Against the Wind

Yesterday I only managed to revise one chapter, but I am chalking that up as a win. I figured if I do one chapter a day it’ll be done by the end of the month, and there will be days when I’ll revise more than one, which will put me further ahead of schedule. This weekend I managed to get caught up–I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but what I did get done caught me up again, and that’s really what I needed to have happen. And it did. So, that’s a win.

I don’t know why I am so hard on myself.

Seriously.

I’ve not decided what to read next. I checked Caleb Roehrig’s White Rabbit, a queer y/a, out from the library, but I kind of also want to read either Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett or Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things, which is a vampire novel set in Mexico City and comes highly recommended by my horror peeps. I’ve got an entire pile of diverse books, including John Copenhaver’s Dodging and Burning, Kristen Lepionka’s The Last Place You Look,  Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths, Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go and Cotton Comes to Harlem, Frankie Bailey’s The Red Queen Dies…so many wonderful diverse books–and there’s even more than that. I know I have a Rachel Howzell Hall book on the shelves somewhere, and it might not, actually, be a bad idea to dive into some New Orleans/Louisiana history…decisions, decisions.

There are, frankly, worse things in life, to be honest, then being unable to decide which book you want to read next.

I think my sleep schedule is finally stabilizing. I slept very well on Sunday evening and as such, wasn’t tired even after a twelve hour shift yesterday when I got home. We’ll see how tired I am tonight when I get home from work after day two of twelve hour shift; but instead of working straight through, I have a doctor’s appointment in between testing shifts so I’ll be doing that instead…and since I’ll be over in that part of time, am going to treat myself to Five Guys for lunch. Huzzah for Five Guys!

One can never go wrong with a delicious burger. And Cajun fries to go with it. YUM.

Ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018, I’ve felt disconnected in some ways to all the projects I was brainstorming before it happened…which is why I think reading some local history might just do the trick of reenergizing me with the Monsters of New Orleans project. My life is so defined by said Data Disaster that I can hardly remember what was going on before it happened, and I’ve felt, as I have said numerous times, disconnected, and not just from Monsters of New Orleans, but from everything, and when I try to get everything back on track, it just seems like all those things are adrift in fog and I can’t quite get my hands on them again.

Which, obviously, sucks. But it’s life.

I had all kinds of plans for the future before a little disruption called Hurricane Katrina came along, too. And the time before the evacuation seems like it was a million years ago, and I can barely remember the time evacuated or the time after I returned, or that first year back in the carriage house. My memory is a sieve–and I used to have the most insane memory! I could remember all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys titles in order, and could even tell you the plots. I used to be able to remember details about every book I’d read, including plot and characters and scenes. I used to be amazing at Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit. Not so much anymore, sadly. I like to think I am forgetting things now because there’s so much more to remember, and some things are getting crowded out by new memories…but I think it’s more a symptom of being older than anything else.

Sigh.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Silent Night

Friday and we are somehow getting through this infernal time between Christmas and New Year’s. Every year I think to myself self, next year you need to take this time off, and every year I forget. Like an idiot.

I’m putting this on my 2019 calendar right the fuck now.

Seriously.

But we’ve made it to Friday, haven’t we, Constant Reader? I’ve managed to get back to work writing–although I should be working on polishing the Scotty, I’ve been bogged down with Bury Me in Satin so keep trying to work my way through it. But I need to get back to the Scotty and cleaning it up; the problem being I am so heartily sick of the opening chapters I don’t even want to look at them anymore. I am going to try to revise and polish the last six chapters, and then work my way back through the entire manuscript, and I still have to write the epilogue. I need to snap out of this malaise/funk I’ve been in ever since the Great Data Disaster, and seriously climb back into the writing and editing, else it will never be done. NEVER. I also need to start reading again. I’d like to finish my reread of The Shining, so I can move on to my reread of Pet Sematary, and then I am going to work my way through the TBR pile….as I’ve said before, I’m going to try to read more minority and diverse writers this next year. I’ve been buying their books all this time, of course, but the books have been languishing in my TBR pile–along with a lot of other books and authors–and I also need to read outside of the crime genre for a while, as well.

I’ve always believed reading is a crucial part of writing; you can’t be a good writer if you don’t love to read, and reading is also an excellent education in writing. The best writers should inspire you to want to equal or better them, or at least to do better with your own writing. I think not publishing anything for quite some time has also done a number on my confidence as a writer; I think we all tend to be our own harshest critics. I need to stop listening to those horrible voices in my head with their nasty whispers that undermine my confidence and make me worry about my writing; that give me Imposter Syndrome and encourage me to not bother writing anything.

Which is also self-defeating, and self-annihilation, and self-destructive.

So I am going to try to use this long weekend to reboot my life and reboot my brain and get back on track with everything. I need to read some more New Orleans history, and I need to figure out what short stories need to be finished or reworked; I realized the other day what is wrong with my story “The Problem with Autofill” and I don’t know if I can rework it properly; I don’t think the premise actually works. I probably need to free-associate the story and the root problem at its core, and figure out how to fix it. The title is probably going to have to go–perhaps I can use it for another story with a different plot–but I think there’s something there with the story and I can make something work with it.

Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.

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I Wanna Love You

Ah, it’s Tuesday, an Election Day in the republic, and I certainly hope everyone is voting today. We kind of take that for granted–the right to vote–and it’s more than a little bit on the shameful side, all due respect.

I’ve also not worked on Bury Me in Satin since Sunday; Monday was a bit of a crazy day, but I am hoping that tonight I can get back into the book.

On the other hand, I am so anxious about this election I don’t know if I can sufficiently focus or not. Heavy sigh. But then again, going deep into the manuscript might also be just the ticket to keep my mind off everything; it’s going to be a late night and I don’t know how much of it I can take. So there’s also that. I hate that every election now is so stressful, and there’s so much urgency!

I voted, of course, as I always do; I’ve voted in every election since I turned eighteen. I vote in midterms. I vote in local elections. I vote in all national elections. Hell, I’ve worked on campaigns and I’ve knocked on doors and I’ve donated money. There wasn’t a lot of terribly important things on our Louisiana ballot today; some ballot initiatives–one of which was incredibly important; requiring a unanimous verdict in criminal trials; the old law, requiring merely a majority, is a horrific Jim Crow holdover which was put into place precisely to send people of color to prison; I very proudly voted to require verdicts to be unanimous. Our local House rep was, of course, up for reelection; there were some judgeships on the ballot, and of course, secretary of state. I walked over to the International School on Camp Street and voted; the ladies who always work the elections told me this was the busiest election with the highest turnout that they can remember. I found that interesting,  particularly because there was so little on our ballots.

I finished reading Empire of Sin this weekend during the Saints game; I really enjoyed it, and I’ve now requested an inter-library loan of Alecia Long’s The Great Southern Babylon. We have a copy of it somewhere; she and Paula are friends, and she has been at the Tennessee William Festival numerous times. I also started reading Herbert Asbury’s The French Quarter, while I wait for the Latter Library to get the Long book in. One of the things I love most about New Orleans history is that the city has always been rough-and-tumble; so many of the original settlers the French sent over were criminals and/or shady people. It was actually kind of interesting to read how, in Empire of Sin for example, even back then–the 1890’s through the 1920’s–the locals shook their heads and lamented the crime rate in the city, and the corruption/incompetence at City Hall.

Some things never change.

But I got the contract for Royal Street Reveillon today in the e-mailbox; signed that sucker and sent it back. So a release date will be forthcoming shortly, and sooner rather than later there will be a cover reveal. (I also played around with potential Scotty titles for the next book in the series; came up with some really good ones, but am not sure what the plot should be…Scotty went to Jesuit High School, which has been roiled in some sex abuse scandals lately; along with, of course, the Archdiocese of New Orleans…it’s something I’ve always wanted to write about, but I don’t know if Scotty is the vessel for such a story. I am also thinking about something voodoo-ish; but then I think well, yeah, there’s SOME woo-woo in the series but for the most part the series is fairly reality based so would that even work? There’s also the whole Jean Lafitte thing I’ve always wanted to do. Heavy heaving sigh. It never ends…and I really need to focus on the book I’m writing, don’t I?)

FOCUS.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Hazard

Thursday morning and I am still feeling unwell.

And winter has arrived in New Orleans; a cold front that of course would be considered spring or fall most everywhere else north of I-10 arrived overnight. It is amusing that our local weather people are talking about a cold front when it is seventy-four degrees outside. But that’s at least a ten degree difference from yesterday, and it is getting close to mid-October, so the colder weather is fairly overdue.

Colder, not cold.

I’m hoping that today is the last day of this lingering whatever-the-hell-it-is; that one more day of soup and vitamin C and juice and DayQuil will not only make today bearable but will also cure whatever it is that ails me. I really loathe being sick–not, of course, that anyone else really likes being sick. Although I suppose there are some who do.

Yesterday as I spent the day covered in blankets in my easy chair I finished reading Circe by Madeline Miller (already wrote about it, but buy it–it’s fantastic), and then fell into some New Orleans history worm-holes on the Internet on my iPad. The history of New Orleans is so rich and vibrant; bloody and filled with not only death but defiance. It started with me seeing a post from the Historic New Orleans Collection of an article about Prohibition in New Orleans–which was pretty much ignored and not really enforced as much as it should or could have been, perhaps–and I thought to myself, self, there’s probably a really good novel that could be set in this time period dealing with Prohibition and everything else going on in the city at the time. Was it James Sallis’ Lew Griffin series that was set in the past? Which reminds me, I need to revisit that series anyway.

I am kind of amazed, really, how little of New Orleans history I actually do know. I mean, I know who founded the city and when, when it became Spanish rather than French, when it was sold to the United States, the Battle of New Orleans…but there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge. I do know some about the uglier parts of the city’s history–the homophobia and racism, Delphine LaLaurie, how I-10 was deliberately routed to destroy prospering African-American neighborhoods and of course, the hideousness of the Upstairs Lounge fire and aftermath–but there are so many gaps, as I said before. I know about the murder of the police commissioner that led to the mob violence against the Italian immigrants, and the horror of the battle of Monument Place; I know about the Axeman murders and Storyville and Bellocq and his photos of Storyville prostitutes.

But there’s so much more, and so much I don’t know. This is why I always laugh when people call me a “New Orleans expert.” I am far from that. I know neighborhoods and streets, houses and the Quarter. But there are entire populations of the city I don’t know much about; the Greeks and the Islenos, the Vietnamese in New Orleans East, and the growing Latin/Hispanic populations. There are neighborhoods I don’t know, and the West Bank is, for the most part, completely unknown to me.

In other words, I need to explore. I need to read more New Orleans history, and I need to get out in my car on weekends and drive around, exploring and visiting and sight-seeing. I do feel that my next series will most likely be set in New Orleans’ past; it’s just that I don’t know when or where or what it will be. I’ve experimented with the past in short story form; “The Weight of a Feather” (included in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories) may not be set in New Orleans, but the main character is from here. “The Blues Before Dawn”, an in-progress story, is also set in the past…and I think it’s an interesting time/subject to take up. (I don’t know how to end the story or even what the middle is, if I am to be completely honest; but it has a terrific opening and I am sure the story will come to me someday.)

I think one of the primary problems I’ve had over the past few years, that sense of feeling disconnected from the city that I’ve mentioned before, comes from, in all honesty, not reading the newspapers here. When the Times-Picayune became the Sometimes Picayune I stopped reading it; I will only visit their website to read write-ups on the Saints and LSU games. The New Orleans Advocate is doing a great job of picking up the slack, but I never think to pick it up and read it. I need to be better about that; I need to be better informed on what is going on in the city. There’s currently a scandal brewing–or it’s already brewed–about the Archdiocese and one of the Catholic boys’ schools in town; it’s what you would expect–sexual abuse and a cover-up; which has happened so many times now in other cities as to be almost a cliche. There’s a novel there as well, even though when I had the idea a long time ago–years before this scandal brewed up and made it onto the public radar–I was told it wasn’t an interesting topic and no one would want to read it.

I disagreed then, and I disagree now. I think it’s not only timely, but people would read it. It would have to not be a cliche, and it would have to be cleverly done, but I think it would work quite well.

And now, I feel the fever returning and I need to go lie down again for a moment.

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The Best Things In Life Are Free

Hello, Thursday! I am front-loaded on hours this pay week (our week runs from Friday thru Thursday) so I don’t have to go into the office until way later today; just for testing hours, and so I can run some errands today so I won’t have to do them this weekend.

Huzzah!

My kitchen is also a mess this morning, and I have a load of dishes to put away and a load of laundry to fold and put away. I would also like to get some work done on Scotty this morning; I made it through to Chapter Four or so last night, and I think I can get some more significant progress done on it today. What’s interesting is now that I am diving into the Scotty revision, my creative ADD has seemed to have significantly slowed down and I am not thinking of other things I want to write anymore. Which on the one hand is kind of cool, on the other interesting. When I was working on the WIP, for example, I was constantly distracted, just as I was as I suffered through writing the first draft of the Scotty. But this revision is going so smoothly–I haven’t reached the snags yet, I suspect, but I’ve made it much further without reaching a snag than I would have thought–that I am actually kind of enjoying this revision.

Which is really weird. I’ve always hated revisions and rewrites, but this is going very smoothly, as I said before, and the only reason it isn’t going faster is because I am a lot lazier than I should be. Last night, for example, I could have kept going but decided I’d worked long enough for the day and called it quits earlier than I could have.  Which is always par for the course. But even if I only manage to get through a chapter a day, I’ll be done in less than a month. This is my longest Scotty since Jackson Square Jazz–twenty-five chapters, a prologue and the postscript–and it’s probably the most ambitious one I’ve ever written. But I am also enjoying writing it…I am enjoying the challenge, and I am enjoying doing it the way that I used to write books–slowly and carefully, and spread out over a long period of time. There’s nothing wrong with writing fast, either–but it’s so lovely not having a deadline.

So fucking lovely.

If I’m lucky, I can get this draft and the final polish done by November 1, which is my plan for the moment. I am going to wind up missing the deadline for the anthology I started writing “The Blues Before Dawn” for–it’s mid-October–but other than that I don’t mind putting all my short stories on hold for the time being. I am really getting excited about starting to do some research for a novel set in New Orleans’ past, and even more excited about the research itself. There are so many archives in New Orleans, and the city’s past is so rich and full. (Just looking over at the little two shelf bookcase next to my desk where I keep research books, I see the following books: Gumbo Ya-Ya, Bourbon Street, The French Quarter, Empire of Sin, Plantation Parade, The Civil War in Louisiana, Mr. New Orleans, Lost Plantations, Inventing New Orleans, The Capture of New Orleans 1862, Louisiana in the Confederacy, The Thibodaux Massacre, The Ghosts of New Orleans, Frenchmen Desire Goodchildren, Getting Off at Elysian Fields, Legendary Louisiana Outlaws, and Dixie Bohemia, which barely scratch the surface! On my desk is Robert Tallant’s Voodoo in New Orleans as well.)

I need to get a library card. I can’t believe I’ve never had one in New Orleans.

All right, back to the spice mines.

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Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me

Thursday morning, and my quest to readjust to, ahem, civilian life is getting there gradually. I no longer feel like my batteries need to be recharged–at least, not for the moment–and there is some semblance of order to my kitchen. There’s a load in the dishwasher that needs to be put away, and once again there are dishes in the sink, but the situation is neither as dire nor extreme as it seemed the other day. I’ve still not finished catching up on my email, nor have I had the mental fortitude to get back to reading Circe (which is killing me), nor have I written a single word of fiction this week…but I will. I am almost to the end of my latest journal, which means I’ve been carrying around two with me this week–the almost-finished, and the new one–which means I need to make sure that ideas and story fragments inside of it must be marked or retyped or scanned or something, so as not to be forgotten.

I came up with the idea for a hilarious Nancy Drew type spoof one morning while hanging out with Dana Cameron; actually it’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the easiest way to describe it, which I happily scribbled away about in my journal, and I also came up with an idea for a crime short story which I am interested in exploring at some point; I have the WIP to work through, and the rewrite of the Scotty manuscript as well. I need to buckle down, don’t I? But I think that this week of readjustment and recharging my brain is necessary. I am inspired and I want to work hard on my writing again, I just haven’t the energy or creative strength to do it this week.

I have to run errands this morning; I don’t have to be at work until later this afternoon.

I am just fascinating this morning, aren’t I?

I am also toying with the idea of writing a supernatural-style series; it’s been on my mind for a while, and while I was in St. Petersburg I thought of a way to make it work, and combine some of the short stories I’ve written about that area of Louisiana already (and yes, The Gates of Evangeline helped with that). I am also becoming more and more interested in the history of Louisiana, and the possibility of a historical series, maybe New Orleans in the pre-WW1 era, or the 1920’s. I can’t decide.

But even though I am not putting words down, I am thinking, and that kind of counts as working, doesn’t it?

And now back to the spice mines.

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