Are You Ready for This?

Ugh, Valentine’s Day.

The epitome of what I call the “Hallmark holiday”–a holiday primarily invented to sell products and cards, all under the guise of love and romance–I’ve never really understood the point of this “holiday”, really; shouldn’t we be showing the people we love that we love them every day without the necessity of a “holiday” forcing us to do so? And if I can recall correctly, the actually story of St. Valentine is actually creepy and sad; more like a John Carpenter version of a holiday than what billions of dollars of advertising over the past six or seven decades have embedded into American culture. I know, I know–I’m a spoilsport and perhaps a touch too cynical about these sorts of things, but seriously.

I mean….

It’s a frigid forty degrees in New Orleans today, with a deep freeze in the forecast for tomorrow night and the possibility of snow on Fat Tuesday. Ironically, the cancellation of the parades and the partying ban/restrictions in the French Quarter–which essentially cancelled Carnival’s bacchanal–while being an enormous economic blow to the city for this year, may have saved us of next year. Cold weather Carnivals are inevitably miserable and not as fun; and the following years see a dip in numbers and attendance before it starts building back up again. Not having hordes descend upon us for what may be record-setting cold for Carnival may be a blessing in disguise. It’s certainly too cold to go stand around on the corner for hours today for the four parades that would be rolling–but I am missing my corn dogs and mango daiquiris and funnel cakes this year. I have tights on this morning beneath my sweatpants, and may end up putting on a T-shirt underneath my sweatshirt. I have a stocking cap on, fingerless gloves, and the space heater is going on full blast. The sun is hiding behind cloud cover so it seems gray out there…I am dreading the inevitable rain that will come as well. But I intend to spend most of my day in my easy chair (huzzah for laptop computers!) under a blanket while music plays–I am going to be a Festival widow again today–and work on my book some more. I managed four chapters yesterday; don’t be impressed, as they were flashback chapters so the tenses isn’t need to be shifted, but I also saw places that need actual revisions, and made note of them for the big final push. I am hoping to actually get through this entire manuscript by Ash Wednesday, and then next weekend I’ll be able to start inputting the serious changes it needs, as well as some additions. There also needs to be one more, final chapter written. This will clock the book in at about a hundred thousand words, twenty-two chapters, and of course the inserts between each chapter I also need to write. I do think I should be able to get all of this finished by March 1 deadline; we’ll have to see. I am trying not to get into the mindset of well, I don’t have another deadline right behind this one, so I can be late without damaging the writing schedule for the year too badly–which is a thing for me, really; it’s never ceased to amaze me how easily I can talk myself out of doing the work.

Last night after Paul got home we watched the Australian Open; particularly the Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams matches, which were both quite entertaining and saw some amazing tennis being played, particularly Serena’s match. I spent most of the day working around the house. I ran errands early (mail, returned a library book, made groceries) and then came home and cleaned through the cold. Finally around two o’clock I adjourned to the easy chair and started revising and rewriting, and making notes. I also rewatched a beefcake movie about teenaged male witches called The Covenant, which objectifies its beautiful young male stars–their characters are conveniently on the swim team, so there are plenty of scenes in the water and in the locker room–and starred Chace Crawford, Sebastian Stan, Taylor Kitsch and Toby Hemingway in their youthful beauty; but the lead was played by Steven Strait, who was gorgeous and is now starring in The Expanse. It’s not a great movie by any means–a trifle, an entertainment–but the young beefcake was quite lovely to look at. Is there a term for young beefcake? There should be.

I also reread an old kids’ series book that I greatly enjoyed as a child; The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot, which is a Three Investigators mystery and going to get–as it deserves–its own entry. When I was a kid, I loved the kids’ series books, collected them (continuing to do so as an adult because I am a completist and if I have any of the series I must have ALL of the series), and often reread favorites multiple times. I always used books as a child to escape from the reality of my world, in which I was an outsider and strange and may as well have been from another planet or dimension. Books were my source of comfort–I could always escape whatever was going on by slipping into a book. I have reread The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot any number of times–but this is the first time I’ve gone back to it in years. I am considering writing middle grade mysteries–not because I think I will get rich and famous that way (which I have long since learned in this business is a fool’s fantasy) but rather because I have always wanted to, and want to see if I can actually pull it off. I came up with the concept for a kids’ mystery series when I was a kid, patterned if not plagiarized from the ones I was reading, and believe it or not, I still have the list of titles and synopses of some of the books I’d intended to write in the series. Why not give it a shot? As the clock slowly runs out on my life–like sands through the hourglass–I am becoming very aware of how limited the time I have left in which I want to write everything I want to write (with new ideas popping up all over the place, all of the time) and so I am beginning to need to focus to get the ones that truly matter to me finished.

And yes, I am fully aware how morbid that sounds.

But it’s also reality. I suppose examining one’s mortality as the sixtieth birthday looms (seven months) is a cliché; sue me. I’ve never really thought about my age a whole lot before–other than being pleased that I don’t look my age–but I do find myself in quiet moments thinking about the past and wondering how much time I have left and when am I going to find the time to write everything I want to get written before Papa Legba comes to claim my soul. (Also, only this week did I learn how to make special characters on my computer…)

And on that note, I need to make another cup of coffee and do some things around here before settling in for today’s manuscript work. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader; I hope to get my blog entry on The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot finished today as well.

Ruined in a Day

Here we are on Wednesday. It’s going to be 76 degrees in New Orleans today–allegedly–but it’s cool in the apartment at the moment. (I think the air might be on? Paul turned it on last night when he got home from work I believe–but it was late and I was about to go to bed so I don’t really recall for certain) I could have easily slept later this morning, but I am awake and am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. (And how sad that eight is sleeping in now? Granted, for years I got up at seven every morning, but those days are far in the past–those were also the days when I could go to bed, fall into a deep sleep, and wake up completely refreshed at seven every morning…I rather miss those days.

I did manage to somehow get quite a bit done yesterday–which was lovely–but as always there’s another mountain of things to get done today, which is not only fine but rather livable. I went to the gym last night, and was correct in my prediction–I wound up skipping a couple of exercises as it started to get more full the longer I was there, and I figured a lighter, lesser workout is better than no workout at all–but these next two are going to have to be a lot more intense and I have to do the full thing. It does feel good to have the muscle exhaustion–the muscles are still a bit tired this morning–and I was very pleased when I got home and was able to relax with my protein shake. I was a bit too fried to do much of anything other than social media scrolling and Youtube history videos–none of which I can remember this morning, so I clearly wasn’t paying nearly enough attention–but it was a nice relaxing evening at home which I rather enjoyed. After work today, I am working at home for the next two days and then have a lovely four day weekend; I took off Lundi Gras, and of course Mardi Gras is a paid holiday. I hope to make significant progress on the book over that four-day weekend–wish me luck–and I am also hoping to get some serious cleaning done around the Lost Apartment.

I also keep forgetting Valentine’s Day is this Sunday. I think the last few years I was sharing safer sex messaging as well as information about STI’s (It’s VD, after all) which earned some laughter from some and annoyed others so I am not sure that I will be doing that again this year, but it did make me laugh when I did it before. Valentine’s is one of those holidays that I consider to be commercial; the entire point of the day is to get people to spend money on cards, candy, gifts, dinner, wine and so forth. And like other, similar holidays, I’ve never really gotten the point. Then again, I am this weird combination of highly sentimental and completely unsentimental–movies and TV shows can make me cry (and sometimes books, too); yet things in my day-to-day life that move other people to tears inevitably leave me cold. Go figure. Paul will inevitably get me a card and some candy and maybe some little, inexpensive thoughtful gift; I inevitably forget and get him nothing…which kind of sums up our relationship in a nutshell, methinks.

Heartless. That’s me.

I’ve learned to live with it.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Y’all have a great Wednesday, ya hear?

Emotional Rescue

So, I managed to fill the plot hole yesterday, and while I am not entirely certain I did it correctly–i.e., there will be no further reverberations from it later on in the manuscript–I did get it done, and I made a note to watch for said reverberations later one. One highly amusing thing that did come up as I reworked the chapter–it just goes to show how, if you don’t write the chapter all in one sitting, you can make a mistake–I had a character wearing a red wrap dress in the beginning of the scene, and then later on Scotty talks about her tight black T-shirt and her black skinny jeans. Um, which is it? (I went with the wrap dress–because one can never go wrong with a wrap dress.)

I had to go into the office early this morning. I had a doctor’s appointment the other day in the middle of my long Tuesday, so I lost three hours I had to make up this morning. It wasn’t horrible–I’m getting used to getting up early, which is sort of terrifying and sort of not. The last few Fridays I’ve gone in and gotten my half-day over by one, and then run my errands and so forth, and that has been absolutely lovely. I made groceries today after work, and now I’m home. I’m going to finish the laundry and the dishes, hopefully before Paul gets home. We’re getting take-out for Valentine’s Day for dinner, which is quite lovely, and I am hoping to be able to relax and just do some reading tonight.

I should also work on the revision some before Paul comes home….or I could just wait and do it tomorrow afternoon…yes, laziness can sometimes be an issue.

But it’s been a good day, and I think I am going to just call it an evening.

Did I mention I’ve decided to read Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long next? I know, I’d said I was going to read Caleb Roehrig’s White Rabbit, but…them’s the breaks, and if I can get it read this weekend I can read Caleb’s book next week.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.

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The Heat Is On

Ash Wednesday, and Valentine’s Day, to boot.

Another Carnival is in the books, and a good time was had by all. We didn’t do as much parading as we usually do; me being in Alabama for the first weekend had a lot to do with that, and I was a lot more tired, physically, than I usually am during parade season. I suspect I am getting to that sad place in life where I am too old to handle the walk to and from the office all of those days in a row. I am, however, going to continue with my new workout routine and hopefully that will make a difference the next time Carnival rolls around.

Fingers crossed, at any rate.

Today an anthology I contributed a story to drops; The Trouble with Cupid. I was very happy and thrilled to be asked to contribute a story–I always am thrilled and happy when I’m asked to contribute to anything, frankly–but therein lay a conundrum for me: what would I write about? I still struggle to write crime short stories, and this call was for romantic suspense, or some combination of romance and crime, possibly; and I was frankly absolutely clueless what to write or how to go about writing something.

So, I decided instead to write a sequel to my story “Everyone Says I’ll Forget In Time,” which I wrote a long time for the Fool for Love anthology, edited by R. D. Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert. In that story, Terry, my main character, was still coming to terms with the death of his partner; his best friends have decided it’s time for him to move on and set him up with a sort-of-blind-date thing; and the blind date turns out to be a guy he had a crush on before; that he met when he and his partner had briefly separated during a rough patch. I’d always wanted to do a sequel to the story, and even had the title picked out: “Passin’ Time,” which is a phrase we here in New Orleans use to describe waiting when you have no other choice; it’s most frequently used to talk about waiting for a parade during Carnival; what we do on the street while waiting for a parade to show up is passin’ time.

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I OPENED THE front door and Trouble wasn’t there.

The food bowl I’d set out for him was empty. The water bowl was upside down next to the cement step. He had a habit of doing that, I’d noticed. I wasn’t sure why, but it was just one of his quirks. I picked it up and walked it over to the sink and refilled it. I set it down and sat down on the step, looking around. This was the first morning since he’d shown up that he wasn’t out there, waiting for me with his eager eyes and twitching black tail.

And it made me sad.

You need a pet of your own, I said to myself, looking up at the blue sky. It was a gorgeous morning, not even ten yet, and already warm. The ladies of Iris and the gentlemen of Tucks had lucked out this fine Saturday before Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday was early this year, so I’d worried my favorite parade day might be cold—or worse, rainy. There had been a downpour on Iris Saturday a few years earlier, but the parades still rolled—the floats speeding past at breakneck speed, the marching bands and dance groups sitting out the parades—and I’d stood out there, soaked through and having the best time, even if my glasses were covered with beads of water and it was also cold out there. It had taken me a while to warm up again after that, curled up on my loveseat under woolen blankets and drinking hot chocolate spiked with peppermint Schnapps while I watched Endymion roll through mid-city on television.

Endymion.

I hadn’t been to Endymion since Paul died.

Trouble is a crime-solving black cat, I should probably add; Carolyn Haines has gathered an extraordinary group of writers together to write a series of books about Trouble; I hung out with the Mad Catters in Alabama at Murder in the Magic City and Murder on the Menu, and even agreed to try my hand at writing a Trouble book, when I have the time. Every story in the anthology had to include Trouble (hence the title The Trouble with Cupid), and all proceeds from the book are going to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary; if you know Carolyn, you also know she’s all about helping the animals, and I can certainly get behind that–given that we have somehow wound up with five outdoor cats and one indoor rescue.

I hope you’ll check out the anthology, Constant Reader, and I also hope you like my story.