Homeward Bound

So, when Ellen Byron was preparing to interview me for our live stream event from Murder by the Book, she sent me some questions to prepare myself with. They were good questions, actually, and I thought that taking time to answer them when I can think about the responses would be an excellent BLATANT SELF-PROMOTION post.

So, without further ado, here we go!

What inspired your book? Series premise and the specific story?

That’s an interesting story, actually. I had been toying with the idea of writing a cozy for a long time–I’ve always liked them–but never was sure I could do it; there were rules, after all, and I’m terrible about following rules, always have been. Several friends have been encouraging me for years to do it, but I always hesitated. It was (I thought) outside of my comfort zone, and while I would toy with ideas here and there, none ever came to anything. My partner’s office is near a costume shop, and he’d had to go in there one day for some reason or another, and as is his wont, he struck up a conversation with an employee about the costume business, how they made money, how they stayed open all year, etc etc etc. He’s very curious. Anyway, that night I mentioned to him that someone had yet again suggested I write a cozy, and he wasn’t sure what one was, so I gave him a thumbnail overview, and he said, “Oh, you should do a costume shop” and proceeded to tell me about his conversation with the shop employee. I agreed it was an interesting idea, and stowed it away in the back of my head for future reference, and would think about it now and then, come up with characters and a community for the main character to be a part of, and so on. But at the same time I kept thinking New Orleans wasn’t the right place for a cozy series–basically looking for ways to fail instead of reasons to succeed, which is the underlying theme of my life, really–and so it went. An editor I’ve worked with before was interested in the idea of my writing a cozy series, so I wrote up a proposal and sent it off. They liked it, but couldn’t sign it, and recommended I take it somewhere else, so I did. It evolved from a costume shop to an antique shop during the process of me signing a contract with Crooked Lane; they liked everything about my idea except for the shop itself, so I had to change that. I went down to Magazine Street and walked for a block, writing down every kind of shop I saw, and sent the list in–and we all came to an agreement about the series being structured around an antiques business. As for the story, well, I wanted to talk about and explore the gentrification of New Orleans that has been ongoing almost this entire century, and how real estate has just exploded around here. (It still staggers me that our rent was $450 when we first moved here; the lowest rent I’ve seen advertised in our neighborhood is around $1500 for less than thousand square feet. Our original apartment now rents for $2500 per month now, which is insane.) What happens to Valerie–the fear of a new tax assessment pricing her out of her house–actually happened to a friend of mine; and the prices just seem to keep going up all the time. You can’t even buy a condo in my neighborhood for less than $350, 000 now–the asking prices for houses in the neighborhood are completely insane. Every time I see a new listing in the neighborhood for half a million dollars or more I think, we really should have bought when we moved here–but home-ownership is New Orleans isn’t something Paul or I have ever been terribly interested in. Termites, tornados, hurricanes, floods, black mold–no thanks! But man, what a return on our investment had we bought in 1996!

We both write series set in New Orleans. Why do you find it so inspiring? Especially when you’ve lived in so many other places?

I’ve lived all over the country–we’re from Alabama, and I’ve lived in Chicago on the south side, the suburbs, Kansas, Fresno, Houston, Tampa, Minneapolis and then New Orleans. New Orleans is the only place I’ve ever been to where I felt like I belonged, where I fit in; where I didn’t seem like the eccentric one. New Orleans embraces its eccentrics and doesn’t judge them, and I like that. I knew that first time I came here on my birthday in 1994 that if I moved here all my dreams would come true. And they have, which has been kind of lovely. And no writer could ever exhaust the inspiration New Orleans provides. I’ve written fifteen books set here and countless short stories at this point, and haven’t even scratched the surface. I’ve never written about the music scene here, for one glaring example, or restaurants or the food industry or…you see what I mean? There’s not enough time in my life to write everything I want to about New Orleans.

Tell us about your protagonist. Where did the inspiration for her come from?

My sister never had any interest in going to college or having any kind of career other than being a wife and mother. She was a straight A student and had numerous scholarship offers, but had little to no interest. I used to always think she had wasted her potential, but gradually came to the realization that she has the life she always wanted when she was growing up, and has never missed having a career outside of the home–so rather than feeling bad about her lost potential, I should have been happy that her dreams came true. I started thinking about that more, and thought that would make a great starting place–a woman like my sister who wasn’t really very interested in college but went because it was expected of her…only to fall in love, get married, and drop out when she had twins. I really like the idea of a woman who’s not yet thirty, who wasn’t really sure what she wanted from life and then sidetracked to wife-and-mother, but with her kids now off to college and her husband having died…what do you do for the rest of your life when you’re a widow at thirty-eight and your kids have left for college? And the more I thought about her, the more I liked her and wanted to write about her.

Why did you choose the Irish Channel as the neighborhood?

My Scotty series is set in the French Quarter, and the Chanse series was set in the lower Garden District (where I’ve always lived and always default to it for that very reason), so I wanted to do something different this time out. Before I moved here, I had friends who lived in the Channel and I loved their house and I loved their neighborhood. I had already started writing a novella set in their old house, and I thought, why not use that same house for this series? The Channel did used to be considered a bad part of town, too, when we first moved here (so was the lower Garden District, which we didn’t know), and so I thought the gentrification issue would work better there than in my neighborhood. That part of the Channel is one I used to spend a lot of time in. As my character mentions in the book, I used to hang out at the Rue de la Course coffee shop at the corner of Magazine and Harmony–it was where I would meet friends for coffee. I’m still bitter it closed.

Similarities in our series: both widows, both have family mysteries, both live in the Irish Channel, you have jokes about potholes, I have a plot point about them. Let’s talk about NOLA’s potholes.

Oh, the potholes! Ironically, an active one ate one of my car tires a few weeks ago. Usually, if I am going someplace and have to turn around, there’s usually room for me to make a U-turn or I can turned into a driveway and turn around. This particular day the bar on the corner had reopened after being sold, closed, and renovated for a few months. So, there were cars everywhere, including blocking the driveways, and I thought, fine, I’ll just go around the block, which I hadn’t done in years. Because I hadn’t done that i years, I forgot there’s a massive pothole right when you make the turn so you have to jog left to avoid it. I hit the pothole, hard, and when I did, I thought oh that’s not good and as I continued driving I noticed the car was pulling to the left–which was the tire that hit the pothole. Sure enough, it was flat. It had a nail in it, and I happened to hit the pothole perfectly so that the nail dragged, tearing a hole in the tire. So, yes, New Orleans is a city of potholes–all different shapes, sizes, and depths. When the streets flood the water hides the potholes, and if they are really deep…the one on our street (which is reforming after being filled in and paved over for like the fiftieth time) ate a pick-up truck when that end of the street flooded a few years ago, so our street was blocked until the water went down and a tow truck could get in.

You have a Nolier than thou joke – I have OhNo!LA, an app that’s a runner in the book.

I wish I could claim credit for that joke, but I stole it from Bill Loefhelm, another New Orleans crime writer when we were on a panel together talking about writing about New Orleans and the need to get things right. He responded to a question about accuracy by saying something like “Yes, you really don’t want to set off the Nolier-Than-Thou people” and it still makes me laugh whenever I think about it because it’s so true! In all honesty, I am one of those people–nothing is more infuriating to me than reading something set in New Orleans that doesn’t get it right–but I’ve loosened up some as I’ve gotten older. I was even wondering if that was still a thing while I was writing this book…but since it’s come out I’ve seen any number of locals posting reviews and comments about “how (he) got New Orleans right” so it is still a thing. (And I’m glad and grateful people think I get ir right.)

How would you say your past experiences and jobs in life inform your writing?

I always say that life is material, as is every experience you’ve had. I’ve had so many jobs over the years and have been fired so many times I can’t keep track of them all anymore. But I also had a huge variety of jobs–fast food to retail to food service to banking to insurance to an airline to being a personal trainer to managing a health club to being a magazine editor to my present job working in an STI clinic as a sexual health counselor. Whenever I am creating a character and need a job for them, I inevitably fall back on one of my experiences. The main character in The Orion Mask worked at an airport–I’ve written a lot of characters who work for airlines–and so I try to get away from my own experiences once I catch myself doing it again. I have always had jobs that required interaction with other humans, so I’ve gotten to observe a lot of human behavior. I’ve written about high school students in Kansas (where I went to high school). I’ve written about fraternities because I was in one (hard as it is to believe now). I played football in high school, I’ve written about football players in high school. The only places I’ve lived that I’ve not written about are Chicago, Houston, and Tampa (I have written about Florida, but just the panhandle, where I spent of time as a kid).

I read a blog post where you talked about your relationship with the city. How has it morphed over the years and where does it stand now? It sounded like doing promotion and writing about the city reignited your love for it. What’s your writing process? You write in different genres. Is the process different?

As sad as it is to admit, it’s very easy when you live here to start taking New Orleans for granted. As I said before, I usually am so focused on what I am doing–work, writing, errands, chores, etc.–that I don’t pay much attention to my surroundings as I should (I think we are all guilty of this to some degree). About a year before the pandemic, my day job moved. I had worked in our office on Frenchmen Street for well over ten years–right across the street from Mona’s, in that block between Decatur and Chartres, so I was a block outside the Quarter five days a week, and we also used to do a lot of testing in the French Quarter gay bars and passing out condoms during Carnival, Southern Decadence, and Halloween. So I used to spend a lot of time in and around the Quarter. It was lovely–I could go to the Walgreens or the Rouse’s on Royal and there was a bank branch on Chartres Street, too, by the Supreme Court building. Anytime I didn’t have anything in the house to pack for lunch I could just walk into the Quarter and get something not only amazing but inexpensive. I used to walk past where Scotty lives all the time. After we moved into our new building in the 7th Ward, I don’t go into the Quarter much anymore. So I was starting to feel a bit disconnected from New Orleans already before the pandemic shut everything down. But I realized when I started doing promo for this book that I am not disconnected from New Orleans. I’ve just lived here so long that I don’t take as much note of the unusual or the weird as I used to–it’s become normalized to me. I’ve acclimated. It’s still just as weird and wild and crazy here as it always has been, it just doesn’t strike me as weird and wild and crazy the way it used to. I need to take more walks and spend more time exploring the city and checking things out. I don’t know if all the hidden places I used to take friends to eat in the Quarter are still there, either. Maybe after Mardi Gras…

Fortune Teller

Very glad it’s Thursday already. I am tired again this morning–there was some insomnia last night, but not nearly as bad as that if the night before–but I am waking up and slurping coffee and getting ready to face the day. I did manage to get all the bills paid yesterday and did some writing–which wasn’t easy. I’m hoping to get some more of that done tonight and hoping that it actually will get better and easier the further I get into this new project. But in checking my emails there’s not a weather advisory today for the first time since before Christmas, what with freezes, high winds, hail, tornadoes, flash flood warnings, and dense fog advisories. Yeesh, that’s something, isn’t it? It’s like the weather has lost its mind down here–well, everywhere in the country for that matter, really–but climate change is a myth, y’all. (eye roll to infinity)

The schedule at work is picking up, too, and probably within a few weeks I won’t have time to breathe during the day anymore in the clinic. We have gone back to appointments every half hour rather than every hour–which is what we did before the pandemic–and that’s going to take some getting used to, I think. After work last night I had dinner with a very dear friend at Lilette, a lovely place on Magazine Street where they have amazing passionfruit bellinis (I limited myself to one, but easily could have slurped down three or four) and got caught up with each other. I really do have the best friends–such a blessing so late in life, you know, to make some amazing friends past forty. My life has gotten significantly better the older I get, which is probably the best way for that to occur…I just wish I had the energy I used to have so I could enjoy it more. That’s something I should have added to my goals for 2023: take time to appreciate and enjoy the good things in my life more. It’s so damned easy to only see the negative and the bad, which are always far outweighed by the good and positive. I’m going to try to get as much of my email inbox deleted before next Monday–or at least addressed in some way–and as my term with Mystery Writers of America starts to come to a close, I can also start archiving all my emails having to do with MWA business.

The sky is turning blue which means the sun is rising over the West Bank (don’t ask), and it’s only in the low fifties this morning, which probably means high sixties-low seventies during the day and when I get off work. I have to run errands when I leave the office this afternoon, and then I am going to come home and try to dive more deeply into the book I am currently writing–which is wickedly fun–and hopefully Paul will get home at a relatively decent hour so we can watch more Sherwood, and hopefully I can stay awake for a while tonight at any rate, LOL. Yesterday afternoon was when I hit the wall, which had me deeply concerned because I was having dinner with a friend I’ve not seen in nearly a year. But I came home from work, shaved and showered and got dressed, and felt fine as I drove uptown. I was early, as I always am, so I wandered around the neighborhood (a part of the city I am rarely in) and took pictures of houses with their Christmas lights or just some interesting shots of houses with their regular lights on. I need to do more of that, really–one of these football free weekends I need to take the streetcar (or walk) to the Quarter and take a look around, get more of a feel for it again. I am planning on spending the weekend of the festivals (TW, S&S) at the Monteleone this year (which means coming home periodically to feed the cat and spend some quality time with him), which will also help me explore and get to know the city a bit more, or re-familiarize myself with it. It occurs to me that probably a lot of my private places–the ones I could take friends for meals and drinks that were off the touristy beaten path–probably aren’t in business anymore. I know I recently saw the Green Goddess had closed because of the pandemic, which has me a bit concerned about the other places I used to take folks. But I am also getting to know my own neighborhood better–I can always bring people down to the Lower Garden District to eat and have cocktails; St. Vincent’s is a really nice place here in the neighborhood, and there’s that awesome Vietnamese café next to our vet, and of course Lilette and Coquette and all the other marvelous place uptown of the Quarter to eat.

I really do love living in New Orleans. It’s quite marvelous, really–sure, there are endless frustrations and irritations every day (someone needs to make everyone in the city take a remedial driving course like yesterday), but it’s so beautiful here. Last night was a lovely evening, and as I walked around taking pictures of houses with their Christmas lights (or just their normal lights) I kept thinking to myself you really are so lucky to be able to live here. It still hits me sometimes when I am driving around running errands; I’ll notice something I’ve driven past thousands of times before that never registered and I’ll smile and think god damn, I live in fucking New Orleans! and it really makes my day.

And at this time next week I’ll be waking up in a hotel in New York–hopefully having slept decently. I am kind of excited about the trip–time has really flown since I booked my flights and things–and since it will be my last hurrah…I do have mixed feelings about stepping back from my role there. Sure, I will miss it–it actually could be a lot of fun a lot of the time–but there are also things I am not going to miss. I’ve always been super-hard on myself, and rarely, if ever, give myself credit for things I’ve done and accomplished. Part of this comes from not taking myself terribly seriously–I laugh at myself ruefully all the time–and I’ve always had this mentality that if I did something, it must not be a big deal because I am no more than, if not below, average. But I don’t believe that as deeply as I used to, nor do I think it’s necessary for me to constantly be humble about things I’ve done, either. I think it’s also time for me to update my CV again, which will enable me to count all my stories and novels again for an update.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Wish me well, Constant Reader, and I will do the same for you. And I will check in with you again tomorrow.

All I Want for Christmas Is You

Well, yesterday was a bit dramatic.

As I believe I mentioned, we were in a severe weather alert for most of the day, with everyone in the meteorology game saying conditions would seriously deteriorate in the mid-to-late afternoon. We started getting emails from upper management and operations in the mid-morning letting us know they were monitoring the weather as the afternoon drew nearer. (I had not really been aware of the bad storms that had passed by the north of us the day before, either.) The decision was made around three to close the building and send everyone home for their safety. I texted Paul to make sure he left his office (fortunately, he was working at home) and hurried home myself. It started raining by the time I got home, and settled in. Maybe about an hour or so later the warning alert on my phone went off, so I quickly tuned into the local meteorology maven Margaret Orr on WDSU (I love her, it’s going to be such a loss when she finally retires) as the storm was drawing nearer and it looked like it was going to form a tornado on the West Bank, just like that horrible storm back in March that also produced one. The maps they use on television aren’t the greatest, especially when they are pulled back as far, so it looked like my neighborhood was in the direct path for awhile. That was a bit nerve-wracking, especially as they were also giving times of arrival–“this storm will be in the lower Garden District in five minutes”–so we just braced ourselves and waited. But fortunately for us (but not for others) this storm followed almost the exact same path as the one in March–following the river and jumping across at Arabi and the lower 9th ward. But we did have some major rain and wind rattling the house. Fortunately, I had Scooter sleeping in my lap, which is always calming, and then it was past and over.

The Entergy power map seems to indicate the office has power, so operations will resume today, one would assume.

It’a also colder today–right now it’s in the fifties–which could account for me not wanting to get up this morning; it’s always so comfortable and comforting when you’re under a pile of blankets when it’s chilly. I feel like I slept through the night for the most part. I think I woke up once? But I feel more rested this morning than I have all week, which is a good thing. This is my last day in the office this week, with tomorrow being a work-at-home day. I made it through another week, but man, time is flying. I spent most of the evening reading parts of When Women Ruled the World on my Kindle or randomly opening The Prime Time Closet to read bits and pieces. When Women Ruled the World is about the sixteenth century; a period I’ve mentioned before because more women held power that century than any century before or since, and I’ve always wanted to write about those women in a book called The Monstrous Regiment of Women, taking its title from John Knox’ horrifically misogynistic text; but whereas I would want to merely overview the women who have been written about extensively already (Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, etc.) while paying more attention to the ones not as famous (infamous?) in today’s popular culture, like Margaret of Austria, Mary of Hungary, Marie de Guise, Catherine de Medici, Queen Margot, etc. (It was also the same century that produced Elizabeth Bathory…) I should have read more of Algren’s A Walk on the Wild Side, but after the adrenaline rush and emotional distress about being in the potential path of a tornado, my mind was too fried to focus on fiction. I did work on the book some, but my mind was just not in the right place for that sort of work. Hopefully, tonight and tomorrow progress will be made and I can get this under control.

And of course, Christmas is next weekend. Next weekend? Yikes!

Something awful happened to me yesterday on social media that I am still processing, so I am not really quite ready to talk about it here. It ties into a blog entry I’ve been toying with for quite some time now; but it’s not really something I can write when I am waking up and swilling coffee; it’s too personal and too complex to trust to a tired brain that isn’t as awake as it should be to tackle such a subject. I mean, it’s bad enough when you see people you know being openly homophobic or transphobic on social media, it’s even worse when it’s directed specifically at you. By someone you’ve known for years, and maybe didn’t quite consider a friend, but was definitely an acquaintance with whom you were friendly. Well, that ship has sailed–and it’s really interesting to me to see how many people who claim to be allies draw the line when it comes to my transgender siblings. But make no mistake about it: you come for the T you’re coming for me as well. When the right wing comes for the trans community and/or drag queens (which are often not the same thing), make no mistake about it, they are coming for all of us. Just as they used to vilify gay men and lesbians until most decent human beings saw how repugnant it was, they think drag queens and transpeople are an easier way to get to legalize the discrimination against all of us that they want. The language they are using is the same as the ones Anita Bryant used in the 1970’s, and the bigots who have come along in her wake have picked up the banner and use the same coded language she did. “Protect the children!” has always been their battlecry, but who are they to decide how parents should raise their children? What children should be exposed to? Your complaints about “the children” stop at your own. You do not have the right to tell other parents how to raise their children or what they can or cannot be exposed to; and the entire concept of “exposing young children to drag queens is sexualizing them!” is complete fucking bullshit on its face–and you fucking straight people have nerve saying that to queer people while keeping your fucking mouths about toddler beauty pageants. Where are the fucking Proud Boys with their AK-47’s at those events, where they paints the faces of children and dress them provocatively to the point most of them look like incredibly cheap streetwalkers? And don’t you fucking dare ever tell me that Drag Queen Story Hours are inappropriate for children because basically you are fucking saying no queer people should be around children.

Go straight to fucking hell, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

And don’t you ever dare speak to me again.

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

Friends and Neighbors

Ah, community.

What is a cozy mystery without one? I don’t know because I’ve never read one that didn’t have a strong sense of community in it, but for me, the depictions of community is one of the primary draws of cozies.

As I have mentioned before, the vast majority of cozies are generally set in small towns, small communities where everyone always seems to come together, everyone knows everyone, and there’s an undercurrent of caring about others that makes them cozy and comfortable to read. I was worried at first about setting one in New Orleans, to be honest; New Orleans is many things to many different people, but I’ve kind of always seen New Orleans as a darker city than most, and that darkness that is always out there on the periphery of the bright sunshine, no matter how cheerful you might be or how lovely of a day it is. Part of it is the history here–New Orleans was a center of the slave trade, after all, and you don’t get much darker than human trafficking–and of course, the city has always been a major port…and ports aren’t exactly known as sedate places. There has always been a lot of crime here, and you really can’t go anywhere in New Orleans without overhearing people talking about the “crime problem” and shaking their heads at the decline of Western civilization as we know it down here by the riverside.

So, how can I write a light, breezy novel about a city that is so dark?

The key was community, of course. New Orleans is a city, but it’s also a city of neighborhoods, and always has been. Generations of families passed homes and property down to their children and their children and so on. “Where’d you go to high school?” was a question asked because the answer told the asker lots of things. Private school or public? What neighborhood did you grow up in? And as I thought more about it, I realized my lonely block in the lower Garden District has that sense of community to it. Neighbors look out for neighbors. We’ve lived in the same place since either 2002 or 2003; I’m never really sure I can remember when we moved onto the property; those years between moving back here in 2001 and Katrina are kind of blurry for me. But we’ve gotten to know our landlady pretty well as well as some of our neighbors; others have come and gone over the years but we always all end up down at the corner for parades during Carnival, catching throws and hanging out and having a good time.

And I realized I could do the same for Valerie.

In A Streetcar Named Murder I only introduced the reader to a few members of Valerie’s community in the Irish Channel: her best friend and neighbor Lorna; the gay couple next door in one side of a double and one’s mother, Mrs. Domenico, on the other side; and her friend Stacia who lives further down the street. I also mentioned there were a couple of houses being used as Air BnB’s, which may play a part in a book should the series get picked up. I had learned my lesson from the failed Paige spin-off series years ago; the mouthy, brash and snarky best friend cannot be the main character, but the book/community needed someone like that in the book. The main character has to be kind–but there’s always a more colorful secondary character necessary to say the funny and borderline mean things in place of the main character.

This is where Lorna comes in.

Lorna is very colorful indeed, and was a lot of fun to create. She’s married to an airline pilot who is often gone for long stretches of time (his name is Jack Farrow; since he’s a pilot she calls him Captain Jack Farrow). She’s British, speaks multiple languages, is fiercely intelligent and doggedly loyal. She also writes lusty romance novels that are huge bestsellers under the name Felicity Deveraux. Lorna is a great best friend who is also always up for anything, and naturally, she has a huge imagination and a big personality. Interesting and fun as Lorna is, I don’t think I would ever write about her as the main character because, like Paige, she would need to be toned down and I don’t really want to do that to her.

It is Lorna’s ambition to join a Mardi Gras krewe that actually puts Valerie at the scene of the crime in the book. See how that works?

But her neighborhood isn’t her only community, either; there’s a community around Rare Things, the antiques store she inherits–Randall Charpentier, her new boss; Dee, her co-worker; and of course the people who are in and out of the shop–the hot guy from an outer parish who repairs and refinishes furniture, for one–on a regular basis. If it becomes a series, I can flit the cases back and forth from her neighborhood to the store and vice versa; there are all kinds of plots and stories I can tell that could come from both.

And there’s still another community that Valerie belongs to that was only touched on in the first book–the parents’ group at Loyola High (it doesn’t exist in real life, folks, but it’s based on Jesuit), the Cardirents. This is how Valerie knew the victim in this book; they were both in the group, with a fraught history (which is more fraught than Valerie ever knew).

So, yes, it is possible to create the sense of community a cozy mystery requires in New Orleans; New Orleans, in fact, is ripe for it.

And on that note, I will sign off here. More blatant self-promotion to come, no worries on that score!

The Irish Channel

Writing a cozy set in New Orleans seemed, at first, to be a little daunting.

One of the key tenets of a cozy is the sense of community one gets while reading it (see Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series for the perfect example; I love Caerphilly, Virginia, and enjoy revisiting twice a year to see how everyone is doing), and it took me a moment to readjust my thinking from “community means a small town” to “no, you moron, anything can be a community; and you can certainly find community in New Orleans.” And then I remembered Leslie Budewitz’ superlative Spice Shop series, which is set in Pike’s Market in Seattle. Seattle is a city, just as New Orleans is; and sure, it might be easier to just invent an entire new fictional small town to set a cozy series in, but if anything, there’s more sense of community in New Orleans than I’ve ever felt in other cities…and it was really about creating a community around my character, Valerie, and picking a neighborhood for her in which to live took me a while as I weighed pros and cons; the only thing that was definite was she was NOT going to live in the French Quarter (there’s a throwaway line where she thinks about how long it’s been since she’s been to the Quarter, and maybe she and her two best friends should arrange to have dinner at Galatoire’s or Antoine’s–yes, I used two of the better known restaurants in the city and the Quarter for the examples, but I also knew I could mention them without needing to explain them to the reader). I did go back and forth about the Marigny or Bywater, but finally decided to put her into a neighborhood that did not flood during Katrina, which narrowed the choices dramatically.

New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods, and those neighborhoods used to be so distinct that knowing what part of the city someone lived would automatically create some assumptions–just as how the ever-popular question of where’d you go to high school used to be another way to connect with someone you’ve just met–there are any number of differences between those who went to Newman or Jesuit or Holy Cross or Ursulines or Ben Franklin or Warren Easton or McMain Magnet. New Orleans is a small enough city that chances were, you’d also know (or ar related to )someone else who’d gone to that high school at the same time, or you also knew other people who lived in their neighborhood. Obviously, the French Quarter is perhaps the most famous neighborhood in New Orleans, followed by the Garden District, working down through the Marigny, the Bywater, Mid-city, Gentilly, Lakeview, Broadmoor, etc. (With the gentrification of the city over the past sixteen or so years, realtors have also started creating new neighborhoods–which can be confusing. For example, they are trying to rebrand the Central Business District–the CBD–into SoMa, South of Market, which makes no fucking sense whatsoever as there is no market for the area to be south of; I often will have someone mention one of these new neighborhoods by name to me and I have no idea what they are talking about. They are also trying to rebrand the 7th Ward as the “new Marigny”…good luck with that.)

Scotty lives in the Quarter, and Chanse lives in the Lower Garden District–I’ve also written a lot of stories set in that neighborhood, which is also where I’ve always lived, and is quite distinct from the actual Garden District–I used to joke that we lived four blocks and three decimal points from the Garden District. So having done those neighborhoods already extensively, I wanted to pick a new place for Valerie to live and for me to write about.

I’ve always kind of been partial to the Irish Channel, although we’ve always lived in the Lower Garden District (distinct from the Garden District). I wrote one book about the Irish Channel already (aptly titled Murder in the Irish Channel), and of course, when I needed a place for Valerie to live, I decided the Channel would be the perfect place for her. Twenty years or so ago there will still blighted and crumbling houses in that neighborhood just waiting to be purchased, renovated and gentrified. The stretch of Magazine she lives near used to be one of my favorite parts of the city–I met any number of people for coffee at the Rue de la Course that used to be there, I used to really enjoy the Semolina’s restaurant as well as the Middle Eastern place whose name I can’t remember now (Byblos? it was the last restaurant meal in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina), and of course I sometimes shopped at the A&P or the Walgreens–before I realized Prytania and Tchoupitoulas were the easiest and quickest ways to get uptown; I wasted a lot of time stuck in Magazine Street traffic back in the day. Our friends Carrie and Lisa used to rent half of an enormous Victorian house near Third and Constance; I loved that enormous, drafty and dusty old house (it’s actually where my main character in my in-progress novella Never Kiss a Stranger lives), and was very sorry when they moved further uptown. Paul and I used to have a lot of fun looking for costumes and other home decor in the numerous thrift shops on Magazine; the one for St. Vincent de Paul (at the corner of Robert and Magazine, which eventually closed and became a Vitamin Shoppe; I don’t think the space is currently in use) was amazing. They used to sell handmade wooden tables and bookcases, made by monks in a monastery somewhere in northern Louisiana, and this furniture was not only solid, but it was inexpensive. We still have the bookcases and tables–one of them is my desk, the other is Paul’s–and I don’t think we spent much more than a hundred dollars on the two tables and the four bookcases. We must have bought that all after we moved back here after the year that should be forgotten; we didn’t move much furniture there or back.

But oh, how I would love to get some more of those bookcases. They are sooooo solid…

Plus, putting Valerie in the Irish Channel gives me the opportunity to write about St. Patrick’s Day–which I’ve never done with either of my other series–at some point in the future.

The Irish Channel obviously takes its name from the fact that many Irish immigrants settled there when they came to New Orleans. The Historic Landmarks Commission defines its boundaries as Jackson Avenue to Delachaise Street and Magazine Street to Tchoupitoulas. However, the New Orleans City Planning Commission defines the boundaries of the Irish Channel as these streets: Tchoupitoulas Street, Toledano Street, Magazine Street, First Street, the Mississippi River and Napoleon Avenue.

See what I mean about how confusing the city can be? We can even properly define the boundaries of our neighborhoods. I’ve always considered the Channel to start at Jackson (as does the Garden District proper) and end at Louisiana; with the other boundaries Magazine and Tchoupitoulas.

But I did think having her live so close to Louisiana Avenue–between Seventh and Harmony–would put her right smack dab into the heart of that neighborhood and in walking distance of practically anything she might need. I wanted her to be able to be able to do her errands most of the time on foot, because that also (in my mind) cemented the sense that it was a neighborhood and a community, if that makes sense? And once I’d picked where she lived, I was able to start building her community around her.

But that is a tale for another time.

I love these kinds of double houses!

The Orion Mask

This is another one where I had the idea years before I actually sat down and wrote the damned book. I actually got the idea at my first ever Carnival; when I came as a tourist in 1995. We were at the Orpheus Parade on Monday night–I caught some beads thrown by Barbie Benton, if anyone remembers who she is–and I had noticed, at the parades since flying in late the preceding Friday for a long weekend, that the majority of the riders wore masks. I think I’d already known that, from books I’d read and movies and so forth, but seeing those plastic face-masks in person was a bit on the creepy side. I was already deeply in love with New Orleans–this was like the fifth or sixth trip I’d made there since my birthday the previous August–and that whole time I’d been thinking about how there had never been a New Orleans romantic suspense novel that I could recall; Phyllis A. Whitney wrote about New Orleans in Skye Cameron, but it was set in the 1880’s and I hadn’t much cared for the book (note to self: reread it!). I wanted something set in the present day, and as I caught more and more beads at the parade, it came to me: The Orpheus Mask.

I somehow even managed to remember the idea after staying out dancing until late at night, scribbling it down in my journal the next day. I honestly don’t remember if I flew home on Fat Tuesday or Ash Wednesday, but I also don’t remember Fat Tuesday, so it makes more sense that I did fly back on Fat Tuesday. I was an airline employee, after all, and since I had to fly standby would I have waited to fly home until Ash Wednesday, when every flight would have been overbooked by about thirty, or would I have flown home on a lighter travel day, Fat Tuesday? I’ll have to find my journals (I’ve been looking for the old ones forever; I distinctly remember finding them a few years back but I don’t know where I put them; perhaps I can spend some time looking for them this weekend?) to check and be sure. But The Orpheus Mask idea was always in the back of my mind somewhere–even after I moved to New Orleans and realized I couldn’t use “Orpheus” in the title, but the krewe and its parade were far too new and modern to work in the story I was developing. Finally I decided to simply invent a krewe, the Krewe of Orion, and thus the book’s title became The Orion Mask.

I also always knew that The Orion Mask was going to be my attempt at writing a romantic suspense novel, using some of the classic tropes of the genre, particularly those used by one of my favorite writers, Phyllis A. Whitney. I grew up reading her juvenile mysteries (the first were The Mystery of the Hidden Hand and The Secret of the Tiger’s Eye) and then I moved on to her novels for adults, the first being Listen for the Whisperer, after which there was no turning back. I went and devoured her back list (I haven’t read all of the books for juveniles) and then she gradually became an author whose books I bought upon release in hardcover. The last I read was The Ebony Swan; the quality of the books had started to slip a bit as we both got older plus the world and society had changed; even I had noted earlier that her characters were often–I wouldn’t go so far as to say doormats, but they didn’t seem to stand up for themselves much, and often the “nice” heroine was put in competition and contrast to an “evil” villainess; a scheming woman who didn’t mind lying and scheming to get what they want–which also included tormenting the “nice heroine”. (There were any number of times I thought read her for filth or whatever the saying for that at the time was.) My main character wasn’t going to be a pushover or weak; but I also wasn’t going to make him an asshole, either.

Taking this trip was probably a mistake I would regret.

I finished my cup of coffee and glanced over at my shiny black suitcases. They were new, bought specifically for this trip. My old bags were ratty and worn and wouldn’t have made the kind of impression I wanted to make. My cat was asleep on top of the bigger bag, his body stretched and contorted in a way that couldn’t possibly be comfortable. I’d put the bags down just inside my front door. I’d closed and locked them securely. I’d made out name tags and attached them to the handles. I’d taken pictures of them with my phone in case they were lost or misdirected by the airline. My flight wasn’t for another three and a half hours, and even in heavy traffic it wouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes to get to the airport. I had plenty of time; as always, I’d gotten up earlier than I needed to, and finished getting ready with far too much time left to kill before leaving for the airport. I checked once again to make sure I had my airline employee ID badge, my driver’s license, my laptop, and the appropriate power cords in my carry-on bag. I was flying standby, of course, but I’d checked the flight before leaving work the previous night and there were at least thirty seats open with a no-show factor of fifteen The only way I wouldn’t get on Transco flight 1537 nonstop from Bay City to New Orleans was if another flight to New Orleans canceled or this one was canceled for mechanical problems. But should that happen, I had my cousin’s cell phone number already loaded into my phone so I could give her a call and let her know what was going on.

I got up and poured what was left in the pot into my mug, making sure I turned the coffeemaker off.

The occupational hazard of flying standby was that your plans were never carved in stone and were subject to change at any moment.

They’d offered to buy me an actual ticker, of course, but I’d said no.

I wasn’t really ready to take any money from the family I didn’t know just yet.

I sipped my coffee. Has it really only been two months? I thought again.

I’d known they’d existed, of course, since that day I accidentally found my birth certificate when rooting around in my father’s desk drawer.

Phyllis A. Whitney’s books almost always involved two things: a murder in the past that cast shadows on the present, and someone going to meet a family they’ve been estranged from–usually not through any fault of their own–since their childhood. Another popular trope was that the murder involved one of the main character’s parents; in this case, I made it his mother. I named him Heath Brandon (after a co-worker), and the mystery from the past was his mother’s death. When Heath was a very small child, his mother was murdered by her lover, who then committed suicide. Heath’s father–never a fan of her family, the Legendres–took his son and left, cutting off all communications and never telling Heath anything about his mother. He always knew his father’s second wife wasn’t his mother, but all he knew about his mom was she died when he was young and talking about her upset his father, so he never brought her up and never even knew her name.

His father is now dead and Heath is working at the Bay City Airport for Transco Airlines (my go-to whenever I need an airline), when one night he notices a very attractive bald man in a tight T-shirt and jeans watching him work at the ticket counter. When the man appears the next night, Heath wonders if he should report him to security–but the man approaches him, invites him out for a drink and promises to tell him about his mother’s family. Heath in intrigued–he found out about how his mother died after finding his birth certificate and doing some on-line searches. But the man–Jerry Channing, who has also popped up in the Scotty series–is actually a true crime writer who doesn’t necessarily believe the story of how Heath’s mom and lover died, and is looking into it with an eye to writing a book. Jerry puts Heath in touch with the family, and now…he is going to meet them.

The Legendre plantation, Chambord, has been in the family for centuries. At one point, it became known for glass-making; I tied this somehow into Venetian glass, particularly the famous Murano style, and while the glass-making has long since fallen by the wayside, Chambord houses a Chambord glass museum on the property as well as a high-end restaurant–and also does the de rigeur plantation type tours. Once Heath arrives, any number of mysteries present themselves to him: why is his first cousin bear him such animosity? Why does is aunt? Why is everyone so afraid of his grandmother? And he begins to feel an attraction to his cousin’s handsome, sexy cousin–who runs the restaurant with her. Their marriage doesn’t seem happy–his cousin is kind of a bitch, as is his aunt Olivia–and he gets signals from the married restauranteur. Could it be?

And then, is it his imagination or has someone tried to kill him?

He also inherits his mother’s house in the lower Garden District of New Orleans (a house that is real and I’ve been in love with for decades), and when he goes to stay there for a night or two, he discovers a clue to the dark secrets that hang over Chambord–and what really happened in the boathouse when his mother and her lover died.

One of the things I realized while writing The Orion Mask how freeing it was for me to write a Gothic with a gay main character; Whitney and her colleagues were constrained by the rules of their genre and what their readers expected these books to be. I didn’t have either those fears or constraints; and whenever I would think oh I can’t do that Whitney would have never–then I would stop and think, you aren’t Whitney and you aren’t writing in her time period, and besides, your main character is a gay man not a young woman; of course you can do that even if its against the rules!

That realization also made me admire the talents and skills of Whitney and her contemporaries, and what they were able to accomplish within the boundaries of their genre, even more than I had previously. I will most likely write more of these style books in the future; it was a lot of fun writing this and playing with the conventions of romantic suspense.

Chambord was sort of based on Houmas House–I think I even reference that “Chambord” was made famous by a film with two aging stars that was filmed there (obviously, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte); I also referred to Belle Riviére in Murder in the Arts District that same way.

The joys of a Greg multiverse!

The Wedding Song (There Is Love)

Thursday morning and my last day in the office of the week–tomorrow I took the day off for miscellaneous appointments and things (and yes, a trip to Metairie is required, sigh) which will be nice. I don’t have to get up super-early to go, for one thing, so I can allow myself to sleep in a bit, and then I can leisurely enjoy my coffee throughout the morning before it’s time to head out there. I am also going to stop at Costco on the way back home, so it’ll be a big day for one Gregalicious. I imagine by the time I get home I will be hot, sweaty, crabby and ready to spend the evening inside with the air conditioning.

Such an exciting life I lead!

I slept really well last night–an enormously pleasant surprise, given the questionable sleep I got the previous two nights–but according to my Fitbit, it was yet another bad nights’ sleep. I am beginning to think my Fitbit doesn’t know what it’s talking about when it comes to my sleep, you know? I feel rested and a bit groggy this morning, which hopefully the coffee will take care of (fingers crossed) but I will say yesterday I felt a bit out of it for most of the day. I didn’t get nearly us much accomplished as I’d intended when I got home from the office last night–I didn’t really do much of anything, to be honest. I wrote for a little while before retiring to the easy chair, where I fell into a spiral of videos about French history, which is always fun for me. When Paul got home we watched Obi-wan Kenobi, which I am really enjoying, on-line haters be damned, and the little girl who plays Princess Leia is fantastic–it’s completely believable she would grow up into Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia, and props to Disney Plus for pitch-perfect casting. The show is also doing a really great job of filling in some gaps in the story of Star Wars, too.

Today hopefully will be a good one. I want to get some more writing done–for whatever reason, “Never Kiss a Stranger” is finally taking shape the way I want it to, although now I am worried that its going to wind up being far too long, and far too melancholy, than I want it to be. Its a melancholy story, really, so that’s probably a really good thing, but…I don’t suppose melancholy is the right mood; I am thinking I want to go for a Daphne du Maurier tone (which I love); I don’t want to call it gothic either, but if you’ve read du Maurier you know what I mean. Hmmm, perhaps I should dip into her collection Echoes from the Macabre again, to get a better sense of what I am talking about here…that is actually a really good plan, now that I think about it.

You can never go wrong rereading du Maurier.

One thing that is interesting/kind of fun about writing this novella is that it is set in a place that no longer exists–New Orleans in 1994. I was talking to some of my younger co-workers (ha ha ha, they’re all younger now, I am the old man of the department by a LOT now) about how different New Orleans was when I moved here in 1996 than it is now; and I was thinking about that some more last night. Gentrification hadn’t really gotten started in the city yet; it was a crumbling, dying city whose glory days were in the past. The Lower Garden District was considered a bad neighborhood back in those days; we moved in just as it was started to regenerate…but there was still a crack house next door, and of course the Camp Street on-ramp to the Crescent City Connection was still there, about fifty yards of concrete climbing into the sky and just ending (if you ever watch the Brad Pitt/Tom Cruise version of Interview with the Vampire, there’s a scene when Louis–Pitt–leaves a movie theater in New Orleans that is showing Tequila Sunrise. That was the Coliseum Theatre, which was closed but still there when we moved into the neighborhood. It burned to the ground a few years later. Anyway, as Louis/Pitt walks out, the camera pans back and shows a highway on-ramp with cars going up–that was the old Camp Street on-ramp, still in use when the movie was filmed but not when we moved here two or three years after the movie’s release). I also imagine that on-ramp, when it was still connected to Highway 90, was a bitch for traffic in the neighborhood, since the bridge backs up all day now; I imagine there were times when that ramp backed up all the way down Camp to probably the Garden District. Where it was now is a lovely neutral ground that separates Camp and Coliseum Streets, beautifully designed and landscaped so it seems like a perfect extension of Coliseum Square. That’s why I want to write about that time period, when gay bars still occasionally got raided by the cops, when there were still two bathhouses in New Orleans, when many of us could only be openly gay when we went to the bars in the Quarter on the weekend, and how frenetic and wild and crazy those weekends were; all the gay bars in the Quarter were packed every weekend, and of course, deeply closeted gays from the surrounding areas–the rural parishes and Mississippi–would come into the city so they could let go and be free.

But even that wasn’t a guarantee of anything, either. Death stalked the gay bars back in those days–another reason I want to write about that time–and you couldn’t really trust the cops and sometimes it was dangerous to walk back to the lower Quarter or Marigny where you’d parked your car. There was this weird sense of being an outlaw; despite the Lawrence v. Texas decision there’s still a sodomy law on the books here in Louisiana, and once this Supreme Court gets to decide Lawrence v. Texas was wrongly decided (because make no mistake, this Supreme Court is definitely going to dial us back to 1900, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they decided to take the right to vote away from women, too), once again my sex life will become an enforceable crime in Louisiana yet again.

Sigh.

Well, writing that last paragraph certainly made me melancholy. Too bad I don’t have time to work on the novella before heading into the office. Have a great Thursday, Constant Reader! I will chat with you again tomorrow morning.

In My Arms

Thursday and working at home today. Data to enter and condoms to pack; but at least I don’t have to go out in public today, which is a blessing both for me and the public when it happens. I decided to stop and make groceries on the way home from work last night, to make this possible, and it’s an absolutely lovely thing to contemplate that I was smart enough to think ahead so I can just work from home and not go anywhere today, other than to the gym later on. My body isn’t happy that I’ve not been to the gym in weeks, and it is most definitely letting me know of its deep disapproval of this conduct. I may not even lift weights–but stretching is definitely on the agenda. I need to really stretch every day, to keep my muscles from tightening and knotting, and all the knots and tightness and tension I am feeling this morning is yet another example of why self-care, particularly in trying times, is so absolutely necessary.

I also really need to get back to writing more regularly. I always feel better when I’m working, writing, than when I am not. You’d think after over twenty years of writing, this would be firmly imprinted on my brain: writing and creating are imprinted into your DNA and when you aren’t doing it, you’re making yourself miserable. I’ve always believed the the so-called trope of “writer’s block” is actually a symptom of depression; there’s something else going on in your brain that is preventing you from creating. (I cannot, as always, speak for writers other than myself; this is my belief and my experience. I’ve also come to recognize that I don’t want to do it mentality when it comes to writing for me is my own personal version of writer’s block–the depression and the imposter syndrome insidiously doing its work on my brain: why do something you love to do when you can not do it and feel bad about yourself and question your ability to do it?) There have been a lot of distractions lately–really, since The Power Went Out–and I need to stop allowing shit to take me out of the mindset that the most important thing to do in my free time from now until January is to write the fucking book.

The book is the most important thing right now.

I did spend some time revising the first chapter last night, despite having the usual “third day in a row up at six” tiredness last night. It felt good, as I knew it would, and spending some doing something I truly love really gave me a rush of sorts; I was able to sleep deeply and well last night, I feel very even and stress-free this morning, and some of the knots in my shoulders, neck and back seem to have relaxed this morning, and I feel rested, more rested than I have felt in quite some time. Untangling the thorny knots of problems in a manuscript–while forcing me to think and use logic and reason while being creative–is perhaps the best cure for anything I have going on at the time. Escaping into writing has always been my solace, going back to the days when I was that lone queer kid in Kansas, and it still works to this day.

It’s actually an interesting challenge for me–writing a book set in New Orleans that doesn’t center a gay man or any gay issues. (There will be queer characters–I can’t write anything without including some; sue me.) The book is also centered in a neighborhood with which I have some familiarity, but I obviously don’t know it as well as the Lower Garden District (where Chanse lives, and where Paul and I have always lived) or the Quarter (where Scotty lives); it’s the same neighborhood where my main character in Never Kiss a Stranger also lives, so I need to get more familiar with how it is NOW…I tend to always think of neighborhoods as they were not as they currently are; which means I need to go walk around and take some pictures and get a sense/feel for who lives there, what it’s like now, etc. This neighborhood used to be considered sketchy when I first started coming here/when we first moved here; the price ranges for rentals and properties now (well, every-fucking-where in New Orleans now) are hard for me to wrap my mind around. (When I was writing my first book, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, I made a reference to “million dollar homes in the Garden District; this was in the late 1990’s. My first reader–beta reader, they’d call it now–highlighted the sentence with the note there are no million dollar homes in New Orleans. The Internet then was not what it is now, of course, so I was surprised to look in the real estate listings in the Times-Picayune to see she was correct. Now, homes in neighborhoods that used to be considered ‘dangerous’ go for over $400k; I just looked at “houses for sale” on Zillow in the neighborhood I am using and was not in the least bit surprised to see that a house like the one my character lives in is listed for 1.15 million…which is actually a plot point I am going to use in the book. And while verifying this just now didn’t surprise me, per se, it did make me shake my head and wonder, who is paying this for a house in New Orleans?)

I don’t see how any working class people can actually afford to live here anymore, really. Sure, there are still neighborhoods that “affordable” when compared to the neighborhoods adjacent to the levees, but the fact that our original apartment, that we paid $495 per month for, now goes for $2100. And that’s something I think I should address in an upcoming book–whether in this new series, or in a Scotty.

I’ve also found myself going down wormholes about Louisiana and New Orleans history a lot lately; I’ve never been conversant in either other than the basics–Bienville arrived and set up camp; why English Turn is called English Turn; Spain takes over from France, and so on. Both city and state have a deep, rich and sometimes horrifying history; it’s little wonder the city is so haunted. So much ugliness, so much violence, so much criminal activity! (Which kind of thematically what I was exploring in Bury Me in Shadows–how the history of violence and ugliness in a particular area can poison it) It’s why I am always amused that the white-supremacists-who-don’t-want-people-to-think-they-are will always cry and whine about crime in New Orleans–when they haven’t lived here in decades and were part of the white flight when the schools were desegregated–they left because of crime, not because they didn’t want their kids to go to school with black kids, oh no! It was the crime! (But if you give them enough rope, they will always bring race into it eventually). New Orleans has always had a dark past, has always had high crime rates, has always had corrupt politicians…but the crime here is why they left…even though the white politicians were also always criminals, and there has always been a lot of violent crime here.

Anyway, I went into a wormhole the other day about the possible murder of Louisiana’s first Black lieutenant governor, Oscar Dunn–who may or may not have been murdered in 1871. What a great historical true crime book that would make, wouldn’t it? Post war, the racial tensions in the city, Reconstruction going on…and on the other hand, it could also make a great historical mystery novel as well! Yet another idea, yet another folder, yet another possibility for the future.

It never ends.

And on that note, tis time for me to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

Money Can’t Buy You Class

Saturday and the start of a three day weekend. Huzzah? HUZZAH!

I slept well last night–despite some odd dreams–and even slept later than usual this morning, which was strange. (Never fear, alarm clock Scooter finally woke me up because it was past his feeding time.) I am still a bit groggy this morning, but I am certain my coffee will wake me up and make me lucid eventually. Yesterday was an exciting day of data entry and condom-packing, after which I went to the gym (HUZZAH), and then came home to read Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow. I am really enjoying this book, I want to be clear–but Scooter of course climbed into my lap and went to sleep while I was reading, and of course–it being his superpower–I dozed off as well. I do not want to give the impression that I am not enjoying this book, because I really am–but between being tired and all the writing I’ve been doing lately, I just haven’t been able to carve out the time to read like I would like. I do plan on finishing it today, though–as well as writing.

I didn’t write again yesterday, which has all my alarm bells going off (YOU BROKE THE CYCLE NOW YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO WRITE ANYMORE OH MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU), but I am also aware it’s kind of like going to the gym; once I sit down and start seriously writing again, I’ll get back into it and enjoy myself and next thing you know I will have written multiple thousands of words and all will be right in the world again. Honestly, I am not sure why I go through this kind of thing all the time–whether it’s writing or going to the gym, anything I actually enjoy doing, really; I always have to make myself do it and then find myself enjoying the hell out of it once I do. I am easing myself into working out again after a lengthy break of just over a week–but I realized, as I lifted yesterday, that I don’t have to be so easy on myself after missing a couple of workouts; my body has adjusted to working out again and thus I am not only going to not be sore, it’s not going to be a strain. Yesterday was a return to three sets of everything and guess what? It was easy. Moving up in weights as I intend to do on Monday (the gym is open normal hours on Monday; it’s a holiday for me, and is only open from 9-12 tomorrow, and I can’t see myself getting my act together and to the gym in that narrow window of time tomorrow morning) is what I probably should have done this week, despite the lay off due to the tooth…and so yes, it’s time to start actually pushing myself. I am going to keep adding weight this month every week, with a goal to changing the work out into separate body parts beginning in August, and possibly adding a day or two of cardio in September. I am excited about this–and it’s only a few months later than when I had planned to do so this year already.

I also need to finish a load of laundry this morning and finish the cleaning of the downstairs that is dramatically overdue. I have the entire weekend to get the cleaning done, but step by step and piece by piece is always a greay way to get things started. I also think it’s time to clean the vacuum cleaner filter–I am trying to take care of this one better so it will last longer and continue working longer. I also want to figure out what to do with these boxes under my desk–I have four boxes of folders under my desk (filled, of course) that i want to move out of here. I probably should put them in the attic, but that would mean taking things out of the attic to make room for them, and that would mean going through boxes of books–again, not a bad thing and something that needs to be done, but just thinking about doing it makes me feel tired.

Sigh. And that right there is the classic example of how things never wind up getting done around here.

After I went to the gym yesterday, I detoured on my way home and walked back on the uptown side of Jackson Avenue, which is the Garden District. (Jackson Avenue is the border between my neighborhood, the Lower Garden District, and the enclaves of the wealthy, the actual Garden District.) I took numerous photographs with my phone as I did, posting some of them to Instagram/Facebook, but there are of course any number of others in my phone that I didn’t actually post. Taking these pictures is of a two-fold purpose; one, to have things to post on my social media, and two, to give me the opportunity to look around at the beauty of my city and drink it in, actually making me notice and pay attention to how beautiful this city, particularly the part of it in which I live, is–and by doing so, reconnect with it and appreciate it again. Despite the heat, I am thinking that I need to be doing this more frequently, and expanding into other neighborhoods as well. Oh, I have to pick up the mail? Let me detour on a street in Uptown and take some pictures. The heat and humidity, of course, are always oppressive, but at the same time I need to be out in it and experience that, if I intend to continue writing about New Orleans, noting the weather and thinking of other, new ways to describe how the weather feels here, its peculiarities and how it feels on the skin, on the body, and so forth.

Or, I will let laziness win as I so frequently do.

And on that note, I am going to read an Art Taylor short story while enjoying my coffee, and then get my day actually started. Happy Saturday, Constant Reader.

Rhythm of the Night

And now it’s Thursday, and a work at home day–the first of my two of the week, followed by a three day weekend HUZZAH!

I didn’t write last night–I wanted to get phô and a spring roll from Lilly’s Cafe, and a chicken banh mih for Paul, but alas, they are closed until July 9th for summer break, so it will have to wait until next weekend. It was a bummer, of course, but it was also a remarkably cool early evening for June/almost July in New Orleans, so I walked around Magazine Street in my neighborhood to look at how things have changed since the last time I walked around Magazine Street in the Lower Garden District–taking pictures for Instagram, natch–and by the time I got home (not sweaty, I might add), I decided to take the evening off from writing. I’ve been on a roll lately, and while there is something to be said for maintaining momentum when it’s going, there’s also something to be said for letting your batteries recharge for a day or so. I want to get a lot of writing done over this holiday weekend, and I thought it would be best to take an evening off. I was also in a remarkably good mood, so I also had a martini last night while watching television before bed, and slept really well. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I also like martinis so I may have another one tonight.

We continue to watch High Seas, whose second season got off to a rather interesting start–apparently now the ship is haunted, and they picked up survivors from another ship that sank, one of whom is apparently a psychic unironically named Casandra–but it’s so entertaining I kind of hope the Barbara de Braganza never docks in Rio, frankly. The kids at work were watching a show on Netflix this week in their community space called Happy Endings, which looked rather funny, and so we gave it a whirl last night and it was funny. It apparently ran for three seasons on network television in the early part of the last decade, but I’d never heard of it, and as Paul pointed out, even as early as when this aired (2012) we had already moved on to bingeing shows–we may have been watching DVD’s from Netflix (remember that?), but we weren’t really watching anything regularly from week to week, except on Sundays, when we would watch The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones (I still miss that show, and really need to get back to reading the books at some point…maybe when he publishes the next one? Ha ha ha ha! I’ll probably be dead before that happens.)

Looking around at the office/kitchen this morning, it really is amazing at how big of a mess I can let this place become during my three-days-at-the-office; how awful did it get when I went to work five days a week? The mind reels…but I also used to work two half-days and one day I didn’t go in until eleven thirty; so I had late afternoons and mornings most of the week to repair it gradually to order for the two twelve-hour days I used to work (which seems completely unbelievable to me now; how the hell did I ever have the energy and wherewithal to get up at six and work twelve hours two days in a row? JFC, where did that energy go?). I certainly don’t think I’ll be able to go back to that work schedule again, frankly. While I am not overly fond of the three get up before dawn work days, I do like getting home in the late afternoon/early evening; and that has proven to be a good time for me to get to the gym as well as write. I was thinking yesterday–part of the reason I decided to take the night off from writing last night–that I’ve actually written in excess of thirty-five thousand words in slightly less than three weeks, which is actually kind of impressive, and if I am able to keep going at that pace, think of everything I can get done the rest of this year…

But I am also smart enough to know that’s probably not very likely. There will be fallow days when words won’t come no matter how much I try to write them; days when I’ll be too tired; days when I will just be flat out too lazy to do any work of any kind. Again: be kinder to yourself and don’t push too hard.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines I go! Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!