Dream Attack

THE IDES OF MARCH!!!!

Monday and another week dawns; full of possibilities both good and bad as well as potential. We are at the midway point of March, today being the Ides, of course (beware the Ides of March) with 16 days left for me to get this manuscript whipped into shape. Once that is finished and turned in I have to go back for a final pass, with editorial notes, on Bury Me in Shadows, which is due at the end of April. This pushes my writing schedule back further for the year, but that’s okay; my writing plans inevitably are always overly ambitious.

Always.

I did manage to have a sort of productive day yesterday after all; I went to the gym around noon and came back home to get started on working on inputting the edits into #shedeservedit. I didn’t get very far, but I did manage to get some of it done, which is a start. I am hoping to get all finished this week, so I can work on the rewrites that are necessary–as well as writing the new stuff that I need for it–and so I suspect I’ll be back on track with it sooner rather than later. I just have this sense of impending doom right now–not sure why this always happens, but it inevitably does a few weeks before deadline (last month by that time I already knew I wasn’t going to be finished on time, so didn’t have that feeling last time) and believe you me, I am really looking forward to being done with this. I suspect the tweaks necessary for Bury Me in Shadows won’t take the entire month to do; so I am hoping to be able to get some short stories worked on and possibly a synopsis/outline for Chlorine finished in April as well. We shall see how that turns out.

I hate Daylight Savings Time with a passion, and frankly, could easily do without that extra hour of sleep in the fall to eliminate the loss of one in the spring. It’s pitch black outside the windows this morning, which means I may be driving to work in the dark this morning–and the next mornings until such time as the sun starts rising earlier as the earth continues tilting on its axis. At least it will still be light out when I get home from work in the evenings now, which will feel slightly less oppressive than coming home in the dark. The days are getting longer now, which means they will also be getting hotter–I am curious to see how unpleasant walking to and from the gym during the dog days of summer is going to be–but I cannot allow that to keep me from going. Yesterday’s workout was a good one, and I need to remember to stay focused and push myself when I go on days when I’ve not been to the office (Tuesday night workouts inevitably will always be half-assed, but at least I am aware of that going into it and won’t be terribly disappointed by them anymore.)

I watched the final episode of Allen v. Farrow last night, and it was rather harrowing, as all episodes were. Obviously, the point of the documentary was to present the opposite side to the Allen camp’s denials…but it’s still not easy to watch. I guess it’s important that the truth of the police investigation–they felt they had enough to go to trial but didn’t think young Dylan was strong enough to withstand the rigors of testifying or going through the trial–be put out there, particularly since the decision to not prosecute was not a vindication, as the Allen camp has claimed repeatedly throughout the years, as well as the findings of the custody trial, which was also damning yet spun; and Mia Farrow herself comes across fairly well. I’d never really been much of a fan of Mia–I’d seen some of her movies, Rosemary’s Baby being the best of them–and now I feel as though somehow I’ve never been fair to her as an actress….but watching Woody Allen movies in order to see how well she played those roles is going to be a hard pass from me. I’ve never really been much of a fan of his–I think I’ve seen Annie Hall, Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex But Were Afraid to Ask (homophobic as the book was), Casino Royale I(technically not a Woody Allen movie, but a movie with Woody Allen in it), and maybe a couple of other earlier ones I cannot recall at this moment, and was never terribly impressed by any of them, frankly–but just figured Woody Allen movies was one of those things everyone else got that went past me. Perhaps the most damning thing for me that came out of this documentary series was learning that if a father is accused of sexual/physical/mental abuse by a mother, the mother is often not believed and loses custody herself, putting the children into the custody of their accused abuser, which is seriously fucked up.

We really need to stop assuming all women are vicious and vindictive shrews out to ruin any man they accuse of anything, really, and start listening. False accusations made from malice are rare; so why do we always automatically default–especially our legal system–to not believing ANY woman? I don’t think I’ll ever understand this, but I also remember when it first became illegal for a husband to rape his wife–even though the wife is rarely, if ever, believed; even marriage doesn’t eradicate the need for consent; the marriage vows don’t give the husband (or the wife, for that matter) ownership over their spouse’s body.

Ah, and Drew Brees retired yesterday, which saddened me. I may do an entire entry on Drew Brees and New Orleans….it’s complicated. But I wish him and his family well, and I do thank him for what he–and his family–have done for the city.

And on that note, HELLO SPICE MINES!

Angel Dust

Remember angel dust? At some point in my life–70’s, 80’s, 90’s–it became a thing: a dangerous new illegal drug that was addictive and occasionally ended up with those partaking in it dying. You never hear about it anymore–or at least, I don’t–but it was fairly ubiquitous there for a while. I guess crack, and possibly heroin’s comeback, have pushed it out of the public consciousness or the zeitgeist, as it were.

Yesterday was rather lovely. I slept late, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, which felt great, and then I spent some time getting caught up on things that have slid a bit over the last few weeks–always–and then finished rereading #shedeservedit, making notes and so forth. There’s a lot of work left to be done on this before April 1, and I really need to get focused so it will be finished by (extended) deadline–which means focus and not being distracted (easier said than done, of course, as always) and then I actually started working on pruning the books. I filled two boxes of books I will never get the time to either read or reread or write about, and then started condensing the shelves down again…at some point I will also start going through the boxes in the crawlspace over the laundry room–it’s going to be a process, Constant Reader, and one that will not be finished in one little spurt of activity; I see this as a probably year-long project. I also walked to Office Depot to buy another box of file folders and a package of the little notepads I have become addicted to over the past few years (I use them for grocery lists and daily to-do lists)–it was so gorgeous outside, and there was a lot of male eye candy to view on the walk there and the walk back. The bar on the corner is open again, and so are the various eateries along the Avenue. (Sadly, both the BBQ place at the corner of MLK and St. Charles is now closed, probably for good, as is the St. Charles Tavern, which has been there forever and survived Katrina but not a pandemic.) There were people at the streetcar stops, and I have also begun to realize that getting off work at five is probably not going to be ideal now that people are coming back to work and the tourists are coming back as well; heavy heaving sigh. But I will adapt, much as I did when the people started returning after Katrina.

Today of course we lost an hour to Daylight Savings Time–although I guess today is the reverse; the removal of the hour gained when we went into it in the first place. I really despise losing the hour–it throws me off every year and inevitably takes a ay or two to get used to again; but of course the gain of an hour doesn’t really do much other than get me an extra hour of sleep when it happens. But this means it will be light outside when I come home from work and it will stay lighter out for longer–the days are starting to get longer again–but I slept well again last night (lots of trouble getting out of bed this morning, as again it was feeling mighty comfy under my blankets) and my coffee is really hitting the spot. I had to get up, no matter how much I wanted to stay there, because Scooter needed his shot–twelve hours apart, with an hour on either side leeway–and giving it to him at nine this morning means I have to give it at eight this evening so he can get at seven tomorrow morning when I leave for work. See how I work that hour of leeway, and almost fucked it up thanks to daylight savings going away? Timed medication is always an issue for these time changes, really.

We started watching Mr. Mercedes’ third season last night, which is based on the second book of King’s Hodges trilogy, Finders Keepers. While the switching of the story order makes sense for the television production of the show–this was a bridge book connecting the first and third books, which had the same villain, and in the course of this book the events of season 2/book 3 were set in motion. Another change is that the story of the robbery of the great reclusive American author and his murder took place long before the events of the book–several years passed in the book between the robbery and the discovery of the loot from the robbery by a young kid, who grew into a teenager and used the money–and the manuscripts–to provide for his family (another connection is that his father was injured in the Mercedes attack that opened the first book…in the show he’s already in his late teens when the car crash happens and he discovers the suitcase filled with treasure within 24 hours of it happening. This storytelling change to the book also makes sense–the first few chapters, detailing the kid’s story, takes over four or five years to play out on the page; and that is harder to do on a show or film. I’m curious to see how this is all plays out–the second season went off the rails a bit in the final episodes–but since there’s not a supernatural element to this season it may stay safely on the rails this time out.

I also spent some time pruning the books yesterday, and now have five boxes (and a paper grocery bag)filled with them to donate to the library sale; tonight after dark I will load the five boxes of condom packs I’ve made over the last few days into the car, and then tomorrow night after I get home from work I will move the books to the hatch of the car, getting the clutter and mess out of the living room. This is just the beginning of clearing out the house, for the record; Paul is going to also be spending the next few months getting rid of things in the bedroom and the closet. “Clean like we’re moving” is our motto–so, the question isn’t “do I want to keep this?” but rather “would I pack and move this?” And while the piles and stacks of books have been substantially reduced, and the clutter equally, a stranger would probably still look at the living room (or the shelves in the bathroom) and think, wow, they’ve got so many books…that’s a lot of clutter. But I’ve made significant progress, and I am most pleased with what I’ve managed thus far.

I also managed to work on my desk area, significantly reducing the amount of loose paper and other scraps and bits with things scribbled on them, filed stuff away, and over all made things roomier and less cluttered around my desk. I also need to start clearing out and cleaning out kitchen things I never use–like my muffin pans, which I don’t think have been used in years (although now I am thinking cornbread muffins with jalapeños in them would be nice; it’s been a hot minute so maybe I need to hold onto those for a bit longer…it’s also strawberry season so I could make strawberry cupcakes again…NO I HAVE LOST WEIGHT AND I AM NOT GOING TO START BAKING AGAIN) but there’s definitely things that can be thrown away that are inside my cabinets.

I was also creative yesterday, and not just with the final read through of the manuscript. Today I have to go to the gym and I also have to do some brief writing for a website, and after that I think I am going to pull all of the chapters of #shedeservedit into one document, which I will use to make all the corrections and changes I’ve indicated on the pages of the manuscript I worked on; this is antiquated of course–most people simply correct the computer document and edit it, rather than printing it out and doing it by hand–but I have found that when I do it by hand on a hard copy I am more thorough and I catch more, so that is what works for me and what I have to do. This old dog tried the new trick, but it just doesn’t work for him, sorry.

My Saints and Sinners panel, moderating four great women writers (Cheryl Head, Carrie Smith, J. M. Redmann, and Carsen Taite) is today at 3:00 central time on the Tennessee Williams Festival YouTube channel; you can either watch it as it airs (prerecorded) and then it will be permanently available there. Do check it out, if you can; I’d watch but I hate seeing myself and listening to my voice. Always have, quite frankly, and seriously doubt that is going to change now–my spots are too permanently affixed in place for me to try to change them. It’s probably some deep old scar from childhood that would take years of therapy to unpack, and I ain’t got time for that–nor am I particularly interested in spending thousands of dollars to get to the bottom of something that I can live with, frankly.

And on that note, I should get cracking on my Sunday. Have a terrific day, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you tomorrow.

Breathless

Monday morning and up at the rise of the sun; back to another work week and trying to get caught up on everything.

I really do feel like Sisyphus pushing the rock uphill most days, you know?

But I woke up early yesterday and made progress, which is never a bad thing, and I also made it to the gym for my first workout of week two. I managed to accomplish all three workouts for week one, and so this week entailed an added set of 15 reps at the same weights I used last week. It was more difficult, but not painfully so or so bad that I couldn’t finish both sets–but on some exercises it was much harder than it was on others. That’s fine–I worked up a lovely sweat and my heart rate went up, which was the ultimate goal. I came home–it was really quite a beautiful fall day in New Orleans; sunny and crisp and cool–and had my protein shake before getting cleaned up and diving back into the emails and things I needed to get done.

I did decide what my next read would be: Donald Westlake’s The Hot Rock. My education in Westlake is sorely lacking (as is my education in Lawrence Block, for that matter) although I read one of his Hard Case Crime books, The Comedy is Finished, and I read the first of his Richard Stark novels…but other than that, I have failed miserably in reading Westlake. I remember when The Hot Rock was out in paperback originally; I also remember that it was filmed with Robert Redford (perhaps another film I can add–if I can find it–to the Cynical 70’s Film Festival), and I’ve had a copy of this forever. Rob Byrnes has always spoken highly of Westlake–his own comic caper novels, he claims, owe a huge debt to Westlake, and only three chapters into the book, I can totally see the influence–and I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to reading The Hot Rock, frankly. The edition I have also has an intro from Westlake himself, which sort of explains where the book came from, and I found this very interesting:

One day in 1967 I was wearing my Richard Stark hat, looking for a story to tell about my man Parker, and I thought, he reacts badly to frustration, what if he had to steal the same thing four or five times? I started to work it out, then realized the idea was only comic and Parker wouldn’t stand for it. But I still liked the notion, and even–once it was comic–saw how to make it six thefts of the same elusive item. So I’d do it that way.

But if it wasn’t Parker, who was it? Who was this guy, dogged but doomed, and what was his name? Without a name, I couldn’t see him, and until I could see him I couldn’t write about him.

Wow. He then goes on to talk about how he came up with the name Dortmunder, but it was so weird to see a writer of Westlake’s stature having the same problem I have when writing, or coming up with a new idea: I can’t write about people if they don’t have names, because without names I can’t see them or know enough about them to write about them. I know there are writers who can do this; I am just not one of them, and I always thought it was one of my (many) peculiarities as a writer. Turns out, Westlake was like me, too. Mine goes even further–I can’t write a story without a title, and if the title is wrong, it impedes the story writing even further. I think some of the in-progress unfinished stories I have on hand suffer from this very problem–I know I think “A Dirge in the Dark” isn’t the right title for the story I am writing with that title–but I am hoping I can get it all worked out eventually.

I do hate daylight savings time, quite frankly, but this “gain an hour” nonsense was rejected by my body–which makes getting up earlier much easier than it usually is. I was awake before my alarm went off this morning, I am wide awake as I sip my first cappuccino of the morning, and I feel like it’s going to be, over all, a really great day–for a shitty, unsettling week. Heavy sigh. But I got everything ready last night so I don’t have to pick out clothes or anything this morning; my lunch is ready to go into the lunch box, and my office/kitchen is very neat and organized already–a very good start to the week. LSU has a bye week this coming weekend, and one good thing about LSU having a bad season–I’ve almost completely lost interest in both the conference and national championship races, which means I won’t be watching games other than LSU anymore, thereby freeing up my Saturdays almost completely. The Saints did eke out a win yesterday–although they did everything they possibly could to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. As Paul said, “this year sucks and we can’t even get solace from football season.”

I did read a Charlaine Harris short story yesterday as well, from the MWA anthology she edited a while back, Crimes by Moonlight, which was, in her own words from her introduction to the piece, “a collection of woo-woo stories.” Her story was set in the Sookie Stackhouse universe she created with her bestselling novels (later adapted into True Blood, one of my favorite television series), and was called “Dahlia Underground.” Dahlia is a nine hundred year old vampire who looks nineteen–sexy and beautiful, she also dresses like a sexy dominatrix (I kept picturing my favorite True Blood character, Pam) who wakes up after an anti-vampire terrorist strike on a hotel. Numerous vampires were killed during the attack, she has to be dug out of the wreckage by a firehouse company, and then the rest of the story is about not only vampiric revenge on the terrorists, but Dahlia essentially adopting the fire company that saved her life. It was well done and enormously satisfying; the next story up in the anthology is by Edgar winner William Kent Krueger, which should also be fun.

My back feels a little sore this morning–not sure what that’s from, but it’s not muscle soreness, so who the fuck knows–so I am going to use the self-massager in a moment to try to loosen whatever it is that is tight back there. I’m having dinner with a writer friend tonight who is in from out of town to visit her daughter, who is currently enrolled at Tulane University, which is lovely–I always tend to avoid such commitments, but when I do agree to them inevitably have a good time–and I just have to be wary of time, since I have to get up early again tomorrow.

We continue to watch The Undoing on HBO, and I am beginning to think I’ve already got this entire thing figured out. I could be wrong–I have been before–and perhaps what I am thinking is too obvious to be the case. If it does turn out to the case, it will be disappointing…but therein lies the rub of being a crime writer who reads a lot of crime novels (and has edited dozens).

I certainly am hoping to get a lot done this week. But I am rested, hopefully there will be no more major life disruptions (he types hopefully the day before a terrifying general election), and if I can remain focused, I can get everything finished that I need to get finished this week.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Monday before the election, Constant Reader, and if you haven’t already, VOTE TOMORROW.

The 1

November 1st, or All Saints’ Day; which is the perfect day for a Saints game, don’t you think? LSU lost yesterday, badly, and while it was incredibly disappointing to watch, I felt worse for the players. We always forget, regardless of how talented they are, they’re really little more than kids. And since so many starters are either true freshman or sophomores…I think they’ll be really good next year…if they can survive what looks to be a season on par with the late 1990’s. Yeesh.

I am up ridiculously early because of Daylight Savings time; I’d be up early regardless, but I am wide awake and decided, since I have to get up early the next three mornings, that it made sense to go ahead and get up now–one advantage of the so-called “extra hour” (because if 2020 needs anything, it’s more time) is that by not using that hour to get extra sleep, I can recalibrate my body clock to my own advantage for the next few mornings. The sun isn’t up yet completely, but the cutting down of the crepe myrtles next door–many of them, but not all–means that my workspace and kitchen are going to be flooded with a lot more direct sunlight, which is going to make it unbearable in here once it gets hot again; which means I am going to need to do something about window coverings, whether it’s curtains or blinds. We’ll see how much time I have before that becomes a massive priority–hell, it might become one later this morning.

I was still very tired and physically exhausted yesterday. I ran my errands, and then working on cleaning up our side of the house–leaves, branches, debris–and so I watched the LSU game, doing some cleaning and organizing around here in the meantime, and then for Halloween watched House of Dark Shadows on Hulu. I originally saw this movie in the theater–my grandmother, who got me started watching the soap in the first place–took me, and it was a very different take on the Barnabas Collins story. For one thing, there was no redemption of the character; he remained an evil, cruel vampire till the end, when he was killed for his crimes, and he also kind of killed off the entire family, other than Elizabeth and David, by the end. It was straight up more horror than melodrama, and the movie did well enough to inspire a sequel (with none of the same characters or actors), but it really wasn’t as good a story as the redemption of the vampire arc the show did.

I also took the time to read four novellas of Cornell Woolrich, collected together in one volume with the name Four Novellas of Fear (which is really not the best title, as it gives the impression that the novellas are more horror than suspense/crime; which is what they really are). The novellas are all interesting takes, some of which are dated and wouldn’t work today, alas: “Eyes That Watch You”, the first, was my favorite, in which a woman who is completely paralyzed and cannot speak overhears her daughter-in-law and her lover plotting to kill the woman’s son. Unable to communicate and warn him, the crime takes place…and then she becomes determined, somehow, to expose the murderers to the cops and send them to the chair. Great concept, marvelously handled. The next, “The Day I Died,” is about a man who finds out his wife is planning to kill him for the insurance; he comes home early from work and surprises her with the man she has hired to kill him. The hired assassin winds up dead, and the hard-boiled heroine convinces her husband to go through with the plan–they have a ready made corpse whose face they can disfigure and claim it’s suicide. But as he leaves town he runs into a co-worker on the bus…and now he has to kill the co-worker somehow. It’s very noir, very well done–but again, wouldn’t work in a modern setting because of technology and the difficulty of disappearing in the modern world. The third story, “You Won’t See Me Again,” is about a young newly married couple who have an argument, and she walks out–storming home to mother. When she doesn’t return–as he suspects and expects her to, after a day or so–it becomes a missing persons case and of course, the husband is always the prime suspect in those cases. So now he has to find not only the wife he loves to make sure she’s safe, but also to clear her name. It’s yet another story that wouldn’t work in today’s world because of technology, but it’s a charming time capsule. Likewise, “Murder Always Gathers Momentum” is about the slow descent into crime of a person who is broke and desperate and owed money he was cheated out of; rather than confronting the man and asking for his money he decides instead to break into his house and steal it. He’s caught, commits murder, realizes how easy it is to become a criminal, and starts killing people to cover his initial crime….(this is very similar to Agatha Christie’s Murder Is Easy, in which Dame Agatha and Miss Marple also explored the idea that once you’ve killed, it becomes easier to keep killing) and there’s a terrific ironic twist at the end, worthy of The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Despite being dated, I enjoyed all four novellas–which were all very distinct and different, and cynical in their own ways. I certainly enjoyed them more than I enjoyed Night Has a Thousand Eyes, that’s for certain, and my own curiosity about Woolrich–who was a gay man, an alcoholic, and horribly unhappy in his personal life–deepened. (Just as watching The Other the other day, and thinking about the author of the book, Thomas Tryon–a closeted gay actor of the 1960’s who turned to writing novels in the 1970’s–reminded me that I had once thought him worthy of a biography, and I still kind of think that way; I just wish I had the time to devote to doing the research and traveling to Connecticut to examine his papers and so forth; he was also the long-time lover of the first gay porn star, Cal Culver, which is also an interesting footnote to his interesting life as well as of gay historical interest.)

I’m trying to decide what to read next, and have narrowed it down to four options (and may choose something else entirely): Owen Laukkanen’s Deception Cove; Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages (which I may have already read, but I don’t remember finishing it); The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier; or The Hot Rock by Donald Westlake. I am leaning toward to du Maurier because I am thinking it may be time to finish her canon; but the others all look tremendously good, which inevitably always makes choosing difficult. I also want to start reading short stories again–I still have two volumes, for example, of Shirley Jackson stories to read–and I need to get back to my writing–if I can only remember where I was. I know I was rereading Bury Me in Shadows in order to get a grasp of the story–I also have been thinking about the tweaks it needs–and the deadline looms. I also need to revise my story “The Snow Globe,” there’s about a million emails to catch up on, and there’s also the bills to pay.

Heavy heaving sigh. I also want to make it to the gym this morning. One good thing that has happened in this past week is managing three workouts; my body feels wonderful, my muscles feel more stretched and better than they have since the pandemic closed my old gym (we belonged there for eighteen years) and that’s got to count for something, doesn’t it? I think so, and I like that I am developing better workout habits. I’ll worry about correcting my diet and going full on Mediterranean diet after a few more weeks.

I’m also going to write a story–or rather, try to finish one–for the next Mystery Writers of America anthology. Getting a short story into one of those is on my bucket list, and I have two potential in-progress stories for this one; three, really: “Condos for Sale or Rent,” “Please Die Soon,” and “A Dirge in the Dark”. I guess I’ll need to read what’s been done on all four stories and then see about finishing any or all of them…it’s not a bad idea to get all three stories written, pick one to submit to the MWA anthology, and then send the others to other markets.

So many stories in progress.

The sun is rising and the loss of the trees has also made a significant difference to my view–which isn’t nearly as pretty or scenic as it was before, and will take some getting used to. The great irony is my landlady has been trying to get the property owner next door to trim the trees back for years–and trying to get her to trim them regularly, as they are problematic for hurricanes/tropical storms. It took Zeta for her to take the risk presented by the crepe myrtles seriously, with the end result that some were not only trimmed back dramatically, but others were removed entirely. I may have to hang up a small blanket or something in the meantime as a stopgap until I have the time and financial means to get curtains or blinds.

And on that note, I must head into the spice mines and start working on getting caught up, a Sisyphean task at best. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and enjoy your Feast of All Saints.

Delicate

I can’t get over how much better my muscles feel after simply one workout with weights and stretching them out. Seriously. It’s like all the kinks and aches and tightness not only are gone, but it’s like they were never there in the first place. Obviously, my body has missed and craved the exercise. I cannot wait to get home from work today so I can head down to the gym and get in workout #2 of the week. Also–in examining my gym’s website and exercise class schedule, I see that they have a barre class on Saturday mornings I can attend–and barre is something I’ve been wanting to try; I really want to improve my flexibility again. I know I’ll never get back to the ridiculous, freakish flexibility of my teens and twenties again—but regular stretching will be most lovely, quite frankly, and I like the idea of regaining some of it. I am really looking forward to my second workout tonight after work….

We still appear to be in the center of the Cone for Zeta, but the cone continues to drift to the east. At the moment, the projected landfall is seven pm on Wednesday night; which means in theory I should be able to see all my clients and still get home before landfall. Outer bands will, of course, be problematic; but I think we should be okay even with a direct hit from Zeta. Again, the primary concern will be wind and the potential loss of power, but honestly. It’s almost fucking Halloween, for Christ’s sake.

Last night we finished watching season one of Servant on Apple Plus, and I have to say, wow. Dark and disturbing and full of surprises, it was hard to watch sometimes…and yet I couldn’t look away. It was about pain and guilt and suffering, the lengths people will go to stop hurting, and I certainly didn’t see the twist ending of the season coming. I’m frankly non-plussed that Lauren Ambrose got no award recognition for her performance as the emotionally damaged wife and mother–she was stunning in the role; and it wasn’t an easy part. Playing a woman in every stage of a complete mental an emotional breakdown, fooling herself because truth and reality were too much for her mind to handle, watching her performance was both painful to watch but impossible to stop watching; a tour de force; one of the best performances by an actress I’ve seen in a television series. It will be returning in January for a second season, and there’s no telling what will be the second season; there are any number of directions the story can go in. Just chilling and amazing, and we were on the edge of our seats the entire time. It was the perfect choice for Halloween season viewing, quite frankly.

It’s very dark outside my windows this morning. The time change is coming this weekend–an extra hour of sleep is always appreciated, of course, but at the same time I am dreading absolutely coming home from work in the dark every afternoon. I am definitely going to the gym after I get home from work tonight; my muscles feel marvelous still from Sunday’s workout. I can’t get over how much better I feel than I did before; I need to remember this whenever I have one of those “oh I don’t feel like going” moments about the gym. There’s also no telling how long the gym will stay open–whether we go back to gyms being closed for the pandemic, or whether it will survive the economic downturn–and so I must take full advantage of my membership for as long as I can.

The irony that the year I decided to get back to work on my body was the year a pandemic shut everything down and slowly but surely wrecked the economy has not escaped me.

November looms on the horizon as well. The weather is cooling down dramatically here; yesterday morning I actually had to wear a jacket to the office, but of course my car sat in the sun all day so was quite toasty warm by the time I got off work and drove home. It’s currently seventy three, with a projected high of eighty one, which means no need for a jacket this morning, and also means it will be hot in the car when I get off work this afternoon (early evening? I’m never sure where five o’clock officially falls in the divisions of the day).

I tried to watch the new version of Rebecca last night while I waited for Paul to get home. I knew I was inevitably going to be disappointed, perhaps to the point of not even finishing; the original film is a classic and one of my all-time favorites, and of course the book is still fucking amazing every time I reread it. (I always manage to see it in a whole new way practically each time I read it again; it’s absolutely a classic.) As I watched, the fact they filmed it in color was too jarring and took me out of it completely. Rebecca is one of those stories whose impact is really lost when removed from black and white cinematography; the use of light and shadow for creepy, eerie effect is completely lost in the splashy colors (and I just cannot ever picture Maxim de Winter in a yellow suit; Jay Gatsby he was most definitely not). I still think of it as a noir classic (both film and book; if you think du Maurier was a romance writer, you really need to reread and rethink everything of hers you’ve read), and while the term neo noir was coined specifically for noir filmed in color, very few films actually manage to capture the noir mood in color (although Body Heat, Masquerade, Chinatown, and No Way Out all did a great job..I’ve been thinking about writing about neo-noir films lately; just another essay for my collection that no one will ever read.

Today I am hoping to get some editing done on my lunch break and possibly get the email inbox finally cleaned out and caught up; fingers crossed. I feel very awake this morning–yesterday I was dragging a bit, and of course my muscles were all terribly tired from Sunday’s workout–and I am, as ever, hopeful I can get everything done I need to get done. No word on whether the hurricane is cancelling work yet tomorrow–I really hope it doesn’t, frankly; I’d much rather spend the day with my clients.

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

It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels

I cannot say I am not happy to see this past week end; for all intents and purposes, it was much more stressful than any week needs to be and equally disappointing. It was both tiresome and tiring; irritating, really, like an itchy rash that just won’t go away, frankly. By Tuesday night I was so exhausted already it felt like a Friday; and yet there were three more days yet to go and it never really got any better.

Begone, foul week! Get thee behind me, Satan!

I am so far behind on my emails now I may never dig my way out; that’s part of the plan for this weekend, at any rate; to try to get caught up on everything and make some progress. I had some stomach issues yesterday so I wound up staying home rather than heading to the office (the bathrooms aren’t close enough to my desk, and yes, I think you get the picture) so I spent most of the day recalibrating and doing some chores around the house and trying to get caught up on everything. But progress was made; I started getting my electronic files in the cloud better organized (which is quite a chore, I might add; one that is sort of mindless yet time-consuming in the worst way), and did some filing and so forth. There’s still quite a bit more to get done today, of course (isn’t there always?)  but I also want to get some writing done before the month slips away through my fingers. Ideally, I’d like to get a first draft of the Sherlock story finished as well as a revision of the one I’m revising for that anthology; and there’s another one I want to revise to send to the Bouchercon anthology. I’d also like to make some progress on the Secret Project, but that’s also predicated on my getting this short story work taken care of. I cannot believe how many stories I’ve started writing recently; it’s more than a little insane, methinks.

But then again, it seems pretty standard for my life–chaos, disorganization, and more chaos.

One would think I’d be used to it by now.

I also want to finish reading Carol Goodman’s The Sea of Lost Girls today, if I can; so i can get started on Lori Rader-Day’s The Lucky One. I am moderating a panel with her, Elizabeth Little (Pretty as a Picture) and  Laura Lippman (Lady in the Lake) at the Tennessee Williams Festival at the end of the month, and it’s always better to be prepared to discuss their latest works. Don’t worry, I’ll also be asking Lippman about My Life as a Villainess, her essay collection coming out later this year.

We watched another episode of Harlan Coben’s The Stranger last night. It’s a fun, twisty show, with a rather complicated narrative; I think it’s actually better than his last one, The Five. I am way behind on my Coben reading–so far behind I may never catch up–but I do enjoy that he writes suspense novels built around family/friend structures. I’m behind on everyone, so don’t feel special, Harlan! I am also way behind on my reading of Michael Koryta, Jeff Abbott, Stephen King, and any number of other white males; prioritizing diverse writers and women (and a year judging the Edgars) will do that to one, I suppose. I really wanted to read The Outsider (Stephen King) before watching the show; perhaps once I finish the Goodman and the Rader-Day I can move on to the King and we can finally watch the show. I’ve become rather an enormous fan of Jason Bateman, and really can’t wait for Ozark to come back.

We also lose an hour tonight; the part of Daylight Savings Time that I really hate. But I do like having longer days; I like it still being light when I come home from work, or at least, the light fading into night rather than the velvety darkness of a winter nocturne. It’s a bright, sunny day out there today; I am debating whether I do want to go get the mail–it would be my only adventure out into the world today–and am thinking I might do it. I hate only going once in the week, but on the other hand I’m also not expecting any packages or anything urgent (read: a check) in the mail, either. But it looks like a lovely day outside–and perhaps I can do some scouting after I get the mail. We shall certainly see how I feel.

I think this morning I am going to read some more of the Goodman novel while I have my morning coffee, and then after a few hours of that I’ll decide whether I do, in fact, want to leave the house. (odds are I won’t, quite frankly. I know myself all too well)

And on that note, tis time to get back to the spice mines. May your Saturday be bright and happy and full of cheer.

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Refugee

Tuesday was yet another night of non-deep sleep; in which again I spent most of the night asleep than half-asleep then awake: lather, rinse, repeat.

I’m holding Daylight Saving Time solely responsible for this horror, I might add, because I was sleeping beautifully before this.

But last night was good; I slept through the night and feel very rested and very much better this morning. I made it through the rough part of my week and now have the easy, downhill path to my weekend. Being tired, I’ve accomplished little of note this week; I am not even keeping up with my emails…but now that I am past those two days and I’ve slept well, maybe now I can get caught up on everything I’ve tragically fallen behind on.

I do so hate when that happens.

But if I put my head down and just start ploughing through, I should tear through it all in no time. (Famous last works, no?)

But I sent the finished manuscript for Royal Street Reveillon in on Sunday, and I think part of the exhaustion (and not sleeping) comes from the inevitable relaxation and sudden drop of stress resultant from finishing a book. I always forget, from book to book, that there’s always about a week’s worth of resetting my brain that is required, and I rather stumble through that week, zombie-like, as my burnt out mind slowly resets and recovers. Bearing this in mind, I decided that it’s silly to beat myself up over not getting back into the current WIP immediately; I stopped that nonsense yesterday morning when the realization dawned, through my foggy, tired brain, that this is normal. So I’m going to instead spend this week getting focused on resetting everything, reevaluating where I’m at on things, and reading. The festivals are in two weeks, and I’ve got to finish my homework before the panel I’m moderating.

I’ve also got a diversity column to write for the next issue of the Sisters in Crime quarterly newsletter.

So, today I am going to focus simply on reading Alafair Burke’s fabulous The Better Sister, making a to-do list, organizing my bills, and figuring out what I need to get done by the end of the year; I also need to probably go back and figure out what projects I was planning on doing/working on this year.

It’s all about resetting.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Justified and Ancient

GEAUX SAINTS!

Well, that  was certainly fun. Although I did get a bit concerned as the Saints blew their 21 point lead and the Rams tied everything up at 35-35; but the boys got it together and scored ten more points to seal the win in the Dome.

GEAUX SAINTS!

My Italian lessons continue, five minutes at a time every day, and while I am not certain I am actually learning how to speak Italian, I am learning something. (When I think about it, I don’t think I know any Italian words or phrases; but boy, once I start one of the lessons it’s almost automatic how quickly it comes out: oh, yes, this means water and read and book and newspaper and woman and man and girl…you get the idea. So maybe it is indeed working.)

I turned in Royal Street Reveillon yesterday, and hopefully my publisher will want it. I like it, but am heartily sick of it and desperately need a break from it. I do look forward to editorial notes and the inevitable clean-up process it will need, but I think it’s pretty good and I am pleased with it. It’s always lovely to dip back into Scotty’s world a little, and now I can move forward with Bury Me in Satin. I somehow managed to get almost three thousand words done on Chapter One’s first draft, which is a BIG WIN. And so I am moving on to Chapter Two.

And I actually feel pretty good about Bury Me in Satin, frankly; I think this might come along rather nicely, if I do say so myself. There’s somet

I got quite a bit done yesterday, didn’t I? That extra hour of sleep really came in handy. I actually woke before six, but stayed in bed until just past seven, and woke up feeling rested and refreshed; the four day weekend really came in handy, methinks. I need to remember that every now and again; I need to occasionally take these mini-vacations, otherwise it is very easy to get sidetracked, easily distracted, and lose my focus. Yesterday I feel like I can conquer the world, which is a feeling I’ve not had in like, forever. I also didn’t spend the afternoon during the Saints game fighting off the feeling that I needed a nap and trying to stay awake, which was incredibly lovely; I’d kind of dozed off in my easy chair the previous three afternoons.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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All I Need

Sunday, Sunday. Can’t trust that day, especially when an hour was stolen from me during my sleep. Sunday is my sleep-in day, and while it’s not entirely unusual, I absolutely detest that I woke up at just before what-is-now-ten-thirty. Since I can’t drink coffee after noon for fear of its impact on my sleep–but I like my coffee in the morning–I will be able to have only, at most, two cups. This is also infuriating.

It’s not sunny out there this late morning, but more grayish again, as though it might rain. It may just be a cloud cover, but the sun is always bright in New Orleans; the lack of brightness is bizarre and also feels off–in addition sleeping  in until not-really-ten-thirty. But looking on the positive side, I worked out yesterday and the rest seems to have helped my muscles recover; they don’t feel either sore or tired or both this morning. I should be grateful for small victories, I suppose, and stop complaining.

I watched two more episodes of Seven Seconds last night, and it is absolutely riveting. It reminds me a lot of the lamented American Crime, where you saw everyone as three-dimensional characters; I like seeing it from every perspective, and while it’s easy to feel some sympathy for the guy who committed the actual crime and why he covered it up; the pain of the family of the victim is almost unbearable to watch–but Regina King is such an amazing and brilliant actress you can’t help but watch. I’ve always been a fan of hers; she was exceptional in American Crime, but this? Give her all the awards right now, and please cast her in everything; she is so good that as I watched I thought if I ever write a television show or movie I want to write a great part for her to play. As good as the show is, as it progresses it is starting to drift away from the nonjudgmental view that it had in the first episodes, which is fine–I think part of the reason American Crime failed to find an audience was because you didn’t know who to root for, or if you should root for anyone, which makes viewers uncomfortable, as they, for the most part, want to have good guys and bad guys–but I kind of wish they hadn’t gone so far with making the guy who committed the crime a villain. I felt sorry for him before; I am losing sympathy, and that’s why they are doing it; but when he was sympathetic it made the show more layered, complex, and nuanced.

Heavy sigh.

I got all my errands done yesterday, but forgot to get something I need for dinner today–but it’s just a twenty ounce bottle of root beer and I can walk to Walgreens and get that when I’m ready to put everything into the crock pot. The St. Patrick’s/St. Joseph’s Day Irish Channel parade is today, so I’m not moving my car. I decided to wait to go to Costco until next weekend; I am going to take one of my co-workers car shopping that day, and as punishment he’ll have to go to Costco with me when we’re finished.

I started writing yet another Chanse short story yesterday; “Once a Tiger.” It’s an idea for a Chanse novel that I had a long time ago and always wanted to write, sort of like how the Chanse short story I wrote last week was a book idea I never wrote. I had intended to get some other things done, but after the errands and the gym I was tired, so I sat down to watch Seven Seconds (Paul was at the office) and got sucked into it. I also watched two episodes of Versailles–this season is about the Affair of the Poisons–and read short stories. I need to clean today–I’m hoping it won’t rain so I can finally do the damned windows–but I also want to write today. So I should probably wrap this up and get back to work, so I can get the root beer from Walgreens and be done with it all, you know?

Sigh. Heavy lies the head, and all that, you know.

The first story I read was a reread; Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil”:

THE SEXTON stood in the porch of Milford meeting-house, pulling busily at the bell-rope. The old people of the village came stooping along the street. Children, with bright faces, tripped merrily beside their parents, or mimicked a graver gait, in the conscious dignity of their Sunday clothes. Spruce bachelors looked sidelong at the pretty maidens, and fancied that the Sabbath sunshine made them prettier than on week days. When the throng had mostly streamed into the porch, the sexton began to toll the bell, keeping his eye on the Reverend Mr. Hooper’s door. The first glimpse of the clergyman’s figure was the signal for the bell to cease its summons.

“But what has good Parson Hooper got upon his face?” cried the sexton in astonishment.

All within hearing immediately turned about, and beheld the semblance of Mr. Hooper, pacing slowly his meditative way towards the meeting-house. With one accord they started, expressing more wonder than if some strange minister were coming to dust the cushions of Mr. Hooper’s pulpit.

“Are you sure it is our parson?” inquired Goodman Gray of the sexton.

“Of a certainty it is good Mr. Hooper,” replied the sexton. “He was to have exchanged pulpits with Parson Shute, of Westbury; but Parson Shute sent to excuse himself yesterday, being to preach a funeral sermon.”

I read this story either in high school or in college originally; whenever it was that I originally read it, my young mind was bored with it and thought it rather silly. I hated The Scarlet Letter, still do so much that even thinking of rereading it gives me dyspepsia; but I greatly enjoyed The House of the Seven Gables, although I remember nothing much about it except that the old woman’s name was Hepzibah, which I always thought was a great Gothic name for a creepy old lady. Rereading this story, it made a little bit more sense to me; it’s really a parable. Parson Hooper, for a reason unbeknownst to his parishioners and to the reader, has chosen to hide his face for the rest of his life behind a black veil; I remember reading this and being deeply annoyed about never finding out the reason. But rereading it now, I got a stronger sense of it; the parson has done this and the reasons why really aren’t important; what’s important is how uncomfortable it has made everyone else, and why; it’s about human nature and psychology, and is a lot more clever than I thought as a teenager. It still, however, reads in that stilted, archaic early nineteenth century formal style that is grating and annoying to the modern reader, however.

I then moved on to “The Last Temptation of Frankie Lymon” by Peter Blauner, from the anthology Crime Plus Music, edited by Jim Fusilli. I originally bought this anthology because it had a story by Alison Gaylin inspired by a song recorded by the band X, whom I used to love in the 1980’s–the story is quite brilliant, I might add–but had never gone back and read any of the others. So, I picked it up and this is the lead-off story for the collection.

He walked into the bar wearing the jacket that Sam bought for the Ebony photo shoot last year. A mostly wool blazer with two rows of brass buttons, that must have cost–what?–like forty to fifty dollars at Blumstein’s. He felt bad because Sam was living on about two hundred a week as a food inspector in the Bronx, while trying to manage the comeback for him, But what could you do? All the star clothes he used to have in his grandmother’s closet were either child-sized and long ago outgrown or had holes in them because he’d nodded off with a cigarette in his mouth.

So now the jacket felt heavy as a burden on his shoulders as he eyed his surroundings and tried to get comfortable. The bar was around the corner from his grandmother’s and he half recognized some of the people from the neighborhood, where he hadn’t lived since back in the day. There were mailmen and bus drivers wearing turtlenecks or open-collared shirts with jeans. Doormen and janitors in T-shirts and growing out their hair into bushy naturals as they rapped effortlessly to short-skirted former double Dutch girls from the block with sleepy eyes and soft mouths, who kept going “uh-huh, uh-huh, right on” as that Gladys Knight “Grapevine” song played on the jukebox.

Frankie Lymon was a real person; the lead singer for Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, known for their hit “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”. Lymon’s story is one of those cautionary tales about the music industry, fame, and hitting it big when you’re young; he was only twenty-four when he died of an overdose–a has-been at 24. This story, which is basically a fictionalized imagining of his last day, is heartbreaking. He has fallen on hard times but has cleaned up and gotten to a point of recovery from his addiction; he’s trying to make a comeback but makes the sad, fateful decision to go into the local neighborhood bar near where he is staying with his grandmother–and runs into someone from his past, with her own broken dreams and broken life. It’s powerfully written and the characters realized strongly; you can’t stop reading even though you know it’s all a train wreck unfolding in front of you. Kudos to Blauner for such a powerful story.

I then went back to Sue Grafton’s Kinsey and Me collection, where the next offering was the story “The Parker Shotgun.”

The Christmas holidays had come and gone, and the new year was under way. January, in California, is as good as it gets–cool, clear, and green, with a sky the color of wisteria and a surf that thunders like a volley of gunfire in a distant field. My name is Kinsey Millhone. I’m a private investigator, licensed, bonded, insured; white, female, age thirty-two, unmarried, and physically fit. That Monday morning, I was sitting in my office with my feet up, wondering what life would bring, when a woman walked in and tossed a photograph on my desk. My introduction to the Parker shotgun began with a graphic view of its apparent effect when fired at a formerly nice-looking man at close range. His face was still largely intact, but he had no use now for a pocket comb. WIth effort, I kept my expression neutral as I glanced up at her.

“Somebody killed my husband.”

Grafton never disappoints, and as I have mentioned before when talking about these Chanse short stories (it pleases me to no end that I can now talk about them in the plural), reading Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone short stories, along with the Lew Archer short stories by Ross Macdonald and the Tess Monaghan ones by Laura Lippman, have been an education in writing the private eye short story; something I never felt confident about doing before. This story is excellent in that is has a great opening–how can you not keep reading after that–and Kinsey’s detecting skills are put to a great test here. I also learned a lot about shotguns in reading this story. I guess the thing that’s so terrific about reading these private eye short stories is seeing, while reading them, how they could have easily been expanded into novels while also seeing how the author pared down what could have been a novel into a pleasing, satisfying short story.

I also picked up the MWA anthology Vengeance and started reading some more of the stories in there; I believe I may have blogged about one of them already. But when reading Alafair Burke’s “The Mother”, the story began to sound familiar; and sure enough, I was right: I’d read it before. I started paging through the stories and yes, I’d read them all; I read them flying back from a trip to New York on a plane. The book includes Karin Slaughter’s chilling, and Edgar winning, short story “The Unremarkable Heart,” which is one of my favorite short stories of all time. But I had to put Vengeance back up on the shelf because I’d already read those stories, alas; I will only allow myself to reread, and write about, short stories I originally read before I started blogging back in 2004 (!), so as to avoid repetition.

And now, I am going to get my second and final cup of coffee before walking to Walgreens. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

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