Lowdown

I woke up to a major thunderstorm around seven this morning, and quite frankly, curled up under my blankets even more and went back to sleep. I didn’t wind up getting out of bed until after nine, which felt lovely and now I feel wide awake while well rested at the same time, which is actually quite nice. I need to run to the UPS Store today, pick up the mail and a prescription, stop by the bank, and make groceries at some point, but ugh, how horrible to do this in the rain. It’s supposed to rain here all day, alas. But that will certainly encourage me to get them done as quickly as possible so I can get home.

Today I need to also do some more cleaning around the house, and at some point I am going to close the browsers so I can focus on writing. I want to push through these revisions of these chapters of the WIP, and I’d also like to push through and get a strong revision of “And the Walls Came Down” done, so I can submit it to some markets this week. My short story for next week will be the “The Problem with Autofill,” which is a strong story but the ending needs to be altered and changed somewhat. I still like the concept of the story–it’s kind of a Sorry Wrong Number thing, only with email–but I’m still not sure how to make it work completely.  But I still persist in trying to make it work. I also would like to work some more on “Please Die Soon,” which I think is a terrific idea for a story, and I’ve done the requisite research to make it work, methinks. I really want to stick to this goal of either revising a short story or finishing an incomplete first draft of one every week.

Goals. Must stick to goals.

I survived Costco yesterday, my checking account less scathed than usual–although it easily could have become Sherman’s March to the Sea. Yet I was able to resist, and came very close to staying within the budget I set for the trip–and had I not bought two books off the book table (Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, and The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis; the Owens was nominated for an Edgar while the Davis won the Pulitzer Prize) I would have stayed under budget.

The book table is always my downfall.

And while I didn’t accomplish near as much as I probably should have yesterday, I did manage to get some chores done, some of them loathsome, so that’s a win for the end of the week, methinks. The key is what I can get done today and tomorrow…and my primary focus has to be on writing. Once I get the writing gears dusted off and oiled, I am hoping I will be able to get the first draft of the WIP finished by the end of May (there’s a three day holiday this month as well, which I am really looking forward to enjoying).

The Gulf itself looks interesting. Most American histories, of course, focus on the Atlantic colonies and the spread westward from there; there really isn’t anything taught about the history of the Gulf of Mexico–which, once Florida, Louisiana and Texas passed into American hands, basically became an enormous American lake–and I am very interested in becoming better acquainted with this history. It can, after all, only help, since most of my fiction work is focused on the Gulf states. The more Louisiana history I know, and read, the better I feel my fiction will become.

I think once I finish Jamie Mason’s The Hidden Things my next book will be either Rachel Howzell Hall’s All the Way Down or Joseph Olshan’s Lambda nominated mystery, Black Diamond Fall. I’m greatly enjoying the Mason novel, and perhaps at some point today, once I’ve run the errands and done the cleaning and written all I need to write today, I might curl up in the easy chair with The Hidden Things and make some serious headway on it. I also have an article to write and another column to start planning for. And yes, it does all seem a bit overwhelming, but what I need to do is make a list and just start checking off boxes.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

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Let My Love Open the Door

76 degrees already this morning, with the mercury forecast to continue to rise throughout the day, with heavy rains in the forecast for tonight’s parades. I think I’m going to spark up the barbecue this afternoon–get that true Carnival experience but barbecuing burgers and hot dogs–and probably try to get some work done around the parades.

I only worked two hours yesterday morning, so I went in early and did all the things, departed and went to the grocery store on the way home–there’s no way I can move my car again before Sunday evening–and then came home to do odious chores. But I got all of it done, reorganized some cabinets and the refrigerator, and then relaxed in my easy chair while I waited for Paul to come home so we could have dinner and go to the parades. Alas, he didn’t get home until too late, so we missed Oshun and Cleopatra. I guess I could have gone by myself, but that’s not as much fun, plus getting up early and doing the running around and cleaning and so forth had left me rather tired. I watched some television, including another episode of Versailles, and retired to bed relatively early. I slept well, which was lovely, and am up and at ’em this morning. I intend to get some revising done before the parades arrive, and there’s some tidying required for the living room.

But this morning I feel rested and like I can conquer the world, which is a lovely feeling.

We’ll see how long that lasts, won’t we?

Hilariously, part of my work on the kitchen yesterday including moving small appliances–I moved the microwave from next to the refrigerator back to the other counter, so it’s next to the stove now, and the coffee maker from there to the counter next to the refrigerator. As small a change as that was, it opened up the kitchen and makes that area look bigger. (I used to have it set up this way for years and changed it about two years ago; yesterday it dawned on me that was why the kitchen looked so much more crowded, so I switched it back.) I also put two boxes of books up in the attic, which was also a satisfying feeling, and at some point today I am going to combine some small boxes of books into a bigger box, and put that in the attic.

I’d also like to finish Lori Roy’s superb novel Gone Too Long this weekend, if i can. I am a little behind on the revising (as always) but am hopeful focusing can get more done before and after and around the parades today–as long as I don’t get too tired out there on the parade route…there are five today.

FIVE: Pontchartrain, Choctaw, Freret, Sparta, and Pygmalion.

Sigh. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

I am also kind of looking forward to finishing this revision because I really want to get back to work on the WIP, which I think has a lot of potential…and there’s some stories I want to revise. It occurred to me the other day how to solve the problems with “The Problem with Autofill,” which is actually also going to need a new title; whereas I like the original title, it doesn’t really fit the story, and trying to make the story fit that title doesn’t work, either. So I will file the title away (like I had to do with “For All Tomorrow’s Lies”) and hope that a story will eventually come to me that will fit the title.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.

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Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer

Wednesday morning. I was very tired last night, and after watching the Australian Open (Greg: well, 2019 is starting off as a really shitty sports year, isn’t it?), I read for a little while before going to bed. I slept well last night, but this morning am feeling a little bit less lively than I should, all things considered. I also don’t have a short day tomorrow–eight hours, hurray–but that’s fine. Friday is back to normal and next week is a normal work week, for what that’s worth. Routine? Back into the groove? Let’s hope it’s all of those things.

I still feel slightly discombobulated. Adjusting to a new routine is difficult, particularly when that routine is regularly disrupted again once you start to settle into it. Ironically, I think once I get used to it again and get into a groove it’ll be Carnival parade time and it’ll get disrupted all over again. I guess that’s the trouble with being someone who likes routine and yet lives in New Orleans, where routine is routinely disrupted.

It’s kind of gray and misty outside the windows and everything is dripping. It’s rained over night and is still raining a bit this morning; which will make the drive uptown to get the mail and then to work all the more fun. It is a source of constant amazement to me that people in New Orleans can’t drive in the rain–you’d think, by the way they drive, that it never rained here.

And you’d be incorrect in that assumption.

Heavy sigh.

I tried to work on the Scotty a bit yesterday to no avail; I think I added an entire sentence to the revision/reboot of Chapter One. My mind was scrambled and tired last night when I got home, and of course watching Serena lose wasn’t uplifting or motivating. This weekend is the US National Figure Skating Championships, so a lot of time will be spent this weekend watching that event, which will be kind of nice–I do love to watch figure skating–and that leads me back to my story “Moves in the Field,” which I’d like to get revised and edited and rewritten this month–it and “The Snow Globe” and “And the Walls Came Down” and “The Problem with Autofill.” The last one needs a serious rethink; I like the basic idea of it, but as written the story doesn’t work. The conceit of the story is something I also like, but again is problematic because there’s no way anyone would ever be that stupid, I think; that’s the hole in the story that needs to be fixed. I have a better idea, a glimmer of a thought, on how to fix this problem (the problem with “The Problem with Autofill”, ha ha ha ha), and I am hoping to get that attempt out of the way this weekend. I know I am biting off more than I’m going to want to chew this weekend, but if I don’t make a massive to-do list I always feel like I am doing nothing.

Which of course is part of the insanity.

I’ve also been toying with an idea I like, for a novel–something to write after I finish the WIP. I do like the idea, but it’s very malformed and ethereal at the moment; it would need to be more solid before I start actually doing any writing on it. I think maybe if I spend an hour on it, just brainstorming and figuring out the plot and characters and how to structure the book, I’d be able and be more ready to sit down and write it when the time comes.

Ideas aren’t my problem; my problem is too many ideas.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me.

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Shining Star

Well, good morning, Thursday, how do you do? I’m a bit giddy, as I always am after working thirty-two hours in three days. I am in the home stretch of the week with my short days, and a three day weekend! Huzzah! Huzzah!

I can’t wait to sleep in. I also love days when I don’t have to go outside at all, other than perhaps walking to the gym or Walgreens or taking out the garbage. And as the Scotty work is going so well–I have only chapters one through five left to go over again, and then I can start inputting the changes and making the necessary corrections, and I need to finish rewriting the opening and I need to write the afterward–it also serves as a boon to my mood. I am really itching to be done with this, and I am so glad I took my time with this manuscript. I think it’s going to be one of the better Scottys, if I pull off everything I’m trying to do, and I have to say, it’s lovely to feel ambitious with a Scotty book. I think that was why the Chanse series felt like it was running down to me; I didn’t really feel particularly ambitious for the series and the character anymore. It’s been nice writing short stories about Chanse; “My Brother’s Keeper” in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories is my first Chanse short story and it’s also my first-ever private eye short story. I’m feeling kind of excited about writing private eye stories–I wrote one for another anthology (not a Chanse, alas) and I really want to get back to the other Chanse story I started, “Once a Tiger.” I never thought I’d be able to write private eye stories, and now I feel confident enough to try writing them. I am feeling ambitious with my short story writing, and that’s also a really good feeling. I think I am getting better at it, and am starting to understand them better, if that makes any sense. I also spent some time over the last few days rereading some of my stories critically–“The Problem with Autofill” and “The Snow Globe”–and I think I know how to fix them. I am going to do the same with “Moves in the Field” and “Burning Crosses” over the next couple of days.

I’ve reached the point in my reread of Pet Sematary where the book starts to take off with its story; Louis is home alone at Thanksgiving while the family visits Rachel’s wealthy parents in Chicago (some back story of the bad blood between Louis and her parents is also established here), and of course, Ellie’s beloved cat Church is killed by a passing car on the road. Naturally, Louis doesn’t know how he’s going to deal with both Rachel (who has a very well-established death phobia) and his daughter, who is sure to be devastated and heartbroken. Father figure from across the road Jud, however, comes to his rescue, and later that evening, takes Louis and Church beyond the deadfall (which the ghost of Victor Pascow already warned him against crossing) and the pet sematary and into the woods and the swamp beyond, to the Micmac burying ground…and of course, Church comes back. Different, but back.

As I read this section of the book (of course, Ellie comes home and knows Church is different–so different she really doesn’t want anything to do with him; echoing Jud’s comment “sometimes dead is better”) I began to remember some of the issues I had with the book on first read. Namely, almost every step of the way the book and story has the problem that is probably best encapsulated as why would you do this? Like in horror movies, the group being hunted by the killer always splits up, or the girls always wear heels before running in the forest, etc. Louis is incredibly passive when it comes to the Micmac burying ground visit with the cat’s corpse; never once does he ever stop to question what he’s doing or to ask Jud why they are going so deep in the forest, or why he isn’t simply burying the cat in the regular pet cemetery. And when Church comes back…I don’t know; he seems to take the resurrection of the cat much easier than you’d think a doctor would. And of course when he asks Jud, after Church returns, if anyone’s ever buried a human up there…well, you just know at that point that someone is inevitably going to be buried up there; it’s simply a matter of who, and what’s going to happen when that person returns. I know if, for example, my own cat returned from the dead I’d freak out a whole lot more than he did.

But I am enjoying the book a lot more this time around; it reads very quickly and easily, and the Creed family are immensely likable.

I didn’t watch another episode of Titans last night, instead getting sucked into the Australian Open, which will undoubtedly happen more and more as the tournament goes on. (But I am looking forward to watching one when I get home; it’s an early day for me and I do have some cleaning to do, but I am definitely penciling in both more reading time and time to watch another episode.)

Tomorrow morning i have to get up early to take my car in for routine servicing, and then in to work. It’s also another early day for me–only four hours–and hopefully tomorrow evening when I get home I can finish the cleaning for the weekend so I can work on writing and editing all weekend as well as finishing my reread of Pet Sematary. My next read is going to be a Diversity Project read; I’m going to read my library book, Caleb Roerig’s Last Seen Leaving,  a queer y/a title, and after that, probably something by an author of color. I’m also going to work on rereading Stephen King novels this year, methinks–that’s a lot of reading projects, isn’t it–and I also have some Stephen Kings on hand that I’ve not read…which is something I intend to take care of this year as well.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines for the rest of the morning. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

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Silent Night

Friday and we are somehow getting through this infernal time between Christmas and New Year’s. Every year I think to myself self, next year you need to take this time off, and every year I forget. Like an idiot.

I’m putting this on my 2019 calendar right the fuck now.

Seriously.

But we’ve made it to Friday, haven’t we, Constant Reader? I’ve managed to get back to work writing–although I should be working on polishing the Scotty, I’ve been bogged down with Bury Me in Satin so keep trying to work my way through it. But I need to get back to the Scotty and cleaning it up; the problem being I am so heartily sick of the opening chapters I don’t even want to look at them anymore. I am going to try to revise and polish the last six chapters, and then work my way back through the entire manuscript, and I still have to write the epilogue. I need to snap out of this malaise/funk I’ve been in ever since the Great Data Disaster, and seriously climb back into the writing and editing, else it will never be done. NEVER. I also need to start reading again. I’d like to finish my reread of The Shining, so I can move on to my reread of Pet Sematary, and then I am going to work my way through the TBR pile….as I’ve said before, I’m going to try to read more minority and diverse writers this next year. I’ve been buying their books all this time, of course, but the books have been languishing in my TBR pile–along with a lot of other books and authors–and I also need to read outside of the crime genre for a while, as well.

I’ve always believed reading is a crucial part of writing; you can’t be a good writer if you don’t love to read, and reading is also an excellent education in writing. The best writers should inspire you to want to equal or better them, or at least to do better with your own writing. I think not publishing anything for quite some time has also done a number on my confidence as a writer; I think we all tend to be our own harshest critics. I need to stop listening to those horrible voices in my head with their nasty whispers that undermine my confidence and make me worry about my writing; that give me Imposter Syndrome and encourage me to not bother writing anything.

Which is also self-defeating, and self-annihilation, and self-destructive.

So I am going to try to use this long weekend to reboot my life and reboot my brain and get back on track with everything. I need to read some more New Orleans history, and I need to figure out what short stories need to be finished or reworked; I realized the other day what is wrong with my story “The Problem with Autofill” and I don’t know if I can rework it properly; I don’t think the premise actually works. I probably need to free-associate the story and the root problem at its core, and figure out how to fix it. The title is probably going to have to go–perhaps I can use it for another story with a different plot–but I think there’s something there with the story and I can make something work with it.

Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.

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November Rain

So, I submitted two stories this week. Pretty cool, huh? One was “A Whisper from the Graveyard,” which was commissioned for an anthology (hope they like it!) and the other was “The Problem with Autofill,” which has already been rejected twice and this might be it’s final gasp. I also revised it again, and catching the mistakes and making some other things more clear in this version kind of also made me think, oh, well, there’s why it was rejected. I like the story a lot–I like both stories, honestly–and so we will see. I don’t know this new market I submitted it to, but nothing ventured and all that. And this morning that new market emailed me that they received the story.

If that wasn’t a breath of fresh air, I don’t know what is.

After today and tomorrow my vacation for Bouchercon begins, even though we don’t leave until Wednesday morning. Monday is, of course, a holiday, so I didn’t see any point in working on Tuesday and then being off again the next day. This way, I can also ease into my vacation, clean the house thoroughly, run errands, pack, and get everything in order the way it should be in order before we leave for St. Petersburg. I am looking forward to Bouchercon, but am also really looking forward to having the time away from work to recharge. My confidence in my writing–which is always an ebb and flow kind of thing–has been kind of low lately, so it will be lovely to be around other writers and readers for a lengthy weekend so I can reconnect with my writer self. I can’t believe August just flew past the way it did, and I got so very little done. Heavy heaving sigh. I am going to take the Scotty manuscript with me to St. Petersburg–yes, pretending that I’ll have the time to look at it and/or work on it–but there’s always the plane.

I also haven’t had the energy to read, either, and I am running out of time to get the books I need to read for my Bouchercon moderating panel finished. AIEEEEEEE!

Again, you see why I need to take all this time away from the office.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.

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Black or White

Sunday morning. Seriously, I got absolutely nothing done yesterday; no writing, no reading, very little cleaning, no trip to the gym.

Nothing.

I also overslept this morning. I didn’t wake up until after ten, which is completely inexcusable. I went to bed early last night (my bedside reading is Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King, and it is riveting. We so frequently (deliberately?) forget just how awful our society was before the Civil Rights movement (awful as things can be now, sadly it was much worse back then),  that this book, and others about the Jim Crow south, should be required reading for all Americans…not that the racists would take anything profound away from it. Isn’t that always the problem? The people who should read a book are precisely the people who would never read it.

Today I may or may not make it to the gym–you never know, but sleeping so late has kind of thrown me off my gameplan (which is the problem with being so anal retentive/borderline OCD; when the plan gets thrown off I generally surrender and don’t try to make any of it work), so in a moment, after finishing my last cup of coffee for the day (I don’t drink coffee after noon; or rather, don’t make a cup in the Keurig after twelve) I am going to start reading “A Whisper from the Graveyard” out loud, followed by reading “This Thing of Darkness” out loud, and possibly “The Problem with Autofill”; I think I’ve found a place for it to be published (or at the very least, considered for publication). I also came across another place to submit a story; they are looking for historical crime stories…of which I have none, and might possibly mean having to write a new one. I might be able to find one that is in progress somewhere that might work…I have some stories set in the past but I also don’t know what they mean by historical crime. Does it have to be in the distant past, or can it be in the recent past, as I have some stories set in the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s. Of course, I could email them and ask for a more precise explanation of historical. It might even be fun to try to write something very far back in the past, like during the time of Catherine de Medici, or Michelangelo.

Which of course means I could play around writing notes in my journal, which is always kind of fun.

The next story in Florida Happens is “When Agnes Left Her House,” by Patricia Abbott.

Patricia Abbott is the author of more than 125 stories that have appeared online, in print journals and in various anthologies. She is the author of two print novels Concrete Angel (2015) and Shot in Detroit (2016)(Polis Books). Concrete Angel was nominated for an Anthony and Macavity Award in 2016. Shot in Detroit was nominated for an Edgar Award and an Anthony Award in 2017. A collection of her storiesI Bring Sorrow and Other Stories of Transgression was released earlier this year.

She also authored two ebooks, Monkey Justice and Home Invasion and co-edited Discount Noir She won a Derringer award for her story “My Hero.” She lives outside Detroit. You can find her blog here.

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“When Agnes Left Her House” by Patricia Abbott

When Agnes left her house, she picked her moment carefully. Only the greenhorn oil trucker battling the steep road coiling around her house might have caught a flash of red gingham in his mirror.  He did not.

As she crossed the fields lying between the house and Haycock, her resolve hardened. A walk turned into a trot, and then into a sprint, as she moved as fast as she could toting Henry’s old track bag. She wasn’t sure where she was headed, having seldom been south of Lancaster and never east of Smoketown.

The boys would be home from school in a few hours and find the kitchen table scrubbed clean but no snacks laid out. Had there been a day in the last eighteen years when she hadn’t baked cookies or brownies, made popcorn, or cored apples? And dinner was usually half-made by one o’clock, the smell of soup or a stew welcoming their return. Today not a single pot sat on the stove and the oven was cold. The only sign of tonight’s dinner was the chicken in the fridge, lemon and thyme sprigs resting inside and garlic tucked under the skin. She’d prepared it before the idea of escape overtook her.  

 Last night’s words with Henry rankled until taking off seemed like the only sane course of action. Sane—that word was ping-ponged across the kitchen table in a battle lasting until three a.m. She’d successfully ducked the back of his hand and his reach for her hair, loosened in the struggle. Swinging wildly, he caught his foot on the table leg and fell hard. By the time he stood up, she’d locked him out of their bedroom. That was the last she saw of him. Surely, the kids had overheard some of their scuffle. She blushed with shame.

This story is a gem. Married to an abuser, and mother of five young sons, Agnes packs a bag and goes on the road, running away from her life. Florida is her final destination, and Abbott offers no sentimentality about how Agnes gets there and what she has to do to survive. It’s a shocking story in some ways, but utterly realistic and honest and painful to read. Women like Agnes–there’s not really any answer for them in our society, and her descent is terrible to read about….and yet never once does she think it would be better to head back home to her family. And there’s a lovely twist at the end. Stunning and brilliant.

And now, to read some of my own stories aloud.