5 8 6

And now it’s Thursday.

Ye Gods, how lovely was it to get in my car yesterday morning and turn the heat all the way up? I actually felt warm for the first time in days, and the heat was on at the office, too! Marvelous, simply marvelous, really. The weather also got significantly warmer–still cold, but twenty degrees was a significant improvement–over the course of the day. It’s going to drop into the thirties again overnight on Friday and Saturday, per the forecast, but if I can sleep through it I don’t care how cold it gets at night. I did have ice on my windshield yesterday morning–that was an unpleasant surprise–but my wonderful car warmed right up as I sat there and the ice melted and all was right in the world again. The drive to work was a bit of an ordeal; I left early, just in case, and was right–New Orleanians cannot drive under the best of circumstances–and when I got on 90 highway from the west bank to connect to I-10 East….my ramp was blocked off by an apparent car fire? And then of course the next exit from I-10 West (don’t try to follow the highway nonsense in New Orleans, seriously) was Carrollton. Because people drive like morons I wasn’t able to take the Carrollton/Tulane exit and had to get off at Carrollton right in front of Costco…and you always need to remember that when you need to make a left turn in New Orleans, you probably can’t. I wound up detouring around Xavier University and our OTHER building on my way to work this morning…thank God I left early so I got here around the time I usually do….it only took me almost three quarters of a fucking hour.

Ironically, the temperature in the Lost Apartment last night was one that would ordinarily have me bitterly bundling up and complaining about the cold…last night as I moved around the apartment getting things done–all the things I wanted to do and intended to on Fat Tuesday, I was laughing at myself…because after Fat Tuesday last night seemed very pleasant indeed in the Lost Apartment. I slept like a stone last night–God, if I could only sleep every night the way I do when it’s this cold!–and didn’t really want to get up this morning, either–it was warm and comfortable–but even so, this cold this morning is completely bearable and something I can handle with aplomb, methinks.

One great tragedy of the cold, though, was I lost a day’s work on the manuscript on Fat Tuesday, which means really having to buckle down on working on it this weekend. I may wind up having to ask for an extra week, but it’s very close and if I can get a lot done this weekend I might not have to ask for another week–but I am not going to kill myself and am going to try to be reasonable and realistic about how much I can get done this weekend.

Rather than finishing Mr. Mercedes last night, we chose to watch Serena Williams play Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open; some amazing tennis, but I have never enjoyed watching Serena lose. I suspect that was her last Australian Open; I think after this year she will undoubtedly retire and enjoy the rest of her life, maybe even have another kid. She owes us tennis fans nothing, really–I just hate seeing her marvelous career come to an end.

It’s forty-two in New Orleans right now, with a projected low of thirty-nine for the day. I will undoubtedly feel very warm and toasty when I retire to my easy chair to watch movies and remake last week’s condom packs (they were exposed to a temperature that was too low for them to stay good; so I have to remove the condoms from the packs I made last week and put new ones in); I’m not sure what I want to watch today. I watched Young Rock last night while I waited for Paul to come home; I can’t make up my mind as to whether it’s meta and charming, or cheesy yet charming. Dwayne Johnson is just so damned charismatic…I have been a fan from the early days (just as I have been a long-time fan of John Cena; I don’t watch WWE at all anymore for a variety of reasons, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate the talents working for them), and there were times watching the show when I laughed out loud–the actors playing him when he was younger were very well-cast, as were the men cast as the professional wrestlers he knew and hung out with when he was a kid; and the woman playing his mother is very likable. Also–the guy playing his father Rocky Johnson is eerily well-cast as well. So, I’ll probably keep watching, but am reserving judgment on it.

Oh, I wonder if either version of My Cousin Rachel is available to stream anywhere? I’ve never seen either, and I do love the book very much. If my mind could focus better, I’d give it a reread–for some reason I’m having trouble reading again, so at some point today, tomorrow or over the course of the weekend I am going to delve back into some short stories. I started reading an ol Dan Girls mystery, The Clue in the Cobweb, because I want to start doing blog entries about the kids’ series I loved so much (I’ve already done The Three Investigators and Ken Holt; I am also rereading a Three Investigators tale, The Mystery of the Fiery Eye as well), and eventually would love to cover every one of the series I read when I was a kid and continued collecting as an adult. I know I’ve also already done Trixie Belden–but I’ve not done any of the others. I am hesitant to approach Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys; even with the ones I’ve already done I barely scraped into the extensive research and scholarship on those series, and as I’ve noted before, fans of these series take them very, very seriously (I still want to write a book about that; I think a very interesting murder mystery novel could be set at one of these fan conferences they do annually because I don’t have enough to write already.)

And on that note, tis time to head back into the spice mines. Hope you have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and please stay warm and safe out there!

Everyone Everywhere

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!

Yesterday was simply a dreadful day, weather-wise; I imagine today isn’t going to be very much better, in all honesty. It’s 26 degrees in New Orleans right now, give or take. I am sitting at my desk in layers, the space heater going full blast, water is dripping out of every faucet to protect the pipes, and I’m about to go look for my fingerless gloves. FOUND THEM! I am glad Carnival has essentially be canceled for the most part–it’s too fucking cold, seriously. The high for today is predicted to be 36…which would usually be some kind of record low. But looking outside the windows I don’t see snow anywhere—at least we don’t have that to deal with. I am kind of dreading getting up at six tomorrow morning to go to the office. It’s going to be incredibly miserable, but at least then I have two work-at-home days. This cold snap is only supposed to last through the weekend, but during the ays it will get up to the 50’s and finally, by Sunday we’ll be back to the normal winter weather for New Orleans. It won’t be easy, but we’ll make it through somehow.

Our heat doesn’t work, by the way, so if it’s 26 outside it’s about that inside, give or take a few degrees. If I didn’t have to do a ZOOM thing later this morning I’d repair back to the bed with iPad and laptop and a book to read; I still may do that after the class ZOOM thing is finished.

My goal for yesterday was to get caught up some on my emails–I managed to get that accomplished, although even more have shown up this morning–and to print out the manuscript preparatory for the big edit/revise. This last one, while I may have called it the last draft, is actually a part of preparing the final draft; I wanted to get through the entire thing changing it from past tense to present tense, while also reading and getting an idea of what all needs to be added or deleted. This next pass through the printed pages will be where I make the notes to revise the language used, and then figure out where the new pieces I need to write need to go. The last and final pass will be a line edit, basically, where I try to catch all the mistakes and things that got missed when I changed things before. I am on track to be finished by the end of the month, or at least by the end of the first weekend of March, with any luck.

We got deeper into season two of Mr. Mercedes last night, and are still enjoying it; we only intended to watch one episode, and wound up getting through four, with only four left, which at some point today–it’s Fat Tuesday, after all–we will most likely finish the show off. After a slow start the season has really picked up; I didn’t really want to stop watching last night, but it was already past eleven and I needed to get to bed–getting up at six tomorrow is going to be hard enough, given the cold, and sleeping in really late today would not have helped that situation in the least–but it’s nice to know that it’s there waiting for us when we finally are ready today. I’m not sure if Paul is going to work today–well, he’s not going to the office for sure, but whether he is going to make phone calls or send emails remains to be seen. It’s so weird to be up at this hour on Fat Tuesday and not hear a crowd at the corner or the drums of the marching bands. I really do miss the high school marching bands; especially the public school ones and the Marching 100 of St. Augustine’s; “St. Aug’s”, as we call them down here.

While I was printing out the manuscript yesterday morning I did a deep dive into the Internet about the Three Investigators, which, in my humble opinion, is one of the best (if not the best) of the kids’ mystery series. One of the other things I was doing yesterday involved contracts for MWA’s upcoming mystery writing handbook, How to Write a Mystery, edited by the amazing Lee Child and Laurie R. King; so as I was reading an interview with the ghost writer for several of the Three Investigators books–including several of my favorites–and the name seemed familiar, as did that of his wife–so I made notes on the notepad that always sits next to my mouse to look them up and see why the names seemed familiar. Imagine my surprise when someone responded to the emailed contracts with an issue, and it turned out to be the ghost writer’s wife! That was why the name was familiar; I had seen it very recently. One of those weird, synchronistic elements of my life, I suppose, but it was still kind of cool to be corresponding with the wife of a Three Investigators ghost writer. The original author of the series, who created it and wrote ten of the first eleven volumes, Robert Arthur, also deeply interests me.

I also realized that, in some ways, I had mimicked The Three Investigators with the Scotty series: while the series is written in the first person, there are three of them; Scotty, Frank, and Colin. My original plans when I was a child for my own series initially began with a single character to hang the series on; it eventually evolved into three friends solving mysteries–and yes, the concept of there being three was not unique to, or originated by, the Three Investigators–the Hardy Boys and their pal, Chet; Nancy Drew with Bess and George; Judy Bolton and two separate groups of three (either with Irene and Honey, or with Lorraine and Lois); etc. (I’ve also always wondered, in the back of my mind, if having three precluded any notions of homoeroticism; it certainly existed in the Ken Holt series with his best bud Sandy, or in the Rick Brant with his buddy Scotty–which has also made me wonder lately if that’s where the name for my Scotty came from… since having three meant including a chaperone).

So, I intend to spend the rest of the morning straightening up the kitchen to serve as the backdrop for my ZOOM session, swilling coffee and trying to stay warm. So, on that note I am heading back into the spice mines, and will catch you on Ash Wednesday. Have a great day, Constant Reader, as always.

Spooky

I’ve decided to launch a new reading project for this year: one in which I tackle rereading middle-grade mysteries. I am not going to limit myself to merely the series books I loved (although they will play a big role in the project), but will also include other mysteries I have, either in one of my reading apps or an actual hard copy, that do not belong to the series. My childhood memories aren’t as clear as I would perhaps like; then again, that period of my life was around fifty years ago, so it would be more of a miracle if I did have stronger memories.

The first two series books I ever read were not from either the Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys series; they were from the Trixie Belden series (The Red Trailer Mystery) and The Three Investigators (The Mystery of the Moaning Cave). Both series wound up being favorites of mine once I eventually got back to them and remembered them; I remember buying five Trixie Belden books at a store at the Ford City mall in Chicago, and I got my first five Three Investigators books from a Toys R Us, I think in the Chicago suburb of Berwin? The two series weren’t as ubiquitous or available as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys; which made finding more of them a kind of triumph for me. I’ve already blogged about The Secret of Terror Castle, which was the first Three Investigators book in the series, so I won’t cover that one again. But recently I sat down and reread the second book in the series, The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot, and remembered again why I love this series so much.

“Help!” The voice that called out was strangely shrill and muffled. “Help! Help!”

Each time a cry from within the mouldering old house pierced the silence, a new chill crawled down Pete Crenshaw’s spine. Then the cries for help ended in a strange, dying gurgle and that was even worse.

The tall, brown-haired boy knelt behind the thick trunk of a barrel palm and peered up the winding gravel path at the house. He and his partner, Jupiter Jones, had been approaching it when the first cry had sent them diving into the shrubbery for cover.

Across the path, Jupiter, stocky and sturdily built, crouched behind a bush, also peering toward the house. They waited for further sounds. But now the old, Spanish-style house, set back in the neglected garden that had grown up like a small tropical jungle, was silent.

“Jupe!” Pete whispered. “Was that a man or a woman?”

Jupiter shook his head. “I don’t know,” he whispered. “Maybe it was neither.

The Three Investigators cases often began this way; with two of them (sometimes all of them) landing smack dab in the middle of something mysterious; whether it was the sight of a weird ghost as they walk past an abandoned house being demolished (The Mystery of the Green Ghost) or biking past an enclosed estate (The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow) or simply riding in the gold=played Rolls Royce limousine and almost getting into an accident (The Mystery of the Silver Spider). Many of their other cases begin with them being hired to find a lost pet, which turns into something more complicated and complex: The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon and The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy fall into this category….while the majority of their cases come by way of referrals from Alfred Hitchcock himself (and why has no one ever done a book about the licensing of the Hitchcoc name, and all the products the great director attached his name to? It’s far overdue.). The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot combines all three: the boys were referred by Hitchcock to a friend whose recently purchased parrot has either been stolen or gotten free; they are on their way to visit Professor Fentriss to talk to him about the missing parrot–which stuttered–when they hear the cries for help coming from within the house. They are confronted outside by a man with a revolver (he is described here, and throughout the book, as a fat man–even by Jupiter, who hates being called fat), who claims to be Mr. Fentriss and that the bird has returned; he also claims that Hitchcock had called him to say the boys were on their way over. As they are leaving they realize that the house had no telephone wires (which used to actually be a thing, before cell phones), so they go back. Indeed, the man they met was an imposter and Mr. Fentriss is also tied up in his home. They rescue him, discover that he bought the missing parrot from a sickly Hispanic man selling the birds (there were others) out of his donkey cart, and that his friend Irma Waggoner sent the peddler to them. (Note: the man is described, and referred to, over and over as a Mexican; he actually is Mexican, so it’s not necessarily problematic–other than the fact that no one knew he was Mexican at first; referring to all Latinx/Hispanic people as Mexican when they may not actually be Mexican is problematic. In an update they would undoubtedly change it to Hispanic–as he did speak Spanish as a first language and his English isn’t good–which we see when the boys find him later in the book.) Miss Waggoner’s parrot has also disappeared; it also spoke, as did Mr. Fentriss’. (I kept thinking as I read it for the first time but parrots don’t stutter; he would have to be taught to do that. Very early on Jupiter also mentions this; I always feel inordinately proud of myself every time I read Jupiter saying this) Eventually, it turns out that the man who taught the birds special speeches had a masterpiece painting in his possession, and each parrot speaks a clue to the location of where he hid it when he realized he was dying–so the boys not only have to find all the parrots to get all the messages, they also have to decipher the clues and find the painting. Eventually they do–while also trying to avoid a flamboyant international art thief and his thugs–in a spooky, abandoned graveyard in the fog. A little bit of luck, and the boys solve the mystery–but despite that piece of luck, the entire case is actually solved by deductions based on the evidence presented thus far, with Jupiter revising his theories whenever new evidence is presented.

I love this series, and the books still make for compelling reading today. Some of the story is dated of course–no cell phones, no computers for research (Bob does all their research at the library, where he works part time), the casual racism of the time–but many of the books still hold up. Hitchcock’s death obviously impacted the series, but I’ve never understood why The Three Investigators never became as popular as–if not more so–than Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. The three boys have distinct personalities–you know Pete will never want to investigate anything complicated, but will inevitably prove how courageous he actually is; Bob is studious and not as easily excitable as Pete, and he’s the one who usually follows Jupiter’s train of thought while Pete always gets confused; and Jupiter himself is a young Sherlock Holmes. Robert Arthur, who wrote the original series up through number 11, The Mystery of the Talking Skull (someone else wrote number 10, The Mystery of the Moaning Cave, which also ironically is the first of the series I actually read). Arthur won two Edgars from Mystery Writers of America for his radio plays; he also ghost edited some of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents anthologies I remember from my childhood. The Three Investigators are no longer in print, because of legal disputes between the Arthur estate and Random House about who owns the characters and so forth; it’s a shame. The books are still in print in many different languages–and are especially popular in Germany–where two of the books were actually filmed.

Most of my series books are in storage, but there are some still in the Lost Apartment–and I think when I am too tired to read something new, I may just get down a series book as an homage to my childhood and revisit some of these kids’ series.

Singularity

Ah, Monday morning and the sun has yet to rise in the east. It’s chilly in the Lost Apartment this morning, and as I steel myself for yet another day in the spice mines at the office, I am also pleased with how much I accomplished this weekend.–which wouldn’t have happened had there been parades. This week, of course, would be the big weekend of Carnival–with Muses and Orpheus and Bacchus and Endymion and Iris and so many, many others passing by down at the corner (well, not Endymion) and I would be trying to figure out how to get to and from work…so glad I don’t have to deal with any of that this year, quite frankly. But I do miss Carnival and the parades. I also have a long weekend coming up; Fat Tuesday is a holiday, so I went ahead and took a vacation day for Monday. Since there’s no distractions going on at the corner this weekend, I instead have four glorious days off in a row, which should help me get much further along with the revisions of the book and getting me that much closer to turning the bitch in.

I did wind up not working yesterday after all. I made groceries and then went to the gym; I was tired after that and repaired to my easy chair. I tried to read, but alas, was too tired and unfocused to get very far in what I was reading, so decided to rest for a while and take notes. This resulted into my falling into–of all things–a wormhole about The Partridge Family on Youtube; I don’t even remember how this came about, to be honest. I think a video was suggested to me, and after I got started down that garden path, there was no returning from it. This wormhole of course led me into music videos–clips from the show–and so forth; and who knew there was still so much Partridge/David Cassidy love out there in the world? (Shouldn’t really have been so surprising, really–look at how seriously the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys fans still take their devotion to those series books they read decades ago–there’s probably still some serious Leif Erickson and Shaun Cassidy fan channels on Youtube, with some significant crossover between Shaun fans and The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew fandom as well.) What was really surprising to me was–despite not having heard the music in a while–how good it sounded. David Cassidy was a good singer–it really is astonishing what a superstar he was during that time period–and I could still remember the lyrics to a lot of the songs. I’ve always liked harmonies when it comes to songs, so I always enjoyed the harmonies, and some of the songs still hold up today. (I will not go far as to say the songs would be hit records again today) I had no idea their debut album peaked at Number Four on the charts, that they had so many hits–the first three albums went platinum; any number of gold singles–and listening to the music and watching videos took me back to those years. The Partridge Family spanned the time from when we lived in the city and moved into the suburbs; it finally went off the air when I was in junior high. My sister and I watched every Friday night, groaning our way through The Brady Bunch (even as a kid I thought it was juvenile and lame) as a sort of punishment for getting there. The humor/comedy/situations on The Partridge Family often wasn’t much better–sometimes the two shows used the same basic plot premises–but the concept behind it was so much more clever and original than The Brady Bunch, and it worked better.

And of course, as I watched the videos–there was a Biography, an E! True Hollywood Story, and so forth–I kept thinking about how weirdly Danny Bonaduce’s life has turned out, and then began thinking in terms of a novel about a similar type show in the past whose cast in the present day is trying to figure out why the one whose life took a Bonaduce-like turn did precisely that. He would be dead, of course, and some of the cast members would still be in show business and some would not; it would be one of the younger kids telling the story because their own memories of their time on the show would be vague since they’d been so young, and having left show business far far behind in their rear view mirror….looking into the dead one’s life would, of course, bring back memories of their own and remind them how glad they are to be out of the business now.

And yes, after watching I did make a Partridge Family playlist on Spotify. Sue me.

WE also started watching a show called Resident Alien last night, which was actually kind of clever. I think it airs on Syfy; we’re watching it on Hulu, of course–we only watch the Super Bowl when the Saints are in it, so I think we’ve watched perhaps two Super Bowls this century–and the other one I watched was when I was out of town visiting friends and we went to a Super Bowl party, and I don’t even remember who played that year–and so I suppose this morning congratulations are in order for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, good for you. Anyway, I digress. I think Resident Alien may have been a film? The title certainly seems familiar, but the premise of the show–which really boils down to ‘fish out of water’–features an alien creature who had a mission to earth, only to have his ship hit by lightning and crash in Colorado. The creature then kills a human and takes over his life while trying to find his ship–now buried in snow–and trying to avoid human contact. Of course he gets unwillingly dragged into human contact, and there’s a big surprise twist at the end of the first episode. Some of the humor is predictable–an alien with no idea of what humans are actually like learning to adapt and become more human-like in order to pull off the deception; this was first done really well with Starman in the 1980’s, starring Jeff Bridges–but it’s still funny. And the little remote town in Colorado is an interesting setting. We liked that first episode and intend to watch more; it’s quite engaging, and while it’s eminently predictable–he’s going to start liking humans and getting personally vested in them–it’s still very well done.

And on that note, tis time to get ready for work. Talk to you tomorrow!

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

And here we are, the Monday morning of Christmas week, and I am looking forward to getting hrough this week so I can get back to vacation time. Woo-hoo! I also only have to work a half-day on Christmas Eve Eve (the 23rd) which is even more lovely, huzzah!

I’ve come across yet another call for submissions that sounds interesting, and I may even have something on hand that works for it with a revision and a tweak. Needless to say, I always find these things terribly exciting–at least in the moment–and I’ve really been doing quite well with short stories lately, or at least in the last few years, so why the hell not? I was already planning on revising this story for my next short story collection, so the worst thing that could happen is it gets turned down and I put it in the collection anyway. Huzzah!

Apparently, it is an impossibility for the Saints and LSU to win on the same weekend during this insane 2020 football season; the Saints lost by three to the Chiefs yesterday–and pretty much played like shit for most of the game, in all honesty. That doesn’t say much for the one-loss Chiefs, honestly, and it was terribly sad to see Clyde Edwards-Hilaire, from last year’s LSU championship team, get injured during the game. (It was, as I had said before, terribly conflicting for me to watch former LSU stars playing against the Saints) Can the Saints rebound from two consecutive losses? Perhaps, but I find myself not terribly vested in this football season, and now that LSU’ s is over, I couldn’t care less about the college football play-offs or the national championship this year, and doubt that I will even watch the games, other than Alabama-Notre Dame–hoping it will be another colossal blowout. ROLL TIDE!

I am now revising the final act of Bury Me in Shadows, and its going to require an awful lot of work, methinks and fears. But that’s okay; some of these chapters can be pared down and combined into one–which is going to be the case with chapters 19 and 20, quite frankly–which is a good thing because I need to add a new chapter at the end of the book anyway, which would have made it overlong unless I start cutting. This revision is going to wind up at 100, methinks, which gives me some leeway for trimming down at least up to 20, if necessary. I don’t think it will be necessary, quite frankly, but stranger things have happened–and I have a tendency to forget I’ve already written something and will put the same thing in a later chapter. I reread Chapter 19 last night, and that is exactly the case with this book–there’s a lengthy section in Chapter 19 that was already written about in Chapter 16 or 17; but I know I’ve already written this scene and I also know that I’ve already written it better than it appears in this particular chapter. So, this could be the proper place for a lot of cutting and pasting and rewriting–and I think I know how to do it already, so tonight after the gym I will tear into it with a relish.

We continue watching The Hardy Boys, and will probably get to the season finale tonight. We are greatly enjoying the show, haters be damned, and it is so much better than the cheesy 1970’s adaptation with Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy it’s not even funny. For one thing, this cast–even the younger kids–are much better actors, and it’s much better written, whether the purists want to think so or not. All the changes that were made from the original book series work perfectly in the show, and they also manage to capture the spirit of the books much better than any direct adaptation that was slavishly devoted to the books could possibly be–not to mention how dated that would make the series. The finale is tonight, and I might give the CW reinterpretation of Nancy Drew next.

It certainly can’t be any worse than The Flight Attendant.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me…also, is it just me, or does today’s Christmas hunk bear a striking resemblance to Pete Buttigieg? Okay, maybe it’s slight, but I see it.

Jingle Bell Rock

Constant Reader may have noticed that I have started using Christmas songs and hot guys in Christmas costume, effective this past weekend. This is my annual countdown to Christmas–twelve days leading up to it rather than the twelve after; most people wouldn’t get that I was doing Christmas to Twelfth Night (which is the night Carnival technically begins–but we aren’t really having Carnival this year in New Orleans, yet another crippling blow to the city’s economy), and I prefer to confuse people as little as possible–particularly since it is generally so easy to do, frankly.

It’s dark and cold this morning as I sit sipping my cappuccino; it’s a mere forty-eight degrees outside, with the high for the day projected to be a toasty fifty-nine degrees. It was cold last night as I walked to the gym–yes, I went after work, which was nice and felt great, and then it was back home to write for a bit before bed. I was very tired–getting up early AND the gym–but I did get some work done on the complete overhaul of Chapter Eighteen, which is going to slow me down considerably, but it’s actually okay. I still have time, and if I can get more than one chapter done in a day I’ll still have time to get it all done and let it sit momentarily before sending it in after one last polish. I did get the final cover design yesterday, which is absolutely gorgeous; definitely one of my favorite covers.

We also watched a couple of episodes of The Hardy Boys before retiring for the evening, and I have to say, I am very impressed with the show. I get why the purists object to it, but the show is better written, acted, and plotted than the dreadful 70’s iteration, which the purists seem to love. But oh no! Diversity! The boys aren’t a year apart! Aunt Gertrude is too young and goes by Trudy! THE HORROR! I think it’s well done, and the series is very close to the spirit of the books–if not as cardboard and two dimensional and simplistic–which has me curious to give Nancy Drew another whirl. (In fairness, I also liked the first episode of that reboot, but I watched it by myself one night when Paul was working late and never got back to it.)

I think maybe this next year will be the year I try to write my middle grade series.

But I slept really well last night, and don’t feel tired at all this morning, which is absolutely lovely. I have taken the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, which means I’ll be out of the office for nearly ten days (New Year’s Eve is a workday, but it’s also a work-at-home day, which means…out of the office for nearly ten days), and I am looking forward to that. It’s also an opportunity to have a lot of down time in case I need it for finishing the book–which hopefully I won’t need–and it will also give me a chance to get started on the final rewrite of the next one, due on March 1, and after that, I will focus on Chlorine until I can get a good first draft out of the way. I ordered The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson yesterday, and it should be here by the weekend, and it’s the final piece of research I need for the Hollywood casting back ground stuff. I will also need to do some other background reading–studios, economics of the period, what else was going on, what was LA and Hollywood like in that period, etc. And perhaps at long last I will also read James Ellroy’s LA Confidential–it seems fitting.

Oh! And I. need some time to finish my short story for the MWA anthology, which will hopefully make it stand out from the submissions pile and get selected. One more thing to scratch off my “bucket list”–get into an MWA anthology. I wish I had some things ready to end out for submission, but alas, I don’t. Maybe “This Thing of Darkness”, after a bit of a tweak, and “Death and the Handmaidens”–again, after another tweak or two–but I hate that I’ve not sent any stories out for submission lately. I also want to finish some of these that I’ve got started.

So. Much. Writing. To. Do.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and hope you’re having as lovely a holiday season as a pandemic will permit.

This Love

Today’s working from home adventure will be interrupted by a trip to the office for a working lunch! I love when we get paid to do work and get fed at the same time. One of the drug companies is doing a brief training for us, and they are treating us to lunch from Mona’s on Frenchmen. I miss Mona’s; when I worked all those years at the office on Frenchmen Street I used to treat myself to Mona’s periodically–their gyro plate was my go-to, always, and I’ve been missing my gyros, so you can imagine my delight when I learned about this training.

Huzzah, indeed!

Free lunch is always a plus.

I also have errands to do at some point, and I probably should go to the gym this evening. I plan to be super-productive today–I am going to watch The Stunt Man while I am making condom packs this afternoon as well–and of course, there are any number of household chores that need to be completed. Ugh, so much cleaning and picking up to do around here, as well as writing to do. I made a pretty decent start on Chapter 17 last night, so hopefully tonight I can get through it and Chapter 18; and with a strong push this weekend I can almost get all the way through the rest of the book, which would be amazing and would put me way ahead of schedule. So, that’s the goal for this weekend, at any rate. I also want to finish The Spy Who Came in From the COld, because I got a very advance copy of the next Alison Gaylin novel, The Collective, which I cannot wait to dive into.

If I can get the book finished this weekend, I can then spend next week working on short stories before diving back into the book’s final pass, and I might even be able to get it turned in early. I am also looking forward to getting the final cover design–which I fucking love–at any minute. I approved the final proof of it yesterday, and so it should be arriving in my inbox at any time. I am also feeling a lot more confident about the book itself, which is always a good thing; this final revision, I think, is helping to really pull it all together.

We tried watching His Dark Materials last night. I’ve never read the books, but that doesn’t mean I can’t watch and enjoy the show (I’ve still only read the first book in A Song of Fire and Ice, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying Game of Thrones both before and after I read the book), but there was too much going on that I didn’t understand and thus made it much harder to follow. Paul fell asleep–which should give you an indication of his level of enthrallment–and so I think we’re going to take a pass on it. We also started watching the new Hulu adaptation of The Hardy Boys (if you will recall, I was highly amused that the kids’ series fan pages were in a major uproar about the show and the changes made to it from the books, and I will agree, those changes are substantial enough to make you wonder why they bothered calling it The Hardy Boys–but would a show called something else get any traction?), which I liked just fine, even if it was a lot darker than anything ever seen in the books. I mean, their mother is murdered in the very first episode–the Hardy Boys, at least in the original series, never dealt with anything so dark and scary as a murder–and instead of the Hardys having always lived in Bayport, they live in “the city” and move to “Bridgeport” during the premiere. They’ve also turned Biff Hooper into a girl (I don’t have a problem with this) and overall, it’s not bad and we’ll probably continue watching. (I will, at any rate; Paul may not) I also want to give the CW series adaptation of Nancy Drew another shot; I actually liked the premiere, but never went back to it from there.

And seriously, there is such a book in these rabid fans and their reaction to changes to their sacred texts.

I also would like, at some point in 2021, to start pulling together my own kids’ series. It has been something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, and lately I’ve been feeling that gravitational pull to writing a kids’ series again. Oh, I know I have two books scheduled for deadlines already and that I need to dive into Chlorine once I get these both out of the way–and there’s probably another Scotty book out there I should write (at least the one)–but as I have mentioned more and more lately, I am becoming much more conscious of running out of time; when I was in my forties, it seemed like there was all the time in the world to write everything I wanted to write. Now that I am approaching sixty like a bullet, and more ideas come to me all the fucking time, I am becoming highly aware of the finite amount of time I have and that I am not going to be able to write everything I want to write. It’s a shame–I really have too many good ideas that will probably go to waste–but you know, that’s kind of how life works.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Happy Thursday, everyone.

Last Kiss

And now we are here at Monday morning, yet another three days of clinic to face down, and another tropical system with a potential track to come into the Gulf and come knocking at our door here in southeastern Louisiana yet again. The season doesn’t end officially until November 30th, and I have a sinking suspicion that this one will undoubtedly last longer than they usually do–it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if a Hurricane Omega winds up heading this way for either Christmas or New Year’s.

It’s really been that kind of year.

But I slept really well Saturday night and slept in as well on Sunday morning, and while I did fritter away the morning essentially reading election coverage (and laughing at the Four Seasons press conference perhaps will never get old) before heading to the gym around noonish. Yesterday was the big day–three sets of reps–and while it wasn’t as awful as I’d feared it might be, it definitely had its moments of horror. But I also got to do my stretching ahead of time, came home and had a protein shake, before shaving, showering and heading off to finish the weekend’s errands, with a make groceries and fill the tank with gasoline run. It was all accomplished and wasn’t very terrible; it could have been so much worse. I slept really well again last night, which was lovely–the Saints winning so easily over Tampa Bay and the ex-Patriots was quite delightful as well. As Paul said, as we shut off the television and headed upstairs for bed, it was perhaps the best, more relaxing weekend we’d had in quite some time. I daresay it was easily the best weekend of 2020 thus far.

I definitely didn’t dread going to bed to wake up to Monday morning, that’s for sure, and even though I am up early I don’t really mind it so much as I used to–which is saying something, I think.

This week I need to get back to work on Bury Me in Shadows, I need to finish editing a short story, and I need to finish writing the first draft of another. It doesn’t feel in the least bit daunting, even though I know I am running out of time for the deadlines on everything, but for the first time in a long time I feel like I can get everything done, and done well. There’s some definite distractions going to be happening in my life this week–family stuff, so I won’t go into detail–that will have me nervous and on edge, but I am okay with it all. I feel like I have finally evened out somehow, perhaps even adapted to my reality, at least for the moment.

We started watching the third season of Killing Eve, which is finally on Hulu (with fucking commercials), and I have to say I am not as compelled to watch as I was before. The first episode of season 3 was interesting–the PTSD Eve is experiencing from being shot by Villanelle, as well as the fallout of her interference in Eve’s personal life, and the eventual shocking death of one of the main cast to close out the first episode–but at the same time, I wasn’t compelled to queue it up and watch last night rather than the Saints game–and remember, neither one of us had high hopes for that game going into it. The Saints have already lost twice, and have come close to losing almost every other game they’ve played this year (two wins in overtime; three wins by a field goals and four by one score in total) so while I am still of course rooting for my team, I don’t have very high expectations for them this season….and as for LSU, I am mentally preparing myself for the embarrassment to come this weekend against Alabama. The Tigers aren’t going to finish with a winning record for the first time since 1999, which is a bitter pill to swallow coming the season after fielding one of the greatest teams in the history of college football…but it is what it is.

And we did really have one of the greatest teams in the history of college football last year.

I’m getting used to the loss of the crepe myrtles. The view isn’t nearly as pretty as it used to be–and the more direct sunlight really shows up how filthy the windows actually are–but I can deal with it. I can see more of the sky now–and we have beautiful skies here in New Orleans, a gorgeous vibrant blue–and I have about six months to get either the curtains or the blinds situation handled and implemented before summer returns with all of its brutality to my kitchen. But I think I can manage the curtain situation–blinds are surprisingly not as expensive as I thought they might be–and I think blinds are probably going to be the best choice, frankly. I don’t think I will ever stop missing my shade trees, though; it was part of the joy of the view…and I wonder what happened to the opossum family that was living in them? Granted, I haven’t seen one of them in some time–and I wonder if there was damage to the roof of the carriage house next door from Zeta–several times over the weekend I saw men on ladders doing things to the carriage house roof next door, which would possibly explain why the trees were cut down and others were dramatically cut back.

Nancy Drew may have solved The Mystery of the Murdered Myrtles.

And on that note, tis time for me to get ready to head to the office and get going on my day. Happy Monday, everyone.

Paper Rings

And now it’s Tuesday again, huzzah! One day down, four to go.

Don’t mind me–I’m just over here wishing my life away.

The Saints managed to eke out a win last night, and it wasn’t pretty, frankly; 30-27 in overtime over the Chargers. I actually went to bed when the game went into overtime; I had to get up early and I really couldn’t justify staying up any later and risking being tired all day today, with so much that needs to get done. I was very tired and drained when I got home from work last night, to be honest; but after sitting in my easy chair for a little while and cuddling with Scooter, I put the dishes away and did another load; took a shower to wash the day off me and did a load of laundry, and basically took some time to clean and organize the kitchen with the end result that I came downstairs this morning to a clean kitchen, a dishwasher filled with newly washed and clean dishes, and feeling pretty awake and not tired. I also set out my clothes for today last night, and packed today’s lunch last night as well. I may have been too mentally tired to read or write anything last night, but overall, it was a much smarter way to spend the evening than i usually do on a day when I had to get up at six.

We’ll see if I can continue to be that smart tonight, shall we?

Highly unlikely, given my past history, but we shall see.

One never knows.

I emailed the essay off for another round of edits yesterday, and hopefully today will have time to start working on the edits for my story “The Snow Globe.” I have a shit ton of other things I need to get to–odds and ends, here and there, now and then–I am very behind on everything, as always, and trying to get caught up. But my email inbox is getting emptied, slowly but surely, and that’s always a good thing.

Over this past weekend, I was paging through my journal from two years or so ago or whenever St. Petersburg Bouchercon was; there are notes in there from St. Petersburg, so I know that’s when the journal was from (Dana Cameron and I stood around in the lobby near the hospitality suite, talking about a Nancy Drew spoof that someone needs to write called Escape from Canyon Ranch, and we literally laughed until we were in tears; I wrote some of it down in my journal, and rereading those notes reminded me of the good times I used to have when I could travel and go to conferences), and it was quite illuminating. I realized, while looking through it, that I really need to go back through old journals; there may be notes and ideas scribbled down that have completely escaped my mind, and some of it might be good, usable stuff. (My last two have pages with notes on Bury Me in Shadows marked by post-it notes; but there were also notes in this particular journal as well.) One of the lovely things about journals is the memories they can spark, and of course, there’s also the notes on works in progress or ideas that can spark even more inspiration…which is also lovely.

I’ve been reading Gore Vidal’s Lincoln, bit by bit; Vidal’s work is very well written but it’s not compulsive reading–it’s rather easy to put it down and walk away from it for a few days or so–but for some reason on Sunday I picked up my copy of Edna Ferber’s A Peculiar Treasure, which is a kind of memoir about her writing life (do people even remember Ferber today? She was kind of a big deal in her time, was a member of the Algonquin Round Table, and wrote a lot of successful novels and plays, including Giant, Show Boat, Cimarron, So Big, and many others), and it’s interesting to view her style of memoir-writing; slightly whimsical and self-deprecating while somehow at the same time kind of boastful? I was interested to see that she had a connection to Emporia, Kansas; she began as a journalist and was friends with Emporia’s most famous son, William Allen White, and visited there often; he was, in fact, the person who gave her the idea to write Cimarron. Ferber has always interested me–she never married, for example, which of course always made me wonder about her sexuality (as one always does with historical figures who died unwed) but I’ve never really been able to find out much about her, which is why I bought this used copy of her memoir, to see if there were any hints in it. She’s very good at deflection, and from the bits and pieces I’ve been able to read over the years since getting the book, she never really talks much about her personal life at all, other than in a whimsical, almost magic realism way, and mostly focuses on her professional life once you get past her childhood–but there are no stories about dates or crushes or teen heartbreaks or anything like that, alas.

And now, on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, everyone.

The Long Run

Not only do I write two private eye series, erotica, and the occasional stand alone,  I also, sometimes, write what’s classified as young adult fiction. I have not published anything that could remotely be considered y/a in quite a while, and therein lies a tale (I think the last book I published that could be considered “young adult” was Dark Tide; I could be wrong. I no longer remember when and in what order my non-series books came out).

To be clear, the fact that I even call those books “y/a” even though I don’t really think of them as young adult fiction is a marketing thing, really; in my mind, they’re simply novels I wrote about teenagers. I started writing about teenagers when I actually was one; the stories I wrote in high school weren’t bad, for a teenager, and were the first indication–from my fellow classmates, and my English teacher–that I could seriously become a published writer if I chose to try to do so; the utter lack of seriousness my writing aspirations received from my family was kind of soul-crushing. But I always wanted to write about teenagers, from the very beginnings; I wanted to do my own Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys style series, and then progressed to other stories.

I progressed as a reader pretty quickly when I was growing up; I went from the series books, like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and the Scholastic Book Club mysteries, to Agatha Christie, Charlotte Armstrong, and Ellery Queen when I was around eleven or twelve, if not younger; I know I read both Gone with the Wind and Antonia Fraser’s Mary Queen of Scots when I was ten. The few books I read that were considered “children’s books” (there was no such thing as young adult fiction then) were books like The Outsiders and The Cat Ate My Gymsuit and I did enjoy them; I just didn’t think of them as either being particularly authentic or realistic. Nor did they have any bearing on my life, or the lives of my friends–I viewed them like youth-oriented television shows like The Brady Bunch, existing in some bizarre alternate universe that has no basis in actual reality or what those of us who were that age were actually experiencing. I always thought there was something missing–complicated and authentic books about the lives of real teenagers and the real issues they faced everyday, without getting into the insanity of the preachy-teachy “issue” books that usually wound up as ABC After-school Specials, which I loathed. 

Not all “issue books” were bad, in all fairness; some, like Lisa Bright and Dark, about a girl struggling with mental illness whose parents refused to face their daughter’s reality, so her friends tried to help her by serving as amateur psychologists, and  I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, about a teenaged girl in a mental hospital dealing with her illness were actually quite good. But I loved books like The Cheerleader, about a poor girl in a small New England town with ambitions and dreams that far exceeded those of most of her friends…dealing with issues of popularity, sex, and first love.  David Marlow’s Yearbook was also a favorite, and while not marketed to kids, was about high school, but had some themes and plot-lines considered far too heavy for teens to digest in the 1970’s. You can also see it in the pap that was considered movies for teenagers; G-rated bubble-gum like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, and inevitably came from Disney and starred Kurt Russell. (These movies are an interesting time capsule; I did try to watch one of them recently on Disney Plus and didn’t last three minutes in that squeaky clean, sex-free college environment.)

(Also, I would like to point out at this time there were terrific books being published in the 1970’s for teens that dealt with major issues and were groundbreaking; Sandra Scoppetone was writing about queer teens back then, and there were some others doing terrific work at the time–I just wasn’t aware of those books until much later.)

My first three young adult novels–Sorceress, Sleeping Angel, Sara–were written as first drafts in the early 1990’s, put in a drawer, and forgotten about for nearly twenty years. Sorceress  had no queer content in it at all; it was my version of the truly popular trope of romantic/domestic suspense where an orphaned girl goes to live in a spooky mansion far away from her old life (Jane Eyre, Rebecca, almost everything written by Victoria Holt), and slowly becomes aware that everything in the house isn’t as it seems. It was a lot of fun to write–I loved those books and I loved putting a modern spin on them. Sleeping Angel’s first draft was never completed, and the published version is vastly different than what the original first draft contained; there are still some vestiges of the original plot there in the book that are never truly explained, and by the time I realized, after many drafts, that I hadn’t removed those vestiges from the book it was too late to do anything about it other than hope no one noticed. The book did well, won an award or two, and is still a favorite of my readers, according to what I see on social media. One of the things I added to the story was a queer subplot about bullying, which is what I think readers truly responded to, and I also feel like adding that to the story in addition to the other changes I made to it made it a stronger book. Sara was always intended to have gay characters and a gay plot; I originally started writing it as a novel for adults and realized, over the course of writing it, that actually the teenage story was the most interesting part and I could deal with some issues there if I switched the focus of the book to the teenagers. One thing that changed from the 1991 first draft to the draft that was published is that the character I originally had being bullied for being gay, even though he wasn’t (another character, one of the biggest bullies, actually was), was actually not only gay but had come out, and so the book also talked about the reverberations of a popular football coming out, and what impact that had on the school social structure and hierarchy.

Sara, incidentally, is one of my lowest selling titles–which also kind of breaks my heart a little bit.

Since those three, there have been others I’ve written–Lake Thirteen, Dark Tide–and I’ve also dabbled in what is called “new adult fiction”–books about college-age or just out of college-age characters–this is where The Orion Mask and Timothy and the current one I’m working on, Bury Me in Shadows, fall on the marketing spectrum.

One of the questions I had to deal with in writing young adult novels with queer content was the question of sex. I had already been through being banned in Virginia because I had written gay erotica (a really long story that I revisited recently with Brad Shreve on his podcast; I really do need to write in depth about the entire experience); what would happen if ‘notorious gay porn writer’ Greg Herren began writing fiction specifically aimed at teenagers? But the truly interesting thing about being used as a political pawn by the right-wing fanatics in the power games they play is that once they’ve made use of you, they forget about you and move on. My young adult fiction was released without a single complaint, protest, or any of the sturm und drang that my speaking at a high school to a group of queer and queer-supportive youth created scant years earlier.

Interesting, isn’t it?

And yet…there is no sex in any of those books. None. I don’t  remember my gay teens even getting a chaste kiss, let alone a sex life, or fantasies, or a boyfriend.

And what about desire?

A couple of years ago someone tagged me on Facebook on an article about just that very subject; that was when I started writing this post (three yeara ago, looks like) but I never finished writing this until this morning.

Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.

Okay, welcome back. Some interesting points, no?

Now, check out this one. 

I know, it’s a lot of information to process, but it’s something we should all be thinking about, particularly as the calls for diversity in publishing and popular culture continue. Sex is, quite obviously, a touchy subject when it comes to young adult fiction, but when it comes to questions of sexuality and being a sexual minority, what is too much and what is not enough? Even depictions of straight sexuality is frowned on and controversial when it comes to young adult fiction. (For the record, that is also considered the case for crime fiction–no explicit sex scenes–or at least so I was told when I was first getting started; doubly ironic that my mystery series were what the right-wing Virginian fanatics considered porn–I really do need to write about that.)

I also have noticed the elitism evident in hashtags like #ownvoices and #weneeddiversevoices that have come and gone and return periodically on Twitter; those actively involved in promoting those tags, when it comes to queer books, make it abundantly clear they only care about those published by the Big Five in New York–which is a good target, I agree, and they do need to be doing better when it comes to diversity and “own voices” work–but this focus also ignores the small presses, particularly the queer ones, who have been doing this work all along and making sure queer books were still being published for all ages and getting out there and made available to those who want and need them. I am absolutely delighted to see queer books by queers being published by the Big 5, and young adult work in particular…and yet…there are some serious issues still with the Big 5–and with what is called ” young adult Twitter”.

I do find it interesting to see who they decide are the “cool kids” and who they banish to the outer tables with the freaks and geeks.

It’s part of the reason I don’t engage with young adult twitter, to be honest. I really have no desire to return to the high school cafeteria at this point in my life.

And I’ll write about teenagers whenever there’s a story I want to tell involving teenagers–which currently is the Kansas book; I turned my protagonist in Bury Me in Shadows into a college student because it actually works better.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. (And huzzah for finally finishing this post!)