All Down the Line

I did not want to get out of bed this morning. I didn’t sleep as deeply or restfully last night as I have been, but it was still a good night’s sleep–at least, one that wasn’t riddled with insomnia, so I’ll take it and be grateful. I mean, I don’t feel fatigued or anything. I’m still fighting this cold I caught in New York (the COVID tests have been consistently negative since my return, but I haven’t taken one this morning yet, either) which is miserable, and means I’ll probably continue masking at work. They lifted the masking requirement yesterday, which was kind of a surprise, but…making those kinds of decisions is way above my pay grade. I don’t know why people were so hateful and nasty about the masks, but I know I’ve kind of enjoyed not getting sick (other than COVID) over the last three years–which is why I hate this cold even more than I ordinarily would because I haven’t had one in three years.

Sigh.

I made more than quota yesterday, which was also nice–the deadline looms, which makes every word more important–and I hope to do so again tonight. I also managed to get some dishes done last night, some cleaning up around the kitchen, and even made dinner, which I rarely do on weeknights (mainly because Paul gets home so late, but yesterday was his work-at-home day, so he was here and it wasn’t an issue). I need to do some more dishes tonight and more clean-up/organizing around the kitchen. I have to do that signing event for two hours at ALA on Saturday at the Convention Center (which I keep forgetting about, like I keep forgetting about my doctor’s appointment tomorrow, which isn’t good or smart), so getting ahead of the game is better for me and I should take advantage of the writing being easy and write as much as I can when its flowing, right?

We also started watching Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime last night. I like John Kasinski, but have never been much of a fan of Tom Clancy’s. I did read The Hunt for Red October when it was the “it” book of the year, but didn’t much care for it and never went back to Clancy afterwards. It’s just not my thing. I preferred Alistair MacLean, to be honest–no one really talks about him anymore, but I read a lot of his canon; I think if there’s any one book he might be known for it’s either The Guns of Navarone or Where Eagles Dare. My personal favorite was the one whose name I cannot recall right now, but it was about a lifeboat full of people escaping Singapore in December 1941; their ship is torpedoed and sinks, and they are trying to make it to Australia. South by Java Head! I also enjoyed Circus and Bear Island. I’ve been meaning to revisit MacLean again now that I’m an older and more sophisticated (!) reader, just as I’ve been meaning to revisit Robert Ludlum (the actual Ludlum) in the last few years. I’ve also been meaning to revisit Helen MacInnes–her The Salzburg Connection is one of my favorite espionage thrillers (you can never go wrong with Nazis as your villains, seriously). I’ve also wanted to reread Ian Fleming for the first time since I was a teenager as well; I think I would appreciate the books more than I did then. Anyway, we weren’t terribly engrossed by Jack Ryan and I don’t think we’ll be continuing with it.

This morning’s COVID test is negative, as I had suspected and hoped, so I know this is just a cold. Is it annoying that I still have it? You bet your ass it is. I can’t believe I used to get colds and think nothing of it and just went about my day and business like it was nothing. Clearly, I am out of practice with being ill. I don’t think it’s just me, either; I finished off my DayQuil yesterday so it was on my list on the way home from work and they didn’t have much in stock–either DayQuil or NyQuil, and none of the extra strength kind I always use. Supply chain issues? One thing I’ve really been noticing over the last year or so is how empty the shelves in the grocery stores are, and things that I used to pick up regularly without concern sometimes aren’t there. I don’t know if this is a New Orleans issue–it really became noticeable after Hurricane Ida, and the stores here never have seemed to bounce back from having to toss all that food back then–or if it’s across the board, but it’s strange and one of those things that makes you wonder about how serious the decline of the American democracy actually must be. (It also goes to show how spoiled we are–do other countries even have supermarkets? They didn’t in the village in Italy we vacationed in all those years ago–and I never saw one in either Florence or Venice, but wasn’t looking either. Or is even thinking that part of American exceptionalism? It’s hard to know anymore.)

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Me!

Hey there, Saturday! It’s gray and raining here in New Orleans, which explains why I slept so deeply and well last night–there’s really nothing like the sound of rain to put me to sleep. (I wish it would rain every night, quite frankly.)

I didn’t write at all yesterday. After I finished work I went to the gym and did my workout, then came home and was quite tired, both physically and mentally. I repaired to the easy chair with a bottle of Sunkist (I’m trying to reduce my caffeine by not drinking as much Coke, but I also like sugary fizzy drinks, so non-caffeinated Sunkist works just fine as a substitute; I am also considering 7-Up) and switched on the television, going into a loop of Ted Lasso reviews, clips, etc. Everyone is already starting to prepare their Best of the Year lists, and I wish that I could do the same, but trying to remember 2020 isn’t particularly easy. I know I didn’t read as much as I usually do, and most of what I did read I’ve forgotten already–even forgotten that I read them, to be completely honest. I also really can’t remember much of what I watched on television or what films I watched or what short stories or documentaries or movies. But Ted Lasso continues to stand out for any number of reasons–it also helps that I regularly recommend it to people who then wind up loving it as much as Paul and I did. I know a book I read early in the year–Elizabeth Little’s Pretty as a Picture–is making a lot of Best of lists; I read that before the pandemic shut down when the world changed, and literally, it seems like it was a million years ago when I read it.

Then again, I also don’t limit myself to things that came out during the calendar year when I make a best-of list; my list is the best things I read or watched during the calendar year, regardless of when they were actually released. My list, my rules. So, at some point I guess I will go through my blog entries and find the things I enjoyed enough to talk about on here, and will thus pull together a list of what I enjoyed most in 2020. (I know that television is going to be a three way tie between The Mandalorian, Schitt’s Creek, and Ted Lasso–and I am also going to have to come up with a foreign-language television so I can mention Dark and Elite and Toy Boy.)

Today I plan to write all day–or most of it–around doing household chores and so forth. There’s literally no need to turn on the television and watch football–although as a diehard LSU fan I’ll have to tune in to the horror that will be the Florida game tonight–and so I might as well take as much advantage of a free-from-football day to write and get caught up on the book. Two chapters a day this weekend will take me to Chapter 21, with only five left in this draft, which will–again, as I have reiterated over and over–give me some down time to let it rest before going over it one last time before turning it in. I am also very excited about the prospect of getting back to work on the Kansas book one last time before turning it in and calling it a day on it as well.

I also want to spend some time reading The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. John LeCarre is widely considered one of the greats when it came to spy novels–or whatever the genre is called–and while it has been quite some time since I read Ian Fleming, Helen MacInnes, Robert Ludlum, and Alistair MacLean, I am very interested in reading LeCarre. The first few chapters of this book haven’t exactly grabbed me, but I do appreciate the writing. One of the things I love the most about the mystery genre is there are so many fascinating and interesting subgenres–the broad spectrum of what is routinely considered mystery fiction is quite vast; everything from traditional mysteries to romantic suspense to police procedurals to international intrigue. (I also want to finish it so I can move on to the new Alison Gaylin, and I also have the new Lisa Unger–and I think I have the new Ivy Pochoda as well) Spending the rainy morning reading really sounds like a lovely way to spend the morning, does it not?

Yesterday I watched The Ruling Class while I was making condom packs for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival. The film hangs entirely on yet another award-worthy performance by Peter O’Toole as the fourteenth Earl of Gurney, who is completely insane–and yet because of the terms of his father’s will (his father was into auto-asphyxiation, which finally went terribly wrong and he hung himself while wearing a military jacket and a tutu) the entire estate is his–and any attempt to break the will means everything will go to a charity. So his vile family cooks up a scheme to get him married and produce an heir, after which they will promptly have him committed. It’s a satire, and occasionally the cast will suddenly break into song-and-dance; which was disconcerting the first time it happened, but after that I went with it. Coral Browne–most famous for playing Vera Charles to perfection in Auntie Mame–is also a standout here as his grasping aunt-in-law; she really should have had a bigger career. When we first meet the new earl he thinks he’s God and insists on being called “J.C.”–and as the family continues to try to either cure him or have him committed, O’Toole could easily have started chewing the scenery and gone over the top; yet he is remarkably restrained and completely believable in the part. He was nominated for an Oscar (losing to Marlon Brando in The Godfather), and deservedly so; his great misfortune as an Oscar contender was to always be nominated against performances that became legendary. The film is quite a send up of the British class system and how it rotted and how it really didn’t make sense from the very beginning–noblesse oblige, indeed, and yes, cynical. It would be interesting to see how a remake/reboot could work, with one of our fine British actors of the present day in the role–but I also can’t see how anyone could ever outdo O’Toole.

And now, I am going to repair to my easy chair with John LeCarre, get under my blankets and hope that Scooter joins me for some kitty cuddling–if he hasn’t gone back upstairs to bed with Paul. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

Isn’t It Midnight

So this is Christmas.

I overslept this morning, which was a pleasant surprise. I’d intended to get up so I could get going on everything i need to do today, but it simply wasn’t in the cards for me to wake up early (the way I did yesterday). Ah, well, it is what it is, and while I do have a lot of work to do today, if I buckle down I can get it done.

I know, working on Christmas? Deadlines, alas, don’t get adjusted for holidays, and this is my punishment for allowing myself to get so behind in the first place. A few hours of good, solid work though, and I can take the rest of the day off. I also have tomorrow off (Paul’s going into the office) and this is my week of late nights (both Tuesday AND Thursday) so if I can get back on track with some good work today–I can still make the deadline.

We opened our gifts yesterday; I got some lovely things from Paul that I am very happy with, and he also seemed to like his gifts also. So, that was lovely. He went out during the day and got a massage while I worked, and got shrimp po’boys for us on his way home and then we watched the Saints beat Tampa Bay (GEAUX SAINTS!) and then relaxed while watching two movies–Hail Caesar!, which could have been better; and Deadpool, which was a lot of fun. I’m not sure what we’re going to do later–I am sure we’ll find something to watch on the many, various streaming options that we now have. (We were going to get caught up on The Exorcist, but Paul decided it was inappropriate to watch on Christmas Eve. “But it’s about good and evil,” I replied, to no avail.)

I will also do some reading. Yesterday evening I reread an old thriller originally published in 1975; that I think I read sometime in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, when I was going through my first thriller reading phase: Valley of the Assassins by a long-forgotten novelist named Ian MacAlister, and it was set in the Middle East; more precisely, Iran, Iraq, Oman and then Saudi Arabia. It’s an Indiana Jones-type tale (which I always love) about the search for the tomb of the Old Man of the Mountain, and all the treasure buried with him somewhere in the Arab deserts. It begins with the appearance of a strange map, lots of intrigue and adventure and double crosses, and it had some basis in history–the Old Man of the Mountain really existed (I first learned about him reading Thomas B. Costain’s The Three Edwards, and more in The Conquering Family; an interesting historical figure; he founded the Society of Assassins, and was greatly feared). It was also interesting to reread to see how much the Middle East has changed since the time this book was written, making it very dated.

My thriller/intrigue period of this time was triggered by reading Alistair MacLean’s Circus and Helen MacInnes’ The Salzburg Connection back to back; I went through a very long period where I read many books by those two authors and books by others as well; eventually discovering Robert Ludlum, whom I really loved and read everything by until his death (I’ve not read any of the ‘co-written’ books published yearly since he died).

Reading this, and thinking about these thrillers, has reminded me of something I periodically remember but then it slips away: an idea I had years and years and years ago that I wanted to write about as a stand-alone type book, which then evolved into a stand-alone novel with Colin from the Scotty series as the main character. This is an idea I’ve always loved and wanted to try. The Scotty series, if you will recall, began as a stand-alone and then evolved, because of the contracts, into a trilogy. The final volume of the trilogy was effectively split into two books: Mardi Gras Mambo and Vieux Carre Voodoo (and by this, I don’t mean the mysteries themselves; I mean the personal story of the guys). No one really knows much about Colin other than what he chooses to share with them, and there’s also no way of knowing if what he chooses to share is the truth, part of the truth, or not true at all. The fun thing about having a character who’s a secret agent for hire of sorts is just that: the mystery of who he really is. I thought it would be fun to write a stand alone adventure for Colin himself, so the readers could get to know him better–and know him better than Scotty and Frank do. The idea for the thriller I wanted to write, a thriller based in a treasure hunt based in history in the Middle East, easily melded with the thought of writing a stand alone thriller for Colin; in fact, using that idea for a Colin book makes the most sense.

So rereading this book made me think of that book; and while it never really had a title, nor a definitive answer for what treasure he was looking for in addition to being involved in some international espionage, obviously, I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the last day or so.

I’ve also, for that matter, thought about writing a book from Frank’s point of view as well. But the Colin one makes the most sense to me.

Anyway, I digress, and need to get back to the spice mines.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree

Good morning and Happy Saturday, Constant Reader! This is my first full free weekend since Labor Day–no Decadence outreach, no LSU tickets, no Bouchercon, no AIDS Walk. Paul’s off at tennis, despite having an abscessed tooth extracted this past week, and the house is silent–I don’t know where Scooter is, having vanished after getting fed and a his morning handful of ‘you’re a very spoiled kitty here have some treats.’ I am doing laundry and will most likely clean today, but I also intend on working on short stories today. I came across an interesting submissions call the other day that I have an unfinished story that would be perfect for, so I am going to try to finish the story that I was asked for, edit two more, and finish writing that one–and maybe even work on the fratboy porn novel. I have to head out to Walgreen’s at some point, but other than that I don’t even have to leave the house this weekend unless I want to. I may go do some cardio later, but I may leave that up in the air as well.

I am reading several books at the moment–some nonfiction; The Proud Tower and Practicing History: Collected Essays by Barbara Tuchman, in addition to The Tigress of Fiori, which is still on my nightstand, and I am now reading Puppet on a Chain by Alistair MacLean; someone had mentioned him recently on Facebook, and I remembered enjoying his work in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and also that I had never finished reading all of his books. Someone had mentioned Puppet on a Chain as a favorite, and it was one I hadn’t read, so it was off to eBay I went to get a bunch of his work. The first book of his I read was Circus–the young gay boy couldn’t help but be drawn to the cover design of a ripped muscular bare-chested man in white tights falling from a high wire. That may have been my first bare torso book cover purchase….hmmmm.

 

circus
Can’t imagine why that caught my eye, can you?

It’s also, I find, very interesting to read thriller writers from the past, to see how much the genre has changed. Obviously, back then the big enemy was Communism and the Soviets; World War II was also recent enough so Nazis weren’t out of the question, either. I also bought some Helen MacInnes novels I hadn’t read while I was there; I look forward to making my way through that stack of books at some point when I have time.

Ha ha ha ha! I even typed that with a straight face.

So, that’s my day; finishing “Lightning Bugs in a Jar” and “The Scent of Lilacs in the Rain,” editing “The Weight of a Feather” and “Death and the Handmaidens”, cleaning, watching college football, and listening to my new download of Fleetwood Mac’s remastered, deluxe version of the vastly underrated Mirage album, which I am really enjoying. I’d forgotten how much I really liked the album, and the early versions of the songs are, in some cases, better than the version that was eventually released on the album–Christine McVie’s early version of “Hold Me” is less lick, and without those interesting harmonies overdubbed (which I do like, don’t get me wrong), you can see how the song could actually be performed live; and the early version of Stevie Nicks’ “That’s Alright” (one of my favorite songs of hers) is actually much more country; I’ve always thought Stevie should record an album of country songs.

I also may start editing and correcting Bourbon Street Blues, so that ebook can finally get going. It’s been way too long since people have been able to get it anywhere other than ebay and from used bookstores.

Okay, off to mine spice! Have a lovely day, everyone!