I spent a lot of time in beach resort towns when I was younger. My grandmother and her second husband retired to the panhandle of Florida when I was ten and about to start the seventh grade, and when they moved down there I actually rode along with them because it was summer. My aunt and uncle had a beach house that they would rent out for weeks and weekends to make money in a small beach town along the Emerald Coast (they called it the Miracle Strip back then; Panama City Beach) and until we moved away to California, we used to go down to visit my grandparents and time it around a visit to the beach house as well. In the years since, I’ve often thought about writing about the panhandle and those sleepy little beach towns (believe me, Panama City Beach has changed dramatically since the 1970s); my short story “Cold Beer No Flies” is one of those stories, and I have another one–book-length–that I am considering writing at some point in the near future.
But beach resorts and the townies have always been interesting to me; the difference between those who live there year round and those who simply vacation there; the drifters who come in for jobs during those summer months and then disappear–what do they leave in their wake?–and it just seemed rife with possibilities.
So, after greatly enjoyed her sophomore novel The Mother Next Door, I was really looking forward to her reading her debut novel, One Night Gone.
Constant Reader, it did not disappoint.
The girl tried not to look up into the hazy summer night, the seagulls circling overheard like giant paper airplanes. They made her dizzy. She focused on the horizon, the dark ocean churning, its vastness broken up by milky froths.
Thomas, the guy from the party, was pressed up against her, his thighs tight against hers. She could feel the heat in her cheeks, but at least it was cooler here at the end of the pier, away from the lights and sounds, from the constant pop pop pop bling bling of the arcade games and the deafening roar of the Zipper, a ride she’d thrown up on last year and then swore her friends to secrecy.
Thomas dipped her back over the railing–not too far, but enough that she felt the danger, felt that if he just shifted his large hand an inch or so off her back she’d fall, tumble like a tragic mistake. He laughed, pulling her back, his dewy breath catching in her hair.
“Stop it,” she said, batting at him, though she wasn’t sure she meant it.
She liked him. She liked the way he made her feel–important. Funny. Sexy. At the party, he’d said he was from the cornfields of Indiana, a state–she would never tell him–that she wouldn’t be able to point out on a map. He was tall like a cornstalk, she thought, and let that bubble up into a giggle on her lips as he swayed into her again and kissed it away.
One thing I absolutely love in crime novels is different timelines–one in the past and one in the present. I myself have never done this; and perhaps it’s about time I try (one of the ideas I have, ironically set in a Florida panhandle beach town, is a dual timeline novel); I’ve always admired writers who can do this and pull it off with aplomb because it looks really hard to me. Laura Lippman did this beautifully in After I’m Gone; Alison Gaylin in What Remains of Me; and Carol Goodman is a master of this. Add Tara Laskowski to this list–she also managed to pull it off with The Mother Next Door, her marvelous follow-up.
The story focuses on two women thirty years apart who come to Opal Beach for their own reasons. Allison, our modern heroine, is a former meteorologist who was fired for unprofessional conduct when going off on her cheating (now) ex-husband on air; she went viral and left her cheating husband, and her sister finds her this great housesitting gig in a mansion on the beach in the off-season and so Allison comes to a beautiful house on the Jersey shore in a resort full of secrets–going back to the disappearance of our 1980’s heroine, Maureen. Maureen comes from a bad background and she works for the carnival that comes to Opal Beach every summer; she finds herself becoming friends with locals and even getting romantically involved with one. Maureen is also desperate the way Allison is; desperate to escape a terrible past and start a new life with the cons and crimes of her past behind her. Maureen disappears that summer, never to be found again–and somehow Allison’s arrival at Opal Beach starts dredging up secrets and lies from that past so long ago…and Allison’s own life is put in jeopardy because there are any number of people who have their own reasons for wanting Maureen to stay buried in the past…
Laskowski is a terrific writer, with a knack for being highly efficient and proficient in her sentence and paragraph construction; she creates characters that are rounded and complete and multi-dimensional; and her ability to explore how little slights and personality clashes can grow into festering wounds is exceptional. Opal Beach felt very real to me–the bonfire parties on the beach, the gift shops and restaurants catering to the summer people, the climate and weather and the house itself. I really enjoyed this, and got caught up in the story quite easily.
And here we are, on the final day of the year 2022. Happy New Year, I guess? It doesn’t feel like the year is turning, but everything has felt so totally out of whack since the 2020 Shutdown that it’s not a surprise, really. As I sit here bleary-eyed with my coffee trying to wake up for another thrilling day of writing and cleaning, it seems very weird to look back to a year ago at this time. I was on deadline then, too–and was way behind on that book, too (A Streetcar Named Murder, for the record), but other than that I don’t remember what my mood was like or what I was thinking about going into the new year. We were still in the midst of the pandemic (that hasn’t changed–what’s changed is it isn’t news anymore and everyone seems to be pretending it’s all over), and I know I wasn’t exactly going into 2022 thinking oh this is the year I’ll get the coronavirus! That did happen, and my ten-day experience with COVID-19 was bearable for the most part. I just had intense and severe exhaustion as well as the brain fog, which hasn’t entirely lifted. I still have no short term memory, and am struggling to remember things every day–which has made writing this book more difficult because I can’t remember small details and things that are kind of important. I also think being so scattered isn’t much help in that regard; I’ve never been able to handle getting a grip on things and have felt like I’ve been behind the eight-ball for the last three years, floundering and struggling to keep my head above water, and never confident that I had a handle on everything. It’s been unpleasant, really; I prefer to be better organized and to have things under some sort of manageable control, and this constant feeling that I am behind and will never catch up on everything has been overwhelming, depressing, and damaging.
I read a lot of great books this year–I was going to try to make a “favorite reads of the year” list, but as I went back through the blog for the last year looking at all the books I talked about on here, there’s no real way for me to quantify what were my avorite reads of the year. I managed to read both of Wanda M. Morris’ marvelous novels, All Her Little Secrets and Anywhere You Run; Marco Carocari’s marvelous Blackout; John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind; Carol Goodman’s The Night Villa, The Lake of Dead Languages, and The Disinvited Guest; Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway and The Woman in Cabin Ten; Raquel V. Reyes’ Mango, Mambo and Murder; Ellen Byron’s Bayou Book Thief; Rob Osler’s debut Devil’s Chew Toy; Mia P. Manansala’s Arsenic and Adobo; Kellye Garrett’s Like a Sister; Alex Segura Jr’s Secret Identity; Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden; Tara Laskowski’s marvelous The Mother Next Door; James Kestrel’s Five Decembers (which would be a contender for favorite read of the year, if I did such things); and of course several Donna Andrews novels as well. I am forgetting some great reads I truly enjoyed this past year, I am sure–I will kick myself later for not remembering I Play One on TV by Alan Orloff, for one example–but it was a year of great reads for me. I know 2023 will also be a great year for reading.
I also watched a lot of great television this past year as well, and again, I won’t be remembering everything and will kick myself later. If nothing else, it was a year of some amazing queer representation on television; this was, after all, the year Netflix not only gave us the wonderful, amazing, adorable Heartstopper but the equally charming and adorable Smiley (which you should watch, absolutely). It was also the year where Elité continued, but the shine is starting to go off the show a bit. I was very vested in their Patrick/Ivan romance, which they ended in this last season with Manu Rios, who plays Patrick, leaving the show at the end of the season along with his two sisters (spoiler, sorry), which was dissatisfying. I am looking forward to seeing what else Manu Rios gets up to in the future…we also enjoyed 1899, Andor, Ted Lasso, Sex Lives of College Girls, Peacemaker, The Sandman, House of the Dragon, Ozark, and so many other shows I can’t possibly begin to remember them all this morning. But I have no problem saying that without question my favorite show of the year was Heartstopper. Even just looking at clips on Youtube, or those “Ten Cutest Moments on Heartstopper” videos, always makes me feel warm and fuzzy when I view them. The soundtrack for the show was also terrific, with some songs so firmly engrained in my head with scenes from the show (one in particular, Shura’s “What’s It Gonna Be” always makes me think of that scene where Charlie comes running after Nick in the rain to give him another kiss, which is what was playing in the background). Wednesday was another highlight, a surprising delight when I was prepared to have my hopes dashed, and The Serpent Queen was also a lot of fun. We also enjoyed The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself, but it was cancelled after its first season, which was disappointing.
Professionally, it was a pretty good year in which I had three book releases: #shedeservedit in January and A Streetcar Named Murder in December, with the anthology Land of 10000 Thrills, thrown in for good measure in the fall. I sold some short stories that haven’t come out yet, as well as some that did this last year: “The Rosary of Broken Promises,” “A Whisper from the Graveyard,””The Snow Globe,” and “This Thing of Darkness” all came out in anthologies this year, with “Solace in a Dying Hour” sold and probably coming out sometime in the spring. I also sold another story to another anthology that will probably come out in the new year as well, and I still have one out on submission. In what was probably the biggest surprise of the year, last year’s Bury Me in Shadows was nominated for not one, but TWO Anthony Awards (Best Paperback Original and Best Children’s/Young Adult) which was one of the biggest shocks of maybe not just the year, but definitely one of the highlights of my career thus far. I lost both to friends and enormously talented writers Jess Lourey and Alan Orloff respectively, which was kind of lovely. I had been nominated for Anthonys before (winning Best Anthology for Blood on the Bayou and “Cold Beer No Flies” was nominated for Best Short Story), but being nominated for one of my queer novels was such a thrill–and to have it nominated in two different categories was fucking lit, as the kids would say. The response to A Streetcar Named Murder was an incredibly pleasant surprise; people seemed to genuinely love the book, which was very exciting and cool.
I traveled quite a bit this year as well–going to Murder in the Magic City/Murder on the Menu, Left Coast Crime, the Edgars, Sleuthfest, and Bouchercon. I went to Kentucky twice to see my family, which further fueled my love of audiobooks for long drives–on both trips I listened to Ruth Ware on the way up and Carol Goodman on the way back–and also did some wonderful podcasts and panels on-line, which was nice. We didn’t go to any games this season in Baton Rouge, but in all honesty I don’t know if I can hang with a game day anymore–the drive there and back, the walk to and from the stadium, the game itself–I would probably need a week’s vacation afterwards!
College football was interesting this season, too. This season saw the reemergence of Tennessee, USC, and UCLA to some kind of relevance again; the slides of the programs at Texas A&M, Florida, Oklahoma, Auburn, and Texas continued; and LSU turned out to be the biggest surprise (for me) of the year. Going into the season I had hopes, as one always does, but after two years of consistent mediocrity (with some surprise wins both years) they weren’t very high. The opening loss to Florida State was a surprise and disappointment, but at least the Tigers came back and almost made it all the way to a win. The blowout loss to Tennessee at home was unpleasant, certainly, as was the loss at Texas A&M. But LSU beat Alabama this season! We also beat Mississippi, so LSU was 2-2 against Top Ten teams this season–and I would have thought it would be 0-4. And 9-4 is not a bad record for a transitional year, with a new coach rebuilding the program. And LSU beat Alabama. The Alabama game will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium. It was incredibly exciting, and I still can’t quite wrap my mind around it or how it happened. It certainly shouldn’t have; LSU was simply not an elite-level team this past season, but what a job Brian Kelly did coaching in his first season in Baton Rouge. Did I mention that LSU beat Alabama this year? (And one really has to feel for Alabama, in a way; they lost two games by a total of four points on the last play of each game. Four. Points. That would probably be what I would call this season for Alabama: Four Points from Greatness. The LSU-Alabama game this year is definitely one of those that gets a nickname from the fan base, I am just not sure what it would be. The Double Earthquake Game? (The cheers when LSU scored in overtime and then made the two point conversion registered on the campus Richter scale) The Conversion Game? I don’t know what it will be named for all eternity, but it was an amazing game. I do think it also bodes well for the future for LSU. Will both LSU and Tennessee (which also beat Alabama for the first time in like fifteen years) be able to consistently compete with Alabama now? Has Georgia taken over as the SEC behemoth? Has the Alabama run ended? I don’t think so–they have an off year where they lose two or three games periodically (2010, 2019, 2022)–and they could bounce right back. next year and win it all again. You can never count them out, even in their off years.
As for the Saints, they swept Atlanta again this year, and that is enough for me.
I did write a lot this year, even though it didn’t seem like I actually did while the year was passing. I also worked on Chlorine and another project I am working on throughout the year, as well as the novellas, and of course, I was writing short stories and essays for much of the year. I also read a lot more New Orleans and Louisiana history, and I had tons of ideas for things to write all year long. I did make it to the gym on a fairly regular basis at the beginning of the year, but then it became more and more sporadic and after my COVID-19 experience, never again. I also injured my arm a few weeks ago–when I flex the bicep it feels like I have a Charley horse, so not good, but it doesn’t impact my day to day activities. I also had my colonoscopy at last this past year–the prep was horrific, and I am really dreading doing it again at sixty-five, should I make it that far.
Yesterday was a nice day. I was exhausted, and after my work-at-home duties were completed I did some chores–laundry, dishes–and I also spent some time both reading (A Walk on the Wild Side) and writing. I also watched the Clemson-Tennessee Orange Bowl last night before Paul got home from his dinner engagement and we watched a few more episodes of Sex Lives of College Girls. Today I am going to read a bit this morning with my coffee before getting cleaned up and diving headfirst back into the book. Paul has his trainer today and usually either goes to the gym to ride the bike or to his office to work for the rest of the afternoon, so I should be able to have some uninterrupted writing time, which will be lovely. And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve, Constant Reader, and I will check back in with you later.
I can’t remember where or when I had this conversation, but I do remember once asking Megan Abbott that “is there anything more noir than the suburbs?” I know it had to do with her brilliant novel The End of Everything, but I don’t remember if it was a bar conversation or if we were on a panel or what. I spent four and a half years living in an actual suburb when I was growing up–grades six through sophomore in high school–and while my family has always been loners (not getting involved in neighborhood groups, barely knowing the neighbors, keeping mostly to ourselves), so we didn’t get the full experience of the cattiness, the bitchiness, or the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality that are such a rich mine for crime fiction.
On the other hand, we really couldn’t keep up with the Joneses. In our suburb, we were on the lower end of the economic scale than most of the kids my sister and I went to school with, and the longer we lived there, the higher that economic scale continued to go. And there was a lot of strangeness in our suburb–I really do need to write Where the Boys Die and You’re No Good, the two books based on the suburb in which we lived–murders and drugs and undoubtedly affairs and so forth. A famous wife-killer was from our suburb, Drew Peterson. When I was a freshman in high school a junior boy and his girlfriend–a senior–murdered someone over drugs.
And that doesn’t take into consideration all the crimes that were probably going on at the time that no one thought anything about–date rapes and sexual assaults, child abuse, etc.–because nobody talked about them (I found out, for example, that one of my classmates–someone I knew and liked an awful lot–was being sexually and emotionally abused by her father; I never knew until about twenty years later).
Tara Laskowski’s second novel (and Anthony Award finalist!) The Mother Next Door is more evidence that I was right about suburbs being a dark place.
The moms were having a party. I watched from across the street, through my living room window, as aI ate my dinner of chicken piccata on the couch, sipping a hefty glass of merlot.
At dusk, they arrived one by one from the houses around the cul-de-sac, the glow of their phones like fireflies in the dying light. Dressed stylish but casual, ponytails and makeup, jeans and heels.
Viciously, effortlessly powerful.
The blonde mom was hosting. The one I’d noticed walking an oversize dog around the cul-de-sac, cell phone to her ear. She seemed to know everyone, always paused by one porch or another while her dog sniffed in the grass. Yes, my new neighbors were social butterflies. I observed theirfluttering hugs as they converged in front of the house. My view inside was limited–a hallway beyond the screen door, painted red, like the inside of a mouth, and at the end, the corner of a giant island in the center of the kitchen where I imagined they set their Tupperware trays and booze.
The Mother Next Door is set in a toney, elite suburb of the Washington DC metro area known as Ivy Woods. Our primary point-of-view character, Theresa, has just moved into a lovely cul-de-sac with her daughter and her husband of a year, who has been hired as principal at Woodard High School–a very top level school, which makes Theresa an appealing target for friendship by the highly competitive moms at the school. Theresa went to college locally, and is now returning, using her connection to one of her professors–they had an affair when she was a student–whose father is school superintendent, to land her husband his job. Theresa has a secret–as do the other four moms who live around the same cul-de-sac–known as the Ivy Five (although there were only four until Theresa moved in and became one of them). Theresa trying to negotiate this strange new world for herself–as well as keeping her secrets, always afraid someone else in the group is going to stumble over one of them.
But the other moms also are hiding a terrible secret–one alluded to in emails and private messages from a mysterious account called “Ivy Woods”–making threats to expose them all and “what they did.” Halloween is approaching, and the Ivy Five are very well known for their massive Halloween block party…so as they try to figure out costumes and decorations, they are also trying to figure out who they can trust, who they can’t, and who could possibly know all their secrets. Our other point of view character is Kendra, the alpha of the group (think Madeline from Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, which this reminded me of a lot), with her great job, her ruthless efficiency, and her mad organizing skills.
There’s also an urban legend about the woods behind their houses–Ghost Girl, who fell to her death from a bridge over a railroad track and who now haunts the woods at Halloween, the night she died.
It’s quite the concoction Laskowski has pulled off here, and the way she manages to humanize all of her characters–despite their weaknesses and their really (in some cases) deep flaws–makes the reader engage with and care about them, and the deeper you get into the book, the harder it is to put it down for even just a moment to get something to drink or to go to the bathroom.
Yes, that’s right–I didn’t get out of bed until the sinfully late hour of eight thirty. (It’s kind of sad that I now consider that to be late, isn’t it?) But I have eaten two pieces of chocolate-marble swirl coffee cake (my GOD, it’s good) and am about to have the first of my morning coffee. Yum, marvelous. There really isn’t anything quite like the first cup of coffee in the morning, is there?
Yesterday morning’s workshop went okay–there was a light turnout, which I had kind of worried about–so rather than going with the whole presentation I’d prepared (I remembered the correct notes to take this time) I tailored it down to fit a smaller audience and made it more intimate conversation. I don’t know if it was any good or the attendees got anything out of it, but I guess it went well. They did have questions, and there were answers I didn’t have for them–but I also didn’t pretend to know them, either, which I think is worse than not having an answer. I did stop at That’s Amore on the way back home and got us a deep-dish Chicago style pizza, which was absolutely lovely, but other than that I really didn’t do a whole lot yesterday. We finished watching Queer as Folk, which I have thoughts about–am curious to see what other people think about it–but regardless of anything else, the show certainly made New Orleans look beautiful, or rather, really did a great job of capturing how beautiful New Orleans actually is. (One of the only reasons I kept watched Real World New Orleans: Homecoming beyond the first episode was specifically to see my city and how beautiful it looks on television…I am not entirely sure I am going to continue watching it because I don’t really care about any of these people.) We also watched the new episode of The Boys, which we enjoyed, and then I toddled off to bed for the evening. I am going to spend this morning swilling coffee and reading Tara Laskowski’s The Mother Next Door, and then maybe this afternoon I’ll do some cleaning and writing on “Never Kiss a Stranger.” I realized that last week at this time I was scrambling to finish the edits, so this is really my first free weekend in quite a while…and so I think, after taking yesterday off after getting home, I may just take all of today off as well.
How fun is that?
And yes, the kitchen is a mess, but I’ll get around to it at some point today–there’s also a load of laundry that needs folding–but for right now, the entire concept of being lazy and slothful for the rest of the day, to completely recharge my batteries (or finish recharging them) sounds entirely too good to pass up, and so I don’t think I will. AND NO GUILT ABOUT IT EITHER IF THAT IS THE PATH I CHOOSE.
I did spend some time yesterday reading some history in the form of Ernie Bradford’s The Great Betrayal: The Great Siege of Constantinople, which has to do with the Fourth Crusade–and if Constant Reader has been around long enough, they would know that I am fascinated by this historical event, which was of a far greater import than Western historians ever give it–there are reasons for that, too–and has always seemed to me to be the starting point for a great treasure hunt/adventure story, and one that I have always wanted to spin Colin off into. (I’ve always wanted to spin Colin off into his own Indiana Jones/Clive Cussler/Steve Berry type series, where he goes around the world in his role as an operative for the Blackwood Agency…but I’m not really great at writing action/adventure, and of course whenever you write something like what I see as the first Colin adventure, you kind of have to be good at it–I also don’t see how you can tell a story like that making it up as you go along, either.) So, in some ways it’s research that may prove useful someday–which is how I always read non-fiction; with an eye to it being useful to me in some way in the future–and I am learning about the crusade and the fall of the city, which is always a good thing, at least in my mind–I always think learning new things at any age is crucial and vitally important.
it’s also Father’s Day and I forgot to mail my dad his card–which I will put in tomorrow’s mail–as usual. I really am a terrible child.
The one thing I am going to do today is figure out what all I have to get done and make appropriate lists.
And on that note, I am heading to the easy chair with my morning coffee and The Mother Next Door. Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader, and have a great Father’s Day.
Today I am heading out to Kenner to do my sex writing workshop at the North Kenner Library; I had thought it was the East Jefferson Parish library, but was incorrect. We’ll see how it goes.
Yesterday was kind of a shit day. I had to take the day off so I could take Paul out to Metairie for an appointment, and the weather–slightly overcast and sprinkling–had turned super-ugly by the time we left. It wasn’t raining terribly hard here, but by the time we got on the highway it was a downpour, flash flood warnings were in place, and water spouts were being spotted on the lake. I got soaked running back to the car from the building where his appointment was, and we decided to go into a sporting goods store that was just across the parking lot, with the hopes of spending enough time shopping so that when we were finished the storm would have mostly passed. That strategy did pay off, but we then stopped at Costco, and after unloading the car, I went and made groceries. By the time I’d unloaded the car and put said groceries away, I was exhausted and happily retired to my easy chair for the evening. We did watch some more episodes of the Queer as Folk reboot, about which I am having mixed feelings. (I did spot my supervisor as an extra being totally extra in a couple of scenes, which was very fun.) I also made dinner last night–I wasn’t really sure what to make, so finally settled on something easy from Costco that just had to be heated in the oven. I didn’t write at all yesterday, and I was too brain-fatigued to read anymore of Tara Laskowski’s The Mother Next Door–but I did read some of it while I was waiting for Paul to be finished with his appointment. It’s quite good, and after I get home this morning I intend to do some more reading…tomorrow I will write.
I did sleep really well, though.
I guess when I get home today I will work on chores, as they are always waiting for me. I need to figure out something–I’m not entirely sure what, though–to do about files and so forth; I don’t really have as much room as I need for the files that are working or those that need to be put away. (My filing cabinet is an utter disaster that needs desperately to be worked on, but it’s also full to overflowing. I don’t have space for a taller file cabinet, which could be the solution to the problem, but who knows? I have a file box under my desk and off to one side that is supposedly “working projects”…but it’s not easy to access and I forget often that it’s even there. Maybe tomorrow I will walk over to Office Depot in the miserable heat and humidity to find something to use for files that I can make room for somewhere to look at…)
So, in some ways, today is kind of a day off where I don’t plan on writing anything or running any kind of errand or so forth; rather, today is a “clean up and get organized” day around here, which is kind of nice. I am also going to stop at That’s Amore out there to get us a deep dish Chicago-style pizza, which will most likely take care of any food needs for today and tomorrow–although since I made groceries and went to Costco yesterday, there’s not really a whole lot of room in the refrigerator–and then tomorrow I can do some writing. I also want to make it to the gym tomorrow, for my return to the working out regularly plan that I want to put into place for over the summer. It’ll also be fun to start walking through the neighborhood again, taking pictures and remembering the past again.
I guess today could be seen as a transitional one. I need to start thinking about my Scotty book, but what I would really like to do is reread some of the Scottys to get a sense of him and his world again before trying to write him again–and of course, maybe, just maybe, the best way to do that is to finally compile the over-arching Bible of the series, which lists all the recurring characters as well as the who the villains are, as well as to trace out the Diderot/Bradley family tree. I also have to figure out how to weave the elements of the story I want to include together and have the plot coalesce and take shape as well. Some of the action is going to take place in a fictional river parish (I had thought about using the same fictional river parish I’ve been using for other stories–Redemption Parish–but decided not to use that one after all; there are more than one river parishes in Louisiana as well as more than one bayou parish), and so I have to also figure that out.
I’d also like to get this revision of “Never Kiss a Stranger” finished as well.
And on that note, I need to get ready to head out to Kenner. Wish me luck, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.
Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment, and I have a rather lengthy weekend of work staring me down. Yesterday wasn’t a bad day, per se; I’ve certainly had much worse ones over the years. I didn’t have to be at the office at the usual time–Fridays I can go in later, which is so lovely–and I had slept really deeply and well the night before so the morning started off in a much better manner than usual. I ran some errands on the way home from the office, including making groceries (so I wouldn’t have to do it this weekend), and came home to a nice, lovely and sort of quiet-ish evening. The heat has been miserable here–and there’s already tropical systems forming in the Atlantic and in the Gulf, whee!–and I am already a bit concerned about the power bills to come this summer. It was ninety-five degrees yesterday when I left the office–which is high, even for June, if I recall correctly.
It’s usually the humidity that makes it so miserable here…it feels like August already, so i can only imagine how miserable August itself will actually be.
But I will worry about that when I have to. For now, I am just going to enjoy the cool loveliness of the climate controlled Lost Apartment and pretend I have money to (quite literally) burn.
I slept well last night. We finished watching The Little Drummer Girl and Beneath the Banner of Heaven–both of which I recommend–and I started reading Tara Laskowski’s Anthony nominated The Mother Next Door, and it’s excellent, y’all. I only read the first chapter, but I was immediately sucked in–which is a very good thing; that means I can use the book as a reward for working this weekend, aka if I get this far, I can spend two hours reading Tara’s book. I can see why it was so acclaimed and has gotten so much award recognition–it’s currently nominated for the Anthony for Best Paperbook/Ebook/Audiobook Original–and I am very excited that it’s finally worked its way up to the top of the TBR pile. I keep talking about the golden age of crime fiction we are currently living through–seriously, reading the first chapter of Tara’s book served as further confirmation of that theory.
Today is going to be spent mostly working on the edits, of course. Once I’ve swilled enough coffee for my mind to function–I am also getting the hang of Wordle, I’ve been getting it in two or three tries this past week–and some of this mess organized and cleaned up and put away–I will probably dive headlong into the edits. They went really well last night–I was very pleased with the progress I’ve made and how much better the book is becoming (an editor is really worth their weight in gold, and I am very privileged to be working with Terri Bischoff on this one) as I go. I hope to get really deep into it today, so I can finish it tomorrow and then have Monday to go over it one more time before turning it in, once and for all. I’ve also been seeing a lot of submission calls I find interesting and that I may have something for–there was one in particular that I’d like to submit for, since it was for novellas and those are indeed rare, rainbow and glitter unicorns, and since I have like four or five of them in progress…I should be able to get something together for it, don’t you think? And at the very least, it means I would have one of them finished.
My writing schedule has been so off and so fucked up this year. What a strange year this has been thus far: I am discovering that I am so unused to traveling now that whenever I do it, it takes a few days to recover, which I usually don’t have; the binge-writing thing hasn’t changed, but it’s getting harder and harder to do it now–and much more tiring; I’ve been off my gym/workout schedule for months now, and my body doesn’t like it even one little bit; and my goal to broaden my cooking skills has failed miserably. I have, in fact, traveled only three times thus far this year–Left Coast Crime, the Edgars, Kentucky–and I have only two more trips planned for this year, Fort Lauderdale in July for Sleuthfest and Minneapolis for Bouchercon. I’ll probably wind up going to Kentucky a few more times this year, but I will worry about that when the time comes. I will most likely take the rest of this coming week off from writing anything after I turn the edits in on Monday, and then try to dive back into the short stories and various other projects next weekend–although I do have to teach that workshop at the library on Saturday, which also means I will go to That’s Amore and order us a deep dish Chicago style pizza on my way home–as well as start working on cleaning out the attic preparatory to cleaning out my storage unit (I’d like to get that emptied out by the end of the month so I can close the account and stop spending that money every month; it’s ridiculous I’ve been paying that every month now for so many years), but if not, maybe by August 1 at least. I need to start pruning the books out of the apartment again, too. The only thing I really need to keep is research materials, if that–most of that can be found on-line or as ebooks–and it would really be nice to get rid of some of this stuff, you know?
Clean like you’re moving, Gregalicious.
And of course, I need to get started on Mississippi River Mischief at some point. The story is starting to coalesce in my head, as more and more ideas and things to include come along…I’m actually kind of excited about it, to be honest, and even more excited to have to make some field trips to some of the bayou parishes to get a look around and take some pictures and get some background color for the book. It’s going to be a little bit weird to write more about a fictional parish outside of New Orleans than about New Orleans itself; and yes, I am inventing a fictional parish to go along with the other fictional parish I use for some of my paranormal stuff–St. Jeanne d’Arc and Redemption parishes–just as I have invented some things for the current project in edits. I never used to do that, but if people want to ding me for making some shit up so be it. I find myself not quite as tied to “can’t invent something that isn’t there in the city because I want to” as I used to be–but I will never write about basements or subterranean caverns beneath the city (although I do suppose there are underground drainage tunnels down there).
And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a happy Saturday wherever you are, Constant Reader, and I’ll let you know tomorrow how things are going with the edits. I know–the suspense, right?
Friday morning and a working weekend looms on my horizon. I slept rather well again last night–I hope this is actually turning into a habit for me–so I feel pretty good again this morning. My muscles are still a bit creaky; they need to be stretched and they need to be worked, so hopefully after I spend this entire weekend with my nose to the grindstone I can start making the trip back over to the gym next week. Fingers crossed. I wasn’t too terribly tired when I got home from work yesterday, so I did some laundry, got the dishes under control, and did some filing and organizing, which is always lovely–the workspace is much more work-friendly this morning than it has been all week. I’ve not started reading my next book yet–Tara Laskowski’s The Mother Next Door–and I am putting that on hold until I have my work caught up.
We’re almost finished with The Little Drummer Girl, which has only one episode left to go, and it’s very interesting, if dated. At first, with its focus on the Israeli secret police hunting down terrorists, I thought it was going to be a very dated look at the Middle Eastern issue, especially given the time when the book was written (at that point almost the entire world, excepting Muslim countries, were pro-Israel)–but I should have known John LeCarré would never write anything one-sided, or pro one faction or the other. It’s actually quite nuanced, definitely more so than I would have thought for the time it was written and published; it shows both sides and how the irrational blood-for-blood eye-for-an-eye mentality of both deepened and made the hate more deeply ingrained to the point where there really is no possible solution, which is where we are now. I kind of want to read the book now–because, of course, my TBR pile isn’t deep enough as it is.
There’s still work to be done around the house, of course; there always is, and it’s a nice way of waking up every morning over the weekend as I prepare to get ready for the day’s writing; I’ve tended to have it look like it’s under control on the surface while underneath it’s all just a huge mess. (The file cabinet drawers in particular are a mess; I need to spend a weekend cleaning out and emptying and reorganizing my file cabinet…although what I really need is a taller, four drawer cabinet, but I don’t have room for it where the current cabinet sits.) I also need to start preparing my class for next Saturday at the East Jefferson Parish Library; I have the notes for the Saints and Sinners workshop (that I forgot to take with me that morning) that I can build on, and one of the books I discussed in the class–The Rape of the A*P*E* (American Puritan Ethic) by Allan Sherman, happened to be one of the books my dad found while emptying out one of the areas in their basement and pressed on me while I was there last weekend. So I have that to consult and get notes and information from…or not, if I don’t need it. Inevitably I am always afraid I am going to run out of things to say in front of the class, and have to wing it and make myself look stupid, but more often than not I have too much material for the class.
And who knows? Maybe this time–unlike Saints and Sinners–no one will show up.
And on that cheery note, I am heading off to the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.
I had such high hopes yesterday morning as I swilled coffee and planned my day out. But after I finished the chores I had left to do (not many) I was exhausted, completely exhausted. I had no energy at all, I was physically tired, mentally fatigued and emotionally drained; I felt much like my batteries were almost dead. I don’t know, maybe I am getting to the point where these lengthy all-in-one-day drives a mere two days apart are no longer feasible for me. Hopefully, yesterday’s lack of anything productive (I did finish reading The Borgias, though, and I did do some research on-line with the iPad in my easy chair) enabled my batteries to recharge and I’ll be able to get through the rest of this week, playing catch-up every day.
I do feel more rested this morning–my legs don’t feel tired the way they did yesterday morning–and I think I slept much better last night than I did the night before, which is a good sign. I have to go to WWL this morning to tape a segment of Great Day Louisiana–which is weird, as I’ve never really done many television appearances before (I did a spot to promote Saints and Sinners a long time ago, and of course, I did a news spot after Paul was attacked, which was a weird experience)–and then I am going into the office, with errands to run on my way home (note to self: do not forget to make a grocery list) and then my life is back to (what passes for) normal again. I also have to assess where I am at with everything I am working on and need to dive back into everything. The trip was necessary, and I am not sorry I went in the least, but I really couldn’t afford to lose the time working. Ah, well, when am I not behind on everything and dashing about trying to keep all the plates spinning?
But right now I am just focusing on the fact that I am not exhausted and feel much better than I did yesterday–at one point I was just so exhausted I felt sick–but that’s okay. I guess when I make these trips henceforth that I shall always have to remind myself that I need a recovery day–which is the case when I fly anywhere also–and I just have to accept that as a part of getting older and having to adapt to that. I hope to start getting back to the gym now–I’d hoped to go yesterday, but there was no way I could walk there, let alone do any weightlifting and then walking back home–and would like to focus on getting into better physical condition by Bouchercon.
I did finish listening to Carol Goodman’s marvelous The Night Villa yesterday morning while I did dishes and folded clothes and did some general clean-up around here–more on that later; Goodman is a marvelous writer and I am very excited to start digging into her backlist; I have several more of her novels in the TBR pile–and so I am now ready to pluck something new to read from the stack, although I am leaning towards Tara Laskowski’s The Mother Next Door, which I am in “competition” against for an Anthony. (I don’t think I’ll win either award I am nominated for, but it is so lovely to have the nominations, really. Anything more than that is too much to hope for, really.) Ah, this coffee is quite good this morning, which is delightful.
And on that note, I am going to finish this and head into the spice mines and start figuring out what I need to get done and where I am at with everything before I head to the television studio. (That sounds glamorous, doesn’t it?) Have a lovely Tuesday, everyone.
Well, we made it to Wednesday again, Constant Reader, and it’s Pay-the-Bills Day. Huzzah!
Yesterday was a very good day, overall–maybe a little too low energy for what all I need to get done, but I really cannot complain. I was a little distracted for most of the day–the inability to focus was almost Olympic level, seriously–but I’ve certainly had worse days. Paul was late last night–board meeting–so I sat in my chair with the purr-kitty in my lap and watched Youtube documentaries about a historical woman who has always fascinated me since I read about her in a biography of Charlemagne: Irene of Athens, the only woman to rule as Roman Emperor (she took the title of Emperor rather than Empress) in Constantinople. She was ruthless and cruel–she had her own son blinded for daring to challenge her for power (it was his throne)–and she was later sainted by the church for her belief in and promotion of icons; after several emperors, including her late husband, violently opposed as idol worship. (Icons are images of holy figures, whether paintings, statues, etc.; despite the 1054 schism, both Orthodox Christians and Catholics continued to worship them. The Eastern Roman Empire (forever branded as Byzantine by western Europeans, to deny them the Roman title which they felt they inherited rather than the actual, continuing Roman empire based in Constantinople) is fascinating to me; the court intrigues and palace revolutions; the murders and conspiracies and plots would make the basis for great historical novels. It’s very strange to me that we don’t have more of those, really; an indication of how the West has very determinedly erased and forgotten the East.
We watched the latest episode of Only Murders in the Building, which we are continuing to greatly enjoy; and it’s also nice to see Steve Martin and Martin Short both working on something high quality. I’m sorry there’s only one more episode; but I am sure it’s successful enough that they’ll try to do a second season–which is rife with the possibility of enormous disappointment, but could also have a lot of potential. (Obviously, there can’t be another murder in the same building.)
I slept really well last night–at any rate, without checking the Fitbit (which, seriously–if I feel rested, is there any need to actual check the sleep statistics? Probably not) I think I had a really good night’s sleep; I certainly feel more rested and a-rarin’-to-go than I did yesterday–which, granted, was a pretty low bar. But feeling rested rather than tired really makes a difference; my fuse is much shorter when I am tired, and it’s also much easier for me to give in to meh I don’t want to deal with this now…which is definitely not a good thing. But tomorrow is a work-at-home day and I can sleep later, there’s also a lot less stress when I am working at home, and I have a lot of trainings to get done tomorrow while I am at home, which will certainly make the time pass a lot easier. I didn’t go to the gym last night because I felt so drained; I cannot go tonight because of my event tonight at Murder by the Book, click here to register!
So, I will go after work tomorrow. It’s Leg Day anyway. Sigh.
Bury Me in Shadows had a lovely release day yesterday, which wasn’t easy because a shit ton of new books by terrific authors dropped either yesterday or on Monday: The Savage Kind by John Copenhaver; Death at Greenaway by Lori Rader-Day; Tara Laskowski’s The Mother Next Door; and of course, the newly launched BestAmerican Mystery and Suspense 2021, edited by Steph Cha and guest editor Alafair Burke (yours truly made the “other works of distinction” list in the back of the book; cannot wait to get a copy–the stories included sound fucking fantastic). Yeah, that’s a lot of noise at the same time–it’s easy to see how my book could get lost in all the noise and thunder there. It’s going to be a lot of fun talking to John at Murder by the Book tonight, along with David Slayton (whose Trailer Park Trickster also dropped yesterday; so much goodness out there in such a short period of time!); I just hope I don’t, as always, talk too much and babble like a moron.
And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will see you again tomorrow.