In America

Wednesday morning and it’s not quite sixty degrees yet this morning in New Orleans, so the space heater is on to take the chill out of my kitchen and my office space as I swill coffee and prepare for my day. I was exhausted yesterday, and fell asleep almost immediately after tumbling into bed. I had a fabulous night’s sleep, and this morning I feel very rested and well–although I could have easily stayed in bed for a while longer. Tomorrow morning I have to get up early because I have to have bloodwork done, but I am also in the home stretch of the week where the half-days are happening.

Huzzah!

I started–very slowly–revising the WIP’s first chapter last night. I’d always envisioned the book opening with the line The summer before my senior year my mother ruined my life, and while it is a great opening, it doesn’t really work with the story I am actually writing–while my character still believes that to be true, of course, as a framing device for the actual story my WIP has become it no longer works. For one thing, I am writing the book in a very close first person, present tense; so opening with a sentence and paragraph in the past tense, where he is obviously looking back to what happened that particular summer in Alabama, the shift in tense is awkward and abrupt and really doesn’t work anymore. I am horribly stubborn about this sort of thing, and it usually takes me much longer to give up and recognize that the opening I love so much has to go–so I am kind of pleased about that I’ve already gotten past that, to be honest. And the story is much better for it.

As I was writing those first ten chapters, too, I recognized holes in the plot when I saw them but, as is my wont, I simply made note of them and kept ploughing ahead. Part of the reason I want to go back and do a second draft of these chapters before I move on to the second half of the novel is because fixing those plot holes and cleaning up those mistakes will make writing the second half easier…and the book might go to twenty-five chapters, rather than the twenty I was thinking about. I”m not going to worry too much about length at the moment–that can always be worked out later–but I am very excited to be writing something new again.

And not to worry, Scotty fans–writing this doesn’t mean I’m not making notes and doing research for the next Scotty. I may not get to it until this fall, but I am going to get to it at some point.

Now I need to get on the stick and get my TWFest homework done. I have to have two books read by next weekend! This is ordinarily not a problem for me, but all kinds of crazy shit is going on around here. I have to have bloodwork done tomorrow, we have to start getting ready not only for the Weekend o’Festivals but also for the house tenting for termites that is going to occur that weekend as well–which means the easy day I have planned for that Friday is turning into a nightmare–I have to take the cat to board; I have to clean out our freezer because the power will be off; I have a doctor’s appointment that day; I have to figure out how to get all my stuff down to the hotel in the Quarter without the car (no fucking way am I paying hotel parking in the Quarter); and how to get ready for that evening’s parties and so forth….then the following Monday, also a day off for me, will require me to retrieve the cat and the car and everything else.

Just thinking about it is making me tired.

But on that note, I am heading back to the spice mines.

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September Morn

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

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

And this? This is why writers drink.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, well.

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

God knows I’m loving Alafair’s.

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Ships

I woke up earlier this morning than I thought I would; while the cat lying on me purring for breakfast didn’t help much, I was actually already awake before Scooter took up residence on my back. It’s also chilly on this gray Saturday morning–more of yesterday’s cold and damp weather, methinks–but that’s fine. I’m not going outside–there are St. Patrick’s Day parades and celebrations throughout my neighborhood as well as Uptown New Orleans, which means drunks will be wandering the ‘hood for most of the day. I’ve actually never been to a St. Patrick’s Day parade in New Orleans, avoiding them like the plague since we first moved here–the thought of catching beads, of course, is always delightful, but they also throw carrots and cabbages and potatoes.

Never a dull holiday in New Orleans.

I intend to spend the day mostly cleaning and reading; I made a good start on cleaning the apartment yesterday and I’d like to keep that momentum going. I am itching to finish reading Alafair Burke’s new book, and I also need to read some more short stories from Murder-a-Go-Go’s. I rewatched Now Apocalypse with Paul last night–he did like it, as I knew he would–and the new episode of Schitt’s Creek; I also watched the first episode of The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann. I had started drinking Chardonnay while I cleaned and listened to music on Spotify, and so by the time I was finished cleaning I was a little the worse for wear for wine to be able to focus on reading anything. I also want to do some cooking today–fry up a pack of bacon for lunches next week, broil some chicken breasts for easy and healthier snacking, etc. I also need to clean out my email inbox, and I need some Apple Support on-line because I can’t seem to access my iCloud drive on my new MacBook Air. I have a Bouchercon board meeting tomorrow afternoon, so I think tomorrow might be the day this weekend I do work.

I may start working on the long-overdue Scotty Bible this weekend as well. It would be enormously helpful and I should have done it a long time ago–if I ever start another series, you can best believe I’ll do the Bible first, and then add to it with every book.

I am thinking about another series, frankly; I have been for quite some time but have had some difficulty (quelle surprise) deciding on what new series I actually want to try writing. Something more mainstream, naturally–this is a business, and I’d like to make more money than I do–but I’m just not sure what. This is actually what I’ve been trying to work out in my head for some time now; so of course, last night I started thinking about writing a series of adventures with Colin front and center. He’s a fun character and I think it would be a lot of fun to write espionage stories with him as the main character; the problem is writing a series about Colin would also eliminate all the ‘man of mystery’ mystique I’ve built around him for seven or eight books now…but I still think it would be a lot of fun. There’s always been a stand-alone Colin adventure I’ve always wanted to write; maybe then not a series, but rather a stand-alone? (I also would like to do a Frank stand-alone sometime, just to mix things up.)

Or…I could just be a lazy slug who sits around and does nothing all day.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Breakdown Dead Ahead

Friday, and we made it through another week, Constant Reader–and a full week of work at that, on top of the Daylight Saving Change madness. This weekend is St. Patrick’s Day, which means the obligatory parade (and traffic congestion, complete with closed roads) in Uptown, which also means I need to get everything requiring driving finished and out of the way today. Fortunately, today is a half-day and I get off work at one, so I can cruise uptown and do all those errands and hopefully be safely inside my apartment by two-thirty.

My new MacBook Air arrived yesterday, and I’ve already gotten it all set up and taken care of so that it is usable, and I absolutely love it. I still have an issue with connecting it to the cloud, so this afternoon when I get home I’ll go on-line and talk to Apple Support and get that taken care of, after which it will be absolutely good to go. It’s very fast, has a lot more storage than my previous Air, and it’s rose gold–I didn’t specify a color so it defaulted to that, and it’s actually rather pretty.

I also intend to spend the rest of the day–after getting home–laundering the bed linens and devoting the day to finishing reading Alafair Burke’s superb The Better Sister, which hopefully will mean a review over the weekend. I’m also behind on reviewing the stories in Murder-a-Go-Go’s, so I need to get caught up on that as well.

As for my weekend plans, I need to get the Lost Apartment back into some sort of order. The house is being termite-tented later this month (scheduled while we’re staying at the Monteleone for the Festivals, and Scooter will be off to the Cat Practice for boarding and grooming and so forth), and I also intend to spend the weekend rereading the first ten chapters of the WIP and planning out the rest of the book. If the weather is nice–which it probably will be; the last few days have been spectacular–I may take a walk with my camera and take pictures of the Bead Trees of St. Charles. I think we’ll be getting a pizza from That’s Amore for dinner on Sunday as a treat for ourselves, and I do want to get a lot of cleaning and organizing and so forth taken care of this weekend.

And yes, I may start doing some research for the next Scotty book. I have an amorphous idea–I want to have the boys hired to investigate two different cases that end up being linked (the old Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew trick), but the trick is how to link the cases. I have a vague idea of how to do it, but am still not completely certain it’ll work, but the title will most likely be Hollywood South Hustle. I really like the idea of a local case juxtaposed against a case involving a film production scandal…

And on that note, ’tis back to the mines of spice before I head to the office. Happy Friday, Constant Reader!

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Wait for Me

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, the writing life. Always such a joy.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Stand by Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Deja Vu

Ash Wednesday!

Carnival is over for yet another year, and today it’s back to work and farewell to the flesh and all of that. We separated and sorted the beads last night, clearing off the coffee table, and now have several bags I’m going to drop off at the library donation spot this Saturday. Today is about heading back into reality; vacation is over along with Carnival, and today is about getting back on that horse. Heavy sigh. Obviously, my preference would be to stay home.

Yesterday was a day off for me; no social media, no emails, nothing. I spent the morning, after writing yesterday’s blog, reading Lori Roy’s superb Gone Too Long, which I am still digesting. There’s a review to come–the book isn’t released until June or July–but I want to spend some more time digesting the book and thinking about it before I write anything about it. It’s fantastic, as all Lori’s books are, but this one–and I hesitate to say this about books as a general rule–is important in some ways. I do think it’s probably going to be one of the year’s best; again, that usually is the case with any Lori Roy novel.

I also started reading Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister, which is off to a rousing good start. This is part of my homework for the panel I am moderating for the Tennessee Williams Festival this year, and what a curse to have to read some fantastic books this month, you know?

I also scribbled notes in my journal for the WIP and a future Scotty, along with some notes on short stories and so forth. This most recent rejection of a short story has made me realize the stories have to dig deeper, and that’s what I am going to do with the next versions of the stories–I need to figure out who the characters are in my stories and build the stories outward from there. Usually, when I write a story, it begins as a fragment of some sort–an overheard conversation, a sentence defining who a character is–and then I build from there.  I think what I need to do going forward is branch out and write the story from its original kernel, and then break it down into its separate parts.

It’s always a learning process, isn’t it?

I also read another story from Norah Lofts’ Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? 

The story is called “Pesticide”:

“And what about Jennie?” It was an old problem and the question made a kind of chorus through my life. My sister Angela was ten when I was born; my brother Bill, twelve, Margery almost fifteen. My mother had actually resumed work and I can imagine that my arrival caused her considerable inconvenience. Inconvenient–though far from unloved–I had remained; too young to share pastimes, interests, holidays; “a drag” as Angela had once said when Mother urged her to take me on a picnic.

Now, in June, as I was recovering–rather slowly–from having my tonsils removed, both my parents, archaeologists, were invited to join a “dig” in Turkey; Angela was perfecting her Italian in Perugia; Bill was doing a stint of good work with the Labrador Mission and Margery’s exact whereabouts were unknown. The last communication was from Libya, where she had a job as secretary-interpreter to a Dutchman who had a firm in Tripoli. It was a postcard of some splendid Roman ruin and it said, tersely, “Shall not be here long. will write.” No letter had arrived; nobody worried. As a family we were happy-go-lucky as well as cosmopolitan. But even my parents jibbed at the idea of leaving me alone in the house.

Several ideas were discussed and discarded for this reason or that; and then Mother had an inspiration. “I wonder if Effie could have her.”

Effie, it turns out, was the live-in housekeeper/nanny/cook/babysitter who left the family before Jennie was born; she married and moved away. So Jennie now is sent to stay with Effie and her new husband–who is a monster of the worst sort, making Effie completely miserable and Jennie–a rather precocious ten year old–decides to take matters into her own hands.

Not really a ghost story, but it’s definitely Gothic and very chilling.

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