Young Hearts Run Free

And here we are on a lovely and quiet and calm Sunday morning; in which I don’t even have to go outside unless I actually want to–and the odds are against that, believe you me.

Well, not entirely true, as nothing is; I’ll have to take out the trash and the recycling at some point, and of course, if I use the grill for burgers today (a Sunday summer tradition; in the fall I switch to Saturdays for LSU games) but other than that, I am staying inside the cool of the Lost Apartment today. Tomorrow I’ll go to the gym (I went yesterday rather than Friday), go to the bank, get the mail and do other errands–it’s lovely having that option with the extra vacation day we received this week–and of course, I am taking Friday off for my birthday. I wasn’t planning on doing so, but then I figured why the hell not? You only turn sixty once.

I told you I decided to lean into the sixty thing. Only four more days of my fifties left!

Yesterday was nice, really. I read for a while yesterday morning (I am loving The Other Black Girl so much), and ran my errands; it was ninety-five degrees but during the day the humidity was low (at least while I was out in it) so it wasn’t as terribly unpleasant as it could easily have been; and then when I got home I walked to the gym. The gym is in the process of a $250,000 renovation–delayed thanks to COVID-19–so working out was interesting; I had to find things as everything was moved around for the arrival of new machines and the putting in of a new floor in the weight room, but over all it was fine; it will be problematic probably on Wednesday night during peak times, so I may change up my work out days this week. But it felt good–as it always should–and afterwards I walked home (it was definitely humid then) and came back to the house and started working around here–cleaning and so forth. I reread some of the Secret Project and spotted the places I am going to need to get fixed up and prepared and so forth; I also worked on “The Sound of Snow Falling” a bit. Was it as highly a productive day as I would like? No, probably not, but I also kept remembering I have nothing to do today other than read, write, clean and organized, so today will be the load-bearing day of the weekend, methinks. I am going to have some breakfast and some more coffee; then I am going to type up the editorial notes I have for the next book, read for a bit, and then I am going to probably write Chapter Four of Chlorine and work on “The Sound of Snow Falling.” I may even take some time to start writing emails I won’t send until tomorrow morning–remember, I have a very strict policy on not sending emails on the weekend.

But the nights of good sleep are plentiful, and I feel rested every day when I get up (today I was a lag-a-bed until nine! Just like the last two days! Madness!) and I feel more like myself than I have in a very long time–like there’s been a cloud in my brain that has finally lifted; I know that’s not very clear but that’s the best metaphor I can come up with one cup of coffee so sue me–and while I may not be writing as much as I was, say, last month…I am making definite progress on things and feel very much centered. I do wish I was writing more–but today should get me back into the swing of writing again, and I am very excited to be writing on my new computer–which also accesses files on my laptop, which is amazing (and the obverse is also true). I’m probably going to do some more cleaning and organizing this morning; I really need to get these boxes out from under my desk–I can undoubtedly cram some more things into the filing cabinet, which I will most likely get handled this morning–and I do want to prune the books a bit more, or at least get them better organized. (I’m afraid I’ve been acquiring again, alas.)

I also stopped working yesterday around five expecting Paul to be home soon (not until after eight thirty) and while I waited for him, I decided to give Loki another whirl after the disappointing, almost tedious first episode–and was very glad I did. I got very caught up in the story–which was incredibly smart and clever, with some great surprises and twists. Next thing I knew, I had blown through four or five episodes before Paul got home–which enabled us to watch Ted Lasso (me for the second time) before watching last week’s disturbing episode of American Horror Stories–which is so much better than American Horror Story it’s not even funny. I may have to finish Loki this morning while Paul sleeps, now that I think about it. I can go through my journals and mark the pages with notes for both Chlorine and the other secret project, as well as for the Kansas book.

My, what a busy boy one Gregalicious is these days! But that’s also fine; I don’t really feel any paralysis of oh my god how will I get all this done so why even try; rather, I am making lists and crossing things off, which was how I used to always deal with feeling overwhelmed; accept it, write down everything, and start getting them done. So yes, I think, after I post this i am going to go ahead and make that to-do list, and start getting things done.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. You have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

When I Grow Up

Saturday morning and yesterday was lovely, as we slowly begin counting down the last days of my fifties. Hurray!

Yesterday was actually kind of lovely. I had my spa day (in full transparency, that means I got a back wax) which I enjoyed (at some point in time I will discuss how I feel about body hair, particularly that which grows on one’s back), got my prescription, got Scooter’s insulin syringes, got the mail, made groceries, and got phô (AT LAST), and the phô (from Lilly’s Cafe on Magazine) was truly magnificent. I got home around two thirty; it was a weird weather day in New Orleans, where the sun was shining in parts of the city and there was a downpour in others, along with thunder and lightning; which enabled me to experience all the vagaries of a summer day’s weather in the city in August over the course of two hours. After the errands were completed and my phô bowl was empty, I spent the rest of the day relaxing and organizing and cleaning–yes, yes, I know, but organizing and cleaning (like the LSU 2019 football season) is my happy place. I wound up not reading much, nor doing any writing, but I managed to get a lot done. I am still not as organized as I would like to be, as I think I should be, but I have three more days without work pressure to get through, and so while I am going to spend some time writing and reading over the next three days, I also want to finish getting organized. I’ve been so scattered and disorganized for so long–really, since the Great Data Disaster of 2018–that getting that particular act together has been enormously helpful, and I think if I actually can go ahead and get completely organized, that will make my getting everything done that I need to get done finished that much easier.

I am going to spend some time this morning with The Other Black Girl. I have to get the mail today–I am expecting some things–after which I’m planning on braving the West Bank to do some box store shopping (the traffic over there is always horrible, even on the best of days; and now that I am thinking about it some more, perhaps I should just wait and go on Monday; it’s not pressing. I can just get the mail today, really, and pick up a few things at the corner Walgreens–which I now think might be the best option? We’ll see how I feel).

But I got all my Chlorine research organized–I went through my journal (the most recent one) last night and marked the pages where I brainstormed the book; I need to do that to several more of the last ones, actually)–and I also have a secret project which I look forward to telling you about, Constant Reader; I know it’s disappointing on some levels, but I am having to push writing the next Scotty, Mississippi River Mischief, to the first quarter of next year. I also managed to get some other things organized; I need to do something about these boxes of files under my desk for one thing, and in looking through the stuff in my filing cabinet, I also realized that a lot of the stuff in there could be shifted into boxes and moved up into the attic. I do have the boxes….and I am also thinking it may be time to do another book purge, in order to drop off some boxes on this coming Thursday to the library sale.

In other words, I am looking forward to a typical Saturday around the Lost Apartment. I do need to get to the gym today (I didn’t go yesterday) and will be going again on Monday rather than Sunday; but I also have to get really started on the edits of #shedeservedit if I am going to get those finished by the end of the month. The fact that I have absolutely no desire to do it is of course indicative of how much I need to do it and how much I will actually enjoy doing it once I get started going on them. I also need to finish the second draft of “The Sound of Snow Falling”, and what better time to do that than this weekend? I love the new computer and it’s so much easier to work on than the old one was; but I best be using the hell out of it now that I spent the money on it. I’m still a bit in awe of it–the picture quality is so good it’s like having another television for the kitchen (I went ahead and watched the latest episode of Ted Lasso on here last night while Paul worked on a grant–I know, but the great thing about Ted Lasso is rewatching isn’t an ordeal, and this last episode, a Christmas episode airing in August, was just absolutely perfect and made me tear up several times as well as laugh out loud; I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to do a Christmas episode/movie/book of any kind any more without it being heavy-handed and cheesy…but I need to stop ever doubting Ted Lasso; the show is always a joy and those twenty Emmy nominations, especially those for the cast, are extremely well-deserved)–and the sound and picture is amazing. That means I can watch football games in here this fall while cleaning and/or doing other things…which is heavenly.

And yes I am well aware of the fact that the honeymoon period will end soon….but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the fuck out of it while it’s still happening.

I also got caught up on my Real Housewives watching. I had cut back to just watching the two I started with (New York and Beverly Hills), but these aren’t good seasons for either; and just watched the Erika Jayne/Girardi divorce/criminal investigation/civil suits play out makes me a bit uncomfortable. I don’t have much sympathy for either her or her husband–you can deny all you want to, but settlement money for victims disappearing means it went somewhere, and one thing so many people in this country don’t understand is you can still be punished for profiting from a crime even if you didn’t know you were profiting from a crime. I don’t see how she thinks she can escape financial liability–possibly a sympathetic judge and jury would spare her from jail time–but it’s difficult to watch her excuses and her self-pity; she has no tears or empathy for her husband’s victims. Rather, it’s all about her and what she’s going through; and frankly, every time she cries me me me me I think to myself lock this bitch up and throw away the key. So, between the snooze-fest that is this seasons New York and the real life criminality being exposed on Beverly Hills–and being coddled–might have me finally cutting the cord with these two shows. I have no desire to watch Dallas, but have heard good things about both Potomac and Salt Lake City (which also is filming during the real-life criminal exposure of a cast member)…but I also kind of wonder if these shows haven’t already run their course? Society and the culture have experienced a significant shift over the last four years….and maybe the time for shows like this is past.

And on that note, I am going to get another cup of coffee and spend some more time with The Other Black Girl, which is truly terrific. Have a lovely August Saturday, Constant Reader–and I will check in with you tomorrow, if not later.

Jealousy

Jealousy is an interesting emotion, or feeling, or whatever the hell it actually is; certainly one of the deadly sins. I’ve been accused of being jealous of other people plenty of times in my life, which is kind of funny. Maybe when I was a kid I experienced jealousy of other people and their accomplishments, but not so much the older I got. I’ve never been jealous of other writers; I’ve never envied them their successes or big contracts or movie rights sales. I may want those things, but I certainly am not jealous of those who have them or are getting them or will get them in the future. I’m usually happy to see writers succeed, or win awards, or get nominated for awards, or get selected to best of lists, and so forth.

It’s not for me to decide who deserves what, nor is it for me to question anyone’s success. It’s counterproductive, and I’d rather not spend my time seething because someone else got a bigger piece of cake than I did. I just write what I write and hope people think it’s interesting or intriguing enough to read, and that those who do, enjoy themselves.

SIDEBAR: I do, however, reserve the right to say what the actual living fuck when I see things like I saw yesterday on Twitter; tweets and links to articles about how straight white male debut authors got ridiculous amounts of money upfront, after which the book proceeded to tank, and the writer disappeared into some sort of oblivion afterward. I have seen that happen quite a bit during my years in this business, and it’s almost always, inevitably, some straight white dude with a few short story sales to prestigious literary magazines and the right educational pedigree, inevitably writing something not particularly new. I’m not jealous; I just don’t understand the mentality behind those business decisions. I also feel sorry for the writer; I cannot imagine how horrible it would feel to have all these expectations placed on you (soothed, undoubtedly, by that insane amount of filthy lucre) only to have your career come to a screeching halt suddenly. Oh, I’m sure they’ll publish another book sometime for a more modest advance, or write reviews for important newspapers and magazines, the occasional short story; but for me, it would have been hellish to write one book and then never publish another.

So, sometimes there are times when I think oh you should push to get an agent much harder–keep trying or I would really like to land a nice two-book deal with one of the Big 5–and then I think, I don’t like like stress and pressure; writing and publishing the books I do, on the smaller end of the publishing scale causes me enough stress and the pressure is horrific and I cannot imagine being able to handle it on a much grander scale.

I mean, I’m already crazy; do I need to add things to make me crazier?

I purchased these two lovely little portable desktop air conditioners of a sort; they’re from Arctic Air and you put water in them and turn them on and they somehow blow very cold air on you. They are small, of course; one is currently sitting on my desk and keeping me very cool (my office/kitchen is probably the most miserably hot place in the Lost Apartment; the upstairs bathroom running a close second), and I have the other on the counter next to the stove, and the two are creating a lovely cool area at my desk, with the ceiling fan turning overhead that is actually rather delightful; I haven’t really felt comfortable at my desk in quite some time–and that hasn’t helped me with either focus or dedication to stay with the writing. Hopefully this will help me, going forward.

Now I want to get one of the floor units.

We continue to watch 13 Reasons Why, but I am not quite sure why. This season is all over the map, story-wise; and show anchor Clay, who has to basically carry the show, has become very uninteresting to watch. I can’t decide if it’s because the young actor (Dylan Minnette, whom I’ve enjoyed the previous three seasons) is so very good at playing the out of control teenager whose mind and life has spun so wildly off course, and whose mental stability is crumbling. The others young actors are performing quite well, despite the awkwardness and forced story sometimes; I think that’s why we continue to watch–the cast is quite good, and we do end up caring about them and their massively fucked-up lives. If you would call the show a soap, I’d say it’s more in the Edge of Night vein, because it’s about crime and trauma.

It also makes me think of the two manuscripts I have sitting in limbo, waiting for me to finish the Secret Project so I can get back to them.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that this is June; that less than six months ago on a snowy night I had a lovely dinner at a restaurant much too nice for the likes of me (and there was lots of wine) with a lot of mystery writers and much fun was had. I didn’t know that was the last time I would participate in such a gathering for I don’t know how long. I assumed there would be the Williams Festival and the Edgars and Malice Domestic as there always was in the months to come after January. I remember walking across the street with Meg Gardiner as the snow fell, and everyone being amazed that I wasn’t freaking out about the snow; it’s really not the snow, as I sometimes forget to point out, that I mind so much as the weather conditions–the cold and damp–that create it that I actually mind. And that night wasn’t cold but it was damp; and the flakes were big and fat and wet and beautiful and hadn’t turned yet into slush on the sidewalks and the gutters. The city lights were lit, some Christmas decorations were still up, and there were cars and taxis crowding in the streets and lots of people in their winter clothes going about their business on a snowy January Saturday night in Manhattan. I miss those nights, and the company I sometimes am lucky enough to get to keep; connecting and spending time with other writers, in the company of other writers, always inspires me when I listen to them talk. I’m never bored around other writers, and sometimes, when I get the nerve up to actually talk and interact, they don’t look at me like I’ve a third eye or I am quite literally the stupidest person they’ve ever met. I miss that. I miss the company of other writers, because other writers remind me how much I love doing this, remind me that it’s central to who I am, and that I am never happy if I’m not writing.

Sometimes you need to be reminded of the things you love, and how much you love them.

It’s not a bad thing.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Harper Valley PTA

Hey, hey, Saturday, what have you got to say?

I feel very good this morning, after another deep and restful night’s sleep. I’ve been allowing myself to stay in bed longer than usual–figuring if I have a mild case of the virus, as I suspect I do–that more rest certainly can’t hurt and might even help. It looks overcast this morning in New Orleans, and one of the things I did last night with the buzz I got from the Chardonnay was start the organization process in my kitchen. It was lovely, actually, to wake up and come downstairs to an organized and neat desk. My next thing to do is get my MWA stuff organized, and this morning I am going to get through everything in my email inbox, if it kills me.

I honestly don’t think it will.

And I want to get some writing done today as well. As I said, I feel terrific this morning; I can’t remember the last time I woke up in the morning and felt great, rather than however it was I was feeling when I got up. I think I’ve turned a corner, and here’s hoping that I can start whipping everything back into shape and getting my life back under control–which is something I’ve not really been feeling lately. That’s the problem with crises like the pandemic; they are so big and enormous and overwhelming that you can’t really grasp them, with the end result you’re almost paralyzed and unable to get anything accomplished. The truth is you can’t worry about it too much, you can’t worry about the future, and you have to let go–which is incredibly difficult, not as easy or as incredibly simplistic as it sounds–and simply focus on what you can do to keep yourself going and get your mind off it. Stress and worry isn’t going to solve anything, and in fact might make things worse by draining your energy and making you feel everything is so hopeless that it can easily turn into depression and lethargy. (I’m genuinely concerned about the suicide rate and mental health issues over the next few months; I remember that Katrina aftermath far too well.

Simply put, the entire country kind of needs a Xanax prescription.

Paul is going into his office today. He assumes the building is going to be completely closed down soon, and is assembling everything he needs to continue working from home. It looks as though I will be able to start going back into the office, if to do nothing else than helping out with the screenings to let people into the building, so that’s going to get me out of the house. I was very tired yesterday after all the interaction and five hours of screening in the very warm garage of our building, but I’ll also be able to retreat into the air conditioning of the building and head up to my desk where I can do some work up there as well. I do like the idea of having to leave the house every day, even as the city continues to shut down more and more; the lack of traffic and the ease of getting around the city certainly makes a difference.

One thing I’ve been wrestling with–and perhaps other writers have been as well–is what do we do with our writing? It is, at best, an enormous national trauma we’re dealing with; do we pretend in our fictional worlds that the pandemic never happened? As with Katrina, it was difficult to do while it was ongoing because you didn’t know how it was all going to play out; so since the end wasn’t in sight there was no happy ending with the Katrina story and we also don’t know how this is going to play out. How can I start writing another Scotty book, other than setting in the past before the pandemic, without knowing how this is going to play out? It was easy to never talk about 9/11 in the Scotty or Chanse books, but obviously I couldn’t ignore Katrina, and I suspect this pandemic is going to be roughly the same. It also occurs to me this morning as I type this–this is how my mind works; as I type I start thinking who in Scotty’s world would die from this? and immediately I went to the grandparents. When I think about ages and so forth I realize how old Scotty’s grandparents–and his parents–have to be now that he’s in his forties and the youngest of three; and I realize I’ve always alluded to their being more relatives on the Diderot side but have never really explored it any further than that. I touched on the Bradley side of the family a little bit more than usual in Who Dat Whodunnit, but for the most part, at least for Scotty, his family primarily consists of his siblings, his parents, his Diderot grandparents, and the boys. Maybe this is the time to explore the extended family a bit more?

I don’t know, I was kind of torn about whatever the next Scotty may be; I have a list of titles to chose from and some amorphous ideas about what the next one will be, ranging from Hollywood South Hustle to Bywater Bohemia Bourgie to Congo Square Conga–I have so many of these titles already thought up, you can rest assured that I will never run out of Scotty titles–and the plots to go with them. Scotty plots are always amorphous and ambiguous when I start writing them; I don’t feel like I did the entertainment industry and movie stars the proper treatment in Murder in the Rue Ursulines, which, if you will recall, was originally intended to be a Scotty book, and then was adapted into a Chanse instead. The original idea behind Hollywood South Hustle was that Scotty would be minding his own business as he walked home from his parents (or the bars) when someone shoots at him in front of a walled-in house on one of the side streets in the lower Quarter, because it turns out from behind he can pass for a Brad Pitt-like movie star who has moved to New Orleans and is being targeted for some reason–and this draws him into the weird world of Hollywood celebrity. I don’t know that I would use that same opening and methodology of drawing Scotty into the case–particularly now that he and the boys have sort of adopted Frank’s college student nephew–but there’s also a good local scandal from the last ten year about the film industry I could use; and perhaps graft that onto another abandoned idea for a Scotty–the book I was going to write next when Katrina happened; Hurricane Party Hoedown, because I was interested in exploring the corruption of wealth and power, in which the young scion of a wealthy Louisiana family becomes obsessed with a a handsome young gay man and ends up throwing acid in his face, only to escape to Europe to avoid prosecution and now, ten years later, the runaway heir is returning to New Orleans to face the music and his victim is obviously worried. (One night as I sat in my easy chair wishing I was finished with Royal Street Reveillon and thinking about the next Scotty and going through all the story ideas I have for him, it occurred to me how I could graft that particular story onto the movie scandal and tie the two separate storylines into one book; I may go ahead and do that.)

But once I get everything unfinished here in the Lost Apartment under control I am going to start writing Chlorine. That is the next and most important thing for me to get done, and in order to get to that I have to get this other stuff finished. As I was organizing my files and filing last night I realized that over the last month or so I have started a ridiculous amount of short stories without finishing a first draft of any of them: “Smoky Mountain Rest Stop”, “Festival of the Redeemer”, “You Won’t See Me”, the Sherlock story, “He Didn’t Kill Her”, and “Gossip”–in addition to all the unfinished ones I already have on hand, which is frankly insane. But today I am going to work on the Sherlock story, get back to the Secret Project, and start writing down ideas for the next Scotty.

And while I am doing that, I am going to clean my apartment and maybe even do a little bit of pruning with the books–which are slowly but surely starting to take over the apartment again.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and stay safe.

augDaniel-McCarroll2