He Darked the Sun

And now it’s Saturday again, and there are but two days left before I depart for Kentucky. Which is fine–I am actually looking forward to the drive and the alone-time in the car to listen to audiobooks; I downloaded Isaac Azimov’s Foundation, because it’s been decades and in the wake of the show I’d like to read (hear?) it again.

I also finished The Lost Symbol, which was kind of silly if you actually paid attention, but it also made me curious–I’d never seen any of the Dan Brown/Tom Hanks/Ron Howard collaborations–I am not a Tom Hanks fan; heresy, I know–and so I decided to go ahead and watch Inferno and The Da Vinci Code. They were actually well done–the plot of Inferno was nonsensical and also driven by the main character, Robert Langdon, having temporary amnesia, of all things (and yes, I am well aware that I used the trope of main character with amnesia in Sleeping Angel about ten or eleven years ago) and I never really quite grasped why he was so necessary–a symbologist, something utterly ridiculous and not a thing that was made up for the books, and he is also apparently an international bestselling writer of nonfiction books about symbols, because that, too, is a thing–but I didn’t mind The Da Vinci Code quite as much as I thought I might. I do remember enjoying the book when it came out; but it’s also one I’ve never revisited. I also read it when it was first released and before it became a thing–it was quite a thing for quite some time, before everyone turned on it. That is also something oddly prevalent in our culture–we embrace something and make it into a Very Big Deal, and then comes the inevitable backlash. But Brown was quite rich by the time the backlash began, and so I am sure it didn’t bother him very much. (It probably would bother me if I were in that situation; the months atop the bestseller lists and the cash pouring in from every direction would be lovely but even the slightest criticism would be certain to trigger the Imposter Syndrome, which is something I wish I could chisel out of my psyche.)

Today I have some errands to run and a lot of writing to do–as always. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about A Streetcar Named Murder lately, and I know how I am going to write the rest of the book now–oh, there will be some curve balls along the way, I am certain; there inevitably always are when I am writing a novel–but I know what the underlying force of the book (the theme, if you will, if this book could be said to have one; although I am thinking now it’s more of a underlying tone than a theme, really) is going to be. I did some more research after I finished work yesterday, and everything–the characters, the story, the subplots and the neighborhood and the sense of community–are beginning to take shape in my mind. I actually think I should be able to get a lot of writing done this weekend, to be honest. I am itching to get back to it, I feel better about writing and everything else that’s going on in and around my life, and I feel good for the first time in a long time.

I can’t speak for anyone else besides myself of course, and I do think I have been laboring with some degree of retrograde depression for some time now; even going back to before the pandemic dropped on the world (I also got caught up on The Morning Show, which is now dealing with the early days of the pandemic). I don’t know how else to describe it, but there’s been this gray fuzziness in my peripheral vision when I think, or wake up in the morning. There were mornings when the alarm would go off and I would lie there in bed, staring at the glowing red numerals on my digital clock and think fuck I just don’t want to deal with anything today and I sure as hell can’t face my email inbox. I’ve been lucky, too, with all of this plague shit–I’ve not lost any friends or family to it, at least that I’m aware of, at any rate–but it certainly didn’t do me any good. I did get some of my best writing done during the pandemic–Bury Me in Shadows is probably one of the best books I’ve ever written, and I also think #shedeservedit is pretty good, too; and I’ve done some really good short stories during the twenty or so months since the massive paradigm shift.

Today I have to get some stuff done. Writing, of course, as always, and some errands. I have a box of books to donate to the library sale, have to get the mail, and make some groceries–the Saturday before Thanksgiving, that’s going to be ever so much fun, yay–but if I get that stuff done today, along with the necessary cleaning around the house, I can focus tomorrow solely on writing and getting a lot done. I am going to try to get up early so I can leave early on Monday morning–Foundation safely downloaded to my phone, and I think I will probably download the next Donna Andrews for the trip home on Friday–because sooner is always better than later with lengthy drives. And now that I am waking up relatively early on the regular every morning, why the hell not take advantage of that? (oh yes, I need to make a packing list for the trip as well, don’t I?)

And so, so much cleaning to do. I’ve really let the floors and the living room go since the hurricane, and that must be rectified–there’s nothing worse than coming home to a house that’s not clean after a trip, which I experienced coming home last weekend–and so I am going to spend some time seriously working on the house. That will also help me get creative with the writing–my thoughts anyway–and I also need to check my to-do list and see what’s left to be done as well as make a new one. I’d also like to spend some time with Leslie Budewitz’ Guilty as Cinnamon, which I am enjoying.

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

Breathe

Good morning, Friday. How are you today? I am feeling good, thank you for asking.

I got a very good night’ sleep last night, and I have, as always, a lot to get done over the weekend (and today) before I head to Kentucky for the holiday on Monday. I want to drop off more books for the library sale tomorrow, have tons of writing to do (as always), and I would like to be able to finish reading Leslie Budewitz’ Guilty as Cinnamon, which I am deeply enjoying. I have a stack of cozy mysteries to take with me on this trip–Owl Be Home for Christmas by Donna Andrews; Pruning the Dead by Julia Henry; Better off Wed by Laura Durham, and A Disguise to Die For by Diana Vallere, plus any number of them on my iPad as ebooks (I’m taking the iPad with me on the chance that I run out of books, which is a horrible fate to contemplate)–and I also need to figure out how to work the check out audiobooks from the library for the phone thing so I can listen to a book both coming and going. (Eleven hours in the car both directions)

And now that some things have settled and been settled, I can now go ahead and officially announce that I have signed a one-book contract for a potential new series set here in New Orleans with Crooked Lane Books; that is the book I am currently working on, having had to put Chlorine aside yet again to make room to write a new book. This is a series with a straight woman main character–a widow with twin sons who’ve just left for LSU, leaving her with a bit of empty nest syndrome and a beautiful old Victorian house in the Irish Channel that now is much too big for her, who gets an unexpected inheritance from a great-uncle of her late husband’s whom she didn’t know even existed. The book will be published under the name T. G. Herren, to differentiate it from my queer books and series. I just got the sketch art for the book cover, and I love it. The book is called A Streetcar Named Murder, and will be released in the fall of 2022. I will be talking about this book a lot over the course of the next year, so prepare thyself, Constant Reader. (T. G. for those who may be wondering, are my initials only reversed; longtime reader know that I reversed my names for my erotica pseudonym Todd Gregory, hence the initials T. G.) My editor is the exceptional Terri Bischoff, whom I have always wanted to work with, and now I am not only working with her on this but also on the Bouchercon anthology for Minneapolis 2022 (we are co-editors), Land of 10000 Crimes.

Life is pretty good for one Gregalicious at the moment, seriously. And I am really looking forward to my January release, #shedeservedit, while being incredibly nervous at the same time. I also got an invitation to contribute to another anthology that pays well in my inbox this morning, so I am feeling kind of good about myself…I give it a day or two. (Bury Me in Shadows has a great review in the next issue of Mystery Scene magazine, which thrilled me to no end when I saw it last night. More on that later.)

I also booked another trip to New York for January yesterday, which is exciting as well. I also made my hotel arrangements for a return engagement to Murder in the Magic City/Murder on the Menu–the Birmingham/Wetumpka one-two punch I did in consecutive years a while back, so you can see why I feel like my career no longer feels stagnant or in stasis at the moment. And yes, the goal for 2022 is to finally land an agent once and for all. I think Chlorine is the book that will do that for me; we shall see.

I got caught up on Foundation yesterday, and I am really impressed with how well the show turned out, considering how much it has veered away from the books. I’d like to read the books again, frankly–oooh, audiobooks for the car!–and I also watched another episode of The Lost Symbol, which frankly I don’t pay as much attention to as I perhaps should while I am watching. It’s very well done, but the plot is far-fetched (which is about the only thing I do remember from reading the book), but watching the show has made me curious about seeing the Tom Hanks films based on the other Dan Brown novels, which I didn’t really care about before. That’s something, I suppose.

And on that note it’s back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will check back in with you again tomorrow.

Here I Go Impossible Again

Later today I am leaving on a jet plane. My bags aren’t packed and I’m not ready to go–but eventually this morning I will get to that place. I have already made my packing list, have checked in for the flight on-line, have ground transfers negotiated and hotels booked; appropriate credit cards are in my wallet and I will get cash at the airport ATM. I have some errands to run this morning as well–prescriptions to retrieve from the pharmacy, treating myself to Five Guys because it has been far far too long–and I don’t have to leave for the airport until the mid-afternoon. So I decided to let myself sleep a bit late, futz around the Lost Apartment for a bit, and try to get things together that need to be gotten together before I depart, abandoning Paul and Scooter for far longer than I would prefer.

But I am taking a trip!

It’s almost like the before times.

Almost.

But when I think about how marvelous it felt to be in Tiger Stadium earlier this year, how normal it all felt to be there on Game Day (despite seeing my Tigers lose in person for the very first time in eleven years, but it was going to happen sooner or later and hey, the streak lasted an entire decade), and how that “normal” experience actually translated into feeling better about this world in which we live in general. Airports (and airplanes) generally aren’t pleasant experiences for me in the best of times and circumstances; I have so many horrible memories of nightmarish experiences working for that airline that literally going through the automatic doors of an airport concourse makes my entire body seize up with tension–I can feel the knots forming in my neck, shoulders, and back. But…I am thinking today I may be too happy and excited to feel that tension–not to mention grateful to actually be able to travel again.

Paul had a meeting on Sunday afternoon (!) and so I was left to my own devices after the Saints game ended; I caught up on The Lost Symbol (better than I remember the book) and Foundation, which really picked up steam (I also realized they aren’t following the exact timeline from the book series, either–for example, the existence of the second Foundation isn’t revealed until Book Three, not during the first Seldon Crisis–so much is coming back to me as I watch!) after a slow first two episodes–the Emperor thing is also different than in the books, but I am enjoying this entire idea of a clone threesome who run the empire, in fact embodying it to the point they are simply addressed as Empire, and also loving Lee Pace in the rule of Day, the adult yet not old Emperor (Dawn, Day, Dusk are the three cloned emperors; Dusk eventually dies and is replaced by Day, who is replaced by the no longer a child or teen Dawn, and a new cloned baby because the new Dawn. It’s interesting, and they’ve added a lot of creative flourishes filling in the missing brushstrokes; as though the Azimov novels were merely an outline needing to be expanded.

But when I was finished with Foundation, I still had some time left before Paul would get home and I didn’t really want to start something entirely new-to-me (having to stop when he got home) and my headspace after the Saints game wasn’t really in a place where it should be for reading, so one of the suggestions on my streaming app was The Rocky Horror Picture Show…and yes, I have literally seen it well over two, if not three, hundred times already. I’ve never watched it on television because talking back to the television by yourself is kind of…not sane? Certainly not as fun as being in a movie theater full of people with props and people in costume and so forth. It was interesting to watch it by myself and completely sober…it’s really a crazy movie that makes little to no sense, really, but it’s message resonates very strongly still with me today…I suspect there’s an essay there. I also think there’s a short story or a scene from a book I need to write about viewing The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time; I remember being quite taken aback–if completely enamored–by it. I do know that I bought the soundtrack album the day after and still know it all by heart even now, all these years later…

And yes, I did find myself answering the movie back. There are some problematic things in it, of course–what movie from that period doesn’t have something problematic in it?–but at the time…and for quite some time afterward, the movie meant a lot to all of us misfits out here, the square pegs that couldn’t be pounded into a round hole no matter how hard society–or we–tried. In that theater that first night–and all the other theaters on so many other nights–for about an hour and a half I was able to escape the strictures and stresses of a world in which I–and people like me–didn’t belong. As years passed props and toys were slowly but surely banned–who would want to clean up that mess, seriously?–but the loss of water pistols to simulate rain, flying rolls of toilet paper, etc. always seemed to lessen the experience.

Then again, I would have hated to have been the one cleaning the theater at two in the morning for minimum wage, too. Definitely an essay there, for sure–which would have to include the problematic parts that haven’t aged well. But man, did Tim Curry ever commit to that part, and he definitely understood what the movie was.

Last night we watched some more Big Mouth, which is hilarious, although I am never entirely sure if it is actually funny, or if the laughs come from wow I can’t believe they went there shocks. (I’m actually surprised there’s not more right-wing outrage at the show, honestly; maybe there is and I am unaware, but this is precisely the kind of show they would go for–a comedy about junior high students going through puberty that is completely frank about sex and sexuality and masturbation and so forth? You’d think the American Family Association would be eating the outrage with a fucking spoon in both hands.)

And on that note, I should probably start getting it together around here this morning. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you tomorrow morning from New York!

Am I Right?

Saturday and LSU’s bye week.

That means I get to write today!

And try to get caught up on everything.

My booster shot threw me for a loop. My arm is still sore this morning, but at least today I feel good. Yesterday I had a reaction of sorts–I felt slightly feverish and low energy all day. I also had a lot of day job stuff to get done, so I basically shut off the Internet and spent the day doing my day job stuff while watching The Lost Symbol on Peacock. As the show reaches its inevitable conclusion, it is kind of going off the rails a little bit, but it’s entertaining enough to see through.

Unlike this past season of American Horror Story, which we have not finished. All that’s left is the season finale, but I honestly don’t care one way or the other how it ends; neither does Paul, which means we will inevitably only end up watching if there is literally nothing else for us to watch. (There are several past seasons we never finished, either.) We got caught up on The Morning Show last night before bed; I’m not really sure how I felt about this past week’s episode other than, well, distaste? I mean, I think I get what they were trying to do with it, but it really didn’t come across the way they intended. Or maybe it did come across the way they wanted to, but I have to ask, why would you want to do this?

I don’t even know if I am going to bother turning on the television today. Sure, there are some good games today–and maybe, just maybe, I can take a break after meeting my word quota this morning/afternoon and turn it on to see what’s going on in the world of college football; I can also just google college football scores today and be done with it, not risking the comfort of my chair and the ease of watching suck me in and end my productivity for the day. But even if that is the case and it does happen, at least none of today’s games will involve LSU–which means they won’t be stressful in the least and I won’t get worked up. The Saints play tomorrow afternoon–Tom Brady and Tampa Bay–which is late enough in the day that even if I do end up watching it, it won’t wreck my day; I should be able to get a lot done before the 3:25 kick-off time.

I wanted to go to the gym last night and again today, but the soreness of my arm has taken that off the table. I’m not really sure when I became such a delicate flower, but yeesh. I bruise deeply whenever I have blood drawn; my arm is still sore two days after a shot; and it took me a couple of days to recover from last week’s anesthesia. Maybe this is a part of getting older I wasn’t warned about (there was an awful lot I wasn’t warned about, frankly, and am starting to get a bit bitter about it all), but it’s unpleasant and it’s not something I really want to get used to or have to plan around, but I am obviously going to have to change that mindset and accept it as yet another unpleasant surprise side effect of aging.

The weather has finally turned cooler here, what other parts of the country might not see necessarily as cooler but compared to the summers, oh yes, it’s much cooler here now. It was absolutely gorgeous outside the last two days; I suspect today is going to be equally lovely. I may even take my laptop outside and work out there (the power washing of the house and concrete walk still catches me off-guard whenever I go outside; the disappearance of those layers of grime accumulated over years has completely changed how it looks out there on the side of the house), which would be crazy but kind of fun. Might as well take advantage of the weather, right? And it never hurts to get fresh air, be out of doors…

And I cannot believe tomorrow is Halloween, which makes Monday November. The earlier part of this year seems like it was a million years ago; I can barely remember what 2019 and pre-pandemic life was like. (The Morning Show’s current season takes place as the pandemic is beginning; the shutdown hasn’t yet happened but it’s weird watching it all play out again; gutsy call by the show to deal with it, I think; there has been a lot of discussion–I don’t remember when, frankly–about whether we as creative artists should address the pandemic in a book. If I do, it will definitely be through Scotty’s eyes.)

But this morning dawns bright and hopeful, as always. I slept decently (despite being up much earlier than I would have hoped) and feel rested this morning. I am going to clean the kitchen and do some organizing once I’ve finished this and posted it; I need to clean out my inbox of email; and there’s some other business I have to address this morning. It makes for a busy Gregalicious, but I feel like I can handle anything and everything this morning (which is something I shouldn’t put out into the universe, really; it rather seems like tempting fate, doesn’t it?).

OH! We watched The Way Down last night, a three part documentary on HBO about Gwen Shamblin Lara, the controversial evangelical minister who tied weight loss to Christianity (“bow down to God, not your refrigerator!). It was incredibly fascinating to watch; you cannot make this shit up in a novel, seriously. It was of interest to me because Gwen was raised in the southern version of the Church of Christ, (‘churchachrist’ is how it’s said) as was I, and after I said, “Oh, my family is Church of Christ” in the first episode when it first was mentioned…and as they went on to talk about how conservative and restrictive that sect is, with me nodding and saying “yep” over and over again, Paul finally said, “wow, you said it was bad but I had no idea HOW bad it was” which just made me laugh. We all carry scars, don’t we, from our pasts and our childhoods?

And on that heavy and somber note, I am heading into the spice mines. The dishes ain’t going to wash themselves, after all. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in on you all tomorrow.

Take a Chance on Me

I got my boosters shot yesterday; other than some arm soreness, I seem to be okay–no gills have developed, no wings, and no scales–but the day is young. The weather here turned very cool yesterday, which was incredibly lovely; fall and spring are so divine here, it makes us forget the swampy hell of the summer every year. Yesterday wasn’t a bad day; I managed to get a lot of work-at-home duties done, while watching Foundation (I am all in on the show now) and then started, of all things, Peacock’s original series adaptation of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol (more on that later). I have quite the busy day ahead of me now; lots of work at home duties and as always, the Lost Apartment is a disaster area. I am actually up much earlier than I have been getting up on my non-going-into-the office mornings, and it kind of feels good. The light outside is different than it has been–another indication that the world’s turning has shifted and daylight savings is looming on the horizon (next weekend)–and it’s a nice morning here with my coffee here in my kitchen-office.

The house was power-washed this week, and despite the fact we’ve been living here on this property since 2003, I had always thought under all the accumulated grime from the air here (our air quality is something I try not to think about very often, but it’s hard when you see how much of it gets on your car and windshield) the house was painted a pale blue; turns out it is pale coral. Who knew? They also power-washed the concrete sidewalks around the house; the difference is very startling. I am taking the power-washing as a hint that the apartment needs an even deeper dive cleaning. There’s no LSU game tomorrow (thank God, really; I am dreading the Alabama game next week), so I have the entire day free. There are some good games airing, but there’s no need for me to sit in my chair and spend the entire day watching college football, either. There is a Saints game on Sunday–Tampa Bay and Tom Brady–but that’s late enough for me to watch so I can get things done during the day; and a 3:25 start time is also a nice time to call it a day on everything else I am doing around here.

I haven’t started Scott Carson’s The Chill yet, either; ironically I got a copy of his new release. Where They Wait, this week (as well as a copy of Lucy Foley’s The Guest List), so I should probably crack the spine of The Chill at some point today. Scott Carson is the name Michael Koryta (one of my favorite authors) uses now to write horror (he used to write it under his own name. Not sure why the switch/rebrand, but probably has something to do with Koryta being branded for top notch crime fiction; seriously, check out his work if you haven’t. I recommend starting with The Prophet, and if you’ve not read Megan Abbott’s Dare Me, they pair together very nicely).

I also really, really need to write this weekend. I need to write a lot. I also have to do the page proofs for #shedeservedit, but they aren’t due until a week from Monday, and I think the more time I take away from that manuscript the better job of proofing I will do on it. I am a shitty shitty shitty proofreader, which is probably why there are more mistakes in my finished books than there should be in anyone’s printed books. But at least there’s time for me to let them sit and percolate before I jump on them; I am usually so heartily sick of any book at the proofreading stage that I don’t pay as close attention as I might. On the other hand, it’s also entirely possible that I am being too hard on myself, which is something of which I am frequently guilty. No one is as hard on me as I am on myself. At some point in my life I pretty much decided if I was super-critical of myself, other people’s criticisms wouldn’t hurt me as much as they had before–and it became deeply engrained into my psyche, and it’s actually more damaging to me than accepting criticisms from others.

Many years ago I decided to stop being unkind to writers and their books on my blog. If I read a book I didn’t care for, I wasn’t going to dis it on the Internet–because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, primarily, and I am not always highly receptive to negative nastiness about my own work. (I tend to say “I’m not the right audience for this book” now.) I didn’t want to be become like those professional reviewers who hate everything, and make their reviews about how smart the reviewer is and how bad of a book they are destroying in print. At the time I made that decision, I also decided there were two exceptions to my rule: Stephenie Meyer and Dan Brown. What was my small voice, after all, in the chorus of critics and readers worldwide who loathe their writing? It did strike me as hypocritical from time to time, and so I stopped even doing that. They are, no matter how much success and money they have, still human beings with feelings, and there’s a sense that mocking and insulting their work, no matter how small my platform or voice, is just piling on.

Having said that, I will admit I greatly enjoyed The Da Vinci Code when it was released, enough so that I went back and read the first Robert Langdon novel, Angels and Demons (which I actually thought was better). It was a great ride, and I already had some familiarity with the idea of the Christ bloodline, having read Holy Blood Holy Grail at some point in the 1980’s, with its outlandish (if interesting) claims that were eventually turned out to have been based in a great fraud. It combined a lot of things that tick off boxes for me: treasure hunt based in history, actual historical events, the Knights Templar, the Cathar heresy, the Crusades, and of course, making the Catholic Church the great villain of the story (the only better villains are Nazis, really). Was it greatly written? I honestly can’t say now, it’s been so long since I read it. But I did read The Lost Symbol, his follow-up, when it was released and absolutely hated every word of it. I tried to read the next, Inferno, and gave up after the first chapter. I’ve never watched any of the films–although now I am thinking it might be interesting to do so. When I saw the Peacock was adapting The Lost Symbol, I actually (thank you, faulty memory) thought it was the Brown novel I hadn’t finished. After I got caught up on Foundation but still had at least another couple of hours’ worth of condom packing to do, I decided to try The Lost Symbol. Even as I watched the first episode, none of it seemed familiar to me, and it wasn’t until they mentioned the painting “The Apotheosis of George Washington” (that may not be the actual name; but it’s the painting in a government building ceiling where it looks like Washington is being greeted into heaven as a god) that I began to suspect that I had actually read the book; by the time they descended into the tunnels below the city and met the Architect of the Capital I thought, oh yes I did read this and didn’t much care for it. But the show itself held my attention–it’s an adventure story, after all, and Ashley Zukerman was very well cast as Langdon. I look forward to continuing watching it–at least while I wait for the new episodes of everything else we are currently watching to be loaded for streaming.

And on that note, it’s time for me to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader–I’ll come back tomorrow to check in.