Heartbreaker

Adjusting to normality after the madness of Carnival is never an easy thing to do.

Fortunately, it always involves a short work week–three days–and before I know it the weekend will be here and Monday will be when things really get back to normal around here.

In other exciting news, my own Mardi Gras Mambo was included in a round-up of crime novels set during Carnival, along with noted writers whom I admire, such as Bill Loefhelm, James Sallis, James Lee Burke and Barbara Hambly, among others. (You can check out the entire list here.)

Isn’t that lovely? It’s always nice–and a bit of a surprise–when I find myself on lists like this, whether it’s “gay crime writers” or “books about New Orleans” or “New Orleans crime writers” or pretty much anything, really. I must confess, whenever I see a list where I could be included and am not, it always stings a little bit; I suppose that’s something I will never get used to…and I always wonder, is it because I’m gay? Do queer writers not count? Of course when it’s a list of queer writers it can be a bit maddening, but if you let things like that derail you or hurt your feelings…you’re in the wrong business.

You have to not let the exclusions bother you and celebrate the inclusions…which isn’t easy.

Yesterday was a day of utter discombobulation as I tried (and failed, really) to adapt back to my work schedule, which means I did go to work but the rest of my life floundered around the edges. I didn’t even get around to answering emails yesterday, which was a priority, or paying the bills. But this morning I paid the bills (which is always a crushing blow on pay day) and have another hour or so before I have to get ready for work–so the goal is to tear through my emails and get as many answered as possible.

Fingers crossed, at any rate.

I also started rereading Bury Me in Shadows last night; and yes, the first chapter is, as I feared, a total mess–but it’s fixable, and I am going to continue rereading those first ten chapters this week and work on fixing them before moving on to the rest of the book. I just need to get past this weird feeling leftover from Carnival, where I don’t feel like I am actually a part of my life but am kind of drifting alongside it, observing but not participating in it, if that makes any weird kind of sense.

But I am hoping today will sort that out. The kitchen is a mess–I did the dishes when I got home last night, but there still is a mess everywhere in here and the floor needs to be done–and get some more things sorted and organized. I slept really well last night and didn’t want to get out of bed this morning; tomorrow is a get up at the crack of dawn morning but it’s also only half-a-day, so I am going to try to get all my errands done tomorrow afternoon on the way home from work so as to be able to, once again, not leave the house this weekend.

I find that I really do enjoy those weekends when I don’t leave the house.

I also managed to read another short story last night, from Norah Lofts’ Hauntings: Is There Anybody There?, titled “The Bird Bath”:

Opening her door for the first time to Mr. Mitson, Mrs. Pryor felt a sense of recoil. He looked like a tramp of the kind not often seen nowadays. He had a very red face, sharp red-rimmed little eyes, and a week’s growth of beard. He wore a dirty old army greatcoat, made for a bigger man, and a hat which had long ago lost its original color and shape. He smelled strongly of beer.

Nearby, however, actually in her tiny drive, stood a reassuring sight, a white pony, plump and shiny and with the placid look of a well-treated animal. Attached to the pony was a small cart, bearing in white paint the words–J. Mitson, Dealer. This morning J. Mitson was dealing in firewood.

Over the next few days, as the widowed Mrs. Pryor settles into her new home–having returned to England after years abroad with her husband–in East Anglia, Mr. Mitson keeps coming back and selling her things…with the final thing he sells her being a strange bird bath; a plinth with a wide open space at the top.

And that’s when things get interesting.

Another enjoyable, Gothic style, softly whispering ghost story. I love that Lofts isn’t into outright horror or jump scares, but like The Turn of the Screw and The Haunting of Hill House, her whispered stories make the hair stand on end and the skin crawl.

SO glad I got this book!

And now back to the spice mines.

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Should’ve Never Let You Go

And my first morning of vacation looms bright, with a stunningly blue sky and the sun blinding me through my windows. The clouds will roll in later this afternoon, per the weather forecast, and the thunderstorms aren’t supposed to arrive until around eleven; well after the second parade has passed. Tonight’s parades are Druids and (Stevie) Nyx; so only two, to prep us for the madness of Thursday, which includes Muses.

So much to get done today, should I choose to do any of it; I need to get caught back up on Scotty revising, and there’s always cleaning to do around the Lost Apartment. I also have to make groceries and collect the mail, and I’d like to go to the gym at some point this afternoon as well to begin my reconnection with taking better care of my body. There’s also reading to do; I need to read the next story in the Murder-a-Go-Go’s anthology, and I need to finish the ghost story I’m reading in Norah Lofts’ Hauntings, and of course, the delicious pleasure that is Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long also awaits on the end table next to my reclining chair. I need to set aside some time to finish that because I need to read my homework for the panel I’m moderating at the Tennessee Williams Festival–Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister, Samantha Downing’s My Lovely Wife, and Kristien Hemmerechts’ The Woman Who Fed the Dogs. I am also falling very far behind on the Diversity Project, which is enormously disappointing to me.

I’m sort of in a malaise in which I keep putting things off because I don’t want to do them, which isn’t really like me–or at least, the me I’ve been for the last half of my life. The first half of my life was when I just avoided things I didn’t want to deal with, which never ended well. I’m not entirely sure what’s causing it, and the Great Data Disaster of 2018 was so long ago now (three months, almost four!) that I can’t keep blaming things on it; but I can really trace this back to losing that weekend’s worth of work and getting derailed…because I was also on a roll at that point, and I’ve never quite gotten that momentum back.

Something innocuous I posted on social media blew up in a way I certainly never intended, and no, I don’t mean the post that someone needs to do a noir reboot of The Partridge Family, which I still think is a brilliant idea–after all, we never really know what happened to Shirley’s husband, who is rarely, if ever mentioned; and let’s face it, none of those kids looked even remotely related to each other. I envision Shirley as a not only a black widow going through numerous husbands and baby-daddies, but also being a horrific stage mother, forcing her children into musical careers, while having an affair with their sleazy manager, Reuben.

No, I idly posted that someone needs to do one of those music-inspired crime anthologies based on the music of Pat Benatar…and then came up with the title, Crimes of Passion: Crimes Stories Inspired by the Music of Pat Benatar.

Well, it kind of took off, with people replying to my tweet that they’d write to it, or responding on Facebook that they wanted to, even going so far as to pick the songs they wanted. At first–I was at work–I wanted to say, yo, everyone, it was just a thought, I’m not actually doing this but as the day went on I began to think, more and more, that hey, maybe you should think about doing this. More than enough people have offered to write for it, so many so that if anyone drops out there would still be more than enough stories to fill out a volume and for it to be really good.

So…I’m considering it, and considering publishers to approach. So maybe, just maybe, that will be my next anthology.

MAYBE.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Desire

It’s a lovely morning, with a blue sky and the sun shining, and it might be a bit chillier than it was yesterday–but the high is forecast for the seventies and there’s no rain in the forecast.

I slept deeply and well last night, partly from exhaustion. Paul, of course, is in the final weeks before the Festival so has been working late at the office and then staying up till the wee hours of the morning working at home, so yesterday he was catching up on sleep most of the day so I was, alas, without my trusted parade route partner as I wandered down to the corner for the Pontchartrain and Choctaw parades. I did well for myself with bead-and-throw catching, but it started sprinkling while I waited for the third parade, so I walked back home. As soon as I sat down in my easy chair, however, exhaustion set in. My legs and lower back were aching, so I decided it wouldn’t hurt to skip the next parade. As Sparta and Pygmalion were coming later, I started watching Versailles and actually got through three episodes. Paul got ready for the night parades…and it started raining. There was also thunder here–which also means lightning–and I decided that it simply didn’t make sense to stand in the rain and possibly catch a chill that would ruin the rest of the season, so I remained ensconced under my blanket in my easy chair and watched television: the CNN docuseries The 2000’s is very well done. This morning my back is still a bit sore and all the joints of my leg–hip, knee, ankle–ache a bit; but I have far too many friends riding in King Arthur to skip that one today.

And I also go on my little staycation on Wednesday, so there’s that, as well.

I do love parade season, I have to say. I may even have to write another Scotty-at-Mardi-Gras book at some point.

Or just some Mardi Gras set book. I could write a hundred books or stories about Mardi Gras and never really cover it all, you know.

How I do love New Orleans.

I also managed to revise a chapter of Scotty yesterday; I should be able to do another this morning as well. I read some more of Lori Roy’s superb Gone Too Long while I was grilling yesterday; it’s most excellent and you need to preorder it immediately. I also managed to get some emails cleaned out; hope to do some more this morning as well as reading the next story in Murder-a-Go-Go’s, and perhaps another Norah Lofts ghost story.

I suppose I’ll watch the Oscars tonight after the parades. It’s really not much fun anymore, as all the pre-awards kind of take all the suspense and excitement out of the Oscars. The acting winners will be Regina King (who deserves all the awards), Mahershala Ali, Glenn Close, and Rami Malek, barring the every-once-in-a-blue-moon surprise. I’ll probably read while it’s on…although I’d love to see Olivia Colman win; not only was she amazing in The Favourite but her acceptance speeches are pure gold. But Glenn Close is way overdue; she should have won for both (or either) Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons, which I’d actually like to watch again.

And now, I am waking up and needing some sustenance; perhaps some peanut butter toast or a bowl of honey-nut Cheerios?

And then it’s back to the spice mines.

Happy Carnival, all!

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Romeo’s Tune

It’s PARADE SEASON, boys and girls!

Tomorrow’s afternoon parades were moved up an hour due to the possibility of inclement weather–which does rather make one wonder about the evening parades–but tis Carnival Season in New Orleans, so the weather is what it is, and we celebrate and enjoy around it. I mean, it usually rains during Jazz Fest, too. And I don’t think I ever remember a Carnival season where there wasn’t at least one cold, rainy night for parades.

The weather has been interesting lately; what I like to call New Orleans Gothic. It’s gray, rainy and warm during the day, and then the fogs rolls in as the sun goes down and it gets about ten degrees cooler. The cloud cover reflects the lights, so the clouds above at night aren’t dark but strange, light shades of orange and pinks and blues, yet closer to the ground, beneath the live oaks, its dark and the fog wraps itself around things so things begin to disappear about five feet or so ahead of you.

As I drove home from work and running errands late yesterday afternoon I began to notice the tell-tale signs; portable fencing lined up on neutral grounds, ready to be put into place for the parades. More and more houses are hanging Carnival flags and putting up their decorations. Fences are festooned with beads glittering in the sun when it peeks through the clouds for a moment or two. The grocery stores have, of course, been stocking King cakes since before Christmas, and everything you would need to party outdoors for days on end are on prominent display throughout the stores. The mood of the city is also starting to lift, which is always lovely.

New Orleans is always in a state of flux; but change seems to come slower here than it does in other places, and there’s always some resistance to those changes. I was thinking the other day that the New Orleans of today is so vastly different than the New Orleans I moved to all those years ago, that I fell in love with even longer ago. But no matter what, it’s always New Orleans here; there are some things that never change, that never go away. The friendliness, for one, and that peculiar to New Orleans us against the rest of the world mentality I’ve never really experienced anywhere else; the way the city will fight and squabble and complain and argue and bicker, but band together as one against outsiders. (In some ways, the Saints are the embodiment of this particular virtue, but that’s a subject for another time.)

I was at the office a mere two hours this morning, which I spent doing odds-and-ends I’m responsible for, and then hit the grocery store on my way home since I won’t be able to get anywhere this weekend. It’s warm–low seventies–but yeesh, is it ever muggy out there! I was sweating bringing the groceries in from the car, which…I mean, it’s still February. But I got enough stuff to get us through until the staycation next week starts.

I also read another one of Norah Lofts’ ghost stories from Hauntings: Is There Anybody There?, titled “Victorian Echo:”

When my great-aunt Julia died she was eighty-seven, and she had attained her last objective, which was to die in her own house.

She left far more money than anyone would have expected. Most of it went to rather obscure charities, but she left her house, its contents, and a thousand pounds to me; a surprise, and a very pleasant one. She had always lived rather parsimoniously; I had sometimes wondered if she had enough to eat and on my visits had taken food, making rather thin excuses.

Jon and I went out to look at my inheritance on a Sunday, the only day on which we were both free. It was mid-March, a sunny, windy, hopeful day with catkins in th ehedges and primroses in the ditches. Joe did not know the house well; he had come with me a time or two, but Julia disliked him and showed it.

Norah Lofts’ ghost stories are more Gothic than scary; her goal isn’t necessarily to give you a jump scare, but rather to get under your skin and make it crawl just a little bit. Her Victorian style of writing is absolutely perfect for this; she’s very much in the school of The Turn of the Screw and Shirley Jackson in that way. For our happily married young couple in this story, pinching pennies to make ends meet, this inheritance of a house and a small fortune is indeed a blessing for them…until they start to notice that their behavior changes when they are actually inside the house…

Great, great fun.

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On the Radio

So, it’s Friday and yet another week has passed by. Next Friday is the first parade day of this year’s Carnival madness…I cannot believe it is nigh upon us–and it’s late this year. Madness….Mardi Gras madness, to be exact.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, so Paul got us Chinese take-out for dinner so I wouldn’t have to cook, which was lovely. I do enjoy some shrimp lo-mein. We then proceeded to watch this week’s Schitt’s Creek, which was terrific–the David/Patrick pairing is one of my favorite gay couples on any television series–and another episode of PEN15, which I think we’re going to let go of. Maybe if we were younger women, we’d get it and enjoy it more; I’m sure it’s a fine show–we simply aren’t the target audience for it, which is fine. Not every television show or movie or book, for that matter, is targeted to everyone.

Since I already ran my errands yesterday, I came straight home from the office today–it was a short day for me, which made getting up so early a little less painful. Huzzah!

Also, when I got home from work yesterday the house next door had been tented for termites. It was a little surreal looking out the window and seeing the house next door hidden beneath an enormous yellow-and-red tarp that more closely resembled a circus tent than anything else. (I’ve always wondered why the termite tarps/tents are yellow and red…but a google search proved that, while they are always striped, they aren’t always yellow and red.) This morning when I got up, I noticed that the clips holding it together near the back of the house had given way and there was a rather large gap; a mere ten minutes later I almost jumped out of my skin when the part in the front of the house came tumbling down–particularly because it was so early in the morning. As I wondered if I should call my landlady (she knows the woman who owns the house next door) the tarpaulin over the back of the house began moving, and over the top of the fence I saw some hands. Then I heard voices….and the rest of the tarp came down.

So yes, the termite assassins were un-tenting the house at that ungodly hour of the morning. Who knew?

So, as I sit here, the washing machine is chugging on the last load of blankets, and the second-to-last load of bed linens is tumbling in the dryer. There’s also a load of clothes to do, but it’s still early. I’ve also unloaded the dishwasher and reloaded it with what was in the sink. I am currently cleaning the coffee-maker, and will probably keep cleaning the kitchen a bit as I sit here. I am going to try to get a chapter done before I retire to the easy chair and Lori Roy’s ARC (#ilovemylife), and possibly another ghost short story from Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? by Norah Lofts. I am going to go to the AT&T store tomorrow to see if I can trade my phone in–it’s past time–and other than that, I intend to spend the weekend reading, revising, and cleaning. Maybe watching some fun stuff on the TV; there are all kinds of movies and TV shows available on the streaming services I pay for that I want to watch.

There are also some odds and ends here in the office/kitchen area–as well the tables around my easy chair–that I should just bite the bullet and do something with. I’ve been meaning to update my address book for Christmas cards and so forth forever; the Christmas cards I’ve been saving are piled up on top of one of the filing cartons. I’ve also apparently made an error of some sort in my checking account; the bank says I have more money than my register does, and everything has cleared that I recorded. This happens periodically because I absolutely hate to balance my checkbook, and it always, without fail, means I’ve deducted something twice–I’ll buy something on-line or pay a bill, and then I’ll record it in the register. Then a few days later I’ll check my account on-line because I know I’ve forgotten to record something small–like NyQuil–that I got at the CVS across the street from the office. I’ll then notice the other amount–whether a purchase or paid bill–and will record it again.

Sometimes there are multiple mistakes.

I also have a tendency to round up in my check register, so that there’s less money showing than I actually have (one of my biggest fears is bouncing a check or having my debit card be declined at a cash register), which also makes determining what the actual balance really is a problem to figure out.

And yes, I think I have delayed revising sufficiently long now.

So, without further ado, ’tis back to the spice mines with me.

Happy Friday, Constant Reader!

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Tired of Toein’ the Line

Friday! I’m in love!

Heh heh. Well, it’s true; I have been for almost twenty four years. It’s hard sometimes to wrap my mind around how long that is…it’s hard sometimes to wrap my mind around how old I am. But sometimes…when I have to get up ridiculously early (like today) I feel every minute of those fifty-seven years.

Heavy sigh.

But today is a short day and I’ll be off work at one this afternoon, and then it’s off to run my errands and come home to clean and revise the Scotty. The goal for today is to get somewhat caught up on the revision and to finish reading Devil in a Blue Dress, which I am really enjoying. I also want to read another one of Norah Lofts’ ghost stories from Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? I really like that her ghost stories are more Gothic and quietly creepy than anything else; that’s kind of the vibe I’m trying to go for in the WIP, so choosing to read her stories was probably a rather wise move on my part–unintentional, of course, but no less wise in any case.

And is it just me, or has the world gone crazy? Last night I saw the perfect tweet, one that perfectly encapsulated this week: If you didn’t predict that ‘politicians in blackface’ would get upstaged by ‘dick pics of billionaires’ by the end of the week, I don’t know what to tell you.

This brave new world in which we all live.

I made Swedish meatballs for dinner last night and they were most delicious, thank you very much. I don’t really follow a recipe anymore; I just kind of do it from memory, which means they taste different every time I make them. I have a slightly messy kitchen as a result, but it won’t take long to get it cleaned and set to rights again. And two weeks from today the first parades of Carnival roll down St. Charles Avenue. It’s hard to believe that the parades are nigh; I am kind of looking forward to them, to be honest. With the move to the new office and the realization that I simply can’t walk to work anymore during parade season, this will be the first time in years I’ll actually be able to enjoy the parades without having to deal with walking to and from work almost every day. I may actually make it through the season without the bone-tired exhaustion I’ve become accustomed to–madness.

The temperature dropped about twenty degrees overnight, and it’s supposedly going to drop a little further. Of course, that means it’s in the fifties, which is still much more tolerable than the bitter cold in many parts of the country; I think there’s a hundred degree difference between the weather here and in Montana, per a post I saw on Facebook this morning from a friend who lives up there. A hundred degree difference. How insane is that?

Pretty fucking insane, I’d say.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines with me. I’m hoping to get the revision of Chapter 4 finished this morning before i head to the office…fingers crossed, Constant Reader.

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Better Love Next Time

Hello, Thursday morning, how are you doing?

This week went by pretty fast, I am thinking, and this is the first time in a long time I can recall not being worn out and tired. Usually Monday night I start dragging, Tuesday night I’m exhausted, Wednesday I am a little regenerated but still tired, and by the time Thursday morning rolls around I am pretty much the walking dead. But last night I stopped on the way home from work at the grocery store–where I ran into Jean Redmann AND Wacky Russian–then came home and did the laundry. I also wasn’t all that tired last night. Mentally fatigued, sure–but not physically. And I can deal with mental fatigue much easier than I can with physical.

I feel pretty decent this morning as well, which is lovely. I only have to work half a day today and tomorrow at the office, and so when I get home this afternoon I should be able to get some things done before Paul gets home. I am in the midst of some chores–the dishwasher is full and needs to be emptied; I am in the midst of two loads of laundry, and of course the filing has piled up again, which is ridiculous. I did manage to get some revising done yesterday; not much, but I do feel I am doing a really good job on this round, and Scotty’s voice is starting to emerge at last. I am hoping to get caught up this evening and tomorrow, and really get moving on it this weekend.

Fingers crossed! I also want to finish reading Devil in a Blue Dress this weekend…and since there has been so much recent publicity about it, maybe I’ll read A. J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window next.

Yesterday I got a copy of Norah Lofts’ Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? I read Lofts when I was a teenager, and mostly read her fictional biographies of queens and historical women–The Concubine, The King’s Pleasure, A Rose for Virtue, Eleanor the Queen, Crown of Aloes, How Far to Bethlehem?–and some of her ‘romances’ (I would hardly call them romances, but that was how they were marketed…I defy anyone to read Nethergate and tell me it’s a romance). She also wrote a witchcraft novel called The Little Wax Doll, which I don’t remember much about but I did enjoy reading. Somewhere recently I read an article or something on Lofts and her ghost stories…so started tracking down a copy of her collection. I read the first story yesterday between clients, and it’s called “Mr. Edward”:

If I’d been in the habit of bothering God about trivial, material things, I should have said that Miss Gould’s suggestion came as an answer to prayer. Ever since the Easter holiday I had been worried about the long one in the summer. When Tom died and I found a post as school matron and David went to boarding school, my father had said that we must spend all holidays with him. At first, though dull, they were pleasant enough; but as David grew older Father grew more critical, making outspoken remarks about the behavior of the young nowadays and accusing me of spoiling. I confess I am inclined to be indulgent during the holidays; David’s school is pretty Spartan, I don’t see him often, and I am very fond of him.

This is how the story starts, and our main character agrees to house sit and oversee renovation work being done on Miss Gould’s house for the summer. And once she and her son arrive…she begins having odd experiences around the house; small things, nothing absolutely terrifying, but very Gothic in their smallness…and Lofts shows that the little things can be just as terrifying as the BIG ones horror/supernatural tales seem to favor of late. I love the old Gothic style of scary stories, to be honest, and Lofts’ Gothic, formal writing style, reminiscent of The Turn of the Screw, is very quiet and very unsettling.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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