Rare Things

So, Greg, why did you choose to write about an antique shop when you know nothing about antiques other than they are old furniture and so forth?

In all honesty, I didn’t originally set out to write about an antique shop, and while the book was in progress my utter lack of knowledge about the antiques business did have me incredibly concerned. Even though I had decided that Valerie herself would know nothing about antiques (that way, she and I could learn together), it still made me feel fraudulent and like I didn’t know what I was doing writing about something I didn’t know anything about. But then I went to Crime Bake, and at one of the panels a writer named Barbara Ross, who writes a Clambake New England series, confessed she knew nothing about clam bakes or any of those types of things…so she had to learn as she wrote the series. That was exactly what I wanted and needed to hear from someone and that was the right time for me to hear it, so I felt a lot more confident about the book when I returned home to New Orleans from that trip (it’s always nice to go to a writer’s event and learn something; I feel like I always do whenever I go to one).

Originally, I had wanted to write about a costume shop; which even now seems easier to learn about that antiques, to be honest. There used to be a costume shop in my neighborhood for years, on St. Charles Avenue on the lake side on the same block as Hoshun. I never went inside, but I always thought it was interesting that it was open year-round rather than just being seasonal; I would have thought they wouldn’t have enough business to do so. But it closed and another opened in the CBD near Paul’s office, connected to whatever theater that is in the next block–which means they had an enormous warehouse space to keep their costumes in, and their primary customers were local theater, film and television productions. I thought, yeah, that could be fun so I moved MY shop back to the block and decided to give them a warehouse to store costumes for commercial rentals in, out near the airport. When Crooked Lane wanted something other than a costume shop, I just went to the Starbucks at the corner of Washington and Magazine, got a latte, and walked down the block writing down the kinds of businesses I walked past. I sent those to Crooked Lane and they picked an antique shop, which was a bit daunting but….anything is do-able, right? And since I like to learn…in theory.

I did stop into one of the ubiquitous antique shops in New Orleans to talk to the manager, who gave me some good tips–estate auctions and sales, for example; something that hadn’t occurred to me–and also, highly amused that both Valerie and myself knew nothing about the business, suggested, “Start with Antiquing for Dummies.” I’m still not sure if she was kidding or not, but I thought it a pretty good idea, so I ordered a copy and had Dee–who works at Rare Things–suggest Valerie do the same in the book!

Serendipity, if you will.

And then I needed a name for the business. In the late 1980’s there was a marvelous supernatural syndicated series called Friday the 13th-the Series (because it just used the name, it was not related to the films in any way) in which there was such a shop called Curious Goods. The premise of the show is that the owner of the shop made a deal with the devil and all the items in the shop are cursed; he goes back on his deal and the devil drags him to hell. His niece and nephew inherit the shop and start selling things–only to find out that the items are all cursed –an older man with lots of knowledge tells them; they form a team to track down the objects, which can kill–or can make a wish of some sort for the person owning it come true, but death is required–and each episode focuses on one of the objects. I thought about calling the shop Curious Goods, as an homage, but then thought but the objects in this shop aren’t cursed, so I went with Rare Things. I liked the name, and thought it really fit; it’s really more of a curio shop than an antique shop, anyway.

And the benefits of an antique shop means I can have a lot of fun with future volumes, if there are more. How much fun would it be for Valerie to have to stay at some old manse working on an estate sale, only to be bedeviled by ghosts and secret passages and so on? It also means getting to explore history and areas outside of New Orleans; I am becoming more and more interested in the entire state rather than just New Orleans, too, so this really is kind of cool–more reason to explore Louisiana’s history! Huzzah!

So, that’s how this book came to built around an antique shop on St. Charles Avenue. More to come!

Everywhere

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment and all is well this morning. I slept in a bit (I also went to bed later than I usually do, so I slept about the same amount, really) and feel rested and relaxed this morning, which is always a nice, pleasant thing to feel. I didn’t get much work done on the book yesterday (355 words, all of them bad except maybe “Scotty” and “Frank” and “Colin”) but that’s okay; I feel a lot less stressed and a lot less pressured this morning about everything that needs to be done now. The stuff all needs to get done, of course; that hasn’t changed, but I am not feeling as much stress about it as I was feeling yesterday.

I read more of ‘salem’s Lot last night while I was waiting for my friend Ellen Byron (buy her books! Bayou Book Thief is amazing!) to text me to meet her for a drink. I picked her up at the Sazerac House (Canal and Magazine) and it had been quite a while since I drove down that way in the evening, and yikes. SO much traffic, so many people everywhere. I’m still not used to pedestrians in the CBD at night, even though the area hasn’t been a ghost town at night in years, but then we swung around and came up to have drinks at St. Vincent’s, which has been renovated and redone and remade and turned into a boutique luxury hotel right here in the heart of my neighborhood. I’ve posted some pictures of the place when I was doing my walks through the neighborhood last year; it’s even more beautiful inside than I imagined. These weekend is Tulane Homecoming, so there are a shit ton of people in town (that’s actually what brought Ellen to New Orleans, in fact; she is an alum) for that, and of course the people from Mississippi here for today’s LSU game in Baton Rouge (Geaux Tigers!). It was lovely to sit and have a drink and talk about writing and books and this crazy business we are in; she’s an absolute delight (buy her books!) and I look forward to the next time I get to see her.

But this morning I realized how utterly I am failing at reading. October is winding down; Halloween is a week from Monday, and I still haven’t finished my reread of ‘salem’s Lot, let alone done my annual Halloween reread of The Haunting of Hill House or getting caught up on the horror novels in my TBR pile. I’ll spend some more time with Mr. King this morning before I run my errands–I have to go get the mail and I have to stop at the grocery store because I want to make white bean chicken chili tomorrow, and have nothing I need for that–and I am debating whether I want to grill burgers today or not. The LSU game is on today at 2:30, and of course Skate America is airing this weekend (yay for figure skating!) so I’ll have to write around those times.

The reread of ‘salem’s Lot is a lot of fun, actually; I am really enjoying this revisit of the book and seeing why I enjoyed it so much the first time around. King wasn’t STEPHEN KING yet when he wrote and published it, so I am sure it didn’t get the kindest reception from critics of the time; particularly when you take into consideration what they considered to be great writing back then. I don’t remember when it was that the Literati changed their mind on Stephen King, but I do remember how he wasn’t taken seriously as a writer by them for a very long time (he writes horror! He’s too prolific to be a real writer!), and some of his best work was already behind him by the time he got the anointing he deserved for a very long time. I mean, he had quite a run, and quite a varied one at that, before he finally published a book I didn’t like (The Tommyknockers, for the record) and it seemed an aberration as he seemed to climb back on the horse and right the saddle in the next one after that. I love how many points of view he uses in ‘salem’s Lot, giving us little glimpses of fully realized characters and their lives to show us human beings so that when they actually wind up becoming vampires, you do feel a sense of loss. Many of these minor characters are objects of sympathy, while others you just kind of shrug when the vampires come for them and think, well, you were a shitty person anyway, oh well, this is justice of a sort. The scene where Mike Ryerson has to finish burying the coffin of Danny Glick is one of the most terrifying scenes I’ve ever read, and it still holds up today. I like how King gets into the point of view character’s head and gives them a voice–which is still King’s, but different from the other voices he uses–and that sort of structured stream of consciousness is something I really like and enjoy reading; I sometimes use that style in my own writing.

(I started to write something self-deprecating, but am proud of myself for catching it and not doing it. Progress.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the manuscript and do some cleaning before the errands are run. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later or tomorrow.

I Can Feel Your Heartbeat

Well, this has turned into a rather interesting stay-cation, has it not?

This morning, as I swill coffee and read weather reports with bleary eyes, trying to decide what to do–we are still leaning towards not leaving; knowing at best we will probably be without power until Thursday at the earliest in a best case scenario–which is horribly unappealing, given how hot it’s been and the time of year it is–but…but…ugh. I’m not even certain, were we to go, where we would go–north, east, west–and from everything I am seeing this morning the highways out of the city are backed up, bumper to bumper and barely moving; that could be incorrect, of course (one never really knows unless one is out there). I don’t see the sense in going west or north, to be honest; the track will probably bring Ida ashore west of New Orleans, and the storm is going to go north from landfall. East would be the best choice, methinks, but…it’s not like everywhere east also isn’t a hotbed of COVID-19, either. I’m not really sure what to do, to be honest, and there’s definitely a part of me that thinks we’ve already missed the evacuation window period, anyway.

The good news is that the imminent loss of power/potential evacuation forced me to sit my ass down and get through the manuscript yesterday. I think I may have missed some spots, and I am not certain about a decision I made with something to bring it in line with things further back in the manuscript, but I am going to print it all out today (if I have enough ink) so I at least can look at it if we don’t have power for the next few days (if we evacuate, of course, it won’t matter because I can access it on my laptop). But that’s one more thing to cross off the list, which is very cool, but I suspect everything is going to come to a screeching halt by tomorrow at any rate, so I should probably get as much done as I can while I still have power.

Last night I had dinner with a friend from out of town–scheduled to come in for Bouchercon, she came to town anyway because her daughter goes to school here–at Red Gravy on Magazine Street (it was really good; I recommend the lasagna but don’t get the margarita with agave juice; it’s too sweet–at least for me; I like the tequila bite in a regular margarita myself) and she texted me this morning that she and her daughter are heading for Texas; which is kind of a bit of a relief. I was worried about them; the daughter is Not From Here and has already had some horrible experiences with losing power for days since she came to the city last year–I am, insanely, more concerned about the loss of power than anything else myself–and I hope they make it west safely. It was a lovely evening–there were hardly any people out and about; the only indication of anything was the lines at the gas stations–and then I came home. We watched this week’s Ted Lasso, which was marvelous as always, and then started watching the new season of American Horror Story: Red Tide, which was….interesting. It’s entertaining enough, but kind of, well, stupid. I kept thinking why would you stay there? It’s set in Provincetown in the off-season, as a writer brings his pregnant wife and daughter there so he can write, and they’ve got free rent as long as the wife, a decorator, redecorates the house. But crazy shit starts happening almost immediately–which begs the question, where does Provincetown hide all these crazy creatures during tourist season? A lot of it doesn’t really make sense (well, it is Ryan Murphy, after all) but we’ll keep watching because it’s entertaining.

And as always, the imminent arrival of a hurricane inevitably reminds me of the abandoned fourth Scotty novel, Hurricane Party Hustle, which I had planned in the wake of finishing and turning in Mardi Gras Mambo that August of 2005…that obviously had to be abandoned after Katrina came a-calling. I had always wanted to write a murder mystery set during that eerie time when the city empties out for an evacuation, with 80% of the people gone and the eerie silence and weird emptiness that comes with it. I used some of the stuff I’d already written for this book for Murder in the Garden District, which also has an evacuation in it–I used the memories of evacuating for Katrina for Murder in the Rue Chartres— and every once in a while, the thought crosses my mind that the Scotty version would be interesting to write and experience. I’ve never really dealt much with Katrina in the Scotty books–it was in the past and he basically waves it away as the past in the prologue to Vieux Carré Voodoo–and I’ve always thought about going back and writing the Scotty Katrina book–I can always keep the series going by filling in the times between books, if it comes to that or if writing Scotty in his sixties is unappealing–but I probably won’t do that. I don’t know–but I am also laughing at myself this morning; only a writer would view an approaching and imminent natural disaster as material and start thinking about ways to build a crime novel around it.

Take THAT, Imposter Syndrome!

And now, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and keep Louisiana in your thoughts!

When I Grow Up

Saturday morning and yesterday was lovely, as we slowly begin counting down the last days of my fifties. Hurray!

Yesterday was actually kind of lovely. I had my spa day (in full transparency, that means I got a back wax) which I enjoyed (at some point in time I will discuss how I feel about body hair, particularly that which grows on one’s back), got my prescription, got Scooter’s insulin syringes, got the mail, made groceries, and got phô (AT LAST), and the phô (from Lilly’s Cafe on Magazine) was truly magnificent. I got home around two thirty; it was a weird weather day in New Orleans, where the sun was shining in parts of the city and there was a downpour in others, along with thunder and lightning; which enabled me to experience all the vagaries of a summer day’s weather in the city in August over the course of two hours. After the errands were completed and my phô bowl was empty, I spent the rest of the day relaxing and organizing and cleaning–yes, yes, I know, but organizing and cleaning (like the LSU 2019 football season) is my happy place. I wound up not reading much, nor doing any writing, but I managed to get a lot done. I am still not as organized as I would like to be, as I think I should be, but I have three more days without work pressure to get through, and so while I am going to spend some time writing and reading over the next three days, I also want to finish getting organized. I’ve been so scattered and disorganized for so long–really, since the Great Data Disaster of 2018–that getting that particular act together has been enormously helpful, and I think if I actually can go ahead and get completely organized, that will make my getting everything done that I need to get done finished that much easier.

I am going to spend some time this morning with The Other Black Girl. I have to get the mail today–I am expecting some things–after which I’m planning on braving the West Bank to do some box store shopping (the traffic over there is always horrible, even on the best of days; and now that I am thinking about it some more, perhaps I should just wait and go on Monday; it’s not pressing. I can just get the mail today, really, and pick up a few things at the corner Walgreens–which I now think might be the best option? We’ll see how I feel).

But I got all my Chlorine research organized–I went through my journal (the most recent one) last night and marked the pages where I brainstormed the book; I need to do that to several more of the last ones, actually)–and I also have a secret project which I look forward to telling you about, Constant Reader; I know it’s disappointing on some levels, but I am having to push writing the next Scotty, Mississippi River Mischief, to the first quarter of next year. I also managed to get some other things organized; I need to do something about these boxes of files under my desk for one thing, and in looking through the stuff in my filing cabinet, I also realized that a lot of the stuff in there could be shifted into boxes and moved up into the attic. I do have the boxes….and I am also thinking it may be time to do another book purge, in order to drop off some boxes on this coming Thursday to the library sale.

In other words, I am looking forward to a typical Saturday around the Lost Apartment. I do need to get to the gym today (I didn’t go yesterday) and will be going again on Monday rather than Sunday; but I also have to get really started on the edits of #shedeservedit if I am going to get those finished by the end of the month. The fact that I have absolutely no desire to do it is of course indicative of how much I need to do it and how much I will actually enjoy doing it once I get started going on them. I also need to finish the second draft of “The Sound of Snow Falling”, and what better time to do that than this weekend? I love the new computer and it’s so much easier to work on than the old one was; but I best be using the hell out of it now that I spent the money on it. I’m still a bit in awe of it–the picture quality is so good it’s like having another television for the kitchen (I went ahead and watched the latest episode of Ted Lasso on here last night while Paul worked on a grant–I know, but the great thing about Ted Lasso is rewatching isn’t an ordeal, and this last episode, a Christmas episode airing in August, was just absolutely perfect and made me tear up several times as well as laugh out loud; I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to do a Christmas episode/movie/book of any kind any more without it being heavy-handed and cheesy…but I need to stop ever doubting Ted Lasso; the show is always a joy and those twenty Emmy nominations, especially those for the cast, are extremely well-deserved)–and the sound and picture is amazing. That means I can watch football games in here this fall while cleaning and/or doing other things…which is heavenly.

And yes I am well aware of the fact that the honeymoon period will end soon….but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the fuck out of it while it’s still happening.

I also got caught up on my Real Housewives watching. I had cut back to just watching the two I started with (New York and Beverly Hills), but these aren’t good seasons for either; and just watched the Erika Jayne/Girardi divorce/criminal investigation/civil suits play out makes me a bit uncomfortable. I don’t have much sympathy for either her or her husband–you can deny all you want to, but settlement money for victims disappearing means it went somewhere, and one thing so many people in this country don’t understand is you can still be punished for profiting from a crime even if you didn’t know you were profiting from a crime. I don’t see how she thinks she can escape financial liability–possibly a sympathetic judge and jury would spare her from jail time–but it’s difficult to watch her excuses and her self-pity; she has no tears or empathy for her husband’s victims. Rather, it’s all about her and what she’s going through; and frankly, every time she cries me me me me I think to myself lock this bitch up and throw away the key. So, between the snooze-fest that is this seasons New York and the real life criminality being exposed on Beverly Hills–and being coddled–might have me finally cutting the cord with these two shows. I have no desire to watch Dallas, but have heard good things about both Potomac and Salt Lake City (which also is filming during the real-life criminal exposure of a cast member)…but I also kind of wonder if these shows haven’t already run their course? Society and the culture have experienced a significant shift over the last four years….and maybe the time for shows like this is past.

And on that note, I am going to get another cup of coffee and spend some more time with The Other Black Girl, which is truly terrific. Have a lovely August Saturday, Constant Reader–and I will check in with you tomorrow, if not later.

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!