Summer Days

So summer is officially over for the year, and now it’s fall, with the onset of bipolar weather here in New Orleans. It’s still hurricane season–and we’ve had late season ones before, never forget–but we sort of are able to breathe a little bit easier now than through the horrors of July and August. Doesn’t mean we are out of the woods yet–Rita and Zeta and others, oh my!–but there’s something about getting past Labor Day that makes it seem slightly less worrisome. (Almost all the bad hits New Orleans has taken since we’ve lived here are around Labor Day…I can’t remember the names of them all, but Katrina, Ike, Isaac and now Ida?) The city is still kind of a mess; they picked up our trash but not the bags of debris from the yard and the sidewalk (those fucking crepe myrtles!), and of course there are still branches and browning leaves piled up everywhere throughout the city.

When I got home from work yesterday it was quite a beautiful day, and I decided you know, it’s a beautiful day and the doctor’s office is at Touro, which isn’t really a huge walk, so why not? If you get tired or can’t face walking home, go up to the corner at St. Charles and take the streetcar home, and so, I walked. It was an absolutely beautiful day, so I walked up Prytania to get there and walked home down St. Charles, taking pictures for Instagram all the way there and all the way home. I didn’t get tired, really, until I got to my own corner on St. Charles; going to the gym was definitely out of the cards–but now that the weather has changed/turned/ whatever you want to call it, I should probably go take long walks more often. It’s good for my legs, it’s good for my overall health, and it’s another step to getting myself back into physical condition. The good news is none of my leg joints are achy or sore this morning, which I am taking as a very good sign, and whether I will actually go take a walk anywhere besides the gym after work today remains to be seen…but I really enjoyed the walk yesterday. It was an absolutely stellar day; in the mid-seventies and no humidity; the sun shining but not terribly hot (I never broke a sweat the entire time, thanks to the coolness of the day), and it enabled me to feel a bit more….connected to the city again. I was having all kinds of creative thoughts and ideas were flashing through my head the entire time I was walking–about this new series, about other stories I am working on or want to work on, for the next Scotty, for another stand alone mystery–so I am going to say it was a definitely smart thing to do, something I should do fairly regularly, and I am kind of excited about this new phase of exercise being added to the program. What’s really amazing to me is my ankles and feet do not hurt today at all–which was always the issue when I had to take long walks, like to the office on Frenchmen Street or the St. Ann/Bourbon Street corner for outreach during Carnival–so I am taking that as a win.

And I also got all my steps in for the first time since I started tracking them again.

The readjustment to normal again this week seems to be going well. I’m not getting as much done as I would like (and yes, am aware that not worrying about that and laying it at the door of “return to normal” may be a cop out or an excuse–I think there’s probably still some depression going on, but I am not feeling overwhelmed for once, which is a very lovely change, frankly) but this is the first “normal” week I’ve had Since The Power Went Out (I really like that), which has been almost an entire month now, and so I refuse to punish myself for still feeling a bit disoriented and off-balance still. Things are getting done, if slowly; and part of the goal for this year was to not be so hard on myself about everything, wasn’t it? Not being hard on myself certainly doesn’t mean I am not going to get anything done going forward; it just means I need to be more gentle with myself and stop beating myself up over shit.

It looks like it’s another gorgeous day outside; seriously, I always forget how fucking beautiful it is here in the fall and spring–which is why we live here and put up with the summers, which aren’t that bad (as I always say, “hey, I don’t have to scrape humidity off my windshield nor do I have to shovel it off my sidewalk”) and of course, the new book series I am writing–hopefully, a series and not a one-off–takes place in the fall; late September/early October–so I can also riff on the beautiful sunny days and cooler evenings/nights; the shortening of the days and how it gets so dark around five every day; you know, all the stuff I love to write about because I get to talk, really, about how much I love it here.

And I really, really, REALLY need to get back to writing (and reading). That’s what it is going to take to make me feel centered and recovered from all of this from the past month; nothing else works like writing–and I am always unsettled and unhappy when I am not writing. So, after work tonight and after i get home from the gym, I am going to write. And then I am going to read for a while.

That should firmly hit the reset Gregalicious button, methinks.

We finished watching Sex Education last night, which is really quite good and charming, and we also got caught up on The Other Two, which also has some excellent queer characters and representation on it and isn’t nearly getting the press other, lesser shows are; it’s very good, well acted and written, and clever as all hell–although the character of the younger brother, whose Youtube singing stardom is what triggered the opening of the show to begin with, isn’t being utilized nearly enough, I think; there is still a lot of hay and humor to be mined in social media/influencer stardom. We also probably have some other episodes of shows we are watching to get caught up on–Titans, Nine Perfect Strangers–and certainly others to begin and watch; there really are an insane amount of options now. We also want to watch that movie about the young kid who wants to grow up to be a drag queen (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) which looks absolutely charming, and there are other things. I think I may finally watch The Postman Always Rings Twice (the Lana Turner version) today while I am doing my work from home, because I have never actually seen it, much as it shames me to admit. (As I have always said, my education in both reading novel classics as well as watching cinema classics is sadly lacking.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will let you know how today turned out.

Echo Valley 2-6809

Monday morning and the day job grind begins yet again, but I don’t really mind, to be honest. At this point, anything that feels like a sort of normal routine again is quite welcome, to be completely honest. I didn’t want to get up–I never do, really–and with extreme dark going on outside right now, it does rather feel like I should still be in bed, quite frankly. But normality is normality, and I am choosing to look at the misery of being up this early as another step on the road to returning to normal. I am awake and not groggy, so that has to mean something, right?

The weather forecast also shows that fall might be on its way at long last as well; there are nights later this week where the temperatures are going to drop into the sixties! #madness

So perhaps the dog days of summer–with the brutal heat and humidity–are finally over. One can hope, at any rate. It is mid-September, which is right around when this happens every year, after all. Within a few weeks after Labor Day is when the weather breaks and we have our fall–perhaps not as chilly as every where else, but nevertheless, it does signal the change of season (such as it is in New Orleans, after all) and shorter days, which means coming home from work in the dark soon enough. I hate that–it means leaving for work in the dark and coming home in the dark, which makes it feel like you’ve lost the entire day, even though it’s merely an allusion of light vs. dark. Winters always seem grim to me because of the lack of light, frankly.

The Saints played terribly and got their butts beaten pretty badly by Carolina yesterday afternoon, which made things a bit easier for me: I didn’t need to do more than check in on the game every once in a while. I am not sure why it’s so difficult for me to watch the Saints than it is LSU–I can watch LSU play terribly and never miss a minute of the game, yet the Saints somehow feel, have always felt, a little more personal. Maybe because the Saints are New Orleans and LSU is Louisiana? I’m not entirely sure why it is, but the Saints sometimes I just can’t bear to watch them sometimes, and yesterday was one of those times. It just really hurts more when they lose than when LSU does (although an LSU loss is always a heartbreak); plus I grew up with an entirely different mentality about college football than pro. I never paid a lot of attention to the NFL before moving here and taking up the mantle of the Saints; plus the fact that their stadium is actually about a fifteen to twenty minute walk from our house makes the fandom seem a bit more real.

Ah, well, it’s not looking to be a great year for higher-level football in the state of Louisiana this year. Yay?

I have two goals for today: to get through my emails (sob) and to revise “The Sound of Snow Falling.” I have some notes on the new cozy series I’d also like to get typed up; the story and background are all starting to fall into place for me, and I am very excited about this, to say the least. I want to spend the rest of what’s left of September preparing to start writing this book come October 1, as well as getting some more of my other work revised; and maybe even get some short stories out there for submission–it’s been a hot minute since I’ve sold a short story, and I need to get back to work on that; one of the great pleasures of my career is selling/placing short stories; and perhaps it’s time to go back to the Ellery Queen well; I’ve not sold anything to that market in almost ten years. (Alfred Hitchcock is still on my list, FYI.) But I have to have something that’s actually ready, and I don’t really think I have any such thing on hand, to be honest….but then again, the short story file folder with its INSANE amount of sub-folders is also rather intimidating whenever I try to look into it…but I need to get back on the horse and I need to get back to writing again. The tock is clicking…

We watched the Amazon Prime docuseries LuLaRich yesterday, and it was…something. The thing I’ve always wondered with multi-level marketing has always been don’t you eventually run out of people to sell to? If everyone is buying to resale, won’t someone at some point eventually need to find actual customers who just want the product? It’s kind of like how I’ve always seen the economy, really–which is the ultimate MLM scheme–at some point people need to be able to buy products and services for the economy to work, so why is overtaxing the vast majority of people, and underpaying them for their work, the right way to handle the economy? Doesn’t it make more sense, economically, to broaden the amount of spending money the vast majority of people in the economy have, rather than letting it all go to the upper level? I am not an economist, obviously, but I have never been able to get anyone to answer that for me, and for the record, the voodoo economics of “the trickle-down theory” never works; it didn’t in the 1920’s, it didn’t in the 1980’s, and it sure as fuck is not working now. It’s just MATH, and it’s not that fucking hard. But the married couple who created this company aren’t evil people, really; I don’t think they actually understand anything about business and law and how to properly run a company…but they certainly did stoop to some seriously evil practices the deeper they got into the area where they didn’t know what they were doing. But I suspect they will wind up very rich at the expense of a lot of people who were sold a bill of goods about being entrepreneurs.

Which is sad, and makes me feel bad for the victims. (I always feel sorry for the victims, and try really hard not to be judgmental. It’s very easy to fall into the what were you thinking? Don’t you know there’s no such thing as easy success and easy riches in this world? But they already feel bad enough as it is–marriages ruined, financial bankruptcies, uncertain futures–and that mentality really feels like kicking an injured dog.)

Although it would make for an interesting Liane Moriarty novel, wouldn’t it?

And on that note, tis off the spice mines for me. Have a lovely Monday, everyone, and I will speak with you again tomorrow morning.

There’s No Doubt in My Mind

Wednesday and Pay-the-Bills Day again. It seems like it’s been about a million years since the last time I got paid, but at the same time I am also very well aware of how weird the flow of time can be after a disruption–and let’s face it, I wasn’t the best with the passing of time before the disruption. August was indeed a bizarre month for one Gregalicious; one in which I turned sixty right before a New Orleans was hit by a Category 4 hurricane…and life, for that brief period between the birthday and the hurricane, really seemed to speed up ridiculously. A lot happened in that eight day or so span, which is part of the reason why I am still feeling a bit discombobulated and really need to focus to get my shit back together–and get it together in a fucking hurry at that.

I did find the old to-do list; the last one I made before Ida, and ironically…not a thing was scratched off from it, and yes, everything on it remains things I need to do and get done. It was weird, in a way; glad I was able to put my hands directly onto it, of course, but at the same time, it was still a little odd to come across something I did before and see that nothing really changed in the course of the two or three weeks that have passed since. I literally forgot yesterday that Labor Day had been last week, for example; and had to remind myself that oh yeah I was on vacation when Ida hit, wasn’t I?

Seems like it was all so long ago that sometimes it’s hard to believe it hasn’t even been a month yet since I turned sixty.

I am still a little disoriented, and trying to get a hold on things, regain my grip on things as it were, but I do think going into the office (being able to) was an enormous help, and getting up ridiculously early today and being back on my usual work-at-the-office time schedule should help even more, methinks.

The weather looks weird outside the windows this morning, and probably has something to do with Nicholas. We are in a flash flood watch for most of today through tomorrow morning, so yay? According to the weather, it’s apparently going to rain every day for ten days…again, yay? It could be worse, of course–it can always be worse, never forget that lovely part of it–but hopefully in spite of everything the grocery store supply chain can get back into place and the stores here can get stocked again. But since everyone had to empty their refrigerators, everyone needs to restock and so it can be a Sisyphean task to get the grocery stores back to pre-Ida stock levels. Of course, comparatively speaking, our grocery stores probably always look like an overabundance to foreigners.

I really didn’t want to get up early this morning, but I eventually did. It’s going to take some getting used to for me getting up early three days a week again, but much as I loathe having to go to bed early and even more so loathe getting up before dawn, it’s also a part of the routine I need to get back into. I’ve not written hardly a word since Ida’s bands starting coming ashore several weeks ago (now); other than “Parlor Tricks”, which I wrote in my journal and have since transcribed…I need to go through my calls for submissions folder and pick out stories to submit; I can start revising and reworking stories and novellas, which is an entirely different thing than writing from scratch…but I am hoping to get back to Chlorine at some point this weekend. I am not going to get the draft finished before the end of the month and having to start writing my newly contracted cozy mystery–more on that later, of course; we finally have settled on a title which I really like and have always wanted to use, even if its not the one I wanted to use–and so I think I should use the rest of the month to try to wrap up some other loose ends–like that novellas and some of these short stories.

It was raining pretty hard when I came home from work yesterday afternoon, and as such I had little to no desire to walk to the gym and back in what threatened to be a steadily drenching downpour at any moment, so instead I stayed home and didn’t really do a whole hell of a lot of anything. I started reading Velvet Was the Night again, but unfortunately my focus and attention were not having any of it, alas. I am endlessly hopeful that my focus will come back together soon. I suspect this is a transitional week and next will feel more normal–seeing clients the first three days of the week will help me feel like my life is back on track again; and am hoping that seeing clients today will help in that regard as well.

We did get caught up on Only Murders in the Building, which I am really enjoying–although I don’t see how there can be another season, unless the building in question is going to turn into a Cabot’s Cove of sorts, where someone gets murdered every season.

So, today should be an interesting one at the office, I’m not sure how many of our clients will show up; some may not even be back in town as of yet–one never knows, even though it seems as though most of Orleans Parish has power, I don’t think it’s all back in Jefferson Parish yet and of course, the outlying areas suffered even more from that skanky bitch Ida than the city itself did. I don’t think Nicholas is going to be nasty enough to require evacuation again, but there’s also the possibility of the power going out again, which would absolutely be beyond suckage, but at least it’s cooled off; there’s always a slight, barely perceptible break in the heat and humidity after Labor Day, but it does happen–even if the big change to autumn doesn’t come until later in the month/early next month.

It’s weird, but the summer–the brutal dog days, at any rate–are pretty much over at this point.

Something to be grateful for, at any rate.

And now for the spice mines. Have a lovely middle of the week Wednesday, Constant Reader.

To Be Lovers

Tuesday morning and still no Internet. The phone hotspot still seems to be working fine–I’m actually surprised at how quick the Internet connection is; I am so glad I upgraded my phone back in July to a 5G, praise be. I have to work from home today–but am probably going to swing by the office tomorrow to get some more work to be done from either here or there; it all depends, I suppose. My office still doesn’t have power; our other office does (I also need to swing by there as well–there’s a prescription for me waiting there) but my office is running on generators. I am assuming that means there’s no Internet there; but I will go by there to pick up things to work on from home tomorrow anyway and see how things are going there at any rate. Yesterday I was exhausted; the tired went all the way to the bone yesterday. I managed to get some things done around here in the morning, continued to do laundry and organize and clean out cabinets and so forth, but by around four in the afternoon I was so exhausted I could hardly move; so I just put on Spotify and collapsed into my easy chair and started rereading things I’ve been working on–the first three chapters of Chlorine, the novellas, some short stories–and while I am not as pleased with that work as I would like to be this morning, there are some good parts in those works and the skeleton/baseline of them are all very good, very well done, and have the potential to be really good, which is indeed something. Before I get started on my data entry I am going to try to get caught up on my work emails and messages and so forth; while I swill coffee and before I take a shower to face the day. I am going to run some errands at lunch time, and hopefully will be able to go to the gym and at least get some work done on my muscles–I think a lot of the stiffness and so forth is my body protesting the lack of exercise, which does happen; your body gets used to being worked out and when you stop, your muscles are not happy about it in the least. I also have some book review posts to get scheduled for today; I wrote them all yesterday in my exhausted state, but didn’t want to bombard you, Constant Reader, with a slew of book entries…they will be forthcoming, to be sure.

It’s very weird this morning to be readjusting back to some semblance of normality. Remember, Hurricane Ida came ashore during my vacation (sobs softly to self); I had taken a vacation for Bouchercon and kept the time off–only to have a hurricane hit on the final Sunday of the vacation and throw everyone in New Orleans off course for quite some time. At least I don’t have to go into the office today; I have plenty of things to keep me busy around here for the day, and I am curious at some point to go drive around the city and see what’s up everywhere else around here. I know the things that are open are only open for limited hours–staffing AND supplies, I would imagine–so am more than a little curious to see what exactly the grocery stores have in stock and so forth, or if deliveries are coming into the city. I also have no idea whether or not we have mail service, either–so will have to be looking into that. I had packages coming, and Paul’s medications come through the mail (or UPS, we aren’t sure which; but they do come to our postal service). I’m also curious as to whether my CVS is open–going to need to refill that Xanax soon, and believe you me, no one wants me to not have the stuff that takes the edge off and smooths out my corners.

It’s also weird not having television–I guess I didn’t realize how much time I waste sitting in my easy chair with the television on, at the very least for background noise. My wonderful new computer actually has better picture and sound than the television, but the problem is my desk chair isn’t as comfortable as my easy chair (natch) and my muscles again were all tense and knotted from stress and aggravation yesterday–they are still tight this morning, actually–and not only do I need to stretch them, I need a deep tissue massage. (Good luck with that right now, right? Sheesh. It’s too bad we couldn’t have evacuated to a spa hotel somewhere…sauna, steam room, and massage sounds mighty marvelous about right now, quite frankly) I was also a little too tired and loopy to focus on reading, so I didn’t pick up SIlvia Moreno-Garcia’s marvelous Velvet was the Night yesterday; I could reread my own works in progress without a great degree of difficulty or requiring a high level of focus or concentration, but not something new…interesting how I powered through all that reading when there was no power or anything to distract me, but as soon as I had television and Internet in the hotel, my reading came to a sharp halt.

Curious, indeed.

I am also exhausted this morning but not nearly as bad as yesterday. I think it all kind of came crashing in on me yesterday–all those nerves, stress, and tension of the last eight to ten days, and I was literally drained. I hate having lost the time–I’d hoped to be to at least to Chapter Ten of Chlorine by now, so I am behind. I am behind on everything, and now get to play catch up while tired and worn down. Ah, well, I know the drill–make a list, start crossing things off while adding more as you go–and so, I should probably get started on my work day.

Have a lovely post Labor Day, Constant Reader.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Ah, Venice.

I’ve always loved Venice: the idea of a city that exists in a place where no city really should but does anyway (like New Orleans); a city with a long and remarkable history that at one time was one of the major powers of the world, despite not really having much population yet somehow carving out an empire; and always dreamed of visiting there. When Paul and I lucked into our marvelous trip to Italy back in 2014 (I think it was 2014? I could be wrong, it may have been 2015 but it really doesn’t matter) I definitely wanted to include Venice in our itinerary. We wound up only being there for twenty-four hours, but I was enchanted (I was enchanted by all of Italy, really), and have always wanted to go back and spend more time there. We were incredibly lucky when we were there; it was the week before Labor Day weekend, and there were no real crowds there (I have since seen horrible pictures of crowds so thick you can barely move), and we just wandered around looking at beautiful buildings and crossing canals and going into churches and eating gelato–lots and lots of gelato (which was every day, everywhere, while we were in Italy–we even got some at the airport when we flew back out).

Venice is also the setting for my all-time favorite novella and movie based on it (Daphne du Maurier’s “Don’t Look Now”). I love the Katharine Hepburn film Summertime, in which a lonely unmarried teacher comes to Venice and is also enchanted by how gorgeous the city is, and also finds a bittersweet romance with a handsome Italian man. One of my favorite parts of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is set there. I finally read Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” as part of my “plague days” reading last year when COVID-19 shut down the country; as well as Daphne du Maurier’s take on the tale, “Ganymede.” John Berendt’s City of Falling Angels, about the La Fenice fire and the insanity in rebuilding the fabled opera house, was a remarkably insightful look at how things work in Venice, as well as the restoration works on the city and its gnarled bureaucracy, as well as the blasé attitudes of the locals about how corrupt and insane everything is there.

It goes without saying that the similarities between Venice and New Orleans are striking, and run much deeper than the constant threat of water and Carnival.

I started writing a novella this year set in Venice–which I’ve wanted to write about ever since I visited–and at some point I will revise it to get it ready for publication; it’s on my to-do list–and so naturally, Christopher Bollen’s A Beautiful Crime was added to my TBR pile as soon as I knew of it.

And what a delight it turned out to be.

Down below the cry of gulls, below floors of tourists undressing and dressing for dinner, below even the shrinking figure of his killer. a man lies crumpled and bleeding. He’s been dead for only a few seconds. He’s sprawled on his stomach, his body twisted at the hips, his left arm hooked in a U above his head. From a distance, from high above, he looks almost as if he were sleeping. It’s the blood leaking through his pink shirt that gives the crime away.

Outside, the sun is setting on what is unarguably the most beautiful city on the planet. There are a lot of dead bodies in this town. Upstairs in the man’s room, an English guidebook recommends taking a boat out to San Michele to visit an entire island of them. Among the legions buried there are the composer Igor Stravinsky, the ballet director Sergei Diaghilev, and the poet Ezra Pound.

The city is sinking and has been for centuries. Enjoy it while you can. The blood is pooling around the body. Screams are blaring from all directions. The killer is making a run for the exit.

But none of this has happened yet.

I don’t think I’d heard of Christopher Bollen before I heard about this book; I may have read some of his work (he writes for both Vanity Fair and Interview magazines), but I was not prepared for how good this book would be.

And the really good news is its his fourth; he has three more books for me to read and cherish and enjoy. Huzzah! (It’s always delightful to discover a new-to-you writer you love, isn’t it?)

The premise behind this book is pretty genius: a young gay couple who have fallen quickly and madly in love with each other, come up with a “foolproof” plan to con a wealthy douchebag out of enough money for the two to ride off into the sunset together after paying off their unsurmountable debt…and Venice is where the action happens. Bollen spent time in Venice interning at the Peggy Guggenheim museum, which pays off in this complex and riveting noirish thriller. Bollen brings Venice to life in a way that few other writers have; you can smell the canals, taste the food, enjoy the bite of the liquor and savor the wine and the spellbinding beauty of the city through the eyes of his characters.

Our young, intrepid gay couple are Nick Brink and Clay Guillory. Nick came to New York to escape his sterile and stale childhood home in the Midwest, and soon has a very well-to-do older man in love with him; Ari, who is an expert in antique silver and runs one of the few silver businesses left in the country. Nick loves Ari, but it’s not a deep passionate love; it seems more like gratitude and appreciation more than anything else. Ari does love Nick, but his plans for their future (he also employs Nick at the silver shop, which is pivotal to the plot of the book) are making Nick claustrophobic and feeling trapped. Nick looks at the years ahead with Ari (and possibly a child) and is terrified of what his life will become; while this is stable and nice and everything he could have possibly wanted…now that he has it, he’s not sure it is what he wanted after all.

Clay is the surviving companion of an older gay man, Freddy van der Haar, last scion of one of the first families of New York (going back to the days of New Amsterdam and the Dutch settlement); Freddy was one of the last surviving colorful characters of the wild and crazy Bohemian artist scene in New York, and had the wealth to really pursue the kind of life and lifestyle that no longer seems possible or to exist anymore. Everyone, of course, believes Clay is a gold digging conniver who may have even murdered Freddy for the inheritance. But the truth is not how it appears on the surface; there was no money left, and Clay has even gone deeply into debt taking care of Freddy as he declines slowly into death. Clay owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to student loans and medical bills, and doesn’t see any way out of his situation.

The two meet by chance at Freddy’s memorial service; Ari knew Freddy, of course, and Nick doesn’t want to be there. He slips out for air and meets Clay on the steps–Clay isn’t attending (he knows very well what Freddy’s friends think of him) but just wants to make sure that the flowers he ordered arrived. They encounter each other again shortly thereafter, when Clay brings in the last of the van der Haar silver collection for appraisal and possible sale; unfortunately it’s all worthless junk. But the mutual attraction is there, and soon Nick is slipping away from work and his shared apartment with Ari for afternoon trysts at Clay’s inherited brownstone in Brooklyn, which he is selling to help pay down the debts of Freddy’s estate as well as his own.

And the two lovers come up with a plan: part of Clay’s inheritance is a small piece of a palazzo in Venice which the van der Haars once owned completely. The rest of the palazzo is now owned by a wealthy investor named Richard West (whom Freddy despised), who has an obsession with the van der Haar family and wants to possess some of their silver. Why not have Clay try to sell the junk to West, and have Nick–who works for an antique silver firm, after all–falsely authenticate it so they can pay off all that debt and live happily ever after? West is a major scumbag, after all, who fucked Clay over once already; and is it really a crime to fuck over someone who is so awful? Not only will their debts be paid but Clay will finally have vengeance against the man who cheated him out of his dream job…and so begins the game of cat-and-mouse.

And what a delight it is. Bollen is a terrific writer–his gift for sentences and paragraph construction is amazing–and his characters all seem quite real. He peoples the book with a terrific supporting cast, all of whom are actualized; from Daniela the transwoman (who is old school; refuses the term “trans”) with whom Nick stays in Venice, to Freddy himself to West and his entourage. As the deception goes deeper, the pacing also begins to pick up, as well as the sense of dread as they change and adapt their plan and decide to go for even more money…and like the best Hitchcock films and all great noirs, the deeper they get into the deception, the more dangerous the game becomes.

Venice itself is a character; Bollen writes about the city with such love and affection that it becomes impossible to imagine the book being set anywhere else–and he also addresses the primary issue in Venice: the crowds of tourists and the outsiders buying apartments to rent out as Air BnB’s, thus driving up the cost of real estate and living in the city that is forcing the locals out (just like New Orleans! Something else the two have in common!)–and this also plays an integral part in the story.

I loved this book, and even though for a while it was making me think I need to scrap my Venice novella…I soon realized I don’t have to. My novella is in the perspective of a tourist falling in love with the city, whereas Bollen’s is written from the POV of someone with intimate, personal knowledge of the city that comes from living there and truly experiencing what it is to be a Venetian.

Highly recommended; it’s a great read.

Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted

Labor Day, and Lord, did it ever feel fantastic to sleep in my own bed again.

God, how well did I sleep last night? I didn’t want to get out of the bed this morning–not unusual, but I was awake and felt like getting up as there are all kinds of things to do today. It’s Labor Day; what would have been Southern Decadence weekend were there no pandemic nor Hurricane Ida, so I am not going to be overly concerned about some things; it can all wait until tomorrow. Today is about figuring out where I am and where I was at before the power went down; Paul and I were both commiserating about this very thing last night. We both were in really good places before the power outage; I was on a roll with my work and getting ahead and on top of everything as well as my working out (which I was also starting to see the results of, finally), and he was much the same with work and the gym and everything else. I still feel a little unmoored from my life and reality; like I have somehow become untethered and need to start feeling for the ground again with my toes so I can grab hold of it and anchor myself again.

It’s also lovely to be sitting here at my computer this morning, drinking my own coffee and looking out my own windows, clouded with condensation; Scooter is also very happy to be back at home. I washed all the dirty dishes last night, laundered all the dirty clothes and bed linens, and put things away. I was exhausted, bone tired; the release of all the mental stress built up into my joints and muscles being released the moment we pulled up in front of the house and started unpacking the car. I am still rather physically tired this morning, but that’s okay. I am going to putter around today, trying to get some sense of where I am and what I need to be getting to work on. The disruption has really messed me up; it seems like last weekend was months ago, and I have some vague recollections of things I need to be doing…I do have the last to-do list I made (which needed to be updated before the disruption) which will work as a starting point. I also kind of need to stay motivated while I go–but the being tired/exhausted/drained thing will undoubtedly prove to be a problem for me today. I think I am going to do some kitchen cabinet purging as well as book purging; and I do want to spend some time with SIlvia Moreno-Garcia’s Velvet Was the Night. Oddly, once we were in the hotel and I had access to the Internet and a television to watch, I didn’t do very much reading…so with Cox still down here at the Lost Apartment, I don’t have television to distract me…although I can probably stream things to my computer or iPad.

Another thing I need to do is figure out what all I ordered and was expecting in the mail before the disruption; I know Rachel Howzell Hall’s book was coming, and I had ordered ink for my printer (which won’t connect via my hotspot to the computer, so I can’t print or scan, which is frustrating–but I will try again later). I also am not sure what the mail situation is here, either–so I will undoubtedly spend some time today trying to figure that out. Paul’s medications also come in the mail, so there’s that pressing need as well (and yet another reason I refuse to have my prescriptions mailed to me. I can stop at CVS and pick them up in person, thank you very much). I also want to do blog posts about all the great books I read when we were without power; I’ve already done Megan’s today, and it would be great to get the rest done as well, but I also want to do them justice. I am still rather in awe of all the good reading I did during the power outage, frankly, and really need to dedicate some time every day to doing some kind of reading.

It looks like our office is still without power. Our gym emailed us last night with their temporary post-storm hours; which is also kind of cool. (I may go over there today; my body has really been missing the stretching and exercising, and, as I said, I had kind of gotten into a groove I’d like to get going again, especially since I am starting to see results from the regular visits; also, since I had to throw away so much food from the refrigerator/freezer, temptations have been removed and I can restock healthier food options…) I do have work I can do at home while we wait for the office to reopen, but I am going to allow my supervisor to have today free before I start pestering him about my work at home assignments; there are any number of things I can do in the meantime, of course, but I do wonder how long it will be before we are able to start seeing clients and testing them again. When will we get supplies? is the question.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines for a while. Have a lovely Labor Day, Constant Reader, and will probably be back later with another book post.

Singing My Song

And HOME.

HUZZAH!

I am very exhausted, but very grateful that my air is back and we have power. The Internet is down, but my phone’s hotspot is working–that won’t help with the cable, so no television till Cox restores service again–but that’s okay; I can use the time more productively writing or reading and trying to clean up the utter disastrous condition we left the Lost Apartment in. The refrigerator, while emptied of anything that would rot or spoil, needs a thorough cleaning, and of course there’s still debris outside that needs to be picked up. But I am home, and that’s really all that matters to me at the moment.

And we have power–glorious, glorious electricity.

And my next power bill should be significantly lower, right? It was out for almost a week.

I am running all the clothes we wore on the trip and the towels and clothes we wore during the hellish no-electricity phase of this process; after that, the sheets and bed linens definitely need to be cleaned, and like I said, this whole place is a mess–a thorough thorough mess. But I think I can be forgiven for sitting just a moment and relaxing at my desk, by my windows, and just having a moment to breathe, right? I am exhausted, seriously; I didn’t realize how much so until I got home. We bought some groceries in Greenville just to be on the safe side–nothing much; bread and cheese and so on–and I will probably make an exploratory trip to Rouse’s just to see what they have tomorrow–I don’t really want to get back into the car again, to be honest.

But home again, home again. I really do know what it means to miss New Orleans.

It’s been a while since we’ve evacuated; not quite so long since the last time a tropical storm of one kind or another knocked out power out in the heat of summer for several days. The disruption is inevitably unwelcome–I love New Orleans, but without air conditioning I could not live here, period–and now I have to try to remember where I was at and what I was doing and what I was working on before the Great Derángement (yes, I know, probably inappropriate to call having to leave because of a natural disaster the same name the Cajuns called their expulsion from Acadia by the British after the French and Indian War); and I also have to figure out how to function with my day job duties and how to get work hours in so I don’t have to burn off what’s left of my vacation time. The office still didn’t have power the last time I checked; tomorrow is Labor Day, and sorry–I am not going to worry about any of this until Tuesday, which is a work day. (I have data entry to do, and as long as my hotspot is working, I can work on that at home. I also have to throw away all the condoms I have here at the house; and strip them out of the condom packs here that I’ve made….if the office had power I could go there and start throwing away spoiled test kits and condoms and break down condom packs…but I can only access the building with my badge, which requires electricity to let me in…)

So, I am just kind of going to settle in here at the Lost Apartment today. I am going to get things cleaned and organized, have a few well-earned cocktails later (hello, big bottle of tequila!), and just chill out. The cable might be out, but we can also revisit some old DVD’s for entertainment purposes, if needed; good thing I didn’t throw them away on a purge (or did I?).

But most of all, it’s going to be absolutely marvelous to sleep in my own bed, drink my own coffee, and really…just be grateful this entire situation wasn’t worse. Ida was stronger than Katrina–thank God the levees held–and it’s going to be a hot minute before New Orleans is back to a semblance of normal. But this things, this unforeseen catastrophes, are really good about resetting priorities and recognizing what is important….and as I sip my margarita later this eve, I am going to put some more thought into that.

And thanks, everyone–for the encouragement and support over the last week. It was only a week ago Ida came ashore. Seems like it’s been an eternity, at least to me.

Only a Moment Ago

And just like that, it’s Friday again.

Of course, the emergence of a potentially major storm heading for the Gulf and our coastline–and how quickly it has happened–has certainly sucked a lot of the energy out of the room. The fact it will come ashore on the 16th anniversary of Katrina (Sunday) hasn’t triggered a lot of PTSD for me, strangely; although I was remembering it all last night as I sat in my easy chair watching Margaret Orr on local television (and checking her Twitter feed). The weather outside my condensation-covered windows this morning doesn’t look that great, to be honest–we’ve had rain all day yesterday off and on–but I don’t know if we are going to need to leave yet or not. It’s not looking good for us right now; at the very least we’re going to probably be without power for a few days (yay). But at least if we do end up leaving (probably tomorrow morning, if we go) at least I have a relatively new car, and I believe I already have a tank of gas. I have some errands to run today–I am getting my teeth cleaned later this morning, and I need to get the mail. I had planned on doing some grocery shopping today but am not sure if it’s wise to get anything perishable, so am probably just going to let that sit until afterwards.

I’m also having dinner with a friend tonight–scheduled to come in for Bouchercon, she decided to keep her trip since her daughter goes to school here anyway–which should be a good time; social contact outside of my office has remained low, so it will be sort of nice to get out of the house and spend the evening with someone whose company I enjoy…especially with a hurricane looming. If it stays on center track, it’ll pass us to the west–putting New Orleans on the bad side of the storm. I’m kind of surprised I am not having flashbacks triggered by any or all of this, to be honest. I only remember the anniversary now when I am reminded–I’d not even given it a thought until the other day when this system developed below Cuba–although I am also now remembering there have been issues with I storms in the past–Ike and Isaac, for example; one of them sat on the city for like three days and we were without power for nearly a week. The other was our last evacuation and it, too, was around this same time. Late August, after my birthday and before Labor Day–never a good combination for an I-named storm in the Gulf, apparently.

I rewatched an old Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie last night while I was waiting for Paul to come home (working late because of grant deadlines and potential hurricane; potential loss of power means everyone has to get things done earlier than they’d thought). I had wanted to rewatch Pillow Talk, which was the best of the their three films together, but couldn’t find it streaming anywhere, so settled for the follow-up, Lover Come Back, which, while not as good as the first, was still quite entertaining–if problematic. The message of the Day/Hudson movies–at least the first three; they played a married couple in their third pairing–was always that Day was an uptight and repressed career woman with no interest in men or marriage–who really just needed a good fuck. The irony that the good fuck she needed was being delivered on-screen by a gay man escaped audiences of the time, who made the films huge hits and made Doris Day the biggest money-making star in the country. It’s great, though, that she was shown as a highly successful, talented, and driven career woman; unfortunate that the screenwriters seemed to think that went along with an empty life without love or a man. Given how beautiful and sexy Day was, it’s kind of hard to believe that she wouldn’t have men hanging off her–but she’s kind of portrayed as an ice princess, who needs a man to thaw her out. The games Hudson plays with Day–mimicked in both films–where he pretends to be a shy, inexperienced (read: almost gay) man whose sweetness she falls for doesn’t really play today for a sex comedy; such a movie would never be made today.

I did manage to get some things done yesterday. I worked on the manuscript, and have maybe a third of it left to go. I’ve already edited out almost ten thousand words, making it leaner and cleaner, but it’s still such a horrible mess I cannot believe I turned it in to my long-suffering editor. But it’s getting better, and the primary issue is that there were so many different versions over the years of working on it that I missed things when merging all the versions together to get a final one–the great irony being the problem with the manuscript not ever being what I thought it was, so all those different drafts were relatively pointless; it’s terrible when you are writing a book and you aren’t really completely sure what it’s about consciously. I’ve always said this book was about rape culture, but it’s actually not–although that’s a part of it; what it’s actually about is toxic masculinity from the point of view of someone trapped inside of it who desperately wants out and doesn’t know how to get out. I didn’t completely understand that–and something else–until this final editing run; glad I figured this out before it went to press, right?

So I am going to try to get some things done around here this morning before leaving for the dentist, then I am coming home to work on the manuscript. I’d like to get this pass finished today–not an easy task, since its taking me hours to get through small sections, longer than I’d thought it would, honestly–so it can sit for a day or two; if we lose power and I have to stop working on it, I am hoping I’ll be able to at least get it sent off somehow–if I need t make my phone a hotspot and send it from my laptop or something, I should be able to get it done and in on time. I was going to try to make it to the gym today, but think I’ll just push that off until tomorrow and focus on getting the manuscript finished today. Once I finish and post this, I am going to clean out my inbox (or try to) before having to get ready for the teeth cleaning expedition (not looking forward to this either, I might add). I had wanted to spend some time getting organized–but the need to get this manuscript out of the way in case of power loss, at least getting this pass finished, at any rate, has overcome any desire to work on the other things that need to be worked on around here; I can go to the gym tomorrow and clean/organize then (if we aren’t in the car, that is).

And on that note, tis time to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

Rapture

Wednesday and pay the bills day; which hasn’t been depressing in a while but I suspect will be by the time I am finished with this always odious chore. After a sleepless night on Monday, last night’s sleep was much better. I was horribly tired all day yesterday–the combo of no sleep and the workout Monday night; tonight I will be heading back to the gym again after work–and as such did no writing last night. I did write yesterday–in my head; I finally came up with the perfect concept for a story idea I’ve been toying with for quite some time, “Murder on the Acela Express”, with an assist from a very good friend, so I did scribble that down and made some notes in my journal. I also had to proof the final draft of this year’s Edgar annual, which also took up some time Monday evening and on breaks at work, so it’s not like I have been slacking this week. But I really want to get back to “Festival of the Redeemer,” and at some point I want to look over “The Sound of Snow Falling” and see what to make of it; I have figured out the story at last–I knew who the characters were, the set-up, and the setting; I just didn’t now how to write the crime and end it, which I do know now.

So, progress of a sort, right?

There was also exciting news at the day job this week–my position has been funded again by the CDC for another five years, which will actually take me all the way to retirement. While it was always unlikely that the funding would ever be pulled with the concomitant loss of my job, every time the grant is up for renewal it always rather hovers in the back of my mind like a slightly sore tooth you can’t help but worry with your tongue even though it hurts. I also got a raise (the entire staff did), which was a pleasant surprise, and we were also given two extra vacation days, with the agency closing down on a Friday and Monday in August to give us all a long weekend–and it’s the weekend before I turn sixty; my birthday will also be on a Friday this year, which is generally a work-at-home day for me (if that still holds after we go back to full operations again) so I can stay home, watch movies, and make condom packs all day, which will be kind of nice. And then Bouchercon is the very next weekend, and then the next weekend is Labor Day and Southern Decadence–which I am not entirely sure is going to happen, or what is going to go on with that at all. And my car will be paid off come January, which will be even more lovely. So there are things to look forward to, certainly; and I am getting a little bit excited. I generally don’t look too far ahead–there’s always so much to do to keep me occupied I don’t think about the future much–but maybe I need to start doing that a bit more; although there is something to the idea/notion that looking ahead is sort of wishing your life away, which is why I try not to do that unless of course a deadline of some sort is involved.

Although I seem to tend to do that a lot every week by looking forward to the weekend and wishing it would arrive faster.

The summer humidity has returned after all the rain of May; this morning my windows are covered in condensation as the sun is rising, and I feel very rested and alert this morning, which is lovely. I did a load of laundry last night, which I need to fold before getting ready to head into the office this morning; I suspect I will be very tired tonight simply from working, stopping at the grocery on the way home, and then going to the gym–plus we have the last episode of season one of Blood on Acorn to watch, and another episode of Cruel Summer should be loaded on Hulu–the show is surprisingly compelling, and watching it unfold over three different timelines, each one a year apart but on the same day–is a story device I’m really liking a lot more than I thought I would. I know it can be done in a novel–Alison Gaylin’s What Remains of Me did a dual timeline, and Laura Lippman’s After I’m Gone bounced around in time like that, and I think it did have three time periods–and it’s something I think I would like to try at some point in the future. I think part of the reason I’ve been in the doldrums about my writing is because I’ve not been pushing myself to try new things, to experiment and play with the form of story-telling, and I’ve been feeling stale….which isn’t a good place to be when you fancy yourself a writer.

And I think that has been a lot of the malaise I’ve been feeling lately–the last few years with my writing, really–that sense of writing by rote, on automatic; and not pushing myself and trying new things. I will say that the short story writing has been really terrific in that regard, getting to explore themes and ideas and form in a shorter medium (I have published several short stories recently that, ironically, have been reviewed with the note: should have been longer, like a novella–which is always the problem with writing short stories for me; I always feel like there’s more to the story, and apparently that is indeed the case with some of them; but I am trying not to turn short story ideas into longer forms of fiction anymore…which is also kind of why i am experimenting with the novella form). I will say I enjoyed the hell out of Royal Street Reveillon because I was really pushing myself by juggling plots and subplots; it also felt more like a Scotty book than the ones previous–mainly because the plots were more simple and linear. I was having a lot of fun writing it–I do remember that–despite the headaches of juggling so much plot and story-lines.

Aaaaaannnnnndddddd….I think I know what the next Scotty is going to be. I am going to start making notes on it today…we’ll see how it goes.

The Other Side of the Door

Friday and I am taking the day off from the day job. Yes, I know it was a short week already and I should probably save the vacation day for sometime later in the year when it would really come in handy, but this was a rough week for me and I feel entitled to take a mental healing day, so sue me, okay?

The Lost Apartment is, as always, a disheveled hovel that looks like two college-age males live here, and that always plays a part into my emotional stability. I am not sure why that is, but I simply cannot abide clutter and dust and dirty windows–being raised, no doubt, by a woman who made Joan Crawford look slovenly probably has something to do with it–and it always weighs on my mental stability, which is always tenuous at best. I had hoped to do something about that over Labor Day weekend, and while progress of a sort was definitely made, not enough to really make a difference; rather, it was more like a lick-and-a-promise; a mere surface touching that simply kept it from looking like a condemned property. But the heat has been so horrifically intense this year that doing anything in the kitchen/laundry room is misery, let alone going outside and climbing a ladder to clean the windows. But….if I get up early one morning, it should still be cool enough to be bearable.

Right?

One can dream, at any rate.

This morning is probably the morning I should have done the windows, ironically. It’s not terribly sunny this morning, and it doesn’t feel particularly hot here in the Lost Apartment, either. There are an insane amount of tropical systems being tracked by the Hurricane Center; I’ve seen reports ranging from four to seven; and there’s a low pressure system just off the coast here in the Gulf that apparently is going to bury us with rain even if it doesn’t develop into anything stronger. I also allowed myself to sleep in this morning–note to self: set alarm for tomorrow–and it felt terrific to get rest again. I’ve already started a load of the bed linens, and when I finish this I am going to start filing in an attempt to get the office under control. Today is my day to clean and start working through all the emails that have accumulated; and later this afternoon I will try to get some writing done. I’m also going to read a couple of short stories today, rather than diving into Babylon Berlin; I don’t want to risk getting sucked into it, which I suspect will happen. I’m also reading–and savoring–Gore Vidal’s Lincoln, which is another of his American Empire series; I’ve already read Century–and I’ve always enjoyed Vidal’s work whenever I can bring myself to read it. He has a very distinct writing style that I enjoy, but I also don’t think I would have particularly liked Vidal had we ever met; he seemed like a difficult person, and an intellectual snob–and there are few character traits I despise more than snobbery of any kind. But he was incredibly smart, and a talented writer; I know I’ve enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read–and would, and probably should, like to revisit both The City and the Pillar and Myra Breckinridge again. (I would imagine Myra Breckinridge would not fly today…) I also find some of my reading choices this year thus far, looking back, to be…interesting. I’ve read a lot of plague literature, obviously, and now I seem to be gravitating to Civil War narratives. Curious.

Yes, I just got a local “tropical advisory” alert, and it looks like we’re going to get hit with a lot of heavy rain Tuesday and Wednesday. Huzzah. Of course, I love rain–it’s the risk to my car from street flooding I don’t like very much. I mean, there’s nothing more comforting than sleeping, all warm and dry, inside when it’s pouring outside, is there? I’ve always loved that warm and dry feeling when it’s raining outside, even if I am simply inside a car driving through a storm. (It always reminds me of the Trixie Belden volume The Mystery of Cobbett’s Island, which opens with Trixie and the Bob-Whites being driven by Miss Trask through a storm to a ferry to the island, and I think Trixie says something about that safe, warm feeling during storms, and it’s always stuck in my head as the perfect way to sum up why I love thunderstorms and downpours. And yes, so many things in my life inevitably lead back to the mystery series for kids I read as a child.)

Wednesday is also a work at home day for me, so I can just stay home and watch and listen to the rain while making condom packs and continuing my Cynical 70s Film Festival, which I think may move onto Chinatown and Don’t Look Now. I’ve already seen both of those, but as a lot of the films I am including in this “film festival” could also be considered crime/neo-noir, it only makes sense to rewatch both with an eye to the cynicism of the 1970’s as well as to the neo-noir aspects of both (in all honesty, I’m not really sure what the definition of neo-noir actually is; just as there’s no definition for noir, there really isn’t one for neo-noir, either; I suspect it’s because the classic films noir were black and white films and later noirs were filmed in color. I could be wrong, but that’s my takeaway). Don’t Look Now, is, of course, one of my favorite short stories of all time; and the film is extraordinary.

I’m also rather curious to see this new Netflix adaptation of du Maurier’s Rebecca. Constant Reader knows how much I love me some Daphne du Maurier; and of course, Rebecca is right up there as one of my favorite novels (the original Hitchcock film version is also one of my favorite films of all time; it’s why I generally have avoided remakes and the dreadful sequels to the original novel). Armie Hammer wouldn’t have been my choice to play Maxim de Winter, but the female casting–particularly Kristen Scott Thomas as Mrs. Danvers–is rather intriguing to me. I’ve always seen Mrs. Danvers clearly in my head as Judith Anderson–her performance was so definitive–that it’s hard for me to see anyone else in the role. Hammer is no Olivier, really, and I honestly think that if I were to recast the film currently I would have gone for Kenneth Branagh as Maxim, Saoirse Ronan as his second wife, and probably either Emma Thompson or Maria Doyle Kennedy as Mrs. Danvers…I’ve also always wondered, whatever happened to Mr. Danvers?

Just like I’ve always wanted to delve into the psyche of Veda Pierce.

I kind of want to reread Mildred Pierce and Rebecca now. Sigh.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me.