Sugar Daddy

If I had to do my life over again–but could keep my memories of this life’s experiences–I would focus on weights more as a teenager and once old enough, looked for a sugar daddy.

Then again, I had absolutely no self-confidence when I was younger (don’t have near enough now for that matter), so yeah–that would have wound up going very wrong.

Here it is Tuesday so I am back up before the dawn and heading back into the office for the last week of work before Labor Day. A week from tomorrow we are leaving for Bouchercon–can’t believe how quickly the summer has passed–and getting to see everyone. I am going to be kept hopping the entire time I am there at Bouchercon, and will no doubt be thoroughly exhausted when I get back a week from Sunday, but them’s the breaks, you know? I haven’t been to a Bouchercon since St. Petersburg in 2018 (I missed 2019, and the next two were virtual), so this should be fun, if exhausting. I’m also pleased with the writing I’ve been doing–not with what’s being written (which needs work) but that I am actually writing again. I’ve got to figure out what to do next with the Scotty–I know what needs to come next, just not sure how to get it done or how to do it–so I’ll probably start futzing around with it tonight when I get home, to at least get a start on it, and of course there’s a three-day weekend coming up…although I am going to try very hard not to get sucked into the US Open.

I did watch Serena WIlliams play last night, and what a joy it was to see her on form on the court again, playing like the Serena of old. I don’t think she’ll win the US Open–much as I would love that kind of Disney ending, they never seem to happen very often in tennis–and it saddens me to think this is the last hurrah of one of the greatest athletes in the history of sport. As Paul and I watched last night, we were thinking back to when she and Venus first exploded onto the scene–and how much has changed since then. Serena won her first US Open in 1999. Bill Clinton was president, Jennifer Capriati was about to make her big comeback in 2000, and Monica Seles was still playing. On the men’s side, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were still the two biggest names on that side of the draw. I hadn’t even published my first book yet when Serena hoisted her first slam trophy. As I said to Paul, “we’d only been together four years when Serena won that first US Open title.”

Time has definitely passed, has it not?

In other exciting news, the anthology Magic is Murder, edited by the dream team of Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley; Barb blogs about it here and provides some order links. My story is “The Snow Globe,” which I posted the opening for sometime last week and how the story came to be. I’m very excited to be in the same company as the other contributors, and of course it’s always a bit of a thrill for me to see a story of mine in print.

I did sleep really well last night. I think my body is finally adapting to going to be early and waking up before the sunrise, even if I don’t like it. Even that, I think, is a vestige of hating to being awakened by an alarm clock, in all honesty. Most mornings I wake up before the alarm; sometimes as much as an hour before (this morning I woke up the first time at four, and went back to sleep) but stay in bed until I have hit the snooze button twice. Why does my subconscious want the snooze button to be hit twice? I have no idea, but I’ve been this way as long as I’ve ever had to get up to an alarm. I suppose part of it is knowing that my clock is set fifteen minutes fast, so when it goes off that third time I know it’s a few minutes after six and it’s time for me to get up. Tonight on the way home from work I am going to swing by and pick up the mail–no other errands necessary this evening; I have all my prescriptions refilled so that’s out of the way for awhile, and I don’t think we need any groceries. I’ll probably order a few things to pick up this weekend (oooh, it’s Labor Day, I may actually go inside the store) but since we’re going to Bouchercon next week, not much point in getting a lot of stuff, you know? That will probably be my last trip until Thanksgiving, when i drive up north to see the family, and I probably am not going to do much traveling in the future. I kind of want to save my vacation time for actual vacations, you know? Paul and I have been wistfully thinking about going back to Europe–either Spain or Germany or France (any of the three would work for me, frankly)–but if I keep using my vacation time to go to conferences, that will never happen. I think the only conferences I’ll do going forward with be of course Tennessee Williams here in New Orleans and Bouchercon. I love all the conferences, really; have had a marvelous time at every one I’ve been to…but the nickel and diming of my vacation time, already limited, has proven problematic this year.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines.

Gold

Everyone has heard of Constantinople at some point in their life, I should think–at least they’ve heard that annoying song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”. Some may even know that it fell to the army and navy of the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmet II in 1453, ending the Eastern Roman Empire after a thousand years of existence. The Ottomans relocated the capital of their empire there, renaming it as Istanbul. (Christian Europe continued calling it Constantinople for centuries; it’s only over the last hundred years or so that Istanbul has come into more common usage.) But few know much more about the city and the empire it served as capital for over a millenium. Of those, some may know the basics–the Emperor Constantine, the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, recognizing that the enormous Roman Empire had become impossible to rule or enforce law or protect, split the empire into eastern and western halves, and founded a capital for the east on the site of the village of Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople. The Western Roman Empire collapsed in 473 when the city fell; yet the eastern empire continued until 1453. Western Europe, always trying to reclaim the heritage of the Roman Empire (and ambitiously planning to rebuild it), always referred to the still existing Roman Empire as “Greek” rather than “Roman,” although the citizens of that great city and the vestiges of its empire continued calling themselves Romans until the Turks finally ended it.

But that thousand year history? It’s not easy to find information or books with much information; even the one history of the Empire I did read–Lost to the West by Lars Brownworth, along with his City of Fortune, a history of the Venetian Empire–glossed over centuries and only hit highlights. I’ve always wanted to write something historical set in the new Rome.

The Eastern Empire out-lasted its western counterpart by nearly a thousand years. Constantinople was one of the greatest Christian cities of all time; there was certainly nothing even remotely close to it in western Europe in terms of population, art, culture, education, and trade. It’s location put it in control of access and egress from the Black Sea; it also controlled the trade routes between Europe and Asia. Its fall in 1453 meant that those trade routes were now controlled by the non-Christian Islamic Ottoman Empire–and as such, other ways to reach the far east became necessary to the western Europeans, hence the Portuguese circumnavigating Africa and the Spanish attempt to sail west to find a route, leading to the “discovery” of the Americas. The fall of Constantinople was an incredibly important and necessary piece of the interlocking puzzle that led to European colonization and the global empires that resulted from it (as well as the oppression and enslavement and genocide of native populations); but Western historians–in particular, those monastic scholars in Catholic orders–have always tried to erase and /or lessen the importance of the eastern Empire and its capital, calling them “Greeks”, renaming the Eastern Roman Empire as the “Byzantine Empire,” etc.–and in no small part, this was also because of the Christian Schism of 1054, in which the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church split in two over questions of dogma. Therefore, it was in the interest of the Western Europeans to underplay the vital importance to European history of the remains of the Roman Empire because western Catholics considered their Orthodox brethren as heretics; their church was the true one, even if it was in the east that the religion originally came from, and it was in the eastern half of the empire the tenets and dogma of the “true” faith were established. The Pope in Rome always tried to assert his own authority over the Patriarch in Constantinople; the Patriarch considered himself to be the head of the faith and the Pope just another bishop. Thus, when Charlemagne conquered most of central Europe, he and the Pope created the Holy Roman Empire (which wasn’t holy, or Roman, or even really an empire in the traditional sense); the Romans in Constantinople were not pleased. (At the time, through some political machinations and drama, a woman was seated on the throne in Constantinople–the Empress Irene, one of the most interesting women in European history; she was also pretty terrible. The Pope decided there could be no such thing as a female Emperor, and so he crowned Charlemagne.)

The Holy Roman Empire also lasted over a thousand years.

Anyway, I’ve always been interested in the eastern Empire, even though it’s largely neglected in European histories. But one event in its history has always been interesting to me in particular –the fall of Constantinople to the Catholic 4th Crusade in 1204, which essentially set the stage for the second fall of the city, to the Ottomans in 1453. I also have an idea for a Colin book–which I’ve had for a very long time–that would have its beginnings in the 1204 sack of Constantinople.

It’s remarkably hard to find much information–granted, it’s not like I’ve tried very hard, but the fact that you have to try hard to find histories and/or books about the Empire and its capital, let alone the 4th Crusade–even histories of the Crusades themselves gloss over the fact that a Crusader army, blessed by the Pope, allowed itself to be diverted by the Venetians to capture and sack two Christians cities (Zara and Constantinople), and established “Latin” (western European) kingdoms and principalities out of the provinces that were once the Eastern Roman Empire. These Catholic kingdoms were so despised by their subjects that they didn’t last long, with another dynasty of the old empire arising to drive them out. The sack of the city and the pillaging and destruction that followed created such a deep hatred for the Catholic Church and the kings that followed the Pope that they preferred the Ottomans to a reconquest by the Catholic nations–which is saying something. Ernie Bradford’s The Great Betrayal: The Great Siege of Constantinople is a very thorough account of the tragedy and how it came to pass; the destruction of the mighty city–along with the destruction of priceless books and documents and art forever lost to us–was on a par with the burning of the Great Library at Alexandria.

The book itself is very interesting; the siege took nearly a year, and it’s actually kind of shocking that the Crusaders succeeded in taking the city, bearing in mind the strong defenses and so forth. A lot of things had to fit into place for it to happen, and they all did. The city came so close to holding them off successfully; it’s almost as though, as they would have said at the time, it was God’s will for it to happen. The city was also filled with all kinds of priceless Christian relics; after all, the religion was founded in the east, and as city after city fell to foreign invaders, a lot of priceless artifacts and holy relics were moved to the capital. (The great horses from the Hippodrome, for example, are proudly on display in the Piazza San Marco in Venice to this day.) A lot of the art was destroyed, jewels picked out of reliquaries, the gold or silver or bronze melted down for coin, and so forth.

As someone who has always loved history, and also has always loved treasure hunts–especially those that are involved with the history and development of Christianity, many years ago (I will freely confess to being inspired by Indiana Jones movies) I thought about writing such a treasure hunt story–where the ‘treasure’ being hunted was some important document or book or relic from the earliest days of Christianity that would revolutionize the faith as well as show how off-course it had gone since the earliest days…and wouldn’t it have made sense that whatever it was could have been kept in Constantinople, deep in the archives of the Orthodox Church? And with western, Catholic Europeans besieging the city, wouldn’t the Patriarch have wanted to keep it out of the hands of the Pope, and smuggled it out of the city to be hidden somewhere else, safe from the prying eyes of Rome?

And of course, when I created Colin–actually, when I brought him back in Jackson Square Jazz–I loved the character so much that I considered spinning him off; what about the jobs he’s on when he’s not in New Orleans? “Oh,” I thought, “my fall of Constantinople story! That could work for Colin!” And it even occurred to me the other day that I could even do them as “case files,” setting them throughout the past, both before and after he met Scotty and woven in between the Scotty stories. (It also occurred to me that I could do Scotty stories to fill in the years between books, if I wanted to…)

And reading this book–which i recommend if you want to know more about “holy wars” and how corrupt and unholy they actually were–made me think about it even more. I do want to include something about the Empress Irene, too.

Something to brainstorm at some point. Like I have the time to squeeze in another book…but it would be fun; although I don’t know how good I would be at writing action/adventure/thrillers.

It would be fun to find out, though.

The Young Folks

It’s a work at home Monday, and it’s also Lundi Gras. Orpheus rolls tonight, and tomorrow is the Mardi Gras holiday. Yesterday was one of those days that started with good intentions, but somehow exhaustion took over at some point and nothing got done. We did end up starting the second season of Toy Boy on Netflix–which is even more insane in its second season; you’ve got to hand it to Spanish Netflix–and I spent most of the day glued to my chair watching war coverage from Ukraine. While all of my sympathies are entirely with the Ukrainian people and their amazingly courageous president, at the same time I am disturbed by scenes from the border where white Ukrainians are being given priority to cross while non-whites are being held back. This doesn’t seem to be an issue with the country they would be crossing into, either–it’s Ukrainian border guards doing this.

But American exceptionalism and white supremacy weren’t born or created on this continent, it’s a disease the European colonizers brought with them, and it has flourished here ever since. It saddens me to see that even in a terrifying time such as this, with their cities under attack and the Russian military within their borders that Ukrainians can still perpetuate such behavior…although it’s really not all that surprising. I don’t know how bad or widespread the problem is; but I believe that it has happened at least on a small scale, and I hope once the situation is better there we can get to the bottom of what happened at the borders.

Today I have errands to get run, data to enter, emails to send and a short story to work on. We may go out for some of Orpheus tonight–it depends on how we feel, how the weather is, and numerous other factors are involved as well, but we’ll see. Orpheus is one of my favorites, and it will feel strange to not see it, but…it will depend on my energy levels, how cold it is, and how much of this story I get finished today. I also need to start editing my manuscript; that’s going to the top of the to-do list I am going to make today (I never got around to it yesterday–I told you I was in a malaise yesterday for some reason I cannot understand) and I am also going to start making notes on it. I think there’s a better way to tell the story–to get the reader involved sooner–and there are other things I need to strengthen in it as well. I have to get to work on the Bouchercon anthology this week, and there’s always MWA stuff to get done. But hopefully I can kick it into gear. I’ve not been eating a lot lately–I usually have been eating things in the morning and perhaps snacking later–and that has to change. A lot of that has to do with Paul’s insane schedule currently; I never know when he’s going to be home or if he is, whether or not he’ll want to eat or not and, as always with me and my eating issues, if I don’t eat when I am hungry the hunger fades and I wind up not eating. That. Has. To. Stop.

If for no other reason than I need to eat for energy.

I have had a bagel with cream cheese already this morning, and I also need to go through the refrigerator as I make a list for the grocery run to come this morning. I have some cheese-stuffed chicken breasts wrapped in bacon to make for tonight’s dinner, and tomorrow I will probably fire up the barbecue and make burgers. I also am feeling weirdly at sea the way I always do during the crank-up of parade season–disconnected from the world–because everywhere else everyone is going about their usual normal Monday while here…it’s an entirely different subject. It’s disquieting, to say the least, but it only lasts until Wednesday. And yes, we have a strangely truncated work week–Wednesday will feel like Monday; making it even more difficult for me to adjust to my new “in the office” schedule, which I still hadn’t quite gotten used to yet. Sigh.

Ah, reality.

And on that note, I am going to start digging through everything and getting my day going. Thanks for checking in, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Christmas Alphabet

Thursday and working at home today. Huzzah!

I got some very good work done yesterday on the book, as well as an invitation to write a story for a tribute anthology, which meant it was a very good day. Today I am working at home, and am also very excited because finally, at long last, I have found Johnny Tremain on a streaming service! And while it disturbs me to no end to actually have to pay to rent it, but I’ve been wanting to see it again for a very long time, and I think I can cough up the couple of bucks to pay for it.

I’ve long wondered where my interest in history came from, and when I saw Johnny Tremain available to stream at long last on Amazon Prime the other day, it hit me: when I was in the first grade, at Eli Whitney Elementary School in Chicago, one afternoon we all gathered in the auditorium and they screened the movie for us. It was my first time seeing anything to do with American history–at that point, I was aware of the Civil War (I was from the South and lived in Chicago; of course I did) and who Washington and Lincoln were, but it was watching this movie–about a teenager in Boston during the period leading up to the American Revolution, that triggered my interest. This was when I started looking for books on American history at the library instead of ones about dinosaurs, and I was in the fourth grade when I finally got a copy of the book (I didn’t know it was a book first) from the Scholastic Book Fair, and it remained a favorite of mine for the rest of my life. I’ve always, always, remembered watching that movie and wanted to see it again; but it wasn’t until recently that I realized that it was the trigger that led me to my interest in American history, and from there to history in general. I am sure, since it’s a Disney picture made in the 1950’s, that it’s very rah-rah patriotic–there’s a thirty minute clip from it on Disney Plus that I tried to watch out of context, but it was so…hit you over the head with AMERICANA and FREEDOM and LIBERTY that I couldn’t really watch all of it; I am hoping that the entire movie won’t be such blatant propaganda, but then again, it was during the height of the Red Scare and it probably was intended to indoctrinate (white) children with a pro-America mentality; patriotism to the nth degree.

So, we’ll see how that goes, won’t we?

I got some good work on the book done last night, after which I was very tired, so I climbed into the easy chair (with a sleeping purr-kitty in my lap) and finished reading A Caribbean Mystery. (More on that later.) I also started reading Nightwing: Leaping into the Light (based on a recommendation from my friend Alex, who always knows whereof he speaks) and it reminded me (again) of why Nightwing is and always has been my favorite super-hero ever since I was a teenager (since he evolved from Robin into Nightwing); and it also finally hit me last night precisely why that was the case; it should make for an interesting blog entry when I get to it. I have so much writing to do–and fortunately I am in a creative state of mind these days, which needs to be more laser-focused. I am pretty confident I will get the book finished in time now, as well as everything else I need to do. We need to make a Costco run at some point, and of course there’s always mail to pick up, dishes to do, floors to clean, and laundry. I also have condoms to pack, and so much reading to do. I inevitably always have more than enough books on hand so that I will never run out of things to read–and that’s not even taking into consideration the ebooks loaded into all the reading apps on my iPad. I slept really well last night–a lovely side effect to being exhausted yesterday–and my shoulder is starting to feel better–at least I can move my arm without feeling a stab of pain, but I do want to keep resting it for another few days before attempting the gym again. I think tonight I might also walk around the Garden District taking pictures of Christmas decorations, which is always a lovely thing to do; one of the many things I love about this city is how it dresses itself up for any and every holiday, which makes it always seem so festive here.

I also have all my Christmas shopping done, and I actually did my Christmas cards last night as well. Now if only my house weren’t such a mess, I could claim I was winning at life!

Paul and I have decided that 2022 is going to be a year dedicated to living our best lives, and we’re thinking about taking another jaunt to Europe (pandemic permitting); but Amsterdam and Berlin will be our destinations. I’ve always wanted to visit both–there’s really nowhere in Europe I don’t want to visit, really–and the appeal of the art museums in both, plus Amsterdam is primarily a walking city, is a hard pull to resist. I’m thinking we might even take the occasional weekend getaway to a panhandle beach, why not? I have to do some traveling for my career (pandemic willing), and I am sure Paul will want to come to Minneapolis with me for Bouchercon, since we both lived there (he lived there much longer than I did; I only lasted eight months, and only agreed to live there on the guarantee it would be eight months and then we would move to New Orleans–other than the weather I really liked it there) it makes sense for him to come with. He works so hard, and he really does deserve to have down time where he can just relax and have fun.

Yesterday at the office I was walking out of our cubicle area to a testing room because one of my clients had arrived. I had noticed that the Crescent Care shirt I was wearing fit rather nicely; I have three of them in purple (one for every clinic day) and one of them, for some reason, fits better than the others and looks more flattering when I wear it. I actually had just thought about it again when I stood up from my desk (“hey, my pecs looks HUGE in this shirt”) and as I walked out, our nurse (hired in July) was sitting at the front desk and she said, “You know Greg, I can see the potential that you were fine when you were younger.” Fifty year old me would have been offended (“what? I look old and tired now?”) but sixty year old me accepted it in the spirit it was intended–a compliment–so I just laughed and replied, “thank you, I was.” Like I said, ten years ago I would have let that hurt my feelings; now I saw it as a compliment–if worded a bit bluntly–and it amused me. Even thinking about it, I am smiling about it.

I do wish I hadn’t been so insecure and self-conscious when I was younger. I also wish I could transfer this very mentality to my writing. I don’t get Imposter Syndrome as much as I used to–more maturity of age, perhaps?–but I do worry about whether people will get what i am trying to do when I write. I worry about unintentionally offending people more than I ever used to before (trust me, if I am trying to offend you, it’s pretty fucking clear); and I am trying to be kinder, more aware, and to exercise empathy as my default rather than getting offended myself. I don’t know how well I am succeeding, but I certainly don’t have my Julia Sugarbaker tirades are regularly as I used to.

Interesting.

Maturity, or just tired?

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me.