Landslide

Friday and a three-day weekend looms. Huzzah? Huzzah! There’s football games to watch this weekend (GEAUX TIGERS!) as well as a lot of work I need to get done before I leave for Bouchercon next Wednesday. Which is fine, of course. I just have to buckle down and get my head back in the game, is all. I’ve been tired this week after work–part of that is getting up at six in the mornings, certainly–but it’s irksome to not be able to get as much writing (and good writing, not the horrible shit I’ve actually been writing) and reading in every night as I would like before I turn my brain to relax mode. Ideally, I will be able to get some things taken care of this weekend; writing and reading and cleaning and getting ready for the trip. We have a two o’clock flight out in the afternoon, and we have two hours (!) at Midway Airport–but there’s also a Home Run Inn pizza place at that airport (I noticed it when I had to change planes there last spring when I flew to Kentucky–a mistake I shall never made again) and so perhaps we could have some wonderful Chicago-style pizza for dinner on our way to Minneapolis. I think by the time we get to the hotel and check-in and all settled it might be too late in the evening to do much of anything other than unpack; I also have a very early panel on Thursday morning which means I will have to get up around seven.

I hope there’s lots and lots of coffee to be had in the hotel, else it won’t be pretty.

Yesterday was a tired day for sure. I didn’t sleep deeply Wednesday night–not restless per se, but I was in a shallow sleep for most of the evening, if that makes sense? Not that horrible if I open my eyes I will be awake but that half-sleep where you know you’re asleep but you’re also aware of everything? I hate that. So by lunchtime I was already running out of steam and trying to just hang on until I got off work. I was going to run errands on my way home but was too tired and just came straight home (I can stop by the mail and the Fresh Market tonight or go tomorrow). Once again I was too brain-dead to either read or write, but I did make progress on some chores before collapsing into my easy chair to be a Scooter pillow. I watched Venus and Serena play doubles–Paul was out having dinner with a friend–and then we watched Five Days at Memorial and Archer, and finally were able to watch last week’s episode of American Horror Stories–Hulu kept fucking up when we tried before; we’d get halfway into the episode than it would reboot back to the beginning; finally last night it worked–the weird Judith Light gets a facelift episode–and really, it wasn’t worth all that trouble. These stand-alone horror stories are really hit-and-miss, just as they were in the first season; sometimes they are interesting and clever, other times as satisfying as eating something with no flavor. And then it was bedtime.

I slept fairly decently last night and feel a bit of a sleep hangover this morning, which is fine–I’m assuming the coffee will wipe the dust off everything and remove the cobwebs from the corners of my brain–but today is a short day in the office, which is always nice before a three day weekend–and of course, I intend to run those errands tonight (so I don’t have to tomorrow) and I also need to start making a list of the things I need to pack. I know I am going to take Gabino’s book with me to read on the trip, along with the new Donna Andrews (Round Up The Usual Peacocks) and Laurie R. King (Back to the Garden) to read when I have time or at the airport and on the planes; I imagine I’ll finish Gabino on the way up and get started on the Andrews; which I’ll finish in Minneapolis in order to read the King on the flight home. I also have a copy of Nelson Algren’s A Walk on the Wild Side–a friend had posted on social media that they were going to watch the campy film adaptation with Jane Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck, and I thought wasn’t that a book first? It was, and since it’s a New Orleans novel–set in the French Quarter in the 1930’s–I thought perhaps I should read this? So I ordered a copy, and it’s rather well written–I’ve glanced through it a couple of times, always finding some sentence that makes me think wow this is either really amazing or incredibly overwrought and overwritten–which is a very fine line to walk. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not I think it’s amazing when I read it.

I had promised myself I wasn’t going to go down any Internet wormholes again for a while, the other day one of the New Orleans and/or Louisiana history pages posted about the murder of a Storyville madam (which I’ve always thought could be an interesting basis for a book) by her long-time live-in lover to whom she’s always been rather abusive, and it mentioned that her killer, although a common-law spouse, was only able to inherit a very small portion of her estate due to “Louisiana’s concubinage law” and well, how could I not go looking that up? Louisiana has some very bizarre laws, particularly when it comes to inheritance; but you also have to understand that up until the Civil War ended, Louisiana had some very bizarre customs. The “concubinage law” was actually passed to protect the dead person’s “legal” family as well as his “extra-legal” family from each other if there was no will, or even if the will cut out one family to the benefit of the other. It’s from plaçage, of course; that dreadful custom where a wealthy white man had a white wife and children, but also had a Black mistress and children with her.

The “concubinage law”, for the record, was on the books until it was repealed in 1987.

1987.

Jesus.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

I Sing for the Things

Sunday morning and it looks a bit overcast out there. I have a lot to do today–writing, reading, cleaning–and I slept deeply and well–so much so that I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, it felt soooo comfortable under the covers. Scooter’s anguished demands for breakfast finally got me out of that marvelous cocoon of sheets and blankets, and now I am enjoying a cup of coffee and wondering how bad the weather will be today. We had lots of thunderstorms rolling through last evening, and overall, it wasn’t a terribly bad day yesterday, if not as productive.

I did spend some time with John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind (which I also hope to do today), and then headed out to Metairie for my eye appointment. I go to the Target in Clearview Mall, just off the corner of Clearview Parkway and Veterans Boulevard. After my new glasses were ordered, I shopped a bit–found some aromatherapy oils I needed, got a new Brita water-filter pitcher, and a few other things, including a copy of Casey McQuiston’s Red White and Royal Blue.On my way home I hit the drive-thru at Atomic Burger (expensive, but I do love their burgers), and came home to do some more things around the house. I finished watching The IPCRESS File, which was very twisty and surprising and incredibly well done (I’ve never read the Len Deighton novel on which it was based, but the original film of this, which starred Michael Caine, was clearly the basis for the Austin Powers movies, only played for real); I thought one of its primary strengths was showing that even allies spy on each other and steal talent, as well as how beautifully yet casually it indicted the British class system as well as its ingrained misogyny. I also watched the Fall River documentary (didn’t finish, Paul came home and I was on the final episode) about the supposed “Satanic cult ritual murders” that took place there in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s; my primary takeaway and memory of living through those peculiar “Satanic panics” that seemed to be everywhere in that decade was people really think Satan is real and exists? I thought we were more rational a nation than that….which was one of the first steps on my journey to seeing my country, society and culture as it actually was rather than the mythology I was taught in elementary school and other levels of public education as a child.

Even when I was a child being taught the Bible was literal history I knew better than to believe it was literally true. It was quite an eye-opening shock and jolt that people not only believed the Bible was literal truth, but they also believed in Satan (Elaine Pagels’ The Origin of Satan should seriously be taught in high school) as an actual being working to undermine humanity and lure us into sin. It was quite a shock, and only the first of many to come as I began reeducating myself on everything.

And yes, I am bitter that I was miseducated, and that I had to waste so much of my adulthood reeducating myself.

But I do love to learn; it’s one of the many reasons I love to read so much. I am always reading something non-fiction at the same time as I am reading fiction (although the non-fiction often takes longer for me to get through). I have been reading Robert Caro’s massive The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York for over a year now; it’s long and I am finally past the half-way point–but it’s an absolutely terrifying look at how power can be amassed and how it corrupts even those who go into public service with the purest and brightest of motives; and how that accumulation of power turns personality flaws in individuals into horrific public policy that causes more damage than good in the long run. I think after I finally finish this epic biography and study of public works in New York for most of the previous century, I may dive into some true crime to cleanse my palate and prepare me for another non-fiction tome. I of course read The Borgias while I was in Kentucky on my last trip, and I also have The Medicis to read as well as other history, but I think I want to read about true crimes for a bit once the palate has been cleansed. I have Sarah Weinman’s marvelous collection of true crime reporting on hand, as well as her recent Scoundrel, which cries to me from the TBR pile; there are several other true crime books I have on hand as well that are always fun to read for insight into my fellow (depraved) citizens and why they do the things they do (part of the reason I really was enjoying Fall River was due to getting some insight into why people turn out the way they do when they go bad), and there’s some other interesting histories I have on hand that i would like to read, too.

Someday I will have enough time to read as I would like.

My to-do list for today and this week is quite ambitious. The heat and humidity have been serious drawbacks to my energy levels and my ability to get things done (I just got the power bill and recoiled in horror), but I need to adapt and adapt quickly else the entire summer will have passed and suddenly it’s fall and I have only a few months to work on the Scotty book. (I did work on it a bit yesterday; I had some really good ideas to jot down, and I do think I am beginning to get a grasp on the story and what it’s going to be.) I want to work on the secret project I wanted to have finished by the end of the month (so not happening) and I also have to work on some short stories I want to submit and get out there. I’ve been feeling defeated lately, primarily I think by the heat (since my sleep has been really good for the most part since I got back from Kentucky, fingers crossed this will continue), and I need to get beyond that. Yes, the world is a dumpster fire raging out of control, but all I can control is me and how I react and I can feel the need for control building inside my head….so I imagine at some point relatively soon I am going to stop watching the fire blazing and work on the things I can control, while still being aware of the fire and doing whatever small things I can to pitch in to keep the blaze as under control as I am capable.

It’s getting gloomier as I type, so I am going to bring this to a close, make another cup of coffee, and retire to my easy chair for some more The Savage Kind. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Don’t Knock My Love

I turned the edits in yesterday and let out a huge sigh of relief. I think I fixed everything that needed fixing, and I think the book is much better now than it was when I actually turned it in (editors are so worth their weight in gold; good ones, anyway).

I feel more confident now about my writing than I have in a long time, to be honest. I feel more confident about life in general, for that matter. I’m not sure what happened, or what caused the change…but I know once I got over being tired from the Kentucky trip, I’ve felt better on every level–emotionally, physically, and mentally. And I hope it lasts.

I also didn’t realize how much stress that turning that revised manuscript in would release from my shoulders. Deadlines are stressful, especially when you have a horrible habit of missing them, and the last couple of months haven’t been the easiest for me on multiple fronts. But when I started working on the edits more deeply this past weekend, I became much calmer than I’ve been in a long time, relaxed, even, which really felt strange. The weekend overall was a pretty good one, to be honest. I didn’t sleep as well last night as I would have liked, either, but this morning feel rested, at the very least. It also feels like I’ve not been into the office in a very long time, which is strange–I mean, I was just there on Friday–but it’s still weird. But even so, this past week was a lot less stressful and tense than I’ve felt in a long time. I am not sure what that’s all about, but I am going to take it as a win.

We watched more of The Boys and Obi-wan Kenobi last night, and are now all caught up on both shows. (I didn’t know Amazon Prime was doing the same, release one episode per week, streaming thing; I don’t remember having to watch The Boys by the week in previous seasons, but my mind has literally become a sieve these days and it’s entirely possible. The ability to binge has seriously affected my memory and how I watch television; it seems completely alien now to have to wait a week to watch another episode of something…let alone having to watch everything that way. How on earth did we used to do that all the time? It’s amazing how easy it is to retrain your mind after a lifetime of doing things one way.) I am really enjoying both shows. I like that The Boys will go places Marvel and DC won’t with their take on super-heroes, and I am really loving Obi-wan Kenobi. I don’t know what the whiners on social media are complaining and/or bitching about, other than it being the usual misogyny and racism. “Oh, no, we have a Sith who is a black female!” Get over your fucking self. Sorry you can accept alien creatures without qualm but get your tiny little nut-sack in a froth over a black woman. The horror of it all! You must have really hated the adaptation of Foundation.

I also wrote nearly three thousand new words of “Never Kiss a Stranger” last night; I decided working on it would be a nice palate-cleanse between finishing the last book and starting the new Scotty. I’m still not sure I am writing it the correct way–novellas are a whole new thing for me, and the structuring is also a new concept for me. But I like what I am doing with it thus far, and while it doesn’t have to be anything, it could just as easily be something I just tinker with from time to time when I feel like it, I am also enjoying it a lot. It’s set in the summer of 1994, and my main character has just retired from the military after twenty years and moved to New Orleans. He’s a gay man who has spent twenty years hiding who he is, and now he has the ability to live his life the way he pleases–so writing about unshackling oneself from the enforced bondage of the military closet is, in some ways, like just coming out of the closet. He doesn’t regret his time in the army, not in the least; he would have stayed in had he not learned he was on a purge list before “don’t ask don’t tell” goes into effect. But I like the idea of exploring how experiencing that freedom for the first time in his life, at almost forty, feels…because in many ways his socialization as a gay man is somewhat stunted; it had to be, because of the military. It’s nice to bring up these things–as well as HIV/AIDS–in a historical piece (sad that 1994 was almost thirty years ago at this point and counts as a historical. This is also my sly way of working some politics into the story, as well. When Peter interviewed me for the Three Rooms Press website as the “featured author of the month,” one of the things he asked about was politics…the truth is my existence is political through no choice of my own, as I told Peter, and I would like nothing more than to just be left alone so I can focus on my writing. I’ve not been active politically for a while–I still vote, and make the occasional donation to a candidate I believe in–but as a gay man in the United States in 2022, the right wing likes to use me and my community to whip up their base of Christofascists, and this year it is particularly ugly.

I also think my work kind of stands as political statements on their own. Let’s look at my last two books, shall we? Bury Me in Shadows examined the generational damage caused by institutionalized racism and homophobia; #shedeservedit was an examination of how toxic masculinity and systemic misogyny damages our young people. Yes, they were crime stories, and yes, I like to think they were entertaining reads–but each had a point that I was trying to make through the story and the characters and what they were facing. I started doing an entry this weekend about the Scotty series, from beginning to its most recent (since I am about to embark on writing a new one)–mainly because there was a song on the list I am using for post titles called “Watching Scotty Grow” and really, was there ever a better title for a post looking back through the years at the Scotty series, its ups and downs and journey from an idea I had one afternoon to getting a contract to write it and going from one publisher to another…and yet Scotty continues to endure.

Well, that’s enough for a Tuesday morning. Have a lovely morning, Constant Reader, and I am heading into the spice mines.

Mama’s Pearl

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment, and I have a rather lengthy weekend of work staring me down. Yesterday wasn’t a bad day, per se; I’ve certainly had much worse ones over the years. I didn’t have to be at the office at the usual time–Fridays I can go in later, which is so lovely–and I had slept really deeply and well the night before so the morning started off in a much better manner than usual. I ran some errands on the way home from the office, including making groceries (so I wouldn’t have to do it this weekend), and came home to a nice, lovely and sort of quiet-ish evening. The heat has been miserable here–and there’s already tropical systems forming in the Atlantic and in the Gulf, whee!–and I am already a bit concerned about the power bills to come this summer. It was ninety-five degrees yesterday when I left the office–which is high, even for June, if I recall correctly.

It’s usually the humidity that makes it so miserable here…it feels like August already, so i can only imagine how miserable August itself will actually be.

But I will worry about that when I have to. For now, I am just going to enjoy the cool loveliness of the climate controlled Lost Apartment and pretend I have money to (quite literally) burn.

I slept well last night. We finished watching The Little Drummer Girl and Beneath the Banner of Heaven–both of which I recommend–and I started reading Tara Laskowski’s Anthony nominated The Mother Next Door, and it’s excellent, y’all. I only read the first chapter, but I was immediately sucked in–which is a very good thing; that means I can use the book as a reward for working this weekend, aka if I get this far, I can spend two hours reading Tara’s book. I can see why it was so acclaimed and has gotten so much award recognition–it’s currently nominated for the Anthony for Best Paperbook/Ebook/Audiobook Original–and I am very excited that it’s finally worked its way up to the top of the TBR pile. I keep talking about the golden age of crime fiction we are currently living through–seriously, reading the first chapter of Tara’s book served as further confirmation of that theory.

Today is going to be spent mostly working on the edits, of course. Once I’ve swilled enough coffee for my mind to function–I am also getting the hang of Wordle, I’ve been getting it in two or three tries this past week–and some of this mess organized and cleaned up and put away–I will probably dive headlong into the edits. They went really well last night–I was very pleased with the progress I’ve made and how much better the book is becoming (an editor is really worth their weight in gold, and I am very privileged to be working with Terri Bischoff on this one) as I go. I hope to get really deep into it today, so I can finish it tomorrow and then have Monday to go over it one more time before turning it in, once and for all. I’ve also been seeing a lot of submission calls I find interesting and that I may have something for–there was one in particular that I’d like to submit for, since it was for novellas and those are indeed rare, rainbow and glitter unicorns, and since I have like four or five of them in progress…I should be able to get something together for it, don’t you think? And at the very least, it means I would have one of them finished.

My writing schedule has been so off and so fucked up this year. What a strange year this has been thus far: I am discovering that I am so unused to traveling now that whenever I do it, it takes a few days to recover, which I usually don’t have; the binge-writing thing hasn’t changed, but it’s getting harder and harder to do it now–and much more tiring; I’ve been off my gym/workout schedule for months now, and my body doesn’t like it even one little bit; and my goal to broaden my cooking skills has failed miserably. I have, in fact, traveled only three times thus far this year–Left Coast Crime, the Edgars, Kentucky–and I have only two more trips planned for this year, Fort Lauderdale in July for Sleuthfest and Minneapolis for Bouchercon. I’ll probably wind up going to Kentucky a few more times this year, but I will worry about that when the time comes. I will most likely take the rest of this coming week off from writing anything after I turn the edits in on Monday, and then try to dive back into the short stories and various other projects next weekend–although I do have to teach that workshop at the library on Saturday, which also means I will go to That’s Amore and order us a deep dish Chicago style pizza on my way home–as well as start working on cleaning out the attic preparatory to cleaning out my storage unit (I’d like to get that emptied out by the end of the month so I can close the account and stop spending that money every month; it’s ridiculous I’ve been paying that every month now for so many years), but if not, maybe by August 1 at least. I need to start pruning the books out of the apartment again, too. The only thing I really need to keep is research materials, if that–most of that can be found on-line or as ebooks–and it would really be nice to get rid of some of this stuff, you know?

Clean like you’re moving, Gregalicious.

And of course, I need to get started on Mississippi River Mischief at some point. The story is starting to coalesce in my head, as more and more ideas and things to include come along…I’m actually kind of excited about it, to be honest, and even more excited to have to make some field trips to some of the bayou parishes to get a look around and take some pictures and get some background color for the book. It’s going to be a little bit weird to write more about a fictional parish outside of New Orleans than about New Orleans itself; and yes, I am inventing a fictional parish to go along with the other fictional parish I use for some of my paranormal stuff–St. Jeanne d’Arc and Redemption parishes–just as I have invented some things for the current project in edits. I never used to do that, but if people want to ding me for making some shit up so be it. I find myself not quite as tied to “can’t invent something that isn’t there in the city because I want to” as I used to be–but I will never write about basements or subterranean caverns beneath the city (although I do suppose there are underground drainage tunnels down there).

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a happy Saturday wherever you are, Constant Reader, and I’ll let you know tomorrow how things are going with the edits. I know–the suspense, right?

I Woke Up In Love This Morning

Well, I kind of do every morning, really. It’s kind of hard sometimes to wrap my mind around the fact that next month is our twenty-seventh anniversary. Twenty-seven years. That’s a long time for someone like me, whose prior relationships never lasted much longer than a couple of weeks at best. I was thinking about my past last night, after I got home and collapsed into my easy chair, and thinking again how I could never write a memoir because I really don’t remember what actually happened, and over the years I’ve rewritten things to make me look better in my own mind and memory. We all have, I think, a tendency to see ourselves as always being in the right, and everyone else being wrong…and as more time passes we continue to color those memories and slant them in our minds until the truth, what really happened, what was actually said, have changed completely in our minds and these biased revisions become our truth; which is just one of many reasons I use my past–if and when I do write about my past–I only use it for fiction–because my past as I remember it now is probably mostly fiction.

I had another good night’s sleep last night, which was marvelous and feels great this morning. My muscles feel rested and relaxed as opposed to tight and tired, and my mind feels a bit refreshed. I am not in world-conquering mode quite yet; but I am getting there slowly but surely. I have a lot of work to get done this week and over this weekend; I am going to have to buckle down and force myself to actually get the work done this weekend no matter how badly I want to goof off and relax and do little to nothing–it’s really not an option for me this time around. I have too much to do, and the trip to Kentucky, necessary as it was, really threw me off schedule (which I was already behind, to be fair; the trip made things worse). So I am hoping–with feeling rested and everything today–that I’ll be able to make some serious progress on things, and get to a place where I can unplug for the entire weekend (other than the blog, of course) and avoid everyone and everything until I am completely caught up the way I should be on everything. I doubt that will happen–if anything was proven to me this past weekend on the trip, it’s that I get way too much junk email every day, so not looking at it and not deleting things is really not an option for an entire weekend.

I am also the featured author at Three Rooms Press this month, which is very cool; many thanks to Peter Carlaftes (and Kat Georges) for always being incredibly supportive of me and my career over the years, ever since they published the Florida Happens anthology I edited for St. Petersburg Bouchercon. I was rereading it last night in my chair while I was waiting for Paul to come home (so we could watch another episode of The Little Drummer Girl), and I winced quite a bit, as I always do. The other morning, when I taped the segment for Great Day Louisiana (which, it occurred to me last night, might not air) I was having to talk about writing and again, I think back to the questions asked (Malik, the interviewer, was great–friendly and nice and very high energy) and my responses and wince a little bit. I always feel so pompous and pretentious when I talk about writing, but I try to be as honest as I can. I’m never sure how I come across (and let’s be honest, I am a huge critic of myself), and I want to be practical–I always roll my eyes when I read interviews about writers talking about writing and they turn into this mystical, mysterious thing with muses and Gods of Inspiration and “opening a vein and bleeding on the page” and all of that stuff. Yes, you want emotional honesty in your work, and yes, you want your characters to be realistic and fully developed and well rounded and to have interior lives, but ultimately, at least for me, writing is work. I think about it, I go over it in my head, I sit down and write it and print it and edit it and revise and rewrite it and maybe that can, I suppose, be seen as “bleeding on the page”…but then I remind myself I am not a literary writer and so therefore I don’t go through all the angst and agony they do–I don’t spend hours trying to structure and craft a sentence until it’s perfect and poetry, either.

Then again, I’ve never really fit the mold of what most people think authors are like and I’ve never written the way other people do. And that’s fine; there’s no “one way” to be an author. I always tell people the entire point of writing manuals is to show beginners there are any number of ways to write and be a writer; what works for someone else might not work for you, and the point of the manuals with helpful hints and techniques and methodologies for getting words on the page is for you to try things to see what works best for you, and it may wind up being a combination of Sue Grafton said this and this other writers does this and let me try this thing Michael Connelly does and so on…you have to come up with whatever works for you, and there’s nothing wrong with borrowing bits and pieces of other author’s techniques and honing them into something that works for you.

Which is also why I will never write a How to Be a Writer manual. I could, on the other hand, do something like Stephen King’s On Writing, which is a combination writing memoir/manual, and is the book I recommend to any and every person who wants to write. And then I think, like anyone wants to read your memoir about writing….and didn’t you just say you aren’t sure of your own memories of the past, what’s true and what’s been revised over the years by your ego?

Yes, that would be a problem.

At any rate, it’s time for me to head into the office for another exciting day of STI testing. You have a great day, Constant Reader, and think of me down here in the spice mines.

Stick-Up

Working at home on this ruby Tuesday, so I didn’t need to get up super-early or have to deal with anything like, you know, having to gulp down steaming hot coffee so I could prise my eyelids apart this morning in order to write this blog entry. Do I have high hopes for the day? Sure I do. Will I inevitably be disappointed? Most definitely. I slept really well last night–the bed was still incredibly comfortable this morning–and I feel revitalized in some ways, refreshed in others, and snapped out of whatever I was feeling recently; good sleep and not waking up to an alarm certainly does make a difference, I think, in almost every conceivable way. I was, indeed, tired when I got home from work yesterday–as I suspected I might be yesterday morning when I got up–and so spent the evening relaxing and watching television (Gaslit, The Baby, Tokyo Vice) until I went to bed relatively early. My brain is still not completely awake this morning, but it’s getting there. I have an errand to run this morning–or at some point during the day–but other than that I will be here doing my data entry and then working on my book after my day’s work for the day job is completed and my hours done. I should probably try to get packed today for the trip–get that out of the way, since the plan is to get up early Thursday and be on the road as soon as possible–as well as try to get everything wrapped up that I can before I go away for four days.

I’m not dreading the drive as much as one might think, to be honest. Now that I’ve discovered the magic of audiobooks (it’s funny how I always resist something because I’ve made up my mind I won’t like it, and then end up liking it a lot; to be fair, I was worried about listening to books in the car from a fear that I would get so absorbed in listening I wouldn’t pay attention to driving–that did not turn out to be the case) for long drives, the drives are a lot more enjoyable. I actually do not mind highway driving as much as one might think, given my utter antipathy for driving and my fears of the ignorance of 90% of the other drivers on the road, but if it’s a nice day–one thing you can definitely say about the South, it’s beautiful to drive through. The mountains in Tennessee and Kentucky make me a bit nervous when I drive through there once night has fallen, but the sun sets far later now than it does when I drive up in November so it should actually still be light out when I get to my parents’ Thursday evening. The lengthy drives for me now are about recovery, because they wear me out a lot more than they ever did before, which is undoubtedly part of being older (the thing that truly sucks about getting older is you’re never sure about things–“is this something I should get checked out, or am I just older?” It doesn’t help when you bring things up to your doctor and he says, “you’re getting older.”) but I am also not going to worry about “making time” and getting there as quickly as I can. If I have to stop, I have to stop.

Getting there isn’t a race or a contest. There’s no prize for getting there fifteen minutes earlier than planned. I really need to learn to be more patient. Why am I always in such a hurry? Can an old dog learn a new trick?

Anything is possible.

My mind does wander sometimes as I listen to the audiobooks–it often does on long drives–and hopefully this drive will help me get some new ideas for current and future projects the way it usually does–although it can be frustrating not being able to write ideas down immediately, as sometimes they get forgotten. But I like to believe that even if I have an idea that I forget, just having thought about it at that time means it will pop up again at some point. Over the past ten to fifteen years, driving through Alabama–either going north or coming south–helped me structure the story and create the characters for Bury Me in Shadows, for example–so maybe, just maybe, this drive will help me pull together some ideas for any one of the insane amounts of projects I have on-going at the moment. One can certainly hope, at any rate. I am not kidding when I say that Bury Me in Shadows was in my head since sometime in the mid to late 1980’s; I don’t remember when I wrote the original short story that eventually grew and developed into the book, but it was during that time period.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, everyone, and I will chat at you again tomorrow morning.

When You’re Hot You’re Hot

And when you’re not, you’re not.

I am deep in the weeds of my edits/revision (make no mistake: editors and copy editors are worth their weight in gold and are treasures, seriously) and I think it’s going well; it’s hard to say when you are not the best judge of your own work. I slept really well last night–I did wake up a few times because I have so much to do and feel a bit overwhelmed from time to time–but I do feel rested, which bodes well for the rest of my day (we’ll see how I feel this afternoon) and I am awake this morning, so that’s a good thing. Tomorrow is my work-at-home day (I switched days with a co-worker) and so I don’t have to get up as early then; I suspect I will, though–that always seems to be the case these days. I woke up early yesterday rather than allowing myself to sleep in with the end result that I got a lot done. I would like to keep the ball rolling today; we’ll see how it goes and how I feel when I get home tonight.

There’s really nothing to bring you down to earth after the high of getting an award nomination (or two) like diving into your edits. Yikes. But I do think it was smart to give up on getting that short story turned in for tomorrow; the story doesn’t even have a completed first draft and so it probably would have been rushed had I tried to get it finished in time, and then in a few months, after the rejection and so forth I would have reread the story and been mortified that I turned it in at that stage of its development. This happens a lot more frequently than I would like to admit, frankly; it happens with the MWA anthologies all the fucking time. (This, of course, explains why I never get accepted into one of the MWA anthologies…)

Heavy heaving sigh.

I leave for Kentucky on Thursday; which means I have a rather lot to get done before I leave. I’d like to get these edits finished by then and turned in (which might be overly ambitious, let’s be honest) so I don’t have to worry about any of it while I am away–I would much rather be able to just rest and relax and read while I am up there, which would be lovely. I started reading James Kestrel’s Best Novel Edgar winning Five Decembers yesterday, and it’s quite good thus far. I like the setting in Hawaii just before the attack on Pearl Harbor (I’ve always wanted to write a murder mystery set in Honolulu and opening on December 8th, 1941, while the battleships are still smoking in Pearl Harbor), and I am curious to see how it’s going to go as I get deeper into the book. It did the Edgar, so I have to assume that it’s really well done and a good story–I’ve yet to read a Best Novel winner than disappointed, frankly–and of course, there’s some marvelous audiobooks loaded into my phone to listen to in the car that I am really excited about. I cleared out some more books yesterday–an on-going, never-ending process, apparently–but I won’t be able to drop anything off at the library sale for at least another week (since I will be gone this weekend), so I have the chance to clear out even more books. I am trying to resist sentimentality–and of course, if I have acquired the ebook edition I don’t need the hardcover anymore–and have been doing quite well with that, I think–there are some I have not succeeded in untying myself from, but think the desire for no clutter will eventually overrule everything else.

One would hope, at any rate–although it doesn’t seem to have done much good up to this point in my life.

I am trying very hard this morning to keep and maintain low stress levels; just keeping my head down and moving forward slowly but surely, ticking things off the to-do list one by one. It’s not easy when things are pressing in on every side–sometimes I really feel like I am in one of those episodes of Scooby Doo where the bad guys have them trapped in a room and the walls start moving in to crush them–but I just need to remember to stay relaxed, not get irritated (DO NOT LOSE YOUR TEMPER NO MATTER HOW FRUSTRATING SOMEONE MIGHT BE), and keep calm. Nothing is worth getting upset or angry over; the priorities have to be set and stuck to, and everyone else just needs to wait their turn. If people get pissed off at me, it isn’t my problem. No one, after all, ever seems to take my needs and concerns and feelings into consideration.

I really do need a vacation, and not one that involves going to a conference or visiting my parents. I need to go someplace where I can just unplug, not worry about emails or anything else, and just relax and be by myself (or with Paul) and rest and get my head together and unplug from all the stressors and irritations of my every day life. A beach someplace would be absolutely lovely; I remember the lovely balcony of the condo we rented in Acapulco, where we could hear the waves coming into shore and there was that lovely cool salty breeze regularly blowing in off the bay. I’d settle for Dauphin Island, really; or any place along the Gulf Coast as long as there’s a breeze and waves and all the associated noises that go with being by the sea. I need to recharge, and my weekends off are just not enough. And given this weekend is going to involve twenty-four hours of driving, this is probably not going to be it, either.

After working yesterday, I spent some more time with Five Decembers and also reread the last two books of Heartstopper again, since the show has been renewed for another two seasons, I wanted to refresh my memory about what goes on the last two books to prepare mentally for when the show drops. The books do take a dark turn–I can’t lie about that, they do–and it was one that I didn’t see coming, but at the same time that dark turn is kind of important because it’s handled so remarkably well? It’s just difficult, because through watching the show and reading the books I’ve become rather attached to Charlie and Nick and don’t want anything bad to ever happen to them–which isn’t realistic, and I especially know that as an author myself; how many horrible things have I had happen to Scotty and the boys in that series? And in all fairness, I was far worse to Chanse than I ever have been to Scotty and the boys….Chanse seriously went through some shit, and part of the reason I stopped writing about him was because I was tired of torturing him…just let him live happily ever after already and be done with it. (I’ve had a couple of ideas about bringing him back–I have some story ideas he would be perfect for–but then I think, maybe I should just leave him be and create someone new for those stories–using a character you’ve already established and know very well is kind of lazy writing, isn’t it?)

Heavy sigh.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader. I am going to sure as hell try myself.

Liar

Look at me, up and awake before seven in the morning on a Sunday! Who would have ever thought that would happen? I feel surprisingly awake and alert and rested this morning, given the early hour and all, but that’s okay. When you’re awake, you’re awake–so I figured I might as well get up and get a jump on the day. I will be going deep into the edits of A Streetcar Named Murder today. I ran the errands I needed to run yesterday, got some organizing and cleaning done around the house, and started the deep dive into the edits yesterday–most of the day was spent planning and figuring out things in the book that I didn’t have time to figure out when I was actually writing it (mistake mistake mistake; how do pantsers do this all the time?) and with my lesson firmly learned, am ready to get cracking on fixing the errors here and clearing up and tightening up the story. I want to be finished with it all before I leave on Thursday, because it will be very hard for me to finish it while I am in Kentucky. (And I’d rather spend whatever time I have free while I’m up there reading, frankly.) I’m getting a bit excited about the trip, if I may be so bold as to say so, which is a good thing; right now I am not even dreading all those hours in the car–I have Carol Goodman and Ruth Ware novels to listen to in the car–and while I do have to go into the office tomorrow, I work at home on Tuesday this week and can packed and ready to go that day so Thursday morning I can get up, have some coffee, and head out on the highway early.

There’s also some straightening and organizing I need to get done this morning–looking around the workspace is making me shudder right now–but it’s nice to feel rested and ready to go, honestly. I wonder what was so different about last night that I slept so much better? I’m not even going to check the Fitbit because I don’t necessarily trust its judgement and evaluation of my sleep, to be honest. I mean, it’s interesting to see how I feel vs. how it thinks I slept–but there are times when I wake up and feel rested and great but I supposedly slept poorly; and then mornings when I get up and feel groggy and tired and exhausted, it claims that I slept very well. I don’t know if I can trust it, and frankly, if it wasn’t part of the complicated system of trying to get cheaper health insurance through my job, I sure as hell wouldn’t wear it. Paul often buys me really nice watches as gifts and I never wear them–mainly because I am clumsy as fuck and inevitably break things that are nice–but the Fitbit…like I said, there’s this really complicated system of scoring points through a program that helps reduce the cost of my health insurance. I’m not entirely sure I understand it–I never really grasped it when it was explained eight or nine years ago–but I know I score points, earn a medal status (bronze, silver, gold) and if I get to silver, I don’t have any “out of paycheck” contributions to my health insurance, and registering my daily steps and how well I slept through the Fitbit scores fifty points per day. (The points also can be cashed in for gift cards; I always get Amazon to buy books, of course. Don’t @ me; the other options don’t really work for me.)

It looks to be a nice day outside my windows this morning, although it’s undoubtedly already incredibly hot outside. I’m hoping to manage to not go out into it much today–maybe taking out the trash or something–and I may be meeting a friend who’s in town for drinks later this evening (not too late, since I have to get up early in the morning), but other than that, I mostly plan to sit here at this desk and edit and revise and rewrite today. I also don’t know how long it’s going to take me to get this finished; I am hoping by focusing and working really hard and not allowing myself to get distracted I can power through and get this back to my publisher before I leave on Thursday.

One can always hope and dream at any rate.

We watched Hacks last night, and the most recent episode of The Offer, although I’m not really sure why we continue to watch the latter. I noticed last night that there are any number of shows we’re in the middle of (Severance, Pieces of Her, Slow Horses) that we forgot we were watching and thus will need to pick up again–it wasn’t that we weren’t enjoying them, but rather that we inevitably ended up having our viewing disrupted by something for several days and when we had time to go back and get caught up on things, we forgot we were watching them (we also never finished Physical either). It is interesting–I thought about this while watching The Offer last night–how many shows we’ve seen lately that were set in the 1970’s (Minx, Candy, The Offer) as well as what a great job they are doing depicting the era. I remember saying during one episode of Candy, “living this kind of life was my biggest nightmare when I was a kid, and they are doing a great job of showing how bleak and ugly and dull suburban life was back then.”

I also have started up again with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I’d stopped watching last season because I quickly grew tired of the Erika Jayne/Erica Girardi mess–I’d never particularly liked her very much, but at least she was somewhat entertaining–but given that the great wealth she has flaunted ever since she joined the cast was essentially stolen from settlements for victims of great and horrific tragedies and she was completely unrepentant and tried to play like she was the real victim, I no longer felt any desire to watch a sociopathic narcissist who has knowingly or unknowingly participated in embezzlement, fraud and God knows what else. I’d reached a point where I kept thinking someone just needs to slap the shit out of that fucking crooked bitch and felt that giving them eyeballs and a rating point on Hulu was endorsing the fact that Bravo was enabling her and giving her a platform to try to redeem herself in the public eye, which was shitty. Sure, innocent before proven guilty and all that–but The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills isn’t a court of law; and the fact they milked her potential criminality for ratings was disgusting and craven. I don’t love to hate her, I just fucking hate her. And the rest of the cast–outside the newer ones–are equally garbage. I stopped watching The Real Housewives of New York during its most recent season because I couldn’t watch the blatant racism being offered up as “entertainment.” Fuck you, Bravo, and fuck you, Andy Cohen. The Real Housewives shows have become a microcosm of everything that is wrong with American society and culture: there’s no accountability for anything. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: people are rewarded for being horrible.

It also makes me feel like I’ve always been incredibly naïve about the world, believing that being a good person means you’ll be rewarded and bad people will be punished for their wrong-doing, when the harsh reality is quite the opposite. I feel like I’ve been gaslit most of my life, frankly.

Which, of course, always comes back to me being a crime writer. I want to see justice being done. I want to see evil-doers punished and good people rewarded for their goodness. I want to write about a world where murderers and criminals are caught and punished, their victims avenged; not the real world where the wealthy can hire great lawyers and outspend the prosecution to get off, while so many innocent people who cannot afford great lawyers are convicted or talked into taking plea bargains every day and doing time while having committed no crime other than not being able to afford a great lawyer. (I’ve always wanted to write about a public defender–but who wants to read a book where the public defender loses every case?)

Heavy heaving sigh. And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader–I’ll check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Bring the Boys Home

Thursday and I’ve survived thus far–small victories, regardless of how small they might be, are still victories–and just today and tomorrow in the office before the weekend. I have switched out Monday for Tuesday next week (the guy who works Monday has a doctor’s appointment so we switched days) which should make for an interesting week; in office Monday, at home Tuesday, in office Wednesday, leave on Thursday. I am really dreading going back to five days in the office, but am also hoping that by the time that happens we’ll also have evening hours again so I can give up these wretched mornings.

The good news is I have selected my audiobooks for the drive next week: The Night Villa by Carol Goodman and The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware. I think the books I will take with me to read while I am there will be Five Decembers by James Kestrel (which recently won the Edgar for Best Novel) and probably Rob Osler’s Devil’s Chew Toy, most likely. I won’t have time to read both while I am there–I’ll only be there for two full days, plus two 12 hour drive days (YAY CAN’T WAIT)–but I can certainly make some headway with at least one of them. I also am thinking since I usually get up at six on Thursdays that I can go ahead and get up that early next Thursday and be on the road by seven-ish in the morning. That will help me get past the two biggest logjams on the road (Birmingham and Chattanooga) at off hours, but will put me into Knoxville during the evening rush hour, yay, but better one than all three). I also would like to stop and take some pictures in the Smoky Mountains on the way, which is something I’ve always wanted to do whenever I am driving this trip, but I’m always behind schedule and rushing and its dark outside in the time of year when I usually make it, so….but those gorgeous sunsets in the mountains are marvelous. It’s too bad my story has to be finished long before this trip, alas…at least if I want to make it for this submission call.

If I want to make this submission call. The jury is still out.

I slept decently last night–I haven’t synced the Fitbit to the phone yet for a definitive sleep score yet–but i did wake up a few times during the night but I was able to go back to sleep each time. Ah, a 76–that feels about right. I feel a bit groggy this morning but somewhat rested; we’ll see how good I am at getting things checked off the to-do list today, won’t we? I had drinks with a friend in from out-of-town last night after work, and then when I got home I had to hide everything in the kitchen so I could do a ZOOM meeting, which was productive and nicer than I would have thought, and then I hung out with Paul gossiping and getting caught up on each other’s lives before retiring to bed last evening. I am, however, looking forward to getting through this day so I can sleep a little later tomorrow morning, and then slide nicely through to the weekend. Heavy heaving sigh. And of course, next week I have to go to Kentucky. Yay. But I’m very excited about the audiobooks I downloaded to listen to, and the opportunity to do some reading while I am there. Find the positives in everything is always a good methodology to pursue, especially in times like these where it feels like the entire world is burning to the ground. (I said to Paul last night, “no one told me when I was a kid that everything in the world would just get worse and worse every year once I was an adult. That was one thing I didn’t plan on.”)

But as my coffee is kicking in now, and my mind is becoming less clouded and foggy, I am feeling better about my world and all the things I can get done and need to get done and WILL get done by Monday. I need to remember not to be so hard on myself about everything, and maybe slow down and cut back on everything else that I am doing and be a lot more selective going forward. I also need to recognize and accept that I am older and while the heart might still be willing, the body and brain are older and a bit slower and I can’t do as much as I used to. I need to get back to the gym after I return from Kentucky, and start taking that seriously (the pictures from Ellen’s book launch! Ye Gods, I look terrible). I need to focus and get the Scotty book planned, as well as two other projects organized and ready to go, and I also need to get these edits done (I am hoping to spend some of the weekend doing just that; I’ve got to finish this before I can move on to something else).

And I found another submission call that sounds interesting. Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Thursday, Constant Reader, and remember–the weekend is nigh.

Never Ending Song of Love

Wednesday and we have achieved midweek at last. Yesterday wasn’t a very pleasant day–it could have been worse (it can always be worse)–but I was not sorry to see the day come to a miserable close, frankly. My Fitbit claimed I had one of the better nights’ sleeps that I’ve had in a while (the highest sleep score I ever got was an 86 out of 100; yesterday morning showed “82”–I’m not really sure how this all works but anything above an eighty is supposed to be good and anything below not good; yesterday felt like a 76 to me, but I’ve been wrong before) and I definitely ran out of steam in the mid-afternoon around three o’clock. (The last two appointments every day are awful–for me; I hope the clients don’t notice that I’m loopy and tired…) I don’t think I slept as well last night as I did the night before–my Fitbit is currently syncing with my phone, so I’ll get last night’s ‘sleep score’ soon–and it was, indeed, a 77, which isn’t good.

But was about what I expected, so another day of running out of gas in the middle of the afternoon. Huzzah.

Progress of a sort is being made. I turned in the Bouchercon anthology yesterday (note to self: let the contributors know) so that’s off my plate, and now I get to start diving into the edits on my book. They are extensive, but will make the book stronger and I am going to need to start pulling all of that together quickly and soon. I did (briefly) start working on the Scotty book over the weekend, and I do need some time to think about that one as well. I guess next week in the car on the way to Kentucky I’ll have some time to think about it, around listening to whatever books I decide to listen to on the driving. I also have a shot at getting that story finished, since the deadline is later than I thought, but we’ll have to see precisely how much free time I have this weekend. I still haven’t decided what book to read yet–I was much too tired when I got home from work last night to read, so it was another evening of catching up on shows Paul doesn’t watch before he got home late.

I’m really tired… of being really tired.

But the world continues to turn and time continues to pass. Paul also expressed surprise at how quickly May has flown by thus far; I was thinking the same thing myself yesterday. This entire year has kind of flown by, it feels like, but on the other hand New Year’s and Carnival seem like a very long time ago. I tested negative for COVID yet again this morning–it still boggles my mind that I, of all people, have never had it–which is a good thing; I would hate to come down with it before my trip next week–and I am not feeling nearly as overwhelmed this morning as I was feeling, say, yesterday morning. I still have a shit ton of things to get done in the meantime, but it seems a bit more do-able this morning to me. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, I don’t know, but I just seem to feel better about everything this morning. I’m not feeling particularly creative this morning either, but stranger things have happened, and maybe once my morning coffee kicks completely into gear my creativity will start to flow as well.

Ha ha ha. A boy (even a sixty-year-old one) can dream, can he not?

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