Amazed

Show of hands: who predicted I wouldn’t get as much done yesterday as I wanted to? I was pretty confident that would wind up the case, as it always is. But I did get a lot done yesterday–some of it even writing-related, so have a seat, guilty conscience!–and that pleases me. I am hopeful I’ll be able to get more done today as well. Granted–it’s easy to say that as I sip my first cup of coffee. I also stayed in bed later this morning than I wanted to–since I woke up at seven on my own yesterday I thought perhaps this morning would be the same so I didn’t set an alarm–but I wound up getting up at eight, so that wasn’t too terrible I also hit a wall yesterday around four thirty–I got very tired–and so I repaired to the easy chair to finish reading my book.

It’s rather gloomy out there this morning, and it’s chilly here in the Lost Apartment–the space heater is on–and I’m a little annoyed by this return of coldness. Yesterday. while starting out chilly, eventually turned into quite a beautiful day; I didn’t even wear a jacket when I went out to run my errands. But that’s okay; I probably won’t have to go out into much today, or at least I hope not.

We watched a lot of the figure skating championships yesterday–will probably do so again today; I think the men’s is on this afternoon and Europeans is on tonight–and Paul’s been watching the Australian Open on his computer. We’re very behind on all the shows we watch, and there are also any number of new shows we want to watch–or shows we watch have returned for another season, which is very cool–and of course, the Williams Festival is approaching, which means late nights at the office for Paul; yes, it’s about that time when I become a Festival widow again. I should be able to get a lot of reading done during this time–which is what I generally use it for. I got a copy of Lori Rader-Day’s new novel yesterday in the mail, The Lucky One, and since I’m moderating that panel, I’ll need to read it soon.

I also have to make travel arrangements today for some upcoming trips in this new year; Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, etc.

Ah, it’s raining. That explains the gloomy grayness outside.

It’s the kind of day, really, where I’d rather curl up under a blanket and read all day, quite frankly, but I can’t do that. I need to work on the Secret Project, and there’s all kinds of other things I also have to get done today–odds and ends, emails to answer, etc. I’d also like to make some headway on getting my taxes at least started; I am missing only one 1099 form, and once I have that I can turn everything over to my accountant and get my return filed, which will be lovely.

I did finish reading Elizabeth Little’s Pretty as a Picture, which is fantastic–and then I started reading Dorothy B. Hughes’ Dread Journey when my energy finally flagged in the late afternoon.

pretty as a picture

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words.

That’s not what I’d say.

I’d say it depends on the picture. I’d say it depends on the size and the color and the subject and the print and the framing and the focus and the composition. I’d say it depends on what you were doing the hour before, the day before, the year before, the life before. I’d say it depends on whether you’re looking at it on a wall or scrolling past it on a screen or cutting it carefully out of a book, digging your knuckle into the gutter of the spine because the margins are so small and the blades are so long and it’s impossible to get a straight line, but you don’t want to dig up a guide and an X-Acto knife because you aren’t willing to wait, you have to have it, you have to have this picture, right now, and your kitchen scissors are close enough and good enough–yes, good enough–and Jesus Christ, Marissa, when will you get it through your thick head: Imperfection is a price happy people pay to cradle the weight of something they love.

That’s what I’d say.

Elizabeth Little’s debut novel, Dear Daughter, is one of my favorite first novels and one of my favorite books of this past decade. Her novels–why they do focus on crime, or criminal activity–are more than just crime novels; they’re stories about women–messy, complicated, complex, interesting women you want to see get past not only their current crisis, but also pull their lives together. One of the most impressive things to me about Dear Daughter is that she didn’t wrap it all up neatly with a bow at the end, with justice being served and our heroine coming out of everything triumphant; she gave the ending a more realistic, this-is-how-it-would-play-out-in-real-life ending.

I’ve been waiting a long time for Pretty as a Picture, and it was worth the wait.

The story is told in a very tight, first person/present tense style that pulls the reader into the action and the head of our main character/narrator–Marissa Dahl, an up-and-coming film editor who has primarily worked on the films of her college best friend and current roommate, Amy,  an up-and-coming director. Marissa is socially awkward–there’s a lovely scene in which she talked about meeting a superstar director, Tony Rees, at the Venice Film Festival and pulls him into a fountain with her when she loses her balance–and very unsure of herself. She meets a guy named Josh, who winds up dating Amy, and having been interested in him herself, she now has become an incredibly awkward fifth wheel and has decided to separate herself from Amy, personally and professionally, to give Amy and Josh’s new relationship room to breathe and grow–and she’s more than just a little resentful about Josh, whom she now actively dislikes (which is also wrapped up in her own social awkwardness), which is why she ends up agreeing to work on a Tony Rees’ new film–a project wrapped in secrecy and sixteen page NDA’s. She heads out to Kickout Island, off the coast of Delaware, and even has a big security man–Isaiah–who picks her up at the local airport and takes her out there.

One of Marissa’s neuroses includes a fear of the water–and we eventually do find out where that fear came from.

The film turns out to be a fictionalized film version of an actual murder that took place on Kickout Island many years ago–the murder of a pretty teenaged girl; a murder that was never solved. Strange things are going on around the set–accidents, cast and crew being fired–and we slowly but surely are made aware, through Marissa’s eyes, that things are not as they seem…and then someone else dies, and Marissa is reluctantly on both cases.

I have to say, though, that my favorite characters–besides Marissa, whom I really liked for all her tics and strangeness and constant film references (which is actually very cool)–are the two teenaged girls she first encounters in the hotel kitchen while she is scrounging for something to eat–Grace and Suzy–who are also trying to solve the original murder case. I’d read an entire series about these two girls.

But Pretty as a Picture is a great read; well-written and clever and witty and snarky at points, but an enjoyable read with a complicated, twisty plot that never condescends to the reader. Well worth the lengthy wait for this second novel by Elizabeth Little–the only problem is now I have to wait (hopefully not as long) for her third.

Sweet Desire

Friday morning and it’s a bit chilly here in the Lost Apartment this morning–but the temperature’s supposedly gradually rising from how cold it was at the beginning of the week.

Hilariously, I have just one jacket–one really doesn’t need more than one in New Orleans–and it’s a wonderful black leather jacket I’ve had since before Katrina, I think. I believe it was a gift from my mother; I’m not entirely sure. I had a great leather jacket before this one, but the sleeve ripped on a door frame nail, and I think I got this jacket to replace it? I don’t know, the jacket is old. I’ve been struggling with the zipper, which would sometimes jam–it did walking in the snowfall in New York Saturday night–but as I waited for the parking lot shuttle here at the airport, I managed to zip it all the way up. (Every time I have trouble with the zipper I think I need to get this zipper replaced, but have never done it because, you know, procrastination) When I got out of the car at home, I realized that the zipper teeth had come apart at the bottom, and had separated all the way up to my chest. I tried to get the zipper teeth back together so I could unzip it, to no avail. Finally I pulled it up over my head like a sweatshirt and ripped the zipper open, thinking, great, now I HAVE to get the fucking zipper replaced. Heavy sigh. But as I emptied my suitcase into the washing machine, Paul–who was upstairs reorganizing our disaster of a shared closet, came down the stairs with a lovely jacket on a hanger. “Is this yours?” he asked. I had no memory of buying it–I still don’t–but it’s gorgeous and my size. We finally had to assume that I bought it at one of our trips to the outlet mall in Gonzalez, probably with the intent to take it to New York for the January board meeting years ago–and then it got swallowed into the closet and completely forgotten.

FOR YEARS.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been wearing this week, and now I have a terrific winter coat to take next January to New York with me.

It also should go without saying that now I am really curious about what else is in that closet that I’ve forgotten about.

This has been a lovely week of getting re-acclimated to my normal existence, and I’ve actually been having a lovely time. My new duties as Executive Vice President of MWA have forced me to get organized and start planning my time better–and I’ve also slept remarkably well all week. I’ve also started setting my alarm to get up at seven on the mornings I don’t have to go in at eight–while the extra sleep is absolutely lovely, I can’t lose that extra hour or two every morning. There’s always a lot of emails that need answering, and keeping up is going to be crucial–I can’t let myself get either overwhelmed or defeated by my emails. And I still need to have time to both write and read; the evenings before sleep just aren’t going to cut it anymore. So now I am determined to get up at seven every morning but Sunday–I’ll allow myself to sleep in on Sunday mornings, since Monday is one of those hellish six a.m. mornings–and I also am aware that once my body is trained to get up every morning at seven, I’ll probably get up at that time on Sundays, too. I need to start going back to the gym as well, and watching my diet again. I’m going to be fifty-nine this year, and so I should probably get back into a healthier lifestyle, which is going to be much harder now than it was when I was thirty-three and originally made that change.

Plus, I actually enjoy working out. But like writing, which I also actually enjoy doing, I always dread it and have to force myself to do it. #madness.

I am also looking forward to finishing Elizabeth Little’s stunning Pretty as a Picture. I am enjoying this book so much, Constant Reader–you have no idea. I’m also learning a lot about how a movie gets made, behind the scenes, which is something I’ve always been interested in. I need to get some serious writing done this weekend too–despite the US Figure Skating Championships, the European Figure Skating Championships, and the Australian Open all taking place over the course of this weekend. Yikes. I also have to go to the grocery store and make plans for trips later in the year and oh my God there’s never enough time but you know what? To-do lists are fantastic, and were always the key to my getting everything done in the past.

We also have to finish watching Messiah, Sex Education, and get caught up on Dare Me. Hilariously, a few weeks ago we had nothing to watch; now we have too much to watch.

And on THAT note, tis back to the spice mines. Happy Friday, everyone!

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No More Tears (Enough is Enough)

Good morning, and welcome to another cold January morning here in the Lost Apartment. I have some errands to run later today–later this morning, to be exact–and then I am spending the rest of the day holed up inside reading, cleaning, and probably watching figure skating on the television. We did watch the ladies’s final last night, which was quite fun, and am looking forward to seeing the competitions today. The European championships have also been going on this past week, so it’s all saved on Hulu for us to watch at our leisure. The Australian Open is also still happening–so much sport!–and so there’s that as well. I do want to finish reading my book today, and I want to read a short story, and start reading my next book as well.

And tomorrow I am cleaning out my email inbox if it kills me, and it just might.

I slept really well again last night–that’s three consecutive nights of good sleep, which is amazingly lovely.

Yesterday was also kind of a crazy day in the world, although it’s pretty safe to say that everyday has been kind of a crazy day for a while now. As I said to Paul the other night, “it’s like world politics has turned into Game of Thrones, only much scarier because it’s real.” And I know, world politics has always been very Game of Thrones, it’s just never been so obvious and apparent.

It’s hard to believe it’s almost February already, but there you have it and there it is. Carnival hovers on the horizon, and the Williams Festival/Saints and Sinners is just behind it. I am moderating a panel this year with Alafair Burke, Samantha Downing (My Lovely Wife) and Kristien Hemmerechts (The Woman Who Fed The Dogs) so I have some homework for that as well.

So much good reading to look forward to! Art Taylor also very graciously, along with Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, made a pdf of his Edgar nominated short story “English 398: Fiction Workshop” available on-line, which I downloaded and look forward to reading. Art’s a terrific writer and a master of the short story (when I was nominated for the Macavity for “Survivor’s Guilt”, Art was the winner, and his story was amazing), and it’s always terrific to read one of his stories. (Hint hint: Art, how about a short story collection? Hint hint.)

I’m also going to dissect some short stories I am in the process of editing–unless I get lazy again. I rarely do this when I am editing/revising short stories, which makes my short stories actually kind of hit or miss; if the story works, it’s because I simply got lucky with it. But I think if I actually break the story down into what it’s about, and who the characters are and why they are the people they are, more of my stories would probably work. It’s a theory, at any rate, and there’s nothing I love to do more than break down my work and put it back together again (I’m being sarcastic, if you couldn’t tell).

And on that note, I am heading out into the frigid cold to get my errands out of the way before coming home to mine spice.

Have a lovely day, everyone!

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