Bleed to Love Her

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.

PLENTY.

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.

Come Sail Away

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.

Smile at You

Thursday and my last day in the office until after Thanksgiving, which is rather something if you think about it, you know? It’s cold again this morning–you can tell, even with the heat on and the Lost Apartment itself feeling a little, shall we say, temperate? I’m still not used to having an HVAC system that works effectively and keeps the apartment warm no matter what it’s like outside, you know?

Yesterday was yet another exhausting day at the office. I’d not slept as well as I would have liked Tuesday night, so yes, yesterday was tired and worn down by the end of the day. I had to stop and make groceries on the way home–not much, just a quick in-and-out–and today I am hoping I won’t be too tired when I get home from work to do some chores and some more work on the book. BY the time I got home yesterday I was very tired. Paul didn’t get home until later so we didn’t get to watch any of our shows; instead I spent the evening watching Youtube videos on French history. I think I slept well last night–I only woke up a couple of times during the night–and I feel sort of rested right now as I sip my coffee; we’ll see how long it holds today, shall we?

But for now, I feel good and my coffee is hitting the spot and I did succeed in making a to-do list yesterday, which was a step in the right direction towards getting caught up–or better organized, one of the two. I had forgotten to make my hotel reservation for Bouchercon in San Diego, so I got that taken care of yesterday, and now just have the flights left to get taken care of once Southwest allows us to start booking in late August, probably next month sometime. I am leaving for Kentucky on Monday morning, but I have The Uninvited Guest by Carol Goodman to listen to on the way up and The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware to listen to on the way home. (I listed to Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway on the way up last time, and absolutely loved it.)

I’ve also been doing blog entries attempting to promote the book–which has been fun so far, but am not sure really how effective it actually will be in the long run, but I am enjoying myself, which is perhaps the most important thing, right?–and I also am doing a piece for CrimeReads that is due this weekend–but as I mentioned previously this week, I can pretty much ignore college football for the most part most of Saturday, as LSU’s game isn’t until seven pm (I cannot get over the LSU turnaround this season; I keep thinking I’m going to wake up from this fever dream) so as long as I am not disgustingly and horribly lazy, I should not only be able to get that written but make some serious progress with the book as well. Please, God–make it so.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines on this chilly Thursday morning in New Orleans. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

I Know I’m Not Wrong

I posted a list of things–a thread, if you will–on Twitter yesterday of helpful hints to get prepared for a hurricane-related power loss; simple things I’ve picked up from other people over the years, and was more than a little surprised by the response that received from other users in the Twitter-world. But it’s all common-sense things you might not think about when you’re panicking and battening down the hatches, as it were. The refrigerator and food spoiling without electricity is one I will always wish I knew before Hurricane Katrina, frankly. It also looks as though Tampa is going to get a direct hit, and I don’t think it’s gotten one of those in a very long time–since the 1960’s, at least, if I am not incorrect, and that area is particularly vulnerable to storm surges and so forth. I’ve not lived there since 1995, but there are still people I care about who live there, and obviously, I’m sending them good thoughts and positive energy and hope everything will turn out okay for them and the power will be back soon and the storm will do little damage. (UPDATE: Tampa has not had a direct hit of this strength since 1921! Over a hundred years ago!)

It’s also kind of interesting because one of my in-progress projects (one of too many) involves my Tampa stand-in city while under hurricane threat. YIKES. (In that self-absorbed reflex I suspect all of us have but manage to successfully filter before those thoughts come out of our mouths, there’s a part of me that thinks maybe if your idea for Scotty IV hadn’t been about a hurricane…and so of course in the back of my head I can’t help but wonder if writing about such a thing didn’t wish it into being…because of course that’s how things work and my mind has that kind of power mwa-ha ha ha ha! I mean, come on.)

I feel rested this morning but felt like a burnt out husk for most of the weekend. I got all of my day job duties completed yesterday and yes, my eyes were crossing from the data entry by the time it was finished right around quitting time for the day, which was helpful; I don’t think I could have faced another form yesterday but now I am all caught up, which is great and puts me in great shape ahead for the coming weekend. Last night we got caught up on Bad Sisters and watched two stand-up comedy shows, the new one from Patton Oswalt and one from a non-binary comedian from Australia, Rhys Nicholson, and both were highly entertaining and quite funny. After that I repaired to the bed for my night’s rest, which seems to have gone well. Today I need to start working my way through my to-do list, and need to add some things to it. I need to work on the book this evening after work, so here’s hoping today won’t be a emotionally and physically taxing one at the office. I am trying not to get worked up or stressed out about how far behind on this damned thing I actually am–if I get back to work, albeit slowly, I’ll be able to get the damned thing finished on time and one great stressor will be lifted out off my shoulders.

One fun thing I got to do this past weekend was listen to voices–not the ones inside my head, of course–but rather voice actors auditioning to do the audiobook for A Streetcar Named Murder, which also triggered me to do the pronunciation key for whoever the final voice actor is. All four were fine, but there was something about the way this one of them spoke that just seemed right to me, and so I picked her (I think the fact that she was also the only one to say New Orleans correctly played a part in it as well as the fact that she didn’t try to do an accent of some sort; people never really get that the natives here don’t have Southern accents–one of the biggest mistakes made in movies and television shows set here; the actual New Orleans accent, if the area could be said to have one, is very similar to the Brooklyn one–“dese” and “dose” and “the kitchen zink” and so forth; it’s a working class accent known as yat, and it gets its name from saying “where yat?”), and I am actually looking forward to listening to my book at some point. How exciting is that?

It’s also kind of hard to fathom that September is ending and October is nigh; 2022 has gone by very quickly–although January also at this point seems like it was a million years ago in the past. It’s been quite a year and I’ve traveled more this year than I have in many years prior to the pandemic, frankly. I started off the year with the Birmingham/Wetumpka weekend, moved on to Left Coast Crime, the Edgars, Sleuthfest, and Bouchercon, with a trip to Boston for Crime Bake coming up too, and I also went to Kentucky for a long weekend, and will be heading back up for Thanksgiving this year (which means listening to Ruth Ware on the way up and Carol Goodman on the way home, woo-hoo!) but next year my traveling will be severely curtailed; probably Bouchercon in San Diego will be my only travel in 2023 other than Kentucky. I am getting too old to travel well, alas–Bouchercon knocked me out for an entire week, but that was also partly due to the back injury I sustained while I was there–and it also put me into a hole of being behind that I don’t really want to think about too much, you know? I despair of ever clearing out my email inbox, and as for all the writing I need to get done…well, somehow it will happen or it won’t. Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. May your Tuesday be all you hope it can be, Constant Reader, and I’ll be back tomorrow.

Lonely Days

The first “Gothic” novel I read was Victoria Holt’s The Secret Woman (technically, it was Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree, but I don’t really think of Stewart as a Gothic writer–which is a subject for another time), and I fell in love with them. These were the books, usually from Fawcett Crest in mass market paperback, that became famous for the “young woman running away from a spooky house with a light in the window while wearing a long nightgown and having really long hair” covers. Sometimes those covers didn’t belong on the books that had them (Charlotte Armstrong didn’t write Gothics, for one example), but inevitably, you really couldn’t go wrong picking up a book with that kind of cover. My favorites were of course Mary Stewart, Phyllis A. Whitney, and Victoria Holt; I devoured their books, and also enjoyed Susan Howatch, Dorothy Eden, and any number of others. I miss those books, even if sometimes the heroines were incredibly passive to the point where I wanted to shake some self-esteem into them…and have often bemoaned their disappearance from the paperback shelves.

But there are modern Gothics being published–Carol Goodman is a QUEEN of the modern Gothic–and I’ve turned my hand to them from time to time myself (Timothy, The Orion Mask, Bury Me in Shadows) and would like to do more.

So, you can imagine how delighted I was to read (listen) to The Death of Mrs. Westaway.

The girl leaned, rather than walked, into the wind, clutching the damp package of fish and chips grimly under one arm even as the gale plucked at the paper, trying to unravel the parcel and send the contents skittering away down the seafront for the seagulls to claim.

As she crossed the road her hand closed over the crumpled note in her pocket, and she glanced over her shoulder, checking the long dark stretch of pavement behind her for a shadowy figure, but there was no one there. No one she could see, anyway.

It was rare for the seafront to be completely deserted. The bars and clubs were open long into the night, spilling drunk locals and tourists onto the pebbled beach right through until dawn. But tonight, even the most hardened partygoers had decided against venturing out, and now, at 9:55 p.m. on a wet Tuesday, Hal had the promenade to herself, the flashing lights of the pier the only sign of life, apart from the gulls wheeling and crying over the dark restless waters of the channel.

I had heard somewhere that this book had echoes of potentially being a Rebecca homage (hello, Timothy!) so of course I was interested. Ware first exploded on the mystery scene with her The Woman in Cabin 10, which I haven’t read (it’s buried in the TBR pile somewhere) and I had acquired some of her others titles in the years since her debut with In a Dark, Dark Wood (which I also have on hand) and I decided, when picking out audiobooks to listen to on the drive, thought, “Hey, isn’t it about time you checked out Ruth Ware? Overdue, in fact? So I downloaded The Death of Mrs. Westaway and started listening once I pulled away from the curb last Thursday.

Wow.

The main character is Harriet Westaway, who goes by Hal. Hal is poor–very poor. She makes a subsistence-level living by reading tarot cards in a booth on the pier in a seaside resort, and it’s the off-season, where her living is even lower. The book opens with her walking home from a night’s work, trying to figure out how she is going to pay her bills–and which ones can wait, which need immediate attention–and she also owes money to a loanshark, who is getting more threatening with every passing day. Out of the blue she receives a letter from an attorney letting her know she was named in her grandmother’s will, and an invitation to the funeral. Confused–Hal knows that wasn’t her grandmother’s name, and verifies the information by checking her mother’s birth certificate (her mother was killed in a hit-and-run accident when she was a senior in high school–the British equivalent, at any rate–and as such never finished school); it’s a mistake, but…maybe she can fake her way into a bit of an inheritance. She is desperate, after all, and what can it hurt to get away for a little while? And so Hal sets out for the Cornish estate Trepassen–the Westaway fortune has dwindled over the years, and the house is in ill repair, but Hal is very startled after the funeral to discover that her “grandmother” has left everything to her, which now has her on the horns of a dilemma. She knows a mistake has been made about her identity, but doesn’t know how to get out of the pickle she’s now in.

Trepassen reminded me in ways of Manderly, and the Rebecca parallels are there, but this is not a simple homage. Mrs. Warren, the housekeeper, was devoted to the late Mrs. Westaway (whose children despised her) and is perfectly awful to poor Hal. The Westaway family welcomes Hal as the long-last daughter of their long-lost sister Maud, which only adds to her guilt about the deception she is pulling on them. Hal is mousy, like the second Mrs. deWinter, and there were times I wanted to shake her into standing up for herself a bit more…but on the other hand, it kind of fits into the situation she’s in–how do you stand up for yourself when you are literally lying to everyone? There are a lot of family mysteries to explore and unravel. Hal’s arrival at Trepassen starts those threads unraveling, and like any true Gothic heroine, soon her life is in danger…

I enjoyed this book tremendously. It reminded me strongly of Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney, and I will certainly be reading more of Ruth Ware going forward.

Amazing Grace

Well, I am home and I am drained–exhausted on every level: emotional, physical, mental. I got home before six last night–I left Kentucky at seven a.m. my time–and of course, the entire time I was there I never slept much or well, so while I did sleep well last night (oh, the comfort and joy of my own bed at last) I am still bone-tired physically this morning as I swill my coffee and wait for clarity of mind to develop. I am glad I took this essentially last minute trip, though. I hate that my family lives so far away from me. Or I live so far away from them? I don’t know which is the proper way to put that. I guess it doesn’t matter.

I did do a lot of reading–I listened to Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway on the way up and Carol Goodman’s The Night Villa on the way home (I got home so fast that I wasn’t able to finish the latter; I am going to finish listening to it this morning while I get the Lost Apartment back under control), and I also read Alan Orloff’s delightful I Play One on TV and James Kestrel’s Five Decembers, which was amazing. My dad also gifted me two books by Paul Strathern, The Medici and The Borgias. After I finished reading Alan’s book I started reading The Borgias, which is really interesting. (My dad bought them because I talked so much about loving Italy, so he decided to read some Italian history; he really enjoyed them and thought I would as well, and I am like gimme gimme gimme.) He had also cleaned out an area in the basement, purging books (I come by my hoarding tendencies genetically) and found some that were mine when I was a kid so he put them aside for me, if I wanted them. I took them, even though I am trying to purge books myself; ironically, one of the books he gave me was The Rape of the A*P*E*: A History of the Sexual Revolution by Allan Sherman, which I talked about in my erotica writing workshop at Saints and Sinners, and since I have to teach it again at the West Jefferson Parish Library a week from Saturday, I am glad to have it in my hot little hands. I really have to be more prepared this time around.

As I sit here and the coffee works its wiles on me, I am trying to figure out and remember where I am with everything and what needs doing. I am terrified to look at my inbox; I mostly deleted spam the last four days, so that it didn’t get completely out of control. I need to finish the edits on my book and I need to revise a short story, that much I do know, so when I get through this morning I’ll be buckling down here at the work station and trying to get through them. I’ve also got to get the workspace under control, and the Lost Apartment isn’t exactly in great shape either (I didn’t get the chance to clean as thoroughly as I would have liked before I left; I also left a sink full of dishes, which I started working on last night but didn’t quite finish; Paul and I decided a few hours after I got home to relax and watch our shows-in-progress: Under the Banner of Heaven, Hacks, and Gaslit (what they did to Martha Mitchell was so disgraceful–and Julia Roberts is killing the role) because exhaustion was starting to seep in for me and I really was out of steam. My easy chair felt amazing–I really felt like I was one with the chair last night–and there is definitely nothing like my own bed. I woke up at six this morning–my body not knowing it was a holiday and I didn’t need to go to work this morning–but I stayed in bed for another hour before getting up. I really don’t want to figure out what all I have to get done and where I am with everything just yet–and I absolutely should go to the grocery store today, but I don’t have the energy to deal with that today so I’ll probably make a short list and stop on the way home from work tomorrow. I have to go uptown to get the mail anyway.

Yeah, that sounds like a better plan than going today. (Although hilariously last night I said to Paul at one point, “I probably should at least do the dishes and stop putting things off until tomorrow, which is becoming a habit and I don’t like it” and here I am, pushing something off till tomorrow again.)

Some things never change.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Memorial Day, Constant Reader.

Wild World

In a little while I’ll be loading up the car and heading north. Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway Is cued up on my phone to start streaming as soon as I start the car and head out on the highway. It’s around twelve hours, give or take, to get up there, and of course I lose an hour to time zones when I cross the state line from Alabama to Georgia. I’m not taking a lot–I am only going to be there for two days–but here’s hoping I’ll be able to sleep while I am there and get some rest. I am going to hopefully finish reading James Kestrel’s Five Decembers while I am there, which will be lovely, and I do have some things that I’ll need to work on while I am there as always–I never can go anywhere without having things to do while I am gone–but hopefully leaving this early will help me avoid traffic in Chattanooga, which is always a nightmare at rush hour (I’ve never driven through Chattanooga when traffic wasn’t a nightmare, frankly, but here’s hoping). I think I will be passing through Knoxville during rush hour, and that could be ugly as well. If I am making some decent time I want to stop and take pictures in the Smoky Mountains–a rest stop or a lookout or something–because that could help with my story “Smoky Mountain Rest Stop”–but we’ll have to see how that all goes.

It’s rained all night here–I woke up to a thunderstorm and a downpour–which will, of course, make loading up the car and driving out of New Orleans amazingly fun this morning, but that’s okay. I love rain–another reason I love living here is the amazing rain and thunderstorms we get here (the flash floods, on the other hand, are not nearly as lovable)–and I actually don’t mind driving in it as long as it isn’t a monsoon; there’s something oddly comforting about being inside the car, snug and dry and warm, while it rains outside. (Similar to being in bed during such a storm.) I didn’t sleep all that great last night, to be honest; I kept waking up every hour or so before falling back asleep again only to wake up again about an hour later. Quite strange, actually, particularly since I feel rather well rested this morning now that I am awake and swilling coffee before hitting the road. I packed last night–there’s a few things left that need to go into the suitcase before I leave–and I think I have everything I need already organized and packed, except for a few things. It’s also getting light outside now, which is also a plus. I am leaving behind a messy kitchen–I’d thought about doing the last load of dishes in the sink before leaving, but it doesn’t look like I’ll have the time after all; I’ll probably just fill the stock pot with water and leave everything in it to soak while I am gone.

It’s so weird, yesterday I got contacted by a local news station (WWL, to be exact) about appearing on their Great Day Louisiana segment. If you will recall, I had to step in to teach an erotica writing workshop at Saints and Sinners this year. It went well, I think (despite my paralyzing stage fright), and one of the attendees was the programs manager at East Jefferson Parish Library, out in Metairie just off Clearview Parkway. He said to me afterwards, “I need to have you do this at the library,” and of course I said “sure.” It’s been scheduled now for June, but when the library newsletter went out, WWL contacted him to see if I would come on their show, and of course–despite the fact that I hate the sound of my voice and I don’t like seeing myself on film–I said yes. So yesterday I had to fill out an insane amount of paperwork, but I am, indeed, going to be filming that appearance on the Tuesday morning after Memorial Day.

Yay?

Kind of cool, though. I have to say it’s been weird feeling like I am in demand lately. Weird, and cool at the same time. Certainly not something I am really used to, but when I was doing the interview the other day for Three Rooms Press’ website, it did occur to me–which it does sometimes, always catching me off guard–that I’ve been publishing fiction for twenty-two years now. Twenty-two years. My first book came out twenty years ago; the second nineteen. So Chanse is twenty and Scotty is nineteen. How wild and weird is that? Obviously, when I started I certainly hoped I’d still be doing this all these years later, but it’s so fucking weird when I actually think about it–and cool, let’s not forget that it’s also pretty cool–that it’s sometimes hard for me to wrap my mind around it, you know?

I guess I am an elder in the queer crime community now? YIKES.

And on that note, Constant Reader, I am going to get ready and hit the road. I may not post for the next few days, but don’t worry–at the very least I shall return for Memorial Day. Have a lovely day!

Liar

Look at me, up and awake before seven in the morning on a Sunday! Who would have ever thought that would happen? I feel surprisingly awake and alert and rested this morning, given the early hour and all, but that’s okay. When you’re awake, you’re awake–so I figured I might as well get up and get a jump on the day. I will be going deep into the edits of A Streetcar Named Murder today. I ran the errands I needed to run yesterday, got some organizing and cleaning done around the house, and started the deep dive into the edits yesterday–most of the day was spent planning and figuring out things in the book that I didn’t have time to figure out when I was actually writing it (mistake mistake mistake; how do pantsers do this all the time?) and with my lesson firmly learned, am ready to get cracking on fixing the errors here and clearing up and tightening up the story. I want to be finished with it all before I leave on Thursday, because it will be very hard for me to finish it while I am in Kentucky. (And I’d rather spend whatever time I have free while I’m up there reading, frankly.) I’m getting a bit excited about the trip, if I may be so bold as to say so, which is a good thing; right now I am not even dreading all those hours in the car–I have Carol Goodman and Ruth Ware novels to listen to in the car–and while I do have to go into the office tomorrow, I work at home on Tuesday this week and can packed and ready to go that day so Thursday morning I can get up, have some coffee, and head out on the highway early.

There’s also some straightening and organizing I need to get done this morning–looking around the workspace is making me shudder right now–but it’s nice to feel rested and ready to go, honestly. I wonder what was so different about last night that I slept so much better? I’m not even going to check the Fitbit because I don’t necessarily trust its judgement and evaluation of my sleep, to be honest. I mean, it’s interesting to see how I feel vs. how it thinks I slept–but there are times when I wake up and feel rested and great but I supposedly slept poorly; and then mornings when I get up and feel groggy and tired and exhausted, it claims that I slept very well. I don’t know if I can trust it, and frankly, if it wasn’t part of the complicated system of trying to get cheaper health insurance through my job, I sure as hell wouldn’t wear it. Paul often buys me really nice watches as gifts and I never wear them–mainly because I am clumsy as fuck and inevitably break things that are nice–but the Fitbit…like I said, there’s this really complicated system of scoring points through a program that helps reduce the cost of my health insurance. I’m not entirely sure I understand it–I never really grasped it when it was explained eight or nine years ago–but I know I score points, earn a medal status (bronze, silver, gold) and if I get to silver, I don’t have any “out of paycheck” contributions to my health insurance, and registering my daily steps and how well I slept through the Fitbit scores fifty points per day. (The points also can be cashed in for gift cards; I always get Amazon to buy books, of course. Don’t @ me; the other options don’t really work for me.)

It looks to be a nice day outside my windows this morning, although it’s undoubtedly already incredibly hot outside. I’m hoping to manage to not go out into it much today–maybe taking out the trash or something–and I may be meeting a friend who’s in town for drinks later this evening (not too late, since I have to get up early in the morning), but other than that, I mostly plan to sit here at this desk and edit and revise and rewrite today. I also don’t know how long it’s going to take me to get this finished; I am hoping by focusing and working really hard and not allowing myself to get distracted I can power through and get this back to my publisher before I leave on Thursday.

One can always hope and dream at any rate.

We watched Hacks last night, and the most recent episode of The Offer, although I’m not really sure why we continue to watch the latter. I noticed last night that there are any number of shows we’re in the middle of (Severance, Pieces of Her, Slow Horses) that we forgot we were watching and thus will need to pick up again–it wasn’t that we weren’t enjoying them, but rather that we inevitably ended up having our viewing disrupted by something for several days and when we had time to go back and get caught up on things, we forgot we were watching them (we also never finished Physical either). It is interesting–I thought about this while watching The Offer last night–how many shows we’ve seen lately that were set in the 1970’s (Minx, Candy, The Offer) as well as what a great job they are doing depicting the era. I remember saying during one episode of Candy, “living this kind of life was my biggest nightmare when I was a kid, and they are doing a great job of showing how bleak and ugly and dull suburban life was back then.”

I also have started up again with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I’d stopped watching last season because I quickly grew tired of the Erika Jayne/Erica Girardi mess–I’d never particularly liked her very much, but at least she was somewhat entertaining–but given that the great wealth she has flaunted ever since she joined the cast was essentially stolen from settlements for victims of great and horrific tragedies and she was completely unrepentant and tried to play like she was the real victim, I no longer felt any desire to watch a sociopathic narcissist who has knowingly or unknowingly participated in embezzlement, fraud and God knows what else. I’d reached a point where I kept thinking someone just needs to slap the shit out of that fucking crooked bitch and felt that giving them eyeballs and a rating point on Hulu was endorsing the fact that Bravo was enabling her and giving her a platform to try to redeem herself in the public eye, which was shitty. Sure, innocent before proven guilty and all that–but The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills isn’t a court of law; and the fact they milked her potential criminality for ratings was disgusting and craven. I don’t love to hate her, I just fucking hate her. And the rest of the cast–outside the newer ones–are equally garbage. I stopped watching The Real Housewives of New York during its most recent season because I couldn’t watch the blatant racism being offered up as “entertainment.” Fuck you, Bravo, and fuck you, Andy Cohen. The Real Housewives shows have become a microcosm of everything that is wrong with American society and culture: there’s no accountability for anything. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: people are rewarded for being horrible.

It also makes me feel like I’ve always been incredibly naïve about the world, believing that being a good person means you’ll be rewarded and bad people will be punished for their wrong-doing, when the harsh reality is quite the opposite. I feel like I’ve been gaslit most of my life, frankly.

Which, of course, always comes back to me being a crime writer. I want to see justice being done. I want to see evil-doers punished and good people rewarded for their goodness. I want to write about a world where murderers and criminals are caught and punished, their victims avenged; not the real world where the wealthy can hire great lawyers and outspend the prosecution to get off, while so many innocent people who cannot afford great lawyers are convicted or talked into taking plea bargains every day and doing time while having committed no crime other than not being able to afford a great lawyer. (I’ve always wanted to write about a public defender–but who wants to read a book where the public defender loses every case?)

Heavy heaving sigh. And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader–I’ll check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Bring the Boys Home

Thursday and I’ve survived thus far–small victories, regardless of how small they might be, are still victories–and just today and tomorrow in the office before the weekend. I have switched out Monday for Tuesday next week (the guy who works Monday has a doctor’s appointment so we switched days) which should make for an interesting week; in office Monday, at home Tuesday, in office Wednesday, leave on Thursday. I am really dreading going back to five days in the office, but am also hoping that by the time that happens we’ll also have evening hours again so I can give up these wretched mornings.

The good news is I have selected my audiobooks for the drive next week: The Night Villa by Carol Goodman and The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware. I think the books I will take with me to read while I am there will be Five Decembers by James Kestrel (which recently won the Edgar for Best Novel) and probably Rob Osler’s Devil’s Chew Toy, most likely. I won’t have time to read both while I am there–I’ll only be there for two full days, plus two 12 hour drive days (YAY CAN’T WAIT)–but I can certainly make some headway with at least one of them. I also am thinking since I usually get up at six on Thursdays that I can go ahead and get up that early next Thursday and be on the road by seven-ish in the morning. That will help me get past the two biggest logjams on the road (Birmingham and Chattanooga) at off hours, but will put me into Knoxville during the evening rush hour, yay, but better one than all three). I also would like to stop and take some pictures in the Smoky Mountains on the way, which is something I’ve always wanted to do whenever I am driving this trip, but I’m always behind schedule and rushing and its dark outside in the time of year when I usually make it, so….but those gorgeous sunsets in the mountains are marvelous. It’s too bad my story has to be finished long before this trip, alas…at least if I want to make it for this submission call.

If I want to make this submission call. The jury is still out.

I slept decently last night–I haven’t synced the Fitbit to the phone yet for a definitive sleep score yet–but i did wake up a few times during the night but I was able to go back to sleep each time. Ah, a 76–that feels about right. I feel a bit groggy this morning but somewhat rested; we’ll see how good I am at getting things checked off the to-do list today, won’t we? I had drinks with a friend in from out-of-town last night after work, and then when I got home I had to hide everything in the kitchen so I could do a ZOOM meeting, which was productive and nicer than I would have thought, and then I hung out with Paul gossiping and getting caught up on each other’s lives before retiring to bed last evening. I am, however, looking forward to getting through this day so I can sleep a little later tomorrow morning, and then slide nicely through to the weekend. Heavy heaving sigh. And of course, next week I have to go to Kentucky. Yay. But I’m very excited about the audiobooks I downloaded to listen to, and the opportunity to do some reading while I am there. Find the positives in everything is always a good methodology to pursue, especially in times like these where it feels like the entire world is burning to the ground. (I said to Paul last night, “no one told me when I was a kid that everything in the world would just get worse and worse every year once I was an adult. That was one thing I didn’t plan on.”)

But as my coffee is kicking in now, and my mind is becoming less clouded and foggy, I am feeling better about my world and all the things I can get done and need to get done and WILL get done by Monday. I need to remember not to be so hard on myself about everything, and maybe slow down and cut back on everything else that I am doing and be a lot more selective going forward. I also need to recognize and accept that I am older and while the heart might still be willing, the body and brain are older and a bit slower and I can’t do as much as I used to. I need to get back to the gym after I return from Kentucky, and start taking that seriously (the pictures from Ellen’s book launch! Ye Gods, I look terrible). I need to focus and get the Scotty book planned, as well as two other projects organized and ready to go, and I also need to get these edits done (I am hoping to spend some of the weekend doing just that; I’ve got to finish this before I can move on to something else).

And I found another submission call that sounds interesting. Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Thursday, Constant Reader, and remember–the weekend is nigh.

The Second Time Around

Up early to start another week of work, and I feel pretty good. Obviously, I would have preferred to stay in bed for another hour or so, but that’s just not in the cards so here I am, drinking coffee and writing a blog entry while I wake up.

I only managed to get two more chapters finished yesterday; I still call that a win, and am very happy to be nearly halfway through the manuscript. If I keep up the pace of one chapter per day, with more on the weekends, I’ll be finished long before the end of the month–which was the original goal, and then I can get back to the WIP.

I spent most of the day yesterday reading A. J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window, and I do have some thoughts on it. Was it a great work of art? No, it wasn’t even the best crime novel I read published in 2018. But it was good enough, you know, and it held my attention enough so I wanted to find out what was happening and what was really going on. But…it was also a very paint-by-numbers thriller; as though the author were simply ticking off boxes as he wrote the book. I’ll always wonder if my read of the book was influenced by the back story of the author–that piece in the New Yorker, in particular. It was very Hitchcockian in some ways, with nods to Rear Window and Shadow of a Doubt, among others, and nods to Gaslight and numerous other films…the great black-and-white noir thrillers of the mid-twentieth century. I’ve not read the other blockbuster novels of the last few years (The Girl on the Train and The Woman in Cabin 10) in whose footsteps this novel follows; I did read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl when it was first released (and before it became a national phenomenon) and greatly enjoyed it.

Here be spoilers.

Continue reading “The Second Time Around”