Over and Over

I love Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series. (In fairness, I am also quite fond of Donna herself. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the novelty that I know some of my favorite writers; I have been and always will be a fanboy, untoward as it may be as a colleague.)

But this series, for me, is the definition of what a cozy mystery is; because it makes you feel cozy and comfortable. Meg, along with her family and friends in wonderful small-town Caerphilly, Virginia, are people you enjoy visiting and spending time with; there’s really nary a one with a mean bone in their body, and whenever someone with such a mean bone turns up, they inevitably end up dead. This series makes me laugh, and every time I close the latest, finished, I feel satisfied and warm. (This affection I feel for the Meg series is very similar, if not exactly the same, to the way I felt about Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series, which is one of my all-time favorites.)

And the Christmas ones are particularly good–not that there’s ever a bad one; I’d be hard-pressed to pick a least favorite in the series. I also can’t think of a single one where I haven’t laughed at least three or four times aloud when reading.

“Look out! The wombats are loose again!”

Id almost dozed off, even though I was sitting upright in a hard kitchen chair, but that woke me up in a hurry. Had someone actually shouted something about wombats? Or had I only imagined it?

The kitchen was–well, quiet didn’t apply. The Christmas carols playing over the little hidden loudspeakers were a trifle louder than optimal. I should find the remote and fix that. But it was peaceful here. Just me, sipping a cup of hot spiced cider left over from last night’s holiday party and enjoying a few moments of relaxation before I opened my notebook-that-tells-me-when-to-breathe to start what I knew would be a busy day.

I heard scuffling noises coming from somewhere. Hard to tell where over the dramatic horn introduction to “Joy to the World.” I got up and limped over to the kitchen window, still favoring the ankle I’d sprained a week ago. No random wombats running amok outside. No marsupials of any kind in the backyard, and given how loudly heaven ‘n’ nature were singing over the little loudspeakers, a herd of elephants could have been stampeding in the front yard without my noticing.

I could be incorrect, but I believe every book in this series opens with dialogue, which– out of any context other than this is an Andrews novel–always makes you think what and then grin.

I also think one of the reasons I love the character so much is because Meg never gets upset or loses her temper or has her equilibrium disrupted; and given the unusual circumstances which her enormous family and friend group generally seem to put her into, that is actually saying something. There’s always something out-of-the-ordinary going on–extreme croquet, fainting sheep, emus on the loose, wombats in the basement–and yet Meg never lets this upset her equilibrium; simply rolls up her sleeves and wades in with grim determination.

In this latest Christmas mystery, Meg has injured her ankle and as such has to miss a ski trip with her husband Michael and their twin sons. Her grandfather has hired someone to paint birds for his next book, and the painter is a pain-in-the-patoot. He’s moved into the library of Meg’s beautiful old Victorian (how I envy her that library) to paint jays and mockingbirds…but he let the mockingbirds loose because “the bars of the cages impede his sightline.” The mockingbirds are now loose throughout the big house, and everyone has been forced to wear hats to protect themselves from not only attacks but, um, dive bombing attacks. He also sneaks cigarettes inside, and Meg is almost at the end of her rope with Quartermayne. His harassed assistant, Harris, is no help in controlling the man or getting him to observe house rules–and bill collectors and ex-wives have a habit of showing up to try to throttle the back alimony out of him. Soon, he’s dead, and Meg’s got another murderer to catch before the big annual family Christmas celebration.

This series is an absolute joy, and this latest entry is as well.

And now I am bitter because I am out of Donna Andrews books (why I always hold one back on my favorite authors), and will have to wait until August for a new one.

Automatically Sunshine

Monday, and my body clock–which had finally adjusted to me getting up early for work–is now all messed up again. Thanks, Daylight Savings Time, thanks a lot.

I woke up yesterday determined to get things done but that eventually didn’t happen, sadly. I started off the morning thinking, ah, I’ll read for a little while and then I’ll get going on my day but instead I got sucked into the book I was reading, and by the time I finished The Twelve Jays of Christmas, it was around three in the afternoon and I was… not fatigued or tired, but the malaise kind of set back into my day and it was rather unpleasant. I wound up getting sucked into war coverage, and finally caught up on Superman and Lois before eventually going to bed. I slept deeply and well and woke up this morning reluctant to get out of bed and get my day started. My body’s natural tendency–Greg’s natural tendency–it to default to laziness and doing nothing; a body at rest and all that, and my body and mind definitely wanted to stay at rest this morning. In fact, even as I sit here drinking my coffee and listening to the washing machine run, the bed is calling for me to return and burrow back beneath the covers and close my eyes, even though I am awake. But I have work-at-home duties to do, and later on I have to finish this final edit on my manuscript and start working on editing another one for someone else. I am getting closer to being caught up and getting big projects out of the way, which is lovely on the one hand, but on the other hand it is still incredibly daunting to have so many other things still hanging over my head.

I don’t know what it would feel like to not have something hanging over my head, though, so I am not sure how I would feel were that to ever happen. Knowing me, it would cause me stress and make me worried that no one is interested in any work from me anymore.

The weather has gotten cold here again, which isn’t conducive for me wanting to get out of bed in the mornings, either. It’s not as bad, obviously, as it is other places–we didn’t have a snowpocalypse, at least, for which I will be eternally grateful–but I do love how we always get sucked into thinking winter is over because we have a really warm week of sun and high temperatures, only to get it right between the eyes. March is indeed a cruel month–wasn’t March the month they used to say “in like a lion out like a lamb” about? (I’ve not heard that phrase since I was a child) That reminds me–speaking of odious chores hanging over my head–I need to get my taxes together. Ugh, indeed an odious chore, and once again, like an idiot, rather than keeping track of my deductible expenses all year I need to compile them now. *head desk*

I never learn, do I?

I guess that is the one constant in my life.

So, this morning I need to make this week’s to-do list. I have the weekend’s sitting here in front of me, and I managed to get three of the seven tasks crossed off; I never ran the errands, which is why nothing else got crossed off. I should have done them when I finished reading my book yesterday but I was, as I said earlier, very apathetic once I finished reading the book. Then I need to get my work-at-home duties taken care of, and then I will run those errands to get them out of the way once and for all. I think I am going to read Robert Jones’ The Prophets next; that or Wanda Morris’ All Her Little Secrets. I also have the new Lisa Lutz sitting on my coffee table, which I am sure I will enjoy a lot as well–she’s never disappointed me yet. (I also found out over the weekend that the story I thought was due in early April isn’t actually due until April 30th; a bit of a respite that might help me simply spin the story out rather than try to write the damned thing in a massive rush the week it’s due…at least in theory, right?)

Heavy heaving sigh. And on that note, I am putting my miner’s helmet on and heading down into the spice mines. Have a happy Monday, Constant Reader.

Touch

Ugh, I must confess I am one of those people who despise the time change. I forgot to reset my alarm clock last night when I went to bed, so of course this morning I didn’t remember that I’d forgotten (yes, well aware of what I just wrote)

Sunday and I am debating as to whether or not to run the errands today I’d originally wanted to run yesterday but didn’t because of the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Yes, we pretty much will throw a parade for any reason here in New Orleans, and for those of you who are unfamiliar with the New Orleans St. Patrick’s Day parade, they do indeed throw things from the floats. Just like Carnival, they throw beads and cups and plush toys. They also throw potatoes, cabbages and carrots; the idea being you could catch the ingredients to make dinner at the parade. As for me, I’d rather not stand beside the street while parade riders hurl hard objects at me that could bruise or injure; given that my heel was bruised because my shoe insert fucking slipped the other day, imagine what would happen to me at a parade throwing hard objects at me. But now that I’ve gotten up and realized the impact of the loss of the hour…I’m debating whether or not the errands can actually wait until tomorrow after my work-at-home duties. I mean, I can’t get the mail today anyway, right, so I am going to have to go uptown tomorrow or after work on Tuesday. I do need to finish the final two chapters of the book revision today–I made some great progress yesterday, did I not?–and worry that running those errands could wear me out and put me out of the mood to work on it. Of course, there’s also no rule that says when I should run the errands; I could run them late this afternoon after I get the things I need to get done today completed.

Ooooh, doing something different. How not like me, right?

Yesterday was relatively pleasant. I worked on the book after I got up, did some stuff around the house, started reading Donna Andrews’ The Twelve Jays of Christmas (one can never go wrong with Donna Andrews), and then last night settled in for a rewatch of 2010, the sequel to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I rewatched during the pandemic (I’d also already seen 2010; we rented it one night in the 1980’s but got incredibly high so I really didn’t remember much of it other than it made 2001 make a lot more sense; just as the book cleared up a lot of the stuff in the original that didn’t make a lot of sense). One of the things that I always enjoy about watching old science fiction movies is to see what they were able to predict right about the future and what they got wrong; just like in 2001, in 2010 Pan Am is still around, as is the Soviet Union. Part of the plot’s premise is that the US and USSR are on the brink of war over Honduras; at the time the book was written and the film made it was inconceivable to Americans–anyone of the time, really–that the USSR was actually on the brink of collapse and wouldn’t survive in that form for another decade. I also had to wonder, wouldn’t Jupiter becoming a second sun in our system dramatically alter our orbit around the sun and our climate? Even though we are much further away from Jupiter than we are from our actual star?

It’s kind of hard to imagine Earth going from a one-star system to a two-star without any other impact.

Then again, I am not an astronomer, so what do I know? I did enjoy the film the second time around; I’d forgotten that young John Lithgow was in it, as was Helen Mirren as the leader of the Soviet space team.

I also read a marvelous two-issue crossover between two comics, Nightwing and Superman: Son of Kal-el, featuring the bisexual new son of Superman, Jonathan Kent (which reminds me, I am way behind on Superman and Lois). Nightwing/Dick Grayson remains my favorite DC Universe character; I hope HBO MAX will drop a new season of Titans soon.

And on that note, I think I’m going to read some more Donna before I get back to my own manuscript. Have a lovely Daylight Savings Time Sunday, Constant Reader.

Shine on Me

Sunday morning.

I got up again before seven this morning–despite staying up an hour or so later last night than I usually do; I was waiting, hoping Paul would be coming home, but he didn’t get home again until after I went to bed. I didn’t get nearly as much done yesterday as I would have liked because I got distracted by reading Kellye Garrett’s marvelous Like a Sister, and by the time I finished the book it was late afternoon and the tiredness I was feeling yesterday morning–I mentioned it, remember? I wasn’t as awake and alert as I had been the day before–I decided to just kick back and relax for the rest of the day. I watched a lot of history documentaries on Youtube; watched a lot of news worried about Ukraine; and then last night I decided to watch The Drowning Pool, a 1970’s film version of Ross Macdonald’s book–with significant changes made to the book–moving it to Louisiana for one (more on this later). When the movie was finished I went to bed, and woke up early again this morning (body clock has reset, for good or ill). I have to make groceries this morning, as well as gas up the car (can’t wait to see how much gas costs today; but I am more than willing to pay more to save Ukrainian lives, frankly) and head home for some more editing work. I am going to work on my manuscript today; and I have a manuscript from Bold Strokes I need to get edited this week as well. Lots of heavy lifting to get done this week, but I think I can manage.

I also need to select my next book to read. I’ve narrowed it down some; the leading contenders include Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead, The Twelve Jays of Christmas by Donna Andrews, The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr., and All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris. A plethora of treasures in my TBR pile, no? There’s also some short story collections and anthologies I want to start working my way through–not to mention a short story I need to write by the end of the month (see why I need lists?)–so I think once I get home from the grocery store I will most likely have to make this week’s to-do list. I also have some emails to write for sending tomorrow. But I don’t feel as paralyzed this morning as I usually am by a daunting pile of work that needs doing. We’ll see how I feel when I get home from the grocery store, though, I suppose. Usually dealing with the groceries wears me out and I am pretty much useless afterwards; I don’t know if that is actual physical or mental exhaustion or laziness settling in. I know that my energy levels have significantly decreased over the past pandemic years, and sometimes I do wonder if it’s maybe Long COVID; exhaustion and loss of energy seems to be one of its leading symptoms, and of course, both tend to trigger depression, which creates a massive downward spiral. But I keep testing negative for it, so what do I know?

So, The Drowning Pool starring Paul Newman as Lew Archer, renamed Lew Harper in the movie, and the location was moved from southern California to Louisiana for some reason. The movie is very cynical, so it definitely fits into my Cynical 70’s Film Festival, but it’s not a very good movie. (I’ve read the book, and while the family structure of the film seemed familiar, there’s a lot of significant diversion from the book.) One of my favorite parts of the movie is one of those things Louisiana/New Orleans people always point out in movies and television shows: the geography makes no sense. Harper is summoned to New Orleans by an old flame, whom he meets in a Royal Street antique shop for some reason. She doesn’t anyone to know she’s hired him, so why would you meet in the Quarter? The airport is in Kenner; why would you make him drive all the way into the heart of the city when you could have simply met him at a lounge or bar out near the airport, where they would be a lot more anonymity? Anyway, the old flame (Joanne Woodward, wasted in a role far beneath her talents) has gotten him a room at a motel in the small town she lives in, and she runs off, promising to be in touch…and here is the weird Louisiana geography part. He leaves the Quarter, takes the causeway across Lake Pontchartrain, eventually crossed the river in Baton Rouge, and then winds up somewhere in swampy Acadiana. That’s all fine…but why would you take the causeway to the north shore to get to Baton Rouge when I-10 heads directly there from New Orleans? He added at least another hour to his trip by crossing the lake. There’s another scene where he’s tracking someone down, following his girlfriend as she gets off the St. Charles streetcar, crosses the street, and enters a home. Harper later refers to the man’s “apartment in the French Quarter”–um, the streetcar doesn’t run through the Quarter, it didn’t in 1975, and it was clearly St. Charles Avenue (there are several more of these, in fact; the bayou area near the town was clearly filmed in the Manchac Swamp). The plot is convoluted and didn’t make a lot of sense–blackmail, Joanne Woodward’s husband is a closet case, someone has stolen an account book from a local oil baron’s company that exposes their pay-offs and bribes and other illegal activities–and Newman, while handsome and charming, doesn’t really put a lot of effort in the role. Your mileage might vary, of course, but I found it to be disappointing. The only thing about the film of note was very young Melanie Griffith playing Woodward’s nymphet teenage daughter…and I kept wondering how old IS she to be so sexualized in a film? But it was also the 1970’s…in catching up on the 1970’s films I’m constantly amazed at how much unnecessary nude scenes for women there are, or gratuitous sex scenes that add nothing to the plots in these films. But I also appreciate the grittier, more realistic if cynical point of view of the films; there’s nothing pretty or noble about humanity in these movies…which also kind of explains how “hopeful” movies like Rocky and Star Wars were so enormously successful during the latter part of the decade.

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

Away in a Manger

And it’s Wednesday, my last day in the office before Christmas holidays. We have the next two days off for the holiday, so we all have a lovely four day weekend. Huzzah? At least I don’t have to make condom packs, which will be kind of nice, but I do have things to do. The book is proceeding apace, if a trifle slowly, but I am happy with the work I am doing on it but the question is, as always, will I get it done in time? Heavy heaving sigh. It is definitely going to be a lot of work to get done in a very short period of time, but it will get done eventually. I will most likely take Christmas day itself off from doing anything; a recharging day, if you will, but that and New Year’s Day should be enough of a recharge to keep me going. I’ve been sleeping much better lately–the cold snap (such as it is) has been an enormous help in that regard–and so am feeling more rested than I have in quite some time. I am also trying really hard to not let my stress levels go up; stress, not fear, is the mindkiller, thank you very much, Frank Herbert.

It’s also Pay-the-Bills Day; huzzah? At least I don’t have to worry about being able to pay the bills, which lessens the sting somewhat. It doesn’t make paying them any more enjoyable, mind you; it just makes it hurt a little less.

I don’t think I will ever stop resenting paying the bills–but you can certainly see that the heat has broken; the power bill this month is less than half of the last one.

Silver linings, you know.

The manuscript is coming along nicely, sort of; I write about 2500-3000 really shitty words per day (a chapter a day, really) and keep going, and then I spend a day trying to clean up the mess I’ve created. It’s working so far, and at the pace I am going I should pass the midway point this weekend–if I stay focused–and might actually get it all finished by the deadline. Huzzah, indeed!

It’s cold again in New Orleans today–well, cold for New Orleans; as always, I assume everyone north of I-10 will snicker behind their hands as they do whenever I complain about it being cold here–but I am actually going to wear a sweatshirt beneath my Crescent Care T-shirt today, and the floor here in the Lost Apartment absolutely felt cold to my stockinged feet this morning so I had to put on my slippers–but I would like to remind everyone it’s not a dry cold down here but rather a damp one. Cold and damp is miserable.

It’s going to be lovely having four days off, which should–laziness, cold, and procrastination aside–enable me to get a lot of work done, as well as organizing and cleaning of the Lost Apartment. I am going to have to start taking boxes out of the attic and determining what is to be done with them; most likely I will be donating a lot of books to the library sale in the future, and I figure if I target one box per weekend minimum it won’t take more than a few months to clean out a lot of what is up there and make room for other things I need to put up there. I really do need to stop buying books for a while; the apartment is quickly becoming overtaken with them yet again, and the TBR stack was already well out of control. Tonight I am going to spend some more time with Vivien Chien’s Death by Dumpling–I want to finish it so I can read Donna Andrews’ The Twelve Jays of Christmas on Christmas itself (after getting my writing done for the day–yes, I am not going to be able to take any holidays off until the book is completed, and all the other things I am writing are done.

Progress. I must always make progress.

And I really need to make that to-do list, which means I need to see what I’ve agreed to write and when it is actually due. I know I have some tighter deadlines than perhaps I would prefer; but that’s the writer’s life and it certainly always has been mine; months with nothing really due for a really long time, then a flurry of requests and deadlines all within a ridiculously short period of time.

And I had wanted to start talking about #shedeservedit every day on here, but I am not sure I have anything to say about it today? Really, it could and should probably wait until the lead-up to the actual release date (1/12/22) but preorders are shipped early–as early as 1/1/22, in fact–and I’ve even gotten my author copies already. So, is it too early to start talking more about this book? My experiences in Kansas? Will people be heartily sick of me talking about it before the book is even released?

Tis a fine line one must walk when doing blatant self-promotion. Although my stand methodology of blog posts is no one else reads this besides you so write about what you want to write about.

It has always, after all, served me well.

And on that note, tis time to head into the spice mines and hope to not freeze to death. 😉 Have a lovely Christmas Eve Eve Eve, everyone!