Here I Go Again

Facing down yet another Monday like a beast.

I went to bed early last night–just watching the Nadal-Medvedev final in the US Open was exhausting, in addition to the emotional rollercoaster of the LSU-Texas game the previous night, and putting finishing touches on the volunteer project (we’ll be tying up loose ends all week, I suspect), and around nine-ish last night I was just worn out, and went to bed. I slept off and on all night–not sure how that’s going to play out today–but I guess we’ll see. I have two long days in a row for the first time in a few weeks, and I fear my body is no longer used to that abuse…but I guess we’ll see. Now that I have a half-day on Wednesday instead, it might make things easier for me in the middle of the week.

Here’s hoping, at any rate.

I printed out the first four chapters of the final rewrite of the Kansas book last night, and it’s better than I thought it would be–the chapters I’ve already done need some work, and I need to seed the rest of the story a bit more. I’m trying something different with it–just as I did in Bury Me in Shadows, which is first person present tense–I am trying to do this in a remote third person point of view in the present tense. I noticed that despite my attempts to keep it in present tense, I slipped into the past tense a number of times out of force of habit, which is one of the reasons why I am writing this in the present tense; I want to not only shake things up for me as a writer, but break the habits of doing things the same way every time. I want to continually push myself as a writer and as a story-teller, and the best way to do that is to expand and try different things, different styles, different methods of storytelling, different ways of presenting the narrative and writing different kinds of crime novels. Laura Lippman is a master of this; her last few novels have all been dramatically different in style, voice, tone, and presentation–After I’m Gone, Wilde Lake, Sunburn, and Lady in the Lake–there’s definitely a Lippman sensibility to them, but the stories and storytelling and construction of the books are all dramatically different. That’s kind of what I want to do with my own stand-alone novels; I’ll probably always come back to Scotty, and as I’ve said recently, there’s another Chanse novel I’m probably going to try to write sometime next year–but the entire point of the stand alones was to do different things and experiment with style as well as story and writing.

But now that all that’s left is wrap-up on the volunteer project–thank the Lord, you have no idea what an enormous venture this was–I can start getting caught up this week on everything else that has slid while I focused all of my prodigious energy on getting it finished. I love doing volunteer work; I often take things on that I shouldn’t, as they interfere with my writing and staying on top of everything else in my life, but I like helping out. One of the primary reasons I love my day job so much is because I feel like I’m helping people make positive changes in their life, and at the very least I am helping people get STI’s cleared up, if nothing else. I need to finish an essay by this weekend, and I have to finish a first draft of a short story that’s due by the end of the month. I’d also like to get some work on the Kansas book done–it may not be finished when I want it to be finished, but that’s also life, and I am certain I can get it finished, at the latest, in December. I also remembered I have a novella a publisher is interested in that I need to get to work on; it’s a long short story but there are any number of places where it can be expanded easily, and so I should be looking at that as well.

This has been, all in all, a pretty good year for me–I had a short story collection come out in the spring and a novel this month–and while I’d like to get both of these novels that are in progress finished and out by next year as well, I don’t think that’s going to happen, which is perfectly okay. Bury Me in Shadows took me a lot longer than I intended to get finished, and that’s perfectly okay; it happens. But I also think I can get a strong revision of it finished this December, and then I can get it turned in for January; a strong push and the Kansas book can be turned in at the end of January, and hopefully by then, doing a chapter a week,  I can also have a strong first draft of Chlorine finished as well. I also want to get more short stories written, as I would love nothing more than to have another collection out sooner rather than later. I’m also nominated for an Anthony Award for my short story “Cold Beer No Flies” from Florida Happens, which is pretty awesome; I sold my short story “This Town” to Murder-a-Go-Go’s (and the story was received pretty well by most reviewers; probably the most, and best, feedback after publication I’ve ever had on a short story) and I also sold my story “Moist Money” to Dark Yonder, which I’m pretty pleased about.

I’m still reading both Rob Hart’s The Warehouse, which I hope to have more time to read now that the volunteer project is under some sort of control, and  James Gill’s Lords of Misrule, which is giving me a rather pointed history of racism in New Orleans, and it’s not pretty. We New Orleanians know there’s still systemic racism here in the city, as well as individual racism, but the history of slavery and racism in New Orleans is unique to this place and different than everywhere else; we had an entire middle-class of free people of color before the war, who weren’t obviously slaves but had to show deference to white people and were segregated out of places frequented by whites; Barbara Hambly’s brilliant Benjamin January series, beginning with A Free Man of Color, and Anne Rice’s The Feast of All Saints, are excellent fictional representations of that weird second-class citizenship the free people of color of New Orleans and Louisiana experienced. It’s still appalling, though, to read about lynch mobs and murderers never brought to proper justice for their crimes. Stained in blood as it is, New Orleans has a fascinating history, and has always been one of the more interesting places in this country.

And tomorrow is officially my new book’s birthday! Huzzah!

And now back to the spice mines.

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Can’t Let Go

We took Scooter to Kitty Camp yesterday morning, and I spent the rest of the day packing and cleaning, around treating every available surface for fleas and watching the US Open (GO SERENA! GO RAFA!). But I managed to get everything that might have fleas or flea eggs in it treated with the death-to-flea spray we got at the Cat Practice, and to be honest, I’ve never seen any fleas anywhere except for occasionally finding a sluggish one on Scooter. It’s possible–they said this at the Cat Practice–there are so many fleas outside that we track them in with us, and when they get on him his flea treatment kills them. I don’t know. I just know that when Skittle had fleas they were fucking everywhere, once we took him out of the house.

Heavy sigh.

It is awfully lonely around here without Scooter, I have to say.

I am, as I said yesterday morning, greatly enjoying Hester Young’s The Gates of Evangeline. This is, at least so far, what Southern Gothic should be; elegant, dusty, slightly decayed and morally askew; the writing is absolutely stellar and the main character is incredibly compelling: a single mother who works as managing editor at a Cosmo type magazine whose child has died, suddenly, of a rare brain aneurysm, and trying to put her life back together again. She also is a touch psychic, but is never really sure if she is seeing things, dreaming, or it’s grief and drug-induced. Absolutely loving it; trying to decide if I should save it for the airport/airplane or if I should dive back into it some tonight…but worried if I did I wouldn’t be able to set it aside to sleep; I really needed to go to bed early last night; so I put it aside for today’s flight/sitting in the airport. I got up before the alarm this morning, as well–it was set for six and I got up at five thirty.

Heavy heaving sigh. Which means I’ll be exhausted tonight; which I hope means a good night’s sleep.

I am also packing Madeline Miller’s Circe with me to St. Petersburg, and I am sure I will pick up some books once there (there are a lot of giveaways, always, which for a book hoarding nerd like me is heavenly) so I don’t think I’ll run out of things to read. I’ll also have the iPad with me, so I can read any of the number of books on there that I’ve downloaded over the years. And I’d really like to get back to the Short Story Project; although it was fun reading the books for my panel, and talking about the wonderful stories in Florida Happens–I’m thinking there will be some award nominations for the contributors coming in the next year, which is awesome. I’m very proud to have helped in organizing and putting the book together, which was a lot of work and a lot of fun, even though a lot of people wound up being disappointed. But I acknowledged every submission when it was received, and I let everyone know who submitted and wasn’t selected as well.

It’s called being professional, people.

I am very glad travel day is finally here though–much as I have traveling, that’s primarily because I hate the actual traveling. Once I am in St. Petersburg and all checked in and comfy in my fabulous room at the Vinoy Renaissance, I am sure I will be more than fine.

But ugh, airport and so forth.

And now to start getting ready to leave.

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Life is a Highway

Good Lord, it’s almost Southern Decadence, and college football is back this weekend! GEAUX TIGERS!

The US Open is also going on, which means I won’t be watching the series finale of Sharp Objects for a while as well as getting behind on Castle Rock. Ah, well, that’s fine, on this day next week we’ll be arriving in lovely St. Petersburg for this year’s edition of Bouchercon. I am going to be a very busy Gregalicious in St. Petersburg this year. I am doing the Coat of Many Colors event on Thursday morning; the anthology signing later that same day; and then three panels on Friday: the nooner sex panel at noon; moderating the Best Paperback Original Anthony panel at 3, and then appearing on the rainbow (?) panel at 4.

I really need to prepare. But I am still reading James Ziskin’s delightful Cast the First Stone, and am hoping to get that finished so I have time to read Thomas Pluck’s Bad Boy Boogie before next week.

Also, instead of working on the things I should be working on, I started writing a new short story last night, “The Blues before Dawn”:

A saxophone player lived across the street from me, on the third floor of a fading and dilapidated building painted a fading coral. Every night, without fail, after the band he played with was finished, he’d come home and crack open a cold beer. He’d take his brightly colored silk shirt off and climb out onto his rusty, sagging balcony. Wearing just his trousers and white suspenders stretched over his muscular torso, he’d straddle a chair and play his sax as he wound down for the evening. I usually got home around the time he launched into the second tune of his late-night concert, something low and sensual and sexy that made me think of warm skin, teeth nibbling on my earlobe, and the caress of firm muscle pressed close against my own body. I would get a beer from my own refrigerator and strip naked in the sticky heat of the early morning, the ceiling fan blades whistling as they spun over my head, listening to the mournful notes coming from his broken-hearted saxophone. I sat in my window on the fourth floor across the street with the lights off, sweat shining on my skin as I watched and listened, as the sinewy muscle in his shoulders and arms and chest clenching and relaxing as he played in the fading darkness of the night, the sun still an hour from rising but the light of the moon dying as a new day struggled to be born. I fell asleep many a sunrise lulled to sleep despite the heat and humidity by the purity of the notes he played.

So I got about a thousand words into this before coming to a halt. It turns out, as I wrote, to be about a gay prostitute in the 1920’s in Storyville; I don’t even know if that was such a thing, so should probably do some research on that, don’t you think? But I do find myself turning to New Orleans history more and more; I suspect a visit to the Historic New Orleans Collection will be in order at some point in my near future.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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True Blue

I got up this morning to watch Wimbledon, and while I was sad to see Serena not tie the record for most slam titles ever–I always enjoy watching her play. The men’s semi-final between Nadal and Djokovic was also amazing and great to watch. I have errands to run this morning, but have already started on my household chores. I want to get the errands done and then go to the gym, then come home and finish my chores.

All right, I am home from all my errands and I am exhausted. I still have my chores to do, too. The heat and humidity just sucks the energy right out of you. I may–I may skip the gym today and go tomorrow; I can actually watch the tennis while there on the treadmill, which might be the smarter thing to do. Right now all I really want to do is curl up into a ball and go back to sleep somewhere, but I have to do my chores.

I started reading Lou Berney’s November Road last night, and it is amazing, as I suspected it would be. Maybe I could curl up in my easy chair for a while and just read it. Or maybe after I’ve made some progress on my chores. I’d love to do some writing today; but right now I am so drained and tired…perhaps getting cleaned up might do the trick? Perhaps it might.

Sigh.

Yes, I’m not seeing any writing getting done today, although making notes and thinking about writing might be in the cards. I remembered a tremendous loose end in the Scotty book that needs to be tied up–and it’s a big one. I am also going to do the epilogue differently (every Scotty book has both a prologue and an epilogue; the prologue is where Scotty introduces himself and his family to the reader, while i use the prologue to tie up things and let the reader know what happened after the story) in that this time, for the first time since I think Mardi Gras Mambo, it will actually take place at a reveillon meal, probably at Brennan’s, and while the family is having their meal, Scotty will look around the table and think about everything that’s happened since the end of the story. As I have mentioned before, this is probably the most complicated Scotty plot I’ve done thus far–which makes it the most complicated plot I’ve ever done–and it’s a challenge that, when I think about it more, gets more and more daunting and intimidating.

That could be the exhaustion talking.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.

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One on One

Thursday morning, and there’re storms out there putting lots of people and property in jeopardy. Best wishes, everyone–best to batten down those hatches and get the hell out of Dodge. A New Orleans evacuation would be troubling–usually there’s the options of either going west to Houston or north. This time, obviously, the only option is to go north. I will, of course, be making certain that the car is filled with gas at all times now; I filled it up yesterday morning just to be on the safe side; New Orleans still was in the Cone of Uncertainty for Irma, but as the day went on the model shifted completely and we appear to be in the clear–for this one, at least. Jose is out there, though, behind Irma, and Katia may be forming along the Mexican Coast near the Yucatan. Oy.

I did manage to get Chapter Four of the Scotty finished, and started Chapter Five.  I’ve also input another chapter or so of edits into the WIP as well. Pretty cool. I’ve also had some ideas for some new short stories over the last couple of days, but as always Labor Day weekend has sort of disrupted my life and I need to get my bearings back a bit. I did manage to get the bills paid today, and I have to head over to the West Bank to get my driver’s license renewed tomorrow–YAY–and then I have to work Saturday for a few hours, which is fine. I don’t mind working Saturdays that much, as long as I’m home in time to watch the LSU game. (yes, it’s Tennessee-Chattanooga, but what kind of fan would I be if I didn’t watch their games? Although going to see It in the theater is kind of sounding good…)

It’s also very exciting that four American women are all that are left in the draw for the US Open: four American women in the semi-finals. This hasn’t happened since 2002, I think they said–back when the US women were the juggernaut of Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati, and Monica Seles. Venus’ first trip to the semi-finals was twenty years ago. Seriously, the Williams Sisters are without question two of the greatest women tennis players of all time; if not for her sister, Venus would probably have the record for most majors won. So, we are assured an American woman will win the US Open this year, which is very coo. We watched Juan Martin del Potro knock Roger Federer out of the tournament last night; his semi-final with Rafa Nadal should be a final, really.

I do love tennis.

I had a major breakthrough about the WIP this week; long overdue, but better late than never. I realized that my underlying theme wasn’t what I originally thought it was, but rather, something else. It means some more tweaking–but I was going to do some more anyway once these line edits are put in, but knowing what the theme is will  make the query letter writing ever so much easier. I also realized that the crime that’s driving the narrative isn’t necessarily what the story is about; which will make it a trickier sale. But I am very very pleased, and very very excited.

And now, off to the spice mines.

Your Throwback Thursday hunk today–ME! LOL. From a photoshoot I did back in 2004, looking rough and tough. 😉

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