My flight was two and a half hours delayed yesterday due to the FAA system crash yesterday morning, which was, of course, tiresome. But I eventually got to board my flight, finished reading A Walk on the Wild Side (I literally finished it when we were taxiing to the gate, so perfect timing, and more on that book later), then collected my bag and got my car service into Manhattan. I checked in, went up to my room, and then had dinner as Connolly’s Irish Pub, where our waiter was stunned and delighted to see my LSU sweatshirt–he was a fan! (That happened again in the elevator on the way up to my room–who knew Manhattan was filled with LSU fans? You got to love it!) I got to have fish ‘n’ chips–they were marvelous–and then we walked back to the hotel and retired early. He ran me ragged today– lunch in Chinatown, and then we are having dinner with our friend Donna, who is also joining us for Hadestown, which I am very excited to see. I also need to write while I am here–hopefully I’ll be able to get some of that done Friday afternoon; I hate that I wasn’t able to keep my momentum going yesterday and knock out another three thousand words, but it was a day, wasn’t it? I got up at six yesterday morning, headed out to the airport around ten thirty, and then didn’t get to the hotel until six New York time. That’s an awful lot of me being out in public.
I also didn’t sleep great last night–first night in a hotel is always an adjustment; I hope tonight it will be a different story–and then was awakened (not really, I was awake but lying in bed with my eyes closed like I always do when I have insomnia) by a text from That Bitch Ford (Michael Thomas Ford, for those of you who are new; buy his books, they’re terrific) and so I washed my face and brushed my teeth and went down for coffee with him while he ate ($29 eggs!) and then we took the subway to lower Manhattan to walk around and see Chinatown (we’d planned on having lunch there all along, and we did!) and had a lovely time. Lunch was terrific, and it was fun catching up in person. We don’t think we’ve seen each other in person for going on ten years (I don’t think it’s been that long but I am not certain enough to argue the point), which is astonishing. We’re also two of the few from out “time” to still be around and writing all these years later, which feels very strange to me. We did a lot “I wonder whatever happened to–” and “who was that who–” types of conversation starters. Mike is one of the few people who is still a part of my life who knew me before I was published*; we met when he came to New Orleans to sign Alec Baldwin Doesn’t Love Me and Other Trials from My Queer Life, and we’ve kind of been friends ever since then. I know I interviewed him for IMPACT News back when I used to write for the local gay paper (shuttered since about 2002 or 2003, methinks) and since we both have the same horrible sick sense of humor…it was inevitable.
And now I am back in my room, exhausted, but with dinner plans at five with Mike and our friend Donna, and then of course we’re making a 7 pm curtain for the show. I’m not entirely sure what tomorrow holds for me; I think we have a breakfast date but I could be wrong, and I know in the late afternoon I start having plans again–and of course I will be tied up all day Saturday before flying home on Sunday. Thank God Monday is a holiday, so I can recover and rest and write and get things taken care of around the house. I had hoped to spend some time writing today but I am too tired, and I need to rest and relax before we get going for tonight. I’ve not been to a Broadway show in years, so am kind of looking forward to it. I know nothing about this show other than it’s the Orpheus myth (I think), so am really interested in hearing what the score sounds like.
And on that note I am going to lie down for a minute or two before I have to get ready for dinner. Till next time, Constant Reader!
*It’s very weird to me that so few people who knew me before I was published are actively still part of my life; I am still connected with people from past phases of my life but primarily through social media; I don’t interact with them very much outside of social media; and it’s not like I am ghosting the people from my past or anything; it’s just how life evolves. And most of the people we both knew back when we got started on this crazy journey into publishing aren’t around anymore.
And here we are, on the final day of the year 2022. Happy New Year, I guess? It doesn’t feel like the year is turning, but everything has felt so totally out of whack since the 2020 Shutdown that it’s not a surprise, really. As I sit here bleary-eyed with my coffee trying to wake up for another thrilling day of writing and cleaning, it seems very weird to look back to a year ago at this time. I was on deadline then, too–and was way behind on that book, too (A Streetcar Named Murder, for the record), but other than that I don’t remember what my mood was like or what I was thinking about going into the new year. We were still in the midst of the pandemic (that hasn’t changed–what’s changed is it isn’t news anymore and everyone seems to be pretending it’s all over), and I know I wasn’t exactly going into 2022 thinking oh this is the year I’ll get the coronavirus! That did happen, and my ten-day experience with COVID-19 was bearable for the most part. I just had intense and severe exhaustion as well as the brain fog, which hasn’t entirely lifted. I still have no short term memory, and am struggling to remember things every day–which has made writing this book more difficult because I can’t remember small details and things that are kind of important. I also think being so scattered isn’t much help in that regard; I’ve never been able to handle getting a grip on things and have felt like I’ve been behind the eight-ball for the last three years, floundering and struggling to keep my head above water, and never confident that I had a handle on everything. It’s been unpleasant, really; I prefer to be better organized and to have things under some sort of manageable control, and this constant feeling that I am behind and will never catch up on everything has been overwhelming, depressing, and damaging.
I read a lot of great books this year–I was going to try to make a “favorite reads of the year” list, but as I went back through the blog for the last year looking at all the books I talked about on here, there’s no real way for me to quantify what were my avorite reads of the year. I managed to read both of Wanda M. Morris’ marvelous novels, All Her Little Secrets and Anywhere You Run; Marco Carocari’s marvelous Blackout; John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind; Carol Goodman’s The Night Villa, The Lake of Dead Languages, and The Disinvited Guest; Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway and The Woman in Cabin Ten; Raquel V. Reyes’ Mango, Mambo and Murder; Ellen Byron’s Bayou Book Thief; Rob Osler’s debut Devil’s Chew Toy; Mia P. Manansala’s Arsenic and Adobo; Kellye Garrett’s Like a Sister; Alex Segura Jr’s Secret Identity; Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden; Tara Laskowski’s marvelous The Mother Next Door; James Kestrel’s Five Decembers (which would be a contender for favorite read of the year, if I did such things); and of course several Donna Andrews novels as well. I am forgetting some great reads I truly enjoyed this past year, I am sure–I will kick myself later for not remembering I Play One on TV by Alan Orloff, for one example–but it was a year of great reads for me. I know 2023 will also be a great year for reading.
I also watched a lot of great television this past year as well, and again, I won’t be remembering everything and will kick myself later. If nothing else, it was a year of some amazing queer representation on television; this was, after all, the year Netflix not only gave us the wonderful, amazing, adorable Heartstopper but the equally charming and adorable Smiley (which you should watch, absolutely). It was also the year where Elité continued, but the shine is starting to go off the show a bit. I was very vested in their Patrick/Ivan romance, which they ended in this last season with Manu Rios, who plays Patrick, leaving the show at the end of the season along with his two sisters (spoiler, sorry), which was dissatisfying. I am looking forward to seeing what else Manu Rios gets up to in the future…we also enjoyed 1899, Andor, Ted Lasso, Sex Lives of College Girls, Peacemaker, The Sandman, House of the Dragon, Ozark, and so many other shows I can’t possibly begin to remember them all this morning. But I have no problem saying that without question my favorite show of the year was Heartstopper. Even just looking at clips on Youtube, or those “Ten Cutest Moments on Heartstopper” videos, always makes me feel warm and fuzzy when I view them. The soundtrack for the show was also terrific, with some songs so firmly engrained in my head with scenes from the show (one in particular, Shura’s “What’s It Gonna Be” always makes me think of that scene where Charlie comes running after Nick in the rain to give him another kiss, which is what was playing in the background). Wednesday was another highlight, a surprising delight when I was prepared to have my hopes dashed, and The Serpent Queen was also a lot of fun. We also enjoyed The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself, but it was cancelled after its first season, which was disappointing.
Professionally, it was a pretty good year in which I had three book releases: #shedeservedit in January and A Streetcar Named Murder in December, with the anthology Land of 10000 Thrills, thrown in for good measure in the fall. I sold some short stories that haven’t come out yet, as well as some that did this last year: “The Rosary of Broken Promises,” “A Whisper from the Graveyard,””The Snow Globe,” and “This Thing of Darkness” all came out in anthologies this year, with “Solace in a Dying Hour” sold and probably coming out sometime in the spring. I also sold another story to another anthology that will probably come out in the new year as well, and I still have one out on submission. In what was probably the biggest surprise of the year, last year’s Bury Me in Shadows was nominated for not one, but TWO Anthony Awards (Best Paperback Original and Best Children’s/Young Adult) which was one of the biggest shocks of maybe not just the year, but definitely one of the highlights of my career thus far. I lost both to friends and enormously talented writers Jess Lourey and Alan Orloff respectively, which was kind of lovely. I had been nominated for Anthonys before (winning Best Anthology for Blood on the Bayou and “Cold Beer No Flies” was nominated for Best Short Story), but being nominated for one of my queer novels was such a thrill–and to have it nominated in two different categories was fucking lit, as the kids would say. The response to A Streetcar Named Murder was an incredibly pleasant surprise; people seemed to genuinely love the book, which was very exciting and cool.
I traveled quite a bit this year as well–going to Murder in the Magic City/Murder on the Menu, Left Coast Crime, the Edgars, Sleuthfest, and Bouchercon. I went to Kentucky twice to see my family, which further fueled my love of audiobooks for long drives–on both trips I listened to Ruth Ware on the way up and Carol Goodman on the way back–and also did some wonderful podcasts and panels on-line, which was nice. We didn’t go to any games this season in Baton Rouge, but in all honesty I don’t know if I can hang with a game day anymore–the drive there and back, the walk to and from the stadium, the game itself–I would probably need a week’s vacation afterwards!
College football was interesting this season, too. This season saw the reemergence of Tennessee, USC, and UCLA to some kind of relevance again; the slides of the programs at Texas A&M, Florida, Oklahoma, Auburn, and Texas continued; and LSU turned out to be the biggest surprise (for me) of the year. Going into the season I had hopes, as one always does, but after two years of consistent mediocrity (with some surprise wins both years) they weren’t very high. The opening loss to Florida State was a surprise and disappointment, but at least the Tigers came back and almost made it all the way to a win. The blowout loss to Tennessee at home was unpleasant, certainly, as was the loss at Texas A&M. But LSU beat Alabama this season! We also beat Mississippi, so LSU was 2-2 against Top Ten teams this season–and I would have thought it would be 0-4. And 9-4 is not a bad record for a transitional year, with a new coach rebuilding the program. And LSU beat Alabama. The Alabama game will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium. It was incredibly exciting, and I still can’t quite wrap my mind around it or how it happened. It certainly shouldn’t have; LSU was simply not an elite-level team this past season, but what a job Brian Kelly did coaching in his first season in Baton Rouge. Did I mention that LSU beat Alabama this year? (And one really has to feel for Alabama, in a way; they lost two games by a total of four points on the last play of each game. Four. Points. That would probably be what I would call this season for Alabama: Four Points from Greatness. The LSU-Alabama game this year is definitely one of those that gets a nickname from the fan base, I am just not sure what it would be. The Double Earthquake Game? (The cheers when LSU scored in overtime and then made the two point conversion registered on the campus Richter scale) The Conversion Game? I don’t know what it will be named for all eternity, but it was an amazing game. I do think it also bodes well for the future for LSU. Will both LSU and Tennessee (which also beat Alabama for the first time in like fifteen years) be able to consistently compete with Alabama now? Has Georgia taken over as the SEC behemoth? Has the Alabama run ended? I don’t think so–they have an off year where they lose two or three games periodically (2010, 2019, 2022)–and they could bounce right back. next year and win it all again. You can never count them out, even in their off years.
As for the Saints, they swept Atlanta again this year, and that is enough for me.
I did write a lot this year, even though it didn’t seem like I actually did while the year was passing. I also worked on Chlorine and another project I am working on throughout the year, as well as the novellas, and of course, I was writing short stories and essays for much of the year. I also read a lot more New Orleans and Louisiana history, and I had tons of ideas for things to write all year long. I did make it to the gym on a fairly regular basis at the beginning of the year, but then it became more and more sporadic and after my COVID-19 experience, never again. I also injured my arm a few weeks ago–when I flex the bicep it feels like I have a Charley horse, so not good, but it doesn’t impact my day to day activities. I also had my colonoscopy at last this past year–the prep was horrific, and I am really dreading doing it again at sixty-five, should I make it that far.
Yesterday was a nice day. I was exhausted, and after my work-at-home duties were completed I did some chores–laundry, dishes–and I also spent some time both reading (A Walk on the Wild Side) and writing. I also watched the Clemson-Tennessee Orange Bowl last night before Paul got home from his dinner engagement and we watched a few more episodes of Sex Lives of College Girls. Today I am going to read a bit this morning with my coffee before getting cleaned up and diving headfirst back into the book. Paul has his trainer today and usually either goes to the gym to ride the bike or to his office to work for the rest of the afternoon, so I should be able to have some uninterrupted writing time, which will be lovely. And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve, Constant Reader, and I will check back in with you later.
My last work-at-home day for 2022, and technically my last day of work for the year at the day job. It still freaks me out a little, or doesn’t feel right, to write 2022 on my clinical testing forms; 2023 is going to be even stranger to write. Where the hell has this decade gone already? It’s almost 2023. I certainly didn’t think I’d make it this far, yet here I am.
It got up into the seventies again yesterday–we literally went from the mid-sixties to a hard freeze back to the seventies in about a week–which is why you can never write about New Orleans without writing about the weather. Our weather affects everything here, and can change everything happening and going on in a matter of hours. It also messes with your moods and how you feel–how can your sinuses adapt to such dramatic weather changes in such a short period of time? And that’s not even taking into consideration the humidity and rain. You always have to plan your day and your life around the weather here, and you ignore it at your own peril (he said, having been caught unawares in enough flash-flooding events to know whereof he speaks). With a great HVAC system I didn’t find myself minding the cold quite as much this past weekend, but don’t get me wrong–I’m not sorry to see it gone, and good riddance to it.
I also had a ridiculous amount of chores to do last night when I finished work. Two loads of dishes, two loads of laundry, and of course I had to do something about the refrigerator, and since I was already doing chores I decided to go ahead and launder the living room comfort blankets and do something about the floors (a chore I’ve been avoiding for far longer than I dare to admit publicly, given my reputation as a housekeeper). I decided not to try for my quota for the day, which of course increased today’s quota, but thought it best to go ahead and reread everything I’ve been doing and get a better sense of things so I can figure out how to get to the end of the book from where I’m at now. Sometimes it’s best to relax and let the muscles rest when you’ve been pushing them for a while; burn out is always a fear, and I suspected yesterday that I was reaching that point and should probably rest from it for at least the night, while planning what to do next. I do have a lovely three day weekend looming, and if I ignore college football bowl games–which shouldn’t be difficult to do–I should be able to leisurely get this done and sent off Monday.
I’m still a little tired this morning, and it’s gray outside. Ah, yes, a quick glance at the weather (I seem obsessed this morning with the weather, I know) and it appears that we’ll be having thunderstorms for most of the day. I do have to go out into the outer world at some point today–the postal service is closed tomorrow through Monday–so I won’t be able to get the mail again until after work on Tuesday. I should also spend a little time figuring out what, if anything, I need from the grocery store so I don’t have to leave the house again until Tuesday morning. That’s really turning into my biggest contest–how long can I go without leaving the house? (Along with “how few showers can I take this weekend? ” and “How long can I go without cleaning the house?” These do not speak well of me, I am well aware.) I also am going back to reading Nelson Algren’s A Walk on the Wild Side, after my break from it to read Donna Andrews for Christmas; it’s slow going because it’s an old book written in twentieth century cis-white male literary style, which is something I don’t really care for as a general rule. But I do want to read the parts where the main character (whose backstory is currently being explored) gets to New Orleans and experiences the demimonde; I’d also like to see the film, which I haven’t ever viewed. (I know, right? Barbara Stanwyck and Jane Fonda and I’ve never seen it? Bad gay, bad gay.)
After getting the chores done–Paul didn’t come home until late again–I spent some time read Bad Gays: A Homosexual History by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller, which takes a look at some gay men in history who weren’t exactly role models for gay men or behavior–some of whom I had heard of, others I had not– which is an interesting approach (usually writers and historians are always looking for positive role models, or take normal human beings and idealize them into heroes). I was a little disappointed to see that my favorite historical homo wasn’t included–Philippe d’Orleans, younger brother of Louis XIV and known as Monsieur (I’ve always wanted to write about Monsieur, he fascinates me to this day)–but the authors did include James I of England and Frederick the Great, so no complaints on royal representation in the book. (But if you’re looking for bad examples of gay men in history, choosing James I over Richard the Lion-Hearted or Edward II was an interesting decision.) I read the sections on Oscar Wilde and Bosie, Frederick the Great, and James I (primarily because the most ambitious book idea I’ve ever had involved James I’s successor as well as his last love, George Villiers Duke of Buckingham); and I enjoyed them. They weren’t very in depth, as they were only given a chapter, so they were at best slightly superficial, but it was interesting to read. I really do need to read a biography of Frederick the Great, who has fascinated me since I was a kid (again, interesting that even as a child I was fascinated by a king who turned out to be gay in the long run); I’ve read histories of Prussia and Europe and other monarchs of the period, but biographies of Frederick aren’t as easy to come by as say, biographies of any Tudor, the Wars of the Roses, or Louis XIV. (Try finding a biography of Louis XIII or said George Villiers, for that matter. There are quite a few of Cardinal Richelieu–but not as many as one would think. Americans seem to be more interested in British history than anything else, and not many of them at that.)
Lightning just flashed, and it’s getting grayer outside, never a good sign for the weather in New Orleans. Then again, spending a little time reading this morning during a thunderstorm while drinking my coffee before starting my work-at-home duties could be just the ticket for kick-starting this day into high gear, so on that note, I am heading into the spice mines.
There aren’t many authors who’ve written as many novels as she that I’ve managed to somehow not only get caught up on but stayed current with, but every Andrews novel is an absolute delight that doesn’t miss the mark. It’s actually a master class in how to keep a long-running series going while managing to keep it fresh and interesting without repeating one’s self or ever letting the quality–in character, writing, and plotting–ever slip or slide. (As someone currently struggling with volume nine of a series, I do not make those kinds of claims without foundation.)
It’s always a pleasure to revisit Caerphilly and Meg’s enormous group of family and friends; it’s also lovely to revisit an idealized small town with such a strong sense of community that everyone gets along, everyone cooperates, and everyone pitches in to help out a friend or neighbor in need. Caerphilly is not only a great place to visit, but it’s also a great place to live–the winter and snow that inevitably plays a large role in the annual Christmas murder mystery that Andrews does every year notwithstanding. Even with my faulty memory, I can somehow manage to keep the enormous cast of recurring characters in this series straight, to the point where I smile delightedly when someone I’ve encountered and liked in the series reappears again in the latest. I also love the idea of making Donna’s Christmas mystery an annual tradition for me to read over the holiday.
“Blast! You scared it away!”
My grandmother Cordelia turned around and frowned at me. She held a pair of binoculars and stood in front of one of the kitchen windows, so I deduced my arrival had startled some rare bird into flight.
“And a Merry Christmas to you, too.” I strode over and gave her a hug of greeting in spite of the frown. “Did you just get here?”
“Sorry,” she said, hugging me back. “It’s just that we were so hoping…ah, well. Either it was or it wasn’t.”
“But unless you see it, you won’t be able to add it to your life list,” I said. “What unique and fabulous feathered creature did I deprive you of seeing?”
“Nothing rare,” she said. “I’ve seen thousands of Junco hyemalis in my life. It’s just that it would be encouraging to see one here today.”
Turns out, juncos are supposedly harbingers of snow, and everyone is hoping for a white Christmas in Caerphilly (past Christmas novels have involved blizzards and other catastrophic winter weather events), but so far it’s just been cold with no sign of snow. As usual, Meg has a houseful of people–really, almost every Meg book could be considered a “vintage house party murder mystery”–which not only includes numerous relatives and cousins, but people from a company called AcerGen, a Canadian genealogical website that has hired Meg’s brother’s software company Mutant Wizards to develop some programs for them as well as to beef up their website. The company’s owner, Ian Meredith, is a self-absorbed jerk with questionable ethics and morals. Within a few chapters his shitty personality has been well-established, as well as several potential killers for the man–because rest assured, in a Meg Langslow mystery, the victim is rarely lamented–and a new addition to Meg’s farm has been completed as a gift for Meg and family from her father: a skating rink in one of their pastures.
Naturally, it’s at the rink that the murder takes place, and Meg’s sleuthing cap is firmly planted back on her head–and with her ubiquitous lists, connections with the law in the county, and her family–Meg is soon on the track of the killer.
Written with her trademark wit–I laughed aloud several times during the course of reading the book–and charm, the book flows smoothly and you get so caught up in Meg’s world and point of view that before you know, dozens of pages have been flipped and chapters read, and you don’t want to put it down and get back to your own reality.
An enormously satisfying and delightful entry in the Meg Langslow series. You can start here, if you’ve not read the series already, but I would highly recommend starting at the beginning so you don’t miss any part of Andrews’ brilliant world-building.
And now it’s Christmas morning, with tidings of great joy and all that. It’s thirty-six degrees in New Orleans and our Hard Freeze Warning doesn’t let up until nine this morning, but it’s still not exactly going to be warm or anything. But that’s fine. I have lots to do today and I slept in again (it’s been marvelous, sleeping late this long weekend but it’s going to make getting up Tuesday morning in the cold difficult, I fear) and feel rested this morning. Which is a very good thing, don’t get me wrong on that. But when I finish this I need to clean up the dishes from yesterday before I dive back into my Donna Andrews Christmas read for a bit before I dive headfirst back into the book. I did get some writing done yesterday–didn’t make the quota, so will have to make up for that today as well as meet today’s–and I am enjoying Donna’s book tremendously. After Paul got home from his trainer, I gave up on reading and we settled in to watch some movies: See How They Run (great cast, clever concept, not completely executed properly); The Banshees of Inisherin (not seeing how that was nominated for comedy Golden Globes, unless it’s such dark humor that I completely missed it. There are some terrific performances in it, though); All Quiet on the Western Front (a remake of the Oscar winning classic; perhaps one of the grimmest and darkest looks at how miserable war really is and definitely an Oscar contender); and finally–well, I don’t remember the fourth film we watched last night before going to bed, which is probably not a good sign of either its memorability or my memory. Maybe it’ll come to me as I write this, who knows?
I made pulled turkey for Christmas Eve, with an eye to not having to cook anything today, and I bought too much. I usually get one of those small boneless turkey breasts from Butterball, but I couldn’t find one anywhere this week, but Friday they had turkey breasts at Rouse’s, so that’s what I got. It was twice the size of what I usually get–and we can never really finish eating–and it had bones. It barely fit into the crockpot but…it was delicious when it was finished, much better than those boneless ones, and I can’t help but wonder if the bones somehow make a difference? It was a time shredding the meat (since there were bones), and I made some Stove Top to go with it (I can make real cornbread dressing from scratch like my mom makes, but it’s a shit ton of work and it makes a shit ton of dressing, which we would never be able to completely eat). But today I shouldn’t have to cook anything, other than maybe a grilled cheese for lunch or something, and once I finish this I am going to clean the kitchen and read for a little while before getting cleaned up and diving back into the book.
It’s also a very short work week at the office, since tomorrow I have off as a holiday and so only have three days in the office this week preparatory to another three day weekend this coming weekend. There will be football games to watch over that weekend, which will make it much harder to get writing done, but the book must be turned in on January 1. I am trying not to feel guilty about not getting any more writing done yesterday and for leaving the apartment in such a mess, but one of the things I’ve become more aware of as I get older is that I need more down time to recover and regroup and recharge. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course, other than I think I used to not need the recovery time nearly as much as I do now. Then again, it’s also entirely possible I simply don’t remember and it’s merely yet another memory lie my mind is telling me, allowing me to look backward through rosy lenses to see things as markedly better in the past than they are in the present. That’s always the trick of getting older–your mind always wants you to believe that things were better or easier or made more sense in the past, when that wasn’t true; the struggle was simply different back then than it is now, but there’s always some kind of struggle going on in people’s lives. We are also masters at hiding our struggles from other people–I know there have been many times in the past when I wondered how other people managed to do so well while I was doing so poorly; now with the “wisdom” of age and experience I know they were probably all struggling too, I just didn’t know it or was too self-absorbed to notice.
Probably more of that latter part, actually.
The Saints did win yesterday, which was lovely–I had the game on in the background while I read, and then once Paul and I started watching See How They Run I followed it on my iPad and Twitter–but I am finding I am not caring much about the post-season for college football. I’ll watch LSU’s bowl game with Purdue, but other than that, I don’t care very much. I always say that, but inevitably always end up watching the national title game, regardless. I have no stake in the game, other than wanting SEC dominance to continue, and quite frankly, I’ve turned a bit on Georgia–their decision to go for two when up thirty against LSU in the conference title game so they could hit fifty left a sour taste in my mouth; enjoy your run while it lasts, Bulldogs, because your day will come again. And if you think LSU’s players, coaches and fans won’t remember that for the rest of time, think fucking again.
Then again, Joe Burrow did make the Dogs look like a high school second string in 2018 and 2019, so maybe there was some payback there from them, I don’t know. But Cajuns and Louisianans have long memories and will carry a grudge to the grave; and on that score I am definitely an honorary Cajun. (I said to a friend the other day, “I may not remember the reason, but I remember the grudge.”)
So, on that cheerful holiday note, I bid you adieu as I head into the spice mines, Constant Reader. Have a lovely day, whether you celebrate the holiday or not; at least have a lovely free day from worry or care, and I’ll check in which you again later.
Christmas Eve! It’s warmer today than yesterday by a full six whole degrees; it’s 32 degrees instead of 26, as it was yesterday. The The apartment is over all toasty and warm–but the kitchen and upstairs bathroom are not. They are a bearable degree of cold, but I do have the space heater going this morning in here as I type this and swill coffee and wake-up gradually. I slept magnificently last night, and feel very rested and relaxed this morning, which is quite marvelous. I hit my word count somehow yesterday–three thousand words–and hope to do the same today. Today has a higher goal–I’m feeling rather ambitious this morning–and Paul has his trainer this afternoon and is working on a grant proposal, so I should have the solitude I need to bang out the count I need to achieve today. I picked up the mail and ran some other errands yesterday–including taking Paul to Michaels on Claiborne to pick up a gift for me. You’d think by now I’d know he’s going to flout the “no gift” rule every year, because he has and yet every year I think he’s going to stick to it. I think it’s part of that failing memory thing I have going. Anyway, he had the front page of the New Orleans Times-Picayune/Advocate from the morning after the 2020 National Championship game framed and mounted; it’s a full page shot of Joe Burrow running downfield holding up both hands with his forefingers extended, with the headline PERFECT. It’s mounted on gold paper and the frame is purple, and I absolutely love it. Paul always won Christmas when we used to get plan on getting each other gifts, primarily because he pays attention to things I say and takes notes all year to plan for Christmas; I’ll never forget that marvelous year he got us tickets to see the Monte Carlo Ballet Company’s Romeo and Juliet, which I absolutely loved–all because I’d casually mentioned once that I loved ballet and wanted to write about it one day, despite knowing next to nothing about it. (Aside: I keep thinking I want to write a Sherlock Holmes story built around a Nijinsky performance in New Orleans; someday perhaps.)
We also watched, and greatly enjoyed, Glass Onion last night. I actually liked it better than Knives Out, in all honesty, and I love that this is turning into a film series. It reminds me so much of Agatha Christie at her best, and is there a better compliment to give a mystery film than a Christie comparison? I think not. I think Daniel Craig (whom I’ve loved since he emerged from the surf in that square cut swimsuit in Casino Royale, and quickly became one of my favorite James Bonds) is simply fantastic. The Southern accent grated a bit on me at first in Knives Out, but by the end of the movie it didn’t bother me anymore and it didn’t even make me recoil the first time I heard it last night. I think I’d like to write something along the lines of these films sometime–the big cast of suspects, the great detective unraveling the case–because I’ve always wanted to do an Agatha Christie style/classic vintage mystery type house party murder mystery. (Note to self: reread The Affair of the Blood-stained Egg Cosy)
But mother of God, it was cold yesterday when we were out in it. As I said to Paul–the entire world was out shopping yesterday because of course it was; we had to park a very long way from Michaels–“I can hang with this cold for a couple of days, but months of it would make me homicidal.” My grocery pick-up order ended up being canceled; they were unable to get it together for the time I’d selected, and the message was up to two hours minimum delay. At first I was a bit stunned, but then realized everyone and their mom is ordering groceries for pick-up today, and I bet the orders are a lot larger than usual. So I stopped by Rouses, they had a turkey breast in the freezer section, so I picked it up and carried it to the small order register, canceled my pick-up order (all I really needed with the turkey breast; everything else could wait) and then when I got home, put in another order for pick-up on Monday, since I have the day off.
Picking up the mail also ended up with a great gift to the Lost Apartment from the President: there was a stack of envelopes in the mailbox from the IRS for Paul, thirty in all. Turns out his student loans had all been forgiven, retroactively to 2017; the stack of envelopes were refund checks for every payment he’s made since then. So, yes, only more proof that our votes for President Biden and Democrats down the line was the right choices (and always have been for queer people). So keep your “how fucking dare you forgive student loan debt” shit to your fucking selves, you selfish assholes. This did, and will continue, to make a significant difference in our lives going forward; and can I just say, I can’t remember the last time any government policy had such an impact on us directly? Obviously, the Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell Supreme Court decisions had a macro impact on us, but this is an intimate micro effect that made us both very happy yesterday. And what lovely timing, too–right before Christmas. Let’s go, Brandon indeed.
I get a text from Entergy this morning warning of potential brownouts because of high demand for energy with the cold weather; I would imagine this is because the cold is effecting everywhere, so there’s nowhere Entergy can borrow power from if the supply runs low. That’s kind of scary, really, because people could literally freeze to death down here; imagine that! How weird would it be for someone to freeze to death down in southeastern Louisiana? It does make me a bit concerned about the homeless population here–we have a considerable one–so I hope they all found shelter and a place to stay warm.
And I think as soon as I finish this I am going to get the turkey started in the slow cooker, and curl up in my easy chair with my coffee, a blanket, and Dashing Through the Snowbirds by Donna Andrews. I think my new Christmas tradition every year will be just that; I’ll read Donna’s Christmas mystery for Christmas every year.
I’ve actually never watched the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer television special–when I was a kid I hated that kind of animation, so I was uninterested in any animated special that used that kind and never watched–but it’s so ubiquitous in our culture that I know enough about it to continue being uninterested in watching it. So, no, young Greg was never a big fan of Rankin-Bass shows. Sue me. And I’ve heard enough about them that it’s like I watched them loyally and religiously every year. A Charlie Brown Christmas always used to be my favorite that I watched every year–maybe I should watch it again this year on Christmas Eve, for old times’ sake and auld lang syne and all that kind of stuff.
It’s not as cold this morning as it was yesterday, but it’s nice to be inside a nice warm house. I slept well again last night, which was lovely and nice, and I feel relatively well rested this morning. I worked on the book quite a bit yesterday, which felt great, and I ran some errands on my way home. It started raining when I left the office yesterday and was terribly windy; the wind was that biting damp cold that’s just miserable. WE also had a thunderstorm last night that Paul had to walk home in, poor darling, sweeping into the Lost Apartment with his umbrella and the winds like an orphan of the storm. Once he was home we finished off Wednesday, which was delightful and we greatly enjoyed. The entire season was actually a mystery, which I wasn’t expecting and was a clever way to do the show, actually. I hope it’s renewed.
Because it was raining and cold, I did think to check the mailbox here at the house–which I never do, but when I got home I remembered our neighbor in the front was out of town so I needed to bring his mail in so it wouldn’t get wet–which turned out to be a good thing; I’d gotten one of those notorious camera tickets, which ironically I had just been talking about recently with a friend, and I said “I haven’t gotten one in quite some time”–well, I guess I spoke it into being and it manifested. Sigh. So I had to pay that, of course–I am a good citizen, after all–but I hate that they send those things to my home address and not my mailing address; I never think to look in the mailbox here precisely because we have a mailing service. I never get mail here at the apartment–except from the Department of Motor Vehicles or from the state.
But Thursday night is when we’re supposed to have the big temperature drop of thirty to forty degrees. Much as I hate the thought, I could get up Friday morning, Christmas Eve Eve, and go make groceries rather than trying to do it on the way home Friday, but I am leaning toward the old “it’s smarter to get it over with” mentality. I guess it will also depend on how tired I am when I get off work that day. I think when I get home tonight, after I work on the book for awhile I am going to curl up in my chair and read for a while. I’ve not been reading a lot lately because my mind hasn’t been there, really, but I had wanted to get this finished so I could read Donna Andrews’ Christmas mystery for the year on the actual holiday. Wouldn’t that be a great way to spend actual Christmas? Bundled up with my blanket in my easy chair with my coffee and a Donna Andrews mystery? I don’t think there would be any better way to spend the day, actually.
I am really looking forward to this weekend, if for no other reason than being able to have four straight days off from work. Sure, I usually don’t go in on Fridays and work remotely, but I don’t even have to do that this weekend!
And on that totally boring note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, and I’ll be here again tomorrow morning.
It’s always amused me that Santa is an anagram for Satan.
They may even be the only anagrams possible for each word, too.
We’re in a severe weather alert, but mostly the fear is flooding and torrential rain–the massive area under tornado watch is north of here–and it’s dark outside this morning as I sip my coffee and write this. My sleep was spotty again last night–waking up occasionally before falling back asleep again–but I do feel rested, and that’s the most important thing. Progress was made on the book yesterday, which is terrific and ever-so-pleasing to me. I did my errands yesterday after work without issue, but of course once I was home and had worked on the book for awhile, was terribly tired. I cannot allow that to happen when I get home this evening, as there are dishes to be put away and another load to be put into the washer. I’d like to spend some more time with A Walk on the Wild Side this evening as well; I need to finish it if I want to read the new Donna Andrews on Christmas day.
It’s hard to believe that Christmas is next weekend already. It doesn’t seem like it, but what would be really lovely–if it’s not a downpour when I get home from work tonight–would be to take a walk around the neighborhood and through the Garden District documenting decorations. I should make a point of this every year during Christmas and Carnival, frankly. I’ve never seen a city before that loved to decorate as much as New Orleans does–or does it even remotely as well.
But the coffee is good this morning and it’s getting light outside–grayish, really–and hopefully I won’t get rained on while driving to work. (Note to self: if it isn’t raining, bring umbrella inside from the car in case it’s raining when I leave.) I think we’re going to buy our new refrigerator this weekend, which is good since the one we currently have is absolutely on its last legs. I wanted to gt one with the freezer on the bottom, but for some reason those are a lot more expensive–by an absurd amount. So, it looks like we’ll probably get the normal kind with the freezer on the top–or maybe we can spring for a bit more and get one with side by side doors, which would be almost as effective (it’s the bending down that’s starting to get to me), but we’ll see. I think we’re just going to go to Costco and see what they have.
Yesterday a friend posted a list of all the things she accomplished in 2022–which she compiled after feeling like she really hadn’t done much during the year, and was pleasantly surprised to see how much she had, in fact, managed to do. I was thinking about this myself the other night–not that I hadn’t done much throughout the year, but rather that I’d had a rather bad year, but once I sat down and started thinking about it, it’s actually been a good year for me; actually a very good year indeed when all is said and done. Oddly enough, when I sit and look back emotionally, without going into much more depth, it was a year in which my primary memories are tired and miserable. And yet…productivity wise it may not have been my strongest year, but it was still a good year. Bury Me in Shadows was nominated for two Anthony Awards at Bouchercon this year; it’s not the first time one person was nominated multiple times in the same year (hell, S. A. Cosby was nominated for three awards, and I think Tracy Clark was also up for two this year alone) but it’s a select group to be sure and one to which I am proud to belong. I have no way of verifying it either, but I am pretty certain it was the first time the same book was nominated in two different categories. Those were also my third and fourth Anthony nominations, which I think may also make me the most nominated queer author? It’s hard to say because they don’t have full lists of the finalists from every year anywhere, so you can’t really look it up and verify anything, so I hate to make claims that may not be true. But I think they’re true, and even if they aren’t, I am certainly one of the most nominated queer authors. The positive reception Bury Me in Shadows got on its release continued into the early part of this year as well, just as #shedeservedit came out. That one didn’t get near the attention as its predecessor, but it’s a book I am really proud of and am happy to have not only finished but published. I also finished writing A Streetcar Named Murder earlier this year, and I couldn’t be more pleased with its reception, either. I worked on other things throughout the year–short stories, some novellas, and two other novels (Chlorine and Muscles, to be precise)–and while I didn’t get a lot of stories out there and sold this year, I did sell a couple of which I am proud–one I can’t mention as it isn’t public yet, and the other being “Solace in a Dying Hour,” which I sold to an Austalian anthology and it’s a pretty damned good story. I also sold “The Rosary of Broken Promises” to an Anne Rice tribute anthology, and I still have one out on submission. “This Thing of Darkness” was in Cupid Shot Me, an anthology that was released on Valentine’s Day last year–so yeah, that’s at least four stories, and there’s another anthology that’s supposed to come out sometime this month which has my story “A Whisper from the Graveyard” in it.
I also edited the Bouchercon anthology, which took up a lot of my time between January and June. Land of 10000 Thrills is a great anthology, with some absolutely amazing contributors and great stories, and the contributors themselves were not only amazing talents but delights to work with. The anthology caused me a lot more stress than editing an anthology used to–primarily because there were so many demands on my time this past year, which I think is part of the reason I felt miserable for most of the year; my massive to-do list never seemed to get finished and always seemed to keep growing. It satisfies my OCD and need for completion to finish to-do lists, and it also subconsciously makes me think I’ve accomplished things. When tasks don’t get done because I simply don’t have the time or the energy to get to them, that makes me feel like I am failing. I also have to adjust my expectations downward, because I am older and don’t have the energy I used to have–and I really don’t want or need to start taking any kind of stimulant. I probably should cut back on the coffee, frankly.
And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.
Ah, yes, time for hot men in Christmas clothing. I usually wait and just do the twelve days of Christmas thematically here, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to figure that out. And why not do an extra couple of days of holiday cheer? We could always use more cheer and happiness and joy in this sometimes grim and grotesque world and life. Today is going to be dedicated to three things: more work on my book, picking up the groceries I ordered, and making potato-leek soup. I’m also going to spend some time this morning reading. I finished Wanda Morris’ marvelous Anywhere You Run yesterday, and started Nelson Ahlgren’s A Walk on the Wild Side. Someone on Facebook had posted they were going to watch the film (starring Barbara Stanwyck and Jane Fonda) and I, who have never seen it, vaguely remembered it was connected to New Orleans. I did some research and yes, sure enough, it was indeed a novel first; and since it’s about the demimonde here in the 1930’s, I figured it was a necessary read for my understanding of the past of the city and perhaps even a needed read for the canon of New Orleans fiction. No one ever talks about this book in connection with the city, maybe because Ahlgren wasn’t a native? One can never be completely sure, can one? So, I will probably read some of that for about an hour–I like the idea of dedicating one hour every day to reading; maybe that will help me get through the ever-growing TBR pile. I know I wanted to do some Christmas reading–I am saving Donna Andrews’ Dashing Through the Snowbirds for Christmas day as a gift to myself–and I have some Christmas crime short story collections on hand as well, so I could do a story a day–maybe that will be what I do for the Twelve Days? Not a bad idea.
I slept well last night, which was a lovely experience–Scooter cuddled and purred with my for most of the night, which helped me enormously; making us doze off is truly his super-power–and woke up at a decent hour this morning. I think I am going to be able to get a lot more work done on the book than I did yesterday. It’s finally taking shape and I know where I am going with it along the way now, so I have to revise and redo the first half of the book to get it in line with how the final act will play out. I got started on it yesterday, and the story makes a lot more sense now than it did (and that is not me being hard on myself, either; what I had already done wasn’t badly written, it was just disjointed and had a lot of info dumps that have to be put into the story in a more organic way). I pulled up Spotify yesterday and listened to music while I worked on the book–Paul wasn’t home–which was cool. I listened to the Liza Minnelli that was produced by the Pet Shop Boys (it is truly outstanding; give it a listen sometime) and then cycled through some Pet Shop Boys albums as that was clearly the musical theme of the day. Paul will be home today, so I’ll probably just put in my ear buds and listen that way–I’d forgotten what a difference having music on makes to my writing and productivity.
We watched another true crime documentary last night, The Lost Boys of Bucks County, which–similar to the ones we were watching about the Murtaugh family–shows again the difference in how the law treats the wealthy and powerful as opposed to people that are considered unimportant and disposable. “They were just trash to be thrown away,” someone said towards the end of this sad story, in which four young men were pointlessly murdered over the course of three days. I’ve been thinking about–toying with, teasing it around inside my brain for quite some time–writing a suburban serial killer in the 1970’s book, based on the suburb where I lived for five years and the life people lived there, and then grafting a serial killer based on Houston’s Candyman onto the story. I’d been calling it Where the Boys Die for quite some time now, which I don’t think is the right title for this story; Where the Boys Die is a spring-break revenge spree killing story, and I think this one should be The Summer of Lost Boys or something along those lines. I know, I know, I talk about books I want to write all the time and never seem to get around to…but I think 2023 is going to be the year of finishing things that aren’t finished and getting them out of the way. Groan, that’s going to be a lot of work…but the kind of work I love doing, so there’s also that–and yes, I am well aware that I always have to force myself to do things I love. What can I say? I love being lazy and doing nothing the most out of everything.
When I was at home for Thanksgiving, my recently retired brother-in-law asked me what my plans for Retirement were. I know what he was really asking–my family is nothing if not predictable (are you going to move up here to be close to us once you no longer have a job? because it does not compute to any of them on any level that it’s not my job that anchors me in New Orleans. I live here because I choose to live in New Orleans, and I love it here. They can’t imagine making any such decision that would keep them out of the bosom of the family deliberately.)–but I chose to respond with “Well, I can’t wait for it to come. Counting the days” and he replied, “Oh, you’re in for a big surprise–you might want to hold your horses a bit on that.” He meant well, and I know what he meant; he’s been bored since he retired and the adjustment to not having to be somewhere for a set amount of time Monday through Friday hasn’t been easy. It wasn’t easy for my father, either–still isn’t. They, and other men of their generations, were conditioned to work and to identify their selves with their job and the work. That isn’t me. I love my job, don’t get me wrong–it’s the perfect fit for me on every level, and even now the only thing I don’t like about it is we no longer have non-traditional hours. I miss not having to be at the office until eleven most of the week and having my mornings free to get things done before going into the office, and not having to be in bed by ten most nights. The only thing I truly dislike about my job is the forty hours I have to spend working at it–because I would much rather be utilizing that time to write. Will I be bored when I retire? Probably not. I am never bored and can always find something to do. There’s the TBR pile, for example, and I am always writing something anyway. There’s a shit ton of classic films for me to work my way through, and other films and television shows I would love to rewatch and revisit.
And there’s always going to be books to read, errands to run, dishes to wash, clothes to launder, and so on. I’d also probably go to the gym with a higher degree of frequency as well.
So, no, I won’t be bored when I retire from my day job. I’ll probably wind up working even harder once I do retire.
And now I am going to read for an hour, and get back to work on the book. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.
Writing a cozy set in New Orleans seemed, at first, to be a little daunting.
One of the key tenets of a cozy is the sense of community one gets while reading it (see Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series for the perfect example; I love Caerphilly, Virginia, and enjoy revisiting twice a year to see how everyone is doing), and it took me a moment to readjust my thinking from “community means a small town” to “no, you moron, anything can be a community; and you can certainly find community in New Orleans.” And then I remembered Leslie Budewitz’ superlative Spice Shop series, which is set in Pike’s Market in Seattle. Seattle is a city, just as New Orleans is; and sure, it might be easier to just invent an entire new fictional small town to set a cozy series in, but if anything, there’s more sense of community in New Orleans than I’ve ever felt in other cities…and it was really about creating a community around my character, Valerie, and picking a neighborhood for her in which to live took me a while as I weighed pros and cons; the only thing that was definite was she was NOT going to live in the French Quarter (there’s a throwaway line where she thinks about how long it’s been since she’s been to the Quarter, and maybe she and her two best friends should arrange to have dinner at Galatoire’s or Antoine’s–yes, I used two of the better known restaurants in the city and the Quarter for the examples, but I also knew I could mention them without needing to explain them to the reader). I did go back and forth about the Marigny or Bywater, but finally decided to put her into a neighborhood that did not flood during Katrina, which narrowed the choices dramatically.
New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods, and those neighborhoods used to be so distinct that knowing what part of the city someone lived would automatically create some assumptions–just as how the ever-popular question of where’d you go to high school used to be another way to connect with someone you’ve just met–there are any number of differences between those who went to Newman or Jesuit or Holy Cross or Ursulines or Ben Franklin or Warren Easton or McMain Magnet. New Orleans is a small enough city that chances were, you’d also know (or ar related to )someone else who’d gone to that high school at the same time, or you also knew other people who lived in their neighborhood. Obviously, the French Quarter is perhaps the most famous neighborhood in New Orleans, followed by the Garden District, working down through the Marigny, the Bywater, Mid-city, Gentilly, Lakeview, Broadmoor, etc. (With the gentrification of the city over the past sixteen or so years, realtors have also started creating new neighborhoods–which can be confusing. For example, they are trying to rebrand the Central Business District–the CBD–into SoMa, South of Market, which makes no fucking sense whatsoever as there is no market for the area to be south of; I often will have someone mention one of these new neighborhoods by name to me and I have no idea what they are talking about. They are also trying to rebrand the 7th Ward as the “new Marigny”…good luck with that.)
Scotty lives in the Quarter, and Chanse lives in the Lower Garden District–I’ve also written a lot of stories set in that neighborhood, which is also where I’ve always lived, and is quite distinct from the actual Garden District–I used to joke that we lived four blocks and three decimal points from the Garden District. So having done those neighborhoods already extensively, I wanted to pick a new place for Valerie to live and for me to write about.
I’ve always kind of been partial to the Irish Channel, although we’ve always lived in the Lower Garden District (distinct from the Garden District). I wrote one book about the Irish Channel already (aptly titled Murder in the Irish Channel), and of course, when I needed a place for Valerie to live, I decided the Channel would be the perfect place for her. Twenty years or so ago there will still blighted and crumbling houses in that neighborhood just waiting to be purchased, renovated and gentrified. The stretch of Magazine she lives near used to be one of my favorite parts of the city–I met any number of people for coffee at the Rue de la Course that used to be there, I used to really enjoy the Semolina’s restaurant as well as the Middle Eastern place whose name I can’t remember now (Byblos? it was the last restaurant meal in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina), and of course I sometimes shopped at the A&P or the Walgreens–before I realized Prytania and Tchoupitoulas were the easiest and quickest ways to get uptown; I wasted a lot of time stuck in Magazine Street traffic back in the day. Our friends Carrie and Lisa used to rent half of an enormous Victorian house near Third and Constance; I loved that enormous, drafty and dusty old house (it’s actually where my main character in my in-progress novella Never Kiss a Stranger lives), and was very sorry when they moved further uptown. Paul and I used to have a lot of fun looking for costumes and other home decor in the numerous thrift shops on Magazine; the one for St. Vincent de Paul (at the corner of Robert and Magazine, which eventually closed and became a Vitamin Shoppe; I don’t think the space is currently in use) was amazing. They used to sell handmade wooden tables and bookcases, made by monks in a monastery somewhere in northern Louisiana, and this furniture was not only solid, but it was inexpensive. We still have the bookcases and tables–one of them is my desk, the other is Paul’s–and I don’t think we spent much more than a hundred dollars on the two tables and the four bookcases. We must have bought that all after we moved back here after the year that should be forgotten; we didn’t move much furniture there or back.
But oh, how I would love to get some more of those bookcases. They are sooooo solid…
Plus, putting Valerie in the Irish Channel gives me the opportunity to write about St. Patrick’s Day–which I’ve never done with either of my other series–at some point in the future.
The Irish Channel obviously takes its name from the fact that many Irish immigrants settled there when they came to New Orleans. The Historic Landmarks Commission defines its boundaries as Jackson Avenue to Delachaise Street and Magazine Street to Tchoupitoulas. However, the New Orleans City Planning Commission defines the boundaries of the Irish Channel as these streets: Tchoupitoulas Street, Toledano Street, Magazine Street, First Street, the Mississippi River and Napoleon Avenue.
See what I mean about how confusing the city can be? We can even properly define the boundaries of our neighborhoods. I’ve always considered the Channel to start at Jackson (as does the Garden District proper) and end at Louisiana; with the other boundaries Magazine and Tchoupitoulas.
But I did think having her live so close to Louisiana Avenue–between Seventh and Harmony–would put her right smack dab into the heart of that neighborhood and in walking distance of practically anything she might need. I wanted her to be able to be able to do her errands most of the time on foot, because that also (in my mind) cemented the sense that it was a neighborhood and a community, if that makes sense? And once I’d picked where she lived, I was able to start building her community around her.