Brown Eyes

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

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

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

I should go check, shouldn’t I?

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

And the season doesn’t end until December 1.

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

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

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

Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)

I managed to get the page and cover proofs for Bury Me in Shadows finished yesterday, and yes, I am at the point again where I am so heartily sick of this book I’d rather not ever look at it again. It’s a good book; I like my main character and I enjoy the story and how it all plays out; I even think I got the tone I was going for correct–I just don’t ever want to have to read it ever again; this is par for the course, and frankly, I was a little surprised as I started going through the proofs that I wasn’t already there; I usually am by this point, and so I am taking this as a good sign for the book. Soon it will be up to the reviewers and the readers and there’s nothing I can do about it anymore. Now all I have to do is fill out the forms and turn them in and I can close up the box with all the drafts and notes and thoughts and everything else under the sun for the book and put it away up in the attic with the other accumulated boxes…which I really need to decide to do something with, and sooner rather than later. Tulane’s Louisiana Historical Research Center had shown some interest in them about a decade or so ago; I should probably renew that conversation at some point; maybe the Historic New Orleans Collection would be interested–I honestly don’t know. But the sooner this stuff it out of my attic and my storage the better, frankly. I should set a date to get them donated and if no one does, indeed, want them–toss them out and be done with it once and for all.

I also wrote an outline/synopsis of what I am going to finish writing for my friend’s website this morning, which I will need to flesh out and finish this morning. Over all, yesterday was a very good day–I also wrote notes for Chapter Four of Chlorine, which I hope to get to finish today, around going to the gym, which would also be lovely.

We’re watching the final season of Animal Kingdom on Hulu; the show seems weird without Ellen Barkin’s chilling performance as Smurf at the heart of it–and I don’t think the flashbacks to her as a young mom committing crimes and using/discarding men are necessary; the actress playing her as a young woman is good–but as I said to Paul last night, “but I think of young Ellen Barkin and how she’d be killing this role, and this young actress just isn’t young Ellen Barkin.” The show is still high quality, though–we’re enjoying it and I would recommend it–and I think tonight we may start watching the new season of Ted Lasso. We’ve been holding off on starting because it’s such a joy to binge-watch; but I am getting more and more impatient to get started. Several other shows we’ve enjoyed–Sky Rojo, Control Z, Dark Desires, Titans–have either dropped new seasons or will be at some point this month, so we should be set for viewing for a while.

I also started writing a short story yesterday–yes, I know, I know, but this is the curse of creative ADHD–called “A Midnight Train Going Anywhere.” Yes, the title came to me while I was listening to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” and I thought, she took a midnight train going anywhere was a great image (I’ve always thought so) and as I thought about it some more, I saw a train pulling into a whistle stop station in the middle of Kansas (Kansas has been on my brain a lot lately, because my main character from Chlorine is from there and of course I am about to give the Kansas book it’s final polish from editorial notes) and I just had the image–the lonely platform, the train’s whistle on a cold clear night, the darkness lying on the town at midnight, the only light the station–and a man, sitting on the train, heading west, awakened by the change of the rhythm of the train wheels, getting up to walk around the station platform to work out the kinks in his legs, back and shoulders from riding on the train–but beyond that, I couldn’t really think of anything. I wrote down that entire set-up scene, scribbled away in my new journal (started a new one yesterday!) and didn’t know where to go from there….I have some vague, amorphous ideas, but I also love the idea about writing about a train in a past time–it was also very clear to me this wasn’t an Amtrak train so it had to be set in the distant past (also another nod to Chlorine), but am not sure where it will go or if it will come to anything; I’ll wind up transcribing it today at some point, I am sure. Maybe it will turn into something, maybe it will go into the files with all the others and collect dust there, who knows? What I do know is I have until the end of September to finish Chlorine, so I can spend the final quarter of the year writing Mississippi River Mischief, which will be Scotty IX.

Yikes, right?

The house is also still a hideous mess; I am going to finish the laundry (folding) and empty/refill the dishwasher this morning before i dive into the website writing and the writing of Chapter 4 of Chlorine before heading to the gym this afternoon. I’ve been terrible; I just haven’t had the wherewithal to actually face the heat and walk over there this past week; I don’t think I’ve been since Sunday, to be perfectly honest with you (I had a horrible moment yesterday where I couldn’t remember Thursday–which was a bit terrifying, and then I shrugged and gave up trying, essentially thinking obviously nothing major happened on Thursday if you can’t remember anything), so today’s workout will undoubtedly be exhausting and more than a little painful; but I can hang with it. It’s weird not having the motivation of results anymore–I really don’t care if I look good; that ship has long since sailed and the latest age-related shifts to my body have pretty much let me know I will never be as lean and defined and muscular as I was fifteen years ago, and that’s perfectly fine–but this phase of Greg’s workouts is about feeling better, feeling stretched, maintaining the strength and flexibility of my body, and if the muscles grow and the overall body gets leaner, so be it.

At least I am not obsessively looking at myself in the mirror trying to find trouble spots where fat has accumulated and obsessing about how to get rid of it, thinking that will solve everything. (Helpful hint: it solved nothing.)

I’d also like to spend some time reading this morning; maybe an hour before I get to the writing stuff, after folding the laundry, putting away the clean dishes as well as washing the dirty ones and putting them in the dishwasher. I like Sundays, really; it would be my favorite day of the week if it didn’t end with going to bed and waking up to Monday morning. I seem to always be fairly level on Sundays, focused and relaxed and able to get things done that I want to get done, if you know what I mean. I have a four day weekend next weekend thanks to the office closing to give us all a mini-thank you-vacation for working in a public health clinic during a world-wide pandemic; I am hoping to dive into the revisions of the Kansas book over that weekend and then finishing it during my vacation during the next week (my time off for Bouchercon).

As long as everything goes as planned, by the end of the year I’ll have a great first draft of Chlorine ready to go, as well as a ninth Scotty ready to be turned in; and if I stay motivated maybe even the novellas and short story collections might be ready to go as well.

Fingers crossed as I head back into the spice mines this morning….have a great day, Constant Reader!

Cries and Whispers

And just like that it is Saturday again. Another good night of sleep–I did wake a few times, but had little to no difficulty in falling back to sleep, which was lovely–and I feel relatively well-rested this morning. Yesterday was, of course, a work-at-home Friday, and I had to take a bit of a break to go to the West Bank to get the car serviced; it was perhaps a bit overdue on the oil change, and I also learned something new about my car–it doesn’t really desperately need an oil change until the orange wrench lights up on the dashboard, or once a year, whichever comes first. I’ve had the car for nearly four years or so at this point, and since I have slightly less than 17,000 miles on it in that amount of time–hence the answer about the oil change. I’m still, obviously, unused to having a car produced so recently; all the old rules about oil changes and service and everything else stemming from having an ancient car no longer applies. It’s quite lovely, actually, but I am still not used to it, frankly.

I also love my car dealership–they are always so professional, courteous, and friendly. I have never had a single bad experience with them, and should the day come that I would replace my car, obviously I would go there and buy the new car from them. As much as I resent that car payment depleting my checking account every month–and the insurance payment–I really do love my car and am very pleased with it. It runs like a dream, I love that my phone syncs with the car stereo via bluetooth so I can make hands-free calls when I drive if I so choose–I generally choose not to, but there have been times I’ve been in the car and gotten a call. needed to take, and I prefer the hands-free method, frankly. I also grabbed lunch at Sonic since I was over there already–I always do this, and it had been a while since I’d had Sonic (there’s also a Five Guys on Manhattan Boulevard now; but I wanted tater tots so Sonic was the obvious choice), and then settled in for an afternoon of condom packing and watching movies.

Yesterday I was talking about 80’s Neo-noir, triggered by a rewatch of the terrific Angel Heart, and so as I scrolled through the watch-lists I’ve made on various streaming services (some of them really need to be cut out, quite frankly) I came across The Big Easy on Prime. This is a film that is almost universally reviled in New Orleans; I’ve not watched it since we moved here, but it also, like Angel Heart, piqued an interest in New Orleans I had always had, so it also played a small part in my eventually winding up living here, so it always has a special place in my heart for that very reason. I also thought it might be interesting to rewatch it after living here for nearly three decades, and to see it from the perspective of a local (I will always be a local, an important distinction from a native here). It wasn’t long into the film before I started laughing and cringing, to be honest, but it’s also a fun movie to watch because, as with anything filmed here, you start trying to pick out the various locations where it was shot. It also had some very weird geography for New Orleans, as does every movie filmed and set here.

But the movie is not completely terrible. When I originally saw it, in the theater, I had an enormous crush on Dennis Quaid–insane grin and all–because of that extraordinary body he had as a young man, and he also had charisma and charm on screen. Having him play a Cajun cop in New Orleans wasn’t perhaps the best casting choice; but given the way the role was written and the screenplay itself, he wasn’t bad–he did the best he could with what he was given to work with. It’s another one of those movies that assumes New Orleans is a Cajun city, which it is not; there are Cajuns in the city, yes of course, but they aren’t the dominant demographic nor do you here Cajun accents everywhere you go; I’d say I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Cajun accent, or Cajun language, used here. (One of my former co-workers was from Lafayette, in the heart of Acadiana, and he would talk Cajun to me sometimes; I always enjoyed it. The Cajuns are, frankly, fascinating to me, and I would love to study their culture and history more) The film also portrayed the New Orleans police department in a non-too-flattering light; almost all of the cops are corrupt in some casual way, whether it’s actually the drug trade or taking kickbacks from the “widows and orphans” fund, including detective Remy McSwain; the police department is practically a family business for the McSwains. Ellen Barkin, with her own style of unique beauty and sexiness, plays a new ADA in the city, Ann Osborn, and her job is primarily to investigate corruption in the police department–she was brought in by the Feds. Again, the role was written in a horribly sexist way; Ann is smart and capable and hard-working–why else would the Feds bring her in, particularly when the corruption is so deeply embedded that it’s such an accepted part of the police culture that no one even thinks twice about it? And yet Remy is so hot and charming and sexy, she struggles between her ethics and her knowing he’s corrupt and basically turns into an idiot in his presence at all times–clumsy, bumping into things, dropping things–and of course, she only wears her glasses when she’s working. Eventually she brings him around to recognizing that he’s one of the bad guys, and they combine forces–and have steamy sex scenes–to close the case they are both investigating, an apparent drug war between rival gangs which may not be real, just made to look real. The city looks beautiful–there are so few places in this country that look so astonishingly beautiful on film (hence the draw for me) and the story itself is a pretty decent one. But they managed to get so much wrong about New Orleans–beginning with the fact no one here calls it that, or “N’awlins.” I can certainly see why the film is so loathed here. It was adapted into a television series that began airing when Paul and I first moved here, and if the movie’s depiction was bad, the television show’s was even worse. We hate-watched it until it got so bad it wasn’t even campy anymore; the series was up on Prime for awhile, and I rewatched the first episode but had to turn it off after ten minutes because I couldn’t take how terrible it actually was.

I also started reading a short story by Patti Abbott yesterday, from the Lawrence Block anthology From Sea to Stormy Sea while I was waiting for them to finish servicing my car, and I intend to finish reading that story today–it’s amazing to me how quick and efficient the service at my dealership is–and I will probably read some more stories in that anthology over the course of the weekend. I have a lot of work to get done–so much work–and I really need to start working on the book as well. Time is slipping away fairly quickly, which means February will be incredibly stressful for me if I don’t get my shit together, but at least there are no parades to have to plan around this year.

And now to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely weekend, Constant Reader.

A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You

It’s raining this morning, and in what can only be described as an odd phenomenon, I could hear the rain as I sat down at my desk this morning….but when I looked out my windows, I didn’t see raindrops, all I saw were crepe myrtle blossoms falling at a rather alarming rate, like pink snow. Even odder, the crepe myrtle trees are to the right–I can see them through my right window–but the falling blossoms were clearly visible from each of the three windows. So where were those blossoms coming from? Quite peculiar. I can still hear rain–the blossoms have stopped falling–and everything outside is wet and dripping, but I still don’t see any raindrops.

Maybe I just haven’t had enough coffee yet, which is entirely possible.

I am getting close to the end of this round of revisions–I should finish, as I had hoped, by Friday, so I can spend my four day weekend polishing up the language, slowly and gradually, taking breaks to read and clean. Paul leaves for his mother’s tomorrow–so when I get home from work it’ll just be me and the needy kitty. I’ll be able to get caught up on American Gods while he’s gone, and I’ve saved any number of documentaries and movies to watch on my Netflix queue that he wouldn’t want to watch, so I am going to have a lot of fun over my lengthy weekend. My goal is to stop at the grocery store on my way home on Friday to get whatever I might need for the weekend, so I won’t have to leave the house other than to go to the gym or go to Tacos and Beer for food over the weekend. Scooter is going to be having his usual abandonment issues once Paul has left, but I am determined to get as much done as I can, while relaxing, over the long weekend–once I go back to work next week, even with him gone it’ll still be all about just trying to stay on top of things. And he’ll be home a week from Saturday, so that next weekend I’ll just have that day to get things done.

I made a list of everything I am working on, and man, am I ever all over the place. Once I get this draft finished, the polishing will be a little bit easier, so I am hoping over the weekend I’ll get a chance to keep working on short stories as well. I printed out the draft of the story I’ve selected to submit to that anthology; it’s really just a matter of rereading it and deciding how to make it work. Given that it was originally written in either 1989 or 1990 and not edited/revised since the first draft, my guess is that most of it will have to go into the garbage and all I’ll be able to retain are the characters and the basic idea behind the story; just looking at the first page (it’s also incredibly short) I know there’s a lot that has to be redone. I’ve actually been thinking about this story a lot lately–I had been thinking about turning it into a novel–and hey, if the anthology doesn’t end up wanting it, I may still do that. But for now, I think it works best as a story rather than as a novel…and I’ve already written a y/a heavily influenced by the basic concept behind this story (Lake Thirteen, if you’re wondering) so writing another, similar style novel would be repetitive, unless I completely change the concept behind it. I am being very oblique and vague, I realize, but there’s no way to be more specific without spoiling both, but I’ll give it another try: both are ghost stories, trying to resolve unsolved crimes from the past, with just a touch of reincarnation thrown into the mix.

We watched another two episodes of Animal Kingdom, and while it is still quite enjoyable, there are some behaviors that don’t really add up in the grand, overall scheme of things; I am hoping that will be resolved as we watch the Season One finale tonight before moving onto the second season. I also see how the stage is being set for some major drama to come in the second season, so am very intrigued to see what direction the writers take the show.

And Ellen Barkin is just killing it.

I suppose I should head back into the spice mines.

Here’s a Hump Day Hunk for you:

 

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Daydream Believer

Monday morning, and this is an odd week. Paul leaves to visit his mom for a week on Thursday, and then it’s a four-day holiday weekend for me after I get off work on Friday, not having to return to the office until the following Wednesday. I have, of course, big plans for the weekend–plans which involve cleaning, organizing, and writing/revising, of course, as I always seem to, and most likely, I won’t get everything done that I want to get done. This always seems to be the case.

I started reading Daniel Woodrell’s Tomato Red yesterday, and while I  didn’t get very far into it, it’s extraordinary, and I can see why Megan Abbott is not only a fan of his (she wrote an introduction to this edition of the book) but why she also recommended his work to me so highly. The voice! The language choice! And the action starts almost immediately within the first sentence. I am really looking forward to getting further into the book.

I also couldn’t stop thinking about Reflections in a Golden Eye yesterday, which makes me tend to think that perhaps I should have blogged about it so soon after reading it; McCullers’ genius is kind of a slow burn. The seemingly cold, emotional remove she took from her characters–which I initially understood as not caring about them–was actually kind of necessary for the reader to be exposed to the lives of these damaged people who lived near a Southern military base, and McCullers also didn’t offer up their lives for authorial judgment; instead, she presented the entire story and the characters  as “here are some people and here is what really goes on behind closed doors, past the facades that everyone puts up to fool everyone else into thinking they’re normal, although what really is normal anymore?”

We also started binge watching Animal Kingdom yesterday; I finally found Season One on Amazon Prime, and whoa, what a show. Hot guys, a crime family headed by Ellen Barkin in a sizzling performance, a gay subplot, lots of gratuitous male skin, and a story that twists and turns in ways the viewer can’t anticipate; I don’t understand why this show isn’t generating more buzz or more interest, and Ellen Barkin’s failure to get an Emmy nomination for Season One (maybe it wasn’t eligible until the next Emmys, I don’t know) is a mystery to me. I don’t get why more people aren’t talking about this show; I think I only heard of it because we were watching something else on TNT or TBS (Samantha Bee, most likely) and I saw a preview for Season 2, which is currently airing. Anyway, I’m glad I found it. We have three more episodes to go in Season 1 before we can move on to Season 2, so between this, The Mist, and Orphan Black, we’re kind of set on things to watch now. While Paul’s gone I am going to watch shows/movies I wouldn’t be able to see if he were home–stuff he doesn’t want to want or has no interest in–and I’m also hoping to get a lot of reading and writing done.

We’ll see how that plays out, won’t we?

So, here’s a hunk to start your week off properly.

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