Book of Love

Wednesday and another edition of the biweekly Pay The Bills Day! Woo-hoo! But this is also my last paycheck at my old rate of pay; I am curious to see what my paychecks will look like when they reflect my raise–check back, Constant Reader, in precisely two weeks to find out.

Can you stand the suspense? I barely can.

I was very tired yesterday, and I slept about the same last night so I can also plan on hitting the wall today around three. I took a long lunch yesterday to record Susan Larson’s marvelous radio show The Reading Life, which will air on December 6th, and that was naturally delightful as every moment spent with Susan is. But by the time I got back to the office and got settled back into the seeing clients routine, I was very tired. I had a ZOOM meeting when I got back home last night, which was interesting and fun–it’s always lovely seeing that group of people (queer crime writers! Woo-hoo!)–and then I settled into my chair to watch Reboot and another episode of Diary of a Gigolo, which is just so much fun. I did get some writing done yesterday–terrible writing, I might add–but am hopeful that tonight I’ll get back on track. I feel like I slept about the same last night, waking up several times and never really falling deep asleep again, but this morning so far I feel good. I managed to somehow get quite a bit finished yesterday, which I didn’t think would actually be the case, given how sleepy and tired I was yesterday afternoon, but looking back over the day I can see that yes, indeed, I did get a lot done despite the exhaustion. I am adjusting to the new work week schedule, methinks; tomorrow is my last day in the office and usually I am worn down the day before my last day in the office for the week, so this is a major plus.

And now to consult the to-do list…sigh. It can wait until later, surely?

I don’t know why this morning I feel like I’ve turned some kind of corner, which makes absolutely zero sense, but that’s kind of how I feel; like I’m shaking off some kind of malaise or stupor and my mind is functioning correctly again. It’s entirely possible the booster shot I got on Monday fogged my brain for a few days–I’m blaming the insomnia issues on it for fucking sure–and now this morning that fog has cleared. I don’t know, I really can’t explain it other than that, but this is one of those mornings where I feel like I am mentally rolling up my sleeves and taking a look at all and everything I need to get done and diving in headfirst. LOL, we’ll see how long this feeling lasts, won’t we? But I feel good–and that is reflected in my mood, I guess; I’m in a pretty good mood this morning (at least thus far) but it’s probably too much to hope for that it will last the rest of the day.

Probably not, but you never know.

I was thinking last night–after talking to Susan about the next book (should there be one) in the new series, and of course my copy of Raquel V. Reyes’ second novel arrived yesterday–about how important the second book in a series is, and how much different the second books in both of my series are from the first book in each series. In the first book you have to introduce the characters and their backstories and how they relate to each other (the kind of relationships they have with each other) as well as who your main character is and try to get the reader to relate to them and like them enough to buy into the series as a whole. In the second book, you’ve already done all of this work so all you need is little sound bytes here and there to recap those backstories and so forth and you can spend a lot more time developing your plot and story. Murder in the Rue St. Ann was very different than Murder in the Rue Dauphine; revisiting the Scotty series I can see how much more complicated and layered the story of Jackson Square Jazz was in comparison to Bourbon Street Blues, which had a much simpler plot. Likewise, A Streetcar Named Murder is the launching place for this series, and hopefully it will continue (my second one is tentatively titled The House of the Seven Grables, which will probably be changed by the publisher if there is a second book in the series), and the plot I have in mind for this second Valerie book is a lot more all over the place and complicated–especially as we dig deeper into the Cooper family mystery that was brought to light in the first book.

My favorite part of writing a book is the planning stage, really.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will chat with you again tomorrow.

Hold Me

I got my bivalent booster yesterday (I think that’s what it’s called) and am hopeful I won’t feel any ill effects from it this morning. If I do, oh, well. I am also taking a long lunch today so I can drive out to UNO to tape Susan Larson’s show The Reading Life to talk about Streetcar, which feels a little strange. I am so deep in the weeds with this new Scotty book that it’s weird to shift back into my Streetcar mentality and talk about a book I wrote over a year ago. Ah, well, we’ll see how it goes, won’t we?

I feel okay this morning. I woke up early–around three–and dozed off and on until the alarm went off. I don’t think the booster has made me unwell (unlike it’s four predecessors), or at least not yet at any rate, but I’m still pretty jazzed that I finally got a vaccination that didn’t even make me slightly feverish for twenty-four hours or so. This is a plus; I was a bit worried about being coherent for the radio taping today because of the booster–but it seems as though my level of incoherence will just be the usual, normal one that I always bring to an interview. *Whew*

I did some terrible work on the book yesterday but it was forward progress and I will take it, you know? The book is a mess, but sometimes the first draft is a mess and needs to be so you can fix it and clean it all up later and turn it into something coherent. That’s the plan, at any rate. Yesterday was a pretty productive day, both at the office and at home; I’m getting some training on how to do more things to go along with my promotion and raise (did I mention that? I think I did), both of which were significant. My job is essentially remaining the same, with some new added responsibilities (which make sense for me to do, really) that I have to learn how to do, and of course Friday I am going into the office to get a flu shot and so I can drop off this wretched cable modem (don’t even get me started on this)–the only Cox office in the city is a few blocks from the office–and then of course it’s the glorious weekend again. LSU is playing Florida on Saturday night (which may be painful; we’ve beaten them three years in a row and the last couple of times they were heavily favored–two years ago was the notorious Shoe Game in which one of their players threw an LSU player’s show twenty yards down the field for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that kept an LSU scoring drive alive; that drive also handed LSU the win; last year’s game was also kind of insane with all kinds of crazy plays and turnovers and so forth), and I should probably check when the Saints are playing–although they seem to do better when I don’t watch this season for some reason–and then plan my weekend around it. I’ve got to do a major push on the book this week and weekend; I’ve got to get back on schedule with this stupid thing.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I had a spell of not feeling so hot there for a moment, and when I was brushing my teeth earlier I noticed that my left shoulder (which is the arm that took the vaccine yesterday) was pretty sore; at least when I move my arm I am very aware of the general vicinity of where it was punctured. I think I can power through, however.

Last night we started watching another Spanish language show (we decided The Midnight Club, while sort of entertaining, wasn’t compelling enough and we can finish it another time) called Diary of a Gigolo, which of course is filled with DRAMA and all kinds of bizarre twists and turns with a rather large cast of characters and a lot of backstory and yet…not a single dull moment nor did we have any confusion about the multitude of plots–which is even more impressive when you realize it was in a foreign language and we were reading subtitles. (I do think there is something to watching shows with the closed captioning turned on; it forces me to pay attention and not let my mind wander–interesting.) I also spent a little time reading Interview with the Vampire while I was waiting for Paul to come downstairs so we could watch television. I am rather looking forward to continuing with Diary of a Gigolo (which, for the record, is far superior to American Gigolo, which just didn’t hold our interest at all) this evening after a conference call I have tonight. Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. May your Tuesday be as amazing as you are, Constant Reader, and I’ll be back in the morning tomorrow to check in yet again.

Mardi Gras Mambo

Or, my own personal Vietnam.

I’ve told this story any number of times; how the writing of the book was derailed by two awful things that happened in my life, and how I finally got back to writing again in the spring of 2005, managing to finish this and turn it into literally two or three weeks before Hurricane Katrina came barreling ashore and changed everything in my life, and the long recovery time from that paradigm shift, trying to adjust to the new reality I was facing every day. It felt weird going over the copy edits, weirder still doing the page proofs (I actually had the incredibly sharp-eyed Becky Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert do it for me while I was visiting the Compound, thanks again, guys!), and even stranger having to tour and promote a book about New Orleans set before Katrina while still dealing with the recovery.

I’ve told those stories before, and that isn’t really what these entries are about; these entries are about the books themselves and how I came up with the stories and so forth, and the writing of the books. The primary problem, of course, is that I wrote this book between and around tragedies; the two year period I call the Time of Troubles that began on Memorial Day weekend in 2004 and ran through about 2008, really; because that’s about how long it took after all those issues for me to feel like my feet were beneath me again and I once again had a grasp on my life. I don’t remember what the original story was about, other than it centered on the Krewe of Iris, Scotty’s Diderot grandmother’s best friend who’d married a much younger muscle-stud Russian, and that’s really about it. The Russian would have something to do with a Colin case–and it would turn out actually be the case that brought him undercover to New Orleans in the first place during Southern Decadence; in Jackson Square Jazz we find out what Colin’s real job is, and that he was in town originally about the Napoleon death mask–but he was also in town to keep an eye on the young muscle-stud Russian who’d married Scotty’s grandmother’s best friend. It wasn’t really working, and I didn’t much care for the story, to be honest; I’d already asked for an extension before Memorial Day weekend in 2004 when all the shit started happening; after Paul was attacked they took it off the schedule and told me not to worry about it. (I appreciated the courtesy greatly at the time, but at the same time had this sinking feeling in the back of my head uh oh, they may not want another one after this–which turned out to be correct. But I dismissed the fear as part of my on-going struggle with Imposter Syndrome. It took me about six months, more or less, to get back to writing. I started my blog right after Christmas that year, and there I was writing every day again, and by January of 2005 I was ready to get going on this book again. I remember rereading everything I’d already done, not liking it, and deciding to scrap it and start over with the same essential premise: rich older society woman in New Orleans has married a much younger Russian boy-toy; Colin is investigating the boy-toy; and it’s Carnival season. Shortly after getting about halfway into a new first draft, the Virginia thing happened and I was derailed again. After that was over and I went back to the book…once again I didn’t like what was happening in the story and I threw it all out and started over again.

But this time, I hit my stride and four months later I turned the book in at long last, along with a proposal for a fourth, Hurricane Party Hustle, which was going to be set during an evacuation and would wrap up the loose ends left at the end of Mardi Gras Mambo.

And of course, three weeks later Katrina changed everything, and Hurricane Party Hustle went into the drawer.

Last night I dreamed it was Mardi Gras again. It seemed to me I was standing inside an iron gate, watching one of the night parades go by. The sidewalks in front of the gate were crowded with people, all shouting, with their grasping eager hands up in the air. Out beyond the edge of the curb, I could see people sitting in lawn chairs. Still others were up on ladders, with coolers and plastic bags of booty piled around them on the ground. Fathers and mothers were holding up babies, while black kids with the crotches of their pants down around their knees walked behind the crowd, weighted down by the ropes of beads around their necks. Beads were flying through the air, some getting caught and tangled in the branches of the towering gnarled oaks lining the avenue.  The heavy upper branches of those oaks also blocked out the glow of the ancient street lamps so the night seemed even darker than it should. I could hear a marching band, playing a recent hip-hop hit, and the strange clicking sound of the baton girls’ tap shoes on the pavement. The air was heavy with the heavy fragrance of hot grease, corn dogs and the strange melted yellowish-orangey substance the vendors put on nachos that purports to be cheese—but no one is really sure what it is. A group of flambeaux carriers were passing by, dancing that odd little circular dance they do, their propane tanks popping and hissing, throwing long and twisted shadows that also danced inside the iron fence I was behind. Right behind them a huge float pulled by a tractor was coming and the crowd’s shouts became louder, more desperate, more pleading. On the float’s front was a huge white clown face, its bright red lips parted in what passed for a smile but seemed to me to be a frightening leer. The masks on the float riders glowed supernaturally at the hordes begging them for generosity in the strange light cast by the moon when it cleared the thick clouds in the cold night sky.   I stood inside the black iron fence, my arms wrapped around me against the cold as an increased sense of menace and dread built inside me. Something bad was going to happen—

Oh, get real, Scotty!

If I do have bad dreams, I don’t remember them when I wake up. I’ve certainly never been troubled in my sleep, even though crazy things always seem to happen to me. I’m just one of those people, I guess. For whatever reason, the Goddess has decided to throw some wild stuff at me—she always has, even when I was a kid—and what can you do? I just don’t think I am one of those people who were destined to have a nice, normal, quiet life. Maybe it’s because I was named Milton Bradley at birth. Yes, that’s right. Milton Bradley. My older brother started calling me by my middle name, Scotty, before I started school and thank the Goddess, it stuck. Can you imagine how cruel the kids would have been to someone named Milton, let alone Milton Bradley? And then of course there’s the gay thing. I was lucky—my parents are pretty liberal and were delighted to have a gay son—like it somehow proved how truly cool they really are or something. They are pretty cool, actually.

By now, I’d taken to starting all of my New Orleans novels with a Tennessee Williams quote; for this one I chose a line from Vieux Carré: “You’ve got a lot to learn about life in the Quarter.”

I had opened Bourbon Street Blues with a parody of “The name’s Bond, James Bond” and I’d done something similar with Jackson Square Jazz–“Danger is my middle name”, riffing on Trouble is My Business. I decided to open this book with a parody of the opening line of Rebecca: “Last night I dreamed I went to Mardi Gras again.” But that entire opening paragraph of du Maurier’s is so fucking brilliant, I couldn’t help myself and made my entire first paragraph a parody of that opening. I then decided that from then forward, every Scotty book would have a Williams quote and each prologue–where Scotty introduces himself and his cast of characters and gives backstory so I don’t have to do it in the text of the story itself–would parody the opening paragraph of a famous novel, rather than just the first line (I am actually struggling to find the proper opening to parody to start the prologue for this one. I’ve used Rebecca, Peyton Place, The Haunting of Hill House, and Lolita, among others so far already; I’ve tried with this one to use An American Tragedy, Atlas Shrugged and The Great Gatsby thus far, with no luck. I’ve tried Valley of the Dolls several times for other books in the series already, but I can’t ever get it to work for me).

I do remember that the one thing that didn’t come across in those earlier drafts that I had abandoned was the sense of insanity that Carnival always brings with it; that feeling of “controlled anarchy” we experience those two weeks of parades, of knowing you have to schedule your entire life around a parade schedule–true even for those who do not live inside the box, as we say here; the box being the Uptown parade route–I always have to schedule my job, my trips to run errands uptown, everything, predicated around having to get home at least two hours before the parades start, and am incredibly lucky if I can get a parking spot within three blocks of the Lost Apartment. The thing I kept forgetting in those earlier versions was the books are meant to be fun. Granted, I was hardly in a mental space to write something fun…and of course the decision to really take it completely over the top the way I did was something I still think about to this day and wonder, where on earth did you get the idea for identical triplets?

Which, while crazy, made more sense than the cloning story I tried to write the second time.

Maybe those bad things happened for a reason? Because I couldn’t be more pleased with how the story and the book turned out. I also ran out of room to finish the personal story…but I also was operating on the assumption I’d get a contract for a fourth book. If not for Katrina, Kensington might have made another offer and Hurricane Party Hustle might have been the fourth Scotty than something just sitting in the files.

The book was released on Fat Tuesday, 2006. Paul and I had been out of town–the truncated Carnival/parade season seemed almost too sad to handle, so we’d accepted a gig to speak at the South Carolina Book Festival. We flew back to New Orleans the Sunday morning before Fat Tuesday. I’d checked my email that morning before boarding the flight to Atlanta (we changed planes) and then our cab driver couldn’t get closer to St. Charles than Baronne Street. A parade was going as we got out of the car, and we had to cross the parade (it was in the high seventies and sunny) with our luggage–I’ll never forget looking up as we got ready to cross and catching a bag of beads with my hand just before it connected with my face–and got home. I checked my emails and my word! SO MANY EMAILS.

You see, that day’s edition of the Times-Picayune carried Susan Larson’s review of the book, and it was a rave! Everyone emailed me as soon as they saw it–I still bask in the glory of that review–and I was about to embark on probably the most ambitious book tour of my career.

I just didn’t see, though, how I could write another funny, light book about a city still in ruins whose recovery was still questionable.

The series was, for the moment, over–with the personal story not resolved the way I would have wanted, but it could stand as it was, should there never be another Scotty story.

Rereading it, I couldn’t but laugh at some of the outrageous twists and turns the plot took.

I guess you could say I’m proud of it.

The Happening

So today I am off to Birmingham, once I’ve woken up completely and swilled down enough coffee to face the highway. It’s going to be horrible weather the entire way, of course–cold and rainy, potential thunderstorms–which will be ever so pleasant. But it’s a lovely serene drive, I’ll have a good audiobook playing, and it’s only about six hours or so to drive (sad that I now think only six hours? Piece o’ cake. Those twelve hour drives to Kentucky have certainly changed my perspective on what is or isn’t a long drive). It’s going to be fun to be around writers and readers and people who enjoy books for the weekend; it’s also an interesting switch to go back into author mode from my usual, every day Gregalicious mode.

My interview with Susan Larson for her show “The Reading Life” on our local NPR airs today (and again on Sunday); you can, if you are so inclined, you can listen to it here after 12:30 central time. Susan is hella smart, and incredibly well-read, and all of her shows are available to listen to at the link (check out the Laura Lippman episode, if you are so inclined), and has always been incredibly gracious to me about my writing and my career, and always so supportive. It’s lovely when you have the Duchess of the New Orleans literary scene on your side!

The weather last night was frightful, frankly. I managed to get home from work before it started in earnest, but poor Paul got stuck walking home in the torrential downpour, complete with thunder and lightning, and of course–it was 72 degrees yesterday morning when I went to work and by seven pm yesterday we’d have a thirty degree temperature swing. It’s going to stay in the thirties today (thank goodness for Paul’s sake we got the heat operational again), and it’s going to be cold up in Birmingham, too. I packed last night–there’s a few things left that need to be put in the suitcase, but really, all I have to do this morning is drink enough coffee to be functional, get cleaned up, and put the stuff in the car, and head out on the highway due northeasterly. It’s about six hours, give or take, as I mentioned before, not including the time out for bathroom breaks, lunch, and gassing up the car.

I slept very well last night–even though I woke up at five and six, the way I always seem to do every day now; and now that I am sitting here and the first cup of coffee is blazing through my veins, I can’t help but think if you are waking up that early organically, mightn’t it be easier on you to just go ahead and get up, so you don’t have to adjust again on the days you go into the office? But the bed is so comfy and warm–this morning I kept waking up but the warm comfort of my blankets couldn’t be denied, and I stayed there much longer than perhaps I should have; but again, there’s no rush to get on the road and therefore no need to get stressed or worked up about anything (who am I, and what have I done with Gregalicious?), right? Take it easy, take it slow, and take my time and don’t get worked up or freaked out about anything when it comes to traveling. At least I’m not flying and tied to times, you know?

I’m still a bit in the “post-turned-in-the-book” malaise aftershock; I tried to work on the short story that’s due on Monday a bit last night to no avail, which is worrying. I’m sure I can get it done this weekend, but last night I was just a bit too bleary to deal with it. I don’t feel exhausted this morning–that will undoubtedly change after hours in the car–which is a relief; I think a good night’s sleep last night was enormously helpful for me, and I’ll probably be flooded with ideas and thoughts for books and stories and essays while in the car, the way I always am; at least I certainly hope so. I hate the period after a project is completed when my creative batteries have been drained and are running on accessory rather than recharging–mainly because I always worry that this time the drain will be permanent and the creativity won’t come back. But I also have to take into consideration I wrote three books in the last year or so; which in and of themselves consisted of approximately 250,000 words.

When you look at it that way, I’m a little surprised that I’m not more exhausted than I already am. It’s probably not the smartest thing in the world for me to do a public appearance while I am so drained; the idea is to sound witty and clever and intelligent and get people to buy your books; I am always afraid that I am not going to be witty or clever or intelligent. Public appearances always make me nervous; I am always in great distress while I am on stage, with flop sweat running down my back and terror seizing up my stomach. People are always very gracious about how I do on these things, but then again, most people aren’t big enough assholes to say “wow, you were terrible up there!” (They save that for on-line.)

And on that cheery note, I am going to finish packing, get cleaned up, and do the little things I need to do to get on the road. Happy Friday, Constant Reader! Not sure if I will be able to post over the weekend or not, but stranger things have happened!

When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes

As I mentioned yesterday–these blog post titles taken from the Supremes discography sometimes feel a bit off as I do some Blatant Self-Promotion about my new soon-to-be-released novel #shedeservedit.

I got my first ignorant comment on one of those blog posts yesterday; someone posted a link to a video about “toxic femininity” and how it’s “as bad if not worse” than “toxic masculinity.” Needless to say, I not only didn’t approve the comment but marked it as spam and blocked the user from commenting/reading my blog. For those of you who are new here–I don’t engage with trolls, not do I permit them the energy or the oxygen of allowing their ignorance to be seen by anyone here. This is my blog and I pay for it; therefore I will curate the content here and if you want to troll me, well, it’s just going to earn you a comment marked as spam and get you blocked, so don’t waste your time or energy on me. You may, of course–I cannot stop you, but I won’t engage with you nor will I allow Constant Reader to see your ignorance, so there you have it.

I wrote yesterday, and it felt good to get another chapter down. I only have two more to go and the revisions, and I have to say, pantsing this thing on a tight deadline hasn’t been the easiest way to write this book, but it’s working. I’ve got the plot all worked out now, who the killer is and why, and now all I have to do is cram the resolution into the last two chapters and we are finished, done, ready to go off to the editor with prayers that she likes what I’ve done and doesn’t require a complete overhaul, which is also entirely possible and within the realm of probability–one of the reasons, frankly, that I’ve not signed. a contract to dive straight away into another book when this one is finished; I thought it best to leave my time free just in case. (I am going to start working on Chlorine and Mississsippi River Mischief while waiting for my edits; there’s always something to write, after all–I can also work on the revisions of the novellas in the meantime as well.)

There’s always something…

Today’s BSP is going to focus on writing about small towns, rather than what I’ve been covering (toxic masculinity). The first book I remember reading about a small town that really stands out to me–as an examination of small town dynamics, rather than merely a setting for the story–was Ellery Queen’s Calamity Town, which was, if you are an Ellery Queen fan, the first Wrightsville story. There were several of these novels–the second, I believe, was The Murderer is a Fox–and I enjoyed them all; Queen clearly loved writing about Wrightsville, since he kept returning to the scene of the crimes, as it were, but the best, the true standout for me, was the first: Calamity Town. This book–published well over a decade before Grace Metalious scandalized the world with Peyton Place–also covers the same territory as Peyton Place: scandal and hypocrisy and the paralyzing power of gossip in small town America. Calamity Town remains a favorite mystery novel of mine to this day; I should reread it. It’s plot is ingenious and entirely rooted in human psychology, and it also contains one of the best and most clever misdirections in crime fiction history. It was Calamity Town that made me first start thinking about how small town society is actually a microcosm of American society as a whole, all encapsulated in a small package, and also that made me realize, for the first time, how claustrophobic small towns can be; where everyone knows everyone and you can’t really do anything without someone knowing; and how secrets kept can become very damaging over time. Queen is, at first, struck by the apple-pie Americana of Wrightville…and then he begins peeling back the layers.

Peyton Place, which I found to be far less scandalous than either General Hospital or All My Children by the time I got a copy at a secondhand bookstore in Emporia when I was seventeen or eighteen, also showed me again how claustrophobic small town life could be. Sure, there’s some bad to the point of laughable writing in the book (“your nipples are hard as diamonds”, anyone?) but other than those brief moments, overall it’s a very well-constructed book and a damning indictment on the hypocrisy of American small towns. I also read Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street around the same time for an American Literature class (I still think we should have read Elmer Gantry instead, or It Can’t Happen Here, but I was not in charge of the syllabus), which is also about the falseness of keeping up appearances and worrying what the neighbors think. I find it interesting that “small town American values” are frequently–particularly by conservatives–pointed out as what is the backbone of our country and so on and so forth (part of the entire “cities are BAD” thing we have had going on culturally for decades, if not centuries), but when that veil is peeled back, there is just as much rot and decay as in any “wicked” city. As I pointed out on Susan Larson’s radio show the other day, the vast majority of the soaps were originally set in very small towns, rather than urban centers.

Nobody does small towns quite like Stephen King, and the first time he really addressed small town life was in ‘salem’s Lot–although it can be argued he did a masterwork on small town life with Needful Things–and it was in his tale of small town Maine being overrun by vampires, he also did an incredible job of painting the town, it’s working class citizens and the minutiae of their lives; how circumstances trapped some of them and killed their dreams–and how others never had any dreams to be killed in the first place. The way he interweaves the lives of his small town characters, their relationships and histories and how everything is interconnected is masterful; has anyone ever done a critical analysis of King’s work with small towns? It also falls into this group; what King does with Derry is just as exceptional as his work on Castle Rock and Jerusalem’s Lot in the other works.

I based Liberty Center on Emporia, Kansas, geographically; my town is loosely laid out the same way Emporia is; there’s a small college there, as in Emporia, and there’s a meat packing plant on one side of town that reeks of death and stale blood on the south side of town, and of course, the waterfall on the river on the way out of town heading south and the park that goes with it. Other than that, it’s memory and invention; I’ve not set foot in Emporia in nearly forty years and have no plans to ever do so again. (Likewise, when I write about my fictionalized county in Alabama–it’s loosely based on where my family is from, but I haven’t been there in thirty years and will most likely never go visit again, so it’s all memory and invention for me.) I don’t know if I will write another novel about Kansas–I have some other ideas, of course, don’t I always–but it seems weird to create another fictional small city so similar to Liberty Center, but at the same time it seems even weirder to set another book there after having already done so (although i should probably revisit Sara sometime and see how I did it–and what I called the towns in Kahola County–before deciding one way or the other).

Heavy sigh.

Today I need to write another chapter, and I also need to work on revising a short story as well as writing a promotional article–and of course, there’s the horror that is my email inbox which needs to be dealt with this week once and for all (it’s all relative; answering everything and emptying it out inevitably means generating more emails there; my email responses will trigger emails in response which turns it into a Sisyphean task without end), and today is the men’s US figure skating championships, which naturally I plan to watch so I need to get my writing done before then, don’t I?

So on that note, I head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Run, Run, Run

Wednesday morning and it’s not as cold as it has been, but it’s still (of course) cold in the Lost Apartment, same as it ever was when it is cold outside. I didn’t want to get out of my warm bed this morning yet again, but there’s no choice, obviously, as I have to leave for the office shortly. It’s my last day in the office of the week; I had actually taken tomorrow off because we were going to have our new year’s lunch at Commander’s tomorrow, but with the recent uptick of cases and changes in safety protocols and so forth, we all decided it was probably for the best to cancel it. This gives me another day off at home to work on the book and do some cleaning; not the worst possible outcome, but I would rather be having lunch at Commander’s if I have to be honest about it. Friday will thus be another work-at-home day for me, and then I will have the weekend to work some more on the book.

Not the best, but certainly not the worst potential outcome here.

I did tape “The Reading Life” with the always delightful Susan Larson for WWNO yesterday, which is always a pleasure. I also am going to be interviewed for a newspaper over the phone on Friday; it’s been a while since I’ve done one of those, and so it should be interesting. I am also not feeling quite as tired or sleepy this morning as I did yesterday; perhaps it’s the coffee, perhaps it’s a better night’s sleep, I am not sure which is true, frankly, I just know this morning I feel more awake than I did yesterday (not as awake and energetic as Monday, to be sure, but still, this is better than yesterday when I felt like something Scooter had dragged in). We watched the LSU bowl game for a while before finally, regretfully, giving up on the game and watching another episode of Yellowjackets, which continues to enthrall; I am really looking forward to getting back to it again tonight, to be honest. It’s so very well done, well written and acted, and such a spectacular cast, too! I do recommend it, even though it’s early in the season and things can still easily go off the rails.

It’s also Pay-the-Bills Day (huzzah?), so I will be spending some of my lunch hour doing exactly that, and determining if a Costco run this weekend is in order. I don’t know, to be honest; there’s only a few things that I actually need from there, and there’s a very real sense that I can probably do without those things for another week or so, right? It always ends up costing so much to go there…because I can always find more things I “need” than are on my grocery list–defeating the purpose of the list entirely.

My mind is all over the place this morning, which is to be expected, I suppose. It’s really a wonder my ADHD-addled brain allows me to get anything finished or accomplished at all. I have managed to get coping mechanisms in place to help me with my fevered all-over-the-place brain; the one good thing about having an ADHD-addled mind is that when you are able to focus it, you can focus it with laser-like precision. I am having some trouble focusing my brain this morning, but I am hoping that the causes of that will fade as the morning progresses and I’ll be able to get focused the later in the day it gets. I need to do some writing today and I need to empty out my email inbox once and for all. I need to make a list of things I need to get done this week. I need to clean the house and stop to make a little groceries on the way home from the office tonight.

I also need to stop being overwhelmed by how much I have to get done and just start fucking doing it.

And so, on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. I am going to be productive today if it kills me. Have a lovely Wednesday!

Where Did Our Love Go?

It is cold again this morning–37 degrees to be exact–and while I was prepared for it yesterday, I was not this morning. I was under the impression that yesterday morning’s frigid clime was an aberration; a cold spell that was going to be experienced overnight and then it would be over, with the lows for the rest of this week hovering in the low fifties. That was incorrect, and it clearly changed at some point since I checked it yesterday morning. It is bitterly cold this morning; and not only am I cold, I am bitter.

I got another chapter of the book finished yesterday–huzzah!–and now have three to go plus the revisions, which are going to be difficult but not impossible; definitely wearying. I ran some errands on the way home last night, and then we watched the first two episodes of Yellowjackets on Showtime, and are completely all-in on the show. It’s incredibly well done, and you can never go wrong with Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci–ever.

Today of course I have a lot to do as always; I need to get another chapter written tonight, some more emails cleaned out of the inbox, and work on that article–which I should have finished yesterday. It’s hard because I am trying to make sure I get the intro to the list of books (Kansas crime) absolutely correct; I am trying to talk about the strange dichotomy of how we always are taught this myth that rural, small town life is the American ideal, the ‘true America’–yet that myth completely ignores the level and degree of true crime and nastiness that is there once you pull back the patriotic “real America” sheen we paint that lifestyle with…yet I also have to be careful not to offend anyone, which isn’t easy to do. Yet that dichotomy remains, and is as true today as it ever has been: urban areas don’t have a monopoly on crime, sin, or scandal. (Ever notice how the majority of soap operas back in the day were actually set in small towns?) I hope I can be as motivated today as I was yesterday, when I managed to get a lot finished during the course of the evening while I waited for Paul to get home from the gym so we could start watching Yellowjackets. The kitchen is still a mess, alas, and there are dishes still in the dishwasher to put away, but I have to admit that the cold doesn’t exactly motivate me to do much besides sit under a blanket and read/edit/write, you know? But I at least managed to get the throw rugs put back in place and ran the vacuum cleaner over them–no small feat, especially when it’s cold.

This morning, obviously, I didn’t want to leave the warm comfort of the bed and the covers to venture out into the cold of the Lost Apartment, but I did. The coffee hit the spot this morning, and I remembered there was a load of laundry in the washer (a small one) that I put into the dryer this morning. I am still a bit cold, but the coffee is warming me from the inside and that’s always a good thing, really. On my lunch break today I get to drive out to UNO to record Susan Larson’s “The Reading Life” radio show, which is kind of exciting, and I’ve also been asked for another phone interview for this Friday, which I can do while I make condom packs since it’s on the phone, obviously. I’d like to make a Costco run at some point this weekend, but we’ll have to see. I’m supposed to go to New York next week, but the jury’s still out on whether travel should be something I consider. If it weren’t for my day job, I’d say I’ll take the risk but…the day job. It’s really not a good idea to take those kinds of risks when it’s entirely possible I could become an asymptomatic carrier, and that’s really not a good look for a public health worker in a public health clinic. Decisions, decisions…

But I am hoping that this weekend will be a nice one, with lovely warm sunshine and a slight chill in the air. I have yet to return to the gym–my shoulder is starting to feel normal again, so I think maybe this weekend a walk over to the gym might be in order both days, really–and it’s time to get used to no football on the weekends again, which will be nice and will allow me to get more things done on Saturdays than I have been used to getting done lately, or since the hurricane. I always try to remember what Saturdays are like when it isn’t football season and it’s always hard for me to remember what those Saturdays are like the rest of the year. Do I spend them cleaning, or do I waste them, do I write or edit or do any number of things? I honestly can never recall from one year to the next. I suppose I will watch part of the LSU game tonight until it’s time for me to go to bed (the game has a ridiculously late start time, and there’s no way it will be over before it’s time for me to go to bed, and I am not going to stay up to watch so I can be exhausted and sleepy all day tomorrow, no thanks). Plus the team is depleted with opt-outs, transfers, and who knows what all. I don’t even think they have a scholarship quarterback on the roster, so there won’t be much of a passing game, that’s for sure. (May not even be able to watch an entire quarter, now that I think about it.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Who’s Lovin’ You

Monday morning and winter has arrived in New Orleans. It’s currently 37 degrees, with the high looking to be around 49 for the day; obviously, this is horrible and I am not sure how to manage getting through the day, as it is obviously going to require layers–but I am also not sure how the heat situation will be at the office, either. I didn’t want to escape the warmth of the bed this morning–I never want to get up to begin with; having it be nice and toasty under the covers while it is very cold outside of that makes it even worse.

God, how I hate cold weather.

I didn’t get nearly as much done over the weekend as I had needed to; so I am still somewhat behind and trying not to get overly stressed out about it. Stress is the mindkiller, to paraphrase Frank Herbert, and stress will paralyze me and not help me get everything done that needs to be done this week. The deadlines are all real, the deadlines all loom, the deadlines must be met, even if it means a lot of work, some mental exhaustion, and having to laser focus on getting everything done. There’s also a lot to get done, which means multi-tasking on top of everything else as well, which isn’t exactly one of my strongest skillsets these days–neither, for that matter, is focus–and I am going to have to muddle through it all on top of the weather being cold.

Huzzah?

I did check the weather and it’s going to get warmer later in the week; tomorrow won’t be nearly as harsh as today, thank you, Lord. That doesn’t make today any easier, of course, but still a vast improvement. My coffee is hitting me perfectly this morning; obviously I slept really well last night since I feel awake and rested this morning (if cold), and as the coffee warms and wakes me up, I am starting to feel better about getting things done. I can do it–distractions and everything–as long as I have the energy to do so. And as long as I am not too busy freezing to death to deal with anything and everything. I also have a bit of ‘holiday hangover’–in which I am now used to having extra time off every weekend and have to adjust to reality again in which I do not have extra time off every week. Heavy heaving sigh. But it’s all about adaptability, which is becoming harder and harder the older I get; I don’t want to have to keep adapting. It’s bad enough I have to relearn how to use my electronics every time there’s an operating system update.

Yesterday I was very tired most of the day; again, not sure what that was about but there seem to have been a lot more low-energy recovery days necessary than there used to be. I could be incorrect; my memory is nothing if it not spotty these days, and I am finding more and more that things I would have been willing to testify to under oath are not, in fact, actually what happened. The Saints did win, in a thriller, keeping play-off hopes alive–but this entire football season has been relatively disappointing for all of us football fans here in southeastern Louisiana, so I don’t have a lot of high hopes for the Saints the rest of this season, nor for the LSU game against Kansas State tomorrow night. We finished watching the second season of Control Z, which is a quite fun Mexican high school crime drama–which now, of course, means we have to find something else to watch tonight. I am sure there’s something, and Paul will undoubtedly be off to the gym this evening, so I’ll have some time to look for something after I get today’s allotment of writing taken care of, I hope.

And launch day also looms. Heavy sigh. I am having to take a long lunch from work tomorrow so I can go be interviewed on the radio by the the divine Susan Larson for her “The Reading Life” show on WWOZ, so that will be fun–I love Susan–and I should probably finish writing this promotional piece on Kansas crime fiction I am writing–should already be finished writing, in actuality; but you know how that goes around here. January 2022 is already off to a bang of overlapping deadlines and exhaustion and stress, so I am thinking it’s not going to be a whole lot different than 2021, from the looks of things. But once I get this book finished and turned in, and these other stories done…pretty much off the hook for deadlines. I just need to make sure I’m not forgetting any others….never an easy chore.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Monday, everyone, and may your 2022 ease in much easier than mine is thus far.

What a Difference You’ve Made In My Life

Tis the last Friday of 2019 and while I only have to work a short day today, I still have to work today. I also have to work Monday, and then again have Tuesday and Wednesday off. Tuesday is the annual New Year’s Eve luncheon at Commander’s with Jean and Gillian, with special guest star Susan Larson this year–which makes it even more lovely. Huzzah! Tomorrow is LSU’s playoff game against Oklahoma, which I am trying not to get overly stressed about. Yes, it would be WONDERFUL for the Tigers to win the national championship; but this past season has been such a terrific ride that anything additional at this point is just gravy, really.

I’ve not written a word since last week, and most likely won’t again until after the holidays are past. I’m not beating myself up over it–there’s no point, and I spend way too much of my time beating myself up over shit as it is–but if the opportunity or window presents itself, I’ll try to get some writing done when I can. I will most likely be too tense to write or do much of anything Saturday before the game, so I’ll most likely run errands, maybe even brave the horror of Costco on a Saturday. It’s been too long since I’ve been, and I have a reward certificate somewhere I can use to reduce the final horrifying bill at checkout. (I miss having a supply of Pellegrino in the house.)

I did start my reread of The Talented Mr. Ripley again this week, and one of the things that really is striking me on this read is Highsmith very subtly slips in references to Tom not being on the up-and-up from almost the start; I think the Minghella film missed a serious beat in how it opened; in the film Tom is part of a hired musical act at a party for wealthy people and is wearing a Yale jacket he borrowed–which is why Mr. Greenleaf approaches him about going to Italy to retrieve Dickie from his decadent, lazy life in Italy. That never really quite rang true to me, which started the film off on a strange note–hard to believe someone quite that wealthy could be so naive. In the book, Tom is leaving his job when he notices someone following him and he is paranoid, as he is running several scams that violate the law–including one where he calls people he’s picked out and tells them their taxes were filed incorrectly and they owe more money. He is doing this just for fun–the checks they send in are generally made out to the government and are completely useless to him; but again, he’s doing this primarily to see if he can get away with it. That missing piece from the film undermines Tom’s character for the audience, but in fairness I don’t see how that could have been conveyed on film. There are also off-hand references to Tom getting help from wealthy men and so forth–sly references to Tom’s ambiguous sexuality that most readers–especially of the time–wouldn’t catch.

I am also trying to decide what my reading project for 2020 should be. 2018 was the Short Story Project; 2019 the Diversity Project, and I thoroughly enjoyed both. I didn’t read as much this past year as I would have liked; but I read for an award all year in 2018 and that, I think, fried my reading brain a bit. I think 2020 might just be the year of rereads; obviously I will read new books too, but there are some titles I’ve been wanting to revisit and simply haven’t had the time to get to–and another goal is to continue working my way through the TBR pile. There’s some Ira Levin novels I’d like to revisit, and of course I want to reread Stephen King’s  Firestarter for a while now; and of course, the joy that is Highsmith…I also haven’t done my annual reread of Rebecca for two years now. SHAMEFUL–and I also should reread We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Perhaps I should make a list of the rereads I plan for the new year….hmmm.

I also have to write that Sherlock Holmes story.

And I need to get ready for work. Have a lovely last Friday of 2019, Constant Reader!

 

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Big Time

LSU won again last night, blasting Arkansas 56-20 to win the West division for the first time since 2011, and a date in the SEC title game with Georgia. The Tigers are now 10-0, and pretty much all the entire college football world can talk about; upstaging defending national champion Clemson and even Ohio State, the power of the Big Ten this year. It has been quite a ride for us Tiger fans this year, and of course the whole state is abuzz with excitement; I can’t remember a time when both the Saints and LSU had the chance to go all the way in the same season.

It’s chilly this morning in the Lost Apartment, but sunny and lovely outside. I’m not sure if this means it’s also cold outside–when I take the recycling out later I imagine I will find out–but my morning coffee is doing an absolutely lovely job of warming up my insides this morning, which is also lovely. I’m still on vacation–one week from today is the last day of it–and so far I’ve not really accomplished much of anything, really. I’ve done some cleaning and organizing, but for the most part have enmeshed myself in laziness and making excuses for not doing anything–primarily from watching television. After the LSU game ended last night, we watched the final three episodes of Unbelievable, which didn’t disappoint. Merritt Weaver and Toni Collette deserve Emmy nominations at the very least; but with all the A-list names that are coming to television and doing great work, the Emmys are becoming more competitive than the Oscars.

I am also still reading Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which is only deepening my knowledge of just how wild and rowdy and sinful New Orleans has always been, even back in the beginning–which makes all the complaints we currently deal with from people about our crime rate a bit…I don’t know, seem a little ignorant? New Orleans has always been a city of sin, with all kinds of crime and criminal activity and licentiousness and prostitution and drinking and pretty much every kind of “vice” you can think of flourishing here–as it always has in port cities, like San Francisco and Havana and Miami and Cartagena. Reading Campanella’s book makes me even more fascinated with the history of New Orleans, and considering, seriously considering, the possibility of writing more historical crime fiction about the city. As I may have mentioned before, I’d already started writing a historical short story about the city; I’ve also been asked to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche set in New Orleans, which I’ve been thinking about a lot lately; being asked to do so seemed almost serendipitous, given the deep dive I’ve been making into New Orleans history over the course of the last year.

There are, of course, any number of crime novels/series set in the past in New Orleans; I’ve not read David Fulmer’s jazz age/Storyville crime novels, but I loved Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series, which opened with A Free Man of Color. I know James Sallis also wrote a detective series set in the early twentieth century; I read one of them but never finished the series (he is perhaps best known for his novel Driver, which was made into a film with Ryan Gosling). I’m sure there are others–time to consult Susan Larson’s Book Lover’s Guide to New Orleans–and at some point, I need to go back to read classics from New Orleans’ past. (My education in New Orleans Literature is sorely lacking; just as my education in classic literature and crime fiction wind up being sorely lacking as well.)

There’s simply never enough time, is there?

I’m going to try to get some writing done today, as well as some progress on reading The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, and hopefully today I’ll also be able to get those blog entries about the books I’ve read lately finished as well.

One of my (attainable) goals for this week is to get all of my email answered; I am tired of things just sitting there, nagging at me and gnawing at my subconscious. But I am going to just ignore it again today–several years ago I decided to release myself from the tyrannical bonds of my email by not answering emails on the weekend; I can still read them, but I won’t answer before Monday; because emails beget emails, and responding to one means you might get another one to respond to, and so on, and so on, and suddenly all your valuable writing and/or goofing off time has magically vanished, circling around the drain of the endless cycle of email.

And on that note, tis time to return to the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

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