Wild World

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

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

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

Yay?

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

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

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

Stick-Up

Working at home on this ruby Tuesday, so I didn’t need to get up super-early or have to deal with anything like, you know, having to gulp down steaming hot coffee so I could prise my eyelids apart this morning in order to write this blog entry. Do I have high hopes for the day? Sure I do. Will I inevitably be disappointed? Most definitely. I slept really well last night–the bed was still incredibly comfortable this morning–and I feel revitalized in some ways, refreshed in others, and snapped out of whatever I was feeling recently; good sleep and not waking up to an alarm certainly does make a difference, I think, in almost every conceivable way. I was, indeed, tired when I got home from work yesterday–as I suspected I might be yesterday morning when I got up–and so spent the evening relaxing and watching television (Gaslit, The Baby, Tokyo Vice) until I went to bed relatively early. My brain is still not completely awake this morning, but it’s getting there. I have an errand to run this morning–or at some point during the day–but other than that I will be here doing my data entry and then working on my book after my day’s work for the day job is completed and my hours done. I should probably try to get packed today for the trip–get that out of the way, since the plan is to get up early Thursday and be on the road as soon as possible–as well as try to get everything wrapped up that I can before I go away for four days.

I’m not dreading the drive as much as one might think, to be honest. Now that I’ve discovered the magic of audiobooks (it’s funny how I always resist something because I’ve made up my mind I won’t like it, and then end up liking it a lot; to be fair, I was worried about listening to books in the car from a fear that I would get so absorbed in listening I wouldn’t pay attention to driving–that did not turn out to be the case) for long drives, the drives are a lot more enjoyable. I actually do not mind highway driving as much as one might think, given my utter antipathy for driving and my fears of the ignorance of 90% of the other drivers on the road, but if it’s a nice day–one thing you can definitely say about the South, it’s beautiful to drive through. The mountains in Tennessee and Kentucky make me a bit nervous when I drive through there once night has fallen, but the sun sets far later now than it does when I drive up in November so it should actually still be light out when I get to my parents’ Thursday evening. The lengthy drives for me now are about recovery, because they wear me out a lot more than they ever did before, which is undoubtedly part of being older (the thing that truly sucks about getting older is you’re never sure about things–“is this something I should get checked out, or am I just older?” It doesn’t help when you bring things up to your doctor and he says, “you’re getting older.”) but I am also not going to worry about “making time” and getting there as quickly as I can. If I have to stop, I have to stop.

Getting there isn’t a race or a contest. There’s no prize for getting there fifteen minutes earlier than planned. I really need to learn to be more patient. Why am I always in such a hurry? Can an old dog learn a new trick?

Anything is possible.

My mind does wander sometimes as I listen to the audiobooks–it often does on long drives–and hopefully this drive will help me get some new ideas for current and future projects the way it usually does–although it can be frustrating not being able to write ideas down immediately, as sometimes they get forgotten. But I like to believe that even if I have an idea that I forget, just having thought about it at that time means it will pop up again at some point. Over the past ten to fifteen years, driving through Alabama–either going north or coming south–helped me structure the story and create the characters for Bury Me in Shadows, for example–so maybe, just maybe, this drive will help me pull together some ideas for any one of the insane amounts of projects I have on-going at the moment. One can certainly hope, at any rate. I am not kidding when I say that Bury Me in Shadows was in my head since sometime in the mid to late 1980’s; I don’t remember when I wrote the original short story that eventually grew and developed into the book, but it was during that time period.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, everyone, and I will chat at you again tomorrow morning.

Bring the Boys Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long Way Around

Home.

And exhausted.

I drove up to Kentucky on Monday; it took me twelve hours to get there. I drove back yesterday; it took eleven hours to get home. I may have been doing 80 most of the way home–hey, the speed limit is 70 and the rule was always ten miles over the limit was cool (except for speed traps)–but every once in a while I would look down and see the needle creeping closer to ninety and would chill out for a while. I listed to Isaac Azimov’s Foundation on the way up, and Donna Andrews’ The Falcon Always Wings Twice on the way home (I had to sit in the car for another few minutes when I pulled up to the house to finish listening to Falcon, which was a delight as are all Donna Andrews novels). I wish I’d know about the magic that is audiobooks before; what a lovely way to while away lengthy drives. I am now almost caught up on the Meg Langslow series; I think there are three more to go. I also managed to read some others this week as well–more on those later–and it was a bit of a whirlwind of a trip. My father and I did some sight-seeing–Civil War battlefields, mostly, as everything else we tried was closed–and I had never known much about Kentucky in the Civil War period, other than the commonwealth didn’t secede despite being a slave state (we learn very little about the Civil War in school, really–mostly Lee and Grant and Virginia, very little about anything else, maybe Sherman’s march to the sea if your teacher was a bit more thorough) and the Kentucky battlefields we visited–Perryville and Richmond–were interesting. My father also told me some more family history; there are relatives who are researching the family history, tracing the family line back to Revolutionary times. I have ancestors who fought in the Revolution, and I am descended from a signer of the Declaration of Independence; Richard Stockton of New Jersey’s daughter married a Herren, and I am descended directly from them. That was interesting to find out–but I imagine if most of us trace our lineage back pretty far we’d find interesting ancestors. (My father made copies of all the records for me; there’s also an ancestor’s will in which he divided up the enslaved people he “owned” amongst his wife and children; which is not a point of pride for me. He enslaved eleven people, per the will, considered “property” to be divided up in his will…he also told me some of the Civil War history of the part of Alabama where we come from; my uncle’s wife had an ancestor who fought on the Union side. There were Unionists and the Alabama Home Guard who fought and committed atrocities against each other–my uncle’s wife’s ancestor had leave from the Union army and come home to visit his wife and children. The Home Guard captured him and skinned him alive…apparently his screams could be heard echoing through the hills. I apparently didn’t go far enough in Bury Me in Shadows…)

But…material for another book, I suppose; and therefore the history of my fictional county (the history of this county is written in blood) can be much more violent and bloody than I originally imagined; which means more secrets, more mysteries, and more spirits trapped on this plane and unable to move on.

There’s also an extremely rare book, long out of print, fiction based in that divided, divisive history, that I am going to try to see if I can get a copy of–I did find it on-line at the University of Alabama Library (eight other libraries, all universities in Alabama have copies); not entirely sure how I would get to borrow it from them, or if I would have to go to Tuscaloosa and read it there. But now that I know about it, I am dying to get my hands on it–I’ve searched for it on-line from used booksellers and eBay and so forth, to no avail.

It was a nice trip, overall. I slept decently every night–the last night was my best night of sleep, which was a good thing because the drive yesterday (it’s eleven hours or so in the car in both directions) is exhausting. The South is so incredibly beautiful–oh, those Smoky Mountains in Tennessee!–and I know people who’ve never been will find this hard to believe, but Birmingham and north Alabama is also breathtakingly beautiful. Those mountains. I do love the mountains, but I don’t think I could ever live in a mountainous area because of that cold weather/snow thing.

And of course now I am very behind on everything. I tried to keep up with deleting junk/sales emails with my phone while I was gone–hundreds per day, thank you Black Friday capitalism–and yet the inbox is still incredibly full with ones I have to answer. The Lost Apartment is a mess, I have errands to run and a grocery list to prepare, bills to pay and a checkbook to balance, filing and cleaning and organizing and of course, writing–I wrote absolutely nothing while I was away, and I have a tight deadline hanging over my head–and a massive to-do list I need to prepare. There’s a lot going on in my life right now, personally and professionally, and I really need to make sure that it’s incredibly thorough, else things will get missed and things will not get covered and that inevitably leads to stress and disaster.

But…my own bed felt lovely last night. I don’t think I slept all that well last night–but I feel a little tired and drained this morning, but I think that’s also due to being exhausted from the drive and feeling disconnected from my own life again. Getting everything together and figuring out everything I need to get done will be an enormous help in that regard. I simply cannot spend today watching college football–it will be okay to have it on in the background, but I can’t sit in my chair all day and waste another day. Fortunately this is the last day of regular season games–conference championship games coming next weekend, with the play-offs later in December, but LSU isn’t really involved in anything after today so I can pretty much follow as a slightly disinterested fan of college football and not care about who wins or who loses or who does what.

And on that note, I am going to start doing some filing and organizing. I gave some blog entries about books I’ve read to do, and I will be here every morning from now on, Constant Reader….and I am also looking forward to the second half of the reboot of Gossip Girl, which dropped on HBO MAX while I was gone. Huzzah!

Have a great day, Constant Reader, and I hope your holiday was lovely.

Seven Year Ache

SATURDAY and the first weekend of parades! There are a ridiculous amount of them today: (Pontchartrain, Choctaw, and Freret this afternoon; Pygmalion and Sparta tonight), starting at one and following each other. Theoretically, there’s a break between afternoon and evening parades, but since they rarely start on time and are frequently delayed, I suspect there will be no such break today; or if there is one, it won’t be for very long.

Yesterday, despite getting off work early, the traffic home was horrendous. I had to run uptown to get the mail and had intended to get groceries as well, but I guess the parades were already started lining up on Tchoupitoulas, which forced all uptown/downtown traffic onto Magazine, Prytania, and St. Charles. I was unable to get to the grocery store–I’m going to try again this morning, despite the very real possibility I won’t be able to park anywhere near the Lost Apartment once I get back–but the first parade isn’t until one this afternoon, so I’m hopeful it won’t be an impossible task. I did get home, got started on the laundry and put a load into the dishwasher before heading to the gym–yes, that’s right; I made it to the gym during parade season and no, I don’t want a cookie. In the past my workouts always got derailed during Carnival–in fact, the last time I started going to the gym regularly Carnival broke the habit and I didn’t go back. So I am determined this year–no matter how difficult it might be–to get to the gym during Carnival this year. It will require some finesse, but I think I can manage to get it handled this year. I am really liking the way the working out is making me feel–and I’m sleeping better than I have in years. That, alone, makes it worthwhile. So, in a little bit I’m going to head uptown to get the mail–a package was delivered yesterday–and then I am heading to the grocery store; I only need a few things, so the entire trip–including the mail–shouldn’t be more than an hour, max.

I also got some more writing done yesterday–just a smidge, not very much–but I am hoping to get some more done today before the parades arrive. If the first starts at one, it probably won’t be here to the Neighborhood of the Nine Muses until around two-ish (which is why I think there really won’t be much of a break today between parades).

It was cold out on the parade route last night–it’s still chilly today, with a high in the low sixties–but it will be sunny, so all I need is a sweatshirt rather than a jacket, and of course a cap to cover my baldness, which feels the cold so much faster than the rest of me. We only were out there last night for about half an hour at most; we wandered up during Cleopatra (I was finishing the laundry during Oshun), caught some beads, and wandered back home, choosing to skip Alla and rest up for today’s insanity. It was much more crowded than I thought it would be–it’s never very crowded on the first night, but then it also usually rains on the first night–and everyone was having a good time and was very friendly. I think that’s one of the major parts of parade season no one thinks about or talks about–the fact that the entire stretch of the parade route is crowded with people and there’s never any problems or issues; if there are, they are few and far between and you don’t really hear about them. Everyone is in a good mood; people share their liquor with strangers; and it’s just a big genial party. That is almost as much fun as catching things.

Yeah, right. No, catching things is the BEST part.

At first, too, I wasn’t doing very well–I was misjudging throws and missing things. Someone from one of the floats threw a purple and gold LSU football at me–I was bedecked in LSU gear from head to toe–and it glanced off my fingers and bounced off a different direction. But I didn’t even have time to feel bad about missing the football because a handful of beads were coming right for my hand–and in true Wonder Woman bullets-and-bracelets fashion, my hand darted up and grabbed them.

I may start out rusty, but once I’m warmed up, I am plucking things from the air left and right.

So, I am hoping to finish the laundry that’s currently in the dryer, then I am going to get a cup of coffee to go and head uptown to get my package and then swing by the grocery store on the way home. I hope to have time to get some writing done this morning, and then of course it’s parades parades parades all day long.

I also started writing yet another short story this week with the working title “Smoky Mountain Rest Stop” (I will most likely shorten it at some point to “Rest Stop,” I don’t know. Maybe I’ll leave it the same.). I don’t know where it came from; I was busy doing data entry and work and happily listening to Spotify (I created a GAY DANCE MIX playlist on there, and it’s quite delightful, actually) when the idea came to me. I just envisioned a woman, driving from Chattanooga north on I-75, going somewhere she doesn’t want to, and  needing to stop because she has to use the bathroom–urgently. Incidentally, she isn’t from Chattanooga, but the story is set on the highway heading north between Chattanooga and Knoxville, through the Smoky Mountains. I am very familiar with that drive, as I have made it any number of times in the past twenty years since my parents moved to Kentucky; it’s a gorgeous stretch of road–the views are spectacular; the Smoky Mountains are quite beautiful–but it’s also extremely terrifying as well. The highway clings to the side of mountains and sometimes the climb is difficult, and then of course you have to be careful going down the other side because if you don’t pay attention suddenly you’re doing more than a hundred miles an hour and you don’t want to be doing that because of sharp curves and bastard eighteen-wheelers. It’s also very dark once the sun goes down, which makes it even scarier. I don’t know what the story is going to be–some amorphous form of it came to me last night as I relaxed in my easy chair with a glass of wine and mindlessly allowing Youtube autoplay keep showing me music videos. I’m not sure, as I said, which direction I want the story to go in, or where it’s going to go, but I have a very strong sense of my main character (Aimee), and that’s a good thing.

And on that note, I hear that the dryer has stopped, so it’s time to fold some laundry before I run those pesky errands. Happy Saturday, Constant Reader!

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