Love Train

Yesterday I had the privilege of reading a personal essay that did what all good personal essays do: it connected with me on a deeply personal level. That’s what the best kind of writing does; it connects with you. One of the myriad of reasons I love Stephen King’s work is because I can connect with the humanity of his characters–even the bad ones, and that’s truly skill.

If you would like to read Laura Lippman’s powerful essay on body image and getting older–something I myself have been wrestling with lately, as I get older and my body morphs into something I’m not sure I entirely recognize anymore–right here; trust me, you will NOT regret clicking here.

I’ve been wrestling this week with a lot of things: exhaustion from the pressures and anxieties of recent weather situations down here; concern about my inability to get work done on any of my writing; concern about money (always); and many of my volunteering responsibilities. A lot of it had to do with being tired and having low blood sugar-I don’t stress eat, whenever I’m under any kind of pressure it has the opposite effect: I don’t eat at all and lose my appetite completely. I rarely ever get hungry in the first place, and often have to ensure that I schedule myself time to eat so that I will actually remember to eat. (I know, it’s weird) But the older I get the more important it is for me to remember to eat because of the blood sugar thing. When my blood sugar drops, I have no energy or patience, and the lack of energy and patience often leads to a muddled mind which isn’t capable of writing or editing. The inability to write or edit (or even read) anything then creates more stress and anxiety, which means further loss of appetite. WHen Paul was out of town I found myself forgetting to eat almost constantly; the same situation developed over the weekend. It peaked finally yesterday, and having to run an errand to pick up a prescription in Mid-city afforded me the opportunity to pick up Five Guys for lunch–and eating a substantial meal made such an incredible difference in my day–once I’d eaten, I had energy and my sense of humor came back. I had been avoiding doing some things–like dealing with my email inbox–for days; not even wanting to read any of them because I simply couldn’t face dealing with them. But after I finish this I am going to start working my way through my emails with a goal to having the inbox officially cleared out by the end of today.

I know I can do it.

I’ve always had a tendency to put off dealing with unpleasant things because I simply didn’t want to face up to them; taking the Scarlett O’Hara “I don’t want to think about that now, I’ll think about that tomorrow” approach, and then continuing to push them away every day until,  of course, it was too late and the situation had become much worse. In my mid-thirties I finally recognized the reality that it’s always easier to deal with a shitty situation earlier rather than later and getting it over with–waiting never made anything better, nor did it resolve the problem, no matter how much I hoped the problem might somehow resolve itself over time. I have a shit ton of messages, for example, on various websites and even on Facebook messenger, that I’ve not answered. And while responses to messages and emails always beget more messages and emails, you can’t just keep letting them sit. I used to make myself crazy responding to everything; I used to have a very strict “everything must be answered within twenty-four hours” policy, which also sometimes provoked anxiety and also sometimes created more work for myself. I’ve taught myself to walk away from the email and the messages; no one needs to be on call 24/7, and I am, like anyone else, entitled to downtime and relaxation. I generally stop answering my emails after seven every day; the evenings are my writing and watching television and spending time with Paul time, and that’s kind of sacrosanct. There are very few things that actually demand, after all, immediate attention. I also restrict myself from dealing with emails on the weekend; that is my down time for cleaning around the house, running errands, and writing. That has really worked well for me, and I am going to stick to that going forward, with the occasional exception.

I’ve also not been as organized as I would like, going back to the Great Data Disaster of 2018. I’ve felt kind of at sea since then; that horrible weekend stalled the great momentum I was building and I’ve never really regained it since then. I’ve felt lost, like I’m treading water but barely keeping my head above the surface. That needs to stop, and I guess recognizing that there’s a problem is the first step in taking corrective action on it. I haven’t really felt like myself pretty much this entire year, like I’m one step behind my life. Other times it feels like I’m simply observing my life as it passes me by, which isn’t a particularly good feeling.

So, in the spirit of Laura’s essay, I am going to stop beating myself up over things, and try to focus on the positive, rather than the negative.

And on that note, I have some emails to answer. Happy Wednesday, Constant Reader.

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Sara

Sunday morning, and the time change has me bleary-eyed and irritated. I hate losing an hour, absolutely hate it, and would gladly give up that extra hour of sleep in the fall that makes up for it being taken away now. It’s always disorienting, and it’s been hard enough recovering from the one-two-three punch of the Great Data Disaster of 2018 followed by the weeks of Carnival followed  by the Laptop Death of 2019. Seriously, I am so not in the mood for this.

But I suppose it’s a sign that spring is on its way, with the blasting heat of the summer right behind. I need to get caught up on my homework for the panel I’m moderating–I did have a lovely experience yesterday at the car wash while reading Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister while I waited for them to finish cleaning my car. I spent most of yesterday being a trifle on the lazy side; I was worn out and the rest was kind of necessary, although I probably should have read more. I did do the laundry, ran the errands that needed running, and wound up back home extremely worn out, and made the perhaps not good decision to simply relax and rest for the rest of the day rather than doing anything constructive.

I watched American Graffiti again Friday night for the first time in decades; it’s available on Starz, and as I scrolled through the available options I thought why not? The movie itself, which was a huge deal when released, made a fortune, and got a number of Oscar nominations (including best picture), was one I remembered a bit fondly, and in all the hubbub of George Lucas/Star Wars, people tend to forget American Graffiti was the hit movie  that actually made him, and made Star Wars financing a possibility in the first place. I think he was even nominated for best director? I don’t recall. But American Graffiti was notable to me as a young teenager because it triggered a nostalgia wave for the 1950’s at the time; the soundtrack was hugely successful, and anthology albums of hits from the 1950’s became all the rage. (The irony that the film was actually set in 1962 was lost on everyone.) It’s actually kind of a dark film, really; while it reintroduced Chinese fire drills and cruising and sock hops and the music of the period to teenagers (the Beach Boys also came back to prominence; their double album greatest hits compilation Endless Summer was released during this nostalgia craze) rewatching the film now, the darkness is plain to see. Vietnam is on the horizon, and the ‘innocence’ of these teens, on the brink of adulthood, isn’t all that innocent, really. There wasn’t really a cohesive plot; it was just a mishmash of interconnected characters with their own stories sometimes bisecting others–very Robert Altman-esque in that way.

And as I said earlier, it did lead to a 50’s nostalgia craze, which eventually led to shows like Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, which also wound up starring Ron Howard and Cindy Williams, as the film did. Richard Dreyfuss also has a lead, and this was before Jaws and his Oscar for The Goodbye Girl and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The movie kind of launched quite a few careers. It was also one of the first “teen movies” to be quite so dark, a big change from the silliness of the Disney films for teens at the time or the beach movies of the 60’s. An argument could, in fact, be made that American Graffiti set the stage for the 1980’s teen movies that redefined the genre.

I’ve also always kind of thought that the kids from Graffiti who went off to college became the adults in The Big Chill, but that’s just me. (There was a sequel, More American Graffiti, that was made in 1979, but the less said about that the better.)

I also rewatched Play Misty for Me, which is also available on Starz. Play Misty for Me was the original Fatal Attraction, also was Clint Eastwood’s first film as a director (he also starred), and scared the crap out of me when I was a kid; we saw it as a family at the drive-in, part of a triple feature with another Eastwood film, High Plains Drifter (which I think is his best Western), and a really bad low-budget movie starring country singer Marty Robbins called Guns of a Stranger–which was so laughably bad it became kind of a benchmark/joke for my family for years. I’ve never seen Play Misty for Me again, and so was curious; I remember Jessica Walters played Evelyn Draper, the “Alex Forrest” of the movie, and was absolutely terrifying as the psycho woman obsessed with Clint Eastwood’s Carmel deejay (I also recognized a lot of the locations as the same ones used for Big Little Lies). It doesn’t hold up as well on a rewatch some forty years later, alas; it has a lot of “first director-itis”, and kind of has a “made for TV” feel to it, but it was a pretty adequate little thriller, and was groundbreaking in its way–it was really the first movie to deal with a stalker situation.

I seem to have also developed some kind of a strain in my right calf muscle; I’m not sure what that’s all about, but it’s not incredibly painful or anything; but I am always aware of it when I’m walking. Crazy.

So, I have lots of plans for today now that my coffee is starting to kick in; I’m looking forward to doing some cleaning today, writing some, and of course, reading. Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister is quite good, and I can’t wait to get caught up in it later today when I finish my chores and to-do list.

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

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Should’ve Never Let You Go

And my first morning of vacation looms bright, with a stunningly blue sky and the sun blinding me through my windows. The clouds will roll in later this afternoon, per the weather forecast, and the thunderstorms aren’t supposed to arrive until around eleven; well after the second parade has passed. Tonight’s parades are Druids and (Stevie) Nyx; so only two, to prep us for the madness of Thursday, which includes Muses.

So much to get done today, should I choose to do any of it; I need to get caught back up on Scotty revising, and there’s always cleaning to do around the Lost Apartment. I also have to make groceries and collect the mail, and I’d like to go to the gym at some point this afternoon as well to begin my reconnection with taking better care of my body. There’s also reading to do; I need to read the next story in the Murder-a-Go-Go’s anthology, and I need to finish the ghost story I’m reading in Norah Lofts’ Hauntings, and of course, the delicious pleasure that is Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long also awaits on the end table next to my reclining chair. I need to set aside some time to finish that because I need to read my homework for the panel I’m moderating at the Tennessee Williams Festival–Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister, Samantha Downing’s My Lovely Wife, and Kristien Hemmerechts’ The Woman Who Fed the Dogs. I am also falling very far behind on the Diversity Project, which is enormously disappointing to me.

I’m sort of in a malaise in which I keep putting things off because I don’t want to do them, which isn’t really like me–or at least, the me I’ve been for the last half of my life. The first half of my life was when I just avoided things I didn’t want to deal with, which never ended well. I’m not entirely sure what’s causing it, and the Great Data Disaster of 2018 was so long ago now (three months, almost four!) that I can’t keep blaming things on it; but I can really trace this back to losing that weekend’s worth of work and getting derailed…because I was also on a roll at that point, and I’ve never quite gotten that momentum back.

Something innocuous I posted on social media blew up in a way I certainly never intended, and no, I don’t mean the post that someone needs to do a noir reboot of The Partridge Family, which I still think is a brilliant idea–after all, we never really know what happened to Shirley’s husband, who is rarely, if ever mentioned; and let’s face it, none of those kids looked even remotely related to each other. I envision Shirley as a not only a black widow going through numerous husbands and baby-daddies, but also being a horrific stage mother, forcing her children into musical careers, while having an affair with their sleazy manager, Reuben.

No, I idly posted that someone needs to do one of those music-inspired crime anthologies based on the music of Pat Benatar…and then came up with the title, Crimes of Passion: Crimes Stories Inspired by the Music of Pat Benatar.

Well, it kind of took off, with people replying to my tweet that they’d write to it, or responding on Facebook that they wanted to, even going so far as to pick the songs they wanted. At first–I was at work–I wanted to say, yo, everyone, it was just a thought, I’m not actually doing this but as the day went on I began to think, more and more, that hey, maybe you should think about doing this. More than enough people have offered to write for it, so many so that if anyone drops out there would still be more than enough stories to fill out a volume and for it to be really good.

So…I’m considering it, and considering publishers to approach. So maybe, just maybe, that will be my next anthology.

MAYBE.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Against the Wind

Yesterday I only managed to revise one chapter, but I am chalking that up as a win. I figured if I do one chapter a day it’ll be done by the end of the month, and there will be days when I’ll revise more than one, which will put me further ahead of schedule. This weekend I managed to get caught up–I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but what I did get done caught me up again, and that’s really what I needed to have happen. And it did. So, that’s a win.

I don’t know why I am so hard on myself.

Seriously.

I’ve not decided what to read next. I checked Caleb Roehrig’s White Rabbit, a queer y/a, out from the library, but I kind of also want to read either Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett or Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things, which is a vampire novel set in Mexico City and comes highly recommended by my horror peeps. I’ve got an entire pile of diverse books, including John Copenhaver’s Dodging and Burning, Kristen Lepionka’s The Last Place You Look,  Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths, Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go and Cotton Comes to Harlem, Frankie Bailey’s The Red Queen Dies…so many wonderful diverse books–and there’s even more than that. I know I have a Rachel Howzell Hall book on the shelves somewhere, and it might not, actually, be a bad idea to dive into some New Orleans/Louisiana history…decisions, decisions.

There are, frankly, worse things in life, to be honest, then being unable to decide which book you want to read next.

I think my sleep schedule is finally stabilizing. I slept very well on Sunday evening and as such, wasn’t tired even after a twelve hour shift yesterday when I got home. We’ll see how tired I am tonight when I get home from work after day two of twelve hour shift; but instead of working straight through, I have a doctor’s appointment in between testing shifts so I’ll be doing that instead…and since I’ll be over in that part of time, am going to treat myself to Five Guys for lunch. Huzzah for Five Guys!

One can never go wrong with a delicious burger. And Cajun fries to go with it. YUM.

Ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018, I’ve felt disconnected in some ways to all the projects I was brainstorming before it happened…which is why I think reading some local history might just do the trick of reenergizing me with the Monsters of New Orleans project. My life is so defined by said Data Disaster that I can hardly remember what was going on before it happened, and I’ve felt, as I have said numerous times, disconnected, and not just from Monsters of New Orleans, but from everything, and when I try to get everything back on track, it just seems like all those things are adrift in fog and I can’t quite get my hands on them again.

Which, obviously, sucks. But it’s life.

I had all kinds of plans for the future before a little disruption called Hurricane Katrina came along, too. And the time before the evacuation seems like it was a million years ago, and I can barely remember the time evacuated or the time after I returned, or that first year back in the carriage house. My memory is a sieve–and I used to have the most insane memory! I could remember all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys titles in order, and could even tell you the plots. I used to be able to remember details about every book I’d read, including plot and characters and scenes. I used to be amazing at Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit. Not so much anymore, sadly. I like to think I am forgetting things now because there’s so much more to remember, and some things are getting crowded out by new memories…but I think it’s more a symptom of being older than anything else.

Sigh.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Coming Up

Happy New Year!

I chose to take a break from the Internet yesterday; no checking social media, no checking email, no hassling with anything on-line at all. Sometimes I think we forget how much the Internet has taken over our lives in the last ten years or so–at least, since the smart phone changed everything along with social media. It was, quite frankly, lovely to just relax and pay no attention to the rest of the world. I worked on the WIP for a good while yesterday, and thought about the fixes Scotty needs; I watched the LSU game (GEAUX TIGERS!) and some of the later bowl games as well. We’ve finally started watching Killing Eve, which we are loving (we might always be late to the party, but we always are most enthusiastic once we arrive). I wonder–has anyone read the books the show is based on? I might have to add them to the TBR pile.

Which, of course, is enormous.

I am hoping to finish my reread of The Shining this week; it’s a short work week, of course, because of the long holiday weekend, and I am working my usual half-day on Friday. We then work two full weeks before yet another three day holiday weekend for Martin Luther King Day, and of course, Carnival begins on Sunday with the arrival of Twelfth Night. I am going to have to take vacation time for the parades, because I can’t get to and from work with my car on parade days, so for the first time in years I can actually enjoy the parades without being exhausted from everything entailed with getting to and from work and passing out condoms in the Quarter. Plus, it will be a lovely little break as well, as well as not having to plan my days thoroughly to make sure I can get all the errands in around street closures and so forth.

Which is an enormous relief, quite frankly. I’m getting too old for all that stuff.

It’s also amazing how much email can pile up in your inbox when you take a day off to unplug. I think I might have to make that a Saturday or Sunday thing every week, to be honest. It was most lovely.

I also managed to re-initialize my old back-up hard drive that ceased working during the Great Data Disaster of 2018. Much as I hated seeing all that data and work lost, most of it had been reconstructed by now anyway and so whatever is gone may as well be gone forever; there was no guarantee the Apple Store would have been able to retrieve any of the data and I think that the loss wasn’t really that big of a deal. I no longer feel discombobulated by the loss of data, and I think I’ve finally reached the place where I can focus and get back into everything that needs to get done without worries or feeling disconnected from everything. It’s kind of lovely, really; I’ve felt so out of it ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018 that I wasn’t certain I was ever going to get to a place where I would feel organized again.

And with me, organization (and being on top of things) is vitally important otherwise I won’t ever get anything done.

And it’s a new year, the one in which I turn fifty-eight. Huzzah! I am still feeling like I can achieve all my goals this year; I just have to stay focused and practice self-care.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Silent Night

Friday and we are somehow getting through this infernal time between Christmas and New Year’s. Every year I think to myself self, next year you need to take this time off, and every year I forget. Like an idiot.

I’m putting this on my 2019 calendar right the fuck now.

Seriously.

But we’ve made it to Friday, haven’t we, Constant Reader? I’ve managed to get back to work writing–although I should be working on polishing the Scotty, I’ve been bogged down with Bury Me in Satin so keep trying to work my way through it. But I need to get back to the Scotty and cleaning it up; the problem being I am so heartily sick of the opening chapters I don’t even want to look at them anymore. I am going to try to revise and polish the last six chapters, and then work my way back through the entire manuscript, and I still have to write the epilogue. I need to snap out of this malaise/funk I’ve been in ever since the Great Data Disaster, and seriously climb back into the writing and editing, else it will never be done. NEVER. I also need to start reading again. I’d like to finish my reread of The Shining, so I can move on to my reread of Pet Sematary, and then I am going to work my way through the TBR pile….as I’ve said before, I’m going to try to read more minority and diverse writers this next year. I’ve been buying their books all this time, of course, but the books have been languishing in my TBR pile–along with a lot of other books and authors–and I also need to read outside of the crime genre for a while, as well.

I’ve always believed reading is a crucial part of writing; you can’t be a good writer if you don’t love to read, and reading is also an excellent education in writing. The best writers should inspire you to want to equal or better them, or at least to do better with your own writing. I think not publishing anything for quite some time has also done a number on my confidence as a writer; I think we all tend to be our own harshest critics. I need to stop listening to those horrible voices in my head with their nasty whispers that undermine my confidence and make me worry about my writing; that give me Imposter Syndrome and encourage me to not bother writing anything.

Which is also self-defeating, and self-annihilation, and self-destructive.

So I am going to try to use this long weekend to reboot my life and reboot my brain and get back on track with everything. I need to read some more New Orleans history, and I need to figure out what short stories need to be finished or reworked; I realized the other day what is wrong with my story “The Problem with Autofill” and I don’t know if I can rework it properly; I don’t think the premise actually works. I probably need to free-associate the story and the root problem at its core, and figure out how to fix it. The title is probably going to have to go–perhaps I can use it for another story with a different plot–but I think there’s something there with the story and I can make something work with it.

Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.

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Jingle Bells

Getting used to being back at work is always a chore at the best of times.

Having to go in early two of the only three days I have to work is simply insult to injury, quite frankly. I only hit the snooze button three times this morning, though, and while I am not completely awake as of yet, I don’t feel sleepy or groggy. I am hoping this is a good sign.

I managed to eke out another thousand or so words on the book yesterday; which I am taking as a triumph. I am not certain why this is moving so slow, or why it is so hard for me to get used to working on it; I don’t think my writing muscles are rusty or as tired as I would like to think they must be–any excuse in a storm, really–but if I can get through today and tomorrow it’s another four day weekend and hopefully this discombobulated feeling will pass soon enough.

One can hope, any way.

I watched a great documentary on Youtube after work last night about Versailles, and personal hygiene at the court of Louis XIV. It was very interesting; one of the things that is almost always missing from biographies, historical novels, and histories are the personal touches from daily life–dentistry, breath, body odors, cleanliness, etc.–and how it has changed over the years. We would consider Versailles and the courtiers disgustingly filthy and revolting; they thought they were at the pinnacle of personal cleanliness. The documentary–you should watch, if this sort of thing interests you–is called Versailles’ Dirty Secrets.

Speaking of Versailles, I am hoping the third and final season will be free to streaming soon.

I do feel sort of adrift, I have to say; I realized it last night as I worked on the book. Ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018 I no longer trust my computer or its back-ups; nor do I remember exactly what I was working on or what was going on in my head with my writing before it happened. I know I had a lot of momentum and quite a head of steam, and was forging ahead full speed and damn the torpedoes…and I hate that I am kind of lost and floundering now.

Thanks for that, Apple.

So if last weekend had a “catch up on your rest, do some deep cleaning, and clear out electronic files” theme, this weekend will have a get back to work and remember what you were doing and GET BACK ON TOP OF THINGS theme.

And I have luncheon at Commander’s Palace on Monday to look forward to.

And now back to the spice mines.

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