Easy Loving

Monday morning and I really didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. I have so much to get done this week it’s kind of overwhelming, to be honest; and the temptation to just stay in bed for the rest of my life and avoid the world was kind of really powerful this morning. Yet the world stops turning for no man, let alone a Gregalicious, so there was naught for me to do other than arise, do my morning ablutions, and start drinking coffee. I did sleep fairly well, despite the enormous stress of a to-do list with incredibly lengthy chores and projects to work on, and feel pretty well rested this morning–if not quite up to dealing with the world at large.

Ellen Byron’s book launch last night was marvelous. I was delighted to see she had a very good turnout and sold a lot of books–and she is the QUEEN of swag. I for once didn’t have stage fright–I knew Ellen would be warm and witty and wise and funny; all I had to do was lob some questions at her and she was off and running (she did try to deflect attention back to me a couple of times, but I was ready to turn the spotlight right back on her after a brief answer and succeeded each time). The book itself is lovely, too; you want to get a copy of Bayou Book Thief, especially if you’re a fan of traditional mysteries. The cover is gorgeous, and it’s a fun story with a likable main character and a likable supporting cast, and Ellen’s adoration of New Orleans spills over on every page–and what more can a New Orleanophile ask for? I also picked up a copy of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (I saw it and remembered someone recommending it to me a while back, so I grabbed it immediately) and a copy of Albert Camus’ The Stranger, which I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time now (since Camus was inspired by The Postman Always Rings Twice for his own novel, I thought it only made sense for me to finally read the Camus)–I can never walk into a bookstore and not walk out with more than I intended to buy when I walked in (I had only intended to get a copy of Ellen’s finished book; I read a pdf) but that was fine–I wanted both books and let’s face it, I am always going to buy books at every opportunity, but it is time for me to start donating books to the library again.

I am not familiar with the part of New Orleans where the bookstore is located; Blue Cypress Books is on Oak Street past Carrollton, not far from where Carrollton and Claiborne intersect (and yes, the two streets actually run parallel to each other in my neighborhood; welcome to the wonderful and terribly confusing world of New Orleans’ bizarre geography). I would have, as per my usual, simply driven all the way to Riverbend on St. Charles then turned left on Carrollton…but I decided not to do my usual “this is how I know to get there” thing and used Google maps. Interestingly enough, Google maps took me on to Highway 90 then I-10 before getting off at the Carrollton exit in front of Costco and going that way…and it was faster–a lot faster, which I still kind of can’t wrap my mind around, but then again that’s New Orleans geography for you; my mind always thinks in terms of grids where everything runs north and south or east and west, and that isn’t New Orleans. The only actual grid design to anywhere in this city is the French Quarter–and only the French Quarter, at that. I have lived here twenty-six years and still get confused and mystified by how geography works here…which is one of the reasons I think people believe New Orleans is magical and mystical. Where else does geography make no sense other than here?

After I got home, we finished watching The Outlaws, which we really enjoyed, and started watching Gaslit. Julia Roberts is killing it as Martha Mitchell–I’d really forgotten a lot about her, but she was kind of a celebrity at the time, more so than the wife of Attorney General could ever hope to be, frankly–and she was enormously popular; everyone liked Martha Mitchell, because you never really knew what she was going to say next, which naturally didn’t sit well with the president of the time, Richard Nixon. (And again with a show set in the 1970s; sensing a theme–Minx, Candy, Gaslit–all set in the 1970s as a reminder to us all just how awful the 1970s actually were…pay attention, everyone. There’s a reason you never want to turn the clock back, or bring an era back.) I’d actually forgotten about Martha Mitchell–she’s often left out of books I’ve read about Watergate–and she was actually kind of an important cultural figure of the time. If the Nixon idea was to erase her from history, it kind of worked. The 1970s was definitely an odd decade.

As I was lying in bed dreading getting up and facing the world today, I thought, I would really love to have a vacation, you know. A week where I didn’t have a deadline to meet, or go into the office, or really do anything at all other than relax and read and watch movies or television shows I’ve not had a chance to see. It’s been a hot minute, and most of the traveling I actually do tends to be writing related in some way, which means it’s not really a vacation but a work trip. I don’t think I’ve actually had a vacation-vacation since we went to Italy, and that was eight long years ago. We’re talking about possibly going to Puerto Rico or some place in Central America (Costa Rica, if anywhere), but I think it’s past time…although I could also use some time off to stay home and get the Lost Apartment into some semblance of order, a Sisyphean task if there ever was one.

I didn’t finish my short story–the deadline was today and I know there’s no way I can get it finished in time to email off by midnight tonight, particularly since there would be little to no time to revise and/or edit it. It’s a shame, but at least the story is further along at about just over a thousand words than it was at less than two hundred; it’s a great idea but I’m basically stuck in the middle. I know how it ends, I just don’t know how to get it there, so letting it sit for a while is definitely in order. I did start writing the new Scotty yesterday–don’t get excited, I literally wrote maybe 175 words of the prologue; I found the book opening I wanted to spoof (Pride and Prejudice) and since I didn’t want to forget, I started writing it and it flowed along for another hundred words or so before I ran out of steam. The Scotty prologues are always the hardest part of the book for me to write; they are basically a recap of Scotty’s life thus far to get a new reader caught up without having to go back and read the first eight (!) books in the series as well as not spoiling the first eight books in the series should the reader decide to go back and actually read the first eight books in the series. (Something I actually need to do before I really dig in and start writing this thing…I really need to do the Scotty Series Bible and get that done so I have an easy reference without having to page through the books or do a search in the ebooks) I also did some research over the weekend for the book, which entailed rereading two Nancy Drew mysteries, The Ghost of Blackwood Hall and The Haunted Showboat (both books bring Nancy and her friends to New Orleans/Louisiana) and oh, yes, that bit of research definitely triggered a blog post which I started writing yesterday after I got ready for the event and was waiting for it to be the right time to leave. I kind of slam Nancy Drew in the post–but the truth is, despite my obsessive collecting of Nancy Drew books (trying to get the entire original series, with the yellow spines) I never actually liked the books all that much. (Same with the Hardy Boys.) While I appreciate the two series for their popularity and for getting kids to read (and to read mysteries) neither series was ever my favorite–but once I started reading and collecting, I had to keep reading and collecting because I am obsessive–and that obsession with collecting the books, while slightly tempered as I’ve gotten much older (and don’t have a place to display the collection), still exists. (Periodically I do think about emptying a bookcase and refilling it with my kids’ series books; it’s always satisfying for me to see them on the shelves. And yes, I know how weird that sounds.)

And now back into the spice mines with me. Y’all have a lovely Monday, okay?

Louisiana Bayou

The traditional mystery, to quote Rodney Dangerfield, “don’t get no respect.”

I’m not sure why that is, to be perfectly honest. I do have my suspicions and opinions, most of which inevitably circle back to the root of so many societal ills: misogyny. Traditional mysteries, often called (both respectfully and derisively) cozies, are, as a general rule, primarily written by women, tell women’s stories, and theoretically, the primary market for them is women. So naturally, much like the entirety of the romance genre, it is subject to derision, not being taken as seriously as darker works, and often is shut out during awards seasons (the primary exception being the Agatha Awards, given at Malice Domestic, which is primarily focused on the traditional mystery). They generally also don’t get a lot of review coverage, because women mystery writers also traditionally don’t get their fair share of print reviews in major publications, either–and the ones who usually do trend to the darker side.

I will also admit that I, too, am guilty of being more drawn to the darker, harsher, more noir side of crime fiction in my reading–which is kind of ironic, as one of my favorite series writers of all time is Elizabeth Peters, who didn’t write dark but rather light-hearted and funny; the Amelia Peabody series is one of the all-time greats. I also love Ellen Hart’s and Donna Andrews’ and and Miranda James’ and Elaine Viets’ series; but a few years ago I realized I wasn’t giving the subgenre enough love and attention, so focused on consciously reading more traditional mysteries. I have since discovered other terrific traditional mystery writers by expanding my scope and not just reaching for the next thing that sounds interesting. I discovered Kellye Garrett’s terrific Detective by Day series, Leslie Budewitz, Sherry Harris, Julia Henry, Hannah Dennison, and far too many others to name. (Also, shout outs to Raquel V. Reyes and Mia P. Manansala for outstanding new series over the last year or so.)

And then of course there’s Ellen Byron.

In some cities, a middle-aged woman dancing down the street dressed as a cross between a 1970’s disco queen and Wilma Flintsone would be unusual. But this was New Orleans, where the unusual was the everyday.

The woman dancing past Ricki James-Diaz, dodging the broken concrete in the Irish Channel’s worn sidewalks, happened to be her landlady, Kitty Kat Rousseau, who lived on the other side of Ricki’s double-shotgun cottage on Odile Street. “On your way to rehearsal?” Ricki called to Kitty from the porch. Kitty belonged to the ABBA Dabbo Do’s, one of the Crescent City’s many synchronized dance and marching troupes that entertained at parades and special events.

“You know it, chère.” Kitty did the hustle, then paused. “Whew, spinning made me dizzy.” She leaned against a lamppost, trying to regain her equilibrium. “I’m glad you caught me. I wanted to wish you good luck today.”

Ricki used the back of her hand to wipe a drop of perspiration from her forehead, the result of nervrs, not the mid-August heat. “Thank you so much.”

I’ve been meaning to read Ellen Byron for quite some time now; I’m not really sure why I haven’t. Ellen and I met electronically, but I am not exactly sure I remember precisely how; a Facebook group, or something. I don’t know, but Ellen–who graduated from Tulane University and whose daughter was attending Loyola–wanted to meet for dinner on a trip here to get her daughter settled into an apartment and the rest was history. She has written two series already–the Cajun Country series (which I need to read) and the Catering Hall mysteries as Maria DiRico. She’s doing a prelaunch party for the first in her new series, the Vintage Cookbook series, the first of which is called Bayou Book Thief. She graciously asked me to do the event with her, and as such I spent yesterday afternoon reading the book…which is absolutely charming.

The premise of the book is the Ricki (full name: Miracle Fleur de Lis James-Diaz, thank you very much) has returned to New Orleans to escape two awful experiences: the freak accident death of her husband, a viral Youtube video-maker (think Jackass) who choked to death doing one of his stunts, and of course the video of his death–he filmed it live–has gone viral. If that isn’t bad enough, her employer (she curated his collection of rare first editions) was convicted of a massive Bernie Madoff-like fraud scheme. Having been born in New Orleans and lived there her first seven years of life till her adoptive (yes, she was abandoned at Charity Hospital as an infant) parents moved to Los Angeles, she has decided to return to the city of her birth, maybe find her birth mother, and start a new business–selling vintage cookbooks and vintage serving ware in a shop in the Bon Vee museum, which used to be the home of one of the city’s legendary restauranteurs, Genevieve “Vee” Charbonnet. The board president approves her idea, and the story is off to the races as Ricki gets to know her co-workers, the Bon Vee family, from administration to the tour guides to the docents, as well as those who work in the little café on the grounds.

Soon, one of the more irritating tour guides (let’s face it, he’s a dick) turns up dead in a trunk and dropped off at the mansion with some boxes of donated books for the shop. Ricki herself has had a few run-ins with the victim, and she’s also the one who finds the body. Worried about whether or not she herself is a suspect, as well as what damage the murder might do to her new business, Ricki starts looking into the murder herself–while also developing a weird relationship/friendship with the female police detective looking into the case. But this murder is just one of several mysteries surrounding Ricki and her life at the mansion, and many complications that arise from her working there and her amateur sleuthing.

Bayou Book Thief is a lot of fun, and is filled with endearing, likable characters along with some marvelous observations and truths about New Orleans–watching out for tree roots as you walk along the sidewalks; the horror of your air conditioning going out while it’s still hot; being in a bar during a Saints game; and above all else, that the city is really a very small town at heart. I really enjoyed it, and look forward to the next in the series, Wined and Died in New Orleans.

Join us tonight at five pm at Blue Cypress Books. It’ll be a fun time.

Mercy Mercy Me

Sunday morning and another decent night of sleep. I felt rested this morning, and still have an insane amount of things to get done, but progress was made yesterday. I did my work yesterday–I love when my work consists of reading, especially when the book is as delightful and charming as the one I read yesterday–and so have other things to get done today. Today’s primary task involves reading as well–I also have to come up with clever questions for Ellen Byron for tonight’s (this afternoon’s?) event at Blue Cypress Books, at 5 pm. Come on, come all! There’s also some filing and organizing for me to get done this morning while my mind slowly awakens, and of course, dishes to put away.

But I did get a lot finished yesterday, just not as much as I needed to, which seems to always be the case these days. That’s okay, you see, because I’ve also learned/am trying to be kinder to myself these days, in a successful (some days more than others) attempt to try to keep my stress levels down as well as the anxiety, which will inevitably combine into some sort of depressive, overwhelmed state during which I get nothing done and only compound the problem into a vicious cycle that winds up going around and around and around and where it stops, nobody knows. But my coffee tastes really lovely this morning, which is a good thing, and I feel rested and recuperated, which is also lovely.

Last evening, after we were finished with everything we could do during the day and decided to call it quits for the day, we finished watching Candy–I still am not entirely sure what I think of it, to be honest, but man did they capture the time period absolutely perfectly–and then watched the first two episodes of the second season of Hacks, which is even funnier this time around. Everyone in the show is so perfectly cast, from Jean Smart having the time of her life in a role that is absolutely perfect for her, all the way down to even the most minor characters. It is one of the best comedies on television now, frankly. We then moved on to The Outlaws, a British show on Amazon Prime starring Christopher Walken (who has been working a lot lately, and that isn’t a bad thing at all) which is about a group of disparate characters all brought together from being sentenced to community service together. The first episode wasn’t great, so we were on the fence about continuing but gave it another episode. SO glad we did; the show really kicks into gear in the second episode and the writing is so good, so intricate…definitely recommend it to you, Constant Reader. We also need to get caught up on Severance and The Offer, and there are a few other shows out there we’d like to get started with.

How are y’all doing this morning? I am feeling pretty good, in all honesty. There are some things I need to deal with that I would prefer not, but ripping off the scab and getting it taken care of is better than letting it sit, I suppose. I’m not at all stressed about doing a public appearance tonight–Ellen is a pro, witty and warm and charming, so really all I have to do is lob softballs to her so she can hit them out of the park–because I don’t mind interviewing people (I don’t mind moderating panels so much as I do public speaking; as long as the focus isn’t on me I am more fine than I am with having to give a talk where the focus is entirely on me; I am not sure why I am so uncomfortable in the spotlight). Ellen is also a friend, which makes it easier; it can be like a casual conversation between two friends who also happen to be writers and who both happen to write about New Orleans.

And speaking of New Orleans, I also went down a wormhole of research yesterday. I’m doing some research for the next Scotty book (more on that later), and found myself in yet another wormhole; I don’t even remember how it started (I think with a story that came across my feed about the Mississippi River battures and a street that used to be on other side of the levee, and still is in some places) and then of course one article leads to another leads to still another and so forth and before I knew it a lot of time had passed. There’s so much about New Orleans and its history that I do not know, or knew at one time and have forgotten, and every last thing I find or remember is fodder: oh, this is interesting, I should write about this. This new Scotty book is mostly going to take place outside of New Orleans for the most part; which is a big risk–writing a Scotty that’s not really a New Orleans story, but also is a New Orleans story. (That sounded confusing, even to me and I know what I am talking about.) You’ll just have to trust me, Constant Reader.

And on that note, this morning’s “haven’t completely woken up yet” chores are waiting. Talk to you tomorrow, and have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader–it’s always a pleasure when you check in.

Proud Mary

Left a good job in the city…

Well, Constant Reader, once again Friday has rolled around and I have to go into the office. It’s taking me some getting used to–being in the office four days a week again–and I actually don’t have to go in as early as I do on my other days; I can be there for nine rather than seven thirty, which surprisingly makes a huge difference for me. I did wake up at five, but slept on and off again before waking up for good at six (the usual) but I half-napped in bed for another hour and yes, it felt lovely. I feel quite rested this morning–even if I really don’t want to face the day–but what choice is there? I wish I could stay home, but that’s simply not the way life works for me, at least not yet. Retirement from the day job comes closer and closer every passing day; I wonder–should I in fact make it that far–what it will be like to get up and not have to go into the office every day? Will my productivity increase? Decrease? I’ll be older and creakier, for sure, by then; but hopefully I will also spend the next four years working out fairly regularly and hopefully eating better (although I keep putting both off, don’t I?), so maybe physically I’ll be okay by then? Who knows? I could be killed in a car accident on my way to work this morning.

I was tired yesterday again when I got home from work. I stopped and made groceries on the way home, and tonight I’ll swing by the post office on my way home. I’ll probably have to make another grocery run at some point over the weekend, and I should have to pick up a prescription at some point; so probably Saturday I will swing by, get the prescription, the mail, drop books off at the library sale, and then head to the grocery store. The heat is back and the humidity is also starting to rise again (hurray), but I’ve seen and heard nothing about the swarms of termites this year. I find it rather hard to believe that suddenly the scourge of the Formosan termites has finally ended in New Orleans. I’ll never forget the horror and shock of our first experience with that particular plague of Egypt way back in May 1997, when we were watching television and having a nice quiet evening at home and suddenly the apartment was filled with termites everywhere. It was horrible, and no one had warned us about the impending swarms…so we learned how to live with the little bastards–essentially, at the first sign of one, turn off everything in the house that gives off a light and wait for a while for it all to end. We’ve been very lucky here in the Lost Apartment in that we don’t get swarms inside–we always follow the rule of turn off everything at first sight–but even the outdoor lights here in the back of the house away from the street have never drawn many…although now that I’ve said that publicly we’ll probably wind up buried under termite wings this weekend.

I have a lot of work to do this weekend–what else is new–but that’s fine. I never made that to-do list I talked about making earlier this week; perhaps that will be on today’s agenda. The apartment is a disaster area as always on Friday, but I did finish the laundry and did a load of dishes last night. Progress! I have some projects to finish, lots of emails to answer and send, and I really would like to try to spend some time cleaning up around here. I would like to finish my short story this weekend as well–the submission call closes on Monday, methinks, so hopefully I can focus on it a bit this evening and get a draft finished so I can edit and fix over the weekend. If not, it will simply be chalked up to another lost publishing opportunity to go along with all the others I’ve missed over the years.

I mean, it happens. Regularly.

I also need to read Ellen’s book so I won’t look like a moronic poseur Sunday evening at Blue Cypress Books (at 5 pm! UPSTAIRS! And there’s a bar across the street!) while we are in conversation, bur also fortunately I’ve gotten to know Ellen fairly well over the last couple of years–I mean, as well as one can with someone you mostly communicate with over emails and on social media, with the occasional dinner and/or drinks here and there–so I like to think I can speak to her intelligently and ask her good questions about her books and her writing and her career; otherwise I am just going to crash and burn and make an idiot of myself, which is always a possibility and the big fear whenever I do something like this–not to mention I am always so drained and exhausted afterwards. But Monday is my work-at-home day, so I can recover from the strain of a public appearance.

Yeah, this messy kitchen will have to be tackled tonight rather than put off to the weekend…it’s driving me crazy just sitting here in the midst of it. Heavy sigh. It is long overdue, and maybe tomorrow morning before I run errands and after doing my morning post I can get it all cleaned up and organized and under control.

Perchance to dream…

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

Sweet City Woman

Thursday and I survived Pay-the-Bills Day relatively unscathed. It’s lovely to be able to pay the bills and not have any stressors or worries about being able to pay them, you know? I ran some errands after work yesterday–picking up the mail and a prescription–and it was a lovely mail day. I got my copy of Chris Holm’s new better-than-Michael-Crichton Child Zero, which I read in ARC form and loved, as well as the first book in Sherry Harris’ Seaglass Inn series, From Beer to Eternity (which is, let’s face it, a great title). We watched the new episode of Candy last night (they really have nailed the set and costume designs for this show, seriously–this is probably the best depiction of suburban hell circa late 70’s/early 80’s that I’ve seen–I said to Paul last night, “everything about this show is the life I didn’t want when I grew up”) and then started watching The Baby on HBO MAX, which is weirdly disturbing and kind of great? The episodes are short and it’s very macabre, and we are really enjoying it a lot. We watched the first three episodes, and I am not really sure what precisely the show is about…but the central premise: a single woman who doesn’t want children–and resents her friends who have had them–winds up in possession of a baby that is, at best, incredibly bad luck and causes injury and/or death to people around it, and at worst, is some kind of little demon that deliberately causes injury and/or death to the people it selects.

What a great concept!

I slept well again last night–I am starting to get used to this sleeping well thing and it worries me a little; like the insomnia is going to come roaring back unexpectedly the moment I start taking sleep for granted again–so I feel pretty good this morning. We’ll see how long that lasts, won’t we? Anyway, I worked for a bit yesterday on “Smoky Mountain Rest Stop” and I also started working on a potential project on spec; it’s a book idea I’ve had for about ten years or more now (it really scares me to see how fast the last decade or so has passed by–let alone this year) so I feel like I am starting to get someplace again with everything, but then again, it only takes one day to fuck everything up and start the downward spiral again, which is always unpleasant and not helpful in any way. I didn’t make the to-do list yesterday as I originally intended; I’ll have to do that this morning, but I am making progress on emails and on other things I am doing, so I feel like I am actually getting somewhere–even if the to-do list continues to grow exponentially. It’s also starting to get warmer–the temps are into the 80’s and low 90’s again already, but so far the humidity hasn’t swept in like the horror it is, but that will be coming sooner rather than later. I need to start back to the gym again too–I’m starting to feel the tightness of my muscles again, which means they need not only stretching but to be worked again. I do feel scattered–it’s amazing how putting a to-do list can eliminate that feeling, really–which is why I really need to make it a priority this morning between clients.

Heavy heaving sigh. I really am terrible about being organized anymore, so I keep missing things and can’t find them and then have to depend on my memory–which isn’t the greatest anymore, but I probably shouldn’t say that; I’ve always had to write things down and have been making to-do lists since I was in my thirties, when I started buying the hardbound blank books to keep as journals and for writing down book ideas and entertaining myself between flights when I worked at the airport. That seems like a million years ago, doesn’t it? But it terms of technology and so forth, it practically was. Personal computers were still in their infancy, as was the Internet–the best you could do with it was dial-up back then–and everyone still had a landline and voicemail (some people still had answering machines) and the idea of streaming things to your television? We were still renting videos at Blockbuster and Hollywood Videos then, and if someone had told me I would have a phone one day that was basically not only a handheld computer but would also replace the need for a stereo system and could contain not just my entire music collection but a library of books I would have laughed my ass off at them. I still don’t utilize my phone as completely as I could and should, but that’s just the way it is. Maybe someday I’ll learn how to use all the functions of my phone…ha ha ha, just kidding.

But it’s Thursday already and I have a lot to get done before the close of the week. Nothing terrible–edits and so forth, reading Ellen’s book for the event on Sunday (I’m not terribly worried; Ellen is a pro and all I need to do is give her a story prompt and she’ll entertain the audience)–and I’d like to get this story whipped into shape over the course of the weekend as well. Not sure if all of this is indeed possible–certainly not when I get home from work too tired to do much of anything other than become one with the easy chair and watch stuff on Youtube and television–but here’s hoping.

I need to make that to-do list.

And now back to the spice mines. Happy Thursday, everyone!

If

Ah, Tuesday morning. Last night I slept remarkably well–so much so that when the alarm went off and hit snooze the first time, the second time it went off I slept through it and Paul had to nudge me awake. Which was good–I’m glad I slept so well–and a bit scary (what if I had slept through the alarm completely the second time?) at the same time. No matter, I am awake now and feeling rested and not even the teensiest bit groggy. Whether that will last all day or not is an entirely different story, of course, but I feel very well rested this morning–a good thing, since I am going into the office again today. Huzzah? Huzzah.

We started watching Pieces of Her on Netflix, based on the novel by Karin Slaughter, and at first I was a bit taken aback by it; some of what was going on didn’t make a lot of sense, but the second episode cleared a lot of that right up, and we’ve been climbed aboard for the ride. We’re both Toni Collette fans (we decided to give the fictionalization of The Staircase a whirl as well, before giving up because we’d seen the documentary series and so we know everything that’s going to happen. This quite naturally kills any suspense the series might have for people unfamiliar with the case, but alas, I am a crime writer and many of my friends were vested in watching the documentary, with endless discussions as to whether or not Michael Peterson was guilty or not…so despite the excellent casting choices, we gave up on it after the first episode), and she is topnotch as always in this; we’re definitely looking forward to seeing where and how this all works out. We also watched the first episode of Candy on Hulu; not realizing the entire show hadn’t completely dropped yet–they are doling out episodes one day at a time–which we enjoyed; we especially were surprised at how easy it is to make actors look unattractive while watching it. I could swear I’d seen this story before–including the cast–but maybe I just saw a lot of previews of it while watching other shows on Hulu, but it certainly feels like I’ve watched this before with this very same cast, which I know isn’t really possible.

But still, very weird. Has anyone else had deja vu while watching a television program?

How peculiar.

I was going to start reading Ellen Byron’s Bayou Book Thief last night, but alas, Paul came home earlier than expected so we started watching our television shows. Perhaps tonight he’ll either go to the gym or get home from the office later than expected, so I have some time to write and read before he does. I have decided to start embracing things in my life–the things I’ve always certainly dreaded doing–because putting things off that may be unpleasant certainly doesn’t make them go away, and why not just rip the bandage off and get it over with? So, today between my clients, I am going to try to organize myself and make a plan for the rest of the year to make sure everything gets done that I want to get done and try to get things going. First step is to finally get caught up on all of my emails and clean out that messy, sloppy, absolutely hideously full inbox. I also have to generate some emails, which will simply beget more emails–emails are truly what the ancient Greeks had in mind when they came up with the myth of Sisyphus; every time I go into my inbox I think to myself yes, new emails beget more emails as do answering emails so even emptying out the inbox doesn’t really accomplish anything other than a brief–very brief–respite. This of course is self-defeating at its finest; the justification argument I can literally use as an excuse to never do anything.

And have.

But ignoring them and hoping they will go away doesn’t work, so I am going to have to dive in headfirst and start answering, aren’t I? Sigh, I hate being an adult sometimes….most times.

Stay Awhile

Another work-at-home Monday here in the Lost Apartment and I am not feeling especially motivated this morning. Granted, I’ve yet to swill down any coffee (which will undoubtedly make a significant difference) but I also have a lot to do. I wasn’t nearly as productive over the weekend as I would have liked to have been, so the to-do list still has many things to be crossed off of it. But I think the relaxation was necessary in some ways–I did make notes in my journal all weekend, and I did a lot of thinking about writing, and I do think that’s very important; as I mentioned on the Spirit of Ink the other day, it’s crazy to sit down to write something without spending some time thinking about what you are going to write first. There’s this sense, often reinforced by television and movie depictions of writers trying to write, that we simply sit down at the computer (or typewriter, depending on the time period) and then stare in in frustration at the blank page or document before finally giving up. I don’t know any writer who sits down without some idea of what they are going to be writing about when they sit down to start, and it occurs to me that not thinking about what you’re going to be writing before you sit down and start writing it is nothing more than defeating yourself before you even get started.

We wound up watching quite a bit of television over the weekend; Anatomy of a Scandal on Netflix with Siena Miller and Michelle Dockery was how we spent most of yesterday; it wasn’t bad but there was a massive plot hole in the center of it that, once we were aware of it (a surprise twist about halfway through) kind of undermined the story and the character who was committing the deception: it simply did not make any sense. Maybe in the book it was based upon it worked better, I don’t know; but it really undermined the impact of the show and its message; which purported to be about entitled men and the “boys will be boys” dismissal of sexual harassment and assault on women; the old “he said/she said” debate in which the woman is never truly believed in our justice system (or the British one, in this case; sad that both countries have the same issues with toxic masculinity and accountability for entitled male behavior, but not terribly surprising, since one country is basically the mother of the other). The acting was good, but I really didn’t see anything fresh or new to the story; we’ve seen this same story before numerous times: powerful man is accused by underling with whom he is having an affair of sexual assault after the affair ends; wife isn’t sure whether she should believe him or not; and endless surprising revelations from the pasts of everyone involved.

But I did get some things done, so the weekend wasn’t a complete and/or total loss, to be sure. I managed to get most of the dishes done (there’s still another load to put in the dishwasher and run) and most of the laundry, and I did manage to get some organizing done as well. As I already mentioned I got some writing (or thinking about writing) done; I also did some important on-line research for not only my next Scotty but for a sequel to A Streetcar Named Murder if they want one; if they don’t, the research will certainly come in handy for something else. I also did find a couple of submission calls I might, if I have the time, cobble something together for–but the deadlines are very tight, and I don’t have anything in pristine-enough shape to turn in for the calls, either, which would mean needing to find the time to revise and rewrite stories for both, or at the very least trying to figure out which stories might work in either case. I’ll need to review the calls again with an eye to looking at what is in the files.

I also finished reading Carol Goodman’s The Lake of Dead Languages, so Ellen Byron’s Bayou Book Thief is up next for me. I am interviewing her at Blue Cypress Books this coming Sunday, so it’s best that I be prepared to talk to her about her new series don’t you think? I think a week–despite everything I have that needs to get done this week–is more than enough time to make sure I can read the book and be sort of intelligent-sounding while we are at the store. I’m not terribly worried; Ellen is witty and wise and warm and a great story-teller, so I know she’ll run with the ball every time I hand it off to her.

And on that note, this isn’t getting anything crossed off my to-do list, so I’d best head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, no matter what it requires you to do.

I Love You For All Seasons

I really really love my life.

Sunday morning in the Lost Apartment, and my sleep schedule appears to have snapped back to normal. I slept decently last night–not as decently as I was sleeping in New York, for some reason, but at the same time I was worried that my sleep patterns were going to need to be reset once I got home and that would be problematic–and feel pretty decent this morning, although my coffee doesn’t taste right (which is concerning, obviously; loss of taste is a symptom of the dreaded COVID-19 but I decided to snack on something and I can taste it, so I’m not sure what the deal with the coffee is this morning; it tastes watery to me). I started doing laundry last night (unpacking the suitcases directly into the washing machine) so I have to get that finished today, and there are some other tedious chores I need to get done. I also need to make groceries and go to Costco at some point.

The flight home was uneventful, but you could see the differences between the red and blue parts of the country in evidence: LaGuardia Airport almost everyone was masked, no one was in Nashville. But everything was on time, our bags arrived, the shuttle to the parking lot came almost immediately, and we were able to get home within slightly more than an hour after our flight landed. I miss Scooter, of course; we can’t pick him up until tomorrow from the kitty spa so the Lost Apartment feels very strange not having him bitching at me for food or cuddles every so often. After the inevitable re-acclimatization to being home, we watched two episodes of Ozark, which is heading for its finale before retiring for the evening for bed. I am going to hate finishing Ozark, a show I’ve loved from the beginning for its intricate plotting and exceptional character development. Today I’ve got to dig through the emails and start making lists and getting shit done. I need to finish this short story, I need to make a lot of plans, and I need to get my life and career kickstarted. New York was lovely, as always, and it was probably one of the best trips I’ve had in a very long time. (Not much competition, I have to confess, but still.) Because I slept so well the entire time I was gone I didn’t come home exhausted, and all I am really experiencing this morning is “I flew yesterday” fatigue of a bit. But I am feeling just as motivated as I was feeling while I was up there, and it is lovely to be back staring at my enormous computer screen again (note to self: make eye appointment stat) with something other than dread and that horrible overwhelmed feeling. Sure, I have a lot to do, but let’s face it–I can do it.

I finished reading Mango, Mambo, and Murder on the flight from LaGuardia to Nashville (chef’s kiss, Raquel; more on that later) and then started reading Carol Goodman’s debut novel, The Lake of Dead Languages, originally published twenty years ago. I’ve become a big fan of Carol’s and need to read more of her canon; I’ve loved everything she’s written that I’ve read and this book is no exception. (If you’re not reading Carol Goodman, shame on you and correct that immediately) She is also as delightful in person as she is on the page–I met her at St. Petersburg Bouchercon at the HarperCollins cocktail party, and I fanboyed all over the place and I regret NOTHING. I’m also looking forward to digging into more of the TBR pile as well as some of the new additions I picked up off the book table after the banquet. I also read Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not while I was on this trip (more on that later), so my reading mojo seems to be back; I think I am going to try to have at least an hour set aside every day to read. I also have to read Ellen Byron’s Bayou Book Thief before our bookstore event in a few weeks. Such an odious chore! Anyway, the Goodman is fantastic, as I knew it would be, and am enjoying the hell out of it.

But as I reflected in my easy chair last night while watching Youtube videos about Heartstopper (more on that later; but I am obsessed with that show; and want to watch it again), I’ve been incredibly lucky with my life and last week was a very strong reminder of that. I think, in some ways, this past week in New York snapped me almost completely out of the pandemic funk I’ve been in since the beginning and as I said the other day, I feel like me again. This trip had a lot to do with it, for sure. It’s lovely when you can get some clarity, and it was lovely that I was able to travel and get some rest and not be tired all the fucking time while I was away. I am hopeful that will be an exciting new trend for me going forward: sleeping well while not at home. One can hope and dream, at any rate–but that’s not the right attitude to have, and I think that’s been a lot of the problem over the last few years; my attitude has been negative about everything and that’s not helpful or workable. Here’s hoping those days (well, years) of a poor attitude are in the rearview mirror.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. I have a lot on my plate and I need to start cleaning it so I can make another trip to the buffet of life and load ‘er up again. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

My Sweet Lord

Saturday, fucking finally.

This has been a not-good, no good week and here’s hoping it was an aberration and everything is going to reset right now and become something more resembling what passes for normality around here lately. Everything has been out of sync and/or messed up all week, and frankly it’s also kept me from getting anything done or making progress on any number of things I need to be making progress on, which as you can imagine is incredibly fucking annoying.

Jesus.

Today I am going to make a run to the mailbox and to drop off some books for the library sale, as well as do some other clean-up around here. I’ve decided the next book I am going to read is Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron (I am interviewing her next month for the book release at Blue Cypress Books in Riverbend) and I may as well get a jump on that, maybe come up with some questions for her ahead of time so I am not just winging it the night of–she definitely deserves to have a prepared interviewer, not the usual “I’ll make it up as I go” bullshit I always, inevitably fall back on whenever I have to do something of this sort. (Yes, that’s me: a thorough publishing professional.)

I slept deeply and well last night–I allowed myself to stay in bed until nearly eight o’clock–and as such I feel pretty rested and good this morning. I actually feel like I may even be able to get things accomplished this morning, which is a lovely change. I have to admit I’ve been concerned and worried about the depths and extent of my exhaustion lately, but this morning I feel good for the first time in a long while. Good thing, since the house is a disaster area; I am going to definitely be spending time on the Lost Apartment and the office area today cleaning and organizing and getting everything back under control around here. I am going to try to get that story written today, and some other odds and ends. With luck, I’ll be able to get it all out of the way and handled today before I run out of gas or the lazies set in; which is of course inevitable. But really, this mess is untenable, and I am more than a little annoyed I’ve allowed things to get to this point YET AGAIN. Yet I cannot deny that I was tired and worn out all week; it felt like I was sleeping well but obviously I must not have been, given how little I was able to get done all week.

C’est la vie, I suppose.

We finished watching Captive Audience on Hulu last night, about the tragedies of the Staynor family–perhaps best known as the I Know My First Name is Stephen story. We moved to the San Joaquin Valley (Fresno, to be exact) when I was only nineteen; the story was still news even then, and I became fascinated by the story–a fascination that never went away and was only made more intense by Stephen’s tragic death at a very young age and even more intense by the fact his older brother became a serial killer, responsible for the Yosemite Murders. I had already moved away from the valley by then, but I’ve never stopped being fascinated by the story of the Stayner family and have always wanted to write about it–that horrific family dynamic of having one of your children stolen for seven years, and then having him return as an older, complete stranger. How does that affect the family dynamic? (Obviously, in this case, it turned one of them into a serial killer somehow.) How does the victim deal with returning to the family that isn’t what he remembers anymore, either? What’s it like to be the mom, the dad, the sisters, the neighbors? I recommend the docu-series–it’s in three parts–and it’s even more fascinating than I could have imagined; they also interviewed Stephen’s children. His daughter remembers him vaguely, his son not at all…and that’s an even greater tragedy. What is it like to lose your father when you are so young–traumatizing in and of itself–and then find out what he had been through? To find out an uncle you barely knew was responsible for the monstrous Yosemite Murders? There’s so much material there for fiction…I think about what Megan Abbott or Carol Goodman or Laura Lippman or any of our modern day great women writers could do with any bit of that story and can’t help but wonder about what might be. Maybe I’ll use it as the foundation for a book someday…but it’s one of those stories I always end up circling back to periodically, which makes me think it’s more likely to happen than any one of the great ideas that holds my attention for a day or two, write down or make a folder for, and then completely forget about.

Ah, being a creative. Always challenging.

I also want to, at some point this weekend, finish my blog post I’ve been writing about season 5 of Elité, and I also have another book review to write for here. Always, forever, so much to do at all times. Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Saturday however you choose to spend it, Constant Reader.

Somebody Wants to Love You

I still feel a little bit disoriented, to be honest. I have to stop and think about what day it is–wait, it’s Friday, right?–and then have to check my phone (blessedly charged now, thank heavens) to see the day and date. I had posted something on my phone the other day about the misery of late August in New Orleans without power, and my friend Leslie commented, good thing it’s September now–which sent me into a tailspin of panic and fear (which was certainly not her intent) about paying the bills. I knew I was ahead on paying them, but couldn’t remember if I had paid everything and couldn’t check my Google calendar to be certain…which was one of the first things I did when we got all settled in last night. Apparently, I was even more efficient than I’d remembered–I’d paid almost everything except two credit cards (not due until next week) and in fact, other than those two, nothing is due again until I get paid again. Quite marvelous, to be honest; money has been such a stress factor for the last few years that I’d forgotten what it was like to be ahead on everything–which is always my preferred state.

And once I post this, I have about a gazillion emails to get through, try to figure out where I am with things, and then I can completely relax. This motel has a nice continental breakfast set up (only from 6-9 in the morning though) so I had to slink down there this morning to grab two cups of coffee before they closed down. It’s not the best coffee by any means, but it’s coffee–and I’ve not had any since this past Sunday. I didn’t sleep great–getting used to a bed that is not my own is always an issue whenever I travel–but I rested, which makes all the difference in the world. There’s an all-staff phone call at noon today that I obviously am going to try to get in on.

I checked with Entergy this morning as well, and there’s not even a rough estimate of when we’ll have power at the once again Lost Apartment. Heavy sigh. But that’s okay; I don’t know how long we’re going to be wandering this time but at least this time there’s definitely an end to it in sight; we were out of the Lost Apartment for 15 months (which, for those of you who are new here, is why I started calling it the Lost Apartment in the first place; we’d just moved into it like two months before Katrina from the much smaller carriage house before we lost the apartment for over a year); this time won’t be anything like that, thank God. Currently, our fluid plan is to drive back to New Orleans on Sunday, see what’s up, drop off the dirty clothes and repack with clean ones, and head back out again if we need to. We obviously don’t want to come all the way back up here to Greenville, but hopefully with Labor Day over we can possibly stay somewhere closer to home, like Biloxi or Gulfport. (And I can make those arrangements here before we check out Sunday morning, while I still have WiFi.) Ah, well. At least we have the privilege to do these things–other people don’t have credit cards or savings accounts or a working car or any of the myriad of little things you need to get out of town. And we can watch the LSU game Saturday, which is also terrific. GEAUX TIGERS!

I only brought two books with me–Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Six Days of the Condor by James Grady–but I do have the iPad–so I can always read the shit ton of books I’ve bought on sale for my Kindle over the years but never seem to get around to. I did get over my aversion to reading electronically during the early days of the pandemic, when I couldn’t focus on reading new things so I went back and reread some old Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt favorites; that cured me of not reading electronically (but it’s still not my preference, thank you very much). I also want to transcribe the short story I started writing in my journal that last Saturday night we had power (“Parlor Tricks”), and maybe work on Chlorine a bit. It will probably take me HOURS to get through all the emails that have accumulated, but that’s fine. Paul got up for breakfast, and he and Scooter went back to sleep shortly thereafter, so I have some definite down/quiet time here for a while. I had thought I had started blog entries already for the books I had read during the week, but had not–so am not sure when I will be able to get around to writing about those wonderful books; but you can be sure I will at some point–even though I don’t have the books with me for reference, and of course, my memory–already shot to pieces–is never very good after a catastrophe.

A lot of people have been recommending the Bates House of Turkey as a place to eat here; so we’ll be checking that out at some point. The only other options are fast food–blech–but we are going to need to eat and what choice do we have? I can always, once normality has been restored to New Orleans, hit the gym really hard. The wake of catastrophes are always good times for my body, really; as my body is something I can control (to a point, of course) I inevitably, when reminded that I don’t really have much control over my life and my destiny, tend to focus in on the things that I can control; my body being one of those things. Paul and I really do need to eat healthier–we ain’t getting any younger, hello sixty year old Gregalicious!–and the irony was the night I had dinner with Ellen Byron at Red Gravy (it seems like a million years ago, hello again, complete loss of any sense of time) was the first time I had worn a Polo style shirt since before the pandemic, and I was stunned at how the shirt fit–how big my chest, shoulders and arms looked; how much narrower my waist had become, just with the mostly half-assed workouts I had been doing. It felt nice, if you don’t mind my confessing to my own vanity–so if I actually started eating healthier….who knows?

And on that note, it’s time to head back into the spice mines and try to get on top of the email situation. Will check in again with you soon, Constant Reader, and have a lovely Friday!