Blue

So, Saints & Sinners and the Tennessee Williams Festival were a Jeopardy clue on Friday night; how fricking cool is that? I didn’t see it myself–I was cleaning–but any number of people tagged me on Facebook or on Twitter, so I got to see it, which is cool. The Tennessee Williams Festival has been a clue before, but I think this is the first time Saints & Sinners was–and it’s a queer/LGBTQ festival, so even more cool. Way to go, Jeopardy! There’s a reason why you’ve always been my favorite game show!

Hold up your hand if you didn’t think I’d get everything done yesterday that I’d planned. But it was still a good day, and I wrote some new stuff for the first time in a while. I have these horrible stagnant times, when I don’t get any writing done–and as we’ve already established, I always have to force myself to do it (despite loving doing it) and then when I’ve got my writing for the day finished, I wonder why I have to make myself do something I love–and those stagnant times always make me worry that I’ve lost the spark, the desire, to do it; that this time is the time I won’t be able to get back into it and do it. I worked on the Secret Project for a while yesterday, basically completely rewrote everything I wrote to begin with, and moved onto from the first scene to the next scene, which was also quite lovely.

I did get some organizing done–there’s more to be done today; my iCloud drive is so ridiculously disorganized that it’s almost impossible to use, and I probably should back everything up yet again–and some of the filing; I should be able to get more done this morning before I dive back into the Secret Project. I am also planning on heading to the gym for the first time in a very long time (I prefer not to think about just how long that time has been, frankly), which is my first move in my attempt to live a healthier, better organized, better life. I already am thinking of excuses to get out of going, frankly–which is par for the course, as always–but as long as I don’t tie myself to any particular time table, I should be good. I guess the Super Bowl is also tonight, but I don’t really care about either team–the 49ers or the Chiefs–though I suppose if I had to pick one I’d pick the Chiefs, and that’s mainly because they haven’t won a Super Bowl in forever and I think Kansas City could use the boost. We’ll probably spend the evening getting caught up on shows we watch. We still haven’t finished watching Messiah, are way behind on Dare Me, haven’t started the last season of Schitt’s Creek, and so on.

We haven’t even started HBO’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Outsider, which is getting rave reviews. Who would have ever guessed The Hogan Family’s Jason Bateman would become one of our finest actors/directors/writers for television? I really can’t wait for Ozark to come back.

I also finally finished and published my blog post about Victoria Holt’s Kirkland Revels, part of my Reread Project; I still need to do The Talented Mr. Ripley–it’s started, but I need to finish it.

I am resisting the urge to read Dorothy B. Hughes’ The So Blue Marble next; I need to start reading Tracy Clark’s canon so I can interview her for Sisters; but I also have to read Lori Rader-Day’s The Lucky One for the panel I’m moderating this year at the Jeopardy clue Tennessee Williams Festival late next month. Decisions, decisions. Probably the smart thing to do is read Tracy Clark’s first book next, then Lori’s, and then back to Tracy again for her second book.

I’ve also reached the final section of Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which I am looking forward to finally finishing this month. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the book, which is interesting, well-written, and incredibly informative; it’s going to remain on my desk as an important reference guide for any future New Orleans writing I do–which reminds me, I’ve got to start that Sherlock Holmes story–and probably when I finish the Campanella I’ll probably move on to Jason Berry’s City of a Million Dreams: A History of New Orleans at Age 300. 

The plan is to get this work on the Secret Project finished this week, get started on the Sherlock story, and then get back to Bury Me in Shadows. I’d like to get Shadows turned in by the end of March, get back to the Kansas book–maybe with some serious focus I can get that finished and turned in by the end of May, and then I can get to work on Chlorine. I’d like to have the first draft of Chlorine finished by the end of summer.

Must stay organized, and must stay focused.

I also finished reading Dorothy B. Hughes’ Dread Journey yesterday.

dread journey

“I’m afraid.”

She had spoken aloud. She hadn’t meant to; she hadn’t wanted those words to come up from her throat to her lips. She hadn’t meant to think them, much less speak them. She didn’t want Gratia to have heard them.

But across the room the girl lifted her eyes from her book.

“What did you say?” she queried.

Dorothy B. Hughes is one of the more unjustly forgotten women writers of the mid to later twentieth century; fortunately Sarah Weinman worked–and has continued to work–tirelessly to bring this women back into the public eye. She wrote the introduction to Dread Journey, and in it she names Hughes as her favorite crime writer of all time. She’s not wrong, frankly; Sarah and my friend Margery are both huge fans of Hughes, and if not for them–and Megan Abbott–I may not have ever started reading Hughes, and for that I shall always be grateful to them. In a Lonely Place and The Expendable Man are both extraordinary; I think, frankly, The Expendable Man should be taught; it’s on my list for the Reread Project, for later in the year. Dread Journey is yet another masterwork by Hughes; I cannot wait to dig my teeth into more of her work.

Dread Journey takes place entirely on a train; the Chief, making its regular run from Los Angeles to Chicago–and you know, at some point, someone really needs to do a book or lengthy essay about crime novels and trains; not only did Hughes write one, but Christie wrote two (the very well known Murder on the Orient Express and the lesser known The Mystery of the Blue Train; as well as others that revolved around trains, like 4:50 from Paddington–called What Mrs. McGillicudy Saw! in the US) and of course, Graham Greene’s wonderful Orient Express comes to mind as well. Trains were part and parcel of the American experience. Trains made travel and connecting the massive distances across this continent much easier in the time before air travel became more commonplace and everyone wasn’t convinced they needed a car; there’s a certain nostalgic romantic element to train travel now, probably a result of these novels. I know that year we lived in Washington, we loved taking the train to Philadelphia and New York, even on to Boston; I’ve always, as I said the other day, wanted to write a book or a story called Murder on the Acela Express, and perhaps someday I will–even though the Acela is more of a commuter train without compartments. One of these days I want to take the City of New Orleans on its twenty-four hour ride to Chicago; it just seems like a lovely thing to do and the reading time! Oh, the reading time.

Anyway, the premise behind Dread Journey revolves around the dysfunctional and borderline abusive relationship between Viv Spender, a self-made Hollywood producer and studio head, and Kitten Agnew, a woman he discovered, became obsessed with, and groomed into a major star–America’s sweetheart, the girl next door. There is a huge difference between Kitten’s public image and who she is–a hard as nails fighter who won’t let go of her stardom in the face of Gratia Shawn, his new obsession, and whom he has decided will replace Kitten as the star of his dream project in the role of Clavdia Chauchat. But Kitten has a contract and isn’t giving up without a fight–and they, along with Viv’s longtime secretary Mike Dana, and several other characters–a journalist returning from the Far East, who drowns his memories of the atrocities and horrors he saw there in alcohol; a snippy, gossipy bandleader; a failed screenwriter returning to New York embittered by his failure; and of course, the car attendant, a man of color named James Cobbett–a decent working man who witnesses almost everything that happens on the car. Will Viv go so far as to kill Kitten to get out of the contract he has signed with her? She’s threatening to sue if she doesn’t play Clavdia; and the tension mounts as the cat-and-mouse game between the two of them slowly draws everyone else in the railroad car in.

It’s a very short read, and a good one. I highly recommend it, and of course, Sarah Weinman’s opening essay is worth the cover price alone.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Don’t Disturb This Groove

And today is Thursday. Today’s highlight will be going to see my doctor and seeing what progress there’s been with this wretched illness, and perhaps a new prescription for something. Huzzah.

Yesterday was the worst I’ve felt since the day after the LSU-Florida game; I am still not certain there’s not a direct corollary between the great time at the game and the coming down with something immediately thereafter. I got very little done after all yesterday; shortly after making chicken noodle soup–which made me feel better for a little while–I became feverish and headache-y again so I retired to my easy chair. I tried to read but couldn’t really concentrate, so gave up on that and just streamed old episodes of Jeopardy for the rest of the day. I feel better this morning–I didn’t sleep that well last night but feel really rested this morning; yesterday I felt tired–and am going to try to get caught up on emails and so forth after I finish this, before heading off to see my doctor at eleven.

I was awakened several times throughout the night by thunder and the sound of the pouring rain–I do hope the streets didn’t flood; that would be a most unpleasant surprise if my car got water in it–and even now it’s still gray and yucky looking outside. I don’t mind going out into the yuck–I need to stop and got the mail, go to the bank, and make some groceries today as well–but it’s also going to be lovely to come back home and get under my blankets and finish reading my book. It’s weird that it’s Halloween today; it doesn’t feel like Halloween–but then again I’ve been primarily focused on just getting through the days ever since I started feeling poorly.

Bouchercon officially starts today, and I hate that I am not there with my friends. But being miserable about it isn’t going to make it better. It’s delightful seeing everyone posting on social media, and some friends texted me a photo of themselves all together, which was really sweet. I do have the most lovely friends. I’m a very lucky Gregalicious.

And not going this year will make next year in Sacramento even better.

Well, this is the point I reached this morning just after nine a.m. when the power went off. Ironically, as it turns out, despite last night’s massive storm our lines were fine, but a tree branch had come down on another set of lines, and they had to turn them all off in order to get the tree branches removed. They also decided to go ahead and have a tree service come out and cut down dangerous branches up and down Prytania Street–why this isn’t done on a more regular, preventative way is certainly beyond me, but what do I know? I’m not a billion dollar power company. I went to the doctor, picked up a prescription, and did my errands…and came home to power. Not sure when it came back on, to be honest–for all I know it could have literally come on just before I got home–but I am home and happy to have power. It’s also really damp, windy, and chilly outside.

And now I am wondering what to do with the rest of the day. I have a load of clothes refluffing in the dryer, another in the washer waiting its turn for the dryer, and a full dishwasher that needs to be unloaded. I think I’m going to go ahead and put everything away, and then go read.

Have a lovely Halloween, everyone.

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Would I Lie To You

Wednesday.

I’ve not been sleeping well for the last two nights; I’ve woken up after sleeping for a couple of hours and then been kind of half-asleep the rest of the night. Relaxed, resting, but not fully asleep. I’m not sure why this sudden change, especially after getting an amazing night’s sleep Saturday night, but there you have it.

I started working on Bury Me in Satin last night again, in an attempt to get past the stress and tension of election night. I am very pleased this morning to see that Louisiana passed the initiative to require unanimous verdicts in criminal trials; finally, that hideous Jim Crow law is off our books. I wasn’t able to concentrate fully on the writing, though, and eventually took to watching reruns of Jeopardy on Netflix, which is a lot more binge-addicting than you might think. Before I knew it, Paul was home and I’d burned through about five episodes–but it’s nice to know I can have that on now in the background as I do chores or read or make writing notes.

Once Paul was home, we watched the final episode of Bodyguard, a BBC political/suspense thriller starring Richard Madden (aka Robb Stark from Game of Thrones). It’s quite good, very twisty, and incredibly nerve-wracking; I do highly recommend the show. Madden, who is also very pretty, has been mentioned lately as a contender for taking over James Bond. I’ve not really seen it, to be honest; he was good (if annoying) on Game of Thrones (not his fault; the character, really) and he was good in Medici Masters of Florence, but I just didn’t see him as Bond. After watching Bodyguard, I can actually see it; he would be a very good choice (if we can’t have Idris Elba).

Our office moved this week; today I am working out of the main office, and then it’s back to the new building tomorrow and possibly Friday. I am not sure; I may have to go to the main office to help them pack up on Friday, as the rest of our department is moving over to the new building next Monday. The new building, on Elysian Fields past Claiborne on the UNO side, is quite nice and lovely. Lots of unpacking and setting up remain to be done; we are going to be operational and seeing clients apparently next week. I do miss the client contact, quite frankly; it’ll be nice to start seeing clients and getting used to the new work space.

And I am hopeful work on the novel will continue to go smoothly. The second chapter is my bane, a transitional chapter, which means it will seem odious and take me forever to slog through writing it. But I am excited to be finally writing this book, having thought about it forever–it started as a short story called “Ruins” that I wrote in the 1980’s, and while I like Ruins as a title, there’s a rather famous Scott Smith novel called The Ruins, and so I am not quite certain calling this one that is a good idea. I do like Bury Me in Satin as a title, and I am going to be trying to figure out my complicated plot a bit this weekend after I get deeper into the manuscript.

It’s probably the most complicated plot of a young adult novel that I’ve written, but I like my main character, Jake Chapman, a lot. He’s smart smart smart, and I like the idea behind the concept of the book. It remains, however, to be seen whether I can actually pull it off. We shall see.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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