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!

When You’re Hot You’re Hot

And when you’re not, you’re not.

I am deep in the weeds of my edits/revision (make no mistake: editors and copy editors are worth their weight in gold and are treasures, seriously) and I think it’s going well; it’s hard to say when you are not the best judge of your own work. I slept really well last night–I did wake up a few times because I have so much to do and feel a bit overwhelmed from time to time–but I do feel rested, which bodes well for the rest of my day (we’ll see how I feel this afternoon) and I am awake this morning, so that’s a good thing. Tomorrow is my work-at-home day (I switched days with a co-worker) and so I don’t have to get up as early then; I suspect I will, though–that always seems to be the case these days. I woke up early yesterday rather than allowing myself to sleep in with the end result that I got a lot done. I would like to keep the ball rolling today; we’ll see how it goes and how I feel when I get home tonight.

There’s really nothing to bring you down to earth after the high of getting an award nomination (or two) like diving into your edits. Yikes. But I do think it was smart to give up on getting that short story turned in for tomorrow; the story doesn’t even have a completed first draft and so it probably would have been rushed had I tried to get it finished in time, and then in a few months, after the rejection and so forth I would have reread the story and been mortified that I turned it in at that stage of its development. This happens a lot more frequently than I would like to admit, frankly; it happens with the MWA anthologies all the fucking time. (This, of course, explains why I never get accepted into one of the MWA anthologies…)

Heavy heaving sigh.

I leave for Kentucky on Thursday; which means I have a rather lot to get done before I leave. I’d like to get these edits finished by then and turned in (which might be overly ambitious, let’s be honest) so I don’t have to worry about any of it while I am away–I would much rather be able to just rest and relax and read while I am up there, which would be lovely. I started reading James Kestrel’s Best Novel Edgar winning Five Decembers yesterday, and it’s quite good thus far. I like the setting in Hawaii just before the attack on Pearl Harbor (I’ve always wanted to write a murder mystery set in Honolulu and opening on December 8th, 1941, while the battleships are still smoking in Pearl Harbor), and I am curious to see how it’s going to go as I get deeper into the book. It did the Edgar, so I have to assume that it’s really well done and a good story–I’ve yet to read a Best Novel winner than disappointed, frankly–and of course, there’s some marvelous audiobooks loaded into my phone to listen to in the car that I am really excited about. I cleared out some more books yesterday–an on-going, never-ending process, apparently–but I won’t be able to drop anything off at the library sale for at least another week (since I will be gone this weekend), so I have the chance to clear out even more books. I am trying to resist sentimentality–and of course, if I have acquired the ebook edition I don’t need the hardcover anymore–and have been doing quite well with that, I think–there are some I have not succeeded in untying myself from, but think the desire for no clutter will eventually overrule everything else.

One would hope, at any rate–although it doesn’t seem to have done much good up to this point in my life.

I am trying very hard this morning to keep and maintain low stress levels; just keeping my head down and moving forward slowly but surely, ticking things off the to-do list one by one. It’s not easy when things are pressing in on every side–sometimes I really feel like I am in one of those episodes of Scooby Doo where the bad guys have them trapped in a room and the walls start moving in to crush them–but I just need to remember to stay relaxed, not get irritated (DO NOT LOSE YOUR TEMPER NO MATTER HOW FRUSTRATING SOMEONE MIGHT BE), and keep calm. Nothing is worth getting upset or angry over; the priorities have to be set and stuck to, and everyone else just needs to wait their turn. If people get pissed off at me, it isn’t my problem. No one, after all, ever seems to take my needs and concerns and feelings into consideration.

I really do need a vacation, and not one that involves going to a conference or visiting my parents. I need to go someplace where I can just unplug, not worry about emails or anything else, and just relax and be by myself (or with Paul) and rest and get my head together and unplug from all the stressors and irritations of my every day life. A beach someplace would be absolutely lovely; I remember the lovely balcony of the condo we rented in Acapulco, where we could hear the waves coming into shore and there was that lovely cool salty breeze regularly blowing in off the bay. I’d settle for Dauphin Island, really; or any place along the Gulf Coast as long as there’s a breeze and waves and all the associated noises that go with being by the sea. I need to recharge, and my weekends off are just not enough. And given this weekend is going to involve twenty-four hours of driving, this is probably not going to be it, either.

After working yesterday, I spent some more time with Five Decembers and also reread the last two books of Heartstopper again, since the show has been renewed for another two seasons, I wanted to refresh my memory about what goes on the last two books to prepare mentally for when the show drops. The books do take a dark turn–I can’t lie about that, they do–and it was one that I didn’t see coming, but at the same time that dark turn is kind of important because it’s handled so remarkably well? It’s just difficult, because through watching the show and reading the books I’ve become rather attached to Charlie and Nick and don’t want anything bad to ever happen to them–which isn’t realistic, and I especially know that as an author myself; how many horrible things have I had happen to Scotty and the boys in that series? And in all fairness, I was far worse to Chanse than I ever have been to Scotty and the boys….Chanse seriously went through some shit, and part of the reason I stopped writing about him was because I was tired of torturing him…just let him live happily ever after already and be done with it. (I’ve had a couple of ideas about bringing him back–I have some story ideas he would be perfect for–but then I think, maybe I should just leave him be and create someone new for those stories–using a character you’ve already established and know very well is kind of lazy writing, isn’t it?)

Heavy sigh.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader. I am going to sure as hell try myself.

She’s Not Just Another Woman

Well, yesterday was actually quite lovely. I slept extremely well Thursday night and of course, the Anthony Award nominations turned my week around when the news broke that night (I still can’t believe Bury Me in Shadows is nominated TWICE), and I did spend a lot of yesterday trying to thank everyone for their congratulatory tweets, posts, comments and emails–I can’t think of anything lovelier than having to say thank you to people for their kindness–AND then Netflix renewed Heartstopper for an additional two seasons, which warmed the cockles of my cold, dark little heart. I wasn’t able to get as much done as I would have liked–but I did get some important thinking done, and today I am really going to start working on my edits. When I got home from work yesterday I did a lot of cleaning and organizing in order to get it out of the way before the weekend, precisely so I could focus on my edits. We spent the evening, once I’d made dinner (Swedish meatballs over egg noodles, if you were wondering) watching this week’s Under the Banner of Heaven and then one of the two new episodes of Hacks before we turned in early for the evening. I slept marvelously again last night, and feel very rested and a-rarin’ to go this morning. I do have some errands to run–nothing major that will take me away for long; I need to get the mail and put gas in the car–and then I can settle in for a day of editing and writing, which I am strangely looking forward to doing.

It was a rollercoaster of a week, ending withe incredibly pleasant high of having two Anthony Award nominations for the same book–still having trouble wrapping my mind around this, to be honest; I don’t know if it’s ever happened before–but I am not the only person with more than one nomination. Tracy Clark is nominated for Best Novel for Runner and for Best Short Story; S. A. Cosby is nominated for Best Novel (Razorblade Tears), Best Short Story, and Best Anthology for Under the Thumb. I feel confident no one’s ever been nominated for three Anthonys in the same year, as well; Shawn just keeps breaking down barriers with his extraordinary work. The nominations list is also one of the most diverse I’ve seen in all my years in this business, which certainly also bears remarking on.

As always, I still have a ridiculous amount of work to get done; but now that I am all rested this morning and feeling great about things, I am not so worried or stressed about it as I was yesterday or earlier in the week (being tired is so unpleasant, and just opens to the door to stress and anxiety and depression); we will see, of course, how long that will last very shortly, won’t we? I have hopes–although I know going out into the blisteringly hot and humid day to run errands will suck the energy right out of me, sending me quite literally to my easy chair; but I can work in the easy chair–if I make myself do it, which I feel like I can do today. I don’t think I am going to make the deadline for that short story–its fine, really; I was thinking about it last night and realized working on it has been a way of pushing off getting the edits on my book finished because I just can’t face working on it again, but I am over it already. I still don’t know the middle of the story, and I can always finish it some other time and get it done and try to sell it somewhere. It’s a pretty good story–I just need to figure out the middle of it.

Sigh. I hate the middle.

But looking around the desk this morning, there’s things I need to put away and filing that needs to be done; I also got down my Scotty books (with the pages marked with sticky notes for each character’s history and background; this was the initial step to creating a Scotty Bible to make continuity easier for me) and have them stacked neatly on the right corner of the desk underneath some others I’ll be using for Chlorine research (should I ever get around to that, I am beginning to sense the slippage of time through my hot little fingers). This is always the first step of writing a Scotty book; gathering the copies of the old for references. I have the prologue-opening spoof of a more famous book’s opening selected and even written somewhat (A START!) and I am doing some research–I am going to pay homage with the book to two Nancy Drew mysteries (The Ghost of Blackwood Hall and The Haunted Showboat) in this plot/story, so I actually had to sit down and reread both books (another blog post there, but you’ll have to be patient, Constant Reader) this past week–more of a skim, really; just to get some feel for them again since I didn’t really remember as much of them as I would have liked–and yes, I have thoughts (hence the blog post which I’ve already started).

But as I said, I have edits to dig into today, and some filing to do before I run the errands, so it’s perhaps best that I bring this to a close this morning and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will chat with you again tomorrow morning.

Never Ending Song of Love

Wednesday and we have achieved midweek at last. Yesterday wasn’t a very pleasant day–it could have been worse (it can always be worse)–but I was not sorry to see the day come to a miserable close, frankly. My Fitbit claimed I had one of the better nights’ sleeps that I’ve had in a while (the highest sleep score I ever got was an 86 out of 100; yesterday morning showed “82”–I’m not really sure how this all works but anything above an eighty is supposed to be good and anything below not good; yesterday felt like a 76 to me, but I’ve been wrong before) and I definitely ran out of steam in the mid-afternoon around three o’clock. (The last two appointments every day are awful–for me; I hope the clients don’t notice that I’m loopy and tired…) I don’t think I slept as well last night as I did the night before–my Fitbit is currently syncing with my phone, so I’ll get last night’s ‘sleep score’ soon–and it was, indeed, a 77, which isn’t good.

But was about what I expected, so another day of running out of gas in the middle of the afternoon. Huzzah.

Progress of a sort is being made. I turned in the Bouchercon anthology yesterday (note to self: let the contributors know) so that’s off my plate, and now I get to start diving into the edits on my book. They are extensive, but will make the book stronger and I am going to need to start pulling all of that together quickly and soon. I did (briefly) start working on the Scotty book over the weekend, and I do need some time to think about that one as well. I guess next week in the car on the way to Kentucky I’ll have some time to think about it, around listening to whatever books I decide to listen to on the driving. I also have a shot at getting that story finished, since the deadline is later than I thought, but we’ll have to see precisely how much free time I have this weekend. I still haven’t decided what book to read yet–I was much too tired when I got home from work last night to read, so it was another evening of catching up on shows Paul doesn’t watch before he got home late.

I’m really tired… of being really tired.

But the world continues to turn and time continues to pass. Paul also expressed surprise at how quickly May has flown by thus far; I was thinking the same thing myself yesterday. This entire year has kind of flown by, it feels like, but on the other hand New Year’s and Carnival seem like a very long time ago. I tested negative for COVID yet again this morning–it still boggles my mind that I, of all people, have never had it–which is a good thing; I would hate to come down with it before my trip next week–and I am not feeling nearly as overwhelmed this morning as I was feeling, say, yesterday morning. I still have a shit ton of things to get done in the meantime, but it seems a bit more do-able this morning to me. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, I don’t know, but I just seem to feel better about everything this morning. I’m not feeling particularly creative this morning either, but stranger things have happened, and maybe once my morning coffee kicks completely into gear my creativity will start to flow as well.

Ha ha ha. A boy (even a sixty-year-old one) can dream, can he not?

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

Easy Loving

Monday morning and I really didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. I have so much to get done this week it’s kind of overwhelming, to be honest; and the temptation to just stay in bed for the rest of my life and avoid the world was kind of really powerful this morning. Yet the world stops turning for no man, let alone a Gregalicious, so there was naught for me to do other than arise, do my morning ablutions, and start drinking coffee. I did sleep fairly well, despite the enormous stress of a to-do list with incredibly lengthy chores and projects to work on, and feel pretty well rested this morning–if not quite up to dealing with the world at large.

Ellen Byron’s book launch last night was marvelous. I was delighted to see she had a very good turnout and sold a lot of books–and she is the QUEEN of swag. I for once didn’t have stage fright–I knew Ellen would be warm and witty and wise and funny; all I had to do was lob some questions at her and she was off and running (she did try to deflect attention back to me a couple of times, but I was ready to turn the spotlight right back on her after a brief answer and succeeded each time). The book itself is lovely, too; you want to get a copy of Bayou Book Thief, especially if you’re a fan of traditional mysteries. The cover is gorgeous, and it’s a fun story with a likable main character and a likable supporting cast, and Ellen’s adoration of New Orleans spills over on every page–and what more can a New Orleanophile ask for? I also picked up a copy of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (I saw it and remembered someone recommending it to me a while back, so I grabbed it immediately) and a copy of Albert Camus’ The Stranger, which I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time now (since Camus was inspired by The Postman Always Rings Twice for his own novel, I thought it only made sense for me to finally read the Camus)–I can never walk into a bookstore and not walk out with more than I intended to buy when I walked in (I had only intended to get a copy of Ellen’s finished book; I read a pdf) but that was fine–I wanted both books and let’s face it, I am always going to buy books at every opportunity, but it is time for me to start donating books to the library again.

I am not familiar with the part of New Orleans where the bookstore is located; Blue Cypress Books is on Oak Street past Carrollton, not far from where Carrollton and Claiborne intersect (and yes, the two streets actually run parallel to each other in my neighborhood; welcome to the wonderful and terribly confusing world of New Orleans’ bizarre geography). I would have, as per my usual, simply driven all the way to Riverbend on St. Charles then turned left on Carrollton…but I decided not to do my usual “this is how I know to get there” thing and used Google maps. Interestingly enough, Google maps took me on to Highway 90 then I-10 before getting off at the Carrollton exit in front of Costco and going that way…and it was faster–a lot faster, which I still kind of can’t wrap my mind around, but then again that’s New Orleans geography for you; my mind always thinks in terms of grids where everything runs north and south or east and west, and that isn’t New Orleans. The only actual grid design to anywhere in this city is the French Quarter–and only the French Quarter, at that. I have lived here twenty-six years and still get confused and mystified by how geography works here…which is one of the reasons I think people believe New Orleans is magical and mystical. Where else does geography make no sense other than here?

After I got home, we finished watching The Outlaws, which we really enjoyed, and started watching Gaslit. Julia Roberts is killing it as Martha Mitchell–I’d really forgotten a lot about her, but she was kind of a celebrity at the time, more so than the wife of Attorney General could ever hope to be, frankly–and she was enormously popular; everyone liked Martha Mitchell, because you never really knew what she was going to say next, which naturally didn’t sit well with the president of the time, Richard Nixon. (And again with a show set in the 1970s; sensing a theme–Minx, Candy, Gaslit–all set in the 1970s as a reminder to us all just how awful the 1970s actually were…pay attention, everyone. There’s a reason you never want to turn the clock back, or bring an era back.) I’d actually forgotten about Martha Mitchell–she’s often left out of books I’ve read about Watergate–and she was actually kind of an important cultural figure of the time. If the Nixon idea was to erase her from history, it kind of worked. The 1970s was definitely an odd decade.

As I was lying in bed dreading getting up and facing the world today, I thought, I would really love to have a vacation, you know. A week where I didn’t have a deadline to meet, or go into the office, or really do anything at all other than relax and read and watch movies or television shows I’ve not had a chance to see. It’s been a hot minute, and most of the traveling I actually do tends to be writing related in some way, which means it’s not really a vacation but a work trip. I don’t think I’ve actually had a vacation-vacation since we went to Italy, and that was eight long years ago. We’re talking about possibly going to Puerto Rico or some place in Central America (Costa Rica, if anywhere), but I think it’s past time…although I could also use some time off to stay home and get the Lost Apartment into some semblance of order, a Sisyphean task if there ever was one.

I didn’t finish my short story–the deadline was today and I know there’s no way I can get it finished in time to email off by midnight tonight, particularly since there would be little to no time to revise and/or edit it. It’s a shame, but at least the story is further along at about just over a thousand words than it was at less than two hundred; it’s a great idea but I’m basically stuck in the middle. I know how it ends, I just don’t know how to get it there, so letting it sit for a while is definitely in order. I did start writing the new Scotty yesterday–don’t get excited, I literally wrote maybe 175 words of the prologue; I found the book opening I wanted to spoof (Pride and Prejudice) and since I didn’t want to forget, I started writing it and it flowed along for another hundred words or so before I ran out of steam. The Scotty prologues are always the hardest part of the book for me to write; they are basically a recap of Scotty’s life thus far to get a new reader caught up without having to go back and read the first eight (!) books in the series as well as not spoiling the first eight books in the series should the reader decide to go back and actually read the first eight books in the series. (Something I actually need to do before I really dig in and start writing this thing…I really need to do the Scotty Series Bible and get that done so I have an easy reference without having to page through the books or do a search in the ebooks) I also did some research over the weekend for the book, which entailed rereading two Nancy Drew mysteries, The Ghost of Blackwood Hall and The Haunted Showboat (both books bring Nancy and her friends to New Orleans/Louisiana) and oh, yes, that bit of research definitely triggered a blog post which I started writing yesterday after I got ready for the event and was waiting for it to be the right time to leave. I kind of slam Nancy Drew in the post–but the truth is, despite my obsessive collecting of Nancy Drew books (trying to get the entire original series, with the yellow spines) I never actually liked the books all that much. (Same with the Hardy Boys.) While I appreciate the two series for their popularity and for getting kids to read (and to read mysteries) neither series was ever my favorite–but once I started reading and collecting, I had to keep reading and collecting because I am obsessive–and that obsession with collecting the books, while slightly tempered as I’ve gotten much older (and don’t have a place to display the collection), still exists. (Periodically I do think about emptying a bookcase and refilling it with my kids’ series books; it’s always satisfying for me to see them on the shelves. And yes, I know how weird that sounds.)

And now back into the spice mines with me. Y’all have a lovely Monday, okay?

Mercy Mercy Me

Sunday morning and another decent night of sleep. I felt rested this morning, and still have an insane amount of things to get done, but progress was made yesterday. I did my work yesterday–I love when my work consists of reading, especially when the book is as delightful and charming as the one I read yesterday–and so have other things to get done today. Today’s primary task involves reading as well–I also have to come up with clever questions for Ellen Byron for tonight’s (this afternoon’s?) event at Blue Cypress Books, at 5 pm. Come on, come all! There’s also some filing and organizing for me to get done this morning while my mind slowly awakens, and of course, dishes to put away.

But I did get a lot finished yesterday, just not as much as I needed to, which seems to always be the case these days. That’s okay, you see, because I’ve also learned/am trying to be kinder to myself these days, in a successful (some days more than others) attempt to try to keep my stress levels down as well as the anxiety, which will inevitably combine into some sort of depressive, overwhelmed state during which I get nothing done and only compound the problem into a vicious cycle that winds up going around and around and around and where it stops, nobody knows. But my coffee tastes really lovely this morning, which is a good thing, and I feel rested and recuperated, which is also lovely.

Last evening, after we were finished with everything we could do during the day and decided to call it quits for the day, we finished watching Candy–I still am not entirely sure what I think of it, to be honest, but man did they capture the time period absolutely perfectly–and then watched the first two episodes of the second season of Hacks, which is even funnier this time around. Everyone in the show is so perfectly cast, from Jean Smart having the time of her life in a role that is absolutely perfect for her, all the way down to even the most minor characters. It is one of the best comedies on television now, frankly. We then moved on to The Outlaws, a British show on Amazon Prime starring Christopher Walken (who has been working a lot lately, and that isn’t a bad thing at all) which is about a group of disparate characters all brought together from being sentenced to community service together. The first episode wasn’t great, so we were on the fence about continuing but gave it another episode. SO glad we did; the show really kicks into gear in the second episode and the writing is so good, so intricate…definitely recommend it to you, Constant Reader. We also need to get caught up on Severance and The Offer, and there are a few other shows out there we’d like to get started with.

How are y’all doing this morning? I am feeling pretty good, in all honesty. There are some things I need to deal with that I would prefer not, but ripping off the scab and getting it taken care of is better than letting it sit, I suppose. I’m not at all stressed about doing a public appearance tonight–Ellen is a pro, witty and warm and charming, so really all I have to do is lob softballs to her so she can hit them out of the park–because I don’t mind interviewing people (I don’t mind moderating panels so much as I do public speaking; as long as the focus isn’t on me I am more fine than I am with having to give a talk where the focus is entirely on me; I am not sure why I am so uncomfortable in the spotlight). Ellen is also a friend, which makes it easier; it can be like a casual conversation between two friends who also happen to be writers and who both happen to write about New Orleans.

And speaking of New Orleans, I also went down a wormhole of research yesterday. I’m doing some research for the next Scotty book (more on that later), and found myself in yet another wormhole; I don’t even remember how it started (I think with a story that came across my feed about the Mississippi River battures and a street that used to be on other side of the levee, and still is in some places) and then of course one article leads to another leads to still another and so forth and before I knew it a lot of time had passed. There’s so much about New Orleans and its history that I do not know, or knew at one time and have forgotten, and every last thing I find or remember is fodder: oh, this is interesting, I should write about this. This new Scotty book is mostly going to take place outside of New Orleans for the most part; which is a big risk–writing a Scotty that’s not really a New Orleans story, but also is a New Orleans story. (That sounded confusing, even to me and I know what I am talking about.) You’ll just have to trust me, Constant Reader.

And on that note, this morning’s “haven’t completely woken up yet” chores are waiting. Talk to you tomorrow, and have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader–it’s always a pleasure when you check in.

Colour My World

Today’s title song was ubiquitous in the early 1970’s; I would be curious to know how many proms and other high school dances (fraternity formals, etc.) used “Colour My World” as their theme in the first half of that decade. I think my high school in the suburbs used it my freshmen year as the prom theme; my yearbooks were lost many years ago so I cannot verify anything for certain by taking one down from the shelf and looking. At first, I lamented the loss of so much of my high school and childhood memorabilia: letters for sport, letter jackets, scrapbooks, yearbooks, trophies, medals, certificates–you name it, it disappeared years ago. I do have my junior prom photo, some medals, and a plaque I got for something or another when I was in high school–everything else is gone. After the initial sadness at losing memorabilia of my youth, I got over it pretty quickly; it’s just stuff, and really, it’s nothing I’ve ever truly missed. Sure, sometimes I might remember someone or something, and think, oh if I had my yearbooks I could look this person up but it’s always very fleeting…although now that I am thinking about writing about the 1970s those yearbooks would probably come in handy…

Any other sentimental attachments I may have had regarding possessions were ended by Hurricane Katrina and the things we lost then–and we were lucky, we didn’t lose everything–but the mentality of it’s just stuff has really stuck with me since then. Sure, it’s still difficult for me to get rid of books–my storage attic and unit are proof of that–but I am getting there with the books, too. I am really tired of the attic being full and I am really getting tired of paying the storage unit bill. And if I take one box down from the attic every week and go through it–just to be sure–it will eventually be emptied out.

And of course there are other boxes of books stashed around the Lost Apartment, disguised as tables underneath small blankets working as makeshift tablecloths.

Last year Paul and I discussed our hoarder habits and had decided to “clean like we’re moving”–but we have yet to really pursue that goal.

I’ve been depressed and angry alternatively a lot lately; it really does seem sometimes like we are indeed living in the end times; I find my reaction to developing news lately to be all too frequently something along the lines of well, at least I’m old or #teamextinctionevent or something all those lines. I am so tired of having to fight for my rights and those of other non-straight non-white people, seriously. I try not to let this shit get me down by giving myself pep talks: the arc of history bends towards justice, our system often breaks down but always repairs itself, the majority of Americans really don’t want to take rights away from other Americans–all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. But are those things really true? Democracies and republics historically have always collapsed into authoritarianism, going all the way back to Athens and Rome. Organized religion has always been oppressive and monstrous–but we’re supposed to somehow believe that its modern iterations aren’t (yeah, and I’ve got a bridge across the Mississippi River to sell you, too)–and its historical crimes are far too many to mention. Power and money literally corrupt everything, and religion is not free from that stain, despite all the warnings in the Christian Bible. One of my favorite histories to reread is Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly, and my favorite part is “The Renaissance Popes Spark the Protestant Reformation”, about how those popes, from Sixtus IV through Clement VII, essentially through their pride, venality, and lust for power (and women) were so excessive that they drove Martin Luther to nail his ninety-odd theses to the cathedral door, changing history forever.

So, yeah, miss me with that “organized religion” is a societal good thing. It’s not, nor has it ever been, and religion is yet another way for people to be controlled–the opiate of the masses, as Karl Marx said. (oooh, I quoted Marx. Cue the accusations that I am a Communist!)

Heavy heaving sigh. I have an entire post about my rage about Roe and how we’re next in the crosshairs of the “supreme” Court, but I don’t know if I’ll ever post it. It might make me feel better to express my rage publicly, but will it actually make a difference in the world if I do? There’s nothing more frustrating than feeling helpless–it’s the absolute worst (and why religion exists in the first fucking place, don’t @ me) and the major issue with the world burning to the ground all around me, for me, is that when I get down or depressed or frustrated, that makes it much harder for me to actually write things. I want to get this story finished; I need to get the edits on Streetcar done; I have to finish the Bouchercon anthology; and I need to start planning out the next Scotty. I have this terrific idea for it–can’t talk about it publicly yet, obviously, but I’ve become incredibly proud of my own cleverness in this case–and I really want to spend some time playing around with it this weekend. if I can get the anthology finished, put in some good thinking about the edits and do some workarounds with the notes from my editor, and finish this story as well as a base synopsis of the Scotty book, I will be most pleased with myself come Monday morning.

I slept very well last night–even slept in a bit this morning, so am a bit groggy but shaking it off with the assistance of my morning coffee, but feel very rested. I did clean and organize a bit when I got home last night, which was lovely; the kitchen/office looks a bit better this morning than it did yesterday and I also managed to do all the bed linen (I did not, however, put away the load of dishes in the dishwasher, but still–progress). Paul and I watched The Lost City last night, which was a fun diversion, but it was ultimately overall a bit disappointing to me. I kept seeing the similarities to Romancing the Stone, and in comparison, The Lost City comes up short. Channing Tatum, though, is so adorable-especially when he’s playing a himbo–he carries most of the film on his back, really. I didn’t quite get it, really–Bullock is always charming in everything (I will always appreciate her, if for no other reason than Miss Congeniality is genius)–but for some reason she kind of wasn’t in this, for some reason. Maybe I was expecting more and was disappointed? But really, my primary response to the film was “I need to watch both Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile again.” I think the primary reason the movie failed was the power imbalance between their characters, really; Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner were equals, Bullock and Tatum were not, so when Bullock is mean and dismissive of Tatum’s character, it just comes across as mean and bitchy, not funny–and the history between the two isn’t really set up very well, nor is Bullock’s back story as a heartbroken widow how just wants to hide in her house for the rest of her life. A few more scenes could have set this up and built up the dynamic between them better; it just doesn’t play the way it is edited now…which was enormously disappointing for me, because this is precisely the kind of romantic adventure/treasure hunt story I usually love. I wouldn’t say you shouldn’t watch, Constant Reader. Your mileage might vary, of course; but it essentially left me thinking this could have been so much better.

And now, back to the spice mines. Y’all have a lovely day, okay?

Boogie Fever

In March of 2020, something I had only been vaguely aware of became something I was acutely aware of, seemingly overnight: the world, in fact, shut down in the face of a virulent and potentially deadly disease that was communicable. I went to work one morning and all of our appointments had been cancelled; they’d put up shields everywhere in the testing rooms and at the front desk; and after we were there for about a couple of hours the word came down from the chief medical officer: we were shutting down. It happened so fast my head spun. Within days the Tennessee Williams Festival was cancelled, the Edgar banquet was in jeopardy, and false information was spreading even more quickly than the virus. I also remember thinking that the measures we were taking as a country were so drastic that “surely it would be over in a few weeks.”

Ah, naivete.

Stressed out and concerned about everything and everyone, I did what I always do in stressful times: I turned to books. And, as is my wont, I decided to read about plagues. I got down my copy of Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror to read the bubonic plague chapter again; I have a copy of a book called The Black Death (whose author I cannot recall) that I also read; I revisited The Stand by Stephen King (an all-time favorite of mine); Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice; Camus’ The Plague; and even got down Katherine Anne Porter’s short story collection to reread “Pale Horse Pale Rider.” I was, as you can obviously tell, interested in seeing how previous plagues had been dealt with, survived, and the changes they wrought on civilization and society. I also wondered how to write about the pandemic (it not being my first pandemic, either; I always felts queers of a certain age were a little better prepared for the coronavirus outbreak than the rest of the world because we’d already been through HIV/AIDS), and if I would eventually; I wrote a short story called “The Flagellants” which I hope to publish someday somewhere, probably in a short story collection of my own, and even came up with an idea for a Scotty: Quarter Quarantine Quadrille.

But I was also seeing people saying they wouldn’t read fiction set during pandemic times; and other authors shying away from it. I kind of shook my head but understood; I remember how New Orleans writers didn’t want to deal with Hurricane Katrina afterwards–I certainly didn’t when I was living through the aftermath–but we all eventually came around to writing about it. Even if it’s fiction, I feel like we need to have documentation of what it’s like to go through things like hurricanes and pandemics and other paradigm shifts that change the world as we used to know it before the shift.

This past week I started reading an advance copy of the new Chris Helm book, Child Zero, and finished it yesterday–and yes, it’s a pandemic story, and no, it’s not about COVID-19…but what it is, is one hell of a read.

Pike and his men reached the encampment’s southwest gate at precisely 3:15 a.m.

Twelve minutes earlier, their sleek black SUV’s–three in total, armored, tinted, and stripped of emblems, license plates, and VINs–entered the Lincoln Tunnel in Weehawken, New Jersey, having passed the darkened tollbooths without slowing. Two minutes after that, they emerged beneath the murky waters of the Hudson River in Midtown Manhattan and zigzagged until they reached Eighth Avenue.

The stoplights blinked yellow in all directions. They encountered neither traffic nor pedestrians. Three years ago, Pike thought, these streets would’ve been bustling–even at this time of night. Now, thanks to the citywide curfew, they were empty save for police cruisers and sanitation crews.

The forer rolled lazily through intersections, or idled nose-to-tail beside one another so their drivers could converse. The latter clung to the side of tanker trucks in hazmat suits, or wandered two-by-two with smaller canisters strapped to their backs spraying bus stops, subway stations, and other public spaces with disinfectant foam. Fresh from the nozzle, it was enough to make your eyes water, but within minutes it dissipated to a lacy film that turned to fine white dust when touched, and smelled like some fragrance chemist’s idea of clean.

My assumption is that smell was either lemon or pine, or a combination of both?

Child Zero is, more than anything else, a rapid-paced thriller about a future world in which antibiotics have become useless; a virus has spread throughout the world rendering them (I won’t go into the technical details here; it’s explained much better within the pages of the novel and I am no scientist) ineffective in stopping infections or bacteriological diseases of any kind. A cut or a scratch can literally lead to death, and the world has clamped down into an authoritarian society that is even more frightening to contemplate than the pandemic itself. Would this be considered a science thriller? I’m not sure how you would classify this book within the world of crime fiction; it’s definitely a page turning thriller (once I got going yesterday there was no way I was putting it down until I reached the end), and kind of reminded me of Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain, only better (The Andromeda Strain scared the shit out of me when I read it as a teenager a gazillion years ago); Chris Helm is a better writer than Michael Crichton at his best, and it’s amazing what a difference sentence structure, word choices, and intense character development can make in a thriller. Focusing on a pair of cops, one white male and one Muslim woman, who get drawn into an investigation into a mass shooting event at a quarantine camp in Central Park (“Park City”), their investigation soon runs afoul of powerful people, within the government and without; Jacob Gibson is soon put on leave but soon they are witness to another mass death event; and find themselves helping a young illegal immigrant, twelve-year-old Mateo–who is the target everyone is looking for.

You see, all the murder victims in Park City were, surprisingly enough in a time of pandemic, completely healthy–which makes no sense. Somehow, Mateo is the key to everything…and time is running out because Jacob’s four year old daughter is sick.

This is a non-stop thrill ride from start to finish, but what makes it better than your average thriller is not just the timeliness of the story but the fact that the characters aren’t two-dimensional Hero, Sidekick, and Target, the way they so often are in thrillers. They have interior lives, are sharply drawn, and you care about what happens to them–which, to me, is perhaps the most important part of a thriller (and why so many thrillers, in my opinion, miss the mark).

Get it pre-ordered if you haven’t already. It’s truly terrific.

This Is The Story

Wednesday and pay the bills day. Yay? Yay. At least I can pay them. I remember the days when I had to juggle them, and I frankly do not miss that at all.

I had another poor night of sleep last night but I don’t feel terribly tired this morning, which makes no sense. I even got up out of bed earlier than usual. I woke up several times during the night–which is the worst, really–and yes, checking my Fitbit confirms that I am correct; last night was a shitty night’s sleep. I am sure I will be tired this afternoon, yay. Ah, well, at least I am coming straight home from work tonight and have no errands to run. Yesterday I wasn’t all that tired when I got home. I did some editing on a manuscript (not mine), and I also got my copy of Secret Identity by Alex Segura yesterday–a very good mail week, since Monday brought me the ARC of Chris Holm’s Child Zero; I know what the next two books I’ll be reading will be. Yay! I also have some chores to do around the Lost Apartment tonight when I get home. If I get home early enough I really should go to the gym, though. My body could use the exercise, and maybe that would help me sleep better tonight.

It’s supposedly going to be colder today than it was yesterday; I had to turn the air on when I got home from work because it was very stuffy in the Lost Apartment. You gotta love March in New Orleans! Although I suppose by May I’ll be longing for the bipolar March weather, won’t I?

But I am getting things done and making progress, which is always a lovely thing. I sent the most recent edit of my manuscript to my editor–there are still some issues, methinks, but nothing that I can’t eventually fix. I realized last night one of the problems–probably the primary problem–I have whenever I write a book is that I will think I wrote something when I actually just thought about it; I know things that I don’t share with the reader and that I need to share with them. I also never catch these things in the rereads and revisions, either, because I already know them. This is why I can’t ever not be edited, really.

I also realized last night while editing this other book that I am sort of between books now; this one is in its last stages and I’ve not really started even thinking much about the next Scotty (which I really need to start doing, actually; it even occurred to me last night that after I finish this edit and get my taxes together, I could start working on the Scotty Bible I’ve been meaning to pull together to make life easier for me going forward writing those books…). I know I wanted to work on Chlorine and possibly revise one of those longer novellas in April. There are four short stories I also need to work on for places I want to submit them–it’s been a hot minute since I sent a story out into the world–but I am also in this very strange place where the relaxation from the stress/worry about the manuscript hasn’t really sunk in to me just yet. I’m not sure what’s causing the insomnia, but I think maybe I need to mix up the sleeping assistance things that I take.

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

But I Love You More

And just like that, in a snap of the fingers, it’s Friday again and I am working at home. Huzzah? Huzzah!

I have apparently reset my body clock at long last. It took until age sixty plus a few months, but I woke up this morning without the alarm at just before six. I chose to stay in bed until seven–it was very comfortable under my blankets this morning–but I am now out of bed, drinking my first coffee, and feeling pretty well rested and wide awake. I have, as always, a lot of things to do today (some errands to run, work that needs doing, chores that are overdue) but right now I am feeling like I can get it all done without a problem; that’s undoubtedly incorrect–at some point I’ll get derailed or hit a wall or something; it happens every time–but right now I am going to roll with it most happily. I’ve managed to keep up somewhat this week with the chores, so the Lost Apartment doesn’t need as much attention as it generally does as we roll into the weekend; but maybe that’s because we had a truncated work week (thanks Fat Tuesday!). Either way, I want to see if I can build on that and get more things cleaned–the other stuff that I never manage to get to; like dusting picture frames and so forth. I suppose we shall see.

And I might even be able to get caught up on everything. Ha ha ha ha, it had to be said, right?

So my goals for this weekend are to get through my to-do list and make a new one. I have editing to do and writing to do and decisions to be made about my career and my future–always a daunting subject, always put off for another time because i don’t want to deal with it–and hopefully, this weekend will be an opportunity. As I said earlier, I feel more rested this morning than I have in a long time–rested and relaxed–which means, at least for now, that I feel like I can do anything and everything and I can conquer the world, which is a nice feeling…I know I can’t realistically take over the world, but it’s always nice to feel like I can if I wanted to, you know? I definitely want to finish reading Kellye Garrett’s Like a Sister this weekend; it’s quite good, and it feels good to be enjoying reading again. I’d intended to do some reading when I got home from work yesterday, but was very tired–drained, really; it was one of those days at the office for some reason–and so I just kind of hunkered down, let Scooter climb into my lap, and watched history videos on Youtube about Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine’s history. I want to spend some time this weekend figuring out my new Scotty’s plot and subplots–I want this to be a labyrinthine story, ever more so than Royal Street Reveillon was–and I also need to figure out what else I need to be writing this year, and there’s so much else that needs to be caught up on…heavy heaving sigh. But rather than feeling defeated, this morning I feel like I can get everything done and it’s just a matter of rolling up my sleeves and getting to work, which is always a lovely feeling, frankly–and one I’ve not felt in quite some time. Yay? Yay.

Definitely yay.

So right now before my first work meeting of the day I have laundry going–it’s launder the bed linens day, after all–and have to unload the dishwasher. I need to make a grocery list. I need to work on my to-do list and create a new one. There’s always organizing to do around here (my computer files are finally starting to get it together, but there’s still a very long way to go, sadly), and there’s always another chore somewhere that I’ve not noticed (or have ignored for so long that it now escapes notice and seems normal for whatever it is to be the way it is–not a good thing) and of course, I need to get my taxes and stuff together. See? These are things that should be going on my to-do list, rather than being written about here. But that’s just the way my brain bounces around, you know? But it does feel nice to have shaken off the cobwebs and that aching bone-tired feeling, as well as the clouded brain thing. (I shudder to think how much worse this week would have been had I actively participated in Carnival as much as I have done in the past…yikes indeed.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines and try to get some things done before the work meeting. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader; I certainly intend to!