September Morn

So, yesterday I was lazing around, trying to fix a technology issue (involving calls to Tech Support and so forth) but not letting it get to me–despite the disruption to my day that this was causing. I did feel myself starting to slide down the slippery slope from irritation/frustration to the first stage of anger, but I distracted myself by watching something on television. I’d intended to spend the day–well, that doesn’t matter; suffice it to say my frustration was growing. I then watched something on television that completely shifted my mindset (more on that later); when Tech Support called back I simply suggested–since what needed to reboot wasn’t finished–that we simply call it a day and try again tomorrow at noon. Of course, not ten minutes after ending that call the final phase began–which meant, as I laughed at myself, that had I had them call me back in another two hours, we could finish resolving the problem. It’s kind of funny, but really–I wouldn’t have wanted to do with it two hours later, either.

But when I noticed that the final stage had started, and I laughed about it, I looked down at my notepad and opened another tab to do a search…and as soon as the results came up I just stared at my computer screen in stupefaction as the key to the next Scotty book opened a door in my brain. I think I mentioned this the other day, but there are two stories I want to tell for the next Scotty book; two different crimes, but how to connect them together? I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around this for years now, years, and just looking at the search results page triggered exactly how to do it. Both stories will intertwine perfectly now.

And this? This is why writers drink.

But nevertheless, it was a good feeling, and made my evening. I like writing books with complicated plots, and I’ve always felt that the Scotty books (after Mardi Gras Mambo) weren’t as complex as the pre-Katrina ones. Bourbon Street Blues wasn’t complicated, but Jackson Square Jazz and Mardi Gras Mambo were…and after Katrina I simplified the plots a lot. Royal Street Reveillon is a return to complicated plots and subplots, and if the series is going to continue, I have to be able to further challenge myself when I am writing the books. Part of the reason I went off-contract was because, despite the fact that I like routines and order, I felt the deadline treadmill I’d climbed on was a rut and I was becoming far too complacent with the work I was producing. (I’m not saying I’m not proud of the work nor that it wasn’t good work; and maybe that’s just all a part of my Imposter Syndrome complex, but I always feel like my work could be better, that’s all I am saying; and whether not writing on deadline is making the work better remains to be seen…but it’s not as stressful for me to create the work as it was.)

You never can win. I was just thinking that had I been on a deadline with Royal Street Reveillon, it would have wound up being a shorter book and a major subplot would have had to have been cut out from it. Maybe the longer version is more self-indulgent; I don’t know. But I feel good about the book; satisfied with it…and it’s been a while since I’ve written a book I felt this satisfied about. And that’s going to have to be my measuring yardstick going forward. How do I feel about the work? I know I’m not going to please everyone with it, and when people give me valid reasons for not liking it I will listen and decide whether it is something I should take into consideration going forward, or not.

This week I plan on getting back to work on the WIP. Today’s agenda is spending the rest of the morning reading Alafair Burke’s brilliant The Better Sister, cleaning out my email inbox, and rereading the first ten chapters I’ve written on the WIP. I also want to spend some time cleaning today; I still haven’t done the floors, and I’d wanted to do the staircase as well. I feel rested this morning–although I could probably sleep for another hour or so–and that’s kind of nice. I’m still not sleeping completely through the night, but some good sleep is better than none.

I watched a few more episodes of The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann, and while I am enjoying it, it got me to thinking–as documentaries are wont to do–about sex trafficking and the abduction of children for whatever reason (Lori Roy addressed this very beautifully in Gone Too Long, and I will repeat myself: you need to preorder that book because you will love it) and how privilege comes into play with dead or missing children. Maybe at some point I, too, will write about missing children but at the same time I don’t want to seem exploitative…therein lies the rub, doesn’t it? It also astounds me that no one ever questioned the McCanns and their friends’ stories earlier than they did. But the big question for me–and I’ve not finished watching, but I know this story has no resolution–is, how did they get rid of the body and how were they able to do it? How did they know where to dispose of it?

Also, as I watched, I couldn’t help remembering Alex Marwood’s superb novel The Darkest Secret, which you should also read, Constant Reader, if you haven’t already (and if you haven’t, all the shame should be heaped upon you).

I suppose the whole privilege thing has been on my mind lately because of the college admissions bribery scandal that dropped this week. I, too, have heard the nonsensical complaints about “affirmative action” over the years–how students of color got to go to college for free and took the spot of a white student with a higher GPA; how allowances were made for minorities at the expense of white kids; how a person of color (or woman) got a job a white man should have; on and on it goes, lie after lie after mistruth after falsehood, all with the common denominator of no one is as oppressed as the straight white male. The public outcry about this admissions scandal was a bit of a surprise for me–what about legacies, or wealthy people who basically donate money to colleges so their kids can get admitted regardless of grades or abilities? That has been going on for years, and in particular at the elitist Ivy League colleges. One founding principle this country was founded upon was a mistrust of elites and a class-based society; the founders did not want their new country, their United States, to have the same problems with elites and classes that the mother society, that of Great Britain, had. And yet…here we are, with moneyed people convincing the poorer and middle classes to vote against their own best interests so the moneyed, privileged class can become wealthier and more privileged.

Ah, well.

And on that note, I should probably return to the spice mines. I am running out of time to get my moderator homework done, and that is a big no-no. I mean, I am sure I could lead a great discussion without having read the books–I’ve done it before–but I prefer to be better prepared, plus the books look fantastic.

God knows I’m loving Alafair’s.

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Refugee

Tuesday was yet another night of non-deep sleep; in which again I spent most of the night asleep than half-asleep then awake: lather, rinse, repeat.

I’m holding Daylight Saving Time solely responsible for this horror, I might add, because I was sleeping beautifully before this.

But last night was good; I slept through the night and feel very rested and very much better this morning. I made it through the rough part of my week and now have the easy, downhill path to my weekend. Being tired, I’ve accomplished little of note this week; I am not even keeping up with my emails…but now that I am past those two days and I’ve slept well, maybe now I can get caught up on everything I’ve tragically fallen behind on.

I do so hate when that happens.

But if I put my head down and just start ploughing through, I should tear through it all in no time. (Famous last works, no?)

But I sent the finished manuscript for Royal Street Reveillon in on Sunday, and I think part of the exhaustion (and not sleeping) comes from the inevitable relaxation and sudden drop of stress resultant from finishing a book. I always forget, from book to book, that there’s always about a week’s worth of resetting my brain that is required, and I rather stumble through that week, zombie-like, as my burnt out mind slowly resets and recovers. Bearing this in mind, I decided that it’s silly to beat myself up over not getting back into the current WIP immediately; I stopped that nonsense yesterday morning when the realization dawned, through my foggy, tired brain, that this is normal. So I’m going to instead spend this week getting focused on resetting everything, reevaluating where I’m at on things, and reading. The festivals are in two weeks, and I’ve got to finish my homework before the panel I’m moderating.

I’ve also got a diversity column to write for the next issue of the Sisters in Crime quarterly newsletter.

So, today I am going to focus simply on reading Alafair Burke’s fabulous The Better Sister, making a to-do list, organizing my bills, and figuring out what I need to get done by the end of the year; I also need to probably go back and figure out what projects I was planning on doing/working on this year.

It’s all about resetting.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Wait for Me

The first Monday after the time change is always the worst, isn’t it?

I was thinking, as I went to bed last night and didn’t feel tired in the least, that I’ve had several weeks running of good sleep, and I wondered if the time change would affect that. Sure enough, it did; I wasn’t deeply asleep ever all night, instead in that miserable half-sleep where you know if you open your eyes you’ll be awake. I fucking hate that, and as such, am feeling really tired and sleepy and frayed this morning; so much so that I even considered calling in sick for a brief moment. It’s currently pitch-black outside–which doesn’t help, and it’s seventy-three degrees, with a high of eighty-four forecast.

Complete and utter madness–which also means my sinuses are also acting up a bit, which probably also has something to do with feeling miserable this morning. But I am also confident I can make it through the week…if I can survive today and tomorrow, that is.

I wrapped up the final copy edit of Royal Street Reveillon yesterday, preparatory to turning it in today, and really feel terrific about it. I honestly believe it’s the best Scotty I’ve done since the original three, and writing it off contract was definitely the smart way to go with the book. I am probably going to spend this week mostly thinking rather than writing; I am going to reread the ten chapters I’ve already got written of the WIP and figure out what tweaks are necessary to those before finishing the second half of the book. I’ve got my main character pretty much figured out now, but there are also some issues with the plot and the pacing I need to get figured out. I also kind of need to figure out how to deal with April’s revision of the old WIP (as opposed to the current WIP) and how precisely I want to make that work.

As I’ve said before, I’ve been trying to force it to work based on an original story idea that has morphed over about thirty years into about five or six different plots and stories…but I’d also forgotten that I’d essentially used all the characters from that original idea for Sara, so yeah, I have to have new characters. The primary theme of that story, I think, is alienation, and that’s key to revising the hell out of it.

Ah, the writing life. Always such a joy.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Stand by Me

Friday; the last day of my work week and it’s a half-day, at that. How lovely.

Or it would be, but I have to go to Metairie to the Apple Store this afternoon. My laptop is acting funny, and I really really don’t want to replace it. Granted, it is eight years old, and it may not even be fixable, but it doesn’t hurt to find out one way or the other. Yesterday morning some long black lines showed up on the left of the screen, and the images beneath the lines were flickering. Heavy heaving sigh.

It never fails, does it? I was just starting to feel a little bit more comfortable. That’ll teach me, right? Plus this is throwing a monkey wrench into my plans for the weekend. Oh, okay, yes, I had only a two and half day work week, sure. But still. I was really looking forward to not leaving the house this weekend. Heavy heaving sigh.

Ah, well. It is what it is. The worst part of the trip to Metairie is going to be returning to the city during rush hour. Just thinking about it turns my stomach…heavy heaving sigh. Now i am also thinking I should have made the appointment for Saturday and kept my Friday as originally planned.

Paul and I started watching You on Netflix this week, and I have to say I was most impressed with it. At first I was like, oh, okay, a stalker story where the girl falls in love, unknowingly, with her stalker. I’ve seen this before, thank you very much and thought I’d give it an episode or two…but then the first episode took a much darker turn that I didn’t see coming and that woke me the fuck up. I am looking forward to watching the rest of the show now…alas, with the festivals looming on the horizon, Paul is terribly busy so leisure watching isn’t really a priority for him these days.

I am still feeling a little bit out of it this morning; like my life is something I’m watching on television and not actually participating in. Needless to say this is a bit disorienting. I’ve not been doing as much creative thinking this week as I would have preferred, but this entire week has been an exercise in “just make it through till the weekend”; I’m not sure why that is, but it has been. I also feel very disconnected from the world at large; Carnival always has this weird tendency to separate us here from the rest of the country and the rest of the world and what’s going on out there, and these days the news moves so quickly that it’s impossible to get caught up on what’s happened during the parades.

I did do some creative thinking yesterday, about the long-abandoned and pushed to the side used-to-be-WIP. I had already decided to do one last revision of it and turn it in to my publisher; it’s what I am going to do once I finish the first draft of the current WIP. I also am going to start doing my research on the next Scotty; I suppose that makes it kind of official that I am going to do a ninth one. But don’t get too excited, Scotty fans; I am going to have to finish these other two first and there’s another first draft I want to write before I get to the Scotty; a gay noir I’ve been wanting to write for quite some time. That would be Muscles, and over this weekend one of the things I want to get done is pulling all of the material I want together (that I already have on hand) for the next three manuscripts. I am also going to go over Royal Street Reveillon one more time; one final read and copy edit before it finally is turned in for good.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines for me.

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One Fine Day

IRIS SATURDAY!

Iris has always been my favorite Carnival parade; so much so that it’s the only parade I’ve put in a book thus far; Mardi Gras Mambo opens with the boys on the neutral ground of St. Charles Avenue, watching the ladies of Iris on a beautiful Saturday afternoon:

Of all the parades, my favorite is the Mystic Krewe of Iris. There are several reasons for this. First, Iris is a women’s krewe, which means the masked figures on the floats tossing things are not men. Men always look for women (the larger the breasts, the better) and children in the crowd to reward with their largesse. They only throw to men by accident, or if someone yells particularly loud. This sucks if you like to catch throws. However, the ladies of Iris are just as sexist as the male krewe members. They throw to men and children. Flirting with the ladies definitely works. And since Iris rolls on the Saturday afternoon before Fat Tuesday, usually it’s sunny and warm. Sunny and warm means I don’t wear a shirt. (And a lot of guys don’t. It’s basically a beefcake bonanza out there on St. Charles Avenue the afternoon of Iris. Did I mention how much I love Iris?)

I get lots of throws at Iris every year.

Carnival so far had been a bit of a disappointment.  Mardi Gras was early this year, which meant despite the fervent prayers of the locals, there was a strong possibility that Fat Tuesday itself could be cold, gray and drizzly. If the weather on Fat Tuesday sucks, it adversely affects the tourist numbers of the following year, so the City Fathers were keeping their fingers crossed and praying just as hard for sunny warm weather as the rest of us who just want to run around half-naked.  Unfortunately, every night since the parades started, it had been gray, cold and wet. The parades still rolled despite the inclement weather, but all the newscasters were despondent about low numbers of people out for the parades. They fail to take into consideration that standing in a slight drizzle on a cold night waiting for a parade isn’t fun. You’d think they’d realize it as they stand out there in their trench coats broadcasting. And actually, it’s better for the businesses. Instead of being out there on the streets, the tourists were in the restaurants and the bars staying dry and warm spending their tourist dollars to support our economy.

Every night after we got home from the gym, I’d ask the boys if they wanted to go out and watch the parades. I hate standing out trying to catch throws when it’s cold, so I didn’t try very hard to convince them. I’d have gone if they wanted to, but Frank and Colin weren’t into standing around in the cold rain just to have beads thrown at them, so we pretty much blew off the earlier parades. After all, there’s always another day of parades, and the Goddess wouldn’t be so cruel as to have the weather suck the day of Iris.  Regardless, I love the Iris parade, and unless the streets were flooding, we were going. Besides, my sister Rain is one of the ladies of Iris, so going was also a family obligation. Actually, most of my relatives are in one parade or another, but Rain’s appearance in Iris is the only one I care about.

Fortunately, that Saturday dawned bright and sunny and warm.  All three of us had gotten up early, so we could go to the gym and pump up—as I said, the sexist ladies of Iris really notice muscles. We caught a ride with my best friend David Uptown, where he managed to find a place to park on Baronne, and walked the two blocks over to St. Charles Avenue.

That’s another important thing to remember about Carnival. NEVER watch parades on Canal Street. That’s where the mobs of tourists are, drunk and boisterous and pushing and shoving and just getting on your nerves. It’s much more fun to go Uptown and watch along the St. Charles route. That’s where the locals go. It isn’t as crowded, there aren’t any breasts being bared, and instead you can see what Carnival really is supposed to be like—or what it was like before the college students found out about it. That’s where you see families out with their kids, portable barbecues set up on the streetcar tracks, and coolers full of beer everywhere.  Of course people are drinking, but New Orleanians know how to pace themselves—after all, we have to all year long. Drinking might be a city pastime, de rigeuer for every social event in town, but you don’t see people puking or passing out on St. Charles. You don’t see men taking a piss in a corner.

Many locals leave town during Carnival. They’re sick of the hordes of tourists, the problems getting around the city—St. Charles and Canal, the two main streets in the city, close for the parades, and it’s easy to get trapped inside the parade route. I can only imagine how frustratingly annoying it must be to live Uptown during Carnival. There’s also the familiarity. If you’ve been dealing with it your entire life, after a while I guess it can get old for some people, but I am not one of those people. After all, do you get sick of Christmas? And so far, it hasn’t gotten old for me. I feel like a kid again every year when the parades roll. I don’t believe I would ever get sick of Carnival. I love everything about it. I love the green, purple and gold decorations everywhere—the huge masks adorning balconies, the beads hanging from the tree branches and the telephone lines. I even love the tourists, even though they do stupid stuff they would never dare to do in a million years at home. I love the parades, catching throws, the non-stop fun atmosphere. I even like the pervasive smell of grease from the vendors hawking corn dogs and French fries and those bizarre sausage sandwiches made with fried onions and green peppers. I love the signs in front of bars advertising BIG ASS BEER $3.95—40 OUNCES!! Okay, it’s not like living in New Orleans is ever boring, mind you—it’s kind of like living on a non-stop rollercoaster ride sometimes—but Carnival is different. The whole city is in a festive mood, and everyone is relaxed and just wants to have a good time. What other American city throws such a huge party and invites the whole world to come join the fun?

Doesn’t that sound like fun? My very first Mardi Gras, back in 1995, was also my first experience with Iris, and I fell deeply and madly in love with the ladies of Iris. They showered me with beads, year after year. I used to have an Iris party every year; we even accidentally created a drink the first year we named the Iris: champagne, cranberry juice, and vodka.

It’s delicious.

And I finished revising Royal Street Reveillon yesterday. I still need to work on the prologue and write the epilogue, and I probably will go over Chapter 25 again, but for all intents and purposes, it’s done done done. Huzzah!

And now back to Iris prep.

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Let Me Love You Tonight

Five minutes ago I finished revising Royal Street Reveillon.

HUZZAH!

Oh, okay, I still have the prologue to revise and an epilogue to write, but the body of the book is finished, and that’s the truly hard work.

It feels good to be finished on this Friday weekend with all of those parades on the horizon, which is also kind of lovely. Now I can relax and have fun this weekend, read, and clean and go to parades, and pretty much do as I please. Monday I can run the errands, come home, and revise the prologue and write the epilogue, and then after Orpheus–or on Tuesday morning, whichever–I can send it in to my editor and breathe again.

Hallelujah.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Don’t Do Me Like That

So, here it is, the cover reveal for the eighth Scotty Bradley mystery, Royal Street Reveillon. I’m quite pleased with this cover. The book drops officially on September 10th. Preorders through the Bold Strokes website will ship on September 1; it can also be preordered soon through your local independent bookstore or, if need be, Amazon or the Barnes and Noble websites.

Someone is killing the Grande Dames of New Orleans! 

It’s Christmas time, but the last thing in the world Scotty wants under his tree is a murder case that strikes close to home. The premiere party for a new reality show sets the stage for a murder, and Scotty’s sort-of nephew is the prime suspect. As more and more cast members fall victim to a cold-blooded killer, Scotty and the boys must figure out what is real and what is scripted, and have to exhume some long-buried secrets in order to bring the killer to justice. 

Royal Street Reveillon 300 DPI