Shadows in the Moonlight

When Anne Rice died back in the winter, I posted a memoriam to her here in which I talked about a very generous thing she did for me and Paul back in the days after he was attacked. It was something deep and personal–one of the reasons why I won’t abide criticism of Mrs. Rice in my presence–and while I did tell some people about it, I kept it quiet for the most part. It was an odd little personal connection I had with one of the most successful writers of my lifetime, and as it had to do with Paul and what happened to him, I also thought it was kind of untoward to write or talk about it publicly. But when she passed, I wanted to let people know a human side of a public figure who could be divisive; I never listened to criticisms of her after the spring of 2004 or could be bothered to read them. There was little, if anything, she could have ever done to change my opinion of her or to forget the grace and kindness she showed to me when I was in a very low place in my life, so I wasn’t interested in listening to or reading anything negative about her. The Witching Hour was also one of the reasons I was drawn to New Orleans in the first place; so overall I would say she had a very positive influence on me and my life, and I will always be grateful to her for that.

Last year, an editor reached out to me (maybe it was two years ago; I really have no concept or sense of time anymore) to write a story an anthology called Unburied; the editor was Rebecca Rowland. I gave her one of the stories I’d written but never found a home for–“Night Follows Night”–which she liked and used and that was very cool. In the wake of Mrs. Rice’s death, she contacted me again to see if I would write a story for a tribute anthology to Mrs. Rice that would also be a fundraiser for a charity she supported.

It was, I thought, the least I could do, so I pulled out “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and finished the first draft before revising umpteen times and turning in.

“Someone was murdered in this house.” Susan Norris said.

Her tone was idle and matter of fact, like she was making small talk at a cocktail party with women she didn’t know and what she was saying didn’t matter in the long run. She was already redecorating the place in her head, picking out color combinations to paint the walls and trim, what furniture she already had could be used or discarded and where it would go. For this front upstairs bedroom, for example, she pictured long curtains of shimmering bright colors in gauze, which would look dramatic billowing out into the room when the windows were open. This would be the room, she decided, where she would have readings or hold seances for her clientele. Those long billowing curtains on nights when thunderstorms raged would be the perfect setting to make even the most cynical skeptic into a true believer. She ran a hand along the beige wall slightly yellowed from nicotine. She could feel layers of paint under her fingertips. The walls hadn’t been stripped in years, which she would need to rectify. It would be a crime to slake another layer on top of what was already there.

The realtor—whatever her name was, Collette or Colleen or Doreen or something like that—paused in her sales patter when Susan’s words finally penetrated her professional façade, a frown furrowing creases into her forehead as she stumbled over a few words and finally stopped speaking. She was a beautiful woman in her late forties, maybe early fifties; one benefit of the Botox she clearly used was a blurring of her actual age. Her long red hair cascaded down over the shoulder pads inside her blouse, which also showed a lot of decolletage. A golden cross with a diamond set in the center glittered against her white bosom. An expensive watch decorated her wrist, her freckled hands were bare other than a wedding band and a diamond engagement ring. “I’m sorry, what did you say?” the realtor asked, surprise giving way to concern that what she hoped would be an easy sale—this place was exactly what Susan had described as wanting to her, when they first spoke—might actually be turning into something else.

Inwardly, Susan cursed at herself. She’d done it again, said something to a stranger that she should have not said aloud. She didn’t want to explain herself to Collette/Colleen/Doreen any more than she wanted to stick a fork into an outlet, so she turned back to the redheaded realtor with a charming smile and said, “I said someone was murdered in this house.” She exhaled. “I did some research on-line when you gave me the addresses of the places you suggested I look at. It was a long time ago, and I shouldn’t have said it out loud, my apologies. I do think this house is perfect for me.”

I was originally using this title for a different story (which has since been renamed “Solace in a Dying Hour”), and so when I started writing this story it was called “The Oracle of Orange Street” (the house she is buying is on Orange Street, one of those mysterious hidden streets in New Orleans whose blocks have slowly vanished over the years until all that is left is a single block between Coliseum and Prytania; it’s very near where I live so I see the Orange Street sign all the time…I think there may be a continuation of it on the other side of Magazine Street; a quick look at a map indicates that it does, indeed, continue on the other side of Magazine to Tchoupitoulas–but if you asked most New Orleanians were Orange Street is, they’d give you a blank look); I’d even already started another story with the character of Susan Norris in it (“Parlor Tricks,” which I tried to finish again recently for yet another last minute submission and wasn’t able to). I like the character of Susan Norris, psychic detective; her mother is actually Madame Xena, who Scotty aficionados might recognize as the woman who originally told Scotty’s family that he “has the Gift!”

So yes, all of my work is connected in some way besides just being by me.

I’ve always loved the idea of a psychic detective (and yes, I watched Psych for years before tiring of it), which is part of the reason why I made Scotty one, but my inspiration for this kind of character goes back to my teens, when I was enjoying Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax series so much that one day at the bookstore I picked up two of her non-Pollifax books, A Nun in the Closet and The Clairvoyant Countess…the latter of whom was, indeed, a psychic and an amateur detective. The book was really a series of connected short stories, each detailing a case that the Countess became involved in helping to solve; gradually the police detective began actually consulting her. I don’t remember how limited her powers were, but to work in a crime story the psychic cannot be all-knowing and all-seeing, obviously; otherwise there would be no mystery to solve. But I enjoyed the book and reread it many times, and always wanted to write about a psychic detective. Scotty’s powers have always been incredibly vague; he usually can channel it through reading tarot cards (which doesn’t always work) and sometimes he goes into a fugue state while he actually talks to the Divine Feminine (She comes in many forms to him) and she gives him hints and clues to the future and what is going on–but he has to figure it out for himself.

One day when I was walking home from the gym I took a different route home than I usually do–I do this to mix things up a bit when I have the time to leisurely stroll, and it’s been helping me reconnect with my neighborhood as well as find many secrets and hidden treasures–and one day the different route took me up Felicity Street from Camp. One of the houses I passed–a lovely old Victorian–actually had an orange tree in the front yard and oranges were littering the ground and sidewalk; some of them rotting (there’s nothing quite like the smell of oranges rotting in the sun) and it reminded me that, oh, yes, indeed, Orange Street was originally named that because there was an orange grove here–whether it was indigenous and imported I cannot say, but I suspect imported–and then I thought, oh, that story you’re writing about the psychic (at that time, it was “Parlor Tricks”) could easily be titled “The Oracle of Orange Street” and I quite liked that title…so when I couldn’t get that story to work for this anthology, I decided to write another story about Susan Norris, reluctant psychic detective, and the opening line just kind of jumped out at me the day I picked the house on Orange Street which would be hers–and it also just happened to be for sale when I picked it; and as I stood there snapping pictures of the house with my phone I thought, yes, what would it be like for a psychic to buy a home in New Orleans? And I quite liked the idea of her just absent-mindedly blurting out to the realtor, “Someone was murdered in this house” and then I was off and running.

You can preorder the ebook here!

If You Really Love Me

Wednesday morning and I forgot to set my alarm. No worries, because my body went ahead and woke me up before the alarm would have gone off, so that I could see that the alarm hadn’t been set–which isn’t, frankly, very like me, but yesterday was a weird transitional day where I went to the office and had to deal with the jarring reentry into my normal everyday life after the high of the Edgar banquet last week. I think I slept well last night; I certainly feel awake and alert this morning, more so than I did yesterday, which is great. I have some errands to run on my way home from the office tonight–mail, groceries–and then I am in and settled for the evening. We finished watching Minx (I do have some thoughts on this show) last night and started Under the Banner of Heaven, starring Andrew Garfield and based on the Jon Krakauer book (I am a fan of Krakauer, but I never got around to reading this one), so am not really sure what true crime the book was based on, so the entire thing is new to both of us, and we are definitely enjoying it. I didn’t get to spend any time reading or writing last evening because I had a long overdue phone call with a friend (it was marvelous) when I got home from the office and by the time we were finished talking Paul was home and it was time to watch some of our shows.

Scooter has also readjusted to being back home, and it’s not he was never boarded now and has completely forgiven us (or forgotten it happened, more likely) and is back to normal again. He spent most of the evening moving from my lap to Paul’s and back again; moving whenever one of us got up and/or shifted how we were sitting (or lying down, in Paul’s case), so he’s happy again, which is nice. I always feel guilty about boarding him, especially since the kitty spa he boards at is also where we acquired him; so I always worry he thinks he’s being abandoned again whenever we take him there. I know animals may not think in those kinds of terms, but I always imagine they do, and it kind of breaks my heart for them.

My own reentry/readjustment period actually comes to fruition today, I think. Yesterday was difficult in some ways adjusting back to the work schedule and routine of the every day; today feels more in line with how things were before I left for New York. I’m not traveling again until June (I also am traveling in July; again in September, and then hopefully not again until the holidays; I may be heading up to New England again in November but we’ll just have to see how that works out, with vacation times and all but I don’t really want to think that far ahead of things, either), if then–the jury remains out on that one–and time is really slipping away through my fingers. I need to get back to writing, and soon–I am glad that I have that story draft finished–and I also need to get the Bouchercon anthology finished as well. I think if I can get these fragments of things finished and crossed off the list that will make getting back to actually writing something much much easier as I move forward through this swimming pool we call life.

“The swimming pool we call life.” Jesus fricking Christ, I can get full of myself and write some garbage, can’t I? This is yet another example of why no one sees early drafts of anything I write.

The Anne Rice tribute anthology I was asked to write a story for–which wound up being “The Rosary of Broken Promises”–is going to be released later this month; it’s called Dancing in the Shadows: A Tribute to Anne Rice and it’s a fundraiser for a charity Mrs. Rice supported during her lifetime–although I cannot for the life of me remember what that is right now (no worries, Constant Reader, at some point I will post the cover art and the name of the charity along with buy links and the opening of my story, as I always do with anthologies that I am in).

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

Friday morning and the first Friday I actually have to go into the office in quite some time. We’re back to four days a week in the office, and since I worked at home on Wednesday, that means I have to go in today. I have work to do that can, of course, be done just as easily in the office as it was at home. I also don’t have to be there as early as I have to go in on the clinic days, so I didn’t have to get up at six this morning–which was lovely–but I also could have easily stayed in bed much longer than I did this morning. I will probably not be able to find a place to park when I finally do go in, which is a pain–I hate trying to find a place to park–but I can hang with it all, I suppose. I was, again, too tired to read when I got home from work last night; hopefully that will not be the case this evening.

I actually worked on my story yesterday, and yes, it was like pulling teeth writing a thousand words yesterday. I don’t think those words are any good, mind you; but at least they are written and can be fixed at some point. I know what the point of the story is, but yes, sometimes you have to force the words out and make progress. I kept hoping the hole in the page would open and the words would just start flowing the way one would hope they would, but perhaps that will be the occurrence this weekend, when I don’t have any day job responsibilities or anything else to deal with along the way. Tomorrow errands will need to be run–mail, groceries, prescriptions–all of which are fine, really; it just seems to wear me out whenever I do those things, and the mood for writing forever lost at that point. But I have hopes that I haven’t burned out my writing engine, despite the lack of any real writing since I turned in the manuscript for A Streetcar Named Murder.

I suppose I did write that other short story, “The Rosary of Broken Promises,” since then, so it’s not entirely a lost cause. Maybe there are other factors at work at my inability to write anything lately or be as “prolific” as I usually am (I am often accused of being prolific, which always amuses me; how can one be prolific when one has to force one’s self to actually write all the time, and will take any excuse not to write?), but it is concerning and a bit disturbing to have these fallow times. I had wanted to get a lot done this month, but as the month is gradually slipping through my fingers, I see that plans will have to be pushed off again and my schedule disrupted and changed again. We are leaving for New York a week from this coming Tuesday, which seems kind of insane since I just recently returned from a trip. COVID caution to the winds, I suppose…but after that I am not going anywhere until June. I also have a July trip and a September trip planned (look at me, turning into a frequent flyer!)…crazy, am I right?

We also started watching the new season of Bridgerton, which we are rather enjoying. It’s weird, the first season dropped with so much fanfare and everyone was talking about it, yet this season–whose plot seems a lot more interesting than that of the first season–has no one talking about it. Sure, the loss of Regé-Jean Page is keenly felt, to be certain; but I like that the two main female leads of the season as south Asian and the male lead is played by a gay man. We watched three episodes last night, and look forward to diving back into it this evening, once my writing chores for the day are finished.

I am kind of looking forward to this weekend, to be honest. I wasn’t home last weekend, and of course, sleeping late is always a joy (despite the resetting of my internal body clock). I could have slept really late today had I not had to rise to go into the office, which is also fine, you know. I’m just grateful to be sleeping well again, after the horrible sleep of the weekend trip to Left Coast Crime.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines for the day. I have to get ready to go into the office, and pack my bag, and my lunch, and…have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

Someday We’ll Be Together

Iris Saturday!

Not sure what the weather is like out there today. I actually allowed myself to sleep late this morning (it’s the weekend) and even attacked the potential of insomnia with full force: breathing strip on my nose, aromatherapy thing on with sleep formula sprinkled into the water, sleeping pill, NyQuil, melatonin, and Deep Sleep pillow spray from This Works! (It really, really does.) The end result was ten hours of beautiful, dreamless sleep and feeling rested this morning. I did feel tired most of yesterday, to be honest, and when the day-job work-at-home duties were completed for the day I was tired, bone-tired, and I never made the errand run yesterday–an indication of how tired I really was; we’re out of things with no way to really replenish supplies until Monday. But there’s the Walgreens on the corner (if I get there early enough in the day before the crowds descend on St. Charles Avenue–I should probably walk over there once I finish this) as a stopgap–or actually, I could go to day after Tucks, when the crowds move to Egalité Circle for Endymion. Come to think of it, I could actually move my car and go to the grocery store this evening….no, it can wait till Monday.

Life inside the parade route.

Despite being tired last night, I did write a short story in my head last night for this deadline on Monday, so I am going to try to get a draft written today so I can polish it and rewrite it over the next two days to make the deadline on Monday. It’s a longshot, anyway, but the pay is good and who knows, they may actually like my weird story about a séance being conducted by a fake psychic while a real one is also there and senses that someone at the table is planning a murder. I just wrote a story with this psychic (“The Rosary of Broken Promises”) and some of the other characters in the story are characters I’ve used in stories before–“An Arrow for Sebastian,” and the hostess also appeared in one of the Scotty books–Garden District Gothic, I think–but that also goes back to my “Greg’s New Orleans Multi-verse” theory from the other day. So, I did accomplish something last night, and I feel good about that.

You have to cherish every win, no matter how small. But now I have to physically write the thing.

Just start typing, Greg, and soon enough it will be finished.

And on that note I am going to do just that. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Love Child

Monday morning, you gave me no warning, of what was to be.

I had thought the Super Bowl was an evening game–what can I say? I never watch as a general rule, and when the Saints won it, it was a night game–so was very pleasantly surprised to find it on early last night, so I started watching. I was sorry to see the Bengals lose, but as I said yesterday–if I learned anything by watching Joe Burrow play at LSU, they won’t lose next time, and it will probably be next year. The Bengals are also only going to get better with every passing year. So, heads up, Cincinnati fans–you have decades of greatness before you. Congratulations to the Rams are in order as well; the Bengal defense didn’t get the job done when they needed to in the end.

It was a good weekend around here, in which I did manage to not only get rested but got a lot done. “The Rosary of Broken Promises” is out of my hair now for good; I worked on the anthology; and I started getting the draft of “Condos for Sale or Rent” underway. I do still have a ridiculous amount of things to get done this week, but am feeling much better about the entire thing now. Parades start on Friday, which makes working and getting home from work and running errands entirely problematic for the next two weeks; but when it is all over it will be March and time will start running out across the board. Heavy heaving sigh–where did February go? I have emails to answer this morning and more organizing to get done today–it’s really non-stop, to be honest–but I am no longer tired the way I was last week and feel more motivated than I have in a while, which is a good thing. That fatigue last week was the fucking pits, frankly, and now I worry that I’ll require time from every trip to recover going forward, which wasn’t something I had in the cards for this year.

But…you have to play what you’re dealt, right?

I also reread Chlorine yesterday, and was…well, in all honesty, I was a little underwhelmed by what I have written already in this manuscript. Sure, the voice and tone are right–but the word rhythm is off, and I could also tell that I worked on chapters without revisiting what had already been written; lots of contradictions and changes from chapter to chapter which, obviously, will need to be corrected and changed when I start working on it full force again around April, most likely. But I managed to get some needed and necessary research taken care of over the weekend that will help pull it all together in some ways, plus it anchors the book in a time of the year which I hadn’t been doing up to now. It kind of messes with some other history, but that means I can play around a bit more with fact and fiction, which is also incredibly fun.

And on that note I am going to head into the spice mines. Don’t have much to say today, really–sorry about the brevity of the entry–but I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

The Way You Do The Things You Do

Sunday morning, and not only is the Super Bowl today, but it’s also our Costco run day. Hurray! And in a moment of perfect timing, this morning I also got the emailed rebate coupon from my Costco Visa, so we have almost a hundred dollars off whatever we spend there today. One really has to love serendipity when it happens, doesn’t one? It’s been a hot minute since we’ve been to Costco, and I am really missing my dark chocolate sea salt caramels…we’ve been out for a while. And with the next two weekends lost to parades, this is the last opportunity we have to go until after March.

Is it insane that I am excited about going to Costco? It also says a lot about the quality of my life, doesn’t it? LOL. Yesterday was a good day–I also had another good night’s sleep, which was lovely–and I got a lot accomplished around the Lost Apartment as far as cleaning and organizing are concerned. Everything looks, if still a bit cluttered, neat and tidy–at least the clutter is stacked nicely–and it really does make a difference in how I feel about the place. I also worked on “Condos for Sale or Rent” for a bit yesterday, made groceries (got Doris Day parking and everything), and settled in to watch the Olympics. I wasn’t thrilled with the ice dancing results–as always, the Americans were under-scored–but we’ll get a medal of some kind; the French were always a lock on the gold anyway. And both of our top teams won a silver medal in the team competition, so…really, can’t complain about too much at all here.

I got the edits for “The Rosary of Broken Promises” yesterday, and it took me about ten minutes to get through them and make corrections where necessary. The story turned out a lot better than I had obviously thought, but the good news is the story is finished and turned in and the edits are done; so I can put the file away, add the title to the Table of Contents for my next short story collection, and move the electronic file into the This Town and other Stories folder. I have ten published stories, which is about half of the new collection, and of the other ten, well, four have complete drafts–and of course, I have two more stories to finish in the next few months as well. So, that will give me sixteen at some point, which is lovely, and even closer to a finished collection–would be, should I decide to throw a novella in there at some point. I also retrieved my folder on Chlorine so I could again read over what I’ve already written–with an eye to getting back to it in March or April; I’ve not really decided yet what I should do next other than these short stories. I also started writing a blog post about Joey Burrow that I will try to get finished today–I don’t think I’ve been such a fan of any pro quarterback since the glory days of Drew Brees–otherwise there isn’t much point. I won’t be watching the Super Bowl–or certainly not all the entire thing–since I have to get up early tomorrow (all week, in fact; I have to go into the office four mornings and I have to get up early again on Friday to take the car in for its oil change), but obviously the first thing I will do upon rising tomorrow is see how it all turned out.

I also want to go to the gym today after we go to Costco–I know, crazy, right?–but it looks lovely outside today (yesterday was so beautiful I got out the charcoal and barbecued burgers) so the walk to the gym will undoubtedly be lovely, and I want to get a lot of work done today once that’s over and done with. Paul is still working on Festival programming, so I need to make certain I am utilizing my free time wisely. After organizing the books and making them look more orderly yesterday, I am debating not buying any more books until I can get some more of these read and donated and out of the house. It does seem weird to be continually buying books when you have so many that you’ve never read–many of them classics and award-winners–and so maybe, just maybe, the time I usually was spending in the evenings writing could be utilized for reading for an hour or so every night, which will gradually bring me through the books. (I doubt I will get much reading done during parade season, frankly.) The only parades I really care about this year are Muses and Iris, frankly; but there are reasons Paul and I might end up going out there every night of parades, or many of them, at any rate. (Not my story to tell, but being supportive of a friend.) Note to self: get more take home COVID tests from the office.

And on that note, I am going to bring this to a close and start doing some more clean-up around here before we go to Costco. Paul’s alarm just went off, which means he’ll be getting up soon (later rather than sooner, of course) and I need more coffee to fortify myself for the journey.

Have a lovely Super Bowl Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

All I Know About You

Well, home again and back to reality. Sigh.

I had a lovely time this past weekend. I drove up to Birmingham Friday afternoon for Murder in the Magic City, a lovely event at the Homewood Library (this was my third visit in five years, I think) organized by Margaret Fenton, and the drove down to Wetumpka for Murder on the Menu, a fundraising event for the Wetumpka Public Library organized by Tammy Lynn. I always have a great time whenever I go, and there’s inevitably friends invited that I already know, and then I get to come home having made some new friends (and more books to be added to the TBR pile). For some reason, these two particular audiences respond very nicely to me–which is lovely, and in my post “just turned the book in” malaise, was exactly what I needed. Everyone is just so kind, and they buy and read my books and like them and they like to tell me how much they enjoy my books and when I am on stage; it’s just really, really, lovely.

Who doesn’t love being told they’re wonderful?

But as always I had trouble sleeping in the hotel–I did get some sleep, but not much–and so my own bed, after the slightly less than five hour drive (it would have been even less had there not be highway construction on I-10 at the Mississippi/Louisiana border that brought traffic to a screeching halt and when it started moving again, it was at a snail’s pace). I listened to Lisa Lutz’ The Passenger on the road coming and going (finished it right around that traffic slowdown, so while I was stopped I cued up Lisa Unger’s longer short story “All My Darkest Impulses,” which I didn’t finish by the time I got home), and it was amazing. I had read and loved her book The Swallows (which was fan-fucking-tastic; her latest is sitting on my end table next to my easy chair), so I thought “Everyone loved The Passenger, I should listen to it on this drive” and boy, am I glad I did. (There will be more on that later.) I also read a book called The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics by Bruce J. Schulman, which I greatly enjoyed (but didn’t always agree with) and there will be more on that later as well.

As always, I loved listening to other writers talking about writing and ideas and their own work; it’s always inspiring, and of course I was madly scribbling notes as ideas popped into my head while I listened (I also was getting ideas on the drive, like I always do)–titles and characters and thoughts about the story I have to finish writing today, “The Rosary of Broken Promises”–it’s due today; I’d hope to do some work on it over the weekend but I was so tired from not sleeping–not to mention how draining being “on” is for me (public appearances cause me a great deal of anxiety and there’s always nervousness and stress and worry)–that whenever I made it back to my room I just lay down on the bed and opened my book. When I got home last night, my easy chair felt so amazing–I watched some of the Olympic team figure skating event (the US got silver! USA! USA! USA!)–and unpacked and did the laundry and went to bed; oh how marvelous did my bed feel! I slept deeply and well and comfortably, and didn’t really want to get up this morning, to be honest. (Even now I am resisting the siren song of my bed and blankets; today may be a “sit in the chair and make condom packs” kind of work-at-home day while my batteries continue to recharge–or I may burn another vacation day; I haven’t really decided yet. I hate that trips require a recovery day for me now.) It’s always hard readjusting back to reality when I come home from a writing event, but it’s even harder from these two events because the audiences are so warm and kind and lovely to me that I kind of want to stay in that bubble for a little while longer, you know?

And now I have a gazillion emails to deal with, a house to get in order, day job duties to get done, and a story to write. Back to the daily grind, back to reality, back to my usual every day existence.

So, I need to head into the spice mines here. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader!

Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone

I finished the book and emailed it off to my editor yesterday. ENORMOUS SIGH OF RELIEF. It still needs some work–there’s a few things that need to be changed, methinks, and of course there’s probably lots of my usual sloppy errors (changing character names but not catching them all; repetitive writing; clunky sentences, etc.) but it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it was two days ago–my moods swing back and forth; one day I think it’s really good, two hours later I think it’s the worst piece of shit I’ve ever written–and I think letting it sit for a few weeks while my editor comes up with her thoughts and advice is going to be very good for it. Now I just have to get this pesky short story written and I can breathe a little bit.

For a very little bit, of course. It never ends around here, you know.

I am in that weird lull period of uncertainty; creatively and emotionally drained a bit from the big push to get the manuscript finished–along with the bipolarity of is it good or not writerly insecurity–and with my batteries drained so much, I didn’t have the energy to actually focus on reading anything, so I went onto Youtube and fell into a wormhole about the bubonic plague for a bit before I got rather fed up with myself and made myself do things. I emptied the dishwasher and did another load of dishes, did a load of laundry, and then sat down at my computer and started organizing the horror that is my back-up hard drive. I made some very good progress, but it was barely a scratch on the surface. I will never understand why I am so careless and/or lazy about computer files and their storage, really; would it kill me to take some time and carefully name files, check for duplicates, and file them away properly so they are easy to find again? The file search function on Macs has a lot to do with this; oh I can just do a file search later to find it–but the problem is really my memory; I will completely forget about something once it’s lost in the horror of the back-up hard drive. Last night, for example, I found a lovely word file with a single sentence in it that was so beautifully written and evocative I was certain I couldn’t have thought it up myself and written it…so I tried to do a google search to see where I’d originally found it–and if I couldn’t find anything, well, maybe I can use it. I didn’t find anything, but I am still not convinced; it sounds like something one of the great Southern writers–Faulkner, Welty, O’Connor–would have written.

More research is clearly needed, but DAMN I hope I thought that sentence up.

I’ve also been asked to write a story–or submit a story–to a market I’d never heard of before; it was an unsolicited email (I get those from time to time) and the offer of payment is actually pretty substantial (it’s not a guaranteed publication, but they’d like to see something from me and it’s not like I don’t have a gazillion stories and fragments of stories and ideas for stories lying around, right?), so I think I might actually take some time and dig through the files (now that I think of it, this was how the clean-up of the back-up hard drive began last night; me looking through the files and realizing that finding anything without doing the afore-mentioned search–if you aren’t looking for anything SPECIFIC–is well-nigh impossible, hence the start of the cleanse…) and see if I can find something. I have an idea for a weird story–I’ve had the idea for quite some time–and while I was thinking about this last night while I was going through the files, moving and rearranging and sometimes deleting, a great sentence came to me that could easily be the opening of this weird story I want to write. I opened a Word document and wrote it down, but unlike the gorgeous sentence I was talking about earlier, THIS time I gave the file the name of the story and added “sentence” to the title and saved it to the proper file for the story.

I do learn, eventually.

Tonight I want to do some more clean-up. I also have to pack, since I am driving up to Alabama tomorrow for the weekend–I may take the back-up hard drive with me so I can continue working on the clean-up, or I might not; it’s been a while since I have had a weekend of just listening to writers talk about craft and writing and books they love and authors who inspire them; why not simply bask in that environment and find inspiration from others who are passionate about writing? I am going to listen to Lisa Lutz’ The Passenger in the car (if you’ve not read her The Swallows, get on it and thank me later), and I am going to take something to read with me, too–not quite sure what; maybe Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey–to help me fall asleep every night (not that the book will put me to sleep, just that reading before sleeping helps me to relax). The weather is going to be frightful on the drive–thunderstorms the entire way–but the lovely thing about the drive is there is rarely traffic on I-59 between New Orleans and Birmingham other than when the highway passes through a city, and the majority of the cities I will be passing through (if not all of them) are all significantly smaller than New Orleans or Birmingham and the highway pretty much seems abandoned once you reach the Mississippi state line. (See: Jake driving to his grandmother’s in Bury Me in Shadows)

God, I have so much organizing to do! Maybe next weekend, when I am at home without a book deadline looming.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Thursday, Constant Reader.

Reflections

Tuesday morning and feeling slightly a little bit off–I am unused as of yet to this entire shift in my work week, which now sees me heading into the office on Tuesdays thru Thursdays. I feel very well rested this morning; I had a lot to get done over the weekend and for the most part, I was finished with everything I needed to get done last night when it was time to repair to my chair for Archive 81, which is hypnotically addicting (more on that later). I slept very well last night–no doubt due to my emotional, physical and mental exhaustion after getting so much work done over the weekend–and feel very rested and awake and slightly a-rarin’ to go this morning. I still have come clean up work to do on A Streetcar Named Murder, and I suspect there will be voluminous editorial notes on it once it goes in, but that’s okay and fine. I am just mostly relieved that I will be able to get it turned in tomorrow the way I am supposed to–two weeks extended deadline–and I am quite sure the release of that particular pressure had a lot to do with the release of the stress valve in my brain last night and why I slept better than I have in weeks last night.

It’s always a stress relief when you finish a book, regardless of what condition it is when you turn it in (#shedeservedit was a total bloody mess; my editor on that one saved me from myself like you wouldn’t believe). And while it’s not finished–there’s still some clean-up on Aisle 10 that is required before I finally attach it to an email and send it off once and for all–it’s going to be, and knowing that I will be able to get it in tomorrow probably also has something to do with my mood this morning. I feel weirdly, oddly satisfied this morning; there’s really no other way to describe it, really. I also feel light, like a weight has been lifted from me. Of course, that doesn’t mean the entire world won’t blow up in my face between now and when I leave for Alabama on Friday; but for now I am just going to relax and enjoy the feeling for as long as it lasts (which probably won’t be that long, in all honesty). I also took some time and thought about my future over the weekend–what’s left of it, at any rate–and made some decisions about what, exactly, I want to do over the next few years. I need to come up with a five-year plan that will carry me through my retirement from the day job; I need to be in a position by then to have that loss of income replaced–Social Security sure as hell isn’t going to cut it, let’s be honest–and of course, Medicare will only do so much so the insurance issue also has to be resolved in five years as well. It’s a daunting through, and more than a little scary–but being afraid of it isn’t going to solve it or make the problem go away.

Although I suppose if I am not working forty hours a week and volunteering the way I have always done, I will have more than enough time to do a lot of writing.

Which of course means I would have to make myself do it–never an easy chore!

Of course, I still have a short story–“The Rosary of Broken Promises”–due on Monday, but I think I should be able to get that finished on time, now that the book is out of the way, and the only other writing commitment that I can think of is “Solace in a Dying Hour,” which I think is due in April, if I am not mistaken. I want to take February to do some finishing touches on things–some of the novellas, other short stories–and then I want to jump into Chlorine in March. If I stay focused I should be able to have a first draft finished by the end of that month, and then I can jump in the next Scotty in April. By June, the plan should be to have all the novellas finished as well as those first drafts; I’d like to spend the summer pulling together the next short story collection, and once that’s done, I want to start revising the manuscripts I finished in the early part of the year, and that should easily carry me into the next year. For 2023, I’d like to maybe write Voices in an Empty Room and possibly start a new series with a gay main character; my gay true crime writer from New Orleans–whom I’ve already introduced into the Scotty series–but the problem is ensuring he isn’t Chanse or Scotty; I tend to get very lazy with things like that. I have some other stand alone ideas, too.

It never really ends, does it?

It’s going to take some getting used to the idea that today is Tuesday and not Monday; it still is bitch slapping me and probably will continue to do so for the rest of the day. Ah, well, there is nothing to be done about that other than trying to get used to it, I suppose.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

I Guess I’ll Always Love You

Sunday, Sunday.

Yesterday morning my all-in-one printer/scanner/copier bit the dust. It was fine, really; it was cheap and a stopgap when my last nice one died; and it was hard to find the ink for it. So, I went to Office Depot before starting my errands and bought a new one–fancier, to be sure–and it took me a while to get it set up and functioning properly–and then I had issues with my computer for a bit; which was particularly annoying because I was also working on my book–and Microsoft Word kept crashing; at one point my computer restarted all on its own because the crash was so bad. But it eventually worked itself out somehow, and I was able to get the work done that I needed to get done. Tomorrow will be trickier; I have one chapter to revise and another one to write from scratch and then edit/revise…and I think there’s going to have to be at least one more chapter after that as well. I should still be able to get it turned in on time, but it’s going to be a slog and a lot of work.

I also got a contract for a story for an anthology–the Anne Rice tribute thing, and my story is called “The Rosary of Broken Promises,” which was actually a better title for the story I was actually originally using it for, to be honest; but I think I came up with a good replacement title for the story I stole the title from, which is now called “When Wrens Make Prey”–which is part of the Shakespearean quote that includes the title Alistair MacLean made famous, Where Eagles Dare (it’s from Richard III, by the way, he typed pedantically, and no, I can’t quote Shakespeare from memory; I even had to look this up to see where I got it from just now). I also spent some time moving files around from the cloud to my back-up hard drive, so I have back-ups–it’s astounding how many duplicate files there are when I look for a file. I was looking for another file yesterday, my figure skating noir story, and it wasn’t on the back-up anywhere. (It is now, in case you were wondering.) I may have a home for that story, which was started a long time ago, and I also know what it wrong with it–and maybe, just maybe, how to fix it.

We’ve started watching Archive 81, which is really creepy, well done, and interesting. I’m not really sure where the story is going–we’re only three episodes in–but so far it’s really not looking all that great for our hero. Our hero is hired to go live on a creepy estate and restore video recordings that have been damaged in a fire, which he is an expert at doing, and as he watches the videos after he repairs them–they follow a young documentarian who moved into an apartment building with the idea of making an oral history film of the building; but the truth is, she is looking for the mother who abandoned her as a child and whose last known residence was this building–from where she disappeared entirely. It’s a terrific premise, and the way it is filmed is quite excellent; very high production values, and the mystery is also somehow tied to the main character’s father in some way; the missing woman who made the tapes was also a patient of his father.

I did manage to get a lot done yesterday, but today’s work is going to be ever so much harder than yesterday’s, frankly. I have one more chapter to revise, and as I mentioned before, I have to write at least two new ones to end the book before turning it in. I don’t know that I’ll be able to get both written today; I have some other chores and tasks to do today and tomorrow as well, and at some point I need to run to the grocery store. Heavy heaving sigh. It never ends around here, does it? But there’s nothing to do but buckle down and get to it, I suppose. It’s certainly not going to do itself–the bastards never do it themselves–and realistically, I do think I can get it all done over the course of the next few days. I slept deeply and well again last night–the bed was so warm and cozy and comfortable this morning that I didn’t want to get out from under the blankets. (Plus, I knew I had a lot to get done today on my plate, and therefore…yeah, didn’t really want to get up and start working.) But now I am up and swilling coffee, and I actually feel awake and energetic, so hopefully as long as I don’t lose any steam along the way I should be able to dive into everything and get some stuff done.

And on that note, tis time to head into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely Sunday wherever you are, Constant Reader, and I hope you aren’t too cold or too buried in snow to enjoy your day. Talk to you tomorrow!