Gold and Braid

Positive again this morning, despite waking up and feeling pretty good–and then I remembered the last few mornings were the same and it started kicking in about an hour after getting up. So, I am sitting here drinking my first cup of coffee, staring glumly at the two lines on my test strip, and waiting for this stupid virus to wake up inside my body and start fucking with me again. Ah, well, I should make use of this hour, shouldn’t I?

Yesterday was glum, really. I started experiencing fever for the first time since I tested positive last Friday or whenever it was, and that was particularly unpleasant. I did, however, realize hey one of the things you’ve never done is have things delivered rather than going to the store, and since I needed to be isolated from the world during this period, I thought why not go check and see if, say, Costco will deliver? So I went to their website, saw that yes, indeed, I could have an order delivered to my front door, and so I did. When Ashanti (my shopper/driver/delivery person) arrived, I put on rubber gloves and a N95 mask to go meet her at the gate–she saw the mask and gloves and wisely kept her distance (I have never before in my life understood how lepers must have felt back in the day the way I did when I saw the look on her face)–and then wore myself out lugging everything back to the Lost Apartment…but still, I got the stuff I needed. I couldn’t focus long enough to read anything–I had started Sandra SG Wong’s marvelous In the Dark We Forget at some point over the weekend, but I wasn’t really able to get far into it or focus on it yesterday, either–so I mostly spent the day under blankets in the easy chair trying to brainstorm and so forth on the things I am working on–without much luck. I also had a marketing meeting yesterday afternoon over the phone with Crooked Lane, which was daunting–reminding me again how far behind on everything I am, but it was nice for them to do and to give advice and tips on what to do, which was very cool. I also spent a good amount of time writing two emails–which ordinarily wouldn’t have taken long at all, but yesterday it took hours because of the inability to focus I mentioned–and after writing each, had to go sit and rest for a while as they wore me out. Dragging the Costco order back to the apartment in the heat also exhausted me.

Ah, there’s the muscle fatigue and joint aches I was missing when I woke up this morning.

Paul is feeling much better, which makes me tend to think he had it first and gave it to me (there’s no way of knowing, really, since it’s different with everyone) but I’m glad he’s feeling better, to be honest. If one of us has to be ill, I would prefer it to be me because I don’t worry about me the way I worry about him when he gets sick, if that makes sense at all? I hate that helpless feeling when someone you love isn’t feeling good and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it. That’s the absolute worst.

We’re watching Becoming Elizabeth, and I have to say–while I am certainly not an expert by any means on Tudor England or on Queen Elizabeth (I do have some knowledge–for example, at one point last night a new character was introduced and I thought, “I bet that’s Amy Robsart” and I was right) I have to say this is one of the most accurate fictional series based on history I’ve seen. There aren’t many books about the period when young Edward VI reigned–obviously, it’s talked about in other books from a sideways view, like Antonia Fraser’s Mary Queen of Scots–and the only one I can actually think of is Mary M. Luke’s A Crown for Elizabeth, which detailed the Tudor period from the deaths of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn through Elizabeth’s succession to the throne in 1558, and of course Carrolly Erickson’s marvelous Bloody Mary also covers this territory, but from Mary’s point of view. Sigh, I do love history, and watching this is making me want to reread not only Anya Seton’s Green Darkness but Philippa Carr’s The Miracle at St. Bruno’s.

And now I am feeling tired again, so am going to go sit for a spell. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

Thousand Days

Last night was definitely the best night’s sleep I’ve had since I left for Florida last week, which was really nice. I still didn’t want to get up this morning, of course, but the weird thing is I feel very rested; I actually have every morning this week, which should say something about how well i’ve been sleeping, right?

Yesterday after work I had to head uptown to run an errand before heading home to the Lost Apartment, where I cleaned the kitchen and did a load of laundry before settling in with a grilled cheese sandwich (with bacon, guacamole, and two slices of Creole tomato–marvelous, simply marvelous) to watch some more episodes of Stranger Things, and I think we should finish it tonight. We also caught up on Only Murders in the Building, which I am enjoying–but not so sure how I feel about the latest plot twist in the story, but I am enjoying the show this season; the cast is top-notch, of course, and the writing is still strong, but the plot does seem to be dragging a bit this season. Not a complaint, merely an observation. We also have some episodes of Becoming Elizabeth to get caught up on; I love me some Tudor drama, and it’s funny how we very rarely see the incredibly turbulent times between the death of Henry VIII and the coronation of Elizabeth I on film or in novels (one exception: Anya Seton’s marvelous Green Darkness), so it’s nice seeing the years of Edward VI being dramatized; I’ve always felt the younger years of Elizabeth before she became Queen were just as interesting as those of her reign, particularly since the lessons she learned during those years held her in good stead when she did mount the throne…I wonder, now that I think about it, whether Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones was sort of based on Elizabeth Tudor?

I am starting to feel sort of back to normal again, so I am recovered fully from the trip this past weekend; and since I am not going anywhere again until September for Bouchercon (provided any of our current pandemics don’t suddenly worsen between now and then) I can get settled into a routine and hopefully–hopefully–start making it back to the gym again as well as settling into a routine of writing and editing. It’s not with the slightest hesitation that I can happily state that I am pretty much finished with all editing for A Streetcar Named Murder (all that is left is the page proofing), and all Imposter Syndrome aside, it’s actually not a bad book. After going through the copy edits and doing some slight tweaking, it actually holds together pretty well; I think my main character is likable enough; and I think I may have actually done a good job with the New Orleans stuff. Suffice it to say, I am pleased with it and hope that everyone who does read it will be as well.

Huzzah!

I have one other major chore on my list to get done by Monday, and then once it’s completed I can go ahead and get down to work on the new Scotty and everything else I am working on. Everything is a process, of course; but once I get the errands I need to run done tomorrow (which I am taking off) I should be able to sit around and focus on everything I need to get done in the meantime. I am excited about getting my new glasses tomorrow (the ability to see clearly is vastly underrated) and at some point I need to run by Costco as well as make a significant grocery run–there’s literally so little food in the house we would be hard-pressed to get through an entire weekend, quite frankly–and perhaps part of my “straight home from work” night chores should include a thorough cleaning out of the refrigerator (I may make grilled cheese again tonight; Creole tomato season doesn’t last forever after all) as well as reorganizing things in there to utilize the space better. I have a load of clothes in the dryer that will need fluffing and folding once I am home, as well, and I have a short story to edit before turning it in tomorrow for a submission call I’d like to make it past the cut–but on the other hand, I won’t be terribly upset if I don’t. I am not sure my story actually fits within the perimeters of the actual call, so it’s already a long shot before taking into consideration whether the writing or anything is any good.

I also need to figure out where I am with a lot of other things. This weekend will be good, methinks, for centering myself. I also want to finish reading Devil’s Chew Toy this weekend, and I also have a blog post or two about some things I’ve read I need to finish and post. It’s always something….

Until tomorrow, Constant Reader!

Beauty and the Beast

Holiday Monday, which is celebrating Juneteenth (if you want to know more about the holiday, this is a great place to start). It’s hard to believe, and more than a little sad, that it took until recently for this to become a federally recognized holiday. Honestly.

Better late than never, I suppose–which is hardly any consolation, really.

But it’s nice to have another three-day weekend (I can’t remember which holiday we gave up for this one at my dayjob, but we only are allowed no more than eight holidays for some reason), and I slept late again this morning. The cappuccino yesterday morning had no effect on my sleep, so I am having another one this morning, which is lovely. I really do love the way they taste; I just wish making them wasn’t so complicated and dirtied up so much stuff. I made Swedish meatballs yesterday afternoon and that mess still needs to be cleaned up as well. Heavy sigh. What can I say? I got caught up in watching television once the meal was ready and stayed in my easy chair until it was time for bed. We watched the new episode of Becoming Elizabeth, which isn’t bad but it’s not overly compelling either–which is weird, because the period between Henry VIII’s death in 1547 and Elizabeth’s accession to the throne in 1558 was very fraught and very dangerous (Anya Seton brilliantly captured this period in her seminal novel Green Darkness, which I highly recommend along with the warning “it’s quite long”); but it’s not really translating to the screen very well in this production. I also spent some more time with John Copenhaver’s marvelous The Savage Kind, which I hope to do again today.

We also started watching an amazing show on Netflix that originally dropped in 2020 and whose second season was endlessly delayed by the pandemic (I checked it out on-line as we watched) called The Defeated starring Taylor Kitsch as a Brooklyn homicide detective who is “loaned” to a small precinct in the American sector of Berlin in 1946 to help rebuild their station along American police standards; which is a challenge. None of the people working as cops there have any experience in being police officers; some are young boys while the majority are women. The Germans aren’t allowed to have guns, so they have an “arsenal” where they keep their bedposts and other wooden sticks; the Russians are horrible; and Kitsch himself is looking for his brother, a soldier with mental problems who’s gone AWOL and whom Kitsch suspects is targeting and murdering Nazis. It’s extremely well done–think Babylon Berlin but only in another twenty years–and it also asks a lot of ethical and moral questions that really don’t have answers. The woman who runs the station, is the “superintendent” or captain of the squad–wasn’t a Nazi but her protestations about “we weren’t all Nazis” have the same credibility of a prisoner at Angola claiming innocence: no one admits to being a Nazi once the war was lost, after all. At one point she says, very poignantly, “The war is over and the entire world hates us because of what we did, or allowed, and who can blame them?” This seems particularly poignant given the current political climate in our country; I know it seems extreme, but I’ve seen other people comment on Twitter and other social media about how they feel sometimes like “they are living in Weimar Germany and it’s just a matter of time.”

I know I’ve certainly felt that way at times.

We also watched a classic old Bette Davis film, The Letter, which I’d realized I’d never seen yesterday so I pulled it up and started watching. I had read the original short story by Somerset Maugham a few years ago for the Short Story Project, and enjoyed it tremendously. The story is told from the lawyer’s point of view, while the movie certainly shifts the focus over to Leslie Crosbie, wife of a Malaysian rubber plantation owner, who shoots and kills a man she accuses of trying to rape her. Everyone believes Leslie…but you see, there is this letter that exists that contradicts her story, and the more lies she tells, the less her lawyer believes her–although he ultimately pays a blackmailer to get the letter back so she escapes conviction. In the story it’s all from the lawyer’s point of view; she’s merely the wife of a friend he is taking on as a favor, and he doesn’t know her well…but as he (the lawyer) discovers the existence of the letter and recovers it, he slowly begins to see through her lies and to see her as she really is. He doesn’t expose her–he allows her to escape her punishment–but he confronts her with the letter after the verdict and she confesses everything…only to return to her loveless marriage at the rubber plantation. The story and the movie both are steeped with the Imperialistic and racist overtones of the time the story was written and the film made; the ending of the movie is different than that of the story because of course, for the Hays Code of the time she couldn’t be seen as not being “punished” for her crime; she is murdered at the end by the Eurasian widow of the man she killed (his marriage to this mixed-race woman is what sets the tragedy in motion) during a party celebrating her verdict. There was one scene in particular that really made me shake my head: after she has told her story of being almost raped and committing murder to protect herself, she makes dinner for her husband, a friend of the family, and the local police magistrate and they sit around eating and talking about things like nothing’s happened. As we watched this season, Paul–who had no idea of what the movie was about–said, “Oh, he didn’t try to rape her, did he? She’s a cold-blooded killer.” GREG: “It’s Bette Davis, what do you think?”

Although it did make me think about false accusations of rape again, which is one of the myriad of reasons women generally tend to not be believed about being assaulted. There’s probably a really good essay to be written about that.

I also wrote yesterday, which was really lovely. I managed to get the first chapter of that manuscript written; I plan to look at it again today and tweak it a bit. I have a lengthy errand to run–must go over to the North Shore–and when I get home, I plan to write for a while before retiring to my easy chair with my Copenhaver book (I am really enjoying it, y’all) before we finish watching The Defeated (y’all, it’s really good). I’m not sure if what I wrote yesterday is actually any good or not; it remains to be seen, I suppose, and let’s face it, I am not (nor have I ever been) the best judge of my own work. But we shall see today, I suppose. It felt good to be creating again and it felt good to be finishing something, even if it’s just a shitty draft. I’d like to be able to get a lot more written today, if I can…

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Talk soon, Constant Reader!

Let’s Have a Kiki

SATURDAY!!!!!

I’m not quite sure why I always am so excited about Saturdays rolling around; left over from childhood and not having to go to school most likely…which now has adapted into my adult life into I don’t have to work today! Of course, I do have to work today–writing and editing and revising, oh my–but I don’t have to be anywhere, nor do I have to do anything I don’t want to do. I am going to spend some time cleaning today (what else is new, it’s an on-going battle here in the Lost Apartment) and I am going to try to get slightly better organized as well (one can dream) and I am definitely spending some time with Razorblade Tears today. But I am feeling well rested this morning (hurray for better living through chemistry), and honestly think I can get everything I need to get done completed. Hope does spring eternal, does it not?

Last night we watched the final installment of the Fear Street trilogy, 1666, which was quite fun. I couldn’t help but love that a lesbian romance through the centuries was at the heart of the story; I am a sucker for those kinds of stories (I was thinking of Anya Seton’s terrific Green Darkness the entire time the movie was back in colonial times; that book has been an enormous influence on me and my writing, and one I don’t often think about)–where reincarnation and lives play themselves out in different times, with the souls going back to try again to get it right. I also remembered a wonderful old ABC Movie of the Week called Crowhaven Farm, with Hope Lange, that was also rooted in that reincarnation/different times trope–it terrified me as a child and I rewatched it a few years ago when it was up on Youtube–it doesn’t hold up as well as I might have hoped, but it’s still quite interesting…I’ve always loved both ghost stories and reincarnation stories, obviously.

Last night after we finished watching the movie (and now we have to decide what new to watch, as Happy Endings played out to its truly tragic end the other night), I transcribed “Wash Away Sins” into my desktop, making changes for the better as I went. It’s an interesting story, of course, but I also need to go back and read some of my old Alabama 1970’s stories to get a better feel for it, and to, of course, name the characters properly; I can’t remember the names of the characters from this time period in my Alabama tales, and there are getting to be enough of them now that I need to keep better track of them and keep my continuity going so there aren’t mistakes. (I really need to do an overall Scotty Bible, as well as one for Chanse; you never know when I might write another Chanse something, at any rate.)

I also remembered that I have an unpublished novella in my files somewhere; years ago I had written a lengthy sequel to Sorceress, but the small press that published Sorceress went out of business or something (the ebook of Sorceress is still up, but I don’t paid anything for sales, if there are any, and I don’t care enough to do anything about it–which is yet another reason why I always say it’s a wonder I have a career) but Spellcaster is just sitting there in my files, doing nothing….obviously Fear Street triggered my thinking about it because it was part of the linked y/a books I was doing along the lines of Stine’s series; set in Woodbridge, California (also where Sleeping Angel was set) and it wasn’t bad, I don’t think; the ending didn’t work and the characters were all straight kids, but I always thought I could go back and change the main character from a girl to a gay boy–he could be a cheerleader, just as she was–and maybe expand it out another twenty to thirty thousand words and voila–another novel finished.

I guess I’ll add that to my list of “books to get finished this year or next.”

I have to say, I really love my new phone, too. The sound quality when listening to Spotify is so much better than my old one, and the pictures are absolutely gorgeous and sharp and so forth; I may go take a walk around my neighborhood later this morning (and before I shower–no point in showering before going out into the heat and humidity of a July New Orleans Saturday; hey maybe I can get phô today!) and take some more pictures. I need to take full advantage of these last weekends before football season begins again, which is when I inevitably spend my weekends almost entirely in front of the television with games on all day–well, Saturday at any rate; I only watch the Saints on Sundays–and so the window of opportunities for working on the weekends is inevitably closing.

And on that note, I am going to close this and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader–no matter how you choose to spend it.

World in Motion

Ah, Sunday.

Last night I kept waking up, even though it felt like I was getting good rest, if that makes any sense. I finally got tired of trying to get some more sleep and went ahead and got up before eight–around quarter till, to be precise–because I have work to do and the deadline is ticking. I made some excellent progress yesterday, and have a lot more to do today. I am hoping to get the final chapters of the book completely refinished and rewritten today; so I can do mop up the rest of the week–and there will be lots of mopping up to do. This is maybe the ninth draft of the book since I wrote the first draft in 2015–but in complete fairness, all those revisions were of the first half of the book rather than the second; this is the third draft of the second half–I was struggling to find the right voice, to find the correct tense, and really, trying to figure out who my main character is or was. Most of this work has been, since I first wrote the first draft six years ago, scattered and disorganized and, in retrospect, primarily a case of me not trusting myself or my abilities and be intimidated by what I was writing about–with the occasional dose of imposter syndrome thrown in for good measure.

We watched the ice dancing final last night, and remain completely mystified by the results. Perhaps we’re partisan, but we simply failed to see the same magic in the routine by the Canadian team that resulted in them placing second in the free dance, and capturing the bronze medal somehow. But ice dance has always been controversial, and the judging has never made much sense. The Russian team that won was clearly the best in the competition; no question about that–but I also felt the second place Russian team, that finished fifth, was also better, more athletic, and more artistic, than the Canadians. But yesterday afternoon I also took some time to watch the men’s final, and it was delightful to see Nathan Chen make a comeback from a fall in the short program to win it all, his third world title in a row–the first American to do so since Scott Hamilton–and if he wins the Olympics and a fourth world title next year, he’ll be in even more elite company. The women also managed to earn the US three Olympic spots, which I wasn’t expecting to happen, so at least we’ll have as full a team as possible; I think Nathan winning automatically earns us three men for the team–but the rules may have changed, and I must confess I don’t pay nearly as much attention to figure skating as I used to. I hate this new points system; always have since it was implemented, and I don’t believe it forestalls arrangements between judges the way the old system did–not to mention the guarantee of anonymity so no one knows how any judge scored any competitor; I fail to see how this will stop collusion, but I am not the ISU.

The humidity has been ruinous on my sinuses lately; it’s so weird for it to be so hot and humid already this year. My windows are covered in condensation this morning, which is unusual for this time of year–that new HVAC system clearly works extremely well–an I am going to head to the gym later this morning for my weekend workout. The rain kept me from going earlier in the week, so for the last two weeks I’ve only had two workouts per week; not goo, but better than one and much better than not going at all. I need to get some new workout clothes, though; I haven’t bought workout shorts in well over ten years and thus they not only don’t fit properly but are also a little on the worn out side, and the more hot and humid it gets the less likely I am to want to wear sweat pants to the gym. I found some T-shirts in my T-shirt drawer back from the days when I could squeeze into a medium (I now wear extra large) and so I disposed of them as well. I really would like to get this book finished and turned in on Thursday the 1st (this week!) so I can spend my three day Easter weekend cleaning out books and going through my clothes.

I’d also like to spend some time finishing The Russia House. I read another chapter yesterday and greatly enjoyed it; I am really looking forward to spending more time with LeCarré. I also want to start reading more of these books that I keep buying and adding to my TBR pile, which is mostly out of control these days–I also need to recognize that many essays I have wanted to write about books and authors I enjoyed won’t ever happen because I will never have the time to write them, nor will I ever have the time to go back and reread the books; there simply isn’t enough time for all the reading I want to do, and I have to be more realistic. Some are simply too long–much as I loved Anya Seton’s Green Darkness, Arthur Hailey’s Airport, and Herman Wouk’s Youngblood Hawke, there’s simply no way I can (or will) ever find the time to reread those books; let alone anything by Michener (I’ve been wanting to reread my favorite Michener, Centennial, for quite some time, but probably will never happen).

And once I have this book finished and turned in, I have to do some revisions of Bury Me in Shadows by May 1; I don’t think it’s anything major, really; a much more thorough copy edit, an additional clarifying sentence here and there, and then it will be finished, and then comes the first draft of Chlorine….at long last. There are also some submission calls I want to write for as well; we’ll see how that turns out, won’t we? But I think my stories “Death and the Handmaidens”, “The Blues Before Dawn”, and “Le Feu Follet” might actually have homes I can try to get them into; and there’s another call for a humorous mystery I’d like to take a shot at as well; my stories always seem to turn out to be darkly comic anyway.

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