Bet She’s Not Your Girlfriend

I was tired yesterday when I got home from work. My sleep has become unreliable again–I really miss those depression-assisted deep sleeps from the early days of the pandemic, quite frankly–and as always, I am terribly behind on everything. I need to get some writing done today–I want to finish a first draft of the Sherlock story, and I need to edit another short story (or two) for blind submissions to two anthologies with deadlines at the end of this month. I also have to run an errand this morning, and I am way behind on a lot of other things that I need to use this weekend to get caught up on. Alas, when I got home last night I was mentally exhausted, so I spent the evening doing dishes and finishing laundry and making dinner (pasta, for the record) and of course after a restless night’s sleep came downstairs to discover that I left the kitchen a mess and there’s another load of laundry to finish. Go me!

I’m not entirely awake yet this morning, either–I’m only on my second cup of coffee–but hope to be rarin’ to go by the time I finish this. The mess around here is quite disturbing, if I’m going to be completely honest, and I also have to start loading the bills into next month’s calendar to ensure that I don’t miss one, like I did this month. I also need to air up a tire; one of the tires in my car has a slow leak, and I probably should take it back to the dealership at some time to get it looked at–it has been a problem ever since I got the car, and it’s stupid to not get it at least looked at. The tires also need to be rotated again at some point, too.

The excitement of my life is a bit overwhelming, is it not?

We continue to enjoy the Lucy Lawless series My Life is Murder; I really do recommend it if you enjoy crime-solving shows. Netflix also dropped a new series called Outer Banks, which looks like it has potential. It’s amazing sometimes to think how our television viewing habits have changed over the years, isn’t it? We were watching the new Tales of the City last night, and there was an episode where Mouse and the Ellen Page character played on a team for a bar’s Trivia Night, and the questions were so ridiculously easy…the final question for the win was essentially by what name is Reginald Dwight better known as–the entire point of the thing was Mouse was bad at trivia after boasting to his younger boyfriend he was good at it, and of course, he was the only person who recognized Elton John’s birth name. I found this preposterous at first, and then realized, younger people who weren’t around during his hit-making heyday would probably NOT know that, and then I felt a bit old.

This led me into a spiral as well–the changes in technology I’ve seen over the course of my life, and how new technology rather quickly became obsolete. I’ve seen listening to music evolve from radio and vinyl and 8 track tapes to cassettes, then compact discs, and finally it became digital. (Vinyl is now making a comeback, though.) Listening to music has gone from having an enormous stereo with various interconnected components and enormous speakers to the Walkman to the Discman to the iPod/MP3 player. Even remembering the very first computer I worked on in the 1980’s (at work), which operated on MS-DOS. Our first Apple computer was enormous, and incredibly slow. We went from floppy discs to ZIP drives to flash drives over the course of about ten years, and now of course there’s these “cloud” things. Dial-up Internet to DSL to wireless connections. Landlines to cell phones to smart phones. My first laptop weighed about ten pounds, only lasted at most an hour or two on its own battery, and was such a pain in the ass that I got to the point where I refused to take it on trips because my shoulder and back would get sore from lugging it through airports.

My latest laptop weighs practically nothing, and is in fact so light I can’t tell if it’s in my backpack or not.

I also am doing a virtual panel tomorrow night on “writing during a pandemic” for a Bold Strokes Books reader-a-thon that’s going on all weekend. (I also agreed to do a reading for a bookstore event later this month; one thing this pandemic has already taught me is how little I understand technology and how to make it work). There’s nothing like new technology to make you feel like a fossil.

Heavy sigh.

But I’m hoping to spend some time rereading Scott Heim’s Mysterious Skin this weekend, and I realized last night that I’ve not even cracked the spine of Lawrence Block’s latest “art as inspiration from crime stories” anthology.  So I am going to wrap this up, drink some more coffee, and clean the kitchen before running my errand, after which I will come home to my writing.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

IMG_0137

Being Boring

And just like that, we made it to Friday.

Do days and dates mean anything anymore? It’s hard for me to keep track, that’s for certain. And from what I gather, it’s not just me–everyone is having difficulty keeping track. I missed making a credit card payment this month because I didn’t put it on my Google calendar with an alert–the calendar alerts have literally been saving my ass since this whole thing started–and thank God for them, you know? They pop up on my computer, phone and iPad, so it’s unlikely that I will miss them, but stuff has to literally be on the calendar for me to get an alert, so that’s on me. It’s about time for me to start loading all the bills into the May calendar–perhaps that will be a chore for this weekend.

After all the pleasure I’ve had rereading Mary Stewart and Elizabeth Peters, I am thinking that I should keep the Reread Project going and reread something else that I loved and haven’t read in a long time. What that might be, I don’t know–there are so many books loaded into my Kindle app it’s terribly frightening–but I am also curious as to whether I’ll enjoy reading something new on there. I have some classic crime novels loaded in there–Charlotte Armstrong, Ellery Queen, Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Mary Roberts Rinehart–as well as Ethel Lina White’s novel (blanking on the name) which was filmed as The Spiral Staircase, which is a great classic suspense story starring Dorothy McGuire (I think) that doesn’t get near enough credit or recognition. Then again, I haven’t seen it since I was a child, so who knows? Perhaps it doesn’t hold up. I just remember that the main character, the heroine, was either deaf or mute or both. And yes, the more I think about it, the more I think that should be my next read.

On the other hand, Scott Heim’s Mysterious Skin is just sitting there, begging for a reread. I was thinking more about the book again last night–about how truly clever it was, and possibly about how it could be considered, perhaps, a crime novel; which of course made me want to read it again all the more.

Yesterday I was very tired when i got home; I had to get up early and so screenings at our other campus, and then come back to the other for the rest of the day. I slept better last night than I have previous nights of the week–although I did wake up a few times–and I really do need to get back to stretching and exercising here at home every morning. It helps with being tired, and it certainly helps me sleep better at night. I’ve lost seven pounds since the quarantine started–apparently every one else has gained weight?–and so, for the first time since around 2010 or 2011, I weigh less than 210, which was a plateau I was beginning to think I was too old to break through. And now I have, which means that getting down to my goal weight of 200 is possible. I’m not sure, with the muscle weight that I have now, that going below 200 is realistic; but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I never thought I was going to get below 210 ever again, and here I am.

We continue to watch Murder is My Life with Lucy Lawless on Acorn, and I highly recommend it. Lawless looks amazing–those eyes!–and of course, she’s always been an incredibly talented actress–more so than she’s ever been given credit for (she deserved an Emmy for Spartacus) and the structure of the story around her and her character is really quite good. When I get home from the office today, I’m going to finally sign into the CBS All Access app on Apple TV I’ve been paying for, so I can start watching not only Picard but Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone reboot.

This weekend, I’ll need to run some errands–grocery store for a bit of odds and ends–and I am mostly going to spend the weekend relaxing, cleaning, organizing, and I need to polish a pair of short stories and finish the first draft of my Sherlock story, so I can revise and rewrite accordingly before turning it in at the end of the month. I’m also going to go back to the Secret Project, which I’d like to finish, along with these stories, by the end of the month. Then I can go spend May finishing the final draft of Bury Me in Shadows–I finally had the breakthrough on the story I was looking for–and then once that’s done, I can spend June and/or July doing a final of the Kansas book, and then–you guessed it–it’s time to tackle Chlorine.

Pretty cool, huh? I also want to start brainstorming on the next Scotty book, too. SO much writing to do, so little time….

And so I must return to the depths of the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

IMG_0095

Beautiful People

UP at the crack of dawn, literally, to go to work this morning. I’m covering for someone on the morning screening shift–something I literally said I would never do again after getting sick–and yet here we are because I cannot say no to anything asked of me nicely.

I hate being such a pushover, but then again, I’ve always been easy.

Yesterday was my first day of really working from home for an entire day; it was strange, and I kept feeling guilty all day, like I was getting away with something? Everyone else, I suppose, has already adjusted to this entire working from home thing, but for me, this was my first “all eight hours at home” thing, and man, was it weird. I suppose it’s going to be equally weird once this is all over, when everyone is back in the office every day–which again, is going to take some getting used to; being around people after being in strict isolation for a lengthy period of time isn’t going to be like flipping a switch or something.

Paul and I continue to enjoy the Australian crime show My Life is Murder (or is it Murder is My Life?) on Acorn, starring the perfectly cast and always underrated Lucy Lawless. Naturally, I had to retire early last evening in order to get up early this morning–I suspect I’ll be tired tonight; one thing that has changed since I got over being sick is that I no longer go into a deep, restful sleep every night; now I wake up several times during the night (just like old times!) and don’t really rest as well as I should. I suppose the return of some sort of normalcy should make me happy, but it doesn’t–that’s not the normalcy I actually wanted back, frankly–but there you have it.

I tried to write for a bit last night after I finished working, but I was mostly doing data entry and my eyes were bleary, so I retired to the easy chair after being entreated by Scooter, who wanted my warm lap to sleep in (it was oddly cold yesterday; it was 52 degrees when I woke up in the morning), and so I picked out a short true crime thing on my Kindle to read–Little Slaughterhouse on the Prairie, which is about the Bloody Benders, a family of serial killers who lived in Labette County, Kansas, in the early 1870’s and definitely killed at least eleven men, if not more. Whether there was a financial motive or they just enjoyed killing people. no one is sure–not much is really known about the Benders, and what little information there is, is often contradictory. I heard the stories about the Benders when I lived in Kansas, and I’ve always wanted to write about them, but just reading this thing yesterday–outside of the killings, they just weren’t very interesting. I had hoped reading this might give me the background necessary to come up with an idea, but no such luck.

But I am confident I’ll be able to get a first draft of the Sherlock story finished this weekend, and I am going to work on revising the other two stories I wanted to get finished and turned in and are all due by the end of the month.

Bouchercon Sacramento was cancelled yesterday, which is a shame–not entirely unexpected, as the time continues to roll out and this doesn’t seem to be abating as quickly as everyone might have hoped at some point. It’s not looking good for football season, either–how weird would it be to watch football being played in empty stadiums? I cannot stand the thought of not having football season–talk about weird–but we’ve already seen college basketball and the NBA and NHL and MLB all cancel. Losing Sacramento Bouchercon was doubly sad for me because I was ill and had to cancel out of Dallas Bouchercon–so by the time it rolls around in New Orleans next year, it will have been two years since I’ve been to Bouchercon. But at least it’s in New Orleans next year, and maybe the people who were considering skipping because of the swampy heat of Labor Day weekend will reconsider, since there was no Bouchercon to be had this year. But my deepest sympathies to the Sacramento Bouchercon planning team, what a shame that all your work was for naught.

There’s a scary thought in the back of my mind that this pandemic is going to be killing off events like this–that they won’t come back, especially if they are required to go two years without happening.

These are indeed strange times.

I also don’t see New Orleans adhering to the “shelter-at-home” thing for much longer–it won’t be official, naturally, that order will stay in place, but New Orleanians are too social and love to be around other people far too much; I am sure many are chafing already to throw a party or something, because that’s kind of what we do here to get through rough times: have fun. But having fun runs the risk of killing people now, so…there’s that.

And apparently the entire world decided to email me after I walked away from my computer yesterday. Great.

And now, back to the spice mines. It’s Thursday, Constant Reader, in case you can’t remember what day it is from your own shelter-at-home situation.

IMG_0098

Ring of Fire

One of the fun things about reading history is it gives me a lot of inspiration. Rereading the Black Death/bubonic plague chapter in Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror recently, I stumbled across this:

The apparent absence of earthly cause gave the plague a supernatural and sinister quality. Scandinavians believed that a Pest Maiden emerged from the mouth of the dead in the form of a blue flame and flew through the air to infect the next house. In Lithuania the Maiden was said to wave a red scarf through the door or window to let in the pest. One brave man, according to legend, deliberately waited at his open window with drawn sword and, at the fluttering of the scarf, chopped off the hand. He died of his deed, but his village was spared and the scarf long preserved as a relic in the local church.

And so, an idea for my own story, “The Pestilence Maiden,” was born. So far it consists of one sentence: “Death again walked the crumbling, hole ridden streets of New Orleans.”

Great opening, isn’t it? But it’s not really a crime story; since the Pestilence Maiden would be a supernatural, purely symbolic creature representing the plague come to New Orleans, yet again.  After all, New Orleans has a long history of epidemics–yellow fever, typhus, cholera; hell, we even had bubonic plague in 1916–so is it so far out of the question that we would have a Pestilence Maiden walking the streets of the city? No, not really.

I returned to work yesterday, and it was lovely to get out of the house for a while and be out in the fresh air. I am working at doing the screenings; basically, our facility is open for certain services (the food pantry, the pharmacy, some lab work by appointment) and so everyone who goes into the building needs to be screened for symptoms, given a sticker and a mask, and some hand sanitizer before they go inside. Anyone with symptoms gets sent across the parking lot for COVID-19 testing; we no longer require a fever or multiple symptoms–all you need is one. We are also offering optional HIV testing for anyone who gets a COVID-19 test; we also have oral swab kits for people who want to pick one up and test themselves at home–but their exposure has to have been more than three months out, rather than our usual anyone can get an HIV test at any time we are open for testing. I’m very glad and happy that we are back to providing some HIV testing; we may not be what we were but at least we are able to do something, you know? I also suspect that people are violating quarantine for sex hook-ups, which means there’s going to be a strong need for STI testing once “shelter-at-home” orders have been lifted.

I mean, yay for job security, I guess? Even if it ghoulish.

I would much rather the HIV pandemic come to an end, frankly, even if puts me out of a job.

I finished rereading Crocodile on the Sandbank last night, and, well, Dr. Mertz deserved to be named a Grand Master for that book alone. The voice of Amelia Peabody–everything about Amelia Peabody–is absolute genius. Rereading the book, I fell in love with Peabody and Emerson and Evelyn and Walter all over again. The brilliance of how she constructed this book, those characters–I mean, wow, the woman was an absolute master. I mourn every year since Dr. Mertz’ death that there is no new Amelia Peabody adventure to enjoy, to laugh out loud at the rapier-like wit of the dialogue, and the frank adoration of both couples, not only for their partners but for their beloved friends, who all shared this initial adventure together and literally all met during the course of this book…wow. Just wow. It will get its own blog post soon enough, but oh, how I love and miss Peabody and Emerson.

I really missing visiting them and their Egypt.

It’s also Pay-the-Bills day, which is never, no matter what anyone might think, much fun. But I whipped through them all, and am glad to  have that mess behind me. I am also wondering about when I can schedule a Costco trip. I’d rather not go on the weekend, for obvious reasons–if there was a line to get in Wal-mart, I can’t imagine Costco isn’t doing the same thing, you know–but there are things I need to get from there, and so might as well bite the bullet and figure out when I can go. (The case of Pellegrino alone…)

We started watching Murder is My Life, an Australian crime series starring Lucy Lawless, on Acorn streaming last night. One can, of course, never go wrong with anything if Lucy Lawless is in it, and it’s actually quite fun and well done. (I was watching while at the same time racing to finish Crocodile on the Sandbank.) It’s always fun to find a new show, and let’s face it, Acorn is one of the esssential streaming services if you like British and/or Australian crime television.

How is everyone doing out there these days? Difficult times, to be sure–and it’s okay to get overwhelmed sometimes. While I have never–who has?–been involved or experienced anything this epic and global before, I’ve actually been through a local natural/manmade disaster; and some deeply personal level stuff that required my acquisition of numerous coping skills and mechanisms. Those coping skills have come in handy, believe you me, since the curtain came down and the world shut done to deal with this global pandemic. And as it seems to stretch out in front of us endlessly, with no real end in sight–there’s no way of knowing, so we are still charting strange new waters–just always remember this, Constant Reader: when you are starting to get overwhelmed by the scope and enormity of the macro, find something micro to fixate on, and focus on that–something small you can handle, get taken care of, and can be in control of; whether that’s cleaning out old clothes from the closet or dresser you will never wear again, or doing your windows, and a deep clean of your floors, including baseboards–that focus will get you through. Every single time, it will get you through.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines. I am working from home today–the endless data entry–and need to get working on my emails.

Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader, and stay safe.

febChase Isaacs4