Souvenir

Happy Mardi Gras! Everywhere else it’s just Tuesday.

I was exhausted yesterday, and essentially useless. Scooter demanded a lap almost as soon as I got home, and apparently he missed me. I collapsed into my easy chair, he climbed into my lap and started purring as well as making biscuits before curling up and sleeping (and purring in his sleep), which was comforting and relaxing at the same time. I finally slept last night, and feel more human and Greg-like this morning than I have in a while. The bed felt wonderful, especially this morning, and i really would have been more than delighted and happy to have stayed in bed for another few hours. But I agreed to do a Facebook page takeover this morning to promote A Streetcar Named Murder (what better way to do promo for a New Orleans book than on Fat Tuesday?) several months ago, and at the time I didn’t know what the future held for this year’s Carnival for me and my family. I would imagine the neutral ground on St. Charles is crowded with parade-goers already; it was already a zoo on the neutral ground yesterday when I got home. I knew we would most likely be taking today as a holiday and not going anywhere or doing anything to celebrate, figuring we would be exhausted by Fat Tuesday and staying in to recover. I am out on bereavement leave from work until Friday, which is nice, and I will probably begin the process of figuring out where I am with things and digging out from under (my email inbox is out of control; I had it under control until a few weeks ago), and making groceries and getting organized. It’ll be nice to be home this weekend after three weekends in a row away. I’ve driven almost three thousand miles over the last three weekends, and my poor car is probably wondering what the fuck at this point.

But it’s good to be home, good to be feeling like myself again, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done around here. I really let everything slide these last few weeks–don’t even want to think about how much filing there is to do, and organizing–and of course, the kitchen/office is a total mess as always. I’d started making progress on the gradual thorough clean of the apartment I’d planned as a New Year’s goal before everything went up into the air; I’m not sure where I left off but do know that it won’t kill me if I simply start over again. I’d really like things to be neat and tidy (another of my mother’s legacies) so I can get to work on my manuscript editing that I am so terribly behind on. I also have a short story to write. So basically I have the rest of this week off to get my shit together before my work-at-home Friday and then my first weekend at home since January. I am going to probably do some bits and pieces around here today but after the Facebook page takeover thing I think I am simply going to spend the rest of the day relaxing and resting and recovering and hopefully regaining my equilibrium. I started listening to Tara Laskowski’s One Night Gone in the car yesterday after finishing The Other Mother, and I’m going to probably dedicate some time to reading more of it today. Just looking around this morning as I write this and sip my oh-so-delicious coffee I made for myself this morning (I do laugh at myself and how particular I’ve become about things I like, like my morning coffee; it’s never the same when I have to get hotel coffee or make it in one of those little coffee maker things they have in some hotel rooms). I need to take out the trash and put dishes away before cleaning out the sink again and running another load through the dishwasher. I also need to figure out what to do about our dryer situation; I’m going to try to fix it myself before giving up and buying a new one.

My toe is still slightly painful this morning, but I can walk on it without either wincing or limping so I consider that a victory. I’m going to wrap it again this morning as well as ice it and keep it elevated (hence the day in my chair reading Tara’s marvelous book); tomorrow is going to be errands day (which will require lists, and we all know how much I love a good to-do list) and probably laundry and other chores, and I’ll also probably start digging into the editorial process with my two manuscripts. I would also like to start back to the gym for stretching and cardio soon; maybe even go to some yoga classes, which can also help me with focus and relaxation. I need to start taking better care of myself; eating better, dropping some weight, getting some exercise, and so forth; it will make me feel better physically and mentally; and of course, I now have the great joy of audiobooks for the treadmill, elliptical, and stationary bike. I also have to accept that my work schedule may never go back to what it used to be, and the rest of my working life before retirement is going to be this schedule that I’ve been working now for months.

But I feel better about almost everything this morning–amazing what a good night’s sleep will do for you–and I know grief will sucker-punch me again at least a few more times–but I think I’ve achieved acceptance at last, which is a start to healing. I know I’ll never get over losing Mom, but I think I am starting down the path of learning to live with the loss.

One step at a time, one day at a time, one task at a time.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Fat Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later–I need to write up The Other Mother–and thank you again for all the kindness.

Winning Ugly

Well, once I’ve swilled enough coffee I’ll be loading up the car and driving north yet again. And while my trip last weekend involved only driving through Alabama, this is my third consecutive weekend of travel that somehow involves my birth state. I’ve been gone the last three weekends; I am not sure I am going to know how to act next weekend when I actually get to stay home for a change. I’ll drive back first thing Monday morning, so I can get home before the Orpheus parade, and then I’ll be on bereavement leave for the rest of next week. I could have taken it this past week but I also didn’t know when the funeral was going to be so I just went into the office every day this week and muddled through. I know this next week isn’t going to end with everything healed and me past it all–you never get over it, you just learn to live with it–but I need the time to actually recalibrate and settle back into my normal life, which I’ve not really had much opportunity to do these last few weeks. After the trip to the library events then came Mom’s issues and here we are. Throw parade season into the mix for added discombobulation, the whatever-it-is-I-did-to-my-toe–and let’s also not forget my dryer stopped working before the library events weekend, which hasn’t helped either. I’m going to try to fix it–if its just the fuse–after Fat Tuesday is over and I can head over to Lowe’s while looking at repair videos on Youtube; if that doesn’t work then we need to get a new one, which sucks–we also need a new refrigerator, which has been even more of a challenge, because all refrigerators now are too tall to fit into the cubby hole made for it by the kitchen cabinets, which may mean the cabinets over the refrigerator need to be taken out, which is an even bigger pain in the ass than just getting a new refrigerator. I really want one with the freezer on the bottom to alleviate stooping and bending (I’m getting really old, y’all), but those are all too big to fit but even the traditional freezer on top ones are too tall for the space, which is strange and weird and who knows what all.

I slept really well last night. I kept my toe elevated most of the day and was occasionally alternating between hot and cold on it, so it’s not quite so swollen and painful this morning. I think the smartest thing for me to actually do is just wear my house shoes to drive in the car–they will keep the toe cushioned better than my regular shoes–and while it may very well be gout (Paul and another friend have suggested it as a possibility, which I wouldn’t have considered, I’m thinking it might not be. I do have psoriasis and that too can cause an arthritis attack–if that is what this is; gout is a form of arthritis), there are all kinds of other options. The primary concern that I have is that my only option may be going to the emergency room, and how long will something as low-priority as having gout or pain in my big toe keep me in the waiting room there? But I do think it’s something I need to do Monday when I get back here–if it doesn’t clear up. If it does…I don’t know. Like I said, it still hurting this morning but not nearly as bad as it did yesterday so maybe keeping it elevated and alternating heat and cold is the right way to go with it more tonight? I honestly don’t know, but I do know this couldn’t have happened at a less opportune time. But at least it isn’t throbbing today, which it did yesterday. Progress? Improvement? I’ll take either one. I don’t think the driving will help, but who knows? And at least the Hampton Inn should have an ice machine, which should make it much easier to ice it.

And I suppose once I am home on Monday, then I can start the moving on with my life. Before I leave this morning there are some chores around the house I’d like to do (mainly so I don’t have to come home to them after the funeral) and of course I have to swing by a gas station (I don’t really want to even think about my gas credit card bill) on the way out. According to Google Maps, it’s a five and a half hour drive of 349 miles, approximately. Since the first of the month I think, by the time I get home, I will have driven about five or so thousand miles? I hadn’t even hit thirty thousand miles on the odometer since buying the car back in 2017 yet before all this started–and if you take drives to Kentucky and/or Alabama for the library events, I don’t think I would even have twenty thousand miles on it, frankly. This past week has been a weird one. As it progressed I found myself getting less overwhelmed and sad and breaking down as much later in the week than I had earlier in the week, so I guess that’s all a part of the process, and the funeral itself will be the final curtain on all of this. It’s still hard for my mind to entirely grasp yet–oh yeah Mom’s gone–but it’s going to be much easier on me than it is on the rest of the family; they saw her all the time while I only saw her once or twice a year. I’ve not gone down the I could have been a better son route–mainly because I dealt with all that guilt a long time ago and have moved past it all; it is what it was and I’ve never wasted energy on regret, nor am I about to now…although I’ve come close a couple of times since Mom’s death. I also have to pack, but I’m not terribly worried about that. I am going to wear sweats in the car (and my house shoes) and so all I really need to pack is socks and underwear and my shaving kit. I also need to try on my black slacks to see if they fit, else I’ll have to go to Walmart at some point and buy a new pair that will fit my fat ass.

Heavy sigh. Seriously.

And on that note, I am going to make something to eat, get some more coffee, and start getting organized for yet another weekend drive. Sorry, Ladies of Iris–I am going to miss your parade for only the second time since 1996. Talk to you later, Constant Reader.

Twelfth Night

The other night, as I walked to Lilette to meet my friend Laura for dinner, I walked past this house:

It made me smile, as the New Orleans dedication for decorating for the holidays (any holiday, really) always does.

I posted this picture after taking it, along with a caption along the lines of it’s almost Twelfth Night and the start of Carnival! Someone commented, a bit surprised, “already?” which once again made me realize how different living in New Orleans is from living anywhere else, really, in the country. Nobody outside of Louisiana (unless they’re Catholic) understands how Carnival actually works, which makes sense. If it doesn’t affect you, how would you know? So, I decided explaining Carnival would be an excellent blatant self-promotion post, particularly since A Streetcar Named Murder is built around (sort of) a Carnival krewe and their membership recruitment ball. So, buckle up, Constant Reader, I’m going to give you a sort of primer for New Orleans Carnival.

Carnival begins on Twelfth Night, January 6th, and the season continues until it ends at midnight on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras is actually the last day of Carnival, not the entire season; but over the years Mardi Gras has become synonymous with Carnival, but the locals will always correct you when you call it Mardi Gras instead of Carnival; and ‘mardi gras” literally translates from the French to Fat Tuesday), when the bells of St. Louis toll the beginning of Lent and the police clear everyone off the streets of the city (no one is supposed to be out on the streets after midnight; I used to love to stand on the balcony at the Parade watching the mounted police officers slowly making their way down Bourbon Street as the crowds disperse before them–and behind them the street is empty). I’m not going to get into the history of Carnival and how it all began as a “farewell to the flesh” before the religious solemnity and penance of Lent; but that’s the part most people don’t get if you’re not from here or Catholic. Christmas, Carnival, Lent, and Easter are all tied together. Twelfth Night is always a fixed date because Christmas is fixed for December 25th; but since Easter’s date is never the same, neither is the date for Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday, which is always forty days before Easter.

So, first things first. If you want to know all there is to know about each year’s Carnival, you start by getting a copy of Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide, seen below. (You can order it on-line if you’re curious about it.)

(Don’t @ me, I know it should be Carnival Guide, but Mr. Hardy is Mr. Expert on all things Carnival, so we let him get away with it every year.)

The guide is invaluable, even though now there’s a parade tracker app so you always know where the parades are. The parades are what most people associate with New Orleans and Carnival/Mardi Gras; the big ones that shut down St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street aren’t until the last two weekends before Fat Tuesday. I don’t even know how many parades pass by our corner during parade season, but it’s a lot. (I’m hearing that the parade routes are being truncated a bit because of not having enough police officers to pull parade duty, but I don’t pay a lot of attention and just look at the Guide–which I have yet to get a copy of this year.) So, parade season is the two weekends prior to Fat Tuesday. The first weekend is easy, really; there’s parades on Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon. Then we get a two day respite before they start in earnest, and there’s always at least two a night beginning the Wednesday before Fat Tuesday. Muses is Thursday night, following two others; there are also three on that Friday. Saturday afternoon is my favorite, Iris, which is followed by Tucks. Endymion is the big parade on Saturday night but it has a different route; it doesn’t come down St. Charles unless rain has caused it to be postponed for a night (when Endymion rolls down St. Charles on a Sunday night it’s a nightmare out there at the corner because Endymion is HUGE). There are parades all day Sunday, culminating with Bacchus Sunday night; Orpheus is the grand finale on Monday night, and of course on Fat Tuesday Rex follows Iris and then come the truck parades. There are also other, smaller, walking parades earlier; Krewe de Vieux, for example, is enormous and is a Saturday night later this month. After Twelfth Night and before Parade Season, there are balls and parties and walking parades and all kinds of celebrations leading up to the parades. The bleachers are already going up at Liberty Circle and all along St. Charles.

So, what does A Streetcar Named Murder, which is set in October, have to do with Carnival, and how is this a blatant self-promotion post?

Because the plot of Streetcar is set around an October costume ball for one of the newer Carnival krewes, the completely fictitious Krewe of Boudicca (it was Athena in earlier drafts, until I realized that I should check to make sure such a krewe doesn’t exist anywhere and sure enough, there is one; either in Metairie or on the north shore), which is also kind of new-member rush for the krewe. Our main character, Valerie, has no interest in belonging to a krewe; as she says, she’s fine “just going to parades and catching throws.” But her neighbor/best friend Lorna wants to join Boudicca, and she is dragging an unwilling Valerie along for the ball. It’s at the ball that the murder takes place; turns out the membership chair for Boudicca is Valerie’s nemesis, and of courea Valerie is the one who finds the victim after she’s stabbed.

And of course, it’s Carnival season again in New Orleans! So more info and blatant self-promotion to come!

The Orion Mask

This is another one where I had the idea years before I actually sat down and wrote the damned book. I actually got the idea at my first ever Carnival; when I came as a tourist in 1995. We were at the Orpheus Parade on Monday night–I caught some beads thrown by Barbie Benton, if anyone remembers who she is–and I had noticed, at the parades since flying in late the preceding Friday for a long weekend, that the majority of the riders wore masks. I think I’d already known that, from books I’d read and movies and so forth, but seeing those plastic face-masks in person was a bit on the creepy side. I was already deeply in love with New Orleans–this was like the fifth or sixth trip I’d made there since my birthday the previous August–and that whole time I’d been thinking about how there had never been a New Orleans romantic suspense novel that I could recall; Phyllis A. Whitney wrote about New Orleans in Skye Cameron, but it was set in the 1880’s and I hadn’t much cared for the book (note to self: reread it!). I wanted something set in the present day, and as I caught more and more beads at the parade, it came to me: The Orpheus Mask.

I somehow even managed to remember the idea after staying out dancing until late at night, scribbling it down in my journal the next day. I honestly don’t remember if I flew home on Fat Tuesday or Ash Wednesday, but I also don’t remember Fat Tuesday, so it makes more sense that I did fly back on Fat Tuesday. I was an airline employee, after all, and since I had to fly standby would I have waited to fly home until Ash Wednesday, when every flight would have been overbooked by about thirty, or would I have flown home on a lighter travel day, Fat Tuesday? I’ll have to find my journals (I’ve been looking for the old ones forever; I distinctly remember finding them a few years back but I don’t know where I put them; perhaps I can spend some time looking for them this weekend?) to check and be sure. But The Orpheus Mask idea was always in the back of my mind somewhere–even after I moved to New Orleans and realized I couldn’t use “Orpheus” in the title, but the krewe and its parade were far too new and modern to work in the story I was developing. Finally I decided to simply invent a krewe, the Krewe of Orion, and thus the book’s title became The Orion Mask.

I also always knew that The Orion Mask was going to be my attempt at writing a romantic suspense novel, using some of the classic tropes of the genre, particularly those used by one of my favorite writers, Phyllis A. Whitney. I grew up reading her juvenile mysteries (the first were The Mystery of the Hidden Hand and The Secret of the Tiger’s Eye) and then I moved on to her novels for adults, the first being Listen for the Whisperer, after which there was no turning back. I went and devoured her back list (I haven’t read all of the books for juveniles) and then she gradually became an author whose books I bought upon release in hardcover. The last I read was The Ebony Swan; the quality of the books had started to slip a bit as we both got older plus the world and society had changed; even I had noted earlier that her characters were often–I wouldn’t go so far as to say doormats, but they didn’t seem to stand up for themselves much, and often the “nice” heroine was put in competition and contrast to an “evil” villainess; a scheming woman who didn’t mind lying and scheming to get what they want–which also included tormenting the “nice heroine”. (There were any number of times I thought read her for filth or whatever the saying for that at the time was.) My main character wasn’t going to be a pushover or weak; but I also wasn’t going to make him an asshole, either.

Taking this trip was probably a mistake I would regret.

I finished my cup of coffee and glanced over at my shiny black suitcases. They were new, bought specifically for this trip. My old bags were ratty and worn and wouldn’t have made the kind of impression I wanted to make. My cat was asleep on top of the bigger bag, his body stretched and contorted in a way that couldn’t possibly be comfortable. I’d put the bags down just inside my front door. I’d closed and locked them securely. I’d made out name tags and attached them to the handles. I’d taken pictures of them with my phone in case they were lost or misdirected by the airline. My flight wasn’t for another three and a half hours, and even in heavy traffic it wouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes to get to the airport. I had plenty of time; as always, I’d gotten up earlier than I needed to, and finished getting ready with far too much time left to kill before leaving for the airport. I checked once again to make sure I had my airline employee ID badge, my driver’s license, my laptop, and the appropriate power cords in my carry-on bag. I was flying standby, of course, but I’d checked the flight before leaving work the previous night and there were at least thirty seats open with a no-show factor of fifteen The only way I wouldn’t get on Transco flight 1537 nonstop from Bay City to New Orleans was if another flight to New Orleans canceled or this one was canceled for mechanical problems. But should that happen, I had my cousin’s cell phone number already loaded into my phone so I could give her a call and let her know what was going on.

I got up and poured what was left in the pot into my mug, making sure I turned the coffeemaker off.

The occupational hazard of flying standby was that your plans were never carved in stone and were subject to change at any moment.

They’d offered to buy me an actual ticker, of course, but I’d said no.

I wasn’t really ready to take any money from the family I didn’t know just yet.

I sipped my coffee. Has it really only been two months? I thought again.

I’d known they’d existed, of course, since that day I accidentally found my birth certificate when rooting around in my father’s desk drawer.

Phyllis A. Whitney’s books almost always involved two things: a murder in the past that cast shadows on the present, and someone going to meet a family they’ve been estranged from–usually not through any fault of their own–since their childhood. Another popular trope was that the murder involved one of the main character’s parents; in this case, I made it his mother. I named him Heath Brandon (after a co-worker), and the mystery from the past was his mother’s death. When Heath was a very small child, his mother was murdered by her lover, who then committed suicide. Heath’s father–never a fan of her family, the Legendres–took his son and left, cutting off all communications and never telling Heath anything about his mother. He always knew his father’s second wife wasn’t his mother, but all he knew about his mom was she died when he was young and talking about her upset his father, so he never brought her up and never even knew her name.

His father is now dead and Heath is working at the Bay City Airport for Transco Airlines (my go-to whenever I need an airline), when one night he notices a very attractive bald man in a tight T-shirt and jeans watching him work at the ticket counter. When the man appears the next night, Heath wonders if he should report him to security–but the man approaches him, invites him out for a drink and promises to tell him about his mother’s family. Heath in intrigued–he found out about how his mother died after finding his birth certificate and doing some on-line searches. But the man–Jerry Channing, who has also popped up in the Scotty series–is actually a true crime writer who doesn’t necessarily believe the story of how Heath’s mom and lover died, and is looking into it with an eye to writing a book. Jerry puts Heath in touch with the family, and now…he is going to meet them.

The Legendre plantation, Chambord, has been in the family for centuries. At one point, it became known for glass-making; I tied this somehow into Venetian glass, particularly the famous Murano style, and while the glass-making has long since fallen by the wayside, Chambord houses a Chambord glass museum on the property as well as a high-end restaurant–and also does the de rigeur plantation type tours. Once Heath arrives, any number of mysteries present themselves to him: why is his first cousin bear him such animosity? Why does is aunt? Why is everyone so afraid of his grandmother? And he begins to feel an attraction to his cousin’s handsome, sexy cousin–who runs the restaurant with her. Their marriage doesn’t seem happy–his cousin is kind of a bitch, as is his aunt Olivia–and he gets signals from the married restauranteur. Could it be?

And then, is it his imagination or has someone tried to kill him?

He also inherits his mother’s house in the lower Garden District of New Orleans (a house that is real and I’ve been in love with for decades), and when he goes to stay there for a night or two, he discovers a clue to the dark secrets that hang over Chambord–and what really happened in the boathouse when his mother and her lover died.

One of the things I realized while writing The Orion Mask how freeing it was for me to write a Gothic with a gay main character; Whitney and her colleagues were constrained by the rules of their genre and what their readers expected these books to be. I didn’t have either those fears or constraints; and whenever I would think oh I can’t do that Whitney would have never–then I would stop and think, you aren’t Whitney and you aren’t writing in her time period, and besides, your main character is a gay man not a young woman; of course you can do that even if its against the rules!

That realization also made me admire the talents and skills of Whitney and her contemporaries, and what they were able to accomplish within the boundaries of their genre, even more than I had previously. I will most likely write more of these style books in the future; it was a lot of fun writing this and playing with the conventions of romantic suspense.

Chambord was sort of based on Houmas House–I think I even reference that “Chambord” was made famous by a film with two aging stars that was filmed there (obviously, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte); I also referred to Belle RiviĆ©re in Murder in the Arts District that same way.

The joys of a Greg multiverse!

But I Love You More

And just like that, in a snap of the fingers, it’s Friday again and I am working at home. Huzzah? Huzzah!

I have apparently reset my body clock at long last. It took until age sixty plus a few months, but I woke up this morning without the alarm at just before six. I chose to stay in bed until seven–it was very comfortable under my blankets this morning–but I am now out of bed, drinking my first coffee, and feeling pretty well rested and wide awake. I have, as always, a lot of things to do today (some errands to run, work that needs doing, chores that are overdue) but right now I am feeling like I can get it all done without a problem; that’s undoubtedly incorrect–at some point I’ll get derailed or hit a wall or something; it happens every time–but right now I am going to roll with it most happily. I’ve managed to keep up somewhat this week with the chores, so the Lost Apartment doesn’t need as much attention as it generally does as we roll into the weekend; but maybe that’s because we had a truncated work week (thanks Fat Tuesday!). Either way, I want to see if I can build on that and get more things cleaned–the other stuff that I never manage to get to; like dusting picture frames and so forth. I suppose we shall see.

And I might even be able to get caught up on everything. Ha ha ha ha, it had to be said, right?

So my goals for this weekend are to get through my to-do list and make a new one. I have editing to do and writing to do and decisions to be made about my career and my future–always a daunting subject, always put off for another time because i don’t want to deal with it–and hopefully, this weekend will be an opportunity. As I said earlier, I feel more rested this morning than I have in a long time–rested and relaxed–which means, at least for now, that I feel like I can do anything and everything and I can conquer the world, which is a nice feeling…I know I can’t realistically take over the world, but it’s always nice to feel like I can if I wanted to, you know? I definitely want to finish reading Kellye Garrett’s Like a Sister this weekend; it’s quite good, and it feels good to be enjoying reading again. I’d intended to do some reading when I got home from work yesterday, but was very tired–drained, really; it was one of those days at the office for some reason–and so I just kind of hunkered down, let Scooter climb into my lap, and watched history videos on Youtube about Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine’s history. I want to spend some time this weekend figuring out my new Scotty’s plot and subplots–I want this to be a labyrinthine story, ever more so than Royal Street Reveillon was–and I also need to figure out what else I need to be writing this year, and there’s so much else that needs to be caught up on…heavy heaving sigh. But rather than feeling defeated, this morning I feel like I can get everything done and it’s just a matter of rolling up my sleeves and getting to work, which is always a lovely feeling, frankly–and one I’ve not felt in quite some time. Yay? Yay.

Definitely yay.

So right now before my first work meeting of the day I have laundry going–it’s launder the bed linens day, after all–and have to unload the dishwasher. I need to make a grocery list. I need to work on my to-do list and create a new one. There’s always organizing to do around here (my computer files are finally starting to get it together, but there’s still a very long way to go, sadly), and there’s always another chore somewhere that I’ve not noticed (or have ignored for so long that it now escapes notice and seems normal for whatever it is to be the way it is–not a good thing) and of course, I need to get my taxes and stuff together. See? These are things that should be going on my to-do list, rather than being written about here. But that’s just the way my brain bounces around, you know? But it does feel nice to have shaken off the cobwebs and that aching bone-tired feeling, as well as the clouded brain thing. (I shudder to think how much worse this week would have been had I actively participated in Carnival as much as I have done in the past…yikes indeed.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines and try to get some things done before the work meeting. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader; I certainly intend to!

No Matter What Sign You Are

Happy Mardi Gras! Everywhere else it’s just Tuesday.

It’s a beautiful day and I feel rested this morning. Granted, I’ve felt rested every morning for the last six or seven days upon arising only to run out of proverbial steam and become exhausted by the late afternoon–yesterday was another one of those; once I ran my errands and did my work I was burned out and worn out by five pm; there was no Orpheus for us last night–so we’ll see how things go today. Ukraine still seems to be standing this morning, which has been on my mind non-stop these last few days since the invasion started, and I really need to block that out. I’ve been thinking a lot these last few days about the other places in the world being visited by the horrors of war and oppression (the Uyghurs in China, Yemen) and how those stories aren’t (or weren’t) being covered with the same kind of blanket 24/7 reporting. That saddens me, as it does send the signal that Americans don’t care about Uyghurs or Yemenis, but do care about white Ukrainians.

Even when it comes to foreign policy, we can’t escape racism, can we?

Today is a day off, obviously and I am going to take full advantage of that. I am going to try to finish writing that story this morning–it’s been a struggle–and I am going to be productive and effective today; which means closing social media completely and only checking in periodically when I take a break from working. The house is a mess, filing needs to be done, and I am going to use today as an organizing/writing/get caught up day. I am going to not bother with emails this day because that is exhausting and I don’t want to get off track. I don’t hear either Zulu or Rex down at the corner–I’ll probably wander down there at some point–probably when I am barbecuing lunch–to get an idea of crowds and so forth.

Paul and I watched Toy Boy last night after he got home from work–I was actually half-dozing in my easy chair when he got home–and we have only two episodes left. It’s very strange and different this season from the last; there’s a new villain (and he is sexy as fuck) and the restructuring of the corrupt wealthy people who run the city in order to deal with this new threat has been interesting. Lots of sex and nudity, lots of male strippers in bikinis, but some also seriously strange side subplots that indicate that the producers and writers may not have a real idea of what they are doing. The gay couple from season one is hardly in this at all, and their relationship doesn’t make any sense this season at all; them meeting and falling in love while dealing with rejection and mental illness and disability was quite powerful in season one; this season they aren’t doing much of anything and are hardly in the show at all, which is disappointing.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and while I am always sad to see Carnival end, this year was a bit bittersweet. I only went out to King Arthur to see friends; we went to Muses to get Paul’s shoe (mission accomplished) and I went to Iris on Saturday; a significant difference from our usual “out there every night” type parade season. But I never felt entirely comfortable out there in the crowds–it’s going to take a while before I stop thinking everyone is contagious–and of course, this year was a more difficult one for Paul with his events at the end of this new month; people having to cancel because of nervousness about traveling, etc. I always look forward every year for the festivals to be over–I worry about Paul’s long hours and stress levels–but I think this year more than any other year I really want to get to April intact. I tested myself for COVID this morning and I am not infected; I will test myself again tomorrow before I go into the office just to be certain, and probably will again this coming weekend. I always wear masks in public anyway, so even if I am contagious the odds of giving it to anyone else are decreased; and I wash my hands (or use hand sanitizer) a lot. But I will be really glad and happy once the threat has finally passed, you know? I don’t know if this is how we are going to be living from now on, or if work is going to continue to change or evolve or go back to what it was before the pandemic (which I rather doubt); everything is still uncertain, and uncertainty isn’t something humans–especially this one–cope with very well.

And on that note, I am going to get cleaned up and get to work. Happy Mardi Gras, everyone!

I Second That Emotion

Wednesday and parades start again tonight. I did make a brief grocery run last night and picked up the mail on my way home from work–which was lovely and I am terribly glad I did, since it won’t be an option again until Friday morning. I don’t think I’ll be attending parades tonight–I will probably never attend a Nyx parade again, which is a shame, since they were becoming a favorite, until their descent into controversy; the last time they paraded they had 4000 riders, and are now down to 240, which is testament to the mass exodus from Nyx a few years back–but probably wouldn’t have even had there been no Nyx controversy; I have to get up early tomorrow morning and so standing out on the parade route (the low today is going to be 71, sob) until all hours simply isn’t in the cards for me this Carnival anyway. I will go to Muses tomorrow night, of course–don’t have to get up so early for Work-at-Home Friday, after all.

I slept extremely deeply and well last night, which was quite marvelous. I woke up before the alarm–why is it that those moments between hitting the snooze button and actually getting up are so magical and comfy in the bed?–and don’t feel tired this morning, physically or mentally. I have to leave the office early today–they close the streets early for the parades, plus the parking situation will probably already be out of control by the time I get home–and I am hoping to make a quick dash to the gym this evening as well. It feels good–I feel so much better physically overall–to be working out; my muscles feel stretched and worked, which is nice and I am sure that is also helping me sleep better as well. Yay! I’m not as concerned as getting ripped and lean as I used to obsess over; sure, weight loss would be great, but I am really more concerned about just feeling better physically more than anything else (the stretching alone! Tres magnifique!). And it would be nice to get my blood pressure and cholesterol down so I could stop taking medication for it….and the best way to do that is through diet and exercise. I can do the exercise part but the diet part will be a little rougher, obviously; I’ve always had issues with eating healthy. (I did for a number of years, but then got out of the habit and reverted to my old ways…but as long as I was regularly exercising, it didn’t matter. Once I stopped exercising…yes, well, I should have expected the weight gain, shouldn’t I?)

I have to say I have been in kind of a lull about writing lately. I’m not sure what it is–burnout, maybe–but I have struggled so much with this short story that I am giving up on that it triggers all kinds of other doubts in my head that I really don’t need to be having. I know I can resolve this by getting into writing something and getting some good stuff down on the page, but I am trying to figure out what story to tackle now for this deadline and it’s…not going well. Of course, I could just not submit anything–I certainly don’t have to–but the pay is nice if they take my story–really nice, and they did reach out to me rather than the other way around so…but I have some potentials, I suppose. I just need to take some time to sit down and go through the files and see what’s there, really there, rather than just skimming over the folders and wondering if this one might work or that one might work…after braving the grocery store yesterday, doing two loads of laundry, emptying the dishwasher and doing another load…I was a bit tired.

Of course, the plan is to go to the gym tonight. Maybe those endorphins will help me to decide on which story to focus on. I mean, I only have five or six days left…

Heavy heaving sigh.

It’s also weird adjusting to my new work week. I am delighted, of course, that I slept well last night and feel like I have energy today and can get things accomplished and finished and crossed off the list, but I keep forgetting that oh yeah I have to come in tomorrow this isn’t my Friday anymore and it’s always a disappointing jolt. But…since Mondays and Fridays are work-at-home days, and Fat Tuesday is a holiday…after tomorrow I don’t have to return to the office until Ash Wednesday, and only have to come into the office two days next week. This isn’t a bad thing. And I also have another story to write before the end of March, too.

So, I probably should head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Mid-week Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will be back tomorrow.

Uptight (Everything’s Alright)

Tuesday morning and we’re still in the brief respite we get in Parade Season, the second of the two day period where there are no parades. I will have to leave the office early both tomorrow and Thursday to get home before the streets are closed; Friday I will have to run errands in the morning. I am going to swing by the grocery store and the post office on my way home this evening, since I won’t be able to do either again until Friday morning, and of course I won’t be able to leave the neighborhood from Friday evening at five pm through Monday morning–because who knows what time Bacchus will be finished Sunday night? And it’s not likely I’ll be in the mood to make a grocery run then, anyway.

Heavy sigh.

The struggle living inside the parade route is real.

I am tired this morning but not sleepy tired; more that my muscles are tired from going to the gym yesterday. My mental acuity is there (I think) but it just depends. I have also decided this morning that this story I’ve been trying to finish for this March 1 deadline simply isn’t going to work. I think it can work, at some point; I just right now can’t wrap my mind around the concept of how to justify committing the murder gels in my main character’s head; the motivations just aren’t strong enough, and I need him to kill this guy just isn’t good enough to make the story work (of course, on March 2 it will come to me), So I am going to dig through the files today and tonight to see if I can find something else that I can finish or rewrite to make work for this call. I still have a week, and of course March 1 is a stay-at-home holiday for me (no Fat Tuesday partying for me this year, thank you very much), so I have that entire day to work on it–which is also incredibly helpful. Just going through the files this morning between answering emails and taking breaks from writing this has been enormously helpful already–also has reminded me of some really good ideas I’ve had but never saw all the way through to a completed draft (“To Sacrifice a Pawn” is a really nasty little story, and so is “The Flagellants”), which is also a good thing.

And I really need to make a new to-do list. I also need to get all my notes of things I need to get done together to create a master list of everything that I need to get done. Heavy heaving sigh.

But we did finish watching Reacher last night, and while it was disappointing to confirm that each season will indeed follow another book in the series and Reacher himself will most likely be the only carry-over character (I’d become attached to some of the other members of the cast, especially Willa Fitzgerald) it makes sense because Reacher is, by nature, a paladin or a knight errant; a man who wanders and whom trouble often finds. Therefore you can’t have any regular characters on the show other than the man himself…which means never get attached to any of the other characters (because they are also disposable and can be killed off at any moment) because they will not be carrying over into the next season. But I thought the show was incredibly well done and well cast and well written; it’s one of the better thriller series I’ve seen, and I am definitely going to keep watching when it returns.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you tomorrow.

I’ll Try Something New

Yesterday was not only Work-at-Home Friday, but also one of the rare days where I never finished my blog entry for the day. I got up earlier than usual–part of my plan for days when I don’t have to go into the office early is to get up early anyway, with the weekend (like this morning) designated as sleep-in days where it doesn’t matter. I had to do a visit with a college fiction class–I’m not sure whether it was a writing class or a short fiction class, to be honest–over ZOOM about my story in Josh Pachter’s anthology The Beat of Black Wings, which was themed as crime stories based on Joni Mitchell songs. (My story was “The Silky Veils of Ardor”, for the record) That was nice, and then I did some condom packing before I had to go into the office for a meeting with the new head of my department at the office (another transition I have to get used to, not easy for someone who easily falls into routines and ruts) before returning home for some data entry work before Paul got home. I was drained last night from unusual Friday activities, so I just settled in to wait for him to come home while starting to watch this season of Real Housewives of Orange County (I’ve become ambivalent about these shows which I used to love; but that’s a topic for another time). Paul got home in time for the LSU-Alabama gymnastics meet (LSU won, GEAUX TIGERS!), after which we watched the season finale for Peacemaker (which was terrific) and then watched the first episode of Reacher, which we both loved (Alan Ritchson is perfect, an excellent cast, great production values, and good writing; what more can one ask for? We’re all in on Reacher). There were parades last night, but I was tired and worn out and I am also kind of iffy about parade attendance….but I do have at home COVID tests, so I can at least self-test if I do go to the parades before I go into the office as Typhoid Mary. There are parades all day today, starting at one.

So, this means St. Charles Avenue will be closed by noon, and I will be trapped inside my neighborhood essentially until King Arthur passes tomorrow.

Today I intend to work on stuff and clean the house. It feels cold and chilly in the Lost Apartment this morning, and it’s not as sunny as I would like for a day of parades (clouds everywhere) but by Wednesday it will be 81 degrees in New Orleans. Yikes! Talk about unseasonal weather…sure, sometimes we do have gorgeous and warm weather during Carnival–I remember any number of gorgeous weather Fat Tuesdays over the years–but it’s been a hot minute since we’ve had that kind of weather on the last weekend of Carnival, which means the corner will be INSANE for all the big parades. I didn’t go out there myself last night, but Paul walked up the parade route to come home from work and eventually detoured off St. Charles because it was so crowded and insane. He did go look at our corner to see how big the crowds were here–not too bad, certainly not as bad as further down river, but still more people than usual for the first weekend of parades with not terribly pleasant weather–but if it’s sunny and warm next weekend it will literally be insane out there.

I had also intended to go to the gym yesterday but that never happened; as I said, when I got home from my meeting I was exhausted and it just didn’t seem like the smartest decision. I will probably go later this morning/early afternoon most likely; after getting some things done around here. I hate that I was so tired yesterday, but in retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised. Doing events where I have to be “on” are always debilitating to me and wear me out; even if it is on ZOOM and not in person. I don’t know why I always forget that…but it was a wonderful experience–those sorts of things always are, really, I just wish I weren’t so damned introverted and shy that putting forth the effort to not be introverted and shy is inevitably so exhausting. I really felt drained the rest of the day–I still have a bit of residual hangover this morning from it, despite not getting up until after eight. But I am having coffee and king cake–if caffeine and a plate full of sugar doesn’t revive me completely, it’s really a hopeless case–and hope to really kick it up a notch. I need to finish the first draft of “Condos for Sale or Rent”, and I would also like to start editing my manuscript. Reading would also be nice–I’ve not read a novel in a while, and I really do need to get back into the reading habit. I’m hoping we can watch more Reacher tonight…but I have to get a lot done today in order to watch and enjoy without guilt.

I’ve not commented on the Olympics in a few days, but seriously–I am so utterly appalled by the disgusting exhibit put on by the Russians, particularly when it comes to those young girls. The entire world got to see child abuse put on full display in all of its ugly callousness this week, and my heart breaks for all three of those girls, but especially poor Kamila. Shame on the Court of Arbitration for Sport– which really needs to be investigated itself and perhaps recalibrated–because what they did in allowing that poor girl to skate has psychologically damaged her for the rest of her life. I doubt seriously we will ever see or hear anything from or about her again after she returns to the hell her life will now be in Russia, and those disgusting abusers will not be punished and this torture and abuse of young girls will continue for the greater glory of Mother Russia. I refused to watch the ladies’ final, and I am now incredibly glad that I didn’t–I won’t even watch highlights (or lowlights, as it were) because I have no desire to see abused children suffer more. The CAS destroyed these Olympics, and perhaps it’s time for there to be serious consideration of ending the entire Olympic movement. If ever there was a time when the world needed to come together to celebrate athletic accomplishment, it was this year–and boy, were we ever let down. If this is what we are going to have to witness in future Olympics, count me out–and I am a lifelong fan.

And on that note, these dishes aren’t going to wash themselves, the floors aren’t going to vacuum themselves, and my stories aren’t going to write themselves, either. Have a lovely first Saturday of Carnival, Constant Reader, and I will shout at you again tomorrow.

I’m So Glad (I Got Somebody Like You Around)

And now it is Wednesday, aka Pay-the-Bill day, and I actually had already started paying the bills yesterday. Yay? But at least I can pay them without any stress about buying the groceries or missing a payment or anything. There are few things worse, really, than financial stress–I can’t think of a single situation that financial stress has ever made better, for example.

I did sleep pretty well again last night, and I think maybe my body is beginning to get used to the getting up at six a.m. thing at long last. I certainly am not sleepy or tired this morning (I’d still rather be in bed under my blankets, though) and my mind feels pretty awake thus far. I got tired yesterday afternoon, but I get tired every afternoon at the office, frankly; I didn’t think too much of it. I also managed to do another load of dishes and laundry last night when I got home before collapsing into my easy chair with the Chlorine folder. I thought I’d been reading the wrong versions the other day, and I was correct; there were more recent versions of those first three chapters, and I reread them last evening. They were much better than the sloppy mess I originally read the other night, which was an enormous relief (after reading them Sunday or Monday I was actually thinking well, I need to revise these or this project is completely not worth even trying). The voice and tone need to be cleaned up a bit, and there are contradictions and continuity errors to be sure, but over all I think it’s going in a better direction than I had thought based on the last reading. I am actually kind of excited to be getting back to it as well.

I did some more work on the anthology yesterday as well, and am hopeful that I’ll continue making progress on it until it is actually finished and out of my hair once and for all. It’s always a lovely feeling to be making progress–yesterday I really felt like I wasn’t just spinning my wheels but was actually getting somewhere, the tires were actually getting traction on the road, and that’s a lovely feeling. I also went through my to-do list yesterday, crossed off a bunch of things, and realized that hey, it’s time for a new to-do list and felt very accomplished, to be honest. It felt really good. I stopped and got the mail on the way home, too–my copies of Cupid Shot Me were there, as was the new Robyn Gigl, Survivor’s Guilt (a great title, he typed with an eyebrow raised and an amused smile)–and I decided that I really need to get back to reading. Tonight is my night to get back to the gym after work for my second workout of the week (muscles still feel good this morning from Monday night), knowing it will probably be half-assed and so forth because it will probably be very crowded by the time I get there; but a half-assed workout is better than no workout, and then I can come home and relax, maybe read for a while. I want to get some more work done on “Condos for Sale or Rent” this week, and I am also playing around with the ideas for the sequel for A Streetcar Named Murder, should they want one…I think the title I am going to use is The House of the Seven Grables, and I think I know how to make that title work as well (publisher will probably hate it, so the back-up title will have to be something like Death on a Hot Tin Roof or The Hound and the Fury or something along those lines). So I am feeling creative again–those batteries have clearly recharged completely and finally, thank you baby Jesus–and am sleeping well and am feeling content these days, which is lovely. It’s still parade season–they start on Friday and run all weekend–which is going to take some adapting to and is inevitably going to make me feel even more tired (but hey, Fat Tuesday is a paid holiday, so that week will be a disrupted and shorter work week, which is always pleasant and a nice surprise), but that’s the price of living inside the parade route.

I have to say it’s really nice feeling creative again, even if it’s all over the place. The return of the creative ADHD is always a pleasant surprise; I just need to remember to stop riffing and brainstorming and actually laser-focus my attention on something to write, which for now is going to be that short story that is due by March 1 and the other due on April 1; both have been started but are nowhere near finished in even a first draft form. I think both have potential, really; and I also am thinking about trying my luck with Ellery Queen again, if I can get a story I have almost nearly ready polished and revised. I had been writing a story for the Bouchercon anthology, but am not really sure now if I should send it to the blind readers or not. (My last two stories for Bouchercon anthologies made it through the blind read process; but I also only wrote stories for the ones I was editing. Even though it was fairly done–the readers didn’t know either story was mine–it looked untoward. I do think the fact both stories went on to be nominated for awards undermined any controversy or smack talk done behind my back…but I think this time around I am going to take the story and sell it elsewhere. It’s a good story, and I am betting I can sell it somewhere else. And I think we got a lot of really good stories submitted for this anthology; it’s not like it needs a story by me; not that any anthology ever does, of course.) There are some other stories, too, that I’d like to get finished at some point…

And on that note, I think I should head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.