Brutal

Wednesday morning and feeling a bit raggedy. Part of this is due to the Lost Apartment not having water–you can only imagine my great delight in getting a text from my neighbor yesterday afternoon at work asking if we had water, and then getting home to find out that we don’t. The story I got from the Sewage and Water Board was that a pipe had burst, but “it should be back on this evening.” She knew it was a lie, I knew it was a lie, but it was one of those situations where there’s really nothing to do but pretend she wasn’t lying and saying thank you and hanging up. Needless to say, this morning there still is no water. I brushed my teeth with bottled water and the water tank of the Keurig is full so at least I have coffee, but I can’t even wash my face, let alone flush a toilet or take a shower. Suspecting this would be the case this morning (any New Orleanian knows you cannot believe a word anyone from the S&WB says) I got my shift at the office covered and am going to work from home today.

It’s truly amazing what an effect a lack of running water can have on you. I couldn’t wash dishes, run the dishwasher, do any laundry; I cannot shave or wash my face, let alone shower; cannot flush a toilet because I don’t have enough water on hand to fill the tank–and I’d rather preserve what drinking water we have, frankly. As I was thinking about this last night–the thin veneer of civilization we have stretched over our lives–I decided that being without water was worse than being without power–certainly at this time of year, at any rate; if we lose power during the summer my position on the matter will most definitely change. This also put me in mind of the freeze in Texas and other states that don’t usually get a hard freeze or snow, and how so many people lost not only water but power as well. We don’t really hear much about that any more–the news has moved on–but from my own experience it takes a while to recover from such natural disasters, and everyone couldn’t get their water restored immediately, either–especially those whose pipes had burst. But no one is talking about that anymore, and so far as one can tell, you’d think the issue was in the past and normalcy has returned.

It also amazes me to think that I am quite literally one generation removed from, well, not having much in the line of running water. My mom grew up with a well with a pump that sent water to the kitchen sink; but there was no bathroom in her childhood home. I have hazy memories of visiting my grandmother before she had a bathroom put in and a septic tank…

So, as you can certainly imagine, last night was an “out of sorts” night for me; I was exhausted–I didn’t forget my coffee in the car, and yet completely ran out of steam yesterday afternoon while I was at the office–and being out of sorts this morning isn’t helping matters much. I did read a bit last night–nothing exciting, just my own manuscript; I’d sent the Bury Me in Shadows manuscript to the Kindle app on my iPad precisely so I could read it like it’s a finished book–and when I opened it, apparently I had been reading it already there some time in the past because it was open to Chapter Eight. So I read a few more chapters of that, watched some history videos on YouTube as well as the final quarter of the Saints win in the Super Bowl all those years ago; I’d forgotten we were trailing going into the 4th Quarter by one point, for example, but watching the interception by Tracy Porter run back for the clinching touchdown brought back all those joyous memories of how amazing it was to watch it live and hear the city cheering from inside the house. Paul got home relatively early as well–and what I mean by that is I was still awake when he got home; two nights in a row!–but he had work to do and repaired upstairs to do it while I continued watching history and sports videos on Youtube.

Really, such a fascinating life I lead.

So, at some point this morning I am probably going to go to the gym and shower there after working out–I am assuming they are far enough away from us to not be affected by this broken water main issue–and will spend the day making condom packs and doing data entry for work, all the while hoping that the water comes back sometime, adjusting my work hour appropriately to provide for that. Heavy sigh. Such is my life these days; trying to get things done, not being able to stay on top of things as more, newer things demand my attention all the time. Sometimes I despair that it will all get done, and then I have a mini-breakdown of sorts, after which I just buckle down and start pushing the boulder up the hill again. I need to get back to work on the current manuscript; I need to get caught up on so many other things; and so these setbacks–like not having water–inevitably seem much more defeating than they should. As Paul says, all too frequently, why does everything have to be so hard? He’s not wrong. I wonder this myself all the time…

And on that note, I am heading into the waterless spice mines. Wish me luck, Constant Reader!

Singularity

Ah, Monday morning and the sun has yet to rise in the east. It’s chilly in the Lost Apartment this morning, and as I steel myself for yet another day in the spice mines at the office, I am also pleased with how much I accomplished this weekend.–which wouldn’t have happened had there been parades. This week, of course, would be the big weekend of Carnival–with Muses and Orpheus and Bacchus and Endymion and Iris and so many, many others passing by down at the corner (well, not Endymion) and I would be trying to figure out how to get to and from work…so glad I don’t have to deal with any of that this year, quite frankly. But I do miss Carnival and the parades. I also have a long weekend coming up; Fat Tuesday is a holiday, so I went ahead and took a vacation day for Monday. Since there’s no distractions going on at the corner this weekend, I instead have four glorious days off in a row, which should help me get much further along with the revisions of the book and getting me that much closer to turning the bitch in.

I did wind up not working yesterday after all. I made groceries and then went to the gym; I was tired after that and repaired to my easy chair. I tried to read, but alas, was too tired and unfocused to get very far in what I was reading, so decided to rest for a while and take notes. This resulted into my falling into–of all things–a wormhole about The Partridge Family on Youtube; I don’t even remember how this came about, to be honest. I think a video was suggested to me, and after I got started down that garden path, there was no returning from it. This wormhole of course led me into music videos–clips from the show–and so forth; and who knew there was still so much Partridge/David Cassidy love out there in the world? (Shouldn’t really have been so surprising, really–look at how seriously the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys fans still take their devotion to those series books they read decades ago–there’s probably still some serious Leif Erickson and Shaun Cassidy fan channels on Youtube, with some significant crossover between Shaun fans and The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew fandom as well.) What was really surprising to me was–despite not having heard the music in a while–how good it sounded. David Cassidy was a good singer–it really is astonishing what a superstar he was during that time period–and I could still remember the lyrics to a lot of the songs. I’ve always liked harmonies when it comes to songs, so I always enjoyed the harmonies, and some of the songs still hold up today. (I will not go far as to say the songs would be hit records again today) I had no idea their debut album peaked at Number Four on the charts, that they had so many hits–the first three albums went platinum; any number of gold singles–and listening to the music and watching videos took me back to those years. The Partridge Family spanned the time from when we lived in the city and moved into the suburbs; it finally went off the air when I was in junior high. My sister and I watched every Friday night, groaning our way through The Brady Bunch (even as a kid I thought it was juvenile and lame) as a sort of punishment for getting there. The humor/comedy/situations on The Partridge Family often wasn’t much better–sometimes the two shows used the same basic plot premises–but the concept behind it was so much more clever and original than The Brady Bunch, and it worked better.

And of course, as I watched the videos–there was a Biography, an E! True Hollywood Story, and so forth–I kept thinking about how weirdly Danny Bonaduce’s life has turned out, and then began thinking in terms of a novel about a similar type show in the past whose cast in the present day is trying to figure out why the one whose life took a Bonaduce-like turn did precisely that. He would be dead, of course, and some of the cast members would still be in show business and some would not; it would be one of the younger kids telling the story because their own memories of their time on the show would be vague since they’d been so young, and having left show business far far behind in their rear view mirror….looking into the dead one’s life would, of course, bring back memories of their own and remind them how glad they are to be out of the business now.

And yes, after watching I did make a Partridge Family playlist on Spotify. Sue me.

WE also started watching a show called Resident Alien last night, which was actually kind of clever. I think it airs on Syfy; we’re watching it on Hulu, of course–we only watch the Super Bowl when the Saints are in it, so I think we’ve watched perhaps two Super Bowls this century–and the other one I watched was when I was out of town visiting friends and we went to a Super Bowl party, and I don’t even remember who played that year–and so I suppose this morning congratulations are in order for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, good for you. Anyway, I digress. I think Resident Alien may have been a film? The title certainly seems familiar, but the premise of the show–which really boils down to ‘fish out of water’–features an alien creature who had a mission to earth, only to have his ship hit by lightning and crash in Colorado. The creature then kills a human and takes over his life while trying to find his ship–now buried in snow–and trying to avoid human contact. Of course he gets unwillingly dragged into human contact, and there’s a big surprise twist at the end of the first episode. Some of the humor is predictable–an alien with no idea of what humans are actually like learning to adapt and become more human-like in order to pull off the deception; this was first done really well with Starman in the 1980’s, starring Jeff Bridges–but it’s still funny. And the little remote town in Colorado is an interesting setting. We liked that first episode and intend to watch more; it’s quite engaging, and while it’s eminently predictable–he’s going to start liking humans and getting personally vested in them–it’s still very well done.

And on that note, tis time to get ready for work. Talk to you tomorrow!

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

So yesterday was the last day of my vacation. Heavy heaving sigh. It was a bit on the weird side, though, because of the holidays and so forth I kept losing track of what day it was. Friday seemed like Saturday to me, and every day last week I had to really sit down and think about what day it actually was–or look at my Google calendar. #madness

I did finish the book yesterday, and sent it to my publisher two days late. I really thought I was going to get this one in on time–still not certain the final chapter is complete, but the manuscript currently sits at over 90,000 words and I just can’t think about the book anymore. I’m delighted to be finished with it, disappointed it took me an extra two days, and now I am going to breathe a bit as I try to get caught up with everything I let slide while I slogged through finishing this book.

As always, I overestimated how much time I can spend staring at a computer screen and underestimated how long it would take to put the copy edits/corrections into the entire document. And of course, the MacBook Air problems continued this morning as well. I fucking hate this thing, seriously.

But Bury Me in Shadows is finished; and now I can start figuring out how to finish #shedeservedit by March 1 and a short story by 1/15. And oh my God, the emails I’ve been ignoring while I tried to get this done. But I am glad to be going back to work this morning, despite having to get up at a ridiculously early hour, and I feel fairly well rested; I had issues sleeping during my vacation–of course–but now that I am going to go back to my usual schedule, hopefully that will be a thing of the past. I haven’t been to the gym since getting my inoculation (part one); my shoulder was sore and moving my left arm in an upward motion–required for the gym–hurt, so I thought it smart and prudent to skip it. I will go tonight after I get off work, of course, and try to make up for the lost time.

Since I was on deadline for a book, I never really had the opportunity to reflect on the shit-show that was 2020. It’s weird, too, because usually I am looking forward to Carnival–Twelfth Night is Wednesday, which kicks off the season, and there were King cakes already out at Rouse’s yesterday–but the parades are cancelled due to the pandemic, so Carnival is going to be weird this year. I’m kind of glad I don’t have to plan my life around parades, to be honest–but it’s still going to be different and strange…and imagine how insane parade season will be next year! I will eventually recap my 2020 for this blog at some point–favorite books and movies and television shows and so forth–but that isn’t going to happen today, as my memory is shot and I will have to go through old blogs to see what I read and what I watched this past year. I also haven’t really done a goals post for 2021 the way I usually do, either–primarily because there was one goal, and that was to get the book done. It was nice having the holidays and the little bit of vacation time to work on the book; it was one of those ah this is what life would be like if I only had to write books things, and it was quite lovely. One thing I noticed, too, while I was working on the final polish was that one of my biggest worries is that I forget things, or start something and never finish it off, leave subplots dangling without an answer, etc.–or names change for characters, that sort of thing. Partly it’s because when I write and I come to a place in the story where I have to remember something from earlier in the book, I usually don’t remember and guess–and it’s amazing how often my subconscious rises up and makes the correct guess for me. I always used to be able to remember the plot and things like that in my head; my memory is shot now, so I am generally terrified as I give the final a final polish and copy edit…there were only a couple of small minor things–a character’s last name changed once, a location’s name was the incorrect one–so I was pretty well pleased and the final step not nearly as difficult as anticipated or expected. (Thank God, as it took me three days to get through the manuscript and input those corrections and deletions; who knows how long it would have taken if the manuscript was more of a mess?) It also went from a book about a high school student to a college student–almost from the very beginning of its origins as a short story, the main character was young; going from about thirteen in the short story to seventeen in the original draft to twenty in the final. It also went from first-person/present tense to first person/past tense, and it was amazing to me how many verbs I’d missed going through and making those changes. Laziness, probably, being the correct answer to that.

As always, when I am pressed to finish a book my mind becomes very creative. I was scribbling down ideas in my journal almost all of last week, and I even came up with a new Scotty title, which might even be the next book–Twelfth Knight Knavery, which is just so fun I am going to have to do it. I had originally planned on doing a pre-pandemic book (French Quarter Flambeaux, primarily because the shitty Carnival season of 2019 deserved to be recorded for posterity), but this one….I kind of like the idea behind this one, and there’s no reason I can’t do two pre-pandemic books for Scotty before Quarter Quarantine Quadrille. My timeline for Scotty, after all, is completely under my own control. And I suspect people aren’t going to want to be reading about the pandemic for a little while at any rate. I do love the title Twelfth Knight Knavery, though.

We’ve also been watching the final season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix, and my God, how I love this show. I hate that it’s ending, but also get it–this final season has the gang taking on the Eldritch horrors, and where do you go after that? We only have two episodes left to watch, which will most likely occur tonight or tomorrow. The Saints also won yesterday, so football season is theoretically not over yet for Louisiana fans, but while people around here are talking Super Bowl…I dunno.

And on that note, it’s time to get back to the spice mines and try to get caught up on things. Have a lovely first Monday of the new year, Constant Reader.

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.

Blue

So, Saints & Sinners and the Tennessee Williams Festival were a Jeopardy clue on Friday night; how fricking cool is that? I didn’t see it myself–I was cleaning–but any number of people tagged me on Facebook or on Twitter, so I got to see it, which is cool. The Tennessee Williams Festival has been a clue before, but I think this is the first time Saints & Sinners was–and it’s a queer/LGBTQ festival, so even more cool. Way to go, Jeopardy! There’s a reason why you’ve always been my favorite game show!

Hold up your hand if you didn’t think I’d get everything done yesterday that I’d planned. But it was still a good day, and I wrote some new stuff for the first time in a while. I have these horrible stagnant times, when I don’t get any writing done–and as we’ve already established, I always have to force myself to do it (despite loving doing it) and then when I’ve got my writing for the day finished, I wonder why I have to make myself do something I love–and those stagnant times always make me worry that I’ve lost the spark, the desire, to do it; that this time is the time I won’t be able to get back into it and do it. I worked on the Secret Project for a while yesterday, basically completely rewrote everything I wrote to begin with, and moved onto from the first scene to the next scene, which was also quite lovely.

I did get some organizing done–there’s more to be done today; my iCloud drive is so ridiculously disorganized that it’s almost impossible to use, and I probably should back everything up yet again–and some of the filing; I should be able to get more done this morning before I dive back into the Secret Project. I am also planning on heading to the gym for the first time in a very long time (I prefer not to think about just how long that time has been, frankly), which is my first move in my attempt to live a healthier, better organized, better life. I already am thinking of excuses to get out of going, frankly–which is par for the course, as always–but as long as I don’t tie myself to any particular time table, I should be good. I guess the Super Bowl is also tonight, but I don’t really care about either team–the 49ers or the Chiefs–though I suppose if I had to pick one I’d pick the Chiefs, and that’s mainly because they haven’t won a Super Bowl in forever and I think Kansas City could use the boost. We’ll probably spend the evening getting caught up on shows we watch. We still haven’t finished watching Messiah, are way behind on Dare Me, haven’t started the last season of Schitt’s Creek, and so on.

We haven’t even started HBO’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Outsider, which is getting rave reviews. Who would have ever guessed The Hogan Family’s Jason Bateman would become one of our finest actors/directors/writers for television? I really can’t wait for Ozark to come back.

I also finally finished and published my blog post about Victoria Holt’s Kirkland Revels, part of my Reread Project; I still need to do The Talented Mr. Ripley–it’s started, but I need to finish it.

I am resisting the urge to read Dorothy B. Hughes’ The So Blue Marble next; I need to start reading Tracy Clark’s canon so I can interview her for Sisters; but I also have to read Lori Rader-Day’s The Lucky One for the panel I’m moderating this year at the Jeopardy clue Tennessee Williams Festival late next month. Decisions, decisions. Probably the smart thing to do is read Tracy Clark’s first book next, then Lori’s, and then back to Tracy again for her second book.

I’ve also reached the final section of Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which I am looking forward to finally finishing this month. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the book, which is interesting, well-written, and incredibly informative; it’s going to remain on my desk as an important reference guide for any future New Orleans writing I do–which reminds me, I’ve got to start that Sherlock Holmes story–and probably when I finish the Campanella I’ll probably move on to Jason Berry’s City of a Million Dreams: A History of New Orleans at Age 300. 

The plan is to get this work on the Secret Project finished this week, get started on the Sherlock story, and then get back to Bury Me in Shadows. I’d like to get Shadows turned in by the end of March, get back to the Kansas book–maybe with some serious focus I can get that finished and turned in by the end of May, and then I can get to work on Chlorine. I’d like to have the first draft of Chlorine finished by the end of summer.

Must stay organized, and must stay focused.

I also finished reading Dorothy B. Hughes’ Dread Journey yesterday.

dread journey

“I’m afraid.”

She had spoken aloud. She hadn’t meant to; she hadn’t wanted those words to come up from her throat to her lips. She hadn’t meant to think them, much less speak them. She didn’t want Gratia to have heard them.

But across the room the girl lifted her eyes from her book.

“What did you say?” she queried.

Dorothy B. Hughes is one of the more unjustly forgotten women writers of the mid to later twentieth century; fortunately Sarah Weinman worked–and has continued to work–tirelessly to bring this women back into the public eye. She wrote the introduction to Dread Journey, and in it she names Hughes as her favorite crime writer of all time. She’s not wrong, frankly; Sarah and my friend Margery are both huge fans of Hughes, and if not for them–and Megan Abbott–I may not have ever started reading Hughes, and for that I shall always be grateful to them. In a Lonely Place and The Expendable Man are both extraordinary; I think, frankly, The Expendable Man should be taught; it’s on my list for the Reread Project, for later in the year. Dread Journey is yet another masterwork by Hughes; I cannot wait to dig my teeth into more of her work.

Dread Journey takes place entirely on a train; the Chief, making its regular run from Los Angeles to Chicago–and you know, at some point, someone really needs to do a book or lengthy essay about crime novels and trains; not only did Hughes write one, but Christie wrote two (the very well known Murder on the Orient Express and the lesser known The Mystery of the Blue Train; as well as others that revolved around trains, like 4:50 from Paddington–called What Mrs. McGillicudy Saw! in the US) and of course, Graham Greene’s wonderful Orient Express comes to mind as well. Trains were part and parcel of the American experience. Trains made travel and connecting the massive distances across this continent much easier in the time before air travel became more commonplace and everyone wasn’t convinced they needed a car; there’s a certain nostalgic romantic element to train travel now, probably a result of these novels. I know that year we lived in Washington, we loved taking the train to Philadelphia and New York, even on to Boston; I’ve always, as I said the other day, wanted to write a book or a story called Murder on the Acela Express, and perhaps someday I will–even though the Acela is more of a commuter train without compartments. One of these days I want to take the City of New Orleans on its twenty-four hour ride to Chicago; it just seems like a lovely thing to do and the reading time! Oh, the reading time.

Anyway, the premise behind Dread Journey revolves around the dysfunctional and borderline abusive relationship between Viv Spender, a self-made Hollywood producer and studio head, and Kitten Agnew, a woman he discovered, became obsessed with, and groomed into a major star–America’s sweetheart, the girl next door. There is a huge difference between Kitten’s public image and who she is–a hard as nails fighter who won’t let go of her stardom in the face of Gratia Shawn, his new obsession, and whom he has decided will replace Kitten as the star of his dream project in the role of Clavdia Chauchat. But Kitten has a contract and isn’t giving up without a fight–and they, along with Viv’s longtime secretary Mike Dana, and several other characters–a journalist returning from the Far East, who drowns his memories of the atrocities and horrors he saw there in alcohol; a snippy, gossipy bandleader; a failed screenwriter returning to New York embittered by his failure; and of course, the car attendant, a man of color named James Cobbett–a decent working man who witnesses almost everything that happens on the car. Will Viv go so far as to kill Kitten to get out of the contract he has signed with her? She’s threatening to sue if she doesn’t play Clavdia; and the tension mounts as the cat-and-mouse game between the two of them slowly draws everyone else in the railroad car in.

It’s a very short read, and a good one. I highly recommend it, and of course, Sarah Weinman’s opening essay is worth the cover price alone.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Stomp!

I don’t know who today’s picture is, but I feel like I have may have used this image already. He certainly looks familiar. But he’s hot, there aren’t many silver foxes whose images I’ve used, and he could stand to be used again so THERE HE IS.

I didn’t get much of anything done yesterday; which is enormously disappointing. I wasn’t tired all day, the way I sometimes am on Mondays, but by the time I got home from work and made dinner any energy or desire I had to get anything finished and/or done had long since dissipated. Obviously, this is a concern–I was doing so well with the revision over the weekend that I hate to think the momentum has stopped or slowed in some way–but I am very hopeful that today will be different. I did read some more of Devil in a Blue Dress, which I am really enjoying, and look forward to reading some more of it. Today of course is another long day at the office, but as with every week, once I make it through today the rest of the week is rather easy.

Yesterday was actually a rather lovely day; today the high will be seventy-two degrees. I know, right? February weather like this is really something to behold. We had to turn the air conditioning on last night because it was too stuffy and muggy in the apartment…go figure.

I spent a lot of time yesterday enjoying the aftermath of the New Orleans boycott of the Super Bowl–there were some absolutely classic memes on social media–the voodoo one was my personal favorite, with the actual front page of yesterday’s Times-Picayune a very close second. New Orleans is a petty city that you cross at your own peril, and you don’t mess with our Saints. (No one here has forgiven the hateful Chicago Bears fans for how nasty and horrible they were in the NFC championship game in 2007; including the signs reading such lovely sentiments as Finish what Katrina started. I had been a sort of Bears fan till then, growing up in Chicago as I did. NO MORE.)

I also spent more time than I should have on social media reading–and laughing about–the reactions to the New Yorker expose of bestselling author “A. J. Finn”–who is actually former editor Dan Mallory, who has quite the history of odd and bizarre behavior behind him. I do have a copy of his novel The Woman in the Window, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. The piece is long, but definitely well worth the read. Mallory is a sort of Ripley character, apparently, and apparently that Highsmith character was a role model for him…which makes me wonder where the bodies are buried.

Because they are undoubtedly buried somewhere.

I also got the official notice of the publication date for Royal Street Reveillon, the next Scotty book: September 10th. Huzzah!

And on that note–the spice ain’t gonna mine itself.

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Still

It’s dark outside.

I slept really well last night–even woke up before the alarm this morning–and feel rested, despite the early hour. Yesterday was a kind of lovely day, despite the incredible tension of the Saints’ win over the Eagles 20-14. I managed to get a lot cleaned and organized, and while those five chapters of Scotty are still waiting to be looked over–I did realize how to revise and redo the opening of the book last night. So, that’s progress of a sort; today I am going to try to organize my notes on the book as well as read those five chapters so I can move on to the next five. This coming weekend I am planning on not doing anything other than the usual errands as well as watch the Saints game on Sunday; I may have to take my car into the dealership to have the oil changed and the tires rotated–I am going to try to do that either on Friday or, if need be, on Saturday. But if I go to the West Bank on Saturday, I can also include my other errands that day…and if I go to work early on Friday I can make the Costco run after I get off work, so there’s that as well.

And this weekend is when I am going to start back at the gym, methinks.

Always good to have a plan.

And of course, no sooner do I make plans than I have to change them. I need to take my car in for an oil change and tire rotation; so of course there’s nothing at the dealership on Saturday. So I had to make the appointment for Friday morning, which means going to the West Bank Saturday morning and negates the possibility of an after-work Costco trip Friday–which means I’ll just have to go on Saturday morning, which means if I get the groceries I need on the West Bank after my car is finished, I can be done with it. But I think taking care of the car on Friday morning before work makes the most sense on every level…particularly since one of my tires seems to be losing air with a higher degree of frequency than I would like.

See how that works? The best laid plans, and all of that.

But today seems to be going well; as long as I stay motivated and focused there’s no doubt I can get everything I need to get done, done.

The Saints game yesterday was perhaps a little more exciting and stressful than I would have liked, but they did prevail, and now the Rams are coming to town next Sunday. Should be a great game–it certainly was the last time the Rams came to town–and so should the Kansas City-New England game be a good one. It would be very exciting to go to the Super Bowl again; although nothing will ever be better than that first experience. (I went back and reread my blog entries around the Saints winning the Super Bowl and those memories are wonderful ones I will always cherish–and I always forget I wrote Who Dat Whodunnit partly to make sure it was recorded.)

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader!

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