A Different Point of View

Several nasty storm systems passed through last evening–loud and long claps of thunder, high winds, and a downpour. It was lovely–as was the drop in temperature–and there’s few things I love more than being safe and cozy inside while there’s a downpour outside.  It’s still kind of gray and hazy outside this morning, which is nice, and I am sure the weather helped me sleep better last night. I didn’t sleep well on Friday, and wound up sleeping later than I’d wanted (the same thing happened this morning as well but I slept better last night) and the day wound up a wash. I was tired and suffering from burn out, I think, and having to go deal with the grocery store was a bit much. The grocery store is an odious chore under the best of circumstances, and under quarantine it’s even worse. For one thing, I feel guilty for being out in a public space, and for another, I feel so bad for the underpaid staff who are out there risking their lives and their health so that we can buy groceries. I try to be as helpful and as polite as I possibly can, but I don’t blame them in the least for resenting their customers. My job is also deemed essential, so outside of the shifts in how everything from grocery shopping and so forth have been altered, my life hasn’t really changed that much. I still get up every day and go to work. I may not be able to go to the gym anymore (for the duration), and I may go to the grocery store less…but my life has only changed in the times I work, more than anything else, and what I do at work. I don’t resent our clients–but I would imagine, if I were a grocery store employee, I’d resent the hell out of the customers.

Yesterday was, as I said, a wash. I woke up feeling tired and out of sorts, with very low energy, and making groceries is even more draining and exhausting than it usually is. I had very little creative energy yesterday morning, and after making groceries, I did some cleaning and retired to my easy chair. Paul got us lunch from the Please U Cafe–shrimp po’boys and homemade onion rings–as a treat, and of course, I couldn’t finish the onion rings and was stuffed, not needing dinner. I was going to do some reading, but Paul and I wound up watching the rest of the first season of My Life is Murder, which I greatly enjoyed, and then we moved on to the Netflix continuation of Tales of the City, which is very well done; much better than the originals, to be honest. We only have two episodes left, and we stayed up later than we should have watching. I’m hoping to start rereading Scott Heim’s Mysterious Skin today, if I have time. Since I took yesterday off to recharge my batteries, I have to get a lot done today. I need to get that first draft of the Sherlock story finished; I need to get another story edited; and I am doing a live ZOOM panel discussion tonight for Bold Strokes Books weekend book-a-thon, which is going to be interesting. I’m not really a fan of the whole ZOOM thing, to be honest–I hate seeing myself on screen, and I really hate the sound of my own voice–so these things are like Kryptonite for me. But in this brave  new world, I need to start doing these things…which also kind of terrify me. I’m always afraid, like book signings, that no one will click to watch or no one will show up if I do a live reading on-line or anything like that. And I am so highly critical of myself…yeah, I’m not sure I want to open that door or not.

But how does one sell books in the time of quarantine? Post-quarantine? Who knows?

I am going to make chili in the slow cooker today; it’s been awhile and it will help clear my head to get writing this afternoon–there’s nothing like doing something that doesn’t require full concentration (like chopping peppers and rinsing beans and dicing up a chicken) that opens the floodgates to my creativity. I just have to make sure that I channel that creativity properly; the last thing in the world I need to do is come up with ideas for new stories–because I’ll never write all the ideas I already have as there will never be enough time in my life for me to write everything I want to write. So, once I finish this I am going to try to get the kitchen organized and cleaned up while I get the chili started, and then I’m going to get cleaned up before sitting down to do some serious writing this afternoon, and then hopefully I’ll have some time to read before it’s time for the panel.

I’m also very conscious of the way time is slipping through my fingers. I had hoped to write several books this year, and here it is past mid-April already without a single novel manuscript finished. A lot of it has to do with my usual procrastination and laziness, plus the emotional unbalance triggered by a global pandemic, creative ADHD, and the occasional bout with PTSD. I honestly don’t want to think about how many short stories I’ve started writing since the year (and haven’t finished); that goes along with the other story fragments I have started over the last two years or so. Some of them are great ideas, and I think could really turn into something; others I am not so sure about. But my goal for the rest of April is to get these stories due by the end of the month finished, and then try to get some of the others done as well by May 1st. I intend to spend May whipping Bury Me in Shadows into place so i can get it turned in; spend June doing the same to the Kansas book, and then spend July writing the first draft of Chlorine, before moving on to the next Scotty book. This is, needless to say, a very ambitious writing schedule; one that I most likely will be unable to keep. But it’s always good to plan ahead, and be more ambitious than you think you’ll be able to go with (although I am very well aware that an overly ambitious schedule presents the potentiality of setting one’s self up to fail, which can trigger another downward spiral in addition to awakening that horrible voice in my head) because even if you can’t keep up with it, you should still be able to get a lot finished. And there are other distractions along the way–can never forget that I’m the Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America, and that inevitably cuts into my writing time as well.

But on that note, tis time to get back to the spice mines and start getting some things done around here–and to that end, I am going to do my stretching, and get cleaned up.

Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

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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!

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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.

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