Cheaper Than Free

Friday and my last day as a sixty year old.

I am working at home today, which is kind of nice. I do have an errand to run this morning–or rather, on my lunch break–but have lots of data to enter and so forth, so I will be ensconced in the home workspace for most of the day. I am also laundering the bed linens–an every Friday chore–and have some odds and ends to clean up around here. I am going to try to get the chores done today so I don’t have to do a damned thing tomorrow; I think I’m allowed on my birthday to take an entire day off–not wash a dish or do any laundry or run any errands or do anything I don’t want to do. I want to spend all day tomorrow reading and relaxing and just chilling out; that’s my favorite kind of birthday. Paul is going to get us Chinese food for a birthday dinner treat, which we haven’t had in an extremely long time..one of my favorite things to do whenever I go to New York is to get good Chinese food. (I know it’s Americanized, don’t @ me.)

I was tired yesterday, the usual Thursday “I’ve gotten up at six a.m. four mornings in a row” thing more than anything else. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I would have hoped, but as I said, I felt tired all day–both body and brain fatigue–so when I got home from work yesterday I just kind of allowed myself the evening off. I finished rereading the first two Sandman graphic novels–Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House–which the first season of the show covered, and they were just as marvelous and well-done as I remembered. Hopefully, this weekend I will be able to get back into reading–which is my entire plan for my birthday; I want to finish reading the book I started two weeks (!!!) ago, and move on to the next book on my list. Sunday I will write and edit; and then of course Monday is another work-at-home day as August slowly but surely slides back into September. Whew. At some point–Sunday, most likely–I will need to run some errands, but I’m not going to worry about that today…although I do need to update ye Olde To-Do List.

Last night we couldn’t decide what to watch. I started watching a documentary series about British cinema while I was waiting for Paul to finish working, and when he came downstairs we just started chatting while the documentary continued streaming–and when it got to the part about James Bond, Paul remembered seeing something about the young woman who played Rosie Carver, the first Black Bond girl (who also turned out to be a double agent) and as we chatted, we both confessed that we had a special soft spot for that Bond film (Live and Let Die), which led to me remembering that watching that movie (the first Bond I saw in the theater, and why Roger Moore was always my favorite Bond–although I’ve really come to appreciate Connery’s a lot more and of course, DANIEL CRAIG) and I said, “I bet that movie doesn’t hold up anymore–I watched it a couple of years ago while making condom packs and I was a little surprised at how racist it actually was; why don’t we watch it again and see what we think?” I had also read the book when I was a teenager–very very little in common with the film, I might add–and had reread it sometime in the last decade and, like rewatching the film, more than a little taken aback about how racist it was. (Live and Let Die will probably be an essay I’ll write at some point, both book and movie.) There are some funny moments in the movie–Moore had a much lighter take on Bond than Connery, and the switch in actors resulted in a dramatic switch in tone for the films–and it’s highly entertaining…but yes, it definitely traffics in the worst 70’s stereotypes of Black people and the voodoo aspects of the story on the fictional island of San Monique are pretty bad, as well. Live and Let Die was also filmed and released during the “blaxploitation” period of film, which saw movies like Superfly, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Cleopatra Jones, Shaft, and Coffy being made and released–the time when the incredibly marvelous Pam Grier’s career took off. Was it an attempt to be relevant and possibly try to reach the audience for blaxploitation movies? Probably, but one of the few things that carried over from the book to the movie was that the villains were Black.

And yes, when we finished watching we agreed that the depiction of Black characters were, at the very least, problematic. The movie does have one of the best theme songs of the entire series of films, though (probably the best song Paul McCartney and Wings ever recorded, for that matter).

I had always kind of envisioned Colin from the Scotty books as a kind of cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones–one of the reasons I originally decided to never really talk about what Colin was doing when he wasn’t in New Orleans is yes, even back then I was thinking about spinning Colin off into his own action/adventure series before realizing can you write an action/adventure novel, Greg? I still would like to try–part of the reason my career is so strange and all-over-the-place is me trying new things to see if I could actually, you know, do it–but action has always been difficult for me to write (and now that little voice in my head is saying which is precisely why you should try to write one, jackass) and of course, an international intrigue plot would require a lot more planning than what I am used to doing. I might still do it, you never know–I have a plot in mind that involves the 4th Crusade and the sack of Constantinople; one that’s been in my mind now for several decades–but there are so many things I want to write, and time is running out…

Which, of course, is why I think I’m lazy and am taken aback when people say I’m prolific. My novels and short stories published are maybe about a fifth (if that much) of all the ideas I’ve had or things that are in some sort of progress; that’s what I think about when someone calls me prolific–the files and files of incomplete stories and ideas and characters and scenes languishing on the back burner and collecting dust.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Greg’s Birthday Eve, everyone!

Gold

Everyone has heard of Constantinople at some point in their life, I should think–at least they’ve heard that annoying song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”. Some may even know that it fell to the army and navy of the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmet II in 1453, ending the Eastern Roman Empire after a thousand years of existence. The Ottomans relocated the capital of their empire there, renaming it as Istanbul. (Christian Europe continued calling it Constantinople for centuries; it’s only over the last hundred years or so that Istanbul has come into more common usage.) But few know much more about the city and the empire it served as capital for over a millenium. Of those, some may know the basics–the Emperor Constantine, the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, recognizing that the enormous Roman Empire had become impossible to rule or enforce law or protect, split the empire into eastern and western halves, and founded a capital for the east on the site of the village of Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople. The Western Roman Empire collapsed in 473 when the city fell; yet the eastern empire continued until 1453. Western Europe, always trying to reclaim the heritage of the Roman Empire (and ambitiously planning to rebuild it), always referred to the still existing Roman Empire as “Greek” rather than “Roman,” although the citizens of that great city and the vestiges of its empire continued calling themselves Romans until the Turks finally ended it.

But that thousand year history? It’s not easy to find information or books with much information; even the one history of the Empire I did read–Lost to the West by Lars Brownworth, along with his City of Fortune, a history of the Venetian Empire–glossed over centuries and only hit highlights. I’ve always wanted to write something historical set in the new Rome.

The Eastern Empire out-lasted its western counterpart by nearly a thousand years. Constantinople was one of the greatest Christian cities of all time; there was certainly nothing even remotely close to it in western Europe in terms of population, art, culture, education, and trade. It’s location put it in control of access and egress from the Black Sea; it also controlled the trade routes between Europe and Asia. Its fall in 1453 meant that those trade routes were now controlled by the non-Christian Islamic Ottoman Empire–and as such, other ways to reach the far east became necessary to the western Europeans, hence the Portuguese circumnavigating Africa and the Spanish attempt to sail west to find a route, leading to the “discovery” of the Americas. The fall of Constantinople was an incredibly important and necessary piece of the interlocking puzzle that led to European colonization and the global empires that resulted from it (as well as the oppression and enslavement and genocide of native populations); but Western historians–in particular, those monastic scholars in Catholic orders–have always tried to erase and /or lessen the importance of the eastern Empire and its capital, calling them “Greeks”, renaming the Eastern Roman Empire as the “Byzantine Empire,” etc.–and in no small part, this was also because of the Christian Schism of 1054, in which the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church split in two over questions of dogma. Therefore, it was in the interest of the Western Europeans to underplay the vital importance to European history of the remains of the Roman Empire because western Catholics considered their Orthodox brethren as heretics; their church was the true one, even if it was in the east that the religion originally came from, and it was in the eastern half of the empire the tenets and dogma of the “true” faith were established. The Pope in Rome always tried to assert his own authority over the Patriarch in Constantinople; the Patriarch considered himself to be the head of the faith and the Pope just another bishop. Thus, when Charlemagne conquered most of central Europe, he and the Pope created the Holy Roman Empire (which wasn’t holy, or Roman, or even really an empire in the traditional sense); the Romans in Constantinople were not pleased. (At the time, through some political machinations and drama, a woman was seated on the throne in Constantinople–the Empress Irene, one of the most interesting women in European history; she was also pretty terrible. The Pope decided there could be no such thing as a female Emperor, and so he crowned Charlemagne.)

The Holy Roman Empire also lasted over a thousand years.

Anyway, I’ve always been interested in the eastern Empire, even though it’s largely neglected in European histories. But one event in its history has always been interesting to me in particular –the fall of Constantinople to the Catholic 4th Crusade in 1204, which essentially set the stage for the second fall of the city, to the Ottomans in 1453. I also have an idea for a Colin book–which I’ve had for a very long time–that would have its beginnings in the 1204 sack of Constantinople.

It’s remarkably hard to find much information–granted, it’s not like I’ve tried very hard, but the fact that you have to try hard to find histories and/or books about the Empire and its capital, let alone the 4th Crusade–even histories of the Crusades themselves gloss over the fact that a Crusader army, blessed by the Pope, allowed itself to be diverted by the Venetians to capture and sack two Christians cities (Zara and Constantinople), and established “Latin” (western European) kingdoms and principalities out of the provinces that were once the Eastern Roman Empire. These Catholic kingdoms were so despised by their subjects that they didn’t last long, with another dynasty of the old empire arising to drive them out. The sack of the city and the pillaging and destruction that followed created such a deep hatred for the Catholic Church and the kings that followed the Pope that they preferred the Ottomans to a reconquest by the Catholic nations–which is saying something. Ernie Bradford’s The Great Betrayal: The Great Siege of Constantinople is a very thorough account of the tragedy and how it came to pass; the destruction of the mighty city–along with the destruction of priceless books and documents and art forever lost to us–was on a par with the burning of the Great Library at Alexandria.

The book itself is very interesting; the siege took nearly a year, and it’s actually kind of shocking that the Crusaders succeeded in taking the city, bearing in mind the strong defenses and so forth. A lot of things had to fit into place for it to happen, and they all did. The city came so close to holding them off successfully; it’s almost as though, as they would have said at the time, it was God’s will for it to happen. The city was also filled with all kinds of priceless Christian relics; after all, the religion was founded in the east, and as city after city fell to foreign invaders, a lot of priceless artifacts and holy relics were moved to the capital. (The great horses from the Hippodrome, for example, are proudly on display in the Piazza San Marco in Venice to this day.) A lot of the art was destroyed, jewels picked out of reliquaries, the gold or silver or bronze melted down for coin, and so forth.

As someone who has always loved history, and also has always loved treasure hunts–especially those that are involved with the history and development of Christianity, many years ago (I will freely confess to being inspired by Indiana Jones movies) I thought about writing such a treasure hunt story–where the ‘treasure’ being hunted was some important document or book or relic from the earliest days of Christianity that would revolutionize the faith as well as show how off-course it had gone since the earliest days…and wouldn’t it have made sense that whatever it was could have been kept in Constantinople, deep in the archives of the Orthodox Church? And with western, Catholic Europeans besieging the city, wouldn’t the Patriarch have wanted to keep it out of the hands of the Pope, and smuggled it out of the city to be hidden somewhere else, safe from the prying eyes of Rome?

And of course, when I created Colin–actually, when I brought him back in Jackson Square Jazz–I loved the character so much that I considered spinning him off; what about the jobs he’s on when he’s not in New Orleans? “Oh,” I thought, “my fall of Constantinople story! That could work for Colin!” And it even occurred to me the other day that I could even do them as “case files,” setting them throughout the past, both before and after he met Scotty and woven in between the Scotty stories. (It also occurred to me that I could do Scotty stories to fill in the years between books, if I wanted to…)

And reading this book–which i recommend if you want to know more about “holy wars” and how corrupt and unholy they actually were–made me think about it even more. I do want to include something about the Empress Irene, too.

Something to brainstorm at some point. Like I have the time to squeeze in another book…but it would be fun; although I don’t know how good I would be at writing action/adventure/thrillers.

It would be fun to find out, though.

Riders on the Storm

Sunday morning the Gregalicious slept late.

Yes, that’s right–I didn’t get out of bed until the sinfully late hour of eight thirty. (It’s kind of sad that I now consider that to be late, isn’t it?) But I have eaten two pieces of chocolate-marble swirl coffee cake (my GOD, it’s good) and am about to have the first of my morning coffee. Yum, marvelous. There really isn’t anything quite like the first cup of coffee in the morning, is there?

Yesterday morning’s workshop went okay–there was a light turnout, which I had kind of worried about–so rather than going with the whole presentation I’d prepared (I remembered the correct notes to take this time) I tailored it down to fit a smaller audience and made it more intimate conversation. I don’t know if it was any good or the attendees got anything out of it, but I guess it went well. They did have questions, and there were answers I didn’t have for them–but I also didn’t pretend to know them, either, which I think is worse than not having an answer. I did stop at That’s Amore on the way back home and got us a deep-dish Chicago style pizza, which was absolutely lovely, but other than that I really didn’t do a whole lot yesterday. We finished watching Queer as Folk, which I have thoughts about–am curious to see what other people think about it–but regardless of anything else, the show certainly made New Orleans look beautiful, or rather, really did a great job of capturing how beautiful New Orleans actually is. (One of the only reasons I kept watched Real World New Orleans: Homecoming beyond the first episode was specifically to see my city and how beautiful it looks on television…I am not entirely sure I am going to continue watching it because I don’t really care about any of these people.) We also watched the new episode of The Boys, which we enjoyed, and then I toddled off to bed for the evening. I am going to spend this morning swilling coffee and reading Tara Laskowski’s The Mother Next Door, and then maybe this afternoon I’ll do some cleaning and writing on “Never Kiss a Stranger.” I realized that last week at this time I was scrambling to finish the edits, so this is really my first free weekend in quite a while…and so I think, after taking yesterday off after getting home, I may just take all of today off as well.

How fun is that?

And yes, the kitchen is a mess, but I’ll get around to it at some point today–there’s also a load of laundry that needs folding–but for right now, the entire concept of being lazy and slothful for the rest of the day, to completely recharge my batteries (or finish recharging them) sounds entirely too good to pass up, and so I don’t think I will. AND NO GUILT ABOUT IT EITHER IF THAT IS THE PATH I CHOOSE.

I did spend some time yesterday reading some history in the form of Ernie Bradford’s The Great Betrayal: The Great Siege of Constantinople, which has to do with the Fourth Crusade–and if Constant Reader has been around long enough, they would know that I am fascinated by this historical event, which was of a far greater import than Western historians ever give it–there are reasons for that, too–and has always seemed to me to be the starting point for a great treasure hunt/adventure story, and one that I have always wanted to spin Colin off into. (I’ve always wanted to spin Colin off into his own Indiana Jones/Clive Cussler/Steve Berry type series, where he goes around the world in his role as an operative for the Blackwood Agency…but I’m not really great at writing action/adventure, and of course whenever you write something like what I see as the first Colin adventure, you kind of have to be good at it–I also don’t see how you can tell a story like that making it up as you go along, either.) So, in some ways it’s research that may prove useful someday–which is how I always read non-fiction; with an eye to it being useful to me in some way in the future–and I am learning about the crusade and the fall of the city, which is always a good thing, at least in my mind–I always think learning new things at any age is crucial and vitally important.

it’s also Father’s Day and I forgot to mail my dad his card–which I will put in tomorrow’s mail–as usual. I really am a terrible child.

The one thing I am going to do today is figure out what all I have to get done and make appropriate lists.

And on that note, I am heading to the easy chair with my morning coffee and The Mother Next Door. Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader, and have a great Father’s Day.

All for You

Saturday, and it’s lovely to have it be the weekend again. Huzzah!

I finished “Never Kiss a Stranger” last night after the gym, which made me extremely happy. It’s slightly less than twenty thousand words, and it needs a lot of work before anyone else will ever be allowed to see it, but that’s two novellas down, and as they sit right now that means the collection sits at around forty thousand words; halfway done. Huzzah! This makes me quite happy, frankly. I had thought I’d finish it over the course of this weekend, and having it finished already means I have the weekend free to do some other things, other writing. Reading and cleaning, definitely.

So, the first part of the final line edit of Bury Me in Shadows dropped into my inbox last night, and so I skim-read it last night in my easy chair while we watched a few episodes of Happy Endings–which was quite funny, although some episodes missed the mark; I am really surprised it only lasted three seasons–and having NOT read it in months, I was relatively pleased with it. It’s much better than I remembered, to be honest, and it flows really well, and it feels like I nailed the main character’s voice. The mood seems right, too. This is quite a relief, frankly. One of the hardest parts of writing anything, for me at least, is the contempt that familiarity brings in its wake. I am so roundly sick of everything I write by the time I turn it in I literally have no concept as to whether it’s any good or not, if I got the mood and the characters right, if it flows…so inevitably there’s always that moment when I hit send on the email with the manuscript attached where I have that fleeting thought this could be the last nail in the coffin of your career. So, it was quite a relief last night to read the first third of it, post line edit clean-up, and realize, hey, this is really pretty good. I am kind of proud of this book, and hope my readers like it, too.

I’m also pretty pleased with myself for finishing “Never Kiss a Stranger” last night. As opposed to “Festival of the Redeemer”, I knew what the ending for this one was going to be–the question was how to get there. (“Festival” I only had a vague idea of what the end would be, but the proper ending revealed itself to me as I got closer to the end, and I am pretty happy with its ending as well.) Both stories are going to need significant edits and revisions–I suspect there are a ridiculous amount of run-on sentences to break up; paragraphs that need to be moved; scenes to be strengthened; and maybe even a scene or two that need to be added. I also want to revise “The Sound of Snow Falling” this weekend; possibly write a chapter of Chlorine, and get to work on either the next novella, or another story (for some reason, “Parlor Tricks” has been hanging out in my frontal lobe this past week); I definitely want to finish reading Bath Haus so I can move on to Razorblade Tears.

I also slept rather well last night–I even slept in a little later than usual this morning, which was not only a surprise but a very pleasant one. We watched Fear Street 1978 last night, which was a lot of fun (the first was better, but it also set a pretty high bar), and next week the final episode, Fear Street 1666, drops, which should also be a lot of fun. I read a lot of the Fear Street books back in the day–they were fun–and R. L. Stine, whom I finally got to meet a few years back, was quite a lovely man; very gracious and kind (which was really nice; it’s awful when you meet someone whose work you admire and they turn out to be horrible).

Looking around the apartment this morning as I sit here, slurping coffee and scarfing down coffee cake, there’s also a lot of cleaning that needs to be done around here, too. I have errands to run later–getting the mail; picking up a book at the library; possibly stopping around Uptown to take pictures; possibly stopping to get a few things at the grocery store–but for now, I am content to just sit here and write this and drink my morning coffee, and bask in the glow of being well-rested as the caffeine slowly clears the cobwebs inside my head. Paul is going to the office this afternoon, which is a prime opportunity for me to get some more writing done rather than wasting time watching videos on Youtube (which has become my go-to when I am too tired to focus on anything or don’t want to commit to watching a movie or something)–I love the Kings and Generals channel; I watched some great videos of theirs on the sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, which is the starting point for a stand-alone Colin book I’ve always wanted to write (I know, I know–but I’ve always wanted to do a Colin stand alone which is an action-adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or Dirk Pitt; I’ve had this idea since the late 1980’s, and after creating the character of Colin I realized he was the perfect lead for this story, should I ever get around to it…and then I think, wouldn’t it be fun to do a series of books about Colin’s capers while he’s away? And then think, but part of what makes him so fun is that he is kind of an international. man of mystery and then but he still would be that to Scotty, just not to the readers…and yeah, you see how this goes)–so who knows what will happen today? Tomorrow I definitely have to go to the gym and have a good workout; I enjoyed last night’s work out but the problem with those week night workouts is there’s always too many other people there, which I have never liked…so Sunday’s workout is inevitably the best one of the week.

And on that note, I should probably get to work else I will wind up wasting the day. Have a happy Saturday, Constant Reader!

Academic

Friday morning, and I slept well again last night. The washing machine arrives this morning (between 9:15 and 11:15) so I am up earlier than I would be ordinarily, but despite using an alarm to get up (I need to be sufficiently caffeinated when they get here to remove the old one and install the new one) and then it will be “catch up on the laundry day” while I do my home data entry today–which means the new one will be getting quite a workout today. I also had to remove the doors to the laundry room last night–it’s going to take some serious maneuvering to get the old one out and the new one in, and I figured the doors would be in the way–which made me feel quite butch and masculine. The feeling didn’t last.

The electricians came and replaced the fuse yesterday as well–so now I can use my dishwasher and the coffee maker can be on the proper counter where it belongs again. Slowly returning to a sense of normality here at long last, and starting to not feel quite so fried and exhausted, which is actually lovely.

I also have to do a conference tomorrow, which I need to prepare for, and honestly–my brain is so fried I keep forgetting that it’s happening and that I agreed to do it. I cannot remember being this discombobulated and fried before when I finished writing a book–but then again, it’s also been quite a while since the last time I finished two books in such quick succession without a break in between. Having everything around the apartment go on the fritz almost immediately thereafter was also not much of a help in that regard, and of course, that created more stress and insomnia…I’m really surprised I was able to sleep so well the last two nights, to be completely honest; but that was probably a result of exhaustion from the stress of things.

And of course, I also had to take down one of the laundry room shelves, just in case, and will have to put that back together once the washing machine is installed again.

So yeah, pretty big day around the lost apartment this morning….hopefully I can get going on my data entry before they come, and it’s probably what I am going to be doing for most of the day today. I make condom packs for hours yesterday–and ran out of condoms, so I don’t have that to do today, unless I run by the office to take these others and drop them off, and pick up some more…but I don’t really see that happening today…although….hmmm. Something to ponder before the washing machine gets here. (Of course, it would also depend on when the washing machine gets here as well…if they get here early I could run over to pick up my prescription, then head to the office, drop off the finished condom packs and pick up at least one more box….never mind, I shouldn’t think out loud on here. Suffice to say I have options.)

I actually don’t remember what all I watched yesterday while I was making the condom packs, but I am proud and happy to say that I broke the streak of serial killer documentaries at long last. I know I watched some interesting documentaries about queer horror movies, or why horror appeals to gay men (I honestly have no memory of Nightmare on Elm Street 2, which apparently is the gayest non-gay horror movie ever made?) as well as some documentaries about apocryphal books on the Bible, including Enoch–which led me down a rabbit hole into videos about the nephilim and pre-Flood Biblical history, as well as some interesting discussion about how things get mis-translated from the original archaic Hebrew into other languages over the years and then became stuc–like how “Lucifer” wasn’t really a reference to the devil (or Satan, or whatever) but a literal mistranslation of a verse probably referring to the recent fall of the Assyrian kind and his empire, rather than a reference to angels being cast own from heaven and sent to Hell to have dominion. I’ve always found that sort of thing to be interesting–potentially lost books of the Bible and prophecy, etc.–have always wanted to write a book about a missing or secret book of the Bible that was smuggled out of Constantinople before it fell to the Crusaders in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, to keep it out of the hands of the Roman Catholic Church, only to disappear for centuries; a lost book that would revolutionize and change Christianity forever (not really an original thought–this sort of thing has been done before, most notably–for me, anyway–in Irving Wallace’s The Word); I’ve always seen it–since 2001, anyway, as a Colin novel (yes, the Colin stand alone novel I’ve been thinking about for twenty years; I’ve always kind of wanted to spin him off into his own espionage thriller series–think gay Dirk Pitt/Indiana Jones/James Bond hybrid), but again–when will I ever have the time to write such a book?

So, in a moment I am going to start doing my data entry for the day; while I wait for the washer to arrive and be installed. When I am done working for the day I intend to get down my Henry Willson biography and start mapping out Chlorine–yes, world, I am finally ready to start writing Chlorine, or at least work on it, anyway–and I also am going to start figuring out what to do with these short stories and so forth that I want to get out for submission. So, the goals for this weekend–after getting my work done and the laundry room reassembled–is to finish reading The Russia House, get some work on short stories done, and fill up another box to donate to the library sale (maybe two), and get the outline/character bios for Chlorine started. (I’m very excited about this….although I am getting a little more excited about the next book I want to write, Where the Boys Die.)

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

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!