, the back is aching. My desk chair feels much more comfortable than my work chairs, for some reason it just seems to fit my back better so it’s not painful to sit here. I cannot explain it, it makes absolutely no sense, but I am going to take advantage of that fact not only to try to get this entry written but do my reviews of Gabino Iglesias’ The Devil Takes You Home and Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden, both of which are SUPERB. (5 out of 5 stars, get copies NOW)
I’ve also realized I’ve not done much of a Bouchercon round-up–primarily because all of it was a blur, and maybe, just maybe, I hurt my back from laughing so hard for so long. A laughing injury! It is entirely possible, of course; I noted many times how much it hurt to laugh when I was in the midst of a laughing fit because of something hilarious someone said (I really do know the funniest people), and also all the standing; several times in the evening in the bar I noted that my back was getting sore–so naturally instead of sitting down or doing anything to baby it (because that would be admitting that I am too old to stand for long) I continued doing what made it hurt in the first place.
The uncomfortable airline seats on the flight home also did not help much in that regard.
So, that is the state of the Gregalicious this morning. I just made groceries for pick up tomorrow–I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it–and at some point tomorrow I’ll order Costco for delivery. But for now, I am going to take my heating pad and my aching back to my chair so I can chill for a bit.
I’ve told this story any number of times; how the writing of the book was derailed by two awful things that happened in my life, and how I finally got back to writing again in the spring of 2005, managing to finish this and turn it into literally two or three weeks before Hurricane Katrina came barreling ashore and changed everything in my life, and the long recovery time from that paradigm shift, trying to adjust to the new reality I was facing every day. It felt weird going over the copy edits, weirder still doing the page proofs (I actually had the incredibly sharp-eyed Becky Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert do it for me while I was visiting the Compound, thanks again, guys!), and even stranger having to tour and promote a book about New Orleans set before Katrina while still dealing with the recovery.
I’ve told those stories before, and that isn’t really what these entries are about; these entries are about the books themselves and how I came up with the stories and so forth, and the writing of the books. The primary problem, of course, is that I wrote this book between and around tragedies; the two year period I call the Time of Troubles that began on Memorial Day weekend in 2004 and ran through about 2008, really; because that’s about how long it took after all those issues for me to feel like my feet were beneath me again and I once again had a grasp on my life. I don’t remember what the original story was about, other than it centered on the Krewe of Iris, Scotty’s Diderot grandmother’s best friend who’d married a much younger muscle-stud Russian, and that’s really about it. The Russian would have something to do with a Colin case–and it would turn out actually be the case that brought him undercover to New Orleans in the first place during Southern Decadence; in Jackson Square Jazz we find out what Colin’s real job is, and that he was in town originally about the Napoleon death mask–but he was also in town to keep an eye on the young muscle-stud Russian who’d married Scotty’s grandmother’s best friend. It wasn’t really working, and I didn’t much care for the story, to be honest; I’d already asked for an extension before Memorial Day weekend in 2004 when all the shit started happening; after Paul was attacked they took it off the schedule and told me not to worry about it. (I appreciated the courtesy greatly at the time, but at the same time had this sinking feeling in the back of my head uh oh, they may not want another one after this–which turned out to be correct. But I dismissed the fear as part of my on-going struggle with Imposter Syndrome. It took me about six months, more or less, to get back to writing. I started my blog right after Christmas that year, and there I was writing every day again, and by January of 2005 I was ready to get going on this book again. I remember rereading everything I’d already done, not liking it, and deciding to scrap it and start over with the same essential premise: rich older society woman in New Orleans has married a much younger Russian boy-toy; Colin is investigating the boy-toy; and it’s Carnival season. Shortly after getting about halfway into a new first draft, the Virginia thing happened and I was derailed again. After that was over and I went back to the book…once again I didn’t like what was happening in the story and I threw it all out and started over again.
But this time, I hit my stride and four months later I turned the book in at long last, along with a proposal for a fourth, Hurricane Party Hustle, which was going to be set during an evacuation and would wrap up the loose ends left at the end of Mardi Gras Mambo.
And of course, three weeks later Katrina changed everything, and Hurricane Party Hustle went into the drawer.
Last night I dreamed it was Mardi Gras again. It seemed to me I was standing inside an iron gate, watching one of the night parades go by. The sidewalks in front of the gate were crowded with people, all shouting, with their grasping eager hands up in the air. Out beyond the edge of the curb, I could see people sitting in lawn chairs. Still others were up on ladders, with coolers and plastic bags of booty piled around them on the ground. Fathers and mothers were holding up babies, while black kids with the crotches of their pants down around their knees walked behind the crowd, weighted down by the ropes of beads around their necks. Beads were flying through the air, some getting caught and tangled in the branches of the towering gnarled oaks lining the avenue. The heavy upper branches of those oaks also blocked out the glow of the ancient street lamps so the night seemed even darker than it should. I could hear a marching band, playing a recent hip-hop hit, and the strange clicking sound of the baton girls’ tap shoes on the pavement. The air was heavy with the heavy fragrance of hot grease, corn dogs and the strange melted yellowish-orangey substance the vendors put on nachos that purports to be cheese—but no one is really sure what it is. A group of flambeaux carriers were passing by, dancing that odd little circular dance they do, their propane tanks popping and hissing, throwing long and twisted shadows that also danced inside the iron fence I was behind. Right behind them a huge float pulled by a tractor was coming and the crowd’s shouts became louder, more desperate, more pleading. On the float’s front was a huge white clown face, its bright red lips parted in what passed for a smile but seemed to me to be a frightening leer. The masks on the float riders glowed supernaturally at the hordes begging them for generosity in the strange light cast by the moon when it cleared the thick clouds in the cold night sky. I stood inside the black iron fence, my arms wrapped around me against the cold as an increased sense of menace and dread built inside me. Something bad was going to happen—
Oh, get real, Scotty!
If I do have bad dreams, I don’t remember them when I wake up. I’ve certainly never been troubled in my sleep, even though crazy things always seem to happen to me. I’m just one of those people, I guess. For whatever reason, the Goddess has decided to throw some wild stuff at me—she always has, even when I was a kid—and what can you do? I just don’t think I am one of those people who were destined to have a nice, normal, quiet life. Maybe it’s because I was named Milton Bradley at birth. Yes, that’s right. Milton Bradley. My older brother started calling me by my middle name, Scotty, before I started school and thank the Goddess, it stuck. Can you imagine how cruel the kids would have been to someone named Milton, let alone Milton Bradley? And then of course there’s the gay thing. I was lucky—my parents are pretty liberal and were delighted to have a gay son—like it somehow proved how truly cool they really are or something. They are pretty cool, actually.
By now, I’d taken to starting all of my New Orleans novels with a Tennessee Williams quote; for this one I chose a line from Vieux Carré: “You’ve got a lot to learn about life in the Quarter.”
I had opened Bourbon Street Blues with a parody of “The name’s Bond, James Bond” and I’d done something similar with Jackson Square Jazz–“Danger is my middle name”, riffing on Trouble is My Business. I decided to open this book with a parody of the opening line of Rebecca: “Last night I dreamed I went to Mardi Gras again.” But that entire opening paragraph of du Maurier’s is so fucking brilliant, I couldn’t help myself and made my entire first paragraph a parody of that opening. I then decided that from then forward, every Scotty book would have a Williams quote and each prologue–where Scotty introduces himself and his cast of characters and gives backstory so I don’t have to do it in the text of the story itself–would parody the opening paragraph of a famous novel, rather than just the first line (I am actually struggling to find the proper opening to parody to start the prologue for this one. I’ve used Rebecca, Peyton Place, The Haunting of Hill House, and Lolita, among others so far already; I’ve tried with this one to use An American Tragedy, Atlas Shrugged and The Great Gatsby thus far, with no luck. I’ve tried Valley of the Dolls several times for other books in the series already, but I can’t ever get it to work for me).
I do remember that the one thing that didn’t come across in those earlier drafts that I had abandoned was the sense of insanity that Carnival always brings with it; that feeling of “controlled anarchy” we experience those two weeks of parades, of knowing you have to schedule your entire life around a parade schedule–true even for those who do not live inside the box, as we say here; the box being the Uptown parade route–I always have to schedule my job, my trips to run errands uptown, everything, predicated around having to get home at least two hours before the parades start, and am incredibly lucky if I can get a parking spot within three blocks of the Lost Apartment. The thing I kept forgetting in those earlier versions was the books are meant to be fun. Granted, I was hardly in a mental space to write something fun…and of course the decision to really take it completely over the top the way I did was something I still think about to this day and wonder, where on earth did you get the idea for identical triplets?
Which, while crazy, made more sense than the cloning story I tried to write the second time.
Maybe those bad things happened for a reason? Because I couldn’t be more pleased with how the story and the book turned out. I also ran out of room to finish the personal story…but I also was operating on the assumption I’d get a contract for a fourth book. If not for Katrina, Kensington might have made another offer and Hurricane Party Hustle might have been the fourth Scotty than something just sitting in the files.
The book was released on Fat Tuesday, 2006. Paul and I had been out of town–the truncated Carnival/parade season seemed almost too sad to handle, so we’d accepted a gig to speak at the South Carolina Book Festival. We flew back to New Orleans the Sunday morning before Fat Tuesday. I’d checked my email that morning before boarding the flight to Atlanta (we changed planes) and then our cab driver couldn’t get closer to St. Charles than Baronne Street. A parade was going as we got out of the car, and we had to cross the parade (it was in the high seventies and sunny) with our luggage–I’ll never forget looking up as we got ready to cross and catching a bag of beads with my hand just before it connected with my face–and got home. I checked my emails and my word! SO MANY EMAILS.
You see, that day’s edition of the Times-Picayune carried Susan Larson’s review of the book, and it was a rave! Everyone emailed me as soon as they saw it–I still bask in the glory of that review–and I was about to embark on probably the most ambitious book tour of my career.
I just didn’t see, though, how I could write another funny, light book about a city still in ruins whose recovery was still questionable.
The series was, for the moment, over–with the personal story not resolved the way I would have wanted, but it could stand as it was, should there never be another Scotty story.
Rereading it, I couldn’t but laugh at some of the outrageous twists and turns the plot took.