How Much More

Audiobooks have completely changed the way I handle long trips in the car. I used to always listen to music, but man how that drive would always drag, because I’d just sing along or bop with the beat or play the drums on the steering wheel while always watching the mile markers and counting down the distances to the next city (“okay, an hour to Birmingham and then it’s another hour and a half to Gadsden and then…”) But listening to audiobooks? I was worried that listening might distract me from driving, or that my mind would wander while listening and I would get lost, but it’s really not been a problem at all. Listening to a good book makes the miles and time fly by and next thing I know I’m almost there.

On my recent drive back to New Orleans, I had the great good fortune to listen to Carol Goodman’s The Stranger Behind You, and I must say, Ms. Goodman never disappoints.

I have notice in my professional capacity that when someone makes a point of saying that they’re not lying, that usually means they are.

When the realtor brags that she hasn’t lied about the view, though, I have to admit that her claim is demonstrably true: the view is spectacular. Standing at the elegant bay window it’s as if I am perched on a cliff overlooking the river. There’s nothing between me and the Palisades but water and light. A person who was afraid of heights would be terrified, but heights aren’t what I’m afraid of.

“Can you tell me what ‘state-of-the-art security’ means?”

The realtor takes a nanosecond–an eon in Manhattan real estate time–to recalibrate and then rattles off the specs again: twenty-four-hour doormen, fiber-optic alarm system, security cameras.

“As I mentioned earlier, a high-ranking government official lived here. I can’t tell you who…” Her voice trails off, suggesting she very well could if she chose to. All I’d have to do is raise my eyebrows, smile, lean in a little closer–all the body language that implies it will just be between us girls. I’ve done it a thousand times before with ex-wives and mistresses, corporate CFO’s and underpaid personal assistants. But I don’t. I don’t really care who the very important person was who lived here; I just want to be assured that he–or she–lived here safely and unbothered.

“Can you show me how the cameras work?”

The Stranger Behind You is a post “#metoo” movement book, and in the author’s note in the back, Goodman explained how the book was kind of inspired by the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford during the joke that was the Kavanaugh hearings, and how hearing Dr. Ford describe what happened to her, and how the trauma has haunted her ever since, reconnected her with memories of her own mother, who was sexually assaulted as a teenager and carried that with her the rest of her life, with the PTSD finally taking the form of a horrible anxiety disorder. In the wake of the national conversation about sexual assault and harassment, and the way victims are treated and how rarely they get justice (don’t forget to read and sign my friend Laurie’s change.org petition and read about what happened to her in Dallas in 2018), Goodman sat down to write a book about women’s trauma, and it’s fricking fantastic.

The book focuses on two women on opposite sides of a, for want of a better term, #metoo situation. Joan Lurie, whom we meet first in the above opening, is a young journalist working for Manahatta magazine in the Style section–but she is also working on an expose of a very powerful and influential conservative newspaper publisher, Caspar Osgood, who has a dark and nasty history of sexual harassment going back years. Joan was an intern at Osgood’s paper, and on her first day she spoke to Osgood’s secretary, whom she found sobbing in the bathroom about her ‘affair’ with her boss. The next day both women are fired; and Joan winds up going to Manahatta–whose editor Simon just happens to be an old friend from college of Osgood’s, but things went south for the two since then and they are most definitely not friends. The book opens with Joan looking at an apartment in north Manhattan and wondering about its security–and as the chapter progresses, we discover that Joan recently survived an attempt on her life that happened the night her expose went live…which also happened to be the same night as a Suicide Awareness non-profit’s fundraising gala, hosted by Caspar’s wife Melissa, a charity she became involved with after her son Whit’s suicide attempt three years earlier. The gala is obviously ruined as the news goes live…and then we are into the story.

As I said the other day, I’ve always been interested in the mindset of the women who are tied–whether by marriage or by blood–to men accused of these crimes, like the mom of the Stanford swimmer or Harvey Weinstein’s wife (we know how Bill Cosby’s wife thinks); what do they think, how do they feel, what goes through their heads? Goodman takes an enormous risk by giving us Melissa Osgood as a POV character–how will the readers respond to her? I did feel a great deal of sympathy for her–I always do, regardless, although my primary sympathies are always with the victims–at first, but Goodman does a magnificent job of showing how much easier it is to blame the journalists and the accusers rather than placing the blame where it belongs, and that this way of thinking is also a defensive, self-protective measure; how complicit is she? If everything is a lie and none of it is true, then her husband is innocent and this horrible person has destroyed Melissa’s life, and that’s much easier to deal with than accepting the truth and some of the blame. Melissa’s behavior isn’t great, and she actually becomes obsessed with proving the Joan’s article was a hit piece and all lies, to the point that she actually buys the apartment below Joan’s at the Refuge and begins spying on her.

Joan was also terribly injured when she was attacked the night of her launch party, and while her refusal to report the assault to the police or even seek treatment for an obvious brain injury made me want to throttle her at times, Goodman made it completely understandable. Joan is also not entirely a sympathetic character, either–Goodman makes sure to make both of her women POV characters flawed, imperfect and thoroughly human–and the two women are on a clear collision course.

I’m leaving a lot out here–I strongly believe readers should be able to find the twists and surprises and turns of the story every bit as shocking and marvelous as I did–but there’s yet a third parallel story, connected to the history of the apartment building, that could have just as easily been a stand alone novel of its own.

This book was, as has every Goodman novel I have read, superb. Seriously, y’all need to start reading her if you haven’t already.

Almost Hear You Sigh

I feel better this morning than I did yesterday. I didn’t sleep well last night but I rested, and I’ll frankly take that. I may be tired again later today, but it definitely beats yesterday. By the afternoon at work yesterday I was so tired I actually felt sick; I did run my errands after work (didn’t want to) and then came home to my easy chair and cat. I spent most of the evening sitting in my chair watching Youtube clips (and the Rihanna Super Bowl half-time show, which I think was fantastic) before finally tumbling into my bed around nine thirty. I did sleep some, but I was half-awake half-asleep most of the night, but…I feel rested and okay this morning, even getting out of bed before my alarm went off. I should have done laundry last night and emptied the dishwasher, but hey, it is what it is and i’d driven twelve hours the day before. I’ll have to do that tonight. Tonight is the final night of rest during parade season, and the madness all begins again tomorrow night, with Druids (the parade after is still trash and still being boycotted by New Orleans) rolling down the Avenue and me having to leave the office early so I can get home before they close the Avenue.

I was also so brain dead that I wasn’t able to make my to-do list, which is on my agenda for today. I did manage to muddle through the work day yesterday, but seriously, I was so tired I barely even remember being at work yesterday, let alone what all happened and what went on. I know I got all my work caught up–I was concerned, having left town so abruptly last week, about how behind I may have fallen but being competent really comes in handy sometimes. I need to write my review of The Stranger Behind You by Carol Goodman, which I loved, and need to get back to Abby Collette’s Body and Soul Food. I don’t even know where we are with our television shows that we were watching, but we’re also in crunch time for Paul at work so i don’t see him very often; he sometimes comes home after I’ve gone to bed and I of course leave before he gets up in the morning–long before he gets up in the morning–making me a Festival widow until it’s all over. He’s going to try to come home so we can have dinner together tonight for Valentine’s Day. but I’m not going to be holding my breath anytime soon.

Yesterday, a friend went public with something horrific that happened to her at Bouchercon in Dallas in 2019 (I didn’t go; I got an inner ear infection that week and as such couldn’t fly); you can read about here. I urge you to sign the Change.org petition on the page I linked to; I cannot state how much I admire Laurie for her courage and determination to make sure that what happened to her–a complete dismissal of her, no follow-up, and absolutely incredibly incompetent police work–never happens to another woman, at least in Dallas. It’s also no easy task to come forward about being drugged and possibly assaulted; we have in our culture and society a tendency to not believe women, and to dismiss them as being “overly-sensitive” and “well, it’s a he said/she said situation”. Part of the reason I wrote #shedeservedit was because I get so angry about how we treat women who are victims of predatory men. That book was of course inspired by the Steubensville/Marysville gang rape cases, but how many times do we have to go through and witness this same song-and-dance? The Stanford swimmer, Laurie in Dallas, Steubenville, Marysville…the list just goes on and on and on. (Which was why reading The Stranger Behind You was so serendipitous; it’s about #metoo) I’ve actually been thinking about writing another book about this, but wanting to do it from the perspective of say a woman like the Stanford swimmer’s mother; which was why the Goodman novel resonated so strongly with me.

Boys will be boys indeed.

I also need to get writing again. That will put me and everything in my life back into balance, methinks. But at least this morning I am awake and functioning and feeling rested; how long that will last remains to be seen. But on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check back in with you again tomorrow.

Little Red Rooster

Well, the tire cost almost three hundred dollars to replace (I also had them replace the rear window wiper blade, but I don’t think that was terribly expensive)–more, if you count the personal time I had to take in order to get the car taken care of–but as Paul said, “It could have been worse–what if it happened on the causeway, or when you were driving back from Kentucky?” A very good point, further emphasizing the fact that he is, indeed, the smart one in the Lost Apartment. I treated myself to Five Guys once the ordeal was finished and I could drive back across the river and head into the office–it’s been a very hot minute since I last was able to enjoy me some Five Guys–and that made up for the inconvenience and irritation….somewhat.

I do love me some Five Guys. Thank God the only ones in my area are a pain in the butt for me to get to, or I’d have it all the damned time and would weigh a lot more than I do now.

Bruises appeared on my arm yesterday, which makes me tend to think that I really do need to have this injury looked at because I am older and it might be something serious. Do I want to have it looked at? No, I really don’t. I also probably shouldn’t wait until my primary care appointment in January, either. But I am going to wait until this weekend and see how it goes. If it keeps getting better–yesterday it only hurt when I was trying to carry or lift something, or moved it in a particular way–I may just let it go until January. I know, I know, probably not smart and I do have health insurance, but…if it’s just a muscle pull or a strain…and I think what I must have done was turn my arm too far to one side as a result of the tire getting stuck, which strained the muscles and tendons.

And if I end up having to have my arm amputated, that’s all on me.

But I was exhausted yesterday by the time I got off work. And had a minor little drama once I was home, so even then couldn’t rest until about seven-thirty, eight o’clock. Heavy heaving sigh. But I think I slept better last night than I have all week; I may have only woken up once or twice during the night, and I do feel somewhat rested this morning. Just one more day to get through before my work-at-home Friday tomorrow, which will be delightful, I am sure. And there’s no college football this weekend–which seems weird, but it was a rather long season, after all–so I have little to no excuse to not get caught up on things this weekend. The handyman came by yesterday and fixed the garbage disposal (praise be) which I need to clean and deodorize this weekend (I may need to stop and make groceries on my way home tonight). But it’s really no surprise I am tired this week–it’s been quite a week, from the tire to my book release to trying to get my new book finished to everything else I’ve had going on this week, and so I should be exhausted. We did finish the Victoria’s Secret documentary last night, and I have to say, the “#metoo”/Harvey Weinstein/Jeffrey Epstein” reckoning was not only way overdue but it’s quite bizarre to look back at it now and think, how did they get away with this shit for so long?

It wasn’t just women, either. It happened to men, too–I’m thinking of Henry Willson’s casting couch, and how he basically pimped his beautiful male clients out to Hollywood bigwigs, hence the basis for Chlorine–and of course, famously Brendan Fraser, who is having a very lovely career comeback now. But it was mostly the women these awful things happened to, and it’s no surprise that the reckoning took down Victoria’s Secret. The documentary series is interesting–I’d love to know what Epstein had on Les Wexler, because it had to not only be seriously bad but incredibly damaging; which means it could have been underage girls but my money is on underaged boys, frankly.

But as I said I feel rested this morning somewhat, and it will be more of a regular day for me–which hasn’t really happened all week, to be honest; Monday was messed up and so was yesterday; Tuesday was normal but it didn’t feel normal because I had the tire situation hanging over my head as well as the injury to my left arm (which feels fine this morning; there’s some tightness in my forearm when I turn my arm a certain way, and we’ll see how it feels when I try to pick something up and/or carry it with the left arm today). I had kind of wanted to go back to the gym this week or weekend, but if my left arm isn’t functional…I suppose I could go do legs only and stretch some. I don’t know what to do, really.

Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday (!) and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Temptation

A very cold Monday morning in New Orleans, and the sun has yet to peek its head out from under the blankets this morning. I slept deeply and well last night also, which made the getting up even more difficult this morning. My space heater is going on HIGH right now, and my cappuccino feels wonderful to my incredibly cold hands. This morning’s shower is going to be quite the challenge, though. But I do feel rested this morning, which is lovely, and while dealing with today’s cold temperatures will indeed suck, I feel like I am somehow up for the challenge.

Walking to the gym tonight after work will be a considerably different tale, I fear.

We started watching Bridgerton last night (that’s us, always on the cusp and cutting edge of what’s new and exciting) and as I watched, I found the word charming popping up in my head when thinking about the show, which is a word that has fallen out of favor and use as a descriptor for fictions, but I think needs to come back. (Ted Lasso, for example, is also a charming show.) As I watched, I began to understand the pull of romance novels again. It’s been quite some time since I’ve read a romance, and I think this has been a grave disservice, not just to the romance genre in general but to me as a critical thinker and writer. I loved romances when I was younger, with a particular appeal for those novels and authors who carried the label romantic suspense–because those combined my two favorite genres, romance and mystery. I also read an awful lot of historical romances–mostly ones based on true history; romance of queens and empresses and princesses and royal mistresses (one of my all time favorites is Anya Seton’s Katherine, which told of the great love story of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and son of Edward III, and his commoner mistress, Katherine Swynford; whom he had an entire brood of children with and married after the death of his second wife, raising her to be the highest ranking women in England, second only to the Queen herself), and as I watched the show last night, I thought to myself in an alternate universe you would have been a romance writer. The Regency period has never interested me much in England–although the clothes were quite marvelous, and any number of women today would benefit from the Empire style high-waisted dress–primarily because it wasn’t, to me, a particularly interesting period, what with the mad King and his awful sons, who created a succession crisis as they refused royal marriages while living with their commoner mistresses and having hordes of bastard children by them. The show is sumptuous and the attention to details of the period exact; it has the look and feel of care and money, and we were, as I said, quite charmed by it–and we certainly weren’t expecting that.

There is an interesting essay about how Americans enjoy watching rich people suffer as entertainment formulating in my brain as I type this–going back to the 1980’s prime time soaps and mini-series.

I tried working on my short story yesterday, and I did manage to get the 1600 words I’d originally written revised and polished and in better working order, but I did not write into the second act of the story, which is the part I always struggle with on everything, from short stories to essays to novels to novellas. The story is due on Thursday, so I think I am going to have to buckle down, avoid Twitter (yes, I continued trolling right wing politicians and Trump administration appointees yesterday. It’s so endlessly satisfying calling Sarah Huckabee Sanders a fake Christian, a liar, and a traitor to her face…or asking trash like Tomi Lahren why she hates the Constitution, reminding Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio they are cucks and traitors…but effective today I am banning myself from anything other than bantering with friends on there anymore–I have too much to do to bother with stating the obvious to treasonous traitor trash.)

The sun is now rising over the West Bank, and the light is very gray. The sky is covered with clouds–it may even rain today, if I am not mistaken–and this cold spell is supposed to last most of the week, dipping into the low forties after sundown.

I also read a marvelous short story yesterday called “The Fixer”, a collaborative work by Edgar winners Laura Lippman and Alison Gaylin, which was in the Mystery Writers of America anthology Deadly Anniversaries, edited by Grand Masters Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller–released in the midst of the lockdown last spring, so it didn’t get the attention it truly deserved. The story is quite marvelous–you can never go wrong in the hands of either Lippman or Gaylin, let alone when they collaborate–and I greatly enjoyed it. It’s kind of a “#metoo” story in some ways; it tells the story of a faded child star who appeared in a science fiction television series who now makes most of her living selling signed photos of herself at Comic Cons, who in the present day runs into someone who was her ‘handler’ some years earlier when she was making a movie that eventually was shut done and never finished–ending her career with it–and what happened back then. It’s quite chilling, and a very hard look at how women’s bodies, regardless of age, are seen as property by men in the industry–property those same men have a right to use and abuse how they see fit. There have long been rumors about pedophilia in Hollywood–both Michael Nava and John Morgan Wilson wrote mystery novels around that very subject, which were two of their best books, I might add–and I highly recommend this story, and this anthology; every story in it was written by an Edgar winner, and I will be posting more about the stories as I read them.

The Saints also won yesterday, beating the Bears 21-10 (hey Bears fans, finished what Katrina started yet? Yeah. I have a looooooong ass memory) in an underwhelming game I had on while I cleaned the kitchen and made dinner. Next up are the Buccaneers, whom we’ve already beaten twice; will the third time be the charm for Tom Brady and his new team? Tonight is the Alabama-Ohio State game for the national title in college football, and I don’t find myself caring too terribly about that, to be honest. I might have it on? We’ll probably watch Bridgerton instead, and I’ll see who won when I get up tomorrow morning.

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

Beautiful Eyes

So here we are on Thursday and how is everyone?

I’m doing okay, myself. I got home from work last night and headed to the gym for a nice workout, before repairing back to the Lost Apartment and the ongoing struggle to maintain order and neatness to the Greg-sty. I slept extremely well, and am waking up gradually this morning. It’s a work-at-home day, so soon I will be entering data and making condom packs. I also discovered that a lot of the Hitchcock movies I wanted to watch that were on Prime and then disappeared are now on Peacock–some require paying for a membership, which I am resisting currently as I already pay way too much for way too many premium services–but there were also some terrific films on there for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival that Id’d been looking for, so I started adding things to the watch list while I waited for Paul to come home from the gym. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll watch today while I make condom packs, but there are a plethora of options for me now. …and no matter how much I am paying for streaming, it still is far far less than the Cox Cable bill used to be.

We watched another two episodes of A Teacher on Hulu last night, and while it’s interesting enough, last night as we watched (the trigger warnings! My God) I commented, “isn’t it interesting how female teacher/male student stories get so much attention? What about all the male teachers who get into inappropriate relationships with female students? Is it so commonplace that films and television shows depicting them are considered cliche? I’d almost rather see a show about a gay teacher having an inappropriate relationship with a student–although that would play into that wretched ‘all gays are pedophiles’ trope.” Paul also pointed out–props to him–that the true-life stories about female teachers/male students inevitably reveal a relationship; the women don’t see themselves as predators and fall in love with the boys; the male teachers who prey on their students do not and are serial predators, quickly moving on to the next student while leaving the girl feeling ashamed, embarrassed, and abused–and generally don’t report it (as we saw as the #metoo movement swept the country a few years back).

I also believe the male teacher/female student dynamic is more common–but that also could be my cynical gay man coming out yet again.

I also did something last evening that I’ve not done in years–I put my contacts in to wear to the gym. I’ve not put contacts in for quite some time–probably well over a year. I like contacts and would prefer not to wear my glasses, but the prescription is too weak for my eyes now (so are my glasses) so I can’t really function with them in. But I was also tired of my glasses fogging up from wearing a mask to work out in and breathing hard; so I thought I’d try to wear my contacts again. It wasn’t the worst experience, and henceforth I will most likely continue to do so in the future. I don’t object to wearing contacts–I used to wear them all the time–the reason I stopped is because my eyes have gotten so bad I need progressive lenses, and I don’t really like how they work; I’m sure they work fine for others, but they don’t progress as quickly as I would like, which gets weird for me. On the other hand, maybe wearing them more regularly will get me used to them. Who knows?

I also need to get better focused and get back to writing. I’ve figured out the Kansas book, and I’ve also figured out Bury Me in Shadows (about fucking time on both) and once I get this short story edited and revised, I can dive back into them. I have to work on “The Snow Globe,” and will probably do so today after I finish the condom packs and before Paul gets home. That will free up the weekend to deep dive back into Bury Me in Shadows. I’m also taking the week of Thanksgiving off, so I can get deeper into my “clean like you’re moving” project as well as working on the book and trying to get it all caught up. I’m really excited about getting back to work on the Kansas book (aka #shedeservedit) because I have finally figured out how to write it properly, and what the proper framing device (I always knew it needed one, I just couldn’t figure out how to do it) would be.

I also want to write a story for the next MWA anthology submission process, and the deadline for that is January 15th. I have three stories in progress that would work for its theme; and I’ve pretty much decided which one I want to finish and submit for that; I just need to get a first draft finished so I can work the whole thing out. This is great news for one Gregalicious, and I am quite pleased.

And on that note, I’m going to get another cup of coffee and get started on my day. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!