Brown Eyes

Well, there’s something forming in the Bay of Campeche that doesn’t bode well for the Gulf Coast; yay for hurricane season? Heavy heaving sigh. So far, the path of this potential storm seems to have western Louisiana in its sights; a part of the state that still hasn’t completely recovered from the hits it took last year. Ah, well, it’s certainly never dull around here these days.

I am up early for the first time in a while because I am actually heading into the office today! Huzzah for some sense of normality, such as it is…of course, there’s no telling what I am walking into when I go there today–but I think some people have been into the office in the meantime, so it most likely won’t be a complete and total disaster area…or so we shall see at any rate.

I took this weekend to recalibrate and rest and try to get my head back together; I’ve been in a weird state since the power went out and am hoping to get my sense of normal–either what is or isn’t–back. I also know from experience from these sorts of things that there will be good days and there will be bad days, and that to remember, keep remembering, that while I and everyone else have been through a traumatic experience again, it could have been much much worse than it actually was, even for those who lost everything–the recovery won’t take as long as the post-Katrina one because the levees didn’t actually fail this time. Sure, many of us are going to be dealing with some frustrations and irritations–the last I checked the trash still hadn’t been picked up, and the debris out on our street is still there–but normality of a sort is beginning to return, but the last thing we needed is for Nicholas to form and come to part of Louisiana. I think it’s supposed to come ashore around the state line with Texas, or so it was the last time I checked yesterday, sometime tomorrow.

I should go check, shouldn’t I?

So, yes, the threat from this storm is currently Houston and the Texas gulf coast; and of course Lake Charles and the state line. We’ll undoubtedly get some weather effects from it–it’s only 78 degrees outside this morning, and weirdly gray and grim looking–but we shall be spared the brunt of it. While this is a relief, I cannot say it pleases me–again, wishing a storm away inevitably means wishing destruction and disaster on other people, so it never feels right or good or appropriate.

And the season doesn’t end until December 1.

The Saints won yesterday, rather easily at that, which was both a pleasant surprise and a lovely one. It’s going to take me a good long while to get used to the Saints playing without Drew Brees; the man had become an institution around here, and it was so fucking weird not even seeing him on the sideline. It really sunk in yesterday that the Brees era–undoubtedly the best era of the franchises’s history, without question–is officially over, and it made me more than a little sad. I was of course absolutely delighted to see the new phase of the team win convincingly over Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers, but at the same time it was a little bittersweet. The shadow of Drew Brees loomed large over the city since he was signed after the disastrous 2005 Katrina season, and how strange the new era begins right after the city took a direct or almost-direct hit from a category 4 hurricane.

We also watched the pressure of winning a Grand Slam and becoming the player with the most Slam wins of all time overtake and overwhelm Novak Djokovic, who lost all of his chances at history decisively, in three straight sets, to Daniil Medvedev, who won his first major tournament, and good for him. After the US Open and the Saints game, we moved on to get caught up on Animal Kingdom, which just isn’t the same without Ellen Barkin–whom they killed off at the end of the fourth season (SPOILER), and then watched the first episode of Only Murders in the Building, which we greatly enjoyed…although I couldn’t help but wonder what those apartments in present day New York would be valued at. I also like the premise–one that has interested me for a while since we moved to New Orleans–how well do you know your neighbors after all? I’ve addressed this, with New Orleans, in some of my short fiction–the novels tend towards how well do we know anyone, really?–but this was the premise of “The Carriage House,” just off the top of my head, and I am sure I’ve explored it in other stories but my frail, fragile mind cannot summon up the titles of any others that do this as well. At any rate, I am looking forward to watching more of it, and to be honest, it’s nice to see Steve Martin working again. I also like Martin Short, who rarely gets the credit he deserves for acting (he was stunningly brilliant in his season of Damages), and while Selena Gomez hasn’t really impressed me much on the show, I am sure she will get a chance to shine before it’s over.

And on that note, I need to get in the shower and get ready to return to the office since before–well, since around August 24th, which was my last day before my vacation started…talk to you later, Constant Reader.

Lay It On The Line

I woke up this morning and knew immediately it was Thursday, which is progress of a sort, isn’t it? I may not know the actual DATE, but I know the day of the week, which is a step in the right direction.

I made it to the gym yesterday after work for a very brief, one 15 rep set of everything upper body related–it had been well over a week since my last workout, so I was worried about overdoing it and straining the muscles too much, but it felt so amazing, and I felt so good afterwards–I woke up this morning feeling good, too–that I think a lot of the stress, tension and tightness I was feeling in my neck, shoulders and back could have been from not working out in addition to being stressed on top of everything else. I also slept incredibly well last night without taking anything chemical–I was sleepy when I went to bed, and decided to see if I was tired enough to sleep without medical assistance, and apparently I was. I may try to sleep without assistance tonight again myself, just to see–I do worry about becoming chemically dependent; the last thing I need at my age is rehab–so we will see how it all goes this evening.

I feel normal this morning for the first time since the power went out. I can’t really say why–I honestly don’t know–unless going to the gym yesterday kicked my brain back into some sort of normality or present reality or something. It’s nice to feel normal again, though–the trouble with these paradigm shifting disruptions is you’re never sure what normal feels like in the new reality, but this morning I kind of feel normal, which is really lovely. I have more work at home duties to get through today–more on the horizon tomorrow–and am curious to see what is in store for work for next week. Will we be seeing clients again? Will the building be open? There’s an all-staff call on Tuesday again–which makes me tend to think the office may or may not be open by then, but then again, I used to always miss these calls because they were during the time I was seeing clients, so I don’t really remember if this was a weekly thing or not. I am hopeful–always–that somehow, getting through this as another off-week and through the weekend will continue with this feeling of normality. We shall see–I guess the next test is to see whether I can write or not.

I spent some time yesterday evening watching documentaries on Youtube–there was a particularly good one on Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of my all time favorite historical women. I’ve also discovered a channel on Youtube that focuses primarily on biographies, short for the most part, no longer than fifteen minutes at the longest, that focuses on the French House of Bourbon. I love seventeenth century France (always have, hence my obsession with The Three Musketeers), have always wanted to write about it, and maybe someday I will. (To be fair, I am also obsessed with the sixteenth century history of all Europe, not just France…and perhaps someday I will write my history about the powerful women of the sixteenth century. Catherine de Medici and her life remain absolutely fascinating to me; I’ve always wanted to write about that turbulent period of French history–the Religious Wars of the latter part of the century–and de Medici’s Flying Squadron–women trained in the art of seduction in order to spy on potential enemies of the throne. Maybe someday, when I’ve retired.)

And since we returned, I find myself unable to read. I am probably going to get caught up on my Real Housewives watching while stripping condom packs today–yes, it’s a big and exciting day of work-at-home duties for Gregalicious today, but I don’t know if I can face the tedium of the data entry; maybe I can get my shows watched and perhaps a movie, and then move back into the data entry, I don’t know; I will play it all by ear today methinks. And I need to make a new to-do list….

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

To Be Lovers

Tuesday morning and still no Internet. The phone hotspot still seems to be working fine–I’m actually surprised at how quick the Internet connection is; I am so glad I upgraded my phone back in July to a 5G, praise be. I have to work from home today–but am probably going to swing by the office tomorrow to get some more work to be done from either here or there; it all depends, I suppose. My office still doesn’t have power; our other office does (I also need to swing by there as well–there’s a prescription for me waiting there) but my office is running on generators. I am assuming that means there’s no Internet there; but I will go by there to pick up things to work on from home tomorrow anyway and see how things are going there at any rate. Yesterday I was exhausted; the tired went all the way to the bone yesterday. I managed to get some things done around here in the morning, continued to do laundry and organize and clean out cabinets and so forth, but by around four in the afternoon I was so exhausted I could hardly move; so I just put on Spotify and collapsed into my easy chair and started rereading things I’ve been working on–the first three chapters of Chlorine, the novellas, some short stories–and while I am not as pleased with that work as I would like to be this morning, there are some good parts in those works and the skeleton/baseline of them are all very good, very well done, and have the potential to be really good, which is indeed something. Before I get started on my data entry I am going to try to get caught up on my work emails and messages and so forth; while I swill coffee and before I take a shower to face the day. I am going to run some errands at lunch time, and hopefully will be able to go to the gym and at least get some work done on my muscles–I think a lot of the stiffness and so forth is my body protesting the lack of exercise, which does happen; your body gets used to being worked out and when you stop, your muscles are not happy about it in the least. I also have some book review posts to get scheduled for today; I wrote them all yesterday in my exhausted state, but didn’t want to bombard you, Constant Reader, with a slew of book entries…they will be forthcoming, to be sure.

It’s very weird this morning to be readjusting back to some semblance of normality. Remember, Hurricane Ida came ashore during my vacation (sobs softly to self); I had taken a vacation for Bouchercon and kept the time off–only to have a hurricane hit on the final Sunday of the vacation and throw everyone in New Orleans off course for quite some time. At least I don’t have to go into the office today; I have plenty of things to keep me busy around here for the day, and I am curious at some point to go drive around the city and see what’s up everywhere else around here. I know the things that are open are only open for limited hours–staffing AND supplies, I would imagine–so am more than a little curious to see what exactly the grocery stores have in stock and so forth, or if deliveries are coming into the city. I also have no idea whether or not we have mail service, either–so will have to be looking into that. I had packages coming, and Paul’s medications come through the mail (or UPS, we aren’t sure which; but they do come to our postal service). I’m also curious as to whether my CVS is open–going to need to refill that Xanax soon, and believe you me, no one wants me to not have the stuff that takes the edge off and smooths out my corners.

It’s also weird not having television–I guess I didn’t realize how much time I waste sitting in my easy chair with the television on, at the very least for background noise. My wonderful new computer actually has better picture and sound than the television, but the problem is my desk chair isn’t as comfortable as my easy chair (natch) and my muscles again were all tense and knotted from stress and aggravation yesterday–they are still tight this morning, actually–and not only do I need to stretch them, I need a deep tissue massage. (Good luck with that right now, right? Sheesh. It’s too bad we couldn’t have evacuated to a spa hotel somewhere…sauna, steam room, and massage sounds mighty marvelous about right now, quite frankly) I was also a little too tired and loopy to focus on reading, so I didn’t pick up SIlvia Moreno-Garcia’s marvelous Velvet was the Night yesterday; I could reread my own works in progress without a great degree of difficulty or requiring a high level of focus or concentration, but not something new…interesting how I powered through all that reading when there was no power or anything to distract me, but as soon as I had television and Internet in the hotel, my reading came to a sharp halt.

Curious, indeed.

I am also exhausted this morning but not nearly as bad as yesterday. I think it all kind of came crashing in on me yesterday–all those nerves, stress, and tension of the last eight to ten days, and I was literally drained. I hate having lost the time–I’d hoped to be to at least to Chapter Ten of Chlorine by now, so I am behind. I am behind on everything, and now get to play catch up while tired and worn down. Ah, well, I know the drill–make a list, start crossing things off while adding more as you go–and so, I should probably get started on my work day.

Have a lovely post Labor Day, Constant Reader.

Tell It To My Heart

Monday morning, and I am not so certain that my weekend was nearly as productive as it needed to be. Sure, I finished going over the line/copy edits of Bury Me in Shadows, and I did manage to get caught up on some other things, but as always, as I Monday morning quarterback my weekend over my first cup of coffee–I find myself thinking I should have gotten more done, should have spent more time with some things, and am trying not to allow the inevitable desire to get down on myself take deeper hold. Part of my goals for this year is to be easier on myself, and beating myself up over not being as productive as I would like to be–which is often unattainable for even the most Type A facet of one Gregalicious–is definitely not the road or path I need to be taking this Monday morning. This is my last full week of this month–after this week is completed, next weekend (the one after this coming one) is when we have our lovely four day long weekend where the agency is closing (but still paying us), and then after that week will be Bouchercon here in New Orleans–although very little is left of what was going to be my first in-person event with my mystery peeps since I went to New York for the annual board meeting for Mystery Writers of America in January of 2020(!). People are canceling and I can’t blame them for not wanting to come to a hot spot of COVID variant strains.

This coming weekend is earmarked for the revisions/edits/clean up of #shedeservedit, which will be so lovely to finally be almost completely finished with. I wrote the first draft in July of 2015; ninety-seven thousand words in thirty-one days, and now it’s going to finally see print. It is (the town, the characters) been in progress of some sort or another since I was in high school, really, and…when it finally comes out, it’s kind of the end of an era for me. Oh, I’ll probably write more about that county and town; that region in general, for that matter–but along with Sara, it finally closes the publication door on the things I’ve been working on or thinking about for the last forty years or more.

And when you put it that way….

And here it is Monday evening already. I never finished writing this before leaving for the office this morning; I didn’t sleep well and of all mornings that needed cappuccinos, it was clearly this one, and yet I was too tired to get everything out and make one, so I just had regular coffee instead. Not ideal, perhaps, but I managed to make it through the day somehow. I even picked up the mail and made groceries on the way home, how’s about that? Shocking, I know–but I am probably going to pour myself into bed relatively early tonight. Tomorrow is a big “after work” day; I am switching to doing legs as my second workout of the week. Not a real leg day, mind you–just a focused workout with my legs with a few intense and difficult exercises.

I also finished the third chapter of Chlorine yesterday; taking it from the 1300 I had to a robust 3500 or so. Is it probably a sloppy sloppy mess? Probably. But it was also kind of fun to write once the hole in the page opened and I fell into it. This is enormously pleasing to me still–I am not as pleased as I was last night, to be clear, but am still pretty darned pleased–and when I finish writing this, I am probably going to go over to my easy chair and reread what I wrote yesterday, and probably will spend some time with The Other Black Girl, which I am also really enjoying.

And of course, we spent some time last night with the great cheesy fun that is Outer Banks’ second season. I love that they aren’t reeling any of it in this season, either; batshit nuts and over the top and WAY WAY fun.

You know, everything I love in a television show.

Man, I am tired. We had a weird day today; my program coordinator is on vacation so everything was silence back in the cubicle area, and I had no one to talk to all day. We also had a lot of clients no-show or cancel today–not sure if that was COVID-surge-related, or the thunderstorm (it’s been raining all day), or just the first Monday in a new month blues or something, I don’t know. But I would have rather had clients–I’d rather be busy than sitting at my desk twiddling my thumbs waiting for something, anything, to do (I have other things to do, but it’s all tedious make-work sort of stuff, like printing forms, stocking rooms, and so forth–and yes, I did all that but it’s tedious; I’d rather be interacting with clients and getting them tested).

Ah, well, at least I have a job that I love doing and don’t mind getting out of bed for. It’s one of the many blessings I’ve been gifted with in this life–a great day job that I enjoy and where I feel like I’m accomplishing something every day I go into the office. A lot of people don’t even have that, so…would it be great if my salary were twice its size? Of course, but if that increase were to come with a decrease in working with clients face to face on risk reduction strategies for STI infections and testing them for same (as well as connecting them to treatment) I don’t know that I would take it, frankly.

And now, without further ado, I am going to read for a bit before Paul gets home. Have a lovely Monday evening, Constant Reader!

I Think about You

Friday finally, and so much to do, as always.

Yesterday was an interesting day on social media. I was working at home and so not paying nearly as much attention as I would ordinarily–just checking in here and there when I was bleary-eyed from working, plus tired from the insomnia the night before–and was more than a little amused to see some weird stuff going on around that short story for The New Yorker that went viral a while back–“Cat Person”, which didn’t impress me much–but apparently the author had based the story on her own experience with some guy, after which someone had told her about another woman’s experience with the same guy so she based the female main character on THAT woman, and THAT woman wrote an essay about having her life appropriated for someone else’s fiction?

It’s been my experience that people will see themselves in characters you create that they like and identify with, even if there’s nothing further from that truth. People I know have always seen themselves in characters that I’ve written about–and I can only think of one instance where I actually DID base someone on a friend–Scotty’s best friend David, who disappeared from the series after the first three books (mainly because I could never figure out a way to bring him into the stories; although I do think about bringing him back every now and then because I really liked the character). David was based on my friend and workout partner Mark, who always wanted to be killed off in a really brutal fashion. I never obliged, of course, but as I said, when I picked up the series again after several years away from it, I could never figure out a way to involve him in the story so he kind of became an absent character.

Now that I’ve said that, I am determined to involve him in the next Scotty book. It might be kind of fun, actually.

I slept better last night than I did the night before, so I am better rested today. Yesterday I was so tired I actually felt unwell, which of course had me thinking about COVID variants and so forth, and made me also think I should be more diligent about wearing masks everywhere. I did make groceries last night after work, despite being tired, and i did wear a mask, and I think that’s going to be my standard practice going forward. Why risk getting sick, and I sure as hell don’t care what people I don’t know think about me. (I have gone into a few places unmasked over the past few weeks; like a very bad Gregalicious.) I also had a nightmare last night that when I got up and came downstairs this morning, there would be another pile of forms for me to enter into the CDC database–which was a most unpleasant dream, frankly.

I also got my copy of S. A. Cosby’s new book, Razorblade Tears, in the mail yesterday. I will move on to it once I finish reading Bath Haus, which should be this weekend. I’m very excited to read Shaun’s new book–I’ve heard such wonderful things about it already, and frankly, I am a huge fan. Blacktop Wasteland was one of my favorite books of last year. I am also excited that the next part of the Fear Street trilogy is dropping on Netflix today.

I also haven’t written in several days, which is not good–but the tired thing is for real. Since I am feeling rested today, I am hoping to tear through the next part of “Never Kiss a Stranger,” with an end goal of finishing the first draft this weekend. I am going to also start writing the next chapter of Chlorine this weekend, provided I stay rested and motivated. My phô restaurant is reopening today as well, so I am going to be able to get some phô at some point this weekend as well. Maybe tomorrow? And I will be going to the gym later today as well. On the walk home from the gym today I intend to swing by another street into the Garden District–First–and will be taking pictures of Anne Rice’s former home, which was the house she made the longtime home of the Mayfair witches, beginning with The Witching Hour, which is one of my favorite New Orleans novels. Despite the heat and the gallons of sweat these picture taking walks home creates, I am enjoying them because I feel like I am reconnecting with the city in some ways. I certainly don’t feel as disconnected as I have over the past year or so.

And on that note, it’s time to go make condom packs. Have a glorious Friday, COnstant Reader, and I will talk to you tomorrow.

A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)

Oh, Mercury in retrograde.

So, my car–not so new anymore, and nearly paid off–wouldn’t start yesterday, which was horrifying and traumatizing; like any car drama inevitably always is.. Mostly for the incredible inconvenience of having to deal with it all, really–and the inevitable unexpected expense. There are few things that can drive me to the brink of tears more quickly than car trouble; years of having old, old, OLD cars have trained me to be expect expense and heartbreak every time something goes wrong with a car. I specifically bought a brand new car so I’d never have to worry about this again, I thought sadly, feeling terribly betrayed, but..it’s almost paid for (and oh, how long I’ve been looking forward to that day)and this is the first real trouble of any kind and so I sighed, came back inside and called the dealership. I explained what was going on–the technician was looking me up in the computer from the called ID and when I finished, he said, “well, that doesn’t sound like the battery, it sounds like an electrical system issue and I am seeing you bought the extended warrantee so that’s completely covered. Have you arranged for the tow yet?”

GREG: “Well, no, I was waiting to talk to you and–”

He cut me off before I could finish saying “…can you recommend someone?”

“Mr. Herren, do you have full coverage with your car insurance?” When I answered in the affirmative, he replied, “Call them and see if they cover tows–most of them do and most people don’t know that. Regardless, they can arrange for the tow for you, and the tow company will simply bill us, so it will be included in whatever costs you may incur here; if this is completely covered by your warrantee you just pay us for the tow charges when you pick up the car. So, give them a call and we’ll take a look at your car when it arrives.”

I hung up, dumbfounded, and went to my insurance website. I called, the automated system texted me a link to their app, and within two minutes I’d arranged for a tow; it arrived exactly on the dot when the app said it would, and that was it.

The app will even arrange a ride for me to pick up the car.

I mean, wow. I don’t even know how to feel about being so bad at being an adult–if not for the tech at my dealership, I would have paid for the tow, and I might have even just decided to take it to the Firestone on Camp Street because it’s walkable from here. I mean, it’s still entirely possible I need stuff done that isn’t covered under the warrantee, but just the savings on the tow truck alone has made me really happy and joyful and now I don’t even care about the inconvenience of both not having a car momentarily and having to go to the West Bank eventually to pick it up. UPDATE: they just called and it was the battery; not covered. But it’s fine. Batteries generally last three to five years and mine made it to 4 1/2, not bad, really.

I also spent some time on-line chatting with Apple Support because the latest upgrade to Big Sur messed up Safari somehow and it kept failing. tl:dr we had to reinstall the OS, but it still didn’t work, but I had created another user account on this computer–and everything works there; in fact, it’s so fast it’s like a new computer so I figure well, what the hell, until THIS user account fucks up I’ll keep using this one instead of the other one, but none of this makes sense to me in any way, shape or form.

But whatever works, works, you know? And my computer is still working beautifully this morning, so…not complaints. I’m just going to keep doing this, and then when the opportunity presents itself–when I have time to spend hours futzing with it and Apple Support, maybe then we can get it all worked out. But I am not going to look this gift horse in the mouth, until I have too, and in the meantime I have a desktop that is highly functioning and I am very very happy about that–it’s been soooooo long since the Great Data Disaster of 2018 (or was it 2017?) that I’d almost forgotten how lovely it is to have a functioning computer.

My day job’s functionality is about to change, now that we are nearly post-pandemic; we’re going to be opening more and offering more services for our clients again. It’s going to require some serious adjustments–seriously–and of course the old dog is going to have to readjust to new scheduling and new writing times. I am a little bit concerned on that level, because of course my adaptability isn’t quite what it used to be, but this too shall pass and I am relatively certain that I can eventually evolve into whatever this new work schedule is going to be…but the main adjustment I am primarily trying to make now is getting used to the return of summer to New Orleans. I probably say this every year, but GOOD LORD, it seems so much hotter and ever so more humid this year; far earlier than usual, I would also say. Maybe it’s no different that previous years–and am far too lazy to go look anything up–but yesterday waiting outside for the tow truck I honestly felt like I was broiling. I will never understand how people lived, worked, and functioned down here before air conditioning.

Last night’s panel for Tubby and Coo’s was quite fun–I really enjoyed meeting and listening to Traci Taylor, whose debut novel And I You sounds fantastic; a Black lesbian romance set in Detroit in the 1990’s and exploring issues of sexuality and stigma. The book she is currently working on also sounds amazing. I am trying to also get ready for next week’s San Francisco Public Library panel, moderated by Michael Nava (gulp), and the other authors are Dharma Kelleher, Cheryl Head, and PJ Vernon, whose Bath Haus is getting buzz everywhere this summer (so exciting to see this for a queer writer), and of course, I need to get some writing (and cleaning, the never-ending cleaning) done this weekend as well as getting back into the gym. I also updated my to-do list yesterday, and was pleased to see that I had gotten at least half–if not more–of the things on it done. The new one, of course, isn’t quite as extensive–I didn’t really add anything new to it, just disposed of the things done–but now there is, indeed, room for more, and I am assuming that as I go through the weekend and clean up things and get stuff put away and so forth, I’ll be adding to that list.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines. Happy Friday, all.

Rapture

Wednesday and pay the bills day; which hasn’t been depressing in a while but I suspect will be by the time I am finished with this always odious chore. After a sleepless night on Monday, last night’s sleep was much better. I was horribly tired all day yesterday–the combo of no sleep and the workout Monday night; tonight I will be heading back to the gym again after work–and as such did no writing last night. I did write yesterday–in my head; I finally came up with the perfect concept for a story idea I’ve been toying with for quite some time, “Murder on the Acela Express”, with an assist from a very good friend, so I did scribble that down and made some notes in my journal. I also had to proof the final draft of this year’s Edgar annual, which also took up some time Monday evening and on breaks at work, so it’s not like I have been slacking this week. But I really want to get back to “Festival of the Redeemer,” and at some point I want to look over “The Sound of Snow Falling” and see what to make of it; I have figured out the story at last–I knew who the characters were, the set-up, and the setting; I just didn’t now how to write the crime and end it, which I do know now.

So, progress of a sort, right?

There was also exciting news at the day job this week–my position has been funded again by the CDC for another five years, which will actually take me all the way to retirement. While it was always unlikely that the funding would ever be pulled with the concomitant loss of my job, every time the grant is up for renewal it always rather hovers in the back of my mind like a slightly sore tooth you can’t help but worry with your tongue even though it hurts. I also got a raise (the entire staff did), which was a pleasant surprise, and we were also given two extra vacation days, with the agency closing down on a Friday and Monday in August to give us all a long weekend–and it’s the weekend before I turn sixty; my birthday will also be on a Friday this year, which is generally a work-at-home day for me (if that still holds after we go back to full operations again) so I can stay home, watch movies, and make condom packs all day, which will be kind of nice. And then Bouchercon is the very next weekend, and then the next weekend is Labor Day and Southern Decadence–which I am not entirely sure is going to happen, or what is going to go on with that at all. And my car will be paid off come January, which will be even more lovely. So there are things to look forward to, certainly; and I am getting a little bit excited. I generally don’t look too far ahead–there’s always so much to do to keep me occupied I don’t think about the future much–but maybe I need to start doing that a bit more; although there is something to the idea/notion that looking ahead is sort of wishing your life away, which is why I try not to do that unless of course a deadline of some sort is involved.

Although I seem to tend to do that a lot every week by looking forward to the weekend and wishing it would arrive faster.

The summer humidity has returned after all the rain of May; this morning my windows are covered in condensation as the sun is rising, and I feel very rested and alert this morning, which is lovely. I did a load of laundry last night, which I need to fold before getting ready to head into the office this morning; I suspect I will be very tired tonight simply from working, stopping at the grocery on the way home, and then going to the gym–plus we have the last episode of season one of Blood on Acorn to watch, and another episode of Cruel Summer should be loaded on Hulu–the show is surprisingly compelling, and watching it unfold over three different timelines, each one a year apart but on the same day–is a story device I’m really liking a lot more than I thought I would. I know it can be done in a novel–Alison Gaylin’s What Remains of Me did a dual timeline, and Laura Lippman’s After I’m Gone bounced around in time like that, and I think it did have three time periods–and it’s something I think I would like to try at some point in the future. I think part of the reason I’ve been in the doldrums about my writing is because I’ve not been pushing myself to try new things, to experiment and play with the form of story-telling, and I’ve been feeling stale….which isn’t a good place to be when you fancy yourself a writer.

And I think that has been a lot of the malaise I’ve been feeling lately–the last few years with my writing, really–that sense of writing by rote, on automatic; and not pushing myself and trying new things. I will say that the short story writing has been really terrific in that regard, getting to explore themes and ideas and form in a shorter medium (I have published several short stories recently that, ironically, have been reviewed with the note: should have been longer, like a novella–which is always the problem with writing short stories for me; I always feel like there’s more to the story, and apparently that is indeed the case with some of them; but I am trying not to turn short story ideas into longer forms of fiction anymore…which is also kind of why i am experimenting with the novella form). I will say I enjoyed the hell out of Royal Street Reveillon because I was really pushing myself by juggling plots and subplots; it also felt more like a Scotty book than the ones previous–mainly because the plots were more simple and linear. I was having a lot of fun writing it–I do remember that–despite the headaches of juggling so much plot and story-lines.

Aaaaaannnnnndddddd….I think I know what the next Scotty is going to be. I am going to start making notes on it today…we’ll see how it goes.

Reach Out I’ll Be There

Hello and good morning to you, Wednesday. We’re still in a severe weather warning or watch or something–a wind advisory and coastal flooding and so forth–but I don’t think it rained overnight and it’s not raining now. it is still grayish outside, though, as I sip at my cappuccino and try to come back to full consciousness–not that I actually went below it at any point over the last three nights.

Yesterday was not one of the better days at the day job; it quite literally was like Mercury went into retrograde for me and my program at the office. Everything that could possibly go wrong and usually never does actually did; plus I was dealing with trying to figure out why my pharmacy and my doctor were not communicating about my prescription refill, with each blaming the other and me stuck between them basically almost to the point of begging them to recognize that *I* was the one who was being mishandled and who was at fault didn’t matter; the important thing was fixing the issue rather than figuring out who was at fault. Somehow through it all I managed to never lose my temper and around two in the afternoon all I could do was laugh about everything. Everything at work managed to be worked out, and almost all of my clients handled the mishaps with good grace (I would like to point out that none of these things at my job were my fault; and usually having to clean up messes made by other people makes me angry but yesterday I somehow managed to keep my cool…which was also why I managed to keep my cool with the nurse at my doctor’s office and the pharmacy; remembering hey your clients handled being mishandled today gracefully, so don’t get mad because that won’t fix anything), so that was nice.

After work I met a friend in from out of town for dinner and drinks; she too had been having a really shitty day and so we were able to sit down at Fat Harry’s and have some liquor–dirty vodka martinis for me, white wine for her–and soon we started laughing about everything and talking and it was marvelous…marvelous to be out in public, marvelous to be hanging out with a friend and eating bar food and drinking, and we were both in really great moods as we bid each other good evening and returned to our domiciles. I’m still feeling the glow of that this morning, and I’ve decided to let things go as far as the prescription is concerned. If they don’t work it out themselves today–I kind of had the impression they were going to get it resolved yesterday, but they didn’t–I can deal with it when I get back from my trip. I’m not calling anyone today or trying to follow up with anyone or anything; I need to get into the proper headspace for the day before a trip and I have to pack and everything tonight too; there’s absolutely no need for me to add any additional stressors to my day today.

I actually don’t feel too bad for not having slept since Saturday night, really. I feel much more relaxed this morning and I do feel rested, even if I never actually went into a deep sleep last night. I think when I get home from my trip I am going to buy some vermouth and good vodka and olives and martini glasses and maybe I’ll have a drink every day when I get home from work just to relax a little bit. I don’t really drink much any more–since the start of the pandemic the only time I have had alcohol was when this same friend has been in town and we’ve had dinner together; and once when another friend was in from out of town. Considering how much I used to drink, that’s pretty amazing–and if anything, I’ve certainly proved to myself that I do not have an alcohol problem in the traditional sense, at least. (I often worry about developing an addiction.) So, having the occasional drink at home shouldn’t really be an issue.

And I really do like martinis–both vodka and gin.

I also really like Bloody Marys, now that I think about it.

I guess I just like liquor….which is why I worry about addiction, now that I think about it.

And on THAT note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader.

Wildest Dreams

It’s Thursday, a work-at-home day before the holiday weekend. I know, it’s weird to take a vacation and then work a day before another holiday weekend, but there you have it. It’s also the last day of 2020, I am getting my COVID-19 vaccine (part one) today, and my book is due tomorrow. Heavy heaving sigh. I only have two chapters left to do and a final polish, so after I am done with day job duties, I should be able to power through those last two chapters this evening, and then I have all day tomorrow to reread, revise, and polish before turning it in.

It’s also New Year’s Eve, a holiday I’ve never quite understood but am more than happy to enjoy–I am always happy to get an extra day off with pay, any time anyone wants to provide me with one–but I’ve never really understood the point of celebrating the end of a calendar year and the beginning of another. I mean, it’s an excuse for a holiday and for people to get wasted, I suppose, but other than being a party for symbolism, I don’t understand it. I suppose it’s seen as a demarcation point, but it’s really not a new beginning; I’ve also never been one for resolutions, either. I prefer to set goals for the year, and then see how well I did after twelve months have passed. One of the major things of this past year for me has been memory loss–I can’t remember anything anymore–so I don’t remember the goals I set for myself at the beginning of 2020. I do remember that 2019 was a shitshow of a year, and I was very happy to see it end, as was most everyone, only to discover that 2020 would be so awful that I cannot remember precisely why 2019 was so dreadful, just that it was.

I am getting the COVID-19 vaccine because of my day job, which a lot of people don’t know much about because it’s not something I talk about publicly very much. I am always very careful to compartmentalize my life, keeping my writing career and public life very separated from my day job and my private life. I work at a public health clinic here in New Orleans that used to be the NO/AIDS Task Force, which evolved into Crescent Care Health sometime (my memory is completely shot) over the course of the last decade. I work at the Elysian Fields campus, and basically, what I do is test clients, by appointment, for HIV, syphilis and Hepatitis C; do all the necessary paperwork required by our funders; and basically interview and assess my clients for risk reduction messaging and what other services we provide that they might require. Once that is finished, I take them to a nurse who will draw blood for their PrEP labs (if they are taking PrEP) as well as testing them for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Over the course of the pandemic our services were initially shut down, and then we became a testing site for COVID-19. For several months I worked in the garage of our building, screening people for COVID symptoms before we let them into the building (we were on very limited services; some blood draws were still being done, the food pantry was still open, and so was the pharmacy on the second floor) or sending people who needed to be tested over to the COVID testing area. So, yes, I am in a public contact job that is health care related, and see clients three days a week, putting myself at risk of exposure. I follow our safety protocols stringently–which includes mask wearing, regular hand-washing or sanitizing, and cleaning the room where I see clients with virucidal wipes–their chair, the side of the table they sit at, the pen they handle, and their side of the plexiglass screen they stick their hand through in order for me to stick their finger and draw enough blood to run the tests I run. The clients also have to wear a mask the entire time they are in our building. So, that’s why I am getting the vaccination so early; I’d posted about it on social media and got some weird comments, like so lucky and so forth…which I understand; sure, I’m lucky to get it early, but at the same time I’ve been at a high daily risk of infection since late spring–and while I don’t think the age thing matters as much as they thought it did at the beginning of the pandemic, I am not that young–my next birthday will be my sixtieth.

So, that’s why I am getting the vaccine earlier than many. I am a front-line employee of a public health clinic–and while I may not be a doctor or a nurse, I provide essential health services–or serve as a gateway to accessing those services….and the Office of Public Health provided enough vaccines to our clinic so that all of our employees can be get one, so that our clinic can get back up and be fully operational (rather than on a limited basis) sooner rather than later.

And that’s probably the last time I will ever talk about my day job and what I do there publicly.

Yesterday was a very good work day–I am still behind, of course; I’d hoped to be finished with the entire thing on Tuesday so it could sit for a day or two before the final polish. Bury Me in Shadows has had an interesting journey to completion. It began as a short story I wrote sometime in the 1980’s called “Ruins”–and when I finished writing the story, I knew it wasn’t a short story but a novel. I filed the story away, dragging out the folder and rereading it occasionally over the last thirty or so years (it’s really difficult for me to grasp that 1980–and soon 1981–was forty years ago), and I’m not sure when exactly I decided to turn it into a novel or when I started working on it. The original title, once I started pulling the book together as a novel, was Bury Me in Satin, which is a line from the song “If I Die Young” by the Band Perry; I love the song, and when I heard that lyric the first time, I immediately thought, ah, that’s the title for the book built on “Ruins”, but at some point during the writing I changed it to the more Gothic Bury Me in Shadows. I had always, since the 1980’s, wanted to write about my fictional Corinth County, Alabama–which is where this book is set–and over the decades since have done some serious world-building. I have any number of short stories written, in some form or another, that are set there…and tried to weave some of those story strands into this book. I’ve already published one book with a character from Corinth County, even if the book wasn’t set there: Dark Tide. The book has also evolved in other ways from the original story; the main character was thirteen in the original story, and then evolved into a sixteen year old when I started writing the book. At some point in the process, I recognized that the character’s age didn’t work, and so I aged him into a college student, which actually works much better. This required completely overhauling and reworking the opening two chapters; but I do think the new versions are better than the originals, and I think the book works better this way.

I suppose I will always think of this book as my pandemic book, since that’s when it was written. Ironically, once this one is turned in I have to start working immediately on the next, which is due on March 1. The next has already been through a ridiculous amount of drafts–I started writing it in 2015, and have worked on it off and on since then (I wrote the entire first draft in July 2015; a chapter a day, basically), and so I guess this is all about finishing projects that have been lingering around for a while. (Even this Kansas book began being formulated when I was in high school, and has followed an interesting–to me–evolutionary pattern since then.)

Perhaps 2021 will be the year where I clear out all the projects that have been hanging around my office for years–decades, in some cases–so I can move on.

It would be so lovely if I could write a first draft of Chlorine in a month…

And on that note, I’m heading for the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

I’m Only Me When I’m With You

Operation Scooter is going well so far. He doesn’t run away when we get out the syringe, he’s eating the wet food–although he’s not eating enough, I don’t think–and we’ve successfully convinced him his tartar control dry food (which is what he used to eat) are treats. We’ve also noticed behavior change in him since we started the insulin; he seems more alert, more active, and his fur is softer and sleeker than it was. He’s also more affectionate than he has been for a while–he’s never been much of a “hey let’s play” cat; he just wants to cuddle and purr. He also doesn’t seem to be drinking as much water as he was–that was when we noticed the change; he was drinking more water and his litter box became insane to deal with–and so I’m pretty happy about the whole situation now. It doesn’t phase me anymore to get the syringe ready or give him the shot. We’re hoping he’ll do so well with the change in diet and with the insulin now that he won’t need the shots anymore in a few months.

I’m so glad this is going so well. As I mentioned before, we’re very close to the ten year anniversary of when we lost Skittle and Scooter rescued us, and losing him around this time would have been rough. It’s going to be whenever it does happen, regardless, but I’m delighted we are going to be able to enjoy Scooter cuddles for a while longer.

The weather–and daylight–have definitely changed around here now; last night it dipped into the sixties (I could tell; I slept deeply and well, and my bed was so warm and comfortable this morning I didn’t want to get out of it). I feel very rested this morning. Yes, I certainly could have stayed in bed for longer than I was able to, but the summer weather has definitely broken and we are now in our beautiful, marvelous, gorgeous fall. (It’s very dark outside my windows this morning)

I finished reading Patrick Ness’ Release last night, and it was quite marvelous. I am looking forward to putting my thoughts together about it into a blog entry–it definitely made me think, and rethink, a lot of what I knew, or thought I knew, about writing for the young adult market. I think next up on my reading is going to be John Vercher’s Three Fifths, which was an Edgar finalist for Best First Novel this past spring, and I’ve heard a lot of truly terrific things about it. I also got two Kindle books for a ridiculously low sale price–John Ball’s In the Heat of the Night (which the Oscar winning film was based on, and I think it won an Edgar Award) and V. M. Burns’ The Plot Is Murder, which looks absolutely delightful. I should really read more of the books on my iPad book apps, shouldn’t I? There are quite a few of them, and I keep acquiring more, and since I’m not traveling at all….

I also managed to get a lot of my email cleared out yesterday, which was not only productive but felt amazing. I don’t feel sleepy-tired today, either, which means I should have yet another productive day. Yay! I had a lovely day at the office yesterday–all of my clients kept their appointments, and that’s really my favorite part of my day job, helping people–even if it’s just in the small way that I can through my work. I enjoy those interactions with my clients; and I miss seeing clients every day. I’m not sure when or if I will ever be back to full time counseling, but I really do hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Paul didn’t get home until late last night, after I had already gone to bed–he’s working on grants and proposals–and I have to admit, I was plenty tired when I got home from work yesterday, which was why I read my book rather than doing any cleaning or writing or revising. Hopefully, he will be home at his usual time tonight–I just let music videos stream endlessly on Youtube on the big television while I read, and thought about Bury Me in Shadows some more. I pitched both it and the Kansas book to my publisher yesterday–biting the bullet and realizing the stress of a deadline is what I need to finish pushing through them and getting them both finished–so hopefully they will agree to take both books and I can get the contracts signed and the deadlines set relatively soon. I’ve still not heard back on the Secret Project, but I still have hope an offer might come through; although the longer it takes the less confidence I have that one will be forthcoming.

Worst case scenario: it’s turned down and I use the plot for another Scotty book. Worse things have happened.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.