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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