Innocent

Sunday morning, and I feel good.

Yesterday was quite marvelous. As a general rule, I refrain from talking about politics, primarily because I feel I don’t really need to; anyone who knows me knows where I stand. Anyone who has ever read one of my books knows my politics, or they do if they’ve read anything I’ve ever written–essay, blog, short story, etc.. I only talk about equality when I do talk about our country or our system; and my feelings about equality should make it abundantly clear that I am pretty far to the left, and move even further left the older I get. So, when the presidential election was finally called yesterday morning, I ran upstairs with tears in my eyes to tell Paul the great news, and I pretty much realized three hours later, after viewing as much of the celebrations and reading as many articles and so forth as I could in my thirst to make it finally all seem real to me, that I was going to get absolutely nothing done yesterday. And I didn’t, either. I didn’t cook anything, didn’t wash a dish, didn’t write a word; I didn’t read my book, I did nothing constructive at all other than joy-scroll through my social media. I watched football games that meant nothing to me, since LSU wasn’t playing–Indiana beat Michigan for the first time since the Reagan administration; Florida beat Georgia; Notre Dame beat Clemson–but it was all just background noise, really, as I kept going through social media and sometimes would switch over to the news while the games were on.

Could I really afford to take the day off and do nothing? Of course not, but I did precisely that very thing. I figured that since we won’t be electing the first biracial female vice president of the United States ever again, I was allowed to take the day off and bask in the knowledge that this was another historic election.

If someone would have told me, back when I was casting my first presidential election ballot back in 1980, that one day I would be voting for the first black man to become president (and doing it twice), and another day I’d be voting for the first black/Indian woman to become vice president, I would have laughed really hard, as such a thing was completely unimaginable back in those days. (Four years later, Geraldine Ferraro became the first major party female candidate for vice president; it would only take another twenty two years for another one to be a candidate, and another thirty-six years for one to actually win. And yes, much as I am loathe to give the loathsome Sarah Palin credit she does actually count as a historic nominee–even if she is now essentially a political pariah and yet another “Christian values” candidate whose marriage has crumbled into divorce. #Palinfamilyvalues.)

And watching the international celebrations of our election results was also a reminder that, no matter what anyone thinks, despite all of our flaws and mistakes and judgment errors, the rest of the world looks to us for leadership; and despite all the inequality built into our system by imperfect men who were well aware of their flaws and prejudices, we are what they aspire to–our political stability, our peaceful transitions of power, and yes, our freedoms. (Although when they think about our freedoms I rather seriously doubt the right to bear arms is at the top of their list…)

I’ve always believed that history was taught incorrectly; our history shouldn’t be taught as dates and places and battles–those are important, don’t get me wrong, but they are not as important as the progress, throughout history, of human rights and human freedoms. As for the battles and the wars, those should be seen through the prism of whether they pushed forward (or held back) human rights and freedoms. As interesting as kings and queens and emperors and tsars might be…what was life like under their rule? Did the people suffer, or did they prosper, or were they merely seen as sub-humans not really worth the divinely appointed King’s time or consideration?

Heavy thoughts on a Sunday morning. I need to get to the gym today, and I also need to make groceries–I don’t really need to get groceries, really–there’s only a few things we need and it could conceivably wait till next weekend–but I am all about getting things over and done with and out of the way. The Saints play later tonight–an evening game with the Buccaneers–and I’ll undoubtedly watch that until around ten, when I’ll need to go to bed to wake up in time for clinic tomorrow morning–but that also gives me this afternoon to try to get to all the things I never really got around to yesterday–Westlake’s The Hot Rock, any number of short stories that need writing, the book I should be writing, and lots and lots of cleaning–but I feel good today. I feel like I can breathe again. I also am aware the results of the election simply means the start of the great work required to right this ship–and it’s going to be a struggle–and there are going to be disappointments along the way, but I am going to allow myself to ride this wave of optimism and hope as long as I can….it’s been in far too short supply these last four years.

We finished watching The Murders at White House Farm last night, and it was really most marvelously done. There was also enough ambiguity left in the crime itself to leave the viewer wondering if justice truly was done–as is the case unless there are eyewitnesses or a confession–and this ambiguity is what makes these types of shows so interesting to watch for a crime writer. In our fictions, we cannot leave our readers with that kind of complex ambiguity–we can allow killers to go free, but the reader has to understand completely that there is a miscarriage of justice occurring. Most of criminal justice is shades of gray in reality; our fictions are allowed some shades but cannot be completely gray over all.

I did spend some time wondering about the short stories I am writing, and of course came up with the idea for another one, called “The Oracle on Orange Street” (Orange Street is one of those secret streets in New Orleans that only exist for a few blocks; it was named for the orange groves that lined it back in the day–the street I live on is another one of those, and so is Camp Place, which only exists for two blocks near Coliseum Square; Camp Place is the setting for another novel I want to write some day called Voices in an Empty Room) and while I am not certain what that story is actually going to be, I kind of would like to write about a psychic (yes, Scotty is also one, but I want to write about one who makes her living as one; I’ve considered resurrecting the psychic who told Scotty’s parents that he had the gift to be the lead character; Madame Xena. But, as I mentioned the other day, it’s really a matter of age. If Madama Xena was already a psychic with a good reputation when she spotted Scotty’s gift when he was a child…how old would she be now?), but on the other hand, I kind of also want to write about a phony psychic being used in a noir fashion to convince a believer of something that isn’t true…decisions, decisions. But I like that title, and at some point I’ll figure out who and what “The Oracle on Orange Street” is about and who she actually is as a person.

But for now, I will continue savoring that title. Hell, for that matter, Voices in an Empty Room is also a really good one.

I also spent some time wondering about the next Scotty book–I know, I know, finish the two you’re already writing–and trying to figure out how best to write about this accursed 2020 Carnival season. There are also some things left over from Royal Street Reveillon that will need resolving in this book, and then I have to deal (in the next one) with the pandemic. It also begs the question, can’t you just pretend in Scotty’s world that it never happened?

It’s an interesting possibility, but in some ways for me it feels like copping out; like not writing about Katrina, or having it happen in Scotty’s world was just too easy an out. I get that people may not want to remember what it was like, or relive the horrible experience of 2020, but on the other hand I don’t see how, as series writers, we can simply pretend it never happened. I recognize that my world is fictional, and therefore theoretically in “my” world I can simply decide “no pandemic” and it never happened in this particular alternate universe; I’ve certainly never mentioned the Afghan or Iraq wars in a Scotty book, or 9/11 either for that matter (although the PATRIOT Act and Homeland Security have come up, without explaining how they came to be in existence). There’s also some reluctance in actually tying a book to a certain year–although I did that with some of the earlier ones; after all, the Saints only won the Super Bowl for the first time one time–but again, sometimes when it comes to this sort of thing I am literally spinning my wheels and being indecisive because that leaves me in my inertia…always remember: a Greg at rest tends to stay at rest.

This morning my natural inclination is to blow off both the gym and making groceries, even though I know that neither is an option. The gym is only open until one today, and since the Saints game isn’t until much later, there’s no need for me to make the grocery run so early–gym first, groceries and gas up the car afterwards. I can spend the rest of the day writing or reading or playing intellectual games about my works in progress.

But last week I started feeling the old Gregalicious–the Type A one who gets a ridiculous amount done in a remarkably short period of time–starting to break through the cloud cover and start elbowing his way out to the front of my consciousness. This morning, I strongly feel like I can breathe and sleep and rest again….and soon I’ll be writing up a storm again.

And on that note, tis time to head into the spice mines and get this kitchen cleaned up before I head to the gym. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Beautiful Ghosts

Well, it’s Thursday, somehow, and we are on the downward slope into the weekend now, which is always pleasant.

I’m adapting, somewhat, to the new work schedule, which is great, but I also need to start getting my other work done and figuring out how and when I am going to do it. Since we are joining a gym again and I’ll need to figure out when I am going to get my working out done as well, it’s time to take a long hard pitiless gaze at myself, my schedule, and my natural tendency to inertia (A Greg at rest tends to stay at rest), and figure it all out. October is already slipping through my fingers, and Bury Me In Shadows–which doesn’t really need as much work as #shedeservedit–really needs to be finished sooner rather than later so I can get to the enormous overhaul #shedeservedit requires.

So, what have I been doing this week? Writing the prologue to the next Scotty, which isn’t even the next thing I intend to work on once I get these two contracted books out of the way.

I really don’t why I am like this. I really don’t, I wish I did, and I wish I knew how to fix it, because it’s actually a very stressful way to live and get through life and manage a career. It’s NO way to manage a career, frankly.

I was very tired yesterday; three days of getting up to an alarm at six in the morning will inevitably take its toll (that, and the not being in very good shape anymore, which really is starting to grate on me). I am hoping that our new gym–once we’ve actually joined–is going to inspire me to get in better shape and to consistently take better care of myself. I know, I should have been doing stretches and crunches every morning since the gym closed, and now that the weather is nicer I should be taking walks. But I am very hopeful that once I’ve joined a gym again that I’ll find that motivation to get back working hard again. One of the saving graces for my sanity in the wake of the Katrina debacle was the reopening of my gym; I went to the gym religiously in the years following Katrina. My mentality about working out and eating right and everything else ran along the lines of everything in my life is beyond my control right now, but I can control my diet and exercise and body, and so, control freak that I am, I embraced the hell out of that philosophy with the end result I ended up probably being in the best physical condition of my life. I don’t need to be ripped again nor do I need to fit into size 30 waist jeans and shorts, but I could tone up my body and trim away some of the excess. And since I need to start eating healthier…putting it all together into a vigorous diet/exercise regimen is probably the best way to go. I know it’s going to be difficult–it’s hard enough to get motivated when your natural inclination is towards laziness–but I also remember how great it felt to exercise again earlier this year before the gym closed, and I am going to hold onto that thought as much as I can and try to use it for motivation when I am not feeling much, or any.

I also read another short story from The Darkling Halls of Ivy, Reed Farrel Coleman’s “An Even Three.” It’s another dark tale of academia, this time told from the point of view of a woman who is a philosophy professor, who has failed at three different universities to get tenure. It doesn’t take long for the reader to ascertain why–she is nasty, sarcastic, condescending, and contemptuous towards her students for the most part–and she has now found herself at her Last Chance University; a small liberal arts college in New England, hired by a former student. She is hardly the type to deal with trigger warnings and so forth, and so the story takes a very dark turn. Suffice it to say she plays a long game. It’s a fun, if nasty, little tale.

Today I have a couple of errands that must be run during my lunch break–mail, prescriptions, picking up library books (more Chlorine research)–and of course, I have condom packing duties as well as other things to do from home today and tomorrow. I slept really well last night–didn’t really want to get out of bed this morning–and was so tired last evening that I almost fell asleep in my chair, which rarely happens. Another exciting day in the life of a Gregalicious–aren’t you jealous? You know that you are. 🙂

But I am ever hopeful that after I get my work done today, I’ll be able to focus to work on some writing as well

Hope always springs eternal.

Blank Space

Well, hello, Wednesday, good morning and how are you? October 21st, can you believe it? Only ten days left before Halloween, and then it’s November and Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s and oh my oh my oh my.

I’m frankly terrified about what fresh horrors 2021 might have in wait for us. I keep remembering how happy everyone was to say goodbye to 2019…and how that turned out. *shudders in terror*

For someone who actually prides himself on being highly organized and efficient, I have to say I am constantly disappointed in myself as I explore my iCloud drive. You see, the MacBook Air doesn’t have any USB ports (fuck off, Apple) and until I get my adapter, I cannot use my backup hard drive, which is where I usually keep everything–and it’s slightly better organized than the iCloud, which is where I used to just throw things as a scattered back-up in case something went wrong with the back-up hard drive. I also wasn’t able to back up the back-up hard drive to the Cloud for a while because of course, my desktop computer wasn’t functioning properly and it would have taken forever (not to mention all the Finder crashes that would have ensued). The good news is I finally ordered the damned adapter, so hopefully will be able to access it again soon. ANYWAY, I have been having to use iCloud and am literally almost always finding every folder to be a disorganized mess, and sometimes with any number of duplicates of the same digital file, which can be a little annoying…so I am trying to get it all straightened out so it’s usable (if the back-up hard drive, for some reason, is unable to be read by the Macbook Air, which will quite literally make me homicidal, but that’s been my luck lately with electronics), and I just opened another folder last night in order to store some files and sighed….because it was yet again another folder with no fucking organization or rhyme or reason to it.

Heavy heaving sigh.

But I’m also getting more and more resigned to the idea that every time I open a folder in the drive, it’s going to be a mess that will–either then, or at some point–need attention. And if I go ahead and take care of it at the time I notice it…well, the closer I get to having it all done.

Last night I continued to play around with the opening of French Quarter Flambeaux. It’s more of an intellectual exercise at this point, and it’s some kind of writing, though my absolute reluctance to work on any of the things I need to be working on has been duly noted. These prologues to the Scotty books–which really began as an homage to Sue Grafton’s “letters from Kinsey” which she used to both introduce and wrap up her novels–and then developed into something a little more fun (parodying the opening of a famous book) are my way of telling the backstory so the story can begin on page one of Chapter One. I do get a bit tired of explaining the entire family backstory, and how he came to be named Milton Bradley–how many clever and original ways can you tell you that story, after all–and as I was thinking about it last night, as well as writing it–I thought, you know, you should check and see how you did it on your last one and rather than getting up to go get a copy of the book, I simply looked it up on the Evil Empire and then “looked inside this book”. Bearing in mind the fact that I never look myself up on amazon nor do I click on the reviews nor do I even glance at the “star” ratings…I was surprised and delighted to notice that the star average was 4.8, which rounds up to 5, and that there were fifteen reviews. This was enormously lovely, and a very pleasant surprise–I think my books generally average at somewhere between 3 and 4 stars–but on the other hand, I was really pleased with how that book turned out, and I worked very hard on it.

It didn’t, however, inspire me to want to go look at the ratings of any of the others, though. I’m not completely insane, after all, and I learned long ago that Amazon and Goodreads were not places for authors to go check on their books. That is, without doubt, one of the fastest trips to the mental hospital one can imagine.

I do need to get back into the writing groove, and I also need to figure out a schedule of sorts. We’re going to be joining a gym this weekend–I think it’s called Franco’s, over on Magazine Street and a slightly longer walk than St Charles Athletic Club, which was just around the corner–so I am going to need to figure out when and how I am going to go do my workouts. It is absolutely going to feel marvelous working out again, without a doubt–I want to stretch regularly, work my muscles with weights, maybe even do some cardio classes–and one of my goals for 2021 is going to be to try to slim down some before I turned sixty. Not like I’m terribly overweight right now or anything; but ten pounds or so, or getting down to about 200, is a great goal to begin with at any rate. I need to rethink my diet anyway–bad cholesterol is too high, and I don’t have the best genetic inheritance from my parents (thanks guys!)–but it will feel really good to get back to lifting weights and working out again. My doctor also recommended that I go on the Mediterranean diet…which I am going to start trying. I bought a cookbook for it, and since I love cooking, well, it’s time to give it a try.

We think we are going to rewatch The Mandalorian as well before the new season drops on Halloween.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines for my third clinic day of the week. Y’all have a lovely day, okay?

A Perfectly Good Heart

And here it is, Tuesday morning again, and we survived Monday.

I am sort of getting use to getting up at this hour; not necessarily a bad thing. Both Saturday and Sunday I woke up at six; Saturday I stayed in bed for a few more hours and managed to doze off again; Sunday I went ahead and got up at seven. I did get things done, so that was clearly a plus; so maybe getting used to getting up early (as well as going to bed early) isn’t such a bad thing?

Madness.

I was tired when I got home last night, so I mostly just relaxed and thought, going deep into myself, while music videos streamed in an endless cycle of continuous play on Youtube and a purring cat slept in my lap. I was a little disappointed in myself–I’d high hopes of working when I got home, but tired is tired, damn it–and I do realize this month is slipping through my fingers, but….tired is tired. I refuse to give into my natural inclination to give myself a hard time about not working, or relaxing when I am tired; that only adds to my stress and makes me crazier–with which I need no assistance whatsoever. But I will get everything done.

I will.

It may very well kill me, but I will get it done.

It’s still dark this morning as I sip my first cappuccino (almost finished; I’ll be needing to make another momentarily), and I do feel rested, if not fully awake this morning. I’m not positive how much I will be able to get done today, but in a worst case scenario, I am closer to being finished and caught up with my emails, which is something; if I can finish those all off today, I’ll be doing great. I feel as though I have recently finished a major project–that sort of dissociative cognizance that usually comes with turning a book in, or something along those lines–and I know where it comes from; we recently wrapped up something big with my volunteer work, and so now I feel a bit disoriented and untethered, which usually only happens when I’ve finished a book and turned one in. The fact that I haven’t finished a book in actuality is part of this disorientation I am feeling, methinks; I have a book to actually finish but I keep thinking I am done with one, and I do have to keep snapping myself out of it.

It’s nearly November, and 2020 is slowly but surely inexorably drawing to a close. I was thinking–amongst many other things last night–about how long ago January seems now; almost another lifetime. I can’t remember any other year that has seemed to exist so completely outside of time, other than post Katrina 2005-2006, but even in those weird times you could escape the unreality and weirdness of recovering New Orleans whenever you traveled outside the city–you’d become so used to the strangeness of what was going on here that going somewhere else, unaffected and intact and perfectly normal, and it was jarring. I noticed this especially when flying–the New Orleans airport was a ghost terminal, operating at a severely reduced capacity, and then you’d arrive at another airport where Katrina hadn’t happened and be taken aback by the crowds of people and the open shops and how everyone was just going about their business like normal and it was kind of like traveling into another dimension or something. This is different because even if you were to travel, there’s nowhere you can go in the country that is unaffected and where this isn’t happening. I keep thinking about all the things I wanted to do in 2021–my two trips to New York for the board meeting in January and the Edgars in May; Left Coast Crime; Malice Domestic; and even possibly Crime Bake in New England or Sleuthfest in Florida–and am bitterly disappointed knowing that many of these in-person events won’t happen. Bouchercon is coming to New Orleans, in theory, in August of next year; there are no plans currently for that to change, but naturally, there’s a concern. I hate to think negatively, but I am also ceaselessly realistic…I don’t see how this can happen in August at this time, but I am also keeping my fingers crossed.

I miss seeing my friends.

My last trip before all of this was actually to the MWA Board meeting in New York in January, which was a lovely time but also exhausting–I never sleep well in hotel rooms, and I never sleep well when I drink; and inevitably whenever I am around my mystery writing friends I always drink too much, stay up too late, and then can’t sleep. (I keep thinking the martinis will help me fall asleep, but they never do. Apparently I can only successfully pass out from drink in my own bed.) One of the best parts of being on the board is going to New York twice a year; the Edgars are also always a lot of fun, and I definitely hated missing that this past year as well (although I definitely did NOT miss having to get up on stage in front of a room full of mystery publishing professionals and trying to be entertaining–just even thinking about that now is terrifying to me and giving me heartburn); we’ll see what 2021 holds in store for us all…but I don’t have very high hopes.

Eternally pessimistic, that’s me!

I actually started writing French Quarter Flambeaux for a hot minute last night–yes, I know, I already have way too many projects in some sort of progress already–but I had found the perfect book opening to parody for this Scotty opening (Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, to be exact) and as an intellectual exercise–and to help free up and loosen up my creative abilities–I started writing the parody opening of the book. The opening of the Bradbury isn’t probably as famous or as well-known as others I’ve used (I mean, almost everyone knows the opening lines of Rebecca and The Haunting of Hill House), but it works. Especially since the book is set during the accursed Carnival of 2020.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday, everyone.

Crazier

And here we are at Monday again, another weekend down and a brand new week with all of the challenges and headaches and yes, possible joys that may mean. This is my first week of the clinic being open for three days, so I imagine this will make me quite crusty by Thursday, but I am glad to be able to see more people each week than I have been seeing. I managed to get the essay rewritten and notes made on the short story revision I needed to get done this weekend; on my lunch break today I am going to reread what I’ve done and see if I can trust them to be sent back to their respective editors.

Stranger things have happened.

It’s very dark out there this morning; the time change seriously can’t get here soon enough for me. There’s something–to me, at any rate–that is disconcerting about getting up for work while it’s still dark outside; one of the reasons I dislike the winter is getting up while it’s dark and then coming home in the dark after I get off work. I don’t like that, really. I feel like it should either be light out when I get up or light out when I come home; but not dark both times.

I did sleep really well last night, though–I actually think that doing this three days a week rather than just two is going to have a bigger effect on my sleeping patterns.

We finished watching The Boys last night; and were pretty pleased with how the season ended up going. I wasn’t really sure where they were going to take the story, to be honest, but they wound up doing a pretty terrific job and won me back over about halfway through the season. They also did a pretty nice job of resolving the main stories; where there will be a third season or not remains to be seen, but they also did a relatively good job of setting up said third season as well. If there isn’t one, the story ended; if there is, they’ve already set it up, which is great–and an interesting new direction for the show. The Saints play tonight, which is probably what we will end up watching this evening–but I am going to go to bed around tennish, whether the game is over or not. They actually started playing well in the last game, but it wasn’t consistent–there was concern the Lions would come back and win the game at the end–but it was a big improvement over all previous games in this season thus far. I’m ready to write off this football season as yet another casualty of 2020 already, frankly; I don’t know how many more games LSU will lose this shitty season, or the Saints either, for that matter…but I am really not liking this new trend towards basketball scores for football games I am seeing develop this season. Whatever happened to defense?

But I am hoping to get a lot accomplished this week, which is great–I always have high hopes for Monday morning, don’t I?–and while my desk area here at home is still kind of messy and in need of organization, hopefully when I get home tonight I’ll have the energy to get that taken care of as well as putting the dishes away (there’s a load in the dishwasher still this morning).

We also watched this week’s episode of The Vow, which was much more interesting than the last few; seeing as how it primarily focused back on the cult itself and the cult members who were trying to bring it down. I imagine they are going to stretch this out to ten episodes; next week’s is the ninth, and I really do feel like it could have been eight in total. The eerie and creepy thing about it has always been that listening to the leaders talking you could see how it drew people in; it seemed logical and even rational. But last night’s was very jarring; they finally started showing the horrific misogyny involved, and how horrifically the women were being treated, torn down, and then rebuilt with their self-esteem and sense of self terribly shattered, thereby making them all the more vulnerable to the predatory behavior of the leader. As people who watched all ten or so seasons of Smallville, it’s very strange to see Allison Mack, who was in almost every season of the show, descend into this madness; I remember when she was arrested and how shocked we were the story broke; it’s still kind of shocking, actually, watching it all play out in this documentary on HBO.

But there are always going to be vulnerable people who predators will recognize and single out to victimize; so there will always be something for crime writers to write about, sadly. There is no shortage of inspiration in the world for us…

I was starting to think about the next Scotty book this past weekend as well; not sure when or if I am actually going to get around to it, but I do know that it’s title is going to be French Quarter Flambeaux, it’s going to set during that terrible pre-pandemic final Carnival season, and it’s going to involve a homophobic closeted local politician, and that once again the plot is going to center Taylor, at least as a starting place. I also have to bring Colin back and resolve the story for him that I started in Royal Street Reveillon, and the more I think about Colin, the more I realize that Scotty, the boys, and the readers don’t know about him. There are innumerable plot threads that need to be wrapped up and resolved; this is part of the reason why I’ve never decided to end this series, or at least, not yet decided; that day is coming. I am thinking at the very most I am going to cap the Scotty series at ten books–but then again, if I still have story left…I certainly have plenty of alliterative, rhythmic Scotty titles left that I have yet to use.

Maybe once I get a rough draft of Chlorine finished, I can start writing another Scotty. We’ll have to see how 2021 goes; I have two incredibly tight deadlines back to back that I need to face down before anything else, and I need to keep my focus on those two manuscripts laser-sharp, else they won’t done and I don’t really need that kind of stress.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and may your week be stress-free, relaxing, and marvelous.

Bad Blood

So, I took the plunge yesterday and signed contracts for the two manuscripts on hand. As I said on social media immediately afterward, this is either the smartest thing I’ve done this year or a several miscalculation. One can never be sure in either case–until the game is afoot. It’s not that bad; both are in fairly decent shape and need one more final draft, so it’s not like I’m starting from scratch or anything–that would be utter madness.

So, Gregalicious, what are your two manuscripts about?

BURY ME IN SHADOWS

When a partying spree after a bad break-up lands college student Jake Chapman in the hospital, his attorney mother gives him two choices: rehab, or spend the summer in rural Alabama at his dying grandmother’s home. He doesn’t like either choice, but decides on Alabama because at least there’s a semblance of freedom. There’s a lot going on there, as well–a team of archaeologists are excavating the ruins of the old plantation house, Blackwood Hall, out in the woods behind his grandmother’s house. Once he is there, he starts experiencing bizarre headaches and emotional swings– as well as having flashes of memory that he can’t place. He starts finding out family secrets–dead uncles he never knew about, legends about the family’s past–and  there’s also the Tuckers, who live in the next holler over–with their moonshine still and meth lab. With the discovery of a skeleton out at the ruins, Jake begins to realize he is in danger–but is the danger something from a distant past, or a murderer in the present? Will someone kill to keep the family secrets?

#shedeservedit

Liberty Center High School’s football team has a long history of success–state and conference championships, players who went on to play in college–and often, the Spartan football team is all the dying small town has to hold on to, and their primary source of pride as businesses and industries and opportunities have dried up. But when one of the team stars disappears the night of the first game–and his dead body is later found–his best friend, Alex Wheeler, begins putting things together in an effort to clear himself of suspicion,  connecting the dots that lead back a few weeks to the suicide of cheerleader Angie Dixon, and the football party where she had too much to drink and was sexually assaulted. Was the on-line bullying and sharing of pictures of her from the party what drove her to suicide? Or was it murder? How far will people go to cover up misconduct by the football players? What other dark secrets are hiding beneath the placid surface in this oh-too-typical American small town,  Liberty Center? Alex and his girlfriend India soon find their own lives are in danger as they get closer and closer to the horrifying truth about the rot at the center of one of the state’s strongest football programs.

I certainly hope those whet your appetite to read them, Constant Reader! Covers to come, of course, as well as publication dates. I also don’t think I’ve ever revealed the title of the Kansas book before, so there you have it.

It does feel kind of nice to know that I will actually have a book (or maybe two) out in 2021; it felt very weird to not have one this year. I can’t remember the last time I missed a year of publishing at least one book per year, but the last one I actually remember for certain is 2005 (there may have been one in the teens; I think I may have skipped a year–2017, maybe? 2018? I honestly don’t know). I want to get my next short story collection put together at some point during 2021 as well–not sure what stories and what the title will be, but I really want to get that taken care of in the next year, and aren’t goals a lovely thing? I also want to get moving with Chlorine–the research has been phenomenally fun; here’s hoping the actual writing will be fun as well. I think I might have to write a Scotty book at some point in the next year as well; I know I want to do a pre-pandemic book (between Christmas–Royal Street Reveillon–and the pandemic this year; I really want to write about that fucked up 2020 Carnival season, and I have a really nasty idea for a plot that simply has to be written….) and I know I want to do a pandemic story for Scotty as well; I’m just not sure what that story would look like. I know people are saying they aren’t going to want to read about the pandemic, but it’s such a rich vein for story-telling and story ideas, I kind of am not sure how true that will be. I just can’t see writing about a world where it never happened–especially in a series; it’s much easier to pretend in a stand alone.

Does that make any kind of sense? To me–and my warped mind–it sort of does. I don’t know why it’s so important to me to not miss years between books–it’s not like the world is knocking down my door, or anyone is holding a gun to my head to make sure I publish something–but it is, and I think if I salvage or take away anything from this dreadful year, I’d like it to be I got those two fucking books finished and out of my hair.

I went to be early last night–it’s really been a week–and I slept for nearly ten hours, which I never do, and it felt actually pretty marvelous. LSU is playing Vanderbilt today–I don’t have very high hopes after last week, which is fine–and one of the lovely things about this abrogated season, coupled with LSU’s unexpected loss last week, is that I seriously doubt I will spend my Saturdays this fall watching football games all day, while sitting in my easy chair reading, writing in my journal, and editing things. INstead, I should be able to sit at my desk and focus on writing–now that I have deadlines, I need to be better about being on top of things and getting things finished as quickly as I can–and while it’s disappointing, what else is new with 2020? Everything is off this year, and there really is something to the notion of simply eradicating 2020 from the books; the way ancient Egyptians used to go back and remove names from statues and carvings and temples, to try to obliterate a pharaoh from their history (and yes, I watched a documentary on Akhenaten last night, why do you ask?), and not really counting it.

We watched the season finale of Ted Lasso last night, and I have to say, I am going to miss my weekly visits with him and the Richmond soccer team. I was very glad to see it was already renewed for another season, and it’s another one of those terribly sweet shows that will make you laugh while at the same time touching you and bringing up tears in your eyes (much as Schitt’s Creek did). It’s what they used to call “heartwarming”–and you have no idea, Constant Reader, how much I hate that word and how I generally tend to avoid anything referred to in that way–only it’s not emotionally manipulative like most “heartwarming” books, movies and TV shows; the sweetness genuinely evolves from the characters and their relationships with each other. I love this show–and it’s hard not to love the characters. Like Schitt’s Creek, the premise struck me at first as not only ludicrous but cliched; but the writing is so strong, the acting so pitch perfect, and the cast chemistry undeniable. And the optimistic, kind, always look on the bright side while always looking for the good in people character of Ted Lasso himself is the jeweled centerpiece of the show.

I have to run errands today; I’d intended to run them yesterday once I’d finished my work but by the time five rolled around I really wasn’t terribly in the mood to get out amongst people, so inevitably I shall have to do it today, which is, you know, fine; making groceries seems to always tire me out these days but that’s also fine. I want to start reading John Vercher’s Three Fifths at long last this weekend, so if I am tired when I get home I can do that. I need to do some revisions on things this weekend, too–and I should get some work done on the book manuscript as well. There’s also some cleaning and touching up around here I need to do–there are still some remnants of the Notorious Grease Fire that need to be tidied up–and feeling well-rested, as well as mentally sharp this morning certainly cannot hurt in that regard.

As always, I have a lot to do, but the lovely thing is that this morning, it doesn’t seem horrifyingly overwhelming–it just seems like my normal existence, which it usually is, and so there’s that. I did do a lot of cleaning and organizing while I was waiting for Paul to come home last night, and so the downstairs looks much lovelier and organized than it usually does. There’s still a shit ton of filing to get done (isn’t there always?) and part of my plan for this morning before running the errands is to make the long overdue to-do list, add things to my calendar so I won’t forget about them needing to be done, and trying to get set up so that once I am ready to get going I won’t forget things. I’ve always been ridiculously busy–and I think I’ve actually been busier before than I am now, if I am being completely honest–and I think the primary problem I’ve been having has been chemical; PTSD and depression, etc. as well as the occasional feeling of hopelessness this year has wrought with everyone at some point, I think. Not that there’s a such thing as a normal year, but this year has been so abnormal that it sort of stands out from the rest–it certainly has erased all memories of 2019, which also sucked, from the hard drive in my brain.

And on that note, I think it’s time to head into the spice mines this morning. I thank you for stopping by and listening, Constant Reader, and may you have a glorious, absolutely glorious, Saturday.

I

I c##

Daylight

Well, here we are again, back to something resembling normality, whatever that may be, for this awful year of 2020. The stress hangover has finally, seemingly, passed; and now I have to try to remember what I was working on and what is in progress and what is finished and what I need to do. Lord. It also seems weird to be talking about my stress hangover while western Louisiana still is in ruins, with Mobile and Pensacola and everything in between joining them after this latest natural disaster. (And California is still burning.) But, as I always say, suffering isn’t an Olympic sport, and admitting to being in a weird place emotionally doesn’t demean or diminish those who are losing, or have lost, everything.

Ah, well. That which doesn’t kill us, or whatever.

This week is very off, as so many this year have been. I have trouble remembering that today is Thursday, frankly; I’ve had to stop and think about it several times this morning already and occasionally there’s even a thought o oh wow it’s Thursday already isn’t it? Yeesh.

I feel rested and rather emotionally stable this morning–always a plus, and becoming more of a rarity it seems these days–and so I am hoping that today will be an enormously productive day as well. The sun is shining outside, there’s no haze and I can see white clouds and blue sky; so overall that’s a very pleasant way to go into the day. I think one of the primary issues I’ve been having lately is related to the lack of a football season thus far–I know games have been played, but the SEC season hasn’t started, and for me, that (mostly LSU) is how I gauge the season, and so for me at least, I won’t think of it as having started until LSU plays a game. It’s also going to be weird that the entire conference is having a conference-only schedule. I suppose this season will have an asterisk beside it for all eternity? I don’t know–but I feel like people should be aware in the future that 2020 wasn’t a normal year on any level.

I’ve not really been able to do much reading or writing this week; hell, keeping up with my emails has been an utter failure all week and I may even have to give up on the clearly impossible dream of ever being completely on top of my emails. I tried picking up Babylon Berlin again last night while I waited for Paul to come home, but couldn’t even open to the page where I left off, and even my current nonfiction read, The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, held no interest for me last night. I will say, though, that I am leaning more and more towards writing a stand-alone Colin adventure–a historical one–and that is becoming more and more appealing to me the more I think about it, particularly since I can go back in time and write an entire series of Colin books going back to the late 1990’s without having to deal with writing about anything in the present or current day, which I will admit is more than a little cowardly on my part. I need to get Bury Me in Shadows finished and then the Kansas book so I can write Chlorine and then do a Scotty book, or perhaps the novellas I’ve been working on. Time slips through my fingers so quickly that it’s really upsetting and frightening on some levels to know that the there will be at the very least a two–if not three–year gap between the last Scotty and the next now; and there’s also a little voice in my head telling me not to write another Scotty and let the series end, or at least write another to end the series once and for all. I don’t know what to do.

I rewatched Don’t Look Now yesterday, even though it doesn’t really fit into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, yet it is a film of that decade and while it may not be a cynical film per se, it certainly has its moments. It’s naturally based on one of my favorite short story/novellas of all time, the superb Daphne du Maurier tale “Don’t Look Now,” and while the film has differences from the story (I much prefer the opening of the story, frankly), it has to be, because things that are told in the story to set it up, the backstory, cannot really be done properly on film, so the tale of John and Laura Baxter and their agonizing grief spools out on film by taking us to the moment they lost their daughter, Christine, by opening with her death by drowning in a pond while wearing her bright red slicker. In the story, they’ve come to Venice for a holiday to get away from home and its haunting memories; the pain is still too fresh and Christine is still too raw. In the film, they are living in Venice now while John works restoring an old church; time has passed since Christine’s death, but Laura is still not completely recovered from it; the pain is still there, a lingering grief that still throbs like an aching tooth you’ve gotten used to. The film does an excellent job of building the tension and suspense in much the same way du Maurier did in her story–God, if you’ve not read it, you really must, Constant Reader–and the imagery director Nicholas Roeg uses–those reds!–really amplifies it. Julie Christie is stunningly beautiful as she underplays the role of the grieving mother; Donald Sutherland is also at his young handsome best (those eyes! that mop of curls!) as skeptical John–at a lunch, they encounter two sisters, one of whom is blind and psychic, who tells Laura that she sees Christine and she’s happy and laughing, but that John is in danger in Venice and must leave. John doesn’t believe in any of that–afterlife, psychics, ghosts, etc.–and so he thinks they are after something from his wife–even though he does keep having close calls with accidents and possibly death…and he also keeps seeing a small figure running around Venice, wearing a red slicker like the one Christine died wearing….

Christ, what a great film and story.

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

It’s Nice to Have a Friend

Yesterday was kind of lovely, really. As I took a vacation day to get caught up on things, get some rest, and try to get the Lost Apartment under control again (I also discovered, among other things, that vacuum cleaners have filters you are supposed to clean monthly, which explains so much), it was kind of a nice day. I did get the bed linens laundered and a load of laundry done; I did the dishes and ran the dishwasher, and I also intended to vacuum, which is when I realized my vacuum cleaner has not been sucking properly in quite some time (I’d even looked into buying a new one, several times) and then thought, why don’t you google it and see if it’s something you can fix, which of course led to the shocking discovery about the filters. I removed it and washed it thoroughly (so disgusting, really). But, embarrassing as that was, it was also lovely to realize that I do not, in fact, need to buy a new one–at least until the filter has finished air drying, I reinstall it, and see if it starts picking things up again.

I also got a lovely notice on Facebook that my former editor at Alyson, Joe Pittman, had tagged me in a post, and when I went there to see what it was, was greeted with a reminiscence of his days at Alyson, and:

Hi everyone, it’s Joseph. It’s September. I’ve got another story of my publishing life, one of the most rewarding moments from my varied career. Let’s call it Love, Alyson Books.Okay, let me go back in time. It’s 2005 and I was hired by a small publisher named Alyson. The company had just relocated from Los Angeles to New York, and they were searching for a new staff. I applied for the Executive Editor position I saw advertised, got called in that day for an interview. I wasn’t exactly dressed for a job interview, but the woman I spoke with said that was fine. “I assume you have grown up clothes.”

I got the job, and two weeks later started. Every staff member had just been hired, and we had lots of manuscripts and contracts to cull through. From the publisher, to the marketing director, an editor, a production editor, and an assistant and me. That’s it, six of us. We had a big task set before us. Alyson had a storied history in the world of LGBT publishing and had released many iconic books. There was a lot on our shoulders.Our job? To bring Alyson into the 2000s, and show how LGBT themes had hit the mainstream. We had to totally revamp the list. We published 50 books a year, we had a very small budget, and as Executive Editor, I was told by the boss that I would be “the face of the imprint.” I embraced the role until it came to an ignominious ending.But in two and a half years, I felt I did some of the most important work of my career.

It started, horribly, with Hurricane Katrina, but led to a book and a series that would help define the LGBT past, present and future. It was a series with titles that began with the word “Love.” And that’s what these books were, love stories dedicated to a certain city, to a movement, to a community.The thing about working at Alyson, it wasn’t like traditional publishing, where agents sent you a manuscript, you read it, you liked it, you acquired it. Sure, we did a bit of that, but mostly we had to come up with our own ideas, track down authors who would be ideal in crafting our idea into a book. I hit the jackpot with an existing Alyson author, mystery writer Greg Herren. Greg lived in New Orleans, and he and his partner Paul Willis went through hell that late August. Katrina ripped their lives apart, as it did to so many others in the region. My idea, let’s get a bunch of writers together to pen nonfiction stories about their city. Why they lived there, what they loved there. Greg was reticent at first. The wounds of the city too fresh. But the book happened.

LOVE, BOURBON STREET was published to great acclaim, and that next year it won the prestigious Lambda Award for Best Anthology. I remember sitting in the audience when the book was announced the winner. I couldn’t have been more proud of Greg and Paul’s dedication to the project, I couldn’t have been happier for the city New Orleans.

Love, Bourbon Street is a book I don’t really remember much about, to be perfectly honest. It happened, and came about, in that gray time after the evacuation and before we were able to move back into the Lost Apartment (which, to me, closed the circle, even though the city’s recovery would still take more time–a lot more time); I think it even came out while we were still living in the carriage house amidst the clutter and boxes and praying every day that the Lost Apartment would be suitable for living again soon. I remember I was still house sitting for my friend Michael on the North Shore in Hammond when Joe called me with the idea–the great irony was earlier that day Paul had called me, and suggested we do a fundraising anthology about New Orleans by New Orleans writers, and I had emphatically said no. Most every one of the writers we knew were still displaced, no one could come back to New Orleans even if they wanted to, and we were all, from the blogs and emails I was reading, in bad places emotionally. I didn’t even know if I could write anymore; I was grimly writing a blog post almost every day so that the creativity wouldn’t completely stagnate, but other than that–nothing was happening. I had pitched a fourth Scotty book to Kensington, but at some point while I was on the road I’d emailed my editor there to say obviously I cannot write that book now–it was, ironically, going to be called Hurricane Party Hustle and be set during a hurricane evacuation when most everyone in the city had left, only for it to turn east at the last minute and spare the city (which had happened at least three or four times since we’d moved to New Orleans in 1996)–and I certainly never thought I was going to write another Chanse book; the second one had come out the previous year while Paul and I were still getting over the Incident and I think I did one signing for it; it came and went with very little fanfare and I had pretty much figured that series was dead in the water as well. I had been rewriting the manuscript that would eventually be published as Sara because an editor at a Big 5 publisher had asked me to write a y/a for them earlier that year and I’d decided that was what I would do after I, if I, ever finished Mardi Gras Mambo.

But I wasn’t sure if I would ever write about New Orleans again, or if there would even be a New Orleans for me to write about.

Given the fact, though, that Paul wanted to do this and my publisher called me later the same day to suggest it, my superstitious lizard brain decided it was something we needed to do; I don’t remember how long it took for me to either call Joe back or email him that we would do it, but we did. It was difficult to do, primarily because recruiting people spread out all over the country wasn’t easy, nor was getting people who were terribly depressed to try to write something about why they loved New Orleans when 90% of the city lay in ruins was a bit much. Also, people would agree to write something and then change their mind right before the deadline, which kept pushing the delivery date–already a tight turn around, because Alyson wanted to release it on the one-year anniversary–back. Finally, I pulled all the essays together into a single document, saw how many words were left to reach the contracted minimum, and started pulling together my own essay, the anchor piece, “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet.” I remember I worked on it over the weekend that Paul had his eye finally removed, and so he was asleep thanks to painkillers most of the time and would only wake up for me to clean the socket before going back to sleep. It ended up being almost thirty thousand words, and I really don’t remember very much about writing it, if I’m going to be honest; I don’t. I just remember pulling it into the word document of the manuscript, seeing that we now had the length requirement covered, saved the document, and hit send.

That same fall, as we were doing the whole Love Bourbon Street, Joe was also calling and emailing me, trying to convince me that I had a duty and obligation to write another Chanse novel. “You’re right there,” he kept saying, “and who better to let the world know how it felt, how it feels, and what’s it like to go through something like this?” Again, I kept resisting. I didn’t know if I could write, I didn’t know when i would write, I didn’t know anything. And then, in late September, I drove back into the city once it was reopened, to check out the damage to the house and see what all we had lost, as well as to see if anything clothes-wise was salvageable from the upstairs. As I crossed the causeway bridge and saw all the damage to Metairie, I recoiled from it all, felt sick to my stomach and a headache coming on; by the time I got onto I-10 I had gone numb again so I could handle it all. As I noticed the mud-line on the walls along the highway, the words It was six weeks before I returned to my broken city popped into my head, and as I came around the curve in the highway, right near the Carrollton exits and the Xavier campus and the Superdome came into view, the words started coming into my head and I knew that not only could I write this book, I needed to write this book.

As soon as I got back to my sanctuary in Hammond, I emailed Joe and said, I am going to do the Chanse book and it’s going to be called Murder in the Rue Chartres.

And yes, both books won Lambda Literary Awards (my only wins, out of 14 or 15 nominations in total) in back to back years.

So that’s the story of how a very kind and generous editor essentially saved my career as a writer.

It’s funny, because whenever I think about possibly doing a collection of essays, it always takes me a while to remember, well, you’ve already published one that will take up a quarter of the book.

And now, to have some serious cleaning joy with my clean-filtered vacuum cleaner.

Starlight

And so now it’s Sunday.

I won’t lie; I’ve lost my sense of time and date and day already this weekend and I’m perfectly fine with it. I hope everyone who has the good fortune to have the weekend off–I know there are many who do not–are in the same state of what day is this that I found myself in most of yesterday and when i woke up this morning–I overslept again, which was amazingly lovely, but i really need to stop indulging myself this way–and am now awake, on my first cup of coffee, and ready to get shit done today. I did get shit done yesterday–I cleaned and organized quite a bit (not enough, it’s never enough) and while I do have some little bit of cleaning and a lot of organizing left to get done, at least I made a start on it yesterday. My desk, for example, this morning is clean and clear; which will make writing later much easier.

I finished Little Fires Everywhere yesterday–I blogged about it already, so I won’t repeat anything other than that it’s a fantastic book I encourage you all to read–and started reading The Coyotes of Carthage, which was originally recommended to me by my friend Laura, who was lucky enough to receive an advance copy. It, too, is fantastic and unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I am really looking forward to getting more into it–I will undoubtedly take a reading break or two at some point today. It seems to be a political thriller about dark money and political consultants in a very rural county in South Carolina, with a Black male protagonist, so I am sure it’s going to be quite interesting to read.

But I really also need to write today; I’ve not looked at the manuscript since last weekend, and this “only writing on the weekends for one day” simply cannot continue to stand, really. I have too much to write, and I need to stop giving into the laziness or the tiredness or self-destructive patterns or whatever the hell it is that keeps me from finishing this damned book. Heavy sigh. I also have any number of short stories I need to wade through to pick out some to work on for submission calls.

Again, I think there’s something to that I am so overwhelmed believing I’ll never get everything done so why bother doing any of it thing.

Repeat after me: SELF-DEFEATING.

While I waited for Paul to finish working on a grant last night I watched, or rather, rewatched (although I didn’t really remember watching it before, and I figured, meh, if I’ve already seen it I can do stuff on my iPad while it’s on in the background) a documentary called Master of Dark Shadows, about Dan Curtis and how the show came about, and its legacy (I’m sure most people don’t remember Curtis also produced and directed the mini-series based on Herman Wouk’s novels The Winds of War and War and Remembrance). I was one of those kids who watched Dark Shadows only in the summertime, because my elementary school didn’t get out until 3:15; even though we lived only a block away from the school I couldn’t ever get home fast enough to watch even the end. I did love Dark Shadows–our sitter/caregiver, Mrs. Harris, also watched One Life to Live and General Hospital, which were my first exposures to soaps–and it always stuck in my mind; I always give it credit for my interest in horror and the supernatural. I enjoyed watching the documentary (and for the record, I loved the NBC reboot of the series in prime time in the early 1990’s, and was crushed when it was canceled; I rewatched it with Paul and he too was disappointed it ended on its cliff-hanger) and then we started watching a documentary about a double murder in India called Behind Closed Doors, in which the investigation was so incredibly fucked up–I mean, if the primary take-away from all the other true crime documentaries we’ve been watching has been man is our system seriously fucked up, the takeaway from this one is yeah, but ours is clearly better than others.

Which is kind of scary, really.

While I was also bored yesterday waiting for Paul–and only really sort of watching Master of Dark Shadows–I was right, I’d seen it before–I started looking things up on-line; which was an absolutely lovely example of how one can fall into a wormhole on the Internet. As you know, I’ve been having this Cynical 70’s Film Festival, and thinking about the rise, and proliferation of, conspiracy theories in that suspicious, paranoid decade, and one that I hadn’t remembered until yesterday sprang up into my min, completely unbidden, while I was reading about the Bermuda Triangle: Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Daniken. Does anyone else remember von Daniken and his theories, which were based in nothing scientific or archaeological? Von Daniken believed that ancient texts–the Bible, the Code of Hammurabi, etc.–all contained evidence that in Ancient Times the Earth was visited by space aliens–Alien Astronauts, as he called them–who brought knowledge and information with them to the primitive creatures of our planet at the time, and also assisted them in the massive building projects that modern man cannot conceive of them building back then–the pyramids, for one thing, and the lines on the plains of Nazca (which I first read about in the Nancy Drew volume The Clue in the Crossword Cipher)–and those aliens with their vastly superior technology, were seen as gods by the primitives and those visits have come down to us in the form of mythology. It’s an interesting idea for sure–but it was all conjecture, with no proof. I read all of von Daniken’s books back in the day; others included The Gold of the Gods, and were simply further conjectures, but he developed quite a following, and set the stage for what is called the pseudo-science of Graham Hancock, his modern day successor. (I’ve also read some of Hancock’s work; his theory that the Sphinx is far older than we suspect based on water wear on its base is interesting, as is his other theory that the Ark of the Covenant’s final resting place is in Ethiopia; before reading that book I had no idea that Christianity was so firmly entrenched there) So, I spent some time looking up von Daniken’s theories yesterday, as well as some other conspiracy theories of the time–I also did a deep dive into the entire Holy Grail Holy Blood thing which provided the basis for The Da Vinci Code and Dan Brown’s entire career; and of course we certainly cannot forget the apocryphal writings of Hal Lindsay and The Late Great Planet Earth–which, really, is where The Omen came from; we forget how “end times” theory truly began flourishing in the 1970’s.

I’ve always been interested in stories about lost books of the Bible, or lost Biblical theory, along with the end-times prophecies Lindsay wrote about; Irving Wallace’s The Word, which was built around the rediscovery of a lost testament of Jesus which would revolutionize and make-over the Christian theology was one of the first novels of this type I read; it was also made into a mini-series, which made me aware of it in the first place (Irving Wallace isn’t really remembered much today, but he was a huge bestseller back in the day, and he wrote incredibly thick novels, mostly about international conspiracies or legal issues–The Seven Minutes, for example, was about censorship and “blue laws”; The Second Lady was about a Soviet conspiracy to replace the First Lady with a lookalike imposter who was a Soviet spy; The Prize was about the machinations around how the Nobel Prize was given out; etc etc etc). The Da Vinci Code fits clearly into this category, as does The Gemini Contenders by Robert Ludlum and The Fourth Secret by Steve Berry (which is about the fourth secret Our Lady of Lourdes–or was it Fatima?–revealed to either Bernadette or the peasant children; Irving Wallace also covered this in The Miracle); Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade also kind of fit here, as both films are about the search for Biblical relics. I’ve always, always, wanted to write one of these. Years ago I had the idea for one, in which there was a secret document or testament hidden in the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople for years, and that part of the reason the 4th Crusade sacked the city was the Pope’s desire to get his hands on those documents, which were thus smuggled out of the city by the Patriarch and lost forever…this is the idea I always come around to for a Colin stand-alone (I also realize I could do Colin stand-alones set at various times throughout the last twenty years or so of Scotty books, as he is gone a lot of the time on missions), and the working title for it always is Star of Irene, because the Byzantine Empress Irene–contemporary of Charlemagne–has always fascinated me.

But I will never write a Colin stand-alone, or series, unless I get this fucking book finished, so I suppose it’s time for me to head back into the spice mines.

Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

You’re Not Sorry

There are few things I despise more than the non-apology.

These tumultuous times in which we find ourselves inhabiting now has, amongst its innumerable other crimes, introduced the world to the apology that really isn’t an apology; in which someone refuses to admit fault and isn’t sorry for what they said; they’re merely sorry you misinterpreted what they said. It generally runs along the lines of something like I’m sorry if my words offended anyone–which, to me, kind of places the blame on the people who were offended by the shitty thing said in the first place–and usually, for the record? What was originally said was pretty fucking offensive; insensitive to the point where I have to seriously question the empathy and humanity of the speaker, and generally leaves me feeling sorry for anyone related to said speaker, or who is forced to have to interact with them in any way, shape or form, because of work.

This happens constantly these days; it’s become sadly predictable: someone says something incredibly shitty, people are justifiably shocked, horrified and outraged, which inevitably leads to the person apologizing for their words, but at the same, they are also very careful not to take on any blame themselves. I don’t understand this mentality, but it’s a linguistic knot people are always very careful to tie with precision: I’m sorry what I said offended you, not I’m sorry I offended you by saying that. The difference is pretty clear; the first relieves the original speaker of any fault and places all blame on the people taking offense (really, it’s just gaslighting); while the second accepts blame and begs pardon and is actually a sincere attempt by a decent person to take responsibility and implies a promise to do better in the future.

And personally,  I don’t accept these non-apologies. I find them, frankly, to be worse than the original offense. My response? “Seriously, go fuck yourself. And yes, I fully intended to offend you and I am not sorry at all; in fact, you might to fuck off now before I really focus on hurting your feelings–because I can, and am quite good at it.”

I’m not sure when we as a people, society and culture ceased being able to admit we were wrong, admit fault, and promise to do better. What is so terrible about being wrong? We are all human, and we all make mistakes, don’t we? It’s inevitable; it’s embarrassing somewhat, but seriously–the world will not end if you ever admit you’re wrong. I’ve admitted I’m wrong and apologized even when I didn’t think I was wrong in the first place–because it isn’t about MY feelings.

I guess thinking about other people’s feelings isn’t something we do anymore? When, precisely, did that change? Or was the whole “care about others” thing just another part  of the massive gaslighting of me about everything else this life has turned out to be, from politics to history to religion?

I will admit it here, I will admit it there, I will admit it everywhere. I’ve been wrong many times in my life, and will probably be wrong quite a few more times before my ashes are sprinkled into the Mississippi (although I am beginning to think I may have some of them sprinkled there and some sprinkled into the Rigolets; I must remember to make provision for that in my will–and yes, now that I am in my sixtieth year, I need to start thinking about those things and taking them a lot more seriously than I have in the past). I see this bizarre “refusal to ever admit error” every day on social media–not as much as I used to, as I tend to unfriend and/or hide narcissistic sociopaths who have nothing better to do with their lives and their time than to troll people on the web as a way of making themselves feel superior to other people. To paraphrase  Sixteen Candles, “why do you want to be King of the Dipshits? Well, you can hold court without me, O Wise and All-Knowing One.”

I know I should be more tolerant, but I have neither the time nor the patience to deal with this kind of trash any longer, nor do I want to see it on my feeds. And as I grow more and more conscious of how little time I may have left in this world–I certainly don’t want to spend what there actually is left listening to this kind of nonsense anymore.

Enough! Life exposes me to enough toxicity that I cannot control; but I can control what I chose to see on my social media. And if you want to smugly assert that I am fooling and deluding myself by putting myself into an echo chamber–feel free to assume your moral and intellectual superiority. I, for one, am tired of being exposed to homophobia and racism and misogyny and bigotry and prejudice and ignorance; I’ve been around it my entire life and I’d really prefer not to be around it anymore.

Ugh.

I am also, in an effort to control this narrative that my life has become, trying to be more positive about things. Yes, I recognize the irony in that this entry began as a rant about awful people and their gaslighting ways; but cutting as much negativity as I can out of my life like the cancer it is will be the first step in looking at the world in a more positive light. It would be very easy to look at yesterday and think, ah, yes, started out the day terribly behind and after an enormously frustrating day where everything that could go wrong did, I am choosing to look at what I managed to get done, despite the endless frustrations, as a triumph. I did manage to get some organizing done. I got some research notes recorded for a future project. I got some chores around the Lost Apartment done, and tried to organize my computer files around a computer update that came out of nowhere and really annoyed the hell out of me at the time. It took a while–it always does after these things–for my computer to go back to functioning properly, but this morning it’s running better than it has in a while. So, I guess there’s that. I’m trying not to feel like I lost the day yesterday, and being frustrated and annoyed with the circumstances beyond my control isn’t going to help me get anything done today.

I started reading Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, and as I got through the first two chapters I began remembering the show more. The book is so well-written, and I love how Ng puts these little touches of truth in to deftly set the narrative up very quickly; after a mere two chapters I know what Shaker Heights is like to live in, the kind of relationship Mia and Pearl have, and the entire family dynamic of the other family–parents with their children, the children with each other. I can’t stop wishing Id read the book along with the show, but that cannot be helped now, and I’m really enjoying the book.

I slept later than I wanted to this morning, but then again I stayed up later than I’d intended to last night as well. We watched another HBO MAX documentary show, in two parts, Who Killed Garrett Phillips? Coming hard on the heels of The Case Against Adnan Syed, Paul and I have been having good conversations about just how broken our criminal justice system is. I’ve also been seeing some great conversations on social media between crime writers about this very thing as well, and about how we, as crime writers, are also sort of complicit in the perpetuation of the mythology of the infallible police department. The enormously popular Law and Order franchises have done an excellent job of depicting criminals as scumbags and our Constitutional rights as essentially “get out of jail free” cards that keep the good, hardworking cops from putting away the dangerous criminals that prey on every day citizens. Obviously, it isn’t that black and white, and there are many more shades of gray involved; people also tend to forget the entire point of our Constitutional rights are to protect everyone against abusive conduct from the state. Is it incredibly frustrating when someone isn’t convicted of a crime? Sure, but how do we–how does anyone–ever know that someone actually is guilty if theres little to no evidence one way or the other? I am stunned, frankly, that Adnan Syed was convicted based on how little evidence there actually was against him, other than someone who was pretty much an unreliable witness who testified against him. The multiple years of the Potsdam police and district attorney’s office trying to hang the murder of Garrett Phillips on a black man when the only evidence of anything they had against him was that they were in the school parking lot at the same time was completely racist and insane; they didn’t even look at anyone else or at any other option. Within 24 hours, based on NOTHING, they became convinced that one of the few black men in the area, an ex of the child’s mother, was guilty and only looked for evidence that would put him behind bars. It was infuriating to watch, frankly.

And it does make you wonder how many people who didn’t do anything wrong are sitting in jail right now.

I’ve briefly touched on this from time to time in my books; I know for a fact that I said once–probably in a Chanse book, but I don’t remember which one–that the cops decide early on who’s guilty and stop looking for facts and information that don’t bolster the case they are building. The question I’ve seen a lot on social media lately is whether we, as crime writers, are complicit in building up a mythology of police work as opposed to the reality. It’s a difficult question, one that is very nuanced, and brings up many philosophical questions as well. J. M. Redmann always says that we as writers write about the search for justice in a world where justice is rarely found; I think about that a lot when I write. I know that I also prefer to end my books with a criminal caught and behind bars; even if the justice is Pyrrhic, at least for a time, at the end of my books, the bad guys are in jail and order of a sort has been restored to the worlds of my characters. I never talk about the trials; I’ve thought about using Chanse testifying at a trial as a framing device for one of his investigations, but it was something I never got around to doing; Chanse novels inevitably always follow the A leads to B leads to C structure Ive used since the beginning; Scotty books inevitably do that as well, even if the story skitters about a lot more in a more confused pattern than the Chanse one do.

As citizens, we don’t like to think that our justice system has become corrupted or broken, or that it operates in a way that isn’t fair to everyone; in order to maintain our semblance on sanity (or what passes for it) far too many of us are willing to look the other way or just believe what we are told. In Who Killed Garrett Phillips? so many of the people of that small town simply found it so easy to believe that the black guy must be a killer (and did so very quickly) and when the cops told the family he was the guy, they simply believed it and never questioned it–likewise, the Korean family of the victim in The Case Against Adnan Syed never questioned the police and district attorney’s viewpoint that Hae Min Lee’s ex-boyfriend was so jealous of her new relationship that he would, with no previous indication before or since that he was that kind of person, plan to kill her and then execute the plan; a grieving family will always believe what they are told by the police, and nobody ever wants to question why they are so quick and easy to believe what the police say mainly because we want to believe they are right, because if we ever stop believing that the police aren’t impartial, that their investigations aren’t carried out in a professional, unbiased, and impartial way, then what happens when we need them?

The abuses in the Garrett Phillips case carried out by the now-sanctioned former district attorney, Mary Rain, and her obvious racism and bias was appalling to see, and disheartening. We may never know who killed that boy now, and it’s partially her fault; her determination to convict an accused black man and absolute refusal to even consider for a moment that he might not have done it, to follow any of the myriad of other leads that were possible, is a horrifying abuse of justice and power. And never fool yourself that prosecutors don’t have a lot of power, or that they can abuse that power for any number of reasons, not the least of which is political power and furthering their own political careers.

I had an idea recently–time has no meaning any more, so it may have been any time during the past three years–about writing a book about Venus Casanova’s last case as a New Orleans police detective. Having put in for retirement already, in her last month she’s been assigned desk duty to ease her out of the workforce–obviously you don’t want to assign an active case to someone who might not be able to see it through–and she’s essentially catching up on all of her paperwork and interviewing suspects for other detectives’ cases in her remaining time. Her ritual has always been to go out to the neighborhood coffee shop before going to work and reading the paper over her coffee. With less than a month to go she reads about a shooting of a young Black man in a sketchy neighborhood–but soon realizes that the young man’s grandmother, who was raising him, was someone she went to high school with many years ago and lost touch with when she went away to college. She decides to check with the investigating officer, and he tells her “it’s just another random shooting.” (The book would be called that, Just Another Random Shooting.) He’s not going to look into it anymore, dismissing it as another drug related crime with no witnesses and no evidence, and so she asks if he minds if she talks to the grandmother–and it turns out to be something else entirely; and that lackadaisical response from the police–‘just another random shooting’– was something the killers planned on. It’s an interesting idea, and it worries at my brain from time to time, particularly when I see another local news report about another young Black man being killed for no apparent reason in a sketchy neighborhood. And then I wonder, am I the right person to tell this story? Who am I, as a gay white man, to write from the perspective of a straight Black woman in a city with a violent history of oppressing people of color?

I can think of any number of reasons to justify writing from Venus’ perspective; I’ve always loved the character, I’ve always wanted to write from her perspective; I’ve thought many times over the years of centering her in a book about her; I feel like I know her inside and out already.  But…on the other hand, sure, writers write and have a right to write about whatever they choose, but….

It is a good idea, though, and I also don’t see the story working from any other point of view. Sigh.

And now back to the spice mines.

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