It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels

I cannot say I am not happy to see this past week end; for all intents and purposes, it was much more stressful than any week needs to be and equally disappointing. It was both tiresome and tiring; irritating, really, like an itchy rash that just won’t go away, frankly. By Tuesday night I was so exhausted already it felt like a Friday; and yet there were three more days yet to go and it never really got any better.

Begone, foul week! Get thee behind me, Satan!

I am so far behind on my emails now I may never dig my way out; that’s part of the plan for this weekend, at any rate; to try to get caught up on everything and make some progress. I had some stomach issues yesterday so I wound up staying home rather than heading to the office (the bathrooms aren’t close enough to my desk, and yes, I think you get the picture) so I spent most of the day recalibrating and doing some chores around the house and trying to get caught up on everything. But progress was made; I started getting my electronic files in the cloud better organized (which is quite a chore, I might add; one that is sort of mindless yet time-consuming in the worst way), and did some filing and so forth. There’s still quite a bit more to get done today, of course (isn’t there always?)  but I also want to get some writing done before the month slips away through my fingers. Ideally, I’d like to get a first draft of the Sherlock story finished as well as a revision of the one I’m revising for that anthology; and there’s another one I want to revise to send to the Bouchercon anthology. I’d also like to make some progress on the Secret Project, but that’s also predicated on my getting this short story work taken care of. I cannot believe how many stories I’ve started writing recently; it’s more than a little insane, methinks.

But then again, it seems pretty standard for my life–chaos, disorganization, and more chaos.

One would think I’d be used to it by now.

I also want to finish reading Carol Goodman’s The Sea of Lost Girls today, if I can; so i can get started on Lori Rader-Day’s The Lucky One. I am moderating a panel with her, Elizabeth Little (Pretty as a Picture) and  Laura Lippman (Lady in the Lake) at the Tennessee Williams Festival at the end of the month, and it’s always better to be prepared to discuss their latest works. Don’t worry, I’ll also be asking Lippman about My Life as a Villainess, her essay collection coming out later this year.

We watched another episode of Harlan Coben’s The Stranger last night. It’s a fun, twisty show, with a rather complicated narrative; I think it’s actually better than his last one, The Five. I am way behind on my Coben reading–so far behind I may never catch up–but I do enjoy that he writes suspense novels built around family/friend structures. I’m behind on everyone, so don’t feel special, Harlan! I am also way behind on my reading of Michael Koryta, Jeff Abbott, Stephen King, and any number of other white males; prioritizing diverse writers and women (and a year judging the Edgars) will do that to one, I suppose. I really wanted to read The Outsider (Stephen King) before watching the show; perhaps once I finish the Goodman and the Rader-Day I can move on to the King and we can finally watch the show. I’ve become rather an enormous fan of Jason Bateman, and really can’t wait for Ozark to come back.

We also lose an hour tonight; the part of Daylight Savings Time that I really hate. But I do like having longer days; I like it still being light when I come home from work, or at least, the light fading into night rather than the velvety darkness of a winter nocturne. It’s a bright, sunny day out there today; I am debating whether I do want to go get the mail–it would be my only adventure out into the world today–and am thinking I might do it. I hate only going once in the week, but on the other hand I’m also not expecting any packages or anything urgent (read: a check) in the mail, either. But it looks like a lovely day outside–and perhaps I can do some scouting after I get the mail. We shall certainly see how I feel.

I think this morning I am going to read some more of the Goodman novel while I have my morning coffee, and then after a few hours of that I’ll decide whether I do, in fact, want to leave the house. (odds are I won’t, quite frankly. I know myself all too well)

And on that note, tis time to get back to the spice mines. May your Saturday be bright and happy and full of cheer.

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Here I Go Again

Facing down yet another Monday like a beast.

I went to bed early last night–just watching the Nadal-Medvedev final in the US Open was exhausting, in addition to the emotional rollercoaster of the LSU-Texas game the previous night, and putting finishing touches on the volunteer project (we’ll be tying up loose ends all week, I suspect), and around nine-ish last night I was just worn out, and went to bed. I slept off and on all night–not sure how that’s going to play out today–but I guess we’ll see. I have two long days in a row for the first time in a few weeks, and I fear my body is no longer used to that abuse…but I guess we’ll see. Now that I have a half-day on Wednesday instead, it might make things easier for me in the middle of the week.

Here’s hoping, at any rate.

I printed out the first four chapters of the final rewrite of the Kansas book last night, and it’s better than I thought it would be–the chapters I’ve already done need some work, and I need to seed the rest of the story a bit more. I’m trying something different with it–just as I did in Bury Me in Shadows, which is first person present tense–I am trying to do this in a remote third person point of view in the present tense. I noticed that despite my attempts to keep it in present tense, I slipped into the past tense a number of times out of force of habit, which is one of the reasons why I am writing this in the present tense; I want to not only shake things up for me as a writer, but break the habits of doing things the same way every time. I want to continually push myself as a writer and as a story-teller, and the best way to do that is to expand and try different things, different styles, different methods of storytelling, different ways of presenting the narrative and writing different kinds of crime novels. Laura Lippman is a master of this; her last few novels have all been dramatically different in style, voice, tone, and presentation–After I’m Gone, Wilde Lake, Sunburn, and Lady in the Lake–there’s definitely a Lippman sensibility to them, but the stories and storytelling and construction of the books are all dramatically different. That’s kind of what I want to do with my own stand-alone novels; I’ll probably always come back to Scotty, and as I’ve said recently, there’s another Chanse novel I’m probably going to try to write sometime next year–but the entire point of the stand alones was to do different things and experiment with style as well as story and writing.

But now that all that’s left is wrap-up on the volunteer project–thank the Lord, you have no idea what an enormous venture this was–I can start getting caught up this week on everything else that has slid while I focused all of my prodigious energy on getting it finished. I love doing volunteer work; I often take things on that I shouldn’t, as they interfere with my writing and staying on top of everything else in my life, but I like helping out. One of the primary reasons I love my day job so much is because I feel like I’m helping people make positive changes in their life, and at the very least I am helping people get STI’s cleared up, if nothing else. I need to finish an essay by this weekend, and I have to finish a first draft of a short story that’s due by the end of the month. I’d also like to get some work on the Kansas book done–it may not be finished when I want it to be finished, but that’s also life, and I am certain I can get it finished, at the latest, in December. I also remembered I have a novella a publisher is interested in that I need to get to work on; it’s a long short story but there are any number of places where it can be expanded easily, and so I should be looking at that as well.

This has been, all in all, a pretty good year for me–I had a short story collection come out in the spring and a novel this month–and while I’d like to get both of these novels that are in progress finished and out by next year as well, I don’t think that’s going to happen, which is perfectly okay. Bury Me in Shadows took me a lot longer than I intended to get finished, and that’s perfectly okay; it happens. But I also think I can get a strong revision of it finished this December, and then I can get it turned in for January; a strong push and the Kansas book can be turned in at the end of January, and hopefully by then, doing a chapter a week,  I can also have a strong first draft of Chlorine finished as well. I also want to get more short stories written, as I would love nothing more than to have another collection out sooner rather than later. I’m also nominated for an Anthony Award for my short story “Cold Beer No Flies” from Florida Happens, which is pretty awesome; I sold my short story “This Town” to Murder-a-Go-Go’s (and the story was received pretty well by most reviewers; probably the most, and best, feedback after publication I’ve ever had on a short story) and I also sold my story “Moist Money” to Dark Yonder, which I’m pretty pleased about.

I’m still reading both Rob Hart’s The Warehouse, which I hope to have more time to read now that the volunteer project is under some sort of control, and  James Gill’s Lords of Misrule, which is giving me a rather pointed history of racism in New Orleans, and it’s not pretty. We New Orleanians know there’s still systemic racism here in the city, as well as individual racism, but the history of slavery and racism in New Orleans is unique to this place and different than everywhere else; we had an entire middle-class of free people of color before the war, who weren’t obviously slaves but had to show deference to white people and were segregated out of places frequented by whites; Barbara Hambly’s brilliant Benjamin January series, beginning with A Free Man of Color, and Anne Rice’s The Feast of All Saints, are excellent fictional representations of that weird second-class citizenship the free people of color of New Orleans and Louisiana experienced. It’s still appalling, though, to read about lynch mobs and murderers never brought to proper justice for their crimes. Stained in blood as it is, New Orleans has a fascinating history, and has always been one of the more interesting places in this country.

And tomorrow is officially my new book’s birthday! Huzzah!

And now back to the spice mines.

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Funky Worm

Well, it’s Sunday morning and the windows are covered with condensation again, which means it’s hot and humid outside (with a chance of rain). I finished reading Laura Lippman’s brilliant Lady in the Lake yesterday, but after running my errands in the heavy heat and damp, I was pretty wiped out by the time I’d put everything away and found it incredibly difficult to focus on much of anything. I did some more cleaning, brainstormed a lot more in my journal (I’ve been having some great ideas for “Never Kiss a Stranger”) and then watched the first official game of the college football season–Miami vs. Florida on ESPN last night. I’m not much of a fan of either, to be honest, but it’s an in-state rivalry game and they don’t play each other very often. It was a great game, actually; I didn’t think Miami had much of a chance, but ended up only losing 24-20, and they had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds but couldn’t convert. LSU’s first game is next weekend–a non-conference snoozer; I don’t even remember who they are playing–and soon enough the Saints will be playing their regular season games too. I love college football, and the Saints–I only watch the Saints play in the NFL and pay little to no attention about other teams unless the Saints are playing them. (This goes all the way back to when I was a kid; I’ve never cared much for the NFL but have always loved college football…if I didn’t live in New Orleans I probably wouldn’t care about the Saints, either; but you can’t live here and not love the Saints. It’s practically a city ordinance, and I will say I’ve never seen or experienced anything like the way this city loves its football team.)

Today I have a lot to do. I am going to revise my short story that’s due next weekend, and work on a big project that needs to also be finished by next weekend, and I am probably going to mess around with “Never Kiss a Stranger” a little bit today. I am also going to reread the last few chapters of Bury Me in Shadows so I can finally get those last three chapters written, hopefully by getting a start on that today, and finishing by September 1 so I can do one last pass on the rape culture novel before sending it to my publisher. I also think I’m going to work a bit on my story for the MWA anthology. It’s already finished, and I’ve revised it already a couple of times, but I think I am going to revise it one more time, give it another going over, to make sure everything is fine and ready to go. I doubt it’ll get taken, but I like submitting stories to these anthologies, and one of these days I am going to actually make it into one of those anthologies if it kills me.

And it just might!

Oddly enough, these last week or so I’ve had a sense of general malaise–the notion that I have so much to do that I’ll never get it all done, which then creates inertia/paralysis: there’s no way I’m going to get this all finished so what’s the use in trying? This is incredibly self-defeating, and I know I have a tendency to often defeat myself, so these are alarms and triggers I know to watch out for, fight against, and not get too deeply imbedded in my brain. I don’t always succeed; sometimes the inertia/paralysis wins and I get nothing done, which only exacerbates the problem. But I somehow manage to always get everything done, which is very exciting.

This coming weekend is Southern Decadence, and this is going to be my first Southern Decadence when I am not working in the office on Frenchmen Street–I don’t even have to drive through the Quarter to get to work anymore, so I won’t be caught off-guard by seeing hordes of gay men walking around in the Quarter on my way to work. I am going to do condom duty on Friday night only, giving me a lovely three day holiday weekend to enjoy, watch LSU and get to work on the rape culture novel for its final draft before submission. I’ll be glad to have that book finished, and then I have another project to work on for both October and November, and then in December I can return to Bury Me in Shadows. If my plans hold up, I should be able to then finish revising another unfinished manuscript in January before starting to write the new Chanse, while doing the final research and prep work to get started on Chlorine. These plans are, of course, always subject to change; you never know when another project is going to drop into your lap and that could possibly change everything yet again.

I really need to make a to-do list, and do some other business-type stuff today. I’ve also started packing another box of books to go into the attic; I should probably finish that today as well. I think I’m going to read Rob Hart’s The Warehouse next, followed by Lisa Lutz’ The Swallows, and then I’ll come back to the Diversity Project, probably with Michael Nava’s Lay Your Sleeping Head.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

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Don’t Expect Me To Be Your Friend

I’ve always been a voracious reader, and when I was a teenager I loved nothing more than those enormous books that could also be used to shore up the pilings of your house–epic novels with paperback editions that occasionally topped a thousand pages, so thick that reading them inevitably cracked the spine, leaving loose and sometimes lost pages in its wake. They always seemed to lose their book shape, these enormous and theoretically disposable books, and looked ugly on the shelf when you tried to put them back. I’ve always liked clean lines on my bookshelves, and those enormous paperbacks always messed up the ramrod straight line of spines I liked looking at, admiringly, my own personal library.

It was during this time I discovered Herman Wouk.

The first Wouk novel I read was The Winds of War. It was my father’s book, actually, although all the books in the house generally wound up in my room eventually. It was mountainous, enormous, and while I was aware of World War II history–it was still fairly recent, and I had many family members in my grandparents’ generation who served–but it wasn’t my favorite period of history (although I would eventually come around to it and become fascinated by it, a fascination I still hold to this day) and I was particularly interested in reading it. One Saturday I was sitting in the living room, bored, and rather than walking to my room to get the book I was currently reading,  I picked up The Winds of War and started reading. It was summer, we were living in Kansas, and we’d just moved there and I knew no one. Several hours later I was deep into the book, completely fascinated, mesmerized by this story of the Henry family–a Naval family–caught up in the sweep of oncoming war in Europe and in the Pacific. The book closed with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States finally entering the war.

And I became a Wouk fan. I started reading all the Wouk I could find, loved them all, from The Caine Mutiny to Youngblood Hawke, and couldn’t wait to check War and Remembrance, the sequel to The Winds of War, out from the library when it was released.

And then there was Marjorie Morningstar.

lady in the lake

I saw you once. I saw you and you noticed me because you caught me looking at you, seeing you. Back and forth, back and forth. Good-looking women do that. Lock eyes, then look one another up and down. I could tell at a glance you’ve never doubted you were good-looking and you still had the habit of checking a room to  make sure you were the best-looking. You scanned the crowd of people on the sidewalk and your eyes caught mine, if only for a moment, then dropped away. You saw me, you tallied up the points. Who won? My hunch is you gave yourself the crown because you saw a Negro woman, a poor one at that. In the animal kingdom, the male performs for the woman, woos her with his beautiful feathers or flowing mane, is always trying to out-strut the other men. Why do humans do it the other way? It doesn’t make sense. Men need us more than we need them.

You were in the minority that day, you were in our neighborhood and almost everyone there would have picked me. Maybe even your husband, Milton. Part of the reason I first noticed you was because you were next to him. He now looked exactly like his father, a man I remembered with some affection. I can’t say the same about Milton. I guessed, from the way people gathered around him on the temple steps, patted his back, clasped his hands in theirs, that it must have been his father who had died. And I could tell from the way that people waited to comfort him that Milton was a big shot.

Laura Lippman’s latest novel owes the same kind of debt to Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar as her Wilde Lake did to To Kill a Mockingbird (and Thomas Thompson’s Celebrity); in some ways, her heroine, Maddie Schwartz, has a lot of the same history as Marjorie; the close strictures and mores of the 1950’s for a young Jewish woman in Baltimore molded and shaped her much as they did Marjorie. The book opens with Maddie walking out of her marriage and away from her young son; she just has a general sense of malaise and an unshakable sense there has to, needs to be, more in life for her. Maddie is beautiful and knows she is; she knows how to manipulate men and get them to do what she wants them to do. Needing money, she pretends her engagement and wedding rings were stolen for the insurance; one of the responding cops, a young black man named Ferdie, soon becomes her illicit lover. Maddie’s discovery of a missing young girl’s body is soon parlayed into a job at a Baltimore paper; she becomes interested in another murder–that of Cleo Sherwood, the so-called “lady in the lake”; a young woman of color murdered and dumped in the fountain in a park. Maddie eventually, in her careless way (one of the strongest character traits Maddie has is carelessness; she seems to just blunder her way ahead without giving a thought to the repercussions and fall out her actions might cause) she starts investigating Maddie’s death, using her position as a clerk at the paper to fool people into talking to her. SHe wants to be a reporter, you see, and this Cleo case–no matter how many people try to dissuade her, no matter how many roadblocks get put up in her way–is a way for her to get upgraded to reporter, and she doesn’t care what damage she might leave in her wake as she goes for what she wants.

Lippman has long been one of the leading lights of the crime fiction community; her Tess Monaghan series is one of the best, and her switch to stand-alone crime novels has firmly established her reputation as one of the best writers of our time. One of the great things about Lippman is how she pushes herself into new directions, new perspectives, and new approaches with every novel; each stand-alone is particularly distinct and exceptional in its own way. She explores in her work what it means to be a woman, whether in today’s world or in the recent past, and how societal mores and expectations can stifle a woman’s needs and ambitions. Her characters struggle against those strictures, but at heart her novels are about the complications, complexities, and layers of being a woman in American society. She’s explored love and marriage, the fallout from lust, what it means to be a mother, and above all else, the complicated relationships between women–whether it’s sisters, mother/daughter, or just friends. Maddie doesn’t regret walking out on her marriage for one moment; she doesn’t even seem particularly concerned that her teenaged son wants to stay with his father and her regular dinners with him are uncomfortable. She knows her leaving has damaged her relationship with her son, but she doesn’t really seem to care too much about that. Maddie is sometimes downright unlikable, yet what she wants, her confusion about who she really is and how to go about building the kind of life she thinks she wants make her sometimes unlikable actions and behaviors forgivable in the reader’s eyes; Lippman has constructed her so carefully the reader can’t help but care what happens to her.

Lady in the Lake is also a departure from other Lippman works in that it’s told in a vast array of points of view; when we are seeing things from Maddie’s point of view, it’s a remote third person pov–but everyone else is in a tight, first person present tense point of view. We even hear from the ghost of Cleo Sherwood from time to time. Multiple points of view are a hard row to hoe for even the best writers; Lippman somehow manages to imbue all these minor and supporting characters with unique voices and perspectives that make the reader regret, just a little, that we don’t get more than just a glimpse of these characters. In that respect, Lady in the Lake is a tour-de-force; a masterwork from a great writer at the top of her game. It’s one of the most unusual crime novels I’ve read, and its originality, along with Lippman’s cool expertise at her craft,  will result in it being one of the top books of the year.

It’s already been an exceptional year for readers–I’ve read so many amazing books this year so far, and am looking forward to reading more.

Jambalaya (On the Bayou)

Goodbye Joe, me gotta go, me-oh-my-oh.

Now I want jambalaya.

Yesterday kind of sucked over all. I wasn’t in the least bit sorry to go to bed last night and bid the shitty day adieu. The energy of the day was off from the moment I got up yesterday, and just never got any better than that, sadly. The drive from the office to the grocery store was an endless annoyance of stupid drivers and their senseless, dangerous behavior. The grocery store was full of thoughtless trash who seemed to think they were the only people in the store, and then I almost got hit by another idiot driver who wasn’t watching or paying attention as I took the turn off St. Charles to my street–had I not been paying attention or been five seconds later, I definitely would have been broad-sided. I got home and the house was a disaster area, so bad I couldn’t get organized enough to clean because somehow I’d allowed the kitchen to get so bad that I had both sinks full of dirty dishes, the stove and counter were filthy, and a dishwasher full of clean dishes that I had to put away before I could start doing the rest of the dishes–which turned out to be more than one load. The shrimp creole turned out delicious, though, and when it was finally time to relax and watch some television, when we opened the Netflix app on the television, the third season of Thirteen Reasons Why had dropped. The second season wasn’t very good–and the first had its moments of nonsense–but as we watched the preview, it looked interesting–and of course the cast is all very young and appealing, so we decided to give it a whirl. The third season is, so far, the best of the three, to be honest; I enjoyed the first season, was surprised by its twists and turns, but ultimately the gimmick that tied the first season together–the tapes Hannah left behind after her suicide–was a bit outdated. For one thing, can you even buy blank cassette tapes anymore? Even when the book was originally published, sometime during the second Bush administration, the cassettes were outdated–but it was important to the story that it had to be cassette tapes–digital recordings wouldn’t work for the necessity of the story–and the one big plot hole that was never resolved was how did all the kids have the means to listen to cassette tapes? Clay had to borrow Tony’s ancient Walkman–and let’s be serious, Walkmans didn’t last very long, even when babied. To use cassette tapes in this decade was absurd on its face; why not videotapes, if we’re using obsolete technology?

But the third season is off to a really good start, and it appears that the third season is going to follow the story-telling methodology of the earlier seasons: the present, the recent past, and the distant past as timelines. The first season’s question was why did Hannah kill herself? The second season concerned itself with will Hannah get justice?, and it appears that the third season is going to be a lengthy, lazily unfurling murder mystery, in which the show’s villain has been murdered and of course, everyone in the cast has a motive. It will be interesting to see how they proceed with this, and I’m actually hopeful it will be a better experience than the first two flawed seasons. And yes, I am very well aware that the entire notion that the group of friends are helping out the poor bullied kid who almost became a school shooter last season by taking care of him and watching out for him, while getting him psychiatric help, is a bit much…but then again, teenagers often think they can solve problems that are beyond their scope.

Juggling multiple time-lines is not something I’ve tried in any of my works; Alison Gaylin and Laura Lippman both are masters of the varied timelines–so if you’re looking for a tutorial on how to structure a novel this way I highly recommend Gaylin’s What Remains of Me and Lippman’s After I’m Gone–but it is something I’ve always wanted to try. My novels are always linear–A to B to C–and it might be a fun challenge sometime to do the multiple timeline thing.

While I was cleaning yesterday some ideas for “Never Kiss a Stranger” popped into my head, and I’m hoping I’ll remember them today so i can add them in. I have some errands to run today, and definitely to spend some time with the new Lippman novel–which I may just finish today–and have some other work to do in addition to cleaning and doing some writing. I feel good this morning; awake and lively and functional, so here’s hoping it will last through the day–and going out into the heat and humidity, which I am rather dreading as it is so draining. But I have prescriptions and mail to pick up, groceries to make, and  I’m hoping I’ll be able to make some serious progress on projects. There’s college football games today–of all things, they are calling it “Week Zero”, which is insane–so I may watch the Miami-Florida game tonight before queueing up Thirteen Reasons Why.

I’m not really sure what I’m going to do about dinner today–and I’ll need to make up my mind before heading out to make groceries, you know? I’m also considering going back to taking salads to work for lunch every day–one of the reasons I stopped was because salads would turn brown if I made a big bowl, and it was too much trouble every morning to make a salad, plus it wasn’t helping me lose weight or anything–but now I’m thinking it’s probably not a bad idea to go back to salads again. Of course, I also have the shrimp creole. Maybe I’ll wait and get the salad fixings on my way home from work on Wednesday, which is my new short day.

Decisions, decisions. Maybe I’ll just wait till Labor Day weekend, and start then.

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

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Angie

I just deleted an entry I started writing this morning before I left for work and have been trying to finish ever since I got home. It was so tedious–you have no idea what horror I have spared you, Constant Reader. I was, to be fair, in a bit of a funk because of some serious irritations with volunteer work I am doing…I’ve never really understood the mentality behind treating volunteers like shit, particularly from an organization that is entirely volunteer-driven, but there you go. Some people, I guess, like to fill the void in their souls with denigrating, and acting superior to, others. They are to be pitied, really; imagine how empty one’s soul and life must be to behave in such a way, and then I just shrug and think, yeah, you’ll die alone and be eaten by your cats before the smell attracts notice.

And yes, as I always say, life is nothing if not material. YOu can best bet there will come a future work from me with this person accurately (if comically) portrayed, and then you, too, can feel the same contemptuous disgust for said person as me someday.

I have a lot to do this weekend. I stopped at Rouse’s on my way home from work, which was nice–still have to go make groceries tomorrow–and since coming home, I’ve worked on the laundry, put the clean dishes away and did another load in the dishwasher, and got shrimp creole started in the slow cooker. This morning I just had an urge for it, and decided to go for it and make it when I got home. It keeps well, after all–it actually tastes better the longer it sits in the refrigerator, true story–and I can always take it for lunches next week. Next week is also the last week before Labor Day, which means it’s Southern Decadence, which means I don’t have to go into the office on Friday morning as I will be passing out condoms that evening at the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann. Not to worry, I’ll have my phone with me and will take lots of pictures of pretty men–at least as many as I can. I also want to finish reading Lady in the Lake this weekend, and I have some serious writing to do as well–and another project to work on. Heavy heaving sigh. I should probably work on that today so I won’t feel guilty about focusing on my writing this weekend….but there is seriously never any rest for the truly wicked around here in the Lost Apartment.

Scooter, of course, is lying down in front of the dryer. I guess the movement comforts him? He’s taken to doing that every time I run the dryer. Maybe it’s not odd, but it is a recent development. I worry about him, maybe more than I should; he was supposedly two years old when we got him (although he grew some after he arrived here) and we got him nearly nine years ago (his anniversary is in September) which would make him eleven, give or take. We only had Skittle for seven years before his untimely cancer–still miss him, he was a good kitty–and so now Scooter has lasted two years longer than Skittle…so maybe I’m just being paranoid. Scooter is such a sweet boy, and it’s going to be wrenching when we lose him; also harder because I also have to watch Paul lose him, which…I just hate seeing Paul suffer or be unhappy when I can’t do anything about it.

And on that note I’m going to head back in to the spice mines and see what else I can get done this afternoon. See ya in the morning!

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Masterpiece

Why, hello, Thursday, how are you?

Returning to work wasn’t bad, actually, if a little weird; I felt kind of disoriented most of the day, like I was dreaming that I was at work rather than actually at work, if that makes any sense to anyone? Probably not, since it doesn’t really make sense to me, either. I slept very well again last night–that’s two nights in a row!–even though I didn’t really want to get out of bed this morning. I would have quite happily stayed in bed for another few hours. But the weekend is just over the horizon, and next week will be the real reality; a full week of work climaxing with Southern Decadence and condom outreach on Friday before a three day weekend, which is lovely.

We finished season two of Mindhunter last night, which was good–no spoilers but the season finale felt like a bit of a letdown, but overall the show is so incredibly well-done and well-acted and the story so well told I suspect that’s why the finale felt a little let-downish. It was the right place to stop, I suppose, but the resolution of the Atlanta child-killings of the late 70’s/early 80’s didn’t really mark an end to the case as neatly as fiction/entertainment demands; that’s the problem of using real life in a fictional series, I suppose. It would have been dramatically unfair to the victims and their families to have resolved the case completely–but while Wayne Williams never confessed and was never officially tied to the killings of the children, it is curious that the killings stopped once he was taken into custody–although, as Paul pointed out, the killer also could have simply moved away or died around the same time Williams was charged.

The finale of the show did send me off into the ozone layer thinking about serial killers, and our fascination with them. I’ve never read a lot about serial killers or mass murders (Paul, on the other hand, is literally a walking encyclopedia on serial killers–he doesn’t read about them as much as he used to, but when we merged our book collections, I remember being a bit concerned about his interest in serial killers), besides the obvious Helter Skelter (who didn’t read that in the 1970’s? Manson was, for want of a better term, the rock star of serial killings/mass murderers), and a few others–I read The Boston Strangler by Gerold Frank (I think that was his name) and some books on Jack the Ripper, but I never have been overly interested in them. I remember hearing about the Houston killings when I first moved there; so I did some reading up on Dean Corll, and I read The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule, too. I half-paid attention to the Jeffrey Dahmer case as it unfolded, and so on and so forth. And yes, watching Mindhunter has given me an idea for a particularly dark and nasty book–not sure that I’ll ever write it, but I do think it’s a remarkably good idea.

I’ve had ideas for books about serial killers before–years ago I wanted to write a Venus Casanova novel about a serial killer in New Orleans; even now I have a partial short story centering Venus that is a serial killer story (that would be “A Little More Jazz for the Axeman,” which is a great title but I cannot figure out how to make it work as a short story; it may wind up as a novella but this is, I repeat, this is not the serial killer book idea I had for Venus.) I have another idea for a Venus novel I want to write, but then again, that brings up questions about authenticity and does a gay white man have the right to write a novel centering an African-American woman in New Orleans? I like the idea of doing the research necessary to write authentically about Venus, in all honesty; even if I never write the book the research would be interesting to do–and I was also reminded, in reading Laura Lippman’s Lady in the Lake, which has a chapter from the point of view of a real woman, the first African American female cop in the history of Baltimore, that it’s possible to do it if you’re willing to put the work into it.

And I think studying the complicated politics and history of race in New Orleans would be an interesting education. I’ve yet to read Lords of Misrule, which is about that in terms of Carnival and the integration of the krewes in the early 1990’s; perhaps I should move it up on my list, but then again, there’s no way I could write anything from Venus’ perspective, novel-wise, until 2021 at the earliest.

Anyway, I digress. We were talking about serial killers, weren’t we? I still think Val McDermid’s The Mermaids Singing is the best serial killer novel I’ve read, but I’ve never read Thomas Harris. I’ve seen The Silence of the Lambs, of course, and we watched the series Hannibal, but I’ve never really quite understood the American obsession with Hannibal Lector as a pop star–which I’ve always believed had more to do with Anthony Hopkins’ performance in the films than it did with the books–but perhaps I should read the first two books (I’ve heard too many bad things about the more recent ones, beginning with Hannibal.)

The funny thing is that the one thing that always bothered me the most about serial killers–whether in novels, movies, or television–was the presence of the profiler, who is always so smug and certain about their profiles, knowledge and expertise–that I remember thinking while watching something (probably an iteration of Law and Order, but which one I don’t remember) and thinking to myself if I ever write a serial killer novel it’s going to have an FBI profiler who is wrong about everything. From that germ I created an entire character; and then thought, an annoying, always wrong profiler would be the perfect foil for Venus–who would think he’s full of shit and be irritated that theories are given priority over evidence and facts. There was a serial killer operating in Baton Rouge around that same time; there had been a serial killer operating in Houston–I think, without checking, known as the I-45 Killer–and remember thinking, maybe it should be rethought of us the I-10 Killer; Houston and Baton Rouge are connected by I-10…and then of course started spinning out this tale in my head of a serial killer operating east and west along I-10 (which also runs through New Orleans) and so on. I’ve also thought about someone killing priests (another Venus idea) in a serial fashion…but I’ve always backed away from writing about serial killers because I don’t know enough about them and learning enough about them to write from an expert point of view seemed like a lot of work–time-consuming work, at that.

And one thing I know for sure, I don’t have much time, do I?

Heavy heaving sigh.

This is, as you can probably guess, yet another example of my creative ADD, and you can see how all over the place my mind will jump. Hopefully tonight when I get off work I’ll get back to work on Bury Me in Shadows, which is so close to having the first draft done…which I wanted to do before the end of the month, which is nigh–and seriously, I need to focus. Part of the problem I’ve been having this month is too many things, too many different things, that I’ve agreed to do hanging over my head, and one thing I need to remember going forward is to stop agreeing to do things; this is how I get in trouble. Even now, sitting here, thinking about finishing this book by the end of the month, I am realizing all the things I’ve got to get done in September that I’ve agreed to do–and then there’s of course October, when I’ve agreed to work on yet another project that will most likely be taking up most of my time.

Sigh. No rest for the wicked, or for the weary.

And that’s my cue to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

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Yesterday Once More

Back to reality. I only have to work a short day today, which is a lovely way to ease myself back into the work week, but it’s still a return to work. At least it’s only a three day work week for me, with two half-days, on the horizon before I can chill out over the weekend.

And weekend after next is Labor Day weekend.

I feel rested and relaxed, ready to get back to work and that’s a lovely feeling; I love that I earn enough vacation time per year to take these periodic long weekends. Now that I’m old, they are necessary, and I need the breaks now a lot more than I did when I was younger. I have about a million emails I need to answer, and I also ned to get my checkbook caught up and balanced, make sure I’m paying the bills promptly, and so forth. One of my chores this morning before leaving for the office is the weekly to-do list; I need to get those chapters of Bury Me in Shadows written, and I also need to write another short story. The idea is there, deep in my brain, and I think it might sort itself out if I could only start writing it. I know how i want to do the story–epistolary or diary entries; diary entries might be easier, I don’t know. But it’s an entirely different style than what I am used to writing, which is always a plus–I think this is how you stretch yourself as a writer, doing different things.

Which brings me around to Laura Lippman, and her Lady in the Lake. I am over halfway finished with it; I am trying not to rush through it. I want to take my time and savor how she’s telling this story. It’s done through multiple points of view; we see the main character, Maddie, from a removed third person point of view, and every chapter about Maddie is interspersed with a first person point of view from someone she has just encountered, talked to, interacted with. It’s an interesting method of structuring, and I am enjoying it tremendously, because she is also using the alternate first person POV’s to move the story along; so that the reader knows more than Maddie. One of the things I admire the most about Lippman is her stand-alone novels are always dramatically different from each other–style, voice, story, etc.; each new novel is completely different from the one preceding it and the one that comes after. She is constantly stretching and pushing herself as a writer, and I think that’s very important for a writer.

I started writing my own stand-alones as a way of doing something different, of trying different things, of pushing myself as a writer and a creator, as well as a way of keeping myself fresh for the series novels. It has worked, but the more I write the stand-alone novels, alas, the less I was interested in writing the series. I felt like the Chanse novels were beginning to feel a little stale to me, in all honesty; I still think the later ones are good books, don’t get me wrong–but I kept thinking, feeling, that the series wasn’t as fresh and interesting to me as it was in the beginning, so I decided to end the series. I think I’ve decided about four or five times throughout the course of the Scotty series that I was ending it, but I don’t say that anymore because without fail another Scotty idea would pop into my head. I already have the idea for the next one in my head; all the disparate events and subplots and so forth ready to go. I’ve also mentioned that I already have an idea for another Chanse, one that I’m eager to write, actually; something I definitely am going to tackle as soon as my writing schedule frees up.

But in order for my writing schedule to free up, I need to do the writing that I need to get done. Therein lies the rub.

Yesterday was a lovely book mail day; I got Rob Hart’s The Warehouse (already one of the best-reviewed books of the year) and Lisa Lutz’ The Swallows, both of which I want to jump right into, but again–there are already books in line ahead of them. Ah, to have more free time to read!

We have just one episode of Manhunter left, so we’ll be finishing that off tonight. We’re probably going to watch Succession on HBO next; and there are some other shows I’d like to see now available out there as well.

And now, tis off to the spice mines with me. Heavy heaving sigh.

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Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

And just like that, Gregalicious is fifty-eight. I’ve been saying I’m fifty-eight, of course, since the new year began–I’m contrarian that way–just like in 2020 I’ll start saying I’m fifty-nine. Sixty is approaching, looming over the horizon. Who would have ever thought I’d make it this far?

Certainly not me.

Yesterday was a complete bust for the most part. Sunday night my insomnia returned, and it was also my night off from taking anything prescription, so I spent the evening lying in bed with my eyes closed, sometimes drifting off but never too deeply. I was also hungry–my toothache returned over the weekend, making chewing incredibly difficult, and so as a result of being hungry, was so drained and tired yesterday I even took a two-hour nap in the afternoon. It helped, but not that much–so I made meatballs for dinner. Ironically, by the time the meatballs were ready to eat in the slow cooker, the toothache had somewhat gone away, so I was able to eat a bowl of meatballs over wild rice (it was delicious) and having some food in my stomach made all the difference. We watched two more episodes of Mindhunter (the guy playing Manson is amazing), which were terrific–I love how they are dealing with Dr. Carr’s lesbianism, and how she has to stay deep in the closet at work, as well as having to deal with the unwanted attentions of predatory men.

I did spend some time savoring Laura Lippman’s Lady in the Lake, which I am going to spend some more time with this morning. It’s so well-done, really, as all of her books are, and I like that I am taking the time to enjoy it, resisting the urge to rush through to the end. I love that her main character isn’t necessarily the most likable protagonist…it’s very layered and textured.

I also finished reading Otto Friedrich’s City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940’s yesterday afternoon; I love reading books about old Hollywood and the way things used to be. The 1940’s were the last full decade of the studio system, and it was also the decade when, obviously, World War II swept away the last vestiges of the old world and gave rise to a new one, from the ashes. Chlorine is most likely going to be set in the early 1950’s, but as much as I think I know about the history of Hollywood, what I don’t know is voluminous.

I also worked on an essay briefly yesterday; completing the first draft, which is more of an abstract. I’ll need to expand on it more before I turn it in, but I write essays differently than the way I write fiction–which probably makes little to no sense to anyone besides me. But I always want to make sure that the points I want to make have come across in the piece–so I have to do that sketchy outline/abstract thing first, and then I can look at it and see where to move things around and what order they should go in and once I do that, I can start expanding on those thoughts more.

It works for me, what can I say?

Today I am going to take it easy and relax. I have to return to the office tomorrow–but at least I only have three days to work this week, two of which are half-days–and so, for my birthday, I think I’m just going to spend most of the day reading, relaxing, and organizing. I might reread Bury Me in Shadows, which will hopefully get me back into writing it (only three chapters to go! SERIOUSLY), or I might just take today as a day off. There’s a little voice in the back of my head shrieking at me you didn’t do anything yesterday so you need to make up for it today but I suspect I shall have very little trouble ignoring that voice today. Maybe I’ll stream Strangers on a Train today; it’s on Netflix, I think, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve watched the movie. I also have to run get the mail today–some packages were delivered–and Paul is going to bring Chinese food home for dinner tonight (I do love me some shrimp lo-mein), but other than that? Maybe some organizing–I enjoy doing that–and even maybe some writing, I have a short story due in a couple of months, and I think I’m going to do it in epistolary form; so I’ve been reading letters from the time period to get a better grasp on how people wrote letters during that time period. It may be entirely too ambitious of a story for me, but I guess I won’t know that until I start writing it.

And on that note, I am going to go curl up in my easy chair with a purring kitty and Laura Lippman’s book. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

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Clair

Well, I managed to get the round table thing finished yesterday afternoon, despite the best efforts of my computer to ensure I got nothing done yesterday.  I really don’t think I was the right fit for this conversation as I am neither a science fiction writer nor a buff; I am, at best, a casual fan of scifi more than anything else, and the questions were really in-depth and more than a little bit over my head. But I gave it my best shot, such as it was, and managed to get it done. I may have come across as a bit pessimistic about the future, but that’s kind of how I’m feeling these days–which makes me also very grateful to be my age and not younger.

I also wrote the first draft of “Moist Money,” which pleased me enormously (not the draft, just that I got it done). I went a few words over the three thousand word limit–but it’s also just a first draft, and it’ll tighten up some in the second draft. It’s a very dark, nasty, noir story that’s more than a little misogynistic (to be fair, my main character hates straight men as much as he hates straight women), but overall I am very pleased with it. It’s going to need some more work, obviously, but again, I am very pleased with getting it done. It seems like it’s been forever since I got a draft of anything finished, you know? And it’s been a while since I worked on Bury Me in Shadows (which I am planning on working on some today), so it’s not like I’ve been a writing machine lately, either.

I also started reading Laura Lippman’s Lady in the Lake, which already is fucking fantastic. She keeps raising the bar for all the rest of us, which is both intoxicating and intimidating. I read the first few chapters, then set it aside for a while. The writing and story-telling is so terrific it needs to be savored, rather than rushed through. One of the many things I admire about Lippman is she never writes the same book twice; each of her stand-alone novels is markedly different from the others. Sunburn was her exploration of noir; Wilde Lake was an homage to To Kill a Mockingbird with a modern twist to it; After I’m Gone was a complicated study of the women left behind when a slightly crooked man disappears; and so on. Her Tess Monaghan series (which I love love love) was also never formulaic, never predictable, and always a terrific, satisfying read. She even took chances with that series that most series writers won’t; Tess got pregnant in The Girl in the Green Raincoat, in order for Lippman to write her take on Rear Window; the most recent Tess novel, Hush Hush, was an exploration of motherhood and bad mothers. (I intend to read some more of Lady in the Lake this morning, after I finish this and write a little bit; I intend to spend the afternoon writing, and maybe even go to the gym at some point, as an early birthday present to myself.)

I had some serious computer issues yesterday, with the programs periodically “not responding” and the occasional screen freeze, which required force-restarting the computer or unplugging it. Eventually, the computer problems seemed to work themselves out somewhat; the computer still isn’t as fast as it used to be, and the programs do lock up from time to time, which is incredibly frustrating, as you can imagine. I guess I’m simply going to have to bite the bullet and get some on-line assistance from Apple techs, which I don’t think I should have to pay for, since the computer worked perfectly fine before the Mojave update.

Ah, well, such is life. I also need to get some Apple techs to deal with the Air on-line, but I did buy the Apple Care for it so it shouldn’t cost anything out of pocket.

Fuckers.

We also tore through the first three episodes of season two of Mindhunter last night on Netflix; it’s been so long (and my memory is basically worthless these days) I’d kind of forgotten what was going on with the show–but it didn’t take long to get back into the swing of the story and the plot. The show is simply exquisite; I think this season is even better than the first, frankly. Jonathon Groff, Anna Torv, and Holt McCallany are perfect in their roles, and they’ve recreated the time period perfectly. I can’t recommend Mindhunter enough; I can’t wait for Paul to get home tonight so we can dive back into it. I’ve said it before, and I will continue saying it; this is perhaps the platinum age of television; there are so many amazing shows it’s impossible to keep up with them all, and the Emmys are far more competitive, and interesting, than the Oscars.

There’s also a third season of Dear White People up on Netflix, as well.

It’s gloomy outside the windows this morning; I suspect this is going to be another rainy August day here in New Orleans, on my last day of being fifty-seven (although technically, it’s the last day of my fifty-eighth year) and I continue my steady crawl to sixty. Tomorrow of course is also the last day of this long weekend, and I do feel like it was necessary and needed. I feel a lot more relaxed and lot less stressed than I did Thursday when I came home from work–and this ‘mental health mini-vacation’ has certainly done the trick.

And on that note, I am heading back into the mines for spice. Have a lovely Monday, everyone.

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