Thursday morning, and I am about to head over to the West Bank to have my car serviced before I head to Kentucky.
Kentucky? Why are you driving to Kentucky when parades start tomorrow, Gregalicious?
I curate my life here on social media/blogs etc. I don’t talk about friends or family on here or my day job very often. I try not to be offensive, and I try to protect the privacy of my friends, family, and co-workers. Most of them never signed up for this (my writer friends did, kind of, but nevertheless I don’t talk about their personal lives or our friendships on here) and as a general rule, I try to keep my entries non-personal; I don’t write about Paul (he has specifically asked to be left off my social media other than in passing) or what’s going on with him or us on here. But while I generally like to protect everyone’s privacy–and I usually don’t like bleeding in public–I feel like I kind of have to mention this, even if it’s a violation of my family’s privacy.
My mother has been in poor health since Christmas of 2019, when she had a stroke. We almost lost her that time, and since then, she’s had several procedures and been to lots of doctors and had all kinds of things done; it’s hard to keep track because there has been so much. At one point–it’s hard to keep track–she was having chemotherapy because they’d found cancer; she also was suffering because one of her vertebrae had shattered, and eventually had to have surgery to have bone chips removed. The cancer was along her spine, and I think the shattered vertebrae had something to do with the cancer, but it’s hard to remember and hard to keep track, as it has been relatively relentless ever since, one thing after another. I’ve been watching her decline for the past few years, which has been difficult. For the rest of the family it’s been so gradual as to not be noticeable; for me, not seeing her all the day, it was always a shock to see how much she had changed since the last time I’d seen her, and I also knew, each visit, that this might be the last time I saw her.
So, I am heading up there today, with plans to drive back to New Orleans on Sunday. The situation may change, of course; I may not get there in time. I had debated, after getting the text from my sister, about waiting still longer, but as more time passed yesterday I finally realized that if she goes while you’re on the road, that’s one thing–but I think not getting there in time would be easier to live with if I had tried. So, I talked with my supervisor and left the office early yesterday. I came home to straighten up the house and do laundry and other mindless chores while I decided what to take with me and what audiobooks to listen to in the car (I’m going to finish The Lying Game on the way up there, and will listen to Carol Goodman’s The Stranger Behind You on the way back). Scooter, being an empath like all cats, knew something was wrong and kept insisting that I sit down so he could lay in my lap, sleeping and purring to make me feel better. It comes and goes; that’s the thing with grief–you never know when it’s going to sucker punch you again when you aren’t expecting it–and maybe the way I deal with it isn’t the most healthy. I prefer to grieve by myself, quietly; I don’t want sympathy and I don’t want pity and I don’t want everyone to comfort me because all that does is make me sadder and cry more. Talking about it is when I start choking up and getting teary-eyed; so I’d rather not talk about it. I like to process things alone, work it all out for myself. This is one of the reasons I despise funerals and avoid them as much as I can; putting your grief on display like that has always made me nervous and uncomfortable. I’ve never been good with attention–as I kept saying this past weekend in Alabama, “Praise makes me uncomfortable”–that also holds true for this kind of attention as well. We were always raised to be stoic in public–“never bleed in public”–which convinced me that grief is something private. Unfortunately, that has also translated into making me uncomfortable around other people’s grief; I am terrible when someone I care about loses someone they love. I never know what to say or do, and I always feel helpless because my natural instinct is to do whatever I can to make things easier for the people I love–but I can’t take away their grief and pain, so I feel like anything I do or say is futile and useless.
When my final grandparent died right after Hurricane Katrina, I remember heading up to Kentucky (it was Thanksgiving week) and once there, my dad saying to my mother, “Well, I guess we’re the old generation now.” It’s hard not to think about your own mortality when you are losing a parent; especially when you’re already in your sixties when you lose your first parent. (Ironically, I am almost the age my parents were when the last of my grandparents passed.)
And no matter how prepared you are for this (I’ve been steeling myself since December 2019, and it’s always been there in the back of my mind; every time I get a text message I tense up), it’s never an easy thing.
And I have twelve hours in the car to think about it, remember things from the mundane (oh, I’ll never have my mom’s dumplings again) to the painful (Dad is going to be a wreck) and of course, the ever popular what now?
But I know I’d rather tense up and worry when I get a text message than say goodbye.
Not sure when I’ll be back here, Constant Reader. Take care of yourself and give your loved ones a hug for me, okay?
Wednesday and only two–count ’em, two–days left before the parades start rolling down St. Charles, so tonight after work I am taking the highway and swinging by Costco on my way home. Yesterday was an okay day in that I never really felt tired or drained, which is always a plus. I did manage to start working on the first stage of the revisions of the manuscript–and I started working on something cool and exciting and new, but must remain a secret for now until I get it all figured out and worked out–and that’s terrific. I am sure going to Costco after work today is going to be a draining experience–but it’s never as bad as just going to a regular grocery store or Walmart, frankly. I also have to clean up around the kitchen this morning because I am doing a ZOOM thing for the MWA-Midwest chapter tomorrow night. I also have to go in Friday morning for a staff meeting (yay) but that’s fine; I can run to the grocery store for last minute things and pick up the mail afterwards so we’re good through Monday.
Because the grocery store won’t be a zoo the first Friday morning of parades, either.
I’m a bit groggy this morning. I slept pretty much through the entire night, other than when Scooter began howling for food early in the morning. He’s such a sweetheart, though. I went to bed last night before Paul got home and fell asleep almost immediately. I woke up when Paul got home and Scooter was curled up, nestled inside my right arm with his head right next to mine. You have to love a cat that’s just a big ole cuddlebug.
While I waited for Paul last night–I am still in the final stages of the malaise, alas; my creativity at a very low ebb at the moment–I started going through the manuscript, this time getting character names and seeing which characters actually had their names changed from one thing to another over the course of the manuscript (which happens when you don’t have a character key, which I know and don’t know why I didn’t keep up with mine as the manuscript progressed…especially when you have a fashion show with how many drag queens walking the runway? But the manuscript, even with the slight glances I was giving to it as I went through pulling out character names, didn’t seem nearly as messy and sloppy as I remember it being while I was writing it–which can be either my faulty memory or my usual self-loathing of any and every thing I write. The latter is always possible, but so is the former. At some point I should probably address my failing memory on here…but not today; I shall save that for some morning when I am not awake before sunrise and can focus properly on writing about my aging mind.
I was too tired to read as well last night; I am hoping to break that tonight when I get home. I am in the midst of two really fun and well written crime novels–Abby Collette’s Body and Soul Food and Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game–and so maybe every night when Paul’s not home I should take a book to bed with me? I don’t know how that might work, to be honest; usually I am so groggy by the time I climb the stairs I’m not sure how much reading I could do–let alone retain–late in the evening. I was pretty worn out by the time I finished watching Airplane! on HBO MAX (I got tired of scrolling through Youtube videos to watch so decided to rewatch one of my favorite comedies of all time–which has some eyebrow raising moments, but still holds up for the most part) and maybe that’s what I should start doing on the evenings when Paul works late–watch an old movie, maybe even a rewatch of a particular favorite, like Rogue One or something I’ve not seen in years, like Double Indemnity.
But today’s goal is to finish the character list and start the outline, so I can see what corrections needs to be made, what sections might need moving, and where I need to add more. I am feeling more awake now–coffee always helps, but my legs feel like they’re still not completely awake yet, which is a weird feeling that I am not describing properly to get across. It’s not like they’re asleep and tingling, or even exhausted or fatigued or anything like that–they just feel like they’re not awake, which isn’t getting the way it feels across, is it? Ah, well, it doesn’t matter because they don’t feel like they’re still sleeping in the bed, anyway.
And I still haven’t gotten an Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide 2023 yet, either.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.
Tuesday morning and back into the office with me. I am awake before the sun rises yet again, and will be back in the office again for the first time since Thursday. It feels like it’s been somewhat longer than that, somehow, but the vagaries of time and how it passes seems to be ever-changing the older I get. I slept pretty well–could have slept longer quite happily–but am hoping I’ll fully awaken my brain with a strong assist from my coffee this morning.
I was tired yesterday–not the exhaustive kind, but the drained kind; public performance always drains me and wears me out. It’s why I could never be a performer of any kind who would need to perform every night. I’m sure you get used to it, but even when I was younger public appearances always drained me and left me feeling very low energy. It probably also has to do with driving over ten hours over the course of forty-eight, too, but yesterday was a real low energy day where I just couldn’t seem to get started. I did manage to get some things done. I picked up the prescription and made groceries, picked up the mail and went by the bank. I came home, wrote some panel descriptions for Paul, and did some cleaning and organizing.–and felt grateful to get that much done by the time I went to bed last night. I also watched a rather bad documentary series called The Price of Glee–about the tragedies surrounding the show. (Glee was important in many ways, but whoa boy, it has not aged well.)
Today I must pay some bills and make an updated to-do list. I keep forgetting things that I should be doing, and trying to plan my week (parades start Friday, so finesse needs to begin to become more involved in the planning processes here. I also need to be checking my calendar to make sure I am not forgetting things I’ve agreed to do–which has become a problem. I need to make a Costco run sometime this week after work as well–probably tomorrow or Wednesday would be best–and I need to get the editing process on my two manuscripts started as well as work on a short story I’ve promised. (I am going to look at some other stories I have on hand that might work just as well, as I am struggling with the one I thought would be perfect initially.)
I also was unable to resist writing the opening sentences of the 70s book I was talking about the other day, because they’ve been dancing around in my head tormenting me for quite some time now; plus it’s about time I create a file of some sort for the idea in the first place. So I guess I did do something writing-wise when it comes to productivity; even if it was nothing that should have been written or any time spent on at all. Ah, well, welcome to the wonderful world of creative ADHD. But I think the malaise combined with the hangover from the public appearances of extroversion and traveling over the weekend created a 1-2 punch that made truly doing anything other than recharging my batteries a major accomplishment, so I am going to simply go ahead and rest on my laurels, proud that something got done. (I straightened out the corner in the living room, so it doesn’t look quite as cluttered and hoarder-ish as it has for the last few years or so.) I’m going to also continue pruning the books with extreme prejudice. I need to finish the Ware and the Collette, which hopefully will not be difficult to do or to find time to do this week as I rush around madly trying to accomplish things before the parades begin. I think the weather might be nice this weekend, too–which would be lovely to take some time and go out to the corner, catch some beads while enjoying being outside, and taking lots of pictures. I should have taken a walk today, actually; it was a beautiful day in New Orleans yesterday. I had to switch the heater over to the air conditioner in the apartment this afternoon as it was in the low seventies and sunny–heaven. Today will be the same, getting into the high seventies before dipping into the lows at night. This seems to be what the weather holds for parade season as well; decent and sunny during the day, with it getting far chillier at night, which means hoodies on the parade route most likely.
The coffee is kicking in (huzzah!) as I sit here, but I also have to shave and do all kinds of things before I leave for the office later on. I need to get my daily pill regimen sorted into its daily dosages, I really should shave my face and my head, and of course, I need to take a shower and get dressed like every other morning. I’m still a little dazed, I think, from the weekend, but fortunately that will gradually fade away throughout the course of the day as I wake up further. I got a fresh king cake yesterday (cream cheese filling, of course, because it isn’t sweet enough already), and I also need to get my lunch packed. So, Constant Reader, I am going to head into the spice mines after finishing this. Have a lovely Tuesday, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.
Well, I forgot my power cord in New Orleans, so have been trying to use this laptop as sparingly as possible so that I can at least get this posted before I head to Wetumpka this morning for Murder on the Menu. Today was nice; the Homewood Library always has a nice turnout for the panels, people bought my books and were very lovely to me–always a plus–and I got to spend some more time with friends I don’t get to see very often, like Dean James and Erica Spindler (name-dropping!) and I also got to spend time getting to know Debra Goldstein and Christopher Swann better, and I got to spend some time with Bobby Mathews, whom I met briefly at Bouchercon this last fall. He’s quite funny, and I picked up his Working the Gimmick, a pro wrestling noir! How fun is that? And since one of my in-progress projects is a pro-wrestling adjacent gay noir, I’m kind of looking forward to reading it! I am going to listen to Carol Goodman on the drive to Wetumpka (The Night Visitors), and when I finish it–probably about halfway between Wetumpka and New Orleans, I will switch over to Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game, which I am also looking forward to. I’ve also been writing lots of notes and ideas in my journal during yesterday’s panels. Alas, after mine today I am departing back to New Orleans because I do need to get home–parades start next weekend, so I really need to start preparing for the coming limitations on running errands that is the inevitable and unenviable result of parade season.
I did sleep really well Friday night–the key is that even if I am now in that partial sleep that is the bane of my existence, my body and mind are resting, which makes such a difference. My Fitbit does actually monitor my sleep; the goal is to always have a sleep score of 80 or higher; I think there’s only been one night since I came home from New York where the score wasn’t over eighty, and usually it’s averaging in the high eighties, which is great and not very common for me. I slept really well again last night–at least, rested well; not sure how deep the sleep actually was but the rest was lovely.
I did not manage to finish this entry this morning. The battery in my laptop did indeed die as I was typing (I’d managed to save it as I watched the battery very quickly evaporate once it got to 15% charge) and now I am home. Today I had a lovely drive to Wetumpka, and the panel and signings and stuff there went well. We managed to sell thirty (!) copies of A Streetcar Named Murder, which was very pleasant and a very pleasant surprise. I really love Wetumpka, and the folks there seem to really love me, too. They are absolutely lovely, they read my books and like them, what a pleasant surprise, you know? Small town Alabama–who knew that was my sweet spot?
I am home now and very tired. The drive home was smooth–and I did start Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game before I got to Mobile (the Goodman novel is fantastic; more on that later), and I am really enjoying the Ware as well. I really want to set a book in Wetumpka–I have a Ruth Ware kind of idea for a book to be set there, and I have a cozy idea that could easily work in a town like Wetumpka. Although the Wetumpkans may not like what I may do to their town….LOL. But the more I listen to/read Carol Goodman and Ruth Ware, the more I think I want to write something more along those lines, too. That’s me, the sponge; anything I read that I also enjoy I always wind up wanting to write something in that style. The 70’s book that I am thinking about–I almost have the title down–is also something entirely different than what I’ve written before or want to write in the future, which of course makes me want to write it all the more. But this week I need to start tearing manuscripts apart and stitching them back together, getting these other two books finished so I can get back to the others I want to write, so I can then write the 70s book. (I am resisting the urge to start writing it, you have no idea how hard it is to resist that urge, especially with that little voice in my head whispering you can always start editing the manuscripts next week why not take this week to get it started which is how this stuff always winds up getting out of hand. I also think that my creativity sometimes gets a bit over-stimulated when I do events like this.
But what a problem to have, right?
And on that note, I am going to go start digging out from under everything that has piled up since I left Friday afternoon. Have a lovely rest of your evening, Constant Reader!
Monday morning and back into the office. I only have two days in the office this week and three next, thanks to the holiday next Monday–huzzah! I had an incredibly productive weekend, Constant Reader, thanks to some terrific sleep every night and no college football. I know that tonight is the national championship game but I won’t be staying up to watch it again this year–that’s three consecutive years I’ve not watched–because I have no skin in the game and can always watch highlights tomorrow. My preference would be for a TCU win; they’ve not won anything since the second world war and it would be a fun change to see a program come from nowhere to win it all this year. (LSU was 10-3 in 2018, so we knew they’d be good in 2019; we just didn’t know how good they would be.)
I slept well again last night. I think I may have finally found the right mixture of things at night to help me sleep, so hopefully the big test–New York and a hotel bed–will be passed with flying colors.
Yesterday was a good day. I spent most of it working–I wrote six thousand more words yesterday, bringing the weekend’s total to ten thousand, which is pretty damned good–and after I was done working for the day, we finished watching The Rig, which was kind of interesting and weird and way different than what we thought it might be–again, there’s no greater suspense than people being trapped and isolated somewhere and there’s some kind of threat, especially when group dynamics and politics start getting involved. I am enjoying writing again–the last book I wrote was nightmarish to try to get done for some reason, but I am back into a writing groove again and it feels terrific. I only needed to rest for a day or so, too, between different writing projects before diving back into it. I kind of let my emails pretty much go, though, over the course of the weekend so it’s going to take me some time to get that back under some kind of control today. But I feel pretty good this morning, my coffee continues to taste marvelous, and while I do have a lot to get done before leaving for New York on Wednesday, I am neither daunted nor bowed by the amount of work that needs doing; rather, I feel very empowered this morning.
I also spent some more time reading A Walk on the Wild Side, which I am sort of enjoying a bit more than I did originally. I am probably going to try to read some more when I get home from work tonight and after I get my quota for the day. I also need to make some lists about what to take on the trip with me and I need to check what the weather is going to be like up there; there’s also a weird bit of sadness associated with this trip as well, since it will be my last official trip for Mystery Writers of America. It’s hard to believe it’s been three years, but two of those years were sucked up into the pandemic and no traveling, so there’s that. That probably won’t completely sink in until I am back home from the trip this weekend, either.
I also need to make a to-do list for this week. I have errands to run after my day at the office as well. Heavy heaving sigh. I know I have some short stories I need to get written and some other things that have to be done at some point soon–and I really need to dig through my email inbox to make sure everything’s been put on the calendar so I don’t forget anything. I also want to watch The Pale Blue Eye, but that may have to wait until after I get back from this trip and get all settled in again here in my own life. I also need to decide what to take with me to read on this trip. Obviously, I am not going to finish the Algren before I leave, so that’s going with me, but what to read while there and on the trip home? I think I am going to continue immersing myself in cozy mysteries for a while before going back to a different sub-genre; on the other hand, I could also take either a Carol Goodman or a Ruth Ware with me, so I can continue working my way through their oeuvre…decisions, decisions, always decisions to be made.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.
And here we are, on the final day of the year 2022. Happy New Year, I guess? It doesn’t feel like the year is turning, but everything has felt so totally out of whack since the 2020 Shutdown that it’s not a surprise, really. As I sit here bleary-eyed with my coffee trying to wake up for another thrilling day of writing and cleaning, it seems very weird to look back to a year ago at this time. I was on deadline then, too–and was way behind on that book, too (A Streetcar Named Murder, for the record), but other than that I don’t remember what my mood was like or what I was thinking about going into the new year. We were still in the midst of the pandemic (that hasn’t changed–what’s changed is it isn’t news anymore and everyone seems to be pretending it’s all over), and I know I wasn’t exactly going into 2022 thinking oh this is the year I’ll get the coronavirus! That did happen, and my ten-day experience with COVID-19 was bearable for the most part. I just had intense and severe exhaustion as well as the brain fog, which hasn’t entirely lifted. I still have no short term memory, and am struggling to remember things every day–which has made writing this book more difficult because I can’t remember small details and things that are kind of important. I also think being so scattered isn’t much help in that regard; I’ve never been able to handle getting a grip on things and have felt like I’ve been behind the eight-ball for the last three years, floundering and struggling to keep my head above water, and never confident that I had a handle on everything. It’s been unpleasant, really; I prefer to be better organized and to have things under some sort of manageable control, and this constant feeling that I am behind and will never catch up on everything has been overwhelming, depressing, and damaging.
I read a lot of great books this year–I was going to try to make a “favorite reads of the year” list, but as I went back through the blog for the last year looking at all the books I talked about on here, there’s no real way for me to quantify what were my avorite reads of the year. I managed to read both of Wanda M. Morris’ marvelous novels, All Her Little Secrets and Anywhere You Run; Marco Carocari’s marvelous Blackout; John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind; Carol Goodman’s The Night Villa, The Lake of Dead Languages, and The Disinvited Guest; Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway and The Woman in Cabin Ten; Raquel V. Reyes’ Mango, Mambo and Murder; Ellen Byron’s Bayou Book Thief; Rob Osler’s debut Devil’s Chew Toy; Mia P. Manansala’s Arsenic and Adobo; Kellye Garrett’s Like a Sister; Alex Segura Jr’s Secret Identity; Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden; Tara Laskowski’s marvelous The Mother Next Door; James Kestrel’s Five Decembers (which would be a contender for favorite read of the year, if I did such things); and of course several Donna Andrews novels as well. I am forgetting some great reads I truly enjoyed this past year, I am sure–I will kick myself later for not remembering I Play One on TV by Alan Orloff, for one example–but it was a year of great reads for me. I know 2023 will also be a great year for reading.
I also watched a lot of great television this past year as well, and again, I won’t be remembering everything and will kick myself later. If nothing else, it was a year of some amazing queer representation on television; this was, after all, the year Netflix not only gave us the wonderful, amazing, adorable Heartstopper but the equally charming and adorable Smiley (which you should watch, absolutely). It was also the year where Elité continued, but the shine is starting to go off the show a bit. I was very vested in their Patrick/Ivan romance, which they ended in this last season with Manu Rios, who plays Patrick, leaving the show at the end of the season along with his two sisters (spoiler, sorry), which was dissatisfying. I am looking forward to seeing what else Manu Rios gets up to in the future…we also enjoyed 1899, Andor, Ted Lasso, Sex Lives of College Girls, Peacemaker, The Sandman, House of the Dragon, Ozark, and so many other shows I can’t possibly begin to remember them all this morning. But I have no problem saying that without question my favorite show of the year was Heartstopper. Even just looking at clips on Youtube, or those “Ten Cutest Moments on Heartstopper” videos, always makes me feel warm and fuzzy when I view them. The soundtrack for the show was also terrific, with some songs so firmly engrained in my head with scenes from the show (one in particular, Shura’s “What’s It Gonna Be” always makes me think of that scene where Charlie comes running after Nick in the rain to give him another kiss, which is what was playing in the background). Wednesday was another highlight, a surprising delight when I was prepared to have my hopes dashed, and The Serpent Queen was also a lot of fun. We also enjoyed The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself, but it was cancelled after its first season, which was disappointing.
Professionally, it was a pretty good year in which I had three book releases: #shedeservedit in January and A Streetcar Named Murder in December, with the anthology Land of 10000 Thrills, thrown in for good measure in the fall. I sold some short stories that haven’t come out yet, as well as some that did this last year: “The Rosary of Broken Promises,” “A Whisper from the Graveyard,””The Snow Globe,” and “This Thing of Darkness” all came out in anthologies this year, with “Solace in a Dying Hour” sold and probably coming out sometime in the spring. I also sold another story to another anthology that will probably come out in the new year as well, and I still have one out on submission. In what was probably the biggest surprise of the year, last year’s Bury Me in Shadows was nominated for not one, but TWO Anthony Awards (Best Paperback Original and Best Children’s/Young Adult) which was one of the biggest shocks of maybe not just the year, but definitely one of the highlights of my career thus far. I lost both to friends and enormously talented writers Jess Lourey and Alan Orloff respectively, which was kind of lovely. I had been nominated for Anthonys before (winning Best Anthology for Blood on the Bayou and “Cold Beer No Flies” was nominated for Best Short Story), but being nominated for one of my queer novels was such a thrill–and to have it nominated in two different categories was fucking lit, as the kids would say. The response to A Streetcar Named Murder was an incredibly pleasant surprise; people seemed to genuinely love the book, which was very exciting and cool.
I traveled quite a bit this year as well–going to Murder in the Magic City/Murder on the Menu, Left Coast Crime, the Edgars, Sleuthfest, and Bouchercon. I went to Kentucky twice to see my family, which further fueled my love of audiobooks for long drives–on both trips I listened to Ruth Ware on the way up and Carol Goodman on the way back–and also did some wonderful podcasts and panels on-line, which was nice. We didn’t go to any games this season in Baton Rouge, but in all honesty I don’t know if I can hang with a game day anymore–the drive there and back, the walk to and from the stadium, the game itself–I would probably need a week’s vacation afterwards!
College football was interesting this season, too. This season saw the reemergence of Tennessee, USC, and UCLA to some kind of relevance again; the slides of the programs at Texas A&M, Florida, Oklahoma, Auburn, and Texas continued; and LSU turned out to be the biggest surprise (for me) of the year. Going into the season I had hopes, as one always does, but after two years of consistent mediocrity (with some surprise wins both years) they weren’t very high. The opening loss to Florida State was a surprise and disappointment, but at least the Tigers came back and almost made it all the way to a win. The blowout loss to Tennessee at home was unpleasant, certainly, as was the loss at Texas A&M. But LSU beat Alabama this season! We also beat Mississippi, so LSU was 2-2 against Top Ten teams this season–and I would have thought it would be 0-4. And 9-4 is not a bad record for a transitional year, with a new coach rebuilding the program. And LSU beat Alabama. The Alabama game will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium. It was incredibly exciting, and I still can’t quite wrap my mind around it or how it happened. It certainly shouldn’t have; LSU was simply not an elite-level team this past season, but what a job Brian Kelly did coaching in his first season in Baton Rouge. Did I mention that LSU beat Alabama this year? (And one really has to feel for Alabama, in a way; they lost two games by a total of four points on the last play of each game. Four. Points. That would probably be what I would call this season for Alabama: Four Points from Greatness. The LSU-Alabama game this year is definitely one of those that gets a nickname from the fan base, I am just not sure what it would be. The Double Earthquake Game? (The cheers when LSU scored in overtime and then made the two point conversion registered on the campus Richter scale) The Conversion Game? I don’t know what it will be named for all eternity, but it was an amazing game. I do think it also bodes well for the future for LSU. Will both LSU and Tennessee (which also beat Alabama for the first time in like fifteen years) be able to consistently compete with Alabama now? Has Georgia taken over as the SEC behemoth? Has the Alabama run ended? I don’t think so–they have an off year where they lose two or three games periodically (2010, 2019, 2022)–and they could bounce right back. next year and win it all again. You can never count them out, even in their off years.
As for the Saints, they swept Atlanta again this year, and that is enough for me.
I did write a lot this year, even though it didn’t seem like I actually did while the year was passing. I also worked on Chlorine and another project I am working on throughout the year, as well as the novellas, and of course, I was writing short stories and essays for much of the year. I also read a lot more New Orleans and Louisiana history, and I had tons of ideas for things to write all year long. I did make it to the gym on a fairly regular basis at the beginning of the year, but then it became more and more sporadic and after my COVID-19 experience, never again. I also injured my arm a few weeks ago–when I flex the bicep it feels like I have a Charley horse, so not good, but it doesn’t impact my day to day activities. I also had my colonoscopy at last this past year–the prep was horrific, and I am really dreading doing it again at sixty-five, should I make it that far.
Yesterday was a nice day. I was exhausted, and after my work-at-home duties were completed I did some chores–laundry, dishes–and I also spent some time both reading (A Walk on the Wild Side) and writing. I also watched the Clemson-Tennessee Orange Bowl last night before Paul got home from his dinner engagement and we watched a few more episodes of Sex Lives of College Girls. Today I am going to read a bit this morning with my coffee before getting cleaned up and diving headfirst back into the book. Paul has his trainer today and usually either goes to the gym to ride the bike or to his office to work for the rest of the afternoon, so I should be able to have some uninterrupted writing time, which will be lovely. And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve, Constant Reader, and I will check back in with you later.
I made quote again yesterday, which was nice; at this rate while I’ll be killing myself over the course of this weekend to get this finished by the end of day January 1, I should be okay. It’s 52 degrees this morning but it feels pretty chilly in the apartment this morning as I swill my coffee and try to figure out what to write here without boring the hell out of everyone. I ran errands after work yesterday and wasn’t terribly tired when I got home–but for the life of me cannot recall what I did once I did get home. I know I put the dishes away and the laundry was already done, and I didn’t have the brainpower to read anything, so I guess I must have just watched history videos on Youtube until Paul came downstairs and we watched a few more episodes of Sex Lives of College Girls, which remains hilariously funny and clever. I also got some books in the mail yesterday–the ones I ordered with Christmas money–more Ruth Ware, That Summer on Frenchmen Street by Chris Clarkson, Blackwater Falls by Ausma Zehanat Khan, and a nonfiction, Bad Gays: A Homosexual History by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller–and have a few more on the way.
I feel a little off-kilter this week because of the holiday on Monday; I kept thinking yesterday was Monday and this morning I keep thinking it’s Tuesday. This will probably persist until my work-at-home Friday, and again I’ll be messed up next week because of a holiday on Monday. It takes so little these days to fry my brain and make it unworkable, seriously. I slept really well last night. Scooter continues to get into the bed and cuddle with me once I slip under the covers; last night I was already asleep by the time he joined me, and it wasn’t until Paul got into bed and woke me that I realized the cat was sleeping curled up with me and purring. It’s nice–he’s very particular and only likes one side, and I have to be facing that way or he won’t cuddle. I’m sure it’s nothing more than the cold weather and the bed is probably the warmest place in the apartment when someone is in it, but I’m going to continue to appreciate my cat’s affection in the meantime.
I have some errands to run today after work as well–yay–but tomorrow is the last day I have to get up super-early this week, so I am going to not mind that at all after work today. I also get to leave work early–a vagary of working hours with holidays in the pay week left me with extra time so I can leave early one day, and while perhaps I should have chosen Thursday as my day to leave early, I thought tomorrow made the most sense predicated on our appointment schedule. This week has been a light work week schedule-wise; to the point where I am not sure it makes sense to have the clinic open in the first place. Fortunately, those decisions are well above my pay-grade, and honestly, if I have to be there anyway the clinic might as well be open while we’re at it, you know? This is always a slow week; who wants to get an STI test after Christmas and before New Year’s? (Okay, granted it’s smart to get checked out for anything sexually transmitted before New Year’s Eve, just in case–but it’s already too late for the results to come back in time for treatment, so before Christmas is really the sweet spot for your New Year’s Eve get drunk/get laid plans.)
Heavy heaving sigh.
I should probably spend more time being reflective about the passing of time and the advancing of my age, what with another year turning and all this weekend, but the truth is I barely even remember the beginning of this year! I know I was supposed to go to New York in January and the resurgent pandemic at the time kiboshed those plans; yet I did manage to make it to Albuquerque for Left Coast Crime in either February or March. I traveled quite a bit in 2022, especially considering how little I had traveled in the previous two years. And as I said the other day, I accomplished a lot more this past year than I would have thought once I started thinking about it. The year was bookended by book releases, too–#shedeservedit coming out in January, A Streetcar Named Murder coming out in December–and while I didn’t spend as much time writing this year as I would have liked (which is the case for every year, let’s get honest and real for a moment) I did manage to get some writing done this year. I’d like to get even more done in 2023; one of the goals for the new year is to make writing more of a priority in my life. I want to get at least two, if not three, books written in 2023, as well as finish the novellas and some other short stories.
Ambitions. I have a few.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. I feel good today, rested and relaxed and all that marvelous stuff, and hope to also have a good day. I hope the same for you, Constant Reader, as this year continues to run down like a clock in need of winding (does anyone else remember clocks you have to wind?), and may your day be as bright and lovely as you are at your best.
Tuesday morning and back to the office. I made quota again yesterday but am still behind from missing on Friday or Saturday or whenever that was. It’s in the forties this morning–it feels chilly here in the apartment this morning, and it’s also dark outside. I’d forgotten over the three day weekend how much I hate getting up in the morning to darkness outside my windows. It really is oppressive having to wake up in the dark and get your day going while it’s still night outside.
We’ve been watching Sex Lives of College Girls and really enjoying it. It’s quite funny, occasionally sad, and very well done. I don’t even know why we started watching it–I’ve literally heard next to nothing about it, and had no idea it was a Mindy Kaling show until the credits–but it’s quite clever and enjoyable and funny. After years of seeing the male college experience, with its emphasis on drugs, alcohol, and sex, it’s fun to see it from the girls’ side of things–and a lot more interesting. It’s also laugh out loud funny at times, and at others, it’s rather poignant and sad. It focuses on four girls sharing a suite in the freshman dorms–one a rich society girl, one a scholarship student from a small town in Arizona, another a senator’s daughter and soccer athlete, and the final girl a sex-obsessed South Asian woman who wants to be a comedy writer–and watching their friendships and relationships grow organically is kind of nice. The rich girl is a deeply closeted lesbian who resists any push from sex/romance partners to come out–and those tired old excuses she trots are equally easily recognizable to anyone who’s ever been in the closet and thus living the double life. We have one more episode of season one left before we can move on to season 2–and the ongoing stories for each girl are kind of compelling and interesting to watch. It’s also fun watching the roommate bonding between them and their own friendships growing stronger over the course of the show. It’ll be even more fun seeing how it goes and grows.
It is hard to believe this is the last week of 2022, a time, one supposes, for casual and causal reflection on the past year as a new one is to be born. I do seem to recall the year as being a time of mostly being miserable and not enjoying myself much or being able to get much done, but once I start reflecting on everything that happened in the past year it was actually a good one overall; there were a lot of frustrations and miseries along the way, but somehow I managed to keep plugging along and keeping going. A lot of the misery was a feeling of disorientation, primarily driven by having to get up early several mornings per week–always a bad thing for me, it also shifts me into a misery-adjacent position–and never really feeling like I had a handle on things because there was always so much to do, which in its turn created anxiety and stress which then manifested as insomnia which then made me tired every day and often too tired to get much of anything done, which then added to the anxiety and stress which then made the insomnia more potent and so on and on it went, a vicious carousel where the brass ring was always just slightly out of reach for me. That’s kind of how everything has felt since the pandemic started back in March of 2020 (going on three years now)–I had just started adjusting to my work schedule in our new building when the bottom dropped out and I no longer felt like I had a handle on my life anymore. That is unsettling for me, being much more of a control freak than I ever thought I was; and one thing I would really prefer in 2023 is to not feel like the strands of my life are slipping uncontrollably through my hands–ad leaving rope burns.
Of course, as I am behind on my book and need to spend as much time as possible between now and this weekend finishing it, I may not have much time for careful and studied reflection on the new year and what I want from it as opposed to what I got from the previous year, or what I accomplished, or what I left unfinished. But from looking over my client schedule for the week, it looks pretty light; I think most of the doctors are out this week for the most part so no one will be added to the schedule, either. Next week we start seeing people every half hour, which is pre-pandemic level scheduling; it’ll take a while for that to start getting out of control and to the point where we actually have someone scheduled every half-hour, which we’ve not done since before the shutdown (it feels like that should become a thing, doesn’t it–Before The Shutdown, BTS for short). Which means my day-job will be busier and my every hour of my every work day up in the air. Woo-hoo! I love that for me (sarcasm font).
The book is coming along nicely, I suppose. It’s great to hit the word count every day (even though I missed a day and need to make it up at some point), and it’s nice to know that I can still sit down at the computer and bang out three thousand or so shitty words on a daily basis. I am always afraid that’s not going to happen someday when I sit down; it does sometimes, but it’s usually more from laziness of my own than anything else, really. But that doesn’t lessen the fear that the day will come when it won’t be my own laziness and desire to just sit in my chair watching whatever Youtube videos come up to watch after picking one I want to see. I also have to decide what I am going to read next, digging something out from the ever growing and teetering TBR Stack, which is about to grow again as I ordered books for my Christmas present to myself–more Ruth Ware, Carol Goodman, a few I saw recommended by other writers, Jami Attenberg’s writing memoir, and of course a Hollywood memoir of a bisexual actor (more research for Chlorine, of course). I am also finally reaching the end of my extremely long, over a thousand pages Robert Caro biography of Robert Moses, which means I’ll finally be ready to tackle another lengthy non-fiction book as well. It has taken me years to read the Moses biography, which is extremely well done (it IS Robert Caro, after all) and it’s also fascinating to see how ONE man reshaped the city of New York as well as the future of Long Island–and not necessarily for the betterment of either. I think I will probably move on to David McCullough’s history of the building of the Panama Canal, or his book on the Johnstown Flood (it’s much shorter).
I was also looking at all the blog entries I’ve started as essays about one thing or another over the past few years, and thinking one of my goals for 2023 is to finally get those entries finished and posted and out of the draft folder. Something else for the goal list to post on New Year’s Day, I suppose.
And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later.
Monday morning and all is well in the Lost Apartment as I swill coffee and brace myself for the day (and week) ahead.
I returned from Kentucky on Friday. Both the voyage up and back–despite their great length and the brittle stiffness of my aging body–didn’t seem quite so bad or to take as long as they usually do. I did make great time in both directions, while listening to two audiobooks (Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 on the way up, Carol Goodman’s The Disinvited Guest on the way back; both are superb and highly recommended) but of course once I got home on Friday night I was quite exhausted. I spent Saturday trying to get caught up on the apartment itself while football games played in the background (more on that later). I did a lot of laundry, a lot of dishes, ran errands and made groceries, before finally settling in to watch the LSU/Texas A&M game, which was disappointing (more on that later). Yesterday I got up early (I’ve been getting up early a lot lately) and chose to stay off-line for the most part. I did clean out the junk out of my inbox, wrote up the books I read while on my trip for blog entries, and wrote another blatant self-promotion post for A Streetcar Named Murder while also trying to get a handle on everything I need to get done for this coming week. I felt very well-rested yesterday at long last. I didn’t have as much trouble sleeping while I was away as I usually do, which was cool–I found another sleep-aid that seems to be working very nicely–but Friday night I didn’t sleep as well as I thought I would, given how worn out I was from the drive. Saturday night’s sleep, however, was quite marvelous.
Ah, the Insomnia Chronicles. How I long for the day when my sleep isn’t of concern (or at least as not as much interest) to me.
The weather was also kind of terrible when I got back–raining and humid, but cool; the kind where you aren’t sure if you need to turn on the heat or the air, and yesterday there were tornadoes and high winds in the river and bayou parishes outside of New Orleans. Yesterday however was beautiful; sunny with blue skies with the low in the mid-sixties and the high in the mid-seventies. Not bad for Christmas season, is it? It’s also hard to wrap my mind around the idea that it’s Christmas already, to be honest. I got a great Kindle deal on a collection of Christmas crime short stories, which I am really looking forward to digging into–perhaps a story a day for the season? The Christmas Murder Mystery project? (You know I love me some projects to work on.) It’s also weird that it’s the holiday season again, which means Carnival is also right around the block. YIKES. This also means I need to start planning around the parade schedule and when I need to leave work and so forth. Ugh, much as I love Carnival, it’s always stressful and exhausting, if fun and delightful.
It was an interesting weekend of college football. The Mississippi-Mississippi State game on Thanksgiving was a lot of fun, right up to its crazy end; South Carolina somehow managed to beat Clemson; and of course, Michigan blew out Ohio State in Columbus. This kind of set the stage for the LSU game on Saturday night–I had a very queasy feeling about the game, partly because it seemed as though everyone was looking ahead to next week’s SEC title game with Georgia and the possibility of a play-off berth for the Tigers; but Texas A&M always plays LSU hard, no matter how bad their record is, and for some reason they’ve decided LSU is their big rivalry in the conference. The game looked awful; LSU was playing very sloppy on both sides of the ball and my heart and spirit continued to flag with each missed tackle and each missed opportunity. It was disappointing, to be sure, but on the other hand, I am thrilled to death with how the season went. No one gave LSU a shot at having a winning record, let alone beating Alabama and winning the West division, so I am choosing to be grateful for a wonderful winning season after two seasons of mediocrity and looking forward to an even better, more glittering future for the Tigers. I have faith in Coach Kelly, I have faith in what he is building there, and who knows? In a year or two we may win it all again. GEAUX TIGERS!
In other blatant self-promotional news, I also appeared recently on Alexia Gordon’s The Cozy Corner, which was a lot of fun, and I also appeared on Dru’s Book Musing, and how lovely that she gave me such a wonderful view. Thanks to both Dru and Alexia, both being lovely people who have gone out of their way to be kind to me and A Streetcar Named Murder, for which I will always be eternally grateful. It’s hard to believe the book is going to be published soon! And don’t worry, there will be plenty more blatant self-promotion to come.
I also spent some good time with the book yesterday and it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it might be, as I feared it would be. Yes, the first half needs some work, but not nearly as much as I had thought and I also went through and made a character list as well as outlined the first half. Tomorrow I am going to work on the edits and finishing the outline for the rest of the book; and I am also going to write in and ask for more time. I never finish on time, do I? But the book is good, there’s lots of material for the second half, and I am kind of excited about getting this one completely under control at long last. Huzzah!
We also binged 1899 yesterday; it’s from the same people who did the superlative German series Dark, and had the added bonus of having one of our favorite actors from Elité, Miguel Bernardeau, in the cast as well. It’s delightfully creepy and strange, and you never have a very good sense of what is going on (like Dark), so of course we were glued to the set the entire time. It’s quite good, actually; I’m not sure how I feel yet about the final episode other than curiosity about how that is going to lead into a second season–because the finale raised more questions than it answered (like a good finale), but I’ll be happy to continue watching.
I feel rested this morning, though, which is lovely. I am sure by the middle of the week I’ll be tired and short of temper again, but for now, for this morning, I am going to just enjoy myself feeling rested and relaxed in the meantime. I have, as always, an insane amount of work to get done this week, but right now I am going to enjoy the peace and quiet of this morning before I have to start getting ready to leave for work; I even got up earlier than I usually do on Mondays.
And on that note, I am heading headfirst into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday morning, Constant Reader, and I’ll chat at you again tomorrow morning.
Nothing will get my attention more quickly than a Daphne du Maurier comparison.
I’d been meaning to get around to reading Ruth Ware since her The Woman in Cabin 10 broke her out in the crime writing community. I’d heard lots of good things about her work from reviewers and people on social media, and as her career continued to grow and develop it seemed like all of her books–while similar, in some ways, to each other–were rather dramatically different from each other. I began acquiring copies of her books, unable to decide where to start while each new one joined the TBR pile and began collecting dust. When I saw someone had compared her The Death of Mrs. Westaway to du Maurier and Rebecca, that got my attention and I decided to start there. I listened to it on one of my drives to Kentucky and loved, loved, LOVED it.
So, while planning for my recent trip up, I decided to listen to The Woman in Cabin 10, and have been admonishing myself for the lengthy delay in getting to it ever since finishing. It is quite excellent, and I am finding myself becoming quite a fan of Ruth Ware.
The first inkling that something was wrong was waking in darkness to find the cat pawing at my face. I must have forgotten to shut the kitchen door last night. Punishment for coming home drunk.
“Go away,” I groaned. Delilah mewed and butted me with her head. I tried to bury my face in the pillow but she continued rubbing herself against my ear, and eventually I rolled over and heartlessly pushed her off the bed.
She thumped to the floor with an indignant little meep and I pulled the duvet over my head, but even through the covers I could hear her scratching at the bottom of the door, rattling it in its frame.
The door was closed.
I sat up, my heart suddenly thumping, and Delilah leaped onto my bed with a glad little chirrup, but I snatched her to my chest, stilling her movements, listening.
I might well have forgotten to shut the kitchen door, or I could even have knocked it to without closing it properly. But my bedroom door opened outward–a quirk of the weird layout of my flat. There was no way Delilah could have shut herself inside. Someone must have closed it.
I sat, frozen, holding Delilah’s warm, panting body against my chest and trying to listen.
How’s that for a beginning?
I defy anyone to stop reading after those opening paragraphs, seriously.
Our main character turns out to be Laura Blacklock–nicknamed Lo–who is an aspiring travel journalist working as an assistant at Velocity magazine. Usually her boss is the one who gets to go on trips to write about the experience, but pregnancy has forced her to turn over a rather plum assignment to Lo; taking a cruise on a luxury ship through Scandinavia, including a look at the Northern Lights and exploratory visits to fjords. But as she is preparing for the trip, her flat is broken into while she is in it. This understandably causes her some trauma, and she is already taking medication for anxiety. Shaken up and still having nightmares, she boards the Aurora Borealis in a determined attempt to fulfill her job responsibilities well enough to get a promotion or better assignments. Easier said than done, really; on the first night she hears the toilet in the next cabin–Cabin 10–at the same time realizing she doesn’t have any mascara. She goes to Cabin 10, borrows mascara from a beautiful young woman, and returns to her cabin. Having a few drinks at dinner to calm her nerves even more, she keeps an eye out for the young woman, who never shows. In the middle of the night a sound in the next cabin wakes her, and she goes out onto her veranda to glance around the privacy screen. Before she can get out there she hears a cry, a clank, and a splash; once she is out there she thinks she sees a human hand disappearing into the water, and smear of blood on the glass screen next door. She gets the ship’s security, but Cabin 10 is empty. The man who was staying in there cancelled at the last minute. There is no trace of the girl she met, no trace of anything exceptional having happened in Cabin 10–and the only proof of her story is the mascara tube, which she still has.
No one believes her–and her recent break-in and the anxiety medications, along with the drinking she’s done, make it relatively easy for her claims to be dismissed. Certain she’s a peripheral witness to a murder, Lo starts poking around–eventually finding herself in danger.
I really enjoyed this book. Ware makes you care about Lo, and you root for her to get to the bottom of what’s going on aboard the Aurora. Ware is, indeed, a modern day writer of Gothics in the mid-to-late twentieth century traditions of duMaurier, Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, with a generous dash of Mary Stewart as well. Is she being gaslighted, and if so, by whom and why? Who was the woman? What was she doing on board? Why was she murdered? The reader knows Lo is telling the truth, which is a brilliant way of getting reader buy-in for both the character and the story, and the gaslighting is done so well that even the reader sometimes has to question Lo’s sanity; was it alcohol and drug-related PTSD? But as the story progresses and Lo learns more and more about her fellow passengers–this is a press junket, so everyone on board is a professional travel journalist of some sort–she starts putting together the pieces and fragments of information she gathers that gradually reveal the picture of a very clever murderer who won’t stop at anything to get away with their crime, even if it means killing Lo.
Highly recommended–especially if you, like me, love the old books with the woman in a nightgown running away from a scary looking house with a light on in one window on the cover. Cannot wait to read some more of Ruth Ware.
Sidebar: the story itself is very Hitchcockian in style, and of course the gaslighting made me think of the great film Gaslight which defined the word into the vernacular…and made me also think, sadly, of what a greater masterpiece Gaslight might have been had Hitchcock also directed it.