Whisper You Love Me Boy

I am so messed up this week. I literally had no idea what day of the week it was for most of the day and had to keep reminding myself it was Tuesday and not Monday. It was very annoying and terribly irritating, as I am sure you can imagine. And it kept messing with me the entire day. I kept thinking oh two more days in the office despite the fact that there was actually only one (I have a doctor’s appointment on Thursday so have taken the day off) and I couldn’t wrap my mind around the notion of it being Tuesday all day. I certainly hope today isn’t going to another disorienting don’t know what day it is kind of day.

So far so good this morning, really. I feel more awake and a lot less discombobulated than I did yesterday, which is definitely a plus. It also doesn’t feel as cold today as it did yesterday, which I am also taking as a win; Friday is supposed to be miserably cold, but I’ll deal with that when that comes around (note to self: look for other space heaters this evening when you get home from work); hopefully it won’t cause the “cold paralysis” I sometimes experience–when it’s so cold I can’t do anything but huddle for warmth under blankets. Our heat isn’t working again; I turned it on last week and it came on…but then it turned off and hasn’t come back on again since. I really hate our new system because I cannot grasp how it works, and it seems to be so incredibly sensitive to everything that anything even just the tiniest bit incorrect will shut it down completely and we have to call the guys out again. I don’t even know if Paul has bothered mentioning it to our landlady this time, to be honest. It seems like having a working HVAC system is simply not in the cards for us.

Yesterday I got some lovely new editions of Joseph Hansen’s first four Dave Brandstetter mysteries in the mail, which is very exciting. It’s been decades since I read Hansen; and frankly, I am not entirely certain I read the entire series–but that’s lost in the murk of the past; I cannot imagine I didn’t if they were in print, and I do distinctly remember some lovely paperback editions I picked up at Tomes and Treasures in Tampa…but I don’t recall reading them all. So I have decided that I am going to reread Hansen’s novels again–it’ll be interesting to see what my take on them is now that I am also twenty years into a mystery-writing career as opposed to the mystery-writer-wannabe I was when I originally read them (I also seem to recall picking some up at the Borders in Minneapolis at the corner of Lake and Hennepin). Hansen isn’t nearly as remembered as he should be, frankly; I think it’s a disgrace he was never an Edgar finalist or named Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America.

I got the cover art and the proofs for an anthology I contributed a story over the last few days: Cupid Shot Me: Valentine Tales of Love, Mystery and Suspense, edited by Frank W. Butterfield. This is the place where I finally found a home for my nasty little story “This Thing of Darkness”, which was inspired by a visit to New Orleans a few years ago from someone I went to high school with–I met him at Tacos and Beer, which is just around the corner from my house, and of course while I waited for him and watched the crowd there, I started writing a nasty little story in my head that began precisely that way: the protagonist meeting a friend from high school he hasn’t seen in forty years for dinner in New Orleans at Tacos and Beer (which just goes to show–a writer will take inspiration from pretty much any-fucking-where), and as I wrote the story in my head while I waited it took a much darker turn. I was working on the Kansas book at the time (yet another draft of it) and here I was seeing someone from high school back in Kansas…so it really took a dark, nasty turn. I had been doing some research on, of all things, the nuclear missile bases scattered across Kansas (there was one near our high school) which led me into another Youtube wormhole about the TV movie The Day After…and also made me think about an entire book that could be built around one of the abandoned missile bases…anyway, after dinner I went home and started writing this story. It wasn’t originally called “This Thing of Darkness” (which is from Macbeth, by the way); I don’t remember what I originally called the story, but “This Thing of Darkness” was originally the title for the story in Unburied, “Night Follows Night”, but was too good of a title to not use, so I switched whatever the title of this was out for it.

I do like the story, twisted as it is, but it also got me to thinking about patterns in my short stories and how I write them–which I would talk about it here but the thought is still completely unformed, which has never stopped me before, of course, but it is so unformed that I would embarrass myself writing my way through exploring it, and I am not entirely sure that I actually regularly do what I think I do–following the same story structure in all of my stories–so I would need to reread more of them at once to determine whether that is something I actually do with my work…

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines.

Just One Look

I am now almost completely caught on the Donna Andrew canon, with only The Twelve Jays of Christmas, this year’s Christmas Meg mystery, to go. I have already decided to save it for Christmas Eve and Christmas day reading; what better way to celebrate the holiday with yet another visit to Caerphilly at Christmastime? I have also realized that I have done something I try to never, ever do; once I have finished that particular Meg story, I won’t have another to read until next year’s release. Insane as it may sound, I never want to run out of books to read by favorite authors; it’s oddly comforting to know there’s still another one left for me to read. I still have about three to go with Sue Grafton, and there’s one Elizabeth Peters novel still left unread for me to sink my teeth into with a heavy sigh someday. I know it makes little to no sense to think this way, and it’s kind of irrational, but I’ve never claimed that my brain and its peculiarities and weird ways of working makes sense to anyone who is NOT me

And in complete honesty, I’m not entirely certain I understand how my brains works. It certainly mystifies me most of the time.

“Mom?”

I kept my eyes firmly closed and focused on breathing in and out in the slow, deliberate way that was supposed to make you feel better when you were stressed. One…two…

“Mom,” Jamie repeated. “I know when you’re doing your yoga breathing we’re not supposed to interrupt you unless there’s actual bleeding involved.”

“Or open flames,” his twin brother, Josh, added.

“But I kind of think this might qualify,” Jamie went on.

My eyes flew open.

All I could see for a second were the muddy shins and baggy knees of the woolen hose they were wearing as part of their medieval costumes. I craned my neck to see upward, past the well-worn lether doublets to their faces. Josh was leaning on his longbow as if it were a staff. Jamie had his lung over his left shoulder. Neither appeared to be injured. But they both looked…anxious. And that wasn’t a look I saw very often on the faces of my not-quite-teenage sons.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

They exchanged a glance. Were they deciding what to tell me? Or just sorting out who had to do the telling?

“We think we found a body,” Josh said.

“A dead body,” Jamie clarified.

As always, Meg has her hands full as the book opens. Not only have the twins discovered what may be a dead body in the woods near the house, the reason they are dressed in medieval costume is because Michael, her husband and a professor of drama at the local college, is mounting a production of Macbeth, and the twins have (small) roles. Because of insane and arcane academic inter-departmental politics, the Drama department has had to enlist the assistance of the History department in a skirmish against the villainous English department, which has resulted with a group of re-enactors camping out in the field on her parents’ neighboring property; the leader of the group is a royal pain in the ass. There’s also a house full of relatives, as per usual, and due to the on-going housing situation in Caerphilly, many of the cast of the show are having to stay, if not in Meg’s and Michael’s house, then camping out around it. There have also been some incidents of vandalism, inside and outside the house–and oh, yes, there’s a documentary filmmaker staying in his trailer, also on the property and also proving to be a bit of a handful.

Never ever a dull moment in Meg’s life, certainly!

If that’s enough, the area is in the middle of a drought, and someone has been lighting campfires in the woods. Rose Noire, Meg’s cousin and an herbalist/naturalist/holistic healer type, is convinced that whoever is lighting the campfires is up to no good–and the discovery of a page torn from a book with an evil spell written out in nearby only seems to back up Rose Noire’s intuition (Rose Noire is becoming a favorite of mine; I love all the characters in this series–the ongoing feud between Meg’s grandparents is a personal favorite on-going subplot of mine–but Rose Noire was a bit irritating at first, but as I’ve spent more time with her she has definitely grown in my estimation; and her devotion to protecting animals–as happens throughout this book–played no small part in that rise) that the miscreants are definitely up to no good.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot–which is, as always, interwoven with various subplots and minor mysteries, which only serve to complicate and confuse the reader (not so much Meg) while trying to solve the central mystery–but the book is, as always, a charming experience that engaged me throughout, making me laugh aloud several times, and while I was glad to get to the bottom of the mystery, and the ending was enormously satisfying…at the same time I was a little morose to be done with my latest visit to Meg’s world.

And I only have one more to read. Heavy sigh.