I Heard a Rumor

And now it’s Tuesday.

Yay for Tuesday! I managed to get some things done yesterday–my Sisters column for one, and an interview with Crime Reads for being an Anthony short story finalist, which was pretty cool. I was going to do some work on Bury Me in Shadows, but I couldn’t find the chapter file I worked on over the weekend and decided, rather than obsessively hunting for it, to just push it off and forget about it for now. So, instead I worked on the proposal, which was interesting and something different. (I found the file this morning; I don’t know how it wound up saved to the directory it was saved.)

We watched Catherine the Great last night on HBO, starring Helen Mirren, and it’s quite good. She’s phenomenal, as always, and they managed to script it in a way that made it interesting–often a problem with historical adaptations/biographies of royalty–and really brought the era, and the problems she faced as an illegitimate usurping empress quite well. I’m looking forward to the next episode, as well as starting Watchmen.

And I’m feeling much better about things. Getting stuff done yesterday was a good way to start the week–despite feeling less than at my best–and I love the feeling of crossing things off my to-do list, you know? I got some other things done as well–things I can’t talk about publicly, alas, sorry to be a tease–but again, getting things done feels good, and I have felt kind of, I don’t know, discombobulated since the last epic volunteer project, which is what put me behind to begin with.

Heavy heaving sigh.

And today is the last of my “get up early” days this week. I know we’re taking Scooter in for a veterinary visit this Saturday, probably around ten, but if I’m not up by then on my own without the use of an alarm, well, then I am seriously in some kind of trouble. I slept really well last night–I’ve slept well the last few nights, actually, which has been kind of lovely–and while I don’t like to be “untimely ripp’d” from my bed in the mornings, once I shake off the sleep and fully become awake, it’s a whole different other story, you know? I suspect that not only have I not gotten over what made me so ill the weekend before last, but it’s coming back. This is, of course, terrible timing as I am scheduled to leave for Bouchercon next week. Not good, not good at all. I took a Claritin because my sinuses feel messed up, and then some DayQuil because I have post-nasal drip as well.

We’ll see how that goes, shan’t we?

Barb Goffman, one of my fellow nominees for the Anthony for Best Short Story next week, posted a rather lovely blog here, where we all talk about our stories, and she provides links to read them all. This was an incredibly generous thing for her to do, and since I’ve not read all the stories, this gives me an excellent opportunity to do so.

I’m still reading Certain Dark Things and Ready to Hang–although the story of the Lamana kidnapping has now progressed to the trial of the kidnappers, which isn’t that interesting.  But I should finish both by the weekend, so I can be prepared for the LSU-Auburn game. I’m not sure who the Saints are playing–I do love the Saints, but most of the time I don’t even know who they’re playing until Game Day.

And now it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

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I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)

Blue Monday….

I managed to get some things done yesterday; some work on the short story I needed to work on, and I finished the essay I needed to turn in yesterday. So, that’s a good start to the week, methinks; we’ll see if the momentum keeps going through this week. The month of September is definitely beginning to wind down–we’ve only got a couple of weeks left, and of course, I have another project that’s going to take all of my time for the next two months so getting things done this month is crucial for me going forward. I am sleeping and groggy this morning, which isn’t good, but hopefully as the coffee continues to enter my system I’ll start waking up and getting it together here.

We started watching The Righteous Gemstones last night on HBO, and I have to say, it’s highly entertaining and more than a little bit insane. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it, but what turned up was even crazier than I was expecting. The Gemstones are a family of evangelicals with a megachurch, and of course, raging hypocrites with borderline criminal credentials and behavior. Over the course of the first few episodes, the eldest son is being blackmailed over a video of him partying with cocaine and hookers; this craziness begins the wild spiral of this truly original show. I kept thinking about John D. MacDonald’s One More Sunday, which tackled the same subject only in a deeply serious and noirish way; I’ve considered doing something similar myself–one of the many iterations of the Kansas book revolved around a megachurch that arose out of the sins of the past. (You have literally no idea how many iterations the Kansas book has been through, Constant Reader, no idea.)

One of the goals of this week is to get through all the emails in my inbox and clean it out once and for all; I’d like to be down to zero emails to answer by the end of this week, if at all possible. It may not be possible–answering emails inevitably leads to more emails to answer, as always–but that’s the goal of the week, and I will have to work my ass off this coming weekend as the deadline for this short story looms ahead of me.

I read some more of Rob Hart’s The Warehouse this weekend, and really am hoping to have the time to get further along into the story. It’s beginning to pick up steam, and the world it depicts is all too realistic, frankly; realistic and horrifying at the same time. It isn’t very hard to see this world as our future, and that is frankly a terrifying prospect. But it’s a credit to how good a writer Hart is that this book is so thought-provoking and real; this is my first time with one of Rob’s books and it certainly is encouraging me to make a run through his entire backlist.

And can anyone really expect anything more from a book that it’s so good that you want to tear through the author’s entire canon? I think not.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

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Yesterday Once More

Back to reality. I only have to work a short day today, which is a lovely way to ease myself back into the work week, but it’s still a return to work. At least it’s only a three day work week for me, with two half-days, on the horizon before I can chill out over the weekend.

And weekend after next is Labor Day weekend.

I feel rested and relaxed, ready to get back to work and that’s a lovely feeling; I love that I earn enough vacation time per year to take these periodic long weekends. Now that I’m old, they are necessary, and I need the breaks now a lot more than I did when I was younger. I have about a million emails I need to answer, and I also ned to get my checkbook caught up and balanced, make sure I’m paying the bills promptly, and so forth. One of my chores this morning before leaving for the office is the weekly to-do list; I need to get those chapters of Bury Me in Shadows written, and I also need to write another short story. The idea is there, deep in my brain, and I think it might sort itself out if I could only start writing it. I know how i want to do the story–epistolary or diary entries; diary entries might be easier, I don’t know. But it’s an entirely different style than what I am used to writing, which is always a plus–I think this is how you stretch yourself as a writer, doing different things.

Which brings me around to Laura Lippman, and her Lady in the Lake. I am over halfway finished with it; I am trying not to rush through it. I want to take my time and savor how she’s telling this story. It’s done through multiple points of view; we see the main character, Maddie, from a removed third person point of view, and every chapter about Maddie is interspersed with a first person point of view from someone she has just encountered, talked to, interacted with. It’s an interesting method of structuring, and I am enjoying it tremendously, because she is also using the alternate first person POV’s to move the story along; so that the reader knows more than Maddie. One of the things I admire the most about Lippman is her stand-alone novels are always dramatically different from each other–style, voice, story, etc.; each new novel is completely different from the one preceding it and the one that comes after. She is constantly stretching and pushing herself as a writer, and I think that’s very important for a writer.

I started writing my own stand-alones as a way of doing something different, of trying different things, of pushing myself as a writer and a creator, as well as a way of keeping myself fresh for the series novels. It has worked, but the more I write the stand-alone novels, alas, the less I was interested in writing the series. I felt like the Chanse novels were beginning to feel a little stale to me, in all honesty; I still think the later ones are good books, don’t get me wrong–but I kept thinking, feeling, that the series wasn’t as fresh and interesting to me as it was in the beginning, so I decided to end the series. I think I’ve decided about four or five times throughout the course of the Scotty series that I was ending it, but I don’t say that anymore because without fail another Scotty idea would pop into my head. I already have the idea for the next one in my head; all the disparate events and subplots and so forth ready to go. I’ve also mentioned that I already have an idea for another Chanse, one that I’m eager to write, actually; something I definitely am going to tackle as soon as my writing schedule frees up.

But in order for my writing schedule to free up, I need to do the writing that I need to get done. Therein lies the rub.

Yesterday was a lovely book mail day; I got Rob Hart’s The Warehouse (already one of the best-reviewed books of the year) and Lisa Lutz’ The Swallows, both of which I want to jump right into, but again–there are already books in line ahead of them. Ah, to have more free time to read!

We have just one episode of Manhunter left, so we’ll be finishing that off tonight. We’re probably going to watch Succession on HBO next; and there are some other shows I’d like to see now available out there as well.

And now, tis off to the spice mines with me. Heavy heaving sigh.

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Say Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose

Paul and I both stayed up way past our bedtimes last night, finishing the third season of Stranger Things. I had spent the afternoon finishing The Pacific on HBO streaming service (it’s really quite brilliant and moving and heartbreaking and horrifying; probably one of the best things about the horror of war I’ve ever seen, and how it wrecks the young men who fight them–if not physically, than psychologically). As such I slept later than I usually do this morning–much later than usual, which is obviously a problem as I have to go back to work tomorrow morning which means getting up extremely early. I’m not terribly concerned, however; it is what it is.

We never lost cable or power yesterday; and it didn’t even rain in our neighborhood until later in the evening; I think it was around eight-thirty that I got a tornado warning alert on my phone. I checked it out on my computer–it wasn’t for our area, but further downtown and in the lower river parishes, who also had overtopped levees and flooding. That was when I noticed it was raining outside. There wasn’t thunder or lightning, just rain. We’re still in a flash flood alert, but I think I’m going to go take a long walk in the rain and retrieve my car from the Touro parking lot, where I took it Friday afternoon just to be on the safe side. I need to stop at the grocery store, but I suppose it will also depend on if one’s open. I suspect the city is fairly operating normally again today, but I’ve also just woken up and am still on my first cup of coffee, so I could be wrong.

I managed to get absolutely nothing done over the course of the last four or five days; the city flooding and that aftermath, while trying to prepare for the arrival of a tropical storm/hurricane kind of drains you of most energy and your ability to focus. The waiting is also horrible, I might add, the wondering endlessly if you made the right decision or not, whether you should have fled when you had the chance, and so on. This is how it ever was, and how it ever will be. Paul and I were talking about this very thing on Friday, as we adopted our usual wait-and-see mentality. We have actually only evacuated twice; once for Katrina, and for Isaac (or was it called Ike?) in 2008. The other I storm left us without power for the week leading up to Labor Day in 2013, I think it was–I just remember we had tickets for the LSU game that Saturday, and the irony of sitting in the heat all day that Saturday after complaining all week that we didn’t have a/c or power, only to have it come on the night before was kind of the most Louisianan thing we’ve ever done.

I also feel that all of my friends and family deserve an apology for the horror that was the storm coverage all week, culminating in emails, texts, and posts/PM on social media. And admittedly, the arrival of hurricane sex symbol Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel here on Friday was not a good sign. New Orleans and tropical weather has been major news, alas, ever since the levees failed, and nothing gets clicks and views like apocalyptic headlines and news coverage. I’m sorry all the 24 hour channels and even some reputable news organizations decided to go down the terror route for everyone; I’m sorry you all had to be put through that kind of stress and worry on our behalf.  Don’t get me wrong, it makes my heart feel full that so many people nationwide care, not only about New Orleans, but about Paul and me and our friends and our lives here. Thank you for that. I just wish the media wouldn’t put you all through it…as we always say down here, this kind of coverage is what makes the really dangerous storms get not taken as seriously as they should be.

Paul and I are also very prudent, and cautious. In our twenty-odd years here, we’ve learned what to listen for and who to listen to; which local stations are dependable, which models of storm tracking to pay attention to, and we also aren’t ever locked into a decision–we make a decision based on the information available at the time, continue to check, and adjust decisions accordingly based on new information. We’re not meteorologists by any means, of course, and there’s always the possibility we’ll make a wrong decision–and your concerns and worries mean so much to us. Don’t ever think that’s not the case.

And once New Orleans is out of danger, it’s truly awful and sad to see how quickly the story dies…despite the damage that actually was wrought, and continues to be, from this storm system. New Orleans isn’t the only part of Louisiana that is below sea level, and protected from flooding by an at best iffy levee structure system. This system is going to continue to dump lots of water everywhere on its path, and it has the upper Mississippi valley, already in flood stage, square in its sights. Even as I type, the north shore is in tornado warnings, and there are also flood warnings for rivers on the north shore. The North Shore and the I-10 corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge were horribly, unexpectedly flooded several years ago–places that generally never flood, or at least, not often–and they are still recovering from that horror. (I think that was August 2016?) So, do keep those areas in your thoughts.

Storm days, as we call them down here–the free days off from work because of weather, the tropical version of Snow Days–aren’t conducive for getting anything done, at least not for me. Even though I ignore the doom-and-gloom news, and pay attention to the reports I’ve found reliable over the years (I still miss Nash Roberts!), there’s always that nagging sense in the back of your head, that horrible little voice whispering are you so sure? Are you so sure that not leaving is the right thing to do? That is, as you can imagine, emotionally draining and exhausting, and also makes it hard to focus on anything. I can never write or edit during these times; reading is often difficult as well. So I wind up watching a lot of television: this time, Band of Brothers (still unfinished), The Pacific, and Stranger Things. I did enjoy this third season of Stranger Things, even if there are enormous holes in the plot and things that didn’t make a lot of sense; but as entertainment it really did a great job–and it also introduced new characters to the cast seamlessly; not an easy task.

But I do think this enforced period of inactivity–in addition to my vacation the week prior–may have done some wonders are far as kicking my creativity back into gear, which is lovely. I think today–after getting the car and doing a minor grocery gathering–I may sit down with the first seventeen chapters of the WIP and reread them, making notes and figuring out the final act of the book so maybe, just maybe, I can get a strong, workable first draft finished by the end of this month. That puts me behind schedule, of course, but I think I should be able to work on my next project alongside a revision of the Kansas book for the next two months. Maybe that’s an overestimation of what I can do, and get done–it is, after all, going to be the dog days here–but we’ll see.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines and getting back on track. The house is a mess and needs straightening–and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that we could still lose power.

Thanks for all the good thoughts, y’all. Greatly appreciated.

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Keep on Truckin’

Sitting here in the Lost Apartment waiting for Barry’s rain to arrive. It’s eerily quiet outside right now–very little wind, and that weird pre-storm light that indicates something big is coming; I don’t think what’s going to happen here is nearly as bad as anyone predicted or warned about. Even as I type these words I just got the notification that Barry had reached the coastline of central Louisiana; it’s still calm and peaceful here.

Here’s hoping it stays that way.

Thursday night Paul didn’t get home until late; he was working on a grant due Friday–which they proceeded to extend the deadline because of the storm for a week, but didn’t send the email out until almost nine pm, but as I said, hey, at least it’s done and you don’t have to worry about it anymore–so I found myself watching things Paul won’t watch, to pass the time. I watched another episode of The Last Czars, which only served to lessen my sympathy for the last Romanovs even further (I also hate the third part of the story, which is the whole Anna Anderson/Anastasia nonsense, discredited at long last when DNA proved she wasn’t a Romanov), and then I started watching HBO’s Band of Brothers, which I’ve always wanted to watch on some levels–World War II has always been an interesting, if heavily mythologized, time in American history to me–and I really enjoyed it. It’s hard for me, even now, to imagine what that must have been like for the rank-and-file soldiery: the farm boys and the accountants, the garage mechanics and the shepherds, the fishermen and factory workers, many of whom had never traveled far from where they grew up, being sent to faraway and exotic (to them) locales, and having to go through the horror of full scale war. World War II was many things, but the world completely changed through the course of the war, and it was, indeed, the war that also exposed the inequities and inequalities of our own country and its systems. The military was segregated; any question of equality for people of color were shunted to the side or ignored for the “common good”, this despite the fact that they were all working just as hard for an American victory as the white people.

I’ve always felt the experience of the war was what eventually led to the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation/feminism movement, and the slow rise of the gay rights movement; which all came to a head in the 1960’s. Band of Brothers, well written, well cast, and well acted, depicts the segregation of the military in a way that is kind of sly–the entire cast is white people. That, of course, wasn’t the intent of the show in any way, shape or form; it was made at a time when all-white casts were pretty much the norm–and it’s sad how recent that time still is. But it is historically accurate; the military was segregated, and the perpetuation of this systemic racism came from high up in the command because there was a fear of how racist white people would react.

As always, the feelings of white people were paramount. I mean, how very dare the Pentagon force white people to serve with non-white people? 

Ugh.

I watched another episode yesterday, and then switched to another Hanks-Spielberg HBO series, The Pacific, which, obviously, is about the Pacific theater of the war, focusing on the Marine Corp First Division, which won the Battle of Guadalcanal against overwhelming odds. The Pacific is better, I think, than Band of Brothers, but there’s also a weirdly compelling plot line about two best friends from Alabama that I am reading as gay but probably isn’t. One of the best takeaways I am getting from both these series is, interestingly enough, again about the toxic American ideology of masculinity; seeing these men bonding through hellish circumstances and what they go through, and then being completely unable to express their love for one another–even if its just the love from friendship, not romantic–physically or verbally is heartbreaking.

There are times whenI just want them to embrace and hold each other…or to allow themselves to cry…but they always catch themselves and just give each other a firm handshake. This makes me think more about writing some essays about the American masculine ideal…but then think, Oh I am sure other people, more qualified than me, surely, have already explored all of this.

I’ve been having a lovely time on Twitter lately. Twitter is so associated in my mind with toxicity and trolling that it always comes as a pleasant surprise when I actually enjoy myself on there. But it’s a pleasant reminder of the social part of social media; remember when it used to be fun to go on social media? When the biggest complaints were joking about cat videos or dog memes or people’s meal pictures? So, going forward, I am going to try to make my Twitter feed as fun as possible, and encourage fun interactions.

And on that note, I think I best finish this off and do some chores around here while we still have power. I hope hope hope we don’t lose power…but it’s also rather lovely that losing power is right now the worst thing that I think may happen to us here in the Lost Apartment. I moved my car yesterday to an elevated parking garage to get it off the street in case of a repeat of Wednesday; will definitely check in later.

Happy Saturday, all.

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Walk Away from Love

Wednesday and I am being betrayed, left and right, by idiotic technology.

I had to take my fucking phone back to factory settings because despite updating my phone the other day, last night my computer didn’t fucking recognize my phone again. (You can certainly tell Steve Jobs died…the quality of Apple’s overpriced products has gone into steep decline since his death. This kind of shit never happened on his watch.) And my email inbox is also having some issues today as well.

I don’t have time for this nonsense.

Seriously.

I’ve not written hardly at all this week, because I got sucked down into a rabbit hole regarding the crime fiction community these last two days–yet another train wreck I can’t look away from. I hope to get back in the writing saddle again today, though; fingers crossed there won’t be any more developments of nonsense! But the way things have been going…it certainly wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

I watched another episode of Chernobyl last night, and seriously, this is some extraordinary television. It’s depressing and horrifying as all  hell, but like the crime fiction kerfuffle or a train wreck, I simply can’t stop watching. The fourth episode–if you’re a pet lover, do not watch. The show is doing a terrific job of showing the disaster from the point of view of every day citizens affected, and what the disaster has done to them and their lives; episode four is particularly ghoulish and while true, it was awful and heartbreaking to watch: you see, all the people had to be evacuated out of the hot zone, but they didn’t take the contaminated animals with them…including pets. So, a team of people were assigned to go around and shoot all the cats and dogs the citizens had to leave behind–they were contaminated and it was a mercy, rather than letting them die a horrific, slow painful death from radiation. The part of the episode dealing with this was all shown from the point of view of an eighteen year old newly inducted soldier who volunteered to help out in the hot zone. I had to pause and get up and walk away several times during the episode because it was, frankly, too much. There’s one scene in particular…Christ, I can’t even write about it.

Chernobyl, despite the incredible acting, writing, and production values, is not an easy thing to watch. It’s filmed like a horror movie–very bleak and hopeless–and what makes it worse is something I realized after Hurricane Katrina; that no matter how bad something looks on television or in a film, the reality is so much worse. I will never get the images of what the lower 9th ward looked like that October of 2005, and how television didn’t even capture a fraction of the actual horror and devastation.

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


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Young Hearts Run Free

I continue to watch Chernobyl, which is mesmerizing as it is horrible. I am now up to episode four, and can’t look away. It’s horrifying and amazing and terrifying and so bleak, and perhaps the thing I can’t get out of my head is you were alive when this happened and was being reported in the news and I don’t ever recall knowing it was this bad–it was bad, but I never knew it was THIS bad.

And that is terrifying, so terrifying that it upsets my stomach and makes my blood run cold.

It is also a very cold, analytical look at what happens during a major disaster in a country where the news is under government control, and when a government is not only authoritarian, but where everyone is afraid to tell the next person higher up in the chain the truth when it’s bad news. It’s heartbreaking, and done in an almost documentary style. There was a point last night when watching that I thought, why are they all outside around the facility without any kind of shielding from the radiation? 

And then realized at that time, it no longer mattered; they were already so badly exposed their lives were essentially over. “Within five years,” is what they were told, and what they tell each other.

Absolutely horrific.

I didn’t get much writing done yesterday because I am at the point in the book where social issues come into play, and I am struggling because I don’t know how to make the points I want to make without sounding preachy or too “ABC After School Special”; I suppose the thing to do is not worry about any of that stuff because I can tighten and clean it up later, but when I am in the midst of writing I never think that way until the following morning, as I gaze bleary-eyed outside my windows into the grayness of the early dawn–you know, after I squandered my writing time the day before struggling.

Heavy sigh.

But in other good news, I have now slept well for two successive nights, which is lovely, and I woke up this morning without a problem when the alarm went off. Hopefully, that means not only will I make it through this long, long day, but won’t be bone-tired and exhausted when I get home. Of course, it’s Tuesday which means it’s a Real Housewives night, but frankly I find the Beverly Hills franchise to be rather boring this season. Perhaps some day I’ll write an entry about these shows and why I watch them, and what entertainment I get from them–but as Camille Paglia (whom I utterly detest, she is completely vile) once said, these shows replaced soaps, and the viewers are the same people who watched soaps; there is something camp and over-the-top about these shows, and the line between entertainment and reality has become so blurred with them that it is, actually, very soap-like; soap characters were like real people to their viewers, who talked about them like they were the people down the street. I don’t think Paglia’s analysis–it was part of a longer interview about culture in general–was particularly deep; it was kind of off-the-cuff and she hadn’t put much thought into the analysis, but she did strike a vein of truth with this, one that bears deeper thought and analysis and comparison (although I really disliked her comparing Tamra from Orange County to Donna Mills’ Abby from Knots Landing), and maybe someday I will do that.

When I have time. Because I have so much free time these days.

I also fell down into a rabbit hole yesterday–which, while a lot of fun, was also an enormous time-waster. This morning, the curiosity I had about the rabbit hole which was so intense and couldn’t be ignored, somehow doesn’t seem quite as intense as it did yesterday in the heat of the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I am still quite curious…but I don’t need to be refreshing social media to see new theories or discoveries.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

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