Peaceful

Hello, Wednesday!

I slept strangely last night, in that I felt like I was awake all night but my body was resting–you know, that awful feeling of awareness where you know if you just open your eyes you’ll be awake? That. So I feel rested this morning, but at the same time I don’t completely trust that I’m rested, and suspect I’ll be very tired this evening. Today is my new short day of the week, which is lovely–I’ll be leaving the office around three-thirty this afternoon, stopping at Rouse’s for a few staples, and then I’ll be home.

One of my massive volunteer projects–the one I was so proud of finishing a few weekends ago–has reared its ugly head again, so I spent a good portion of last evening working on it before I went to bed. Another solid push and this phase will be finished; with one shorter phase still to come. Ideally, this will all be done and finished by the end of the weekend, which would be absolutely lovely. But then again, you can’t always count on things finishing when they should or on time, can you? But it was also one of those things hanging horribly over my head and causing me stress, including the stress of inertia; the feeling that there’s so much to do there’s no way I will ever get it done. I sent “Moist Money” off the other day; we’ll see how it plays. It’s a very dark story, but I kind of like it, and I really love the hardboiled gay voice of the main character.

I’ve always thought the Chanse series was my outlet for darkness; my hard-boiled series, whereas the Scotty books were more along the lines of a cozy series, even though Scotty became a licensed private eye. Even though he’s a professional, he’s still really an amateur. But there are people who have told me they love the humor in the Chanse series…which I’ve always thought was rather humorless, so there you go. (It’s like how I thought my story “Annunciation Shotgun” was pure noir and dark; people found parts of it funny even though the story was noir…which was weird for me. But at least they weren’t laughing at the story, but with it, so I didn’t mind so much. I have such a dark sense of humor anyway, I guess it was inevitable that my dark stories would also be humorous in some ways, too.)

Obviously, as I’ve been working on this project I’ve not gotten back to Chapter Twenty-four of Bury Me in Shadows (oh, so close!), but I am hopeful that if I finish the project today, I can get back to the book tomorrow night, and maybe get it completely finished Friday afternoon. I only have to work Friday night, passing out condoms in the Quarter, so I am probably going to run my errands and everything Friday during the day, so I can just stick close to the Lost Apartment over the weekend. There’s college football this weekend (HUZZAH!) and an LSU game Saturday night (GEAUX TIGERS!), and of course the Saints play on Sunday. I also want to start reading Rob Hart’s The Warehouse this weekend, and then I have Lisa Lutz’ The Swallows queued up next, before I get back to the Diversity Project.

We watched another episode of Thirteen Reasons Why last night, and Episode 8 is a particularly good one. The cast is so appealing, and they have such great chemistry together, that I am glad to overlook some things in the plot that don’t make a lot of sense. I also noticed–and maybe I am just not remembering anything from the previous seasons–but there used to be two queer kids at this school; a guy and the Asian girl who is student body president. They’ve been basically erased from the story–the guy is not even mentioned, and the girl was only in a couple of episodes in her role as student body president, but she was downgraded from supporting cast to cameos with little to no explanation. I wonder why? Anyway, last night’s episode is the one where Tyler finally tells Clay the truth about what happened to him, and why he snapped and wanted to die. The kid playing Tyler is phenomenal, probably one of the best actors in the cast, and he was heartbreaking., positively heartbreaking. I’m also not comfortable with the redemptive arc being given to the rapist, even though he’s dead. I understand what they are doing–what he did was inhuman and monstrous, but he was a person, and I think by trying to show him having regrets about what he did, and doing good things for other people, trying to atone…we never saw that in the first two seasons. But yes, it is important for people to understand that monsters are also human…as an editor told me once, years ago, when I was getting started, even Hitler loved his dogs.

Probably some of the best advice about character I’ve ever gotten from an editor.

All right, back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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Funky Worm

Well, it’s Sunday morning and the windows are covered with condensation again, which means it’s hot and humid outside (with a chance of rain). I finished reading Laura Lippman’s brilliant Lady in the Lake yesterday, but after running my errands in the heavy heat and damp, I was pretty wiped out by the time I’d put everything away and found it incredibly difficult to focus on much of anything. I did some more cleaning, brainstormed a lot more in my journal (I’ve been having some great ideas for “Never Kiss a Stranger”) and then watched the first official game of the college football season–Miami vs. Florida on ESPN last night. I’m not much of a fan of either, to be honest, but it’s an in-state rivalry game and they don’t play each other very often. It was a great game, actually; I didn’t think Miami had much of a chance, but ended up only losing 24-20, and they had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds but couldn’t convert. LSU’s first game is next weekend–a non-conference snoozer; I don’t even remember who they are playing–and soon enough the Saints will be playing their regular season games too. I love college football, and the Saints–I only watch the Saints play in the NFL and pay little to no attention about other teams unless the Saints are playing them. (This goes all the way back to when I was a kid; I’ve never cared much for the NFL but have always loved college football…if I didn’t live in New Orleans I probably wouldn’t care about the Saints, either; but you can’t live here and not love the Saints. It’s practically a city ordinance, and I will say I’ve never seen or experienced anything like the way this city loves its football team.)

Today I have a lot to do. I am going to revise my short story that’s due next weekend, and work on a big project that needs to also be finished by next weekend, and I am probably going to mess around with “Never Kiss a Stranger” a little bit today. I am also going to reread the last few chapters of Bury Me in Shadows so I can finally get those last three chapters written, hopefully by getting a start on that today, and finishing by September 1 so I can do one last pass on the rape culture novel before sending it to my publisher. I also think I’m going to work a bit on my story for the MWA anthology. It’s already finished, and I’ve revised it already a couple of times, but I think I am going to revise it one more time, give it another going over, to make sure everything is fine and ready to go. I doubt it’ll get taken, but I like submitting stories to these anthologies, and one of these days I am going to actually make it into one of those anthologies if it kills me.

And it just might!

Oddly enough, these last week or so I’ve had a sense of general malaise–the notion that I have so much to do that I’ll never get it all done, which then creates inertia/paralysis: there’s no way I’m going to get this all finished so what’s the use in trying? This is incredibly self-defeating, and I know I have a tendency to often defeat myself, so these are alarms and triggers I know to watch out for, fight against, and not get too deeply imbedded in my brain. I don’t always succeed; sometimes the inertia/paralysis wins and I get nothing done, which only exacerbates the problem. But I somehow manage to always get everything done, which is very exciting.

This coming weekend is Southern Decadence, and this is going to be my first Southern Decadence when I am not working in the office on Frenchmen Street–I don’t even have to drive through the Quarter to get to work anymore, so I won’t be caught off-guard by seeing hordes of gay men walking around in the Quarter on my way to work. I am going to do condom duty on Friday night only, giving me a lovely three day holiday weekend to enjoy, watch LSU and get to work on the rape culture novel for its final draft before submission. I’ll be glad to have that book finished, and then I have another project to work on for both October and November, and then in December I can return to Bury Me in Shadows. If my plans hold up, I should be able to then finish revising another unfinished manuscript in January before starting to write the new Chanse, while doing the final research and prep work to get started on Chlorine. These plans are, of course, always subject to change; you never know when another project is going to drop into your lap and that could possibly change everything yet again.

I really need to make a to-do list, and do some other business-type stuff today. I’ve also started packing another box of books to go into the attic; I should probably finish that today as well. I think I’m going to read Rob Hart’s The Warehouse next, followed by Lisa Lutz’ The Swallows, and then I’ll come back to the Diversity Project, probably with Michael Nava’s Lay Your Sleeping Head.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

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Still

It’s dark outside.

I slept really well last night–even woke up before the alarm this morning–and feel rested, despite the early hour. Yesterday was a kind of lovely day, despite the incredible tension of the Saints’ win over the Eagles 20-14. I managed to get a lot cleaned and organized, and while those five chapters of Scotty are still waiting to be looked over–I did realize how to revise and redo the opening of the book last night. So, that’s progress of a sort; today I am going to try to organize my notes on the book as well as read those five chapters so I can move on to the next five. This coming weekend I am planning on not doing anything other than the usual errands as well as watch the Saints game on Sunday; I may have to take my car into the dealership to have the oil changed and the tires rotated–I am going to try to do that either on Friday or, if need be, on Saturday. But if I go to the West Bank on Saturday, I can also include my other errands that day…and if I go to work early on Friday I can make the Costco run after I get off work, so there’s that as well.

And this weekend is when I am going to start back at the gym, methinks.

Always good to have a plan.

And of course, no sooner do I make plans than I have to change them. I need to take my car in for an oil change and tire rotation; so of course there’s nothing at the dealership on Saturday. So I had to make the appointment for Friday morning, which means going to the West Bank Saturday morning and negates the possibility of an after-work Costco trip Friday–which means I’ll just have to go on Saturday morning, which means if I get the groceries I need on the West Bank after my car is finished, I can be done with it. But I think taking care of the car on Friday morning before work makes the most sense on every level…particularly since one of my tires seems to be losing air with a higher degree of frequency than I would like.

See how that works? The best laid plans, and all of that.

But today seems to be going well; as long as I stay motivated and focused there’s no doubt I can get everything I need to get done, done.

The Saints game yesterday was perhaps a little more exciting and stressful than I would have liked, but they did prevail, and now the Rams are coming to town next Sunday. Should be a great game–it certainly was the last time the Rams came to town–and so should the Kansas City-New England game be a good one. It would be very exciting to go to the Super Bowl again; although nothing will ever be better than that first experience. (I went back and reread my blog entries around the Saints winning the Super Bowl and those memories are wonderful ones I will always cherish–and I always forget I wrote Who Dat Whodunnit partly to make sure it was recorded.)

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader!

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Please Don’t Go

GEAUX SAINTS!

Later this afternoon the Saints play the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles in a play-off game in the Superdome. It’s going to be loud in there, and it’s going to be extremely tense here in the Lost Apartment. I may keep Pet Sematary in my lap so I can distract myself from the nail-biting tension of watching the Saints play.

Yesterday wound up being my day off of the weekend; I didn’t write anything or edit anything, so I am going to have to do that this morning before the game. It’s fine; the game is later today so I should be able to get all the things done this morning/early afternoon that I need to get done. I managed to run the errands yesterday, which was incredibly lovely to get out of the way, and so now today I don’t have to leave the house. Depending on how much I get done this morning, I might actually go to the gym to do some stretching and cardio before the game starts; we’ll see how I feel. I am very happy about the recent weight loss, and am hopeful that will become the stepping stone to a return to being fit that I had hoped to make the case last year…although I am very well aware of the fact that my body dysmorphia will kick in and I’ll never think I’m lean enough or in good enough shape.

Heavy heaving sigh.

So, we went to see The Favourite yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. Visually it was quite stunning; although the wigs and powder of that period really leave something to be desired. It was really an enjoyable film; I never felt like it was going on too long, and those performances! I’ve been a fan of Olivia Colman since the first time I became aware of her–I think in The Night Manager, and then again in Broadchurch–and as Queen Anne she is simply phenomenal. Her performance is so strong it could easily overshadow those of her two co-stars, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, but it doesn’t; they are equally strong performances. I’ve always liked Emma Stone, and was really surprised by how strong her performance is in this film. The film is by turn funny and poignant; amusing and sad. It’s hard not to pity Queen Anne–those seventeen pregnancies!–and there are some anachronisms and historical inaccuracies in the movie, as there always are (one really can’t enjoy these films if one allows one’s self to be irritated or annoyed by those; I’ve managed to put those aside as these films are truly fictions based on actual events), but over all, I truly enjoyed it.

We also finished watching Homecoming last night; it’s a good show, and Julia Roberts is really terrific in it–and I am not a big fan of la Roberts. The final episode was kind of disappointing; we shouldn’t have put off watching it for so long. But there really wasn’t a good way that I can think of to end the show, but over all I give it high marks and would recommend it. I also started watching Titans on DC Universe after Paul went to bed (we also started watching season two of Futureman on Hulu; it doesn’t appear to be as good or as entertaining as the first; it also doesn’t help that I really don’t remember much of what happened in season one), and it’s premiere episode was a good one; the show is off to a good start. The young actor playing Dick Grayson is very attractive, and quite good in the role; more as I watch this first season play out.

So, I am going to spend the rest of this morning cleaning out my inbox, straightening up the kitchen a bit, and reading those fucking five chapters of Scotty I’ve been putting off all week. (I may even do the next five; depends on motivation and how quickly it goes.) I think Swedish meatballs are in the offing for dinner tonight; and I may even make teriyaki meatballs over night in the slow cooker.

And so, dear Constant Reader, I am about to put on my mining helmet and head back into the spice mines. Do wish me luck, won’t you?

Have a lovely Sunday.

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Cruisin

FRIDAY.

It was an interesting week, as I try to readjust to the new realities of my life. The older I get the longer it seems to take to make those necessary adjustments, but I eventually do make them. Change is good, for the most part; I often find myself in a comfortable rut that makes things seem easier–but ultimately hinders creativity and adaptability. And for a writer, things that hinder creativity and adaptability are not good things.

It’s funny,  my career has gone on so long now that I can barely remember the time before I was a published author, and my memories of those pre-Katrina years as a new author are hazy and scant. For some reason, last night I was thinking about those days for some reason–I think it had to do with the Saints being the number one seed in the play-offs, and the first game coming up this weekend; I started reading old blog entries from the season the Saints won the Super Bowl, and I started remembering back then…like how we watched the Return to the Dome Game on Monday night football while we were living back in the carriage house on a tiny little black and white television while the Lost Apartment was under construction, and how I used to always say Life is material for your writing.

It’s kind of crazy. This month–January 20th, to be exact–is the anniversary of the publication of my first novel, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, and it’s been sixteen years since it came out. It is no longer in physical print, but sixteen years later the ebook still sells. It was a completely different world back then…my first book will be eligible for a driver’s license in nine days! Madness.

I am hoping to somehow be productive this weekend, around going to see a movie tomorrow and the Saints game on Sunday. Regardless of whether the Saints win or not, it’s been a great football season for us here in the Lost Apartment; LSU was only projected to win six games at most yet wound up 10-3 and in a New Year’s 6 Bowl game, and ended up ranked Number 6 in the final polls. The Saints are currently 13-3 and had some absolutely amazing, heart-stopping wins (kind of like the season when they won the Super Bowl); and, as I said, hold the Number One seed so all their play-off games will be in the Dome. We also need to finish watching Homecoming, and I want to start watching Titans on DC Universe.

The reread of Pet Sematary is coming along nicely; it’s really a well-written book, and there are some amazingly keen insights into relationships and marriage in these first 100 pages. I remember hazily that the book’s primary theme is about death and how to face it, how to deal with it; one of the reasons it bothered me on so many levels. I know, I know, I always hold that mystery and horror fiction are two sides of the same coin; that both genres are about death, but Pet Sematary deals with it on such a micro-level, worming its way into the reader’s thoughts and memories. The death of a pet, the death of a sibling, the death of a child; King takes on all of these horribly human experiences, confronts them, and puts an all-too-very-human face on all of them. I am glad to reread it, because I am really appreciating the genius of it this time through.

And now, back to the spice mines. Today is only a half-day for me, as was yesterday, and while yesterday I’d intended to get a lot done last night, I procrastinated and didn’t get anything done; I cannot allow that to be the story of this day.

Have a great Friday!

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Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

So it’s Christmas Eve. May you all who celebrate have a lovely day, and those of you who don’t, may you also have a lovely day! I’m not really sure what’s on the agenda for today around the Lost Apartment, to be honest. I know I want to do some writing and reading and possibly some editing–I don’t think the old but it’s a holiday is going to kick in for me today after all. I had a terrific day yesterday; I cleaned and organized, the Saints won (although why they always want me to have a heart attack before the conclusion of every game is beyond me) and now have clinched the Number One seed and home games throughout the play-offs thru the Super Bowl, and I actually wrote yesterday. I wrote about another thousand words of Bury Me in Satin, finishing that bear of a Chapter Eight finally, and now I think I can move forward. I think, though, I need to go back and do some revising on the earlier chapters while writing Chapter Nine.

I also discovered something incredibly convenient–yes, I know, I am nothing if not mostly oblivious most of the time and it’s insane when something so obvious smacks in the side of the head. My computer is still acting wonky–mostly when I have Word open–and so yesterday, incredibly irritated with the Apple Spinning Wheel of Death and the concurrent Microsoft Word Not Responding message, I closed my Internet browser and Word continued to operate–still not as fast as I would prefer, but faster, at any rate–and not having the distraction of getting push alerts from Twitter and Facebook and every time I got a new email enabled me to tear right through that chapter yesterday. I had my phone with me at my desk, and so whenever I was bored or needed to look something up on-line I was able to use that. I left the browser closed, in fact, for the rest of the day, just checking in on things periodically with the phone or my iPad. This was smart, and I am probably going to do the same thing today.

I started rereading The Shining yesterday, and while I am only a few chapters in, I have to say those initial chapters are remarkable, as King sets up the Torrance family–Jack, Wendy, Danny–as initial point-of-view characters, and we get to know the three of them very well. I remember when The Shining first came out in paperback–remember, this when I was living in Kansas and there was no place to buy hardcover books because the only local bookstore (the News Depot on Commercial Street in Emporia) only carried paperbacks, so I always had to wait for the paperback editions of everything–I started reading it after I bought it and didn’t care for Jack Torrance at all, so I stopped reading before I got to the chapters from Wendy and Danny’s points of view, and put it aside. It was about a year or so before I picked it back up again–it was the shiny all silver cover, with the faceless head of the boy blending into the silver–and then read it all the way through. I didn’t reread it as much as other King novels of the period, and it’s never really been a favorite of mine, preferring ‘salem’s Lot, The Dead Zone, The Stand, and Christine by far and away; but it’s considered by many to be one of his best books and certainly one of the most terrifying books of the late twentieth century. This was also the second consecutive novel of King’s to have a writer as the main character; but Jack is a failed writer, and maybe that was one of the reasons the book never quite found a place in my heart the way other Kings of the same period did; perhaps I could relate to Jack’s failure far too much for me? I will continue reporting back as the reread progresses further.

I also managed to get some cleaning done.

Paul went out last evening after the Saints game (GEAUX SAINTS!), and so I stayed home, reading The Shining and watching A Clockwork Orange on Amazon Prime for the first time. I’ve always wanted to see the movie; I have the book somewhere in my TBR pile or on one of the TBR shelves, and when I saw yesterday that it was free for streaming on Amazon I thought what the hell and decided to watch it. It is…interesting, for wont of a better word. Kubrick was a great director; there’s no question about that, but I also felt, from the few films of his that I’ve seen, he was very cold as a director; his movies always come across as kind of emotionless and cold. That style works incredibly well with the subject matter of this film and its theme. It’s also visually stunning, and despite the cold distance afforded by the camera lens, it’s portrait of a future desensitized to all kinds of violence–both sexual and physical–and the equally horrific answer the government comes up with to it, cannot help but keep your attention but also will make one think. I suspect I will be thinking about A Clockwork Orange for some time…and now I really would like to read Anthony Burgess’ novel.

So many books I need to read. Heavy heaving sigh.

But as I said earlier, I think I am going to continue with the Short Story Project going into the new year, and I am going to also have my own Diversity Project, where I am going to try to read everything in my TBR piles that were written by minority writers of some sort. It’s called leading by example, people, and I hope some of you will join me.

And on that note, this work isn’t going to do itself, unfortunately, so yes, even on Christmas Eve, I must spend some time mining spice.

Have a lovely day, everyone!

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I Will Remember You

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day; which originally was called Armistice Day. The day began as a remembrance of what was then considered, and called, the Great War. There had never been any war prior that was so awful, so horrific, so bloody. It changed the face of the world…empires crumbled and new nations rose from the ashes of the old. But the peace treaty that ended it was short-sighted and vengeful.

World War I was a horrific experience. “The war to end all wars” was what it was called; in the United States it was sold to Americans as “making (sic) the world safe for democracy”–despite being allied with the despotic autocracy of the Romanov empire in Russia. It was a most hideous war, one that left both the winners and the losers heartily sick of the waste of war and its pointlessness…yet merely served as a prelude to the much more horrific second world war; its conclusion set the stage for the rise of the Fascists in Italy and Germany, and the utter collapse of the German empire around the world, as well as the utter exhaustion and weakness of the surviving empires of the French and the British, set the stage for the rise of Imperial Japan in the Pacific and Asia…this rise ultimately led Imperial Japan into conflict with the United States. So, the “peace” of the first world war planted and fertilized the seeds for the second.

The flower of Europe’s youth died in this war,  in the trenches, in the mud and the wet and the cold. PTSD was first recognized after this war in soldiers who came home; only it was called shell shock back then. The boys who went off to this war came home as men forever changed by what they’d seen and experienced and borne witness to. It was a new kind of war, one presaged by the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. It would take yet another war for humanity to begin to rethink war.

And of course, the existence of nuclear weapons also had a lot to do with that critical rethinking.

I abhor war because I’ve studied it; for me, supporting the troops has always, for me, meant not putting them in unnecessary danger. Wars might sometimes be necessary, but they are, above and beyond all else, waste. Waste of lives, waste of money, waste of resources, all in the service of what is far-too-often an unclear, amorphous goal or purpose. I value the lives of our military, and not only the sacrifice of those serving but of their families, and I don’t think their lives and limbs should be placed in jeopardy without being absolutely certain there is no other alternative, and if they are to be place in such jeopardy, it should be for clearly defined, well understood objectives. I also believe they deserve everything we can, as a country, can do for them after their service. Our VA Hospitals should be the best in the world. No veteran should be homeless or unable to get the help they need to get back on their feet. No service family should be on food stamps, or go hungry, or worry about how to pay their bills or feed and clothe their children.

It’s the absolute least we can do for them.

Happy Veterans’ Day, and thank you for your sacrifice and service.

The Saints won big! Huzzah! GEAUX SAINTS! That was a lot of fun to watch, and I must say, the Saints are looking pretty amazing this year.

I also read “The Compendium of Srem” by F. Paul Wilson, from Bibliomysteries Volume 2, edited by Otto Penzler, for the Short Story Project.

Tomas de Torquemada opened his eyes in the dark.

Was that…?

Yes. Someone knocking on his door.

“Who is it?”

“Brother Adelard, good Prior. I must speak to you.” Even if he had not said his name, Tomas would have recognized the French accent. He glanced up at his open window. Stars filled the sky with no hint of dawn.

“It is late. Can it not wait until morning?”

“I fear not.”

“Come then.”

With great effort, Tomas struggled to bring his eighty-year-old body to a sitting position as Brother Adelard entered the tiny room. He carried a candle and a cloth-wrapped bundle. He set both next to the Vulgate Bible on the rickety desk in the corner.

I’ve not read F. Paul Wilson before; I know of him, of course, and have always meant to get around to reading him…but you know how it is, Constant Reader: too many books and authors, not enough time.

But “The Compendium of Srem” is a terrific story; about a mysterious book that comes to the attention of Torquemada and the Inquisition in Avila. Wilson provides just enough background for the story to place it firmly in its time period: Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella, during the time after the reconquest and after Columbus sailed; when they were purifying the country of heresy (Moors and Jews). This story shows how simple it can actually be to write historical fiction–just a dib and a dab lightly dropped into the story, to place it in a context of time and place, without over-embellishing or over-explaining (the dreaded info dump); which of course has put ideas into my head. I greatly enjoyed reading this story, and look forward to reading more of Wilson.

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