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As Constant Reader should know by now, while my entire identity and ego is wrapped up (probably too much) in being a writer, the truth is I have always been, currently am, and will always be, a reader first. I love to read, always have since I first learning what the little squiggles on the pages actually meant and learned how to decipher the little squiggles first into words, then into sentences, paragraphs and eventually entire stories. Reading was always my escape from a world too harsh for a little creative gay boy surrounded by people who didn’t read much nor cared much about books and so forth; sometimes the fantasy worlds I created in my head–always influenced by my reading–were safer and better places that I preferred to what, to me, was the horror of reality. I also learned a lot from my reading. I learned about other countries and cultures and groups; history and geography and other little odds and ends of information that remain lodged in my head and make me good at both Jeopardy! and Trivial Pursuit (case in point: I learned from Nancy Drew’s 44th adventure The Clue in the Crossword Cipher that the Incas’ language was quechua; I’ve never forgotten that, or that the Nasca Lines play a part in the book, and she and her friends also went to Machu Picchu).

Over the last few years I realized that my reading was primarily white and straight and decided to correct that; since then I have discovered the eye-opening marvel that is the talent of non-white authors and their remarkable story-telling ability. S. A. Cosby, Kellye Garrett, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Mia P. Manansala, Alex Segura Jr, Raquel V. Reyes and many others have opened my eyes to other American experiences, and reading their work has also given me a broader and deeper understanding and appreciation of a different kind of American experience.

And then I read Gabino Iglesias’ 2022 release, The Devil Takes You Home.

Leukemia. That’s what the doctor said. She was young, white, and pretty. Her brown hair hung like a curtain over her left eye. She talked to us softly, using the tone most people use to explain things to a child, especially when they think the child is an idiot. Her mouth opened just enough to let the words flow out. She said our four-year-old daughter had cancer in her blood cells. Our Anita, who waited in the other room, playing with Legos and still wrapped in innocence. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Those strange words were said in a voice that was both impossibly sharp and velvety. Her soft delivery didn’t help. You can wrap a shotgun in flowers, but that doesn’t make the blast less lethal.

The young, white, pretty doctor told us it was too early to tell for sure, but there was a good chance that Anita was going to be okay. Okay, that’s the word she used. Sometimes four letters mean the world. She immediately added that she couldn’t make any promises. People fear being someone else’s hope. I understood her, but I wanted her to be our hope.

Jesus.

The opening of the book rips your heart out and rends your soul.

I am not a parent, never have been, never wanted to be, and never will be. I admire and respect parents (for the most part) because when I try to imagine what it’s like to be one, I can’t–it literally wears my brain down. I am a chronic worrier as it is; I get nervous when Paul doesn’t come home from work when he’s supposed to, or dawdles and delays and doesn’t text me. But for the most part, I know he’s an adult and functional and I believe he can, for the most part, navigate the world safely so I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about him.

I don’t think parents ever have a moment’s rest from the time the child is born until the child or the parents die–and I can imagine no greater grief than losing a beloved child.

Losing their child is how this book opens. And you just know in your heart of hearts–things aren’t going to get better any time soon for the father narrating this story. It isn’t a spoiler to let you know, Constant Reader, that by Chapter Three Anita is dead and her parents are swimming in debt and grief and drowning in it all. Before long, the marriage is over and Mario is alone with his grief and his debt and misery.

I don’t think I’ve ever read such a literate and powerful description of rock bottom in my life.

Mario turns back to crime in an attempt to make things right with the world and to somehow fill his horrible emptiness with something, anything. He starts off as a hitman, killing bad people and making money to pay down his debt and maybe, just maybe, somehow get his wife back and they can start over. Mario is desperate–and aren’t desperate characters the essense of noir at its purest distillation? He is then recruited to help liberate some cash from a cartel on its way to Mexico. Success means a cool two hundred grand and the potential to start over. Failure means a bullet in the head.

Both are better options than the life Mario is living at the time.

The pacing is breakneck and the story itself is a trainwreck you can’t look away from; you can’t help rooting for Mario, flaws and all, because the suffering is so intense you want him to find, somehow, both redemption and peace. (The book also serves as a stinging indictment of poverty in this country, and the near-impossibility of bettering yourself while drowning in the debt incurred for the possibility of bettering yourself, as well as our fraudulent health care system. Parents shouldn’t be saddled with insurmountable debt for trying to keep their child alive and especially not when the child passes.)

There are also some fascinating elements of the paranormal/supernatural mixed into the story, too–but while this might throw a typical noir off-track, it works here to heighten the sense of madness and unreality the entire book invokes. The true horror of the book is the system, designed to keep people of color down and to keep the cycle of poverty going.

Here are just a few of the gems in the prose:

The middle of nowhere is remarkably consistent in terms of being unmemorable.

The d├ęcor was a mix of a failed attempt at hill-country chic circa 1970 and neon signs for the kinds of beers folks buy at gas station convenience stores on their way to somewhere they wish they could escape.

The Devil Takes You Home is raw, fresh and original, with the kind of crisp smart literate writing that speaks of Lisa Lutz, Megan Abbott, and Jim Thompson.

I marked any number of pages for these writing gems that both awed and inspired me (to do better with my own work).

I highly recommend the book–but be warned: there is violence and gore aplenty, but it all works because it’s not there for shock value.

Storms

So this morning my back still hurts, but it’s more of an ache than an agonizing pain the way it has been for since this whole mess started the other day. I am resisting the urge and need and desires to actually go ahead and operate today like normal–I should keep resting it, alternating heat and cold, for at least another day–and also have to remember that yesterday morning it felt better, too–but by noon I was taking muscle relaxers and pain pills and camped out in the easy chair, my brain too wasted by the meds to do much of anything other than watch television all day. No reading, no writing, no nothing.

On the other hand, at least it was College Football Saturday, so I had some good entertainment to watch on it. LSU played Mississippi State last night at the very odd starting time of five pm, and I can see that the Saints and LSU are both back to normal–making you think they’re going to lose the game badly until the second half, and even at that sometimes not until the fourth quarter. LSU trailed 13-0 at one point last night before putting together a beautiful drive in the waning minutes of the first half to pull within 6 points at 13-7 before ultimately dominating the fourth quarter impressively to win 31-16. It was Coach Kelly’s first SEC game, and obviously, his first conference win. Mississippi State usually gives LSU some trouble whenever they play, except for the years when LSU is having A Really Great Year and blows them out; LSU has also lost some incredibly disappointing games to the Bulldogs over the years. (It always seems like other teams in the SEC West always rise up to play their best against us; not sure why that is, but it’s a fact) It was also a very weird day all over the country in sports–with Florida, Arkansas, and Notre Dame squeaking out wins over opponents that should have been overmatched; Texas A&M struggled to beat Miami–yes, it is going to be an interesting year in college football.

Maybe not as interesting and fun as 2007–an EPIC year for college football, and not just saying that because LSU won a national title that year–but still fun and interesting.

I just applied store brand Ben-Gay to my back and the heat feels nice. I do think I should probably spend yet another day in the chair. I think once I post this and do some minor picking up around here I may retire to my easy chair with Donna Andrews’ marvelous Round Up the Usual Peacocks. I also am not sure when the Saints game is today, either. Ah, noon. That should give me a few hours to read before the game comes on. I may even try to use the laptop during the game to do some writing, but it’s going to depend on how much my back stiffens up today as I continue to try to function.

And yes, I am well aware I am obsessing about my back and the pain, but seriously, back pain is one of those things you cannot escape; your back is essential for movement and so forth, and while I am not consciously trying to find out what movements hurt and which don’t…I am slowly figuring it out. Someone suggested to me the other day that this could actually be a laughter injury, and I do think that’s entirely possible, as I can remember laughing so hard my abs and ribs began hurting, and I would bend over sometimes laughing so hard….and that is the most painful position for me to assume since the injury made itself known.

A laughing injury. Only a Gregalicious could injure and incapacitate himself by laughing too hard.

What can I say? I am out of shape for laughing like that any more. THANKS PANDEMIC.

I also have to sometime write up Back to the Garden and The Devil Takes You Home, two of this year’s best novels that I’ve read thus far.

I also need to reread My Cousin Rachel before next weekend’s podcast ZOOM call. Yikes! I also cannot get over how messy and sloppy the apartment has become since my injury made itself known–which is really the thing that is driving me the most crazy of everything here, you know. I had hoped to be able to spend this weekend getting the apartment cleaned up and getting caught up on everything but instead I’ve had to nurse my back and get even more behind on everything.

And on that note, I am going to take Donna and my coffee and retire to my chair for a few hours. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow…hopefully with the news that my back is better.

Oh Daddy

I am not doing well this morning.

Yesterday morning when I got up my back felt like it was on the mend; it was still a bit painful and tight, but better than it had been the day before so I thought, oh thank you baby Jesus–there’s an end in sight. Unfortunately, as the day progresses it began to hurt more and more until the end of the day, when picking up my back pack was agonizing, as was the drive home. I immediately changed into my sweats (which was painful) and repaired to my easy chair. Scooter climbed into my lap and went to sleep immediately while I caught up on this week’s episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (which really deserves its own entry or an essay; the phenomenon of these shows fascinates me–which is probably why I explored it in Royal Street Reveillon) and then…I don’t remember much of the rest of the evening, really. Paul came home, gave me a pain killer, and I know we watched the final two episodes of Five Days at Memorial (which posed some pretty interesting ethical questions that I don’t know the answers to) and then another of Bad Sisters (which I really like) before collapsing into bed and praying that this morning would be the same as yesterday….

…for naught. The painkiller didn’t really help all that much (although I can see why the drugs with oxy in their name are so addictive) but made me comfortable–I was still aware of the pain, but it was slightly more bearable. Yesterday afternoon I made the right decision–I told my supervisor I was taking a personal day to let my back get better; all that getting up and sitting down yesterday was no help at all–and so I am literally going to spend the day sitting in my easy chair, slathered in generic Ben-Gay with the heating pad attached to my back.

Getting old really and truly sucks. But I do have some reading to get caught up on–I need to reread everything I am working on, I also need to reread My Cousin Rachel as I am being interviewed on a podcast about it and du Maurier in a couple of weeks (seriously, how fucking thrilling is that?) and of course, I want to read the new Donna Andrews. I never did make the to-do list I’ve been talking about on here all week–the back pain really is excruciating–so maybe I can gather everything around me that I need to get to today while sitting in the chair and letting highlights of old LSU games stream on Youtube in the background (oh yes, I rewatch highlights of old LSU games–only big wins, of course–and it always puts me in a better mood, and yes, I am aware how weird that actually is. Sue me.), and hopefully Scooter will sleep in my lap for most of the day. I need to order groceries for pick-up (and Costco for delivery) but I am a little worried about carrying everything into the Lost Apartment.

I also slept later than usual this morning; I’ve been feeling exhausted all week and figured the world wouldn’t end should I stay in bed for an extra hour or two. The good news is I do not feel tired this morning–I am so tired of feeling tired–but, of course, the back is aching. My desk chair feels much more comfortable than my work chairs, for some reason it just seems to fit my back better so it’s not painful to sit here. I cannot explain it, it makes absolutely no sense, but I am going to take advantage of that fact not only to try to get this entry written but do my reviews of Gabino Iglesias’ The Devil Takes You Home and Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden, both of which are SUPERB. (5 out of 5 stars, get copies NOW)

I’ve also realized I’ve not done much of a Bouchercon round-up–primarily because all of it was a blur, and maybe, just maybe, I hurt my back from laughing so hard for so long. A laughing injury! It is entirely possible, of course; I noted many times how much it hurt to laugh when I was in the midst of a laughing fit because of something hilarious someone said (I really do know the funniest people), and also all the standing; several times in the evening in the bar I noted that my back was getting sore–so naturally instead of sitting down or doing anything to baby it (because that would be admitting that I am too old to stand for long) I continued doing what made it hurt in the first place.

The uncomfortable airline seats on the flight home also did not help much in that regard.

So, that is the state of the Gregalicious this morning. I just made groceries for pick up tomorrow–I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it–and at some point tomorrow I’ll order Costco for delivery. But for now, I am going to take my heating pad and my aching back to my chair so I can chill for a bit.

Have a happy Friday, Constant Reader.

Don’t Stop

Back to life, back to reality…

I am sooooo tired.

But what an incredible trip that was.

Someone–I wish I could remember who, so I could give them credit–said that Bouchercon was like going to Crime Writer’s Camp, and it was actually so spot on that I decided to go ahead and say it without being able to give the proper credit where it’s due (whomever that was, my apologies). I slept extremely well last night (there’s nothing like your own bed), yet despite that I feel achy, sore and exhausted still this morning. My voice has recovered somewhat–it still is raspy and hoarse, but nevertheless yesterday it hurt to talk–and my ribs and abs still hurt from laughing so much and so long and so hard (in some ways, it felt like I’d forgotten how to enjoy myself and only started remembering this past weekend). I had some great meals, some great drinks, reconnected and tightened bonds with old friends; got to know acquaintances better; and met some marvelous new people! All of my books that the bookseller had in stock on Thursday (and quite a few copies of each of my last three books–usually I count myself lucky if they have more than one copy of one book) were gone by noon on Friday, which was an incredible shock.

A pleasant one, to be sure, but still a shock.

My panels went really well, too. The only real hiccup was my bag got lost on the way up there. Our connecting flight out of Midway was a half hour delayed, yet…my bag didn’t get on the plane in New Orleans and didn’t arrive at the airport until after one. It was delivered the following morning…right at the end of my panel. Yes, I had to borrow clothes from Paul. Yes, he is smaller than me. No, it wasn’t the first time I went out in public in clothes that were two sizes too small. Yes, I talked about it on the panel. And yes, people asked me about whether my bag arrived or not all weekend, which I thought was incredibly thoughtful and nice…and then yesterday on the way home Paul reminded me that–to save myself time–I’d packed five identical black T-shirts and of course, three pairs of jeans that all look the same. I wore the pants I wore on the flight to the panel that morning, and Paul had loaned me–yes, you guessed it–a dark T-shirt.

PAUL: People didn’t think your bag arrived all weekend because you were always wearing a black T-shirt and a pair of jeans! They didn’t know it was your Bouchercon Uniform and thought you had to keep wearing the same clothes!

It still makes me laugh to think about it.

I also read Gabino Iglesias’ extraordinary The Devil Takes You Home on the way up (more on that later) and read most of Laurie R. King’s new, stellar novel Back to the Garden, which is just marvelous. Our flight coming back was also delayed out Midway–two hours rather than a half this time–but reading Laurie’s book made the time fly. We also arrived at Midway just in time to see the final minute of the Saints-Falcons game (marvelous). (I have to say, I am a little bummed I wasn’t home to watch college football on Saturday, and now am REALLY looking forward to seeing how this college football season goes!)

AND SO MANY QUEER WRITERS!

But, oh, if nothing else, the one thing I learned from this trip is I am waaaaaaaaay out of shape and far too old not to be going to the gym regularly. All the walking, all the standing, not sleeping in my own bed–my back hurts, my hips and ankles are sore, my shoulders are tight, and my quads are tighter than piano wire. I need to start going back to the gym even if not to lift weights so much as to get a good stretch every now and again. That was actually the best parts of my all-too-brief patches of regular gym attendance since the start of the pandemic–how great it felt to stretch two to three times a week. I am literally running on accessory today, and am dreading tomorrow morning’s alarm going off at six to drag me out of the clutches of Morpheus. I will undoubtedly be tired all week (and oh dear God my emails) but as long as I can limp along till Friday, I should be okay.

Should.

I don’t even want to think about how behind I am.

But for now, I am going to sit in my easy chair and finish Laurie’s brilliant book while Scooter purrs in my lap and just have a nice relaxing evening at home. Until tomorrow, Constant Reader!

Never Going Back Again

Well, today’s title isn’t entirely correct, as I am actually returning to Minneapolis for the first time since late July, 1996, when Paul and I loaded a moving van and drove my red 1991 Chevrolet Cavalier onto one of those towing trailers and headed south from the twin cities. And here we are, some twenty-six years later, boarding a Southwest jet and changing planes in Chicago on our way up there again. It’s going to be exhausting–Bouchercon always is, and then add in that I never seem to be able to sleep when I travel, and there it is, you know: a recipe for tired old Greg.

I am mostly packed, and we don’t really have to leave for the airport until elevenish; we have to take Scooter to the Kitty Spa for his vacation while we are gone first, and there are some odds and ends I have to take care of this morning before we leave. I’ve already started getting my carry-ons packed; really, all that’s left is to throw my phone and my charger in the backpack–and I need to take out the trash, maybe clean the dishes in the sink, wipe things down, shave and shower–and then we’ll be ready to hit the road for the airport.

I ran some last minute errands last night to pick up prescriptions and the mail–so much mail–and it’s going to be kind of nice to turn my brain off a bit for a few days. I am really itching to get back to work on Mississippi River Mischief–now that I’ve figured it out a bit more, I really want to start getting into the weeds with this draft and see how far I can get before I run out of steam yet again–and I am kind of excited about writing again, which is a lovely feeling and one that I am sure has something to do with coming to Bouchercon for the first time in four years today. I feel rested this morning, and I think that’s a good thing. I don’t feel stressed or anything this morning either. I am comfortable, relaxed, and in a good mood, given I have about eight hours of travel ahead of me (not just the flight times but getting to and from airports, waiting, etc.) but I will have Gabino Iglesias’ marvelous The Devil Takes You Home to read, with the new Laurie R. King (Back to the Garden) on deck. I also feel relatively certain that I’ll be picking up even more books while I am up there, too.

Because I can never have too big of a TBR pile.

It will be weird coming home from this weekend, I think. I will certainly be exhausted, there’s no question of that. Fingers crossed that one Gregalicious will be able to get some sleep on this trip–ugh, I have a panel tomorrow morning at nine, which means getting up at seven so I can get cleaned up and showered and forage for coffee so I can be (slightly) coherent on this panel, which has some really big names on it. I’m not sure why I am on this panel with these incredibly important writers, but I can certainly listen and learn and hopefully, leech some talent and creativity out of these marvelous writers.

Sorry, not particularly bright or insightful this morning as I try to get ready!

Not sure how much I’ll be around over the next few days–early panels! Oh my! But we’ll see how it goes.

Warm Ways

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment and all is well in the world. Southern Decadence is raging in the French Quarter–if someone would have told me as recently as ten years ago I would have ever reached the point where I didn’t care about going down there and diving into the sea of mostly undressed gay men from all over the country I would have laughed at the absurdity, but one gets older and things and priorities change. Do I have fond memories of years of going and having an amazing time? Absolutely. Do I miss those times? Somewhat, but I am also aware that I am older and that kind of wild-ass partying is too much for my old body to handle anymore.

I slept really well last night, which was a delightful and pleasant surprise. When I got home from the office yesterday–running errands on the way home–I was tired, of course, but still managed to do all the bed linens, get the rest of the laundry done, and did two loads of dishes in the dishwasher. There are still some odds and ends around here that need to be taken care of, but other than that, the Lost Apartment is sort of under control. For now, at any rate.

College football is also back this weekend (GEAUX TIGERS!) with LSU playing tomorrow night in the Super Dome. Monday of course is Labor Day, Tuesday I have to go into the office, and then Wednesday it’s off to Minneapolis. Huzzah! As such I will probably get no writing done at all while I am gone–I’ll be too busy running around everywhere–so it would be nice to make some good progress on everything I am working on this weekend. Of course, the temptation to be lazy and simply spend the weekend relaxing is, of course, always going to be there–will probably win out more often than not–but that’s okay. I am done beating myself up for not working every minute of every day every week of every month of every year. Everyone needs down time, and it’s absurd to think otherwise.

My reading is all picked out for the flights/airport time: Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden, Donna Andrews’ Round Up The Usual Peacocks, and Gabino Iglesias’ The Devil Takes You Home, if I don’t finish it this weekend, with Nelson Algren’s A Walk on the Wild Side on deck. I’ll probably get some books while I’m at Bouchercon, too–the book room is always too big of a temptation for me to avoid completely–and I am pretty overall excited about the trip, and neither flight requires getting up at the break of dawn, either, which is lovely. We also got caught up on Bad Sisters last night, a fun show on Apple Plus–but the one I am really looking forward to is The Serpent Queen, as I love me some Catherine de Medici, and I have long wondered why this fascinating, complex and extremely intelligent woman has never been deemed worthy of a film or a television series (it would have been a great role for Bette Davis back in the 1940s; she would have chewed the scenery like nobody’s business and gotten another Oscar nomination).

This morning’s coffee, by the way, is da bomb. Delicious and hitting the spot, which tells me yet again that I slept incredibly well.

I am feeling particularly good this morning, which is also nice. It’s always nice when you feel rested. Oh! I’ve also been invited to speak on a podcast about Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel, which gives me an excellent excuse to reread it!

Alert Constant Readers will have noticed by now that I’ve been making posts about my stand alone novels over the last month or so (maybe just the last couple of weeks? I am not sure of anything anymore and I certainly don’t trust my memories); I am currently working on Timothy and The Orion Mask, after which I will most likely move on to some of the pseudonymous work I’ve done–the Todd Gregory novels, for example–but I should also, in honor of Southern Decadence, talk about Bourbon Street Blues this weekend; but I’ve already done plenty of writing and talking about Scotty and how he came to be, and how I came to write the book and where the idea for it came from, so I’m not entirely sure there’s anything left to say about Scotty and Bourbon Street Blues that I haven’t already said; I’m sure I just don’t remember everything I’ve written on my blog about that book. But it won’t hurt to revisit the book; I know there are some things about the books I’ve never talked about before. but we shall have to see.

And then should I do the short stories? The novellas? Why not? It is my blog, after all, and I can do whatever I please with it, can’t I?

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee before heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in again later.

Mabel Normand

Saturday in the Lost Apartment and all is well–at least so far.

I ran errands last night on my way home from work so I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything today involving leaving the house, and I think I’ll go ahead and make groceries on-line today to pick up tomorrow; we don’t really need a lot of stuff but it must be done. There’s a part of me that feels incredibly lazy doing this for some reason–perhaps the more I do it, the less guilt I’ll feel about having someone else make my groceries for me. I guess that’s really what it is; getting used to a new service. I mean, even the Fresh Market will do this, too–but one of the things I like about the Fresh Market is, well, everything seems fresher than at the other groceries, and picking out fruit and vegetables isn’t something I am willing to trust to another person just yet. I like to see the fresh stuff I am buying and pick it (although I am still regretting not stopping at that roadside stand when I was on the North Shore last weekend and picking up some Creole tomatoes fresh from the field, especially since I’ve not seen any in stores since then).

It rained again most of the day, and of course we’re still under a flood warning through sometime tonight. There are two systems out there I’ve yet to check but probably will momentarily. It’s that time of year when we seem to be getting hit with a higher degree of frequency since Katrina–just before Labor Day–and I know there have been at least three more storms around this time that I can think of right off the top of my head (2008, 2012, and last year for sure). Well, I took a look and yes, there is still a system in the Caribbean near the Yucatan, and there’s another one developing in the eastern Atlantic (meaning there are now two out there) but at least we’re okay for now. Labor Day weekend, on the other hand, could be something else entirely. Last year’s Ida was more of a Labor Day thing, if I am remembering correctly, or at least its impact and aftermath lasted through Labor Day. (2021 is still kind of blurry for me.)

The sun is shining right now, and I rested really well last night. A good night’s sleep is always a pleasure on the weekends, of course, and I even allowed myself the indulgence of sleeping in a little later. I have some laundry to finish and a sink to clear in the kitchen, and some other casual cleaning up and household maintenance to take care of this morning before I dive back into the wonderful world of work. I did get Chapter One rewritten Thursday–still leaves something to be desired, but isn’t completely the shitty mess it was before–and I did get started revising Chapter Two, which is going to be trickier–and then I have to springboard into Chapter Three, which I still have to figure out. I also want to do some work on some other things I am working on (as always) and I want to dedicate some time to reading Gabino’s marvelous novel The Devil Takes You Home today and tomorrow. I’ve actually been better these last couple of weeks at not being completely exhausted when I get home, which has also enabled me to try, at some level, to keep up with the housework so I don’t have to spend the entire day today cleaning and organizing and filing–there will be some of that, of course, and I also have to spend some time revisiting older Scotty books; maybe one of the things I could do today is start working on the Scotty Bible? That would help me remember everything that’s going on in the family and refresh my brain about some other things (did I ever give Rain’s doctor husband a name, for one really strong example of bad memory) and of course it would never hurt to have all of that assembled in one place that is easily accessible. Heavy sigh.

We also are watching Bad Sisters on Apple TV, and am really enjoying it. It’s rather dark; it’s about five extremely close Irish sisters who lost their parents young and were all raised by the oldest sister, who now lives in the family home, is single and apparently unable to have children. One of the sisters is married to an emotionally abusive asshole named John Paul who apparently takes delight in torturing and being cruel not only to his wife but to her sisters. One decides he needs to die, and recruits the oldest to help her kill him…and then each episode details how another sister got involved in the plan. The show opens with his funeral, so we know they succeed at some point, but the story alternates between the past (the sisters slowly coming together to decide to kill The Prick, which is what they all call him) and the team of brothers who work for the insurance company who have to pay out the death claim. The brothers (half-brothers, actually; one is played by the same hot actor who played the escort Emma Thompson hires for sex in her most recent film, which we enjoyed and I can’t recall the name of now) don’t really get along either. The oldest is convinced John Paul was murdered, but the younger brother is really attracted to the youngest sister and they are starting to develop a romantic relationship. It’s quite cleverly written and plotted–and even before I was completely sold on the show, I realized I wanted to keep watching because I hated John Paul so much I wanted to see how they decided to kill him and how. But well into the second episode I had to confess to being hooked. I loved the dueling timelines (I have always been a sucker for stories that are told this way, both the past and the present, flashing back and forth; I’ve always wanted to do one that way, but it seems really hard. A good example of a crime novel using this technique is Alison Gaylin’s What Remains of Me), the writing is sharp, and the acting top notch. It also takes place in Ireland, with gorgeous cinematography. I’ll keep you posted as we continue to watch.

We also watched the latest episode of Five Days at Memorial, which was truly painful to watch. The first episodes didn’t really get to me, but episode five–the fifth day, when the decision was made that everyone had to be out of the hospital and whoever couldn’t get out would be left behind regardless of the consequences, was absolutely wrenching in a way the previous episodes had not been. My Katrina scars are as nothing compared to what a lot of other people experienced: I survived, I was able to get out before the storm arrived, and my scars, while still from loss, are from bearing witness by watching television and witnessing what I saw when I finally came home in October, as well as living in a nearly-empty, 90% destroyed city after my return. (Last year, when we trapped here as Ida came in, was bad enough; I cannot imagine how horrible it would have been to have been stuck here praying for someone to come rescue us. At least we were able, and had the means, to finally get out when we ran out of food and water.)

I’ve also found myself thinking a lot about my Katrina writing these last couple of days–my essay “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet”; my short stories “Disaster Relief” and “Annunciation Shotgun” and “Survivor’s Guilt”; and of course, Murder in the Rue Chartres. I was thinking about this book last night–partly because of watching Five Days at Memorial, because it reminded me that Rue Chartres wasn’t supposed to be the third Chanse book at all. The third Chanse book was supposed to be something else altogether, but obviously in the wake of Hurricane Katrina my plans for both the Chanse and Scotty series had to dramatically shift and change. Seventeen years ago was a Saturday, the Saturday we nervously watched the storm, having now crossed south Florida and entered the Gulf, intensifying and growing and taking aim directly at New Orleans. We decided to not leave just yet; every other time a hurricane had threatened the city after we moved here we watched and waited patiently, and were rewarded with the storm turning east before coming ashore and the city avoiding a direct hit. We never lost phone, cable or power during those other instances–we were nervous, still reassuring ourselves of the turn to the east before landfall but the reality that we would have to leave was becoming more and more real. It’s odd that this year the dates all on the same day they fell back in 2005, so it’s a reflective anniversary that mirrors the actual weekend it happened. I’m debating whether I want to watch the new documentary on HBO MAX, Katrina Babies–that might be definitely too much for me to handle. (I’m still surprised that we’re able to–and were willing to–watch Five Days at Memorial, to be honest.)

At least I know Paul won’t be shaking me awake tomorrow morning at eight saying, Honey, we need to go.

OH! I didn’t tell you. Yesterday my other glasses I ordered from Zenni arrived–the red frames and the purple frames, and I absolutely love them. I don’t think I need to order any more pairs, to be honest, but it’s so cool to have them! And to have options now. I never ever thought of glasses as anything other than utilitarian, to be honest; I needed them to work and that was all I cared about, and I also thought they were too expensive to treat as part of a “look” or to be more style conscious…but Zenni is so inexpensive; the three pairs I got are all cheaper than the pair I got with my eye exam, and using my insurance. Had I saved my insurance for use on Zenni, they would have been even cheaper.

Life. CHANGED.

And on that note, I am going to make some more coffee and dive back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

Blue Water

Monday rolls around, and it’s a work-at-home Monday. I’m not sure how many work-at-home days we still have left to us in the future; it’s going to feel very odd going in five days a week after all these years of limited in-the-office time. Ah, well, the more things change and all that. Life is always about change, really; which does make you wonder about people who inevitably fall into ruts. I can rarely get into a rut (can’t spell routine without r-u-t) because everything is always different. When I worked for Continental, they used to always tell us “the only constant in this business is change”, and I realized that also applies to life. Things are changing around us all the time. No two days are really the same–certainly not at my day job–and therefore the only rut I ever feel like I’ve ever gotten myself into is just the actual work week; but the tasks and duties are never the same even if the schedule is the same. Every client is different, every testing/counseling session is not the same as the one before or after, every book or story I write is different and the process of writing each is always different.

It rained pretty much all weekend, which gave the outside air a feeling of oppressive heavy dampness whenever I stepped outside of the apartment all weekend. It was a lovely and relaxing weekend, too. I am not pressed, nor did I press myself to get things done, which was also kind of nice, quite frankly. We watched House of the Dragon last night–I kept thinking, “ah, this story is based on the Pragmatic Sanction which led to the War of the Austrian Succession”–and it wasn’t bad. You could tell they don’t have that Games of Thrones sky’s-the-limit budget; some of the CGI wasn’t great and you could tell they didn’t really have crowds or lots of extras in some scenes that required them. We’ll keep watching, of course (the entire time I was thinking, why doesn’t the uncle marry the niece? The Targaryens weren’t above incest–and in fact, many royal marriages in European history were uncle/niece; looking at you, Hapsburg family) but I don’t think it’s going to have the same “must-watch” feel to it the way Game of Thrones did–which was “must watch as soon as its available.” It’s not bad, by any means. It’s just on a smaller scale than Game of Thrones was, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I read some more of Gabino Iglesias’ The Devil Takes You Home, which is incredibly well-written and powerful as an exposed nerve, with an intense depiction of suffering and pain and agony, and how that changes a person. It’s very emotionally heavy and packs a very powerful punch in those first few chapters. I’m looking forward to reading more of it, but it’s also not something you can gulp down in a few sittings. The language is too lyrical and beautiful yet stark; I feel it needs to be read slowly, so you can enjoy all the beauty and power of the language being used to tell this very dark story. I doubt seriously that the book is going to leave me feeling uplifted and happy–I don’t see how it could; but it may be a story about redemption and coming back from a very dark place…yet somehow I don’t think that’s where Gabino is coming from with this exceptional work. Getting inside that level of grief is difficult. I can’t imagine how hard it was, as a writer, to go to such a horrifyingly dark place–and that’s the FIRST FEW CHAPTERS. Sheesh.

I do have to take time from my workday today to run some errands–I ordered groceries, need to get the mail, need to drop off library books–so I am hoping it’s not going to be horrifically miserable outside today the way it was the weekend. There’s a tropical system in the Atlantic off the Cape Verde Islands heading this way–well, west at any rate–to keep an eye on. The Katrina anniversary looms, and we’ve had several storm systems around the same time numerous times in the years since 2005. I certainly hope that isn’t the case, as it could affect our trip to Bouchercon, but I think we were back home last year from Ida around the same time we would need to be leaving for Minneapolis (I could go back and look it up on the blog, I suppose, but Ida wasn’t a good time and it’s still a bit raw for me to want to actually do that just yet); any way, it’s not something I want to deal with again this year.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

24 Karat Gold

Sixty-one and a day. It feels no different that sixty-one, of sixty and three hundred sixty-four days, or that matter. I had a lovely day yesterday–I must carve out some time today to thank people for all the lovely birthday wishes all over social media yesterday, which is always nice. I spent most of the day off-line, as I intended; I wanted to actually have a complete day off from everything, and it was lovely. I finished (finally) my book yesterday morning, and started Gabino Iglesias’ latest The Devil Takes You Home, which is superb. Gabino manages, somehow, to find terrible beauty in despair, and the first chapter is like a sucker-punch to the soul. I finished watching a documentary about post-war British cinema, Reel Brittania (it’s really good) and then we watched a whole lot of other things the rest of the day–the eleventh episode of The Sandman, which adapted two stand-alone stories from the comics run (“Dream of a Thousand Cats” was my favorite of the two, but “Calliope” was also incredible; seriously, The Sandman comic was one of a kind)–and watched some other things, gradually making our way to season two of Outlaws, which I don’t think is as good as the first season but it’s still fun to watch.

I am, however, looking forward to House of the Dragon dropping tonight, though.

It rained yesterday most of the day-some lovely thunderstorms added into the all-day rain for variety–which made it even more lovelier to stay home in my easy chair with a blanket tucked carefully in around me while I read my books and watched the television. It was really relaxing, which is what I wanted more than anything else in all honesty–a day where I could simply just completely unplug and let every part of me rest. It’s generally not a bad idea for me to do this with one day of every weekend–inevitably it falls on Saturday so I can spend the entire day watching college football (GEAUX TIGERS!)–but I am also going to need to take some time to go exploring around the outer edges of New Orleans; I was thinking the other day that I’d like to drive up the River Road, along the levee–the map can’t really give me the answer I need–and I also need to go explore the river and bayou parishes, to get a better idea of what they are like and what they look like and so on and so forth for this Scotty book.

I am probably going to spend today cleaning, revising and reading. I had thought I couldn’t actually spend the entire day sedentary yesterday and would inevitably get up to do some cleaning–because it bugs me, for one thing, when the house isn’t as tidy as it could and should be–but surprise! I guess having COVID did teach me one thing: that I don’t always have to be doing something and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing nothing, if that’s what I want to do. Usually, when I spend an entire day doing as little as I did yesterday I inevitably feel guilty the following day about the loss of time (that whole you’re not getting any younger, Greg thing that constantly runs through my head) but maybe I am starting to mature enough as I realize gradually that I will never be able to write everything that I want to write, or read everything that I want to read. I don’t always have to be working, and relaxation and rest is essential for my mental health, particularly as I get older (the inside of my head is a very intense and scary place, trust me on this, Constant Reader).

But…I am now sixty-one, and that much closer to retiring from the day job. I am trying not to think about retirement with a lot of hope and longing; sixty-five will get here soon enough, and I would like to make some good use of the four years between now and then. So, I am going to bring this to a close, Constant Reader, and start the process of cleaning and organizing so I can start the editing/writing process for the day.

And I will talk to you soon, Constant Reader. May you have a lovely Sunday.

Bombay Sapphires

Friday! This morning I am heading into the office for a department meeting and potentially the monkeypox training; it was never officially confirmed, but I think we are going forward with it today. I will let you know tomorrow, Constant Reader, one way or the other. This week kind of went by quickly; I think that’s the thing with being out of the office on Mondays instead of Fridays, which I had gotten very used to: I start my in-the-office week on Tuesday so the week is already on its way. (And yes, while I do work when I am home on Mondays, but not having to come into the office makes it seem like not-work, if that makes sense? I actually get a lot more done when I work at home than I do when I am in the officer; fewer distractions, for one thing) I am kind of looking forward to the weekend, to be honest. I should have all my errands finished today, so there will be no need for me to leave the house (or use the car) this weekend, and I am hoping to make it to the gym tomorrow to get back on track with my working out and stretching again. I don’t think I will ever get my freakish flexibility back again, nor do I think I will ever lean down to my 2007 “fighting weight” body again, but I know it will make me feel better over all, and that’s the most important thing–along with helping me get to sleep every night. Insomnia hasn’t reared its ugly head much over the past few months, but…it’s still there, waiting to fuck me over at the slightest notice.

Bastards.

I am really surprised no one ever came up with a super-villain named INSOMNIA–looking at you, Marvel and DC! Imagine someone with the ability to not only keep you from sleeping, but can make you feel like you haven’t slept in weeks. I just shivered thinking about it.

The horror of it all.

I hope to finish reading Curtis Ippolito’s book this weekend, and move on to Gabino Iglesias’ new one, The Devil Takes You Home. I love Gabino’s voice, and his writing, and I already looked at the first page of this one and was kind of awed by it–when the first page sucks you AND blows you away, you know you’re in for a good time and experience–which is delightful. Gabino is one of the good guys, and it has done my soul such good seeing so many marvelous and wonderful people have their careers take off into the stratosphere. It’s always nice when good things happen to good people, you know? It always pleases me. I have ambitious plans for this weekend, as I always do; I want to get a lot of writing done–I kind of want to go over “The Sound of Snow Falling” once more and get it sent out for submission (I wrote it for Land of 10000 Thrills, but decided against submitting it in the end). I think it’s the only other story I have on hand that is remotely close to being ready to be sent out, so another reread is definitely in order for it. I think I’m going to send it to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, primarily because it’s been quite some time since I’ve published there (and it’s always nice to sell them another story); I still want to get a story into Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. So many places I want to get published!

I slept really well last night, which feels quite marvelous today. We watched the season three finale of Control Z last night, and I think it was actually the series finale–it had a very interesting ending, certainly not the one we were led to believe we were going to get, which is always courageous and I applaud the writers for doing something different and going against when that audience had kind of been led to expect would happen at the end. I’ve done that with a couple of my books–the unexpected ending the reader wasn’t led to believe would happen–and I am never quite sure how that works with the readers. I always appreciate a surprise at the end, but I don’t think everyone does (go on Twitter and see what people say about romances that don’t have Happily Ever After endings). As Constant Reader might recall, I’ve been thinking about writing a romance novel–I never really have written one, and I don’t know, I think I could probably write a good one, but will never know unless I try. I already have a title and a main character and an opening scene, so who knows? Maybe A Better Man will get written next year. Stranger things have happened, after all. Maybe one of the things I will do this weekend is try to come up with a writing schedule for the rest of this year and next.

Hmmm.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Friday to all, and I will chat at you again tomorrow morning.