Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Monday morning and back to the office with me! It was a pretty good weekend, overall; I got some work done on the book, made groceries, did all kinds of chores, finished reading my Wanda Morris book and started reading another, and somehow managed to get some rest around all of that as well. I was very pleased with the work I did on the book, and who knows? Maybe I’ll even somehow manage to get it turned in by the extended deadline. #madness

And now it’s Monday morning, and I am up earlier than I need to be. I really need to focus, as a lot of things have been slipping lately as I focus on the book and getting it finished, and there’s been a kind of malaise–the feeling that usually comes along when I’ve actually finished a book, and has never before come while I was writing one. These last few years haven’t been easy for writing, to be honest, and yet–I’ve also produced some of my best work somehow during this time. I think Bury Me in Shadows is one of my best works, and while I don’t think it’s as good, #shedeservedit was also one I was terribly pleased with. And all I’ve seen anywhere for A Streetcar Named Murder has been highly positive. Land of 10000 Thrills was also one of the better anthologies I’ve done, and some of the short stories I’ve been doing during these last few years have also been really good. I also think that some of the stuff I have in progress–“Never Kiss a Stranger,” “Festival of the Redeemer,” Chlorine, Muscles, etc.–are also really good stuff. Some of the work I did this weekend is pretty damned good. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this confident in my writing before in my entire life, to be honest, but as long as I keep confidence from bleeding over into ego, I should be okay.

We watched all four episodes of Three Pines last night, and i think it’s very well done. Alfred Molina is perfect as Inspector Gamache, and while I must confess to only have read the first Louise Penny novel, Still Life, I was very impressed with it and liked it a lot (not sure why I’ve not gone back and read more of them; I do have the first three or four, but it probably has more to do with time and the massive TBR pile than anything else). I thought the show didn’t have the same feel as the books, in some ways, but it’s also a different medium and there are always changes. When I was reading the book (and again, only the first in the series so I am hardly an expert on Penny’s writing or her series) I like the town, and enjoyed my visit there. It was a nice, quirky, small town–but translating that to the screen is an entirely different ball of wax. I think the producers and writers decided that because the show is about murder, it needed to be a little darker, and Three Pines comes across as a small town full of eccentrics in the show, more like Twin Peaks, Picket Fences, and Northern Exposure than Penny’s creation….but I think it was a smart direction to go with the show. Penny’s strength is offsetting the charm of the town against the darkness of the crimes committed there, and I don’t know how well Penny’s vision could have translated to the screen any better. We both really liked it. We also watched a true crime documentary about Charlie Cullen, the killer nurse–which was creepy as fuck.

I’m hoping against hope that this good feeling will last all week. I’m going to have to stop and make groceries on the way home from the office–heavy sigh–but no need to swing around uptown for the mail until tomorrow. I have to remember to buy a shipping envelope to mail a copy of Streetcar to the winner of the drawing from Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen–I should add that to my to-do list…which I need to make a new copy of it. The problem is I don’t remember everything I am supposed to be doing, and I need to get back into the habit of making a new list every weekend so things don’t get lost.

I also spent some more time with Nelson Algren’s (I was spelling it wrong in the last blog) bleak A Walk on the Wild Side, which I am enjoying but isn’t precisely a quick read by any chance. It reminds vaguely of another novel set in the same time period, A Garden of Sand by Earl Thompson, which I’ve started any number of times but have never managed to get very far into because it is also not an easy read. I am going to try to devote an hour to reading every night–an hour a day is far better than what I’ve been doing, which hasn’t been helping to budge the TBR pile at all–and I think tonight we are going to finally start watching Wednesday. I’ve been reluctant to jump into it, despite the great reviews, because the Christina Ricci version from the 90’s films was, at least for me, definitive. But we keep hearing good things about the show as well as Jenna Ortega’s performance in the lead, so I think tonight will be the night we take the plunge.

It rained all day yesterday–it was even raining when I went to pick up the groceries–and it seems a bit gray outside this morning as well. I have a lot of emails to write and a lot of emails to answer and all kinds of stuff to do today–one of the reasons I got up an hour earlier than I needed to this morning–so I am trying to be proactive and not laze in bed the way I usually do on the mornings when I don’t have to get up at six. I am getting used to getting up early for the first time ever in my life, and quite frankly, I don’t like it. But I also don’t see the clinic hours being changed any time soon, either; I fear my afternoon/early evening shifts are a thing of the remote past now.

And on that note, I have quite a bit to do today, so it’s perhaps best that I make another cup of coffee, some toast, and dive right in. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

Rock the Casbah

So, I finished inputting the line edit of my WIP. It went for 101, 276 words to 72, 545. Gulp. I literally sliced a little more than a quarter of the manuscript out, but that’s fine. I think it needs to be slightly over eighty thousand as an optimum, and I have some things I need to add. I am going to print it out one last time (this old school stuff seems to work best for me) and sit down and read it, making notes as I go on where things need to be added. With any luck, on October 1 I’ll start sending out the queries. Wish me luck, Constant Reader!

I should start drafting the query letter, I suppose.

In other drama, someone side-swiped my new car (well, bought it in January) in the parking lot at the office this morning. To add insult to injury, when they backed out of their spot they dragged the front edge of the car along the side of mine–which means they knew they’d hit it/brushed against it, and continued to back up, dragging their front edge against my car, the slimy ass motherfuckers. Of course, they left no note.

Don’t think I won’t be checking the front corners of those kidnap/rape white cans for gray paint every day for the next week or so. They’d best set their van on fire, if they know what’s good for them.

I also finished reading Louise Penny’s Still Life last night.

still life

Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round. Miss Neal’s was not a natural death, unless you’re of the belief everything happens as it’s supposed to. If so, for her seventy-six years Jane Neal had been walking toward this final moment when death met her in the brilliant maple woods on the verge of the village of Three Pines. She’d fallen spread-eagled, as though making angels in the bright and brittle leaves.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec knelt down; his knees cracking like the report of a hunter’s rifle, his large, expressive hands hovering over the tiny circle of blood marring her fluffy cardigan, as though like a magician he could remove the wound and restore the woman. But he could not. That wasn’t his gift. Fortunately for Gamache he had others. The scent of mothballs, his grandmother’s perfume, met him halfway. Jane’s gentle and kindly eyes stared as though surprised to see him.

I became part of a discussion on Facebook the other day on whether Louise Penny’s readership–which is quite large–was either male or female. I had not, at the time, read any of Ms. Penny’s work; but I had a paperback copy of her first novel, Still Life, in my TBR pile. I also knew Ms. Penny was quite successful–had hit number one on the New York Times list, been nominated for every possible crime writing award and had won any number of them, and had recently won the Pinckley Prize here in New Orleans (previous winners included Laura Lippman–who was the first recipient–and Sara Paretsky). Any number of people whose opinions I respected were fans, and she got excellent reviews everywhere. I am always a little reluctant to come to the party late–I believe she has twelve or thirteen titles out, and as is my wont, I tend to be hyper-critical of things that have achieved great popularity before I’ve turned my attention to them; it’s a moral failing of which I am quite aware.

First novels can also be tricky. The discussion about Ms. Penny’s readership also veered off, at one point, into a mild debate as to whether her work could be classified as cozy or traditional; there is a distinction between the two categories of crime writing, but it’s also a very fine one; a book can be either, both or neither. I always tend to think of cozies as books with amateur sleuths solving the crime, usually in a small town or village (but not always); traditional do have professionals solving the crime, but aren’t quite as hard-boiled–say, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels. Someone else chimed in to say Ms. Penny wrote procedurals, yet another distinction within the field; procedurals obviously have professionals solving the crime and take the reader through police procedure.

Still Life defies categorization; I can only define what I’ve read, after all, and one novel doesn’t give one the ability to officially classify a writer as anything, but this novel seemed, to me, to be both traditional and procedural; the crime-solver is a Surete police detective in Quebec, Armand Gamache, and the book does rather follow his procedure in solving the murder of Miss Neal–shot with an arrow. It also is the story of the village of Three Pines, a close-knit community which is surprisingly diverse for such a small village in the woods in Quebec, close to the American border–there is a black woman who runs the bookstore, and a gay couple who run the B & B which also doubles as a bistro and antique shop. Three Pines is actually a very charming little town, and the book itself is also charming…but it’s not as soft-boiled as these small town mysteries often are.

Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple was also charming, an old spinster who knitted and was kind, but also was a keen-eyed observer of human nature and the goings-on in her small town, St. Mary Mead, and those observations always had a touch of acid in them; Ms. Penny’s characterizations are very similar to those. At first, the way the narrative jumped around and would suddenly give you another character’s point of view for merely a paragraph was just a bit annoying, but as I continued to read on, I realized these sudden shifts were bits where she was defining the character for the reader–and she was doing it masterfully–a few short sentences about that person’s reactions to what was going on at the moment and how their personality, who they were as a person, shaped that reaction; it gave the reader insight into a character that never faltered throughout the rest of the book. Her unpleasant characters were very unpleasant indeed, and the more time you spent with those unpleasant people the less you liked them; even if you felt a bit of sympathy for them in the beginning, she eventually showed you more and more of them until you realized what monsters they truly were. The character of the victim’s niece Yolande was one of these; another was a member of the investigation team, Agent Nichol, whose arrogance and narcissism soon became so unbearable that her final come-uppance was enormously satisfying, even as she failed to learn from it and soon justified it as not being the result of her own failing, but Gamache’s.

Quite monstrous and unsympathetic, indeed.

One of the most interesting things to me about the book–which makes me curious to read more of Ms. Penny’s work–was that the book in and itself, the way it was written, how the story played out, etc., reminded me of Fair Day, the painting Miss Neal had entered into for consideration for an art show in the story. Miss Neal’s art was always seen as primitive at first by the viewer, but the more you looked at it the more it made sense until suddenly the viewer realized that Miss Neal was, in fact, quite genius. At first, the way the story and point of view jumped around seemed disjointed and almost amateurish in its story-telling; but the more time I spent with it I realized it was impressionistic art–once you start seeing the entire story, you realize how clever and brilliant it really is.

And while I was happy to find out the secrets of Three Pines, I was also sorry to finish the book. I certainly enjoyed my visit there, as did Inspector Gamache, and look forward to a return trip.

Too Shy


I worked late last night, but also pulled within four or five chapters of being finished with inputting the line edit. Hip hip hurray! HUZZAH indeed! So, so close, and I know exactly how to finish polishing it; I know what needs to be added.

That’s such a lovely feeling, you have no idea.

The rest of this month is going to be a bit challenging; I have to do a lot of bar testing, going to the office on Saturdays, the NO/AIDS Walk is an upcoming Sunday, and just thinking about any and all of it makes me tired. But I will persist. I will persevere. Because I am Gregalicious!

I’m enjoying Louise Penny’s Still Life, which is a really charming read, to be honest, and I can’t think the last time I read a book about which I could use the word charming as a descriptor. Granted, I tend to read darker stuff, but I am enjoying this. I will keep you posted, Constant Reader, as I make my way through the rest of the book. I think I have copies of other Louise Penny novels scattered about the house in TBR piles; but I do think when I finish this I am going to tackle the reread of It. It’s so daunting though, I look at how enormous the trade paperback I recently bought on impulse is, and want to weep. How did I ever read a novel that large in such a short period of time? Will it still hold up after all this time? The suspense! Older Stephen King novels I’ve loved have stood the test of time; and I do think that perhaps I also might give The Shining a reread in October, when I am going to primarily focus on horror, as I always do in the month of Halloween.

I am going to pick up a prescription (I meant to do this yesterday and forgot) and some other errands–since I worked late last night I don’t have to be in until one. I am also going to do some other chores around the house before I leave for the office etc. I am hoping to get some more of the edits input this morning as well.

And here’s a Throwback Thursday hunk for you, Constant Reader, actor Doug McClure:


The Girl Is Mine

Home from the doctor and a good report; blood pressure is good, got a flu shot which didn’t hurt at all, heart rate normal, temperature normal, and I’ve lost thirteen pounds since my last visit six months ago, which is pretty awesome. I do seem to have stagnated at the thirteen pounds though; and I do know that cardio and/or more working out is probably the only way to get the scale needle to move further down. Heavy sigh. But I am feeling more ambitious about that lately–not ambitious enough to actually do it, but to where I am seriously thinking about it, and looking for a way to schedule it into one Gregalicious’ busy schedule.

I did decide to put aside the book I was reading, and took Louise Penny’s Still Life with me to the doctor, to read while waiting. I wasn’t able to get very far into it, but it’s quite charming thus far. In an interesting aside, when I got into the elevator at my doctor’s building, the other person in the elevator, a woman, gasped and said, “Oh, you’re reading Louise Penny!” She held up a copy of Ms. Penny’s latest, Glass Houses, and I replied, “Yes, I’m just getting started with the first.”

She gave me a big smile and said, “Oh,  you’re in for such a treat! It’s a wonderful series!”

It’s always so lovely to run into another reader in public. It’s almost like we belong to a secret club, isn’t it? And to run into someone reading the same author you are is like being in the Illuminati…er, I’ve heard. Allegedly.

And on that note, I am going to do some chores while I put in some more edits.

Here’s another shot of Roberto Bolle: