Shame of the Nation

There are few pricklier subjects in urban areas than the concept of gentrification.

It’s happening in New Orleans now–has been, really, ever since we moved here, but it seems to have truly accelerated in the sixteen (!) years since Hurricane Katrina. You see it everywhere–the condos for sale for outrageous prices in targeted Facebook ads; the insanely high rents in targeted Facebook ads; the insane asking prices for houses up for sale, again in targeted Facebook ads. I also get email alerts and notifications from a few local realtors; I had to sign up for their mailing lists in order to view the interior of houses and condos and apartments (this began because a house in the Garden District I’d always wanted to see the inside of was up for sale and I went to the realtors’ website to see the interior; I’d been thinking about setting a book–a ghost story–inside that house so I wanted to see the layout and interior design) and I am amazed, on an almost daily basis, on what condos, houses and apartments are going for these days in a city not known for having the economic base to support such high monthly payments.

When Paul and I first moved here, the friends we had who already lived here told us that crime was an issue in the city, but it really didn’t matter where you lived–it was that omnipresent and inescapable. We rented an apartment on Camp Street–mainly because it was gorgeous, had gated secure off-street parking, and there was a park across the street. Our rent was, I think, $600 for almost 1200 square feet, enormous windows, hardwood floors, high ceilings and enormous windows. Our apartment had both a front door (which opened onto the front porch) and a back door that led out to the parking area; there was also a coin-operated laundry (two of each) in a shed in the back of the building. What we didn’t know was that the house next door housed a drug dealer; that the lights in Coliseum Square had been shot out and never replaced, and it was a late night place for people to hang out and do drugs–we could look out into the parking lot and see the pipes being lit out there in the park. The park was surrounded by big, beautiful decaying houses; the former on-ramp to the highway was still out in the neutral ground on the next block downriver on the neutral ground between Camp and Coliseum streets; I always called it “the on-ramp to nowhere” because it literally still went up for about a block and then….nothing. The Coliseum Theater–best known for being the movie theater Brad Pitt playing Louis in Interview with the Vampire exited after seeing Tequila Sunrise (at the time the film was shot it was still a functioning on-ramp)–was still there; closed, but still there. (It would burn to the ground a few years later in what I am absolutely certain was an insurance fire.) But within that first year after we moved there, two of the big houses on the other side of the park were sold and the renovations started. Utne Reader declared the Lower Garden District as the “coolest neighborhood in the country”, and the gentrification began. Houses were sold and became construction sites. Rents started going up. The St. Thomas Projects, a few blocks away, were closed and the residents relocated; new businesses began opening on Magazine, and suddenly…gradually…it was no longer the same neighborhood that it once was.

And the city has dramatically shifted since Katrina, of course.

I actually go back and forth about the gentrification thing in New Orleans, to be honest. I hate that a city that once had a high percentage of African-American home ownership and inheritance is seeing those numbers go down, and once vibrant historically Black neighborhoods–which birthed so much of what makes New Orleans so special–on the decline. I’ve wanted to write something about gentrification for quite some time….and then here comes Alyssa Cole with an absolutely superb take on it, creating a new subgenre that I am calling gentrification noir.

History is fucking wild.

Last fall, on a night when my ass was getting well acquainted with the uncomfortable guest chair in Mommy’s hospital room, I’d numbly tapped and swiped my way to an article about a place called Black America. Not the label politicians use to place our concerns into a neat box full of worries they don’t have to attend to immediately or ever, but an actual, tangible place–a slavery theme park that’d opened in Brooklyn at the end of the nineteenth century.

Slavery. Fucking. Theme park.

Black America, the theme park, was billed as “an opportunity to become familiar with plantation life for those of the North who belong to a general to which the word slavery has but an indefinite and hazy meaning.” This was, like, twenty years after slavery ended, mind you. I mean, I too get nostalgic when an eighties ham starts playing on the radio, but these motherfuckers really needed to reminisce about owning humans?

Alyssa Cole has written in several different genres, including both romance and science fiction, but this–what think may be her first thriller?–is an exceptional and extraordinary work written by a master novelist. Her two point of view characters–a Black woman named Sydney who lives in her mother’s house in a Brooklyn neighborhood being taken over by gentrifying racists (there’s no other way to describe them) and is also researching the history of the neighborhood for a walking tour she plans to do, and a white Johnny-come-lately to the neighborhood named Theo, trapped in a dying relationship after going in on a house with a wealthy white girl named Kim who now not only wants him out but plans to screw him out of the money he put into the house–both have deeply distinct voices that clearly delineate them as individuals, both of whom are more than slightly unreliable and have secrets of their own, and are two new and original voices to this reader in any case. But something awful is going on in this neighborhood–people are disappearing, houses are changing ownership overnight, and Sydney is beginning to wonder, as she bonds with unemployed Theo as he helps her with research for the tour, if maybe she isn’t being paranoid because what her mind is piecing together based on what she has seen and what she has researched…but sometimes paranoia is your sub-conscience warning you.

And it’s not like primarily Black neighborhoods haven’t been cleared out so white people could come in and make money before.

Claiborne Avenue here in New Orleans used to be a prime Black business district…until the powers-that-be decided to build the elevated I-10 highway over it, destroyed the district and Claiborne’s viability as a business district. There’s certainly a book in that story, for sure.

I cannot recommend this book nearly enough. The characters, despite their secrets and flaws, are highly likable, so you can identify with them and root for them. The suspense and tension builds–I could not put this down once I got past page 100–and I am going to be looking for more of Alyssa Cole’s work.

LOVED it.

As It Is When It Was

And another Monday has rolled around and here I am yet again awake before the sunrise and trying to get it together for yet another work week.

I got some terrific work done on the book yesterday, which quite naturally was most pleasing to me. I made it through the intro pieces and the first two chapters, which were very messy–I was, frankly, a little taken aback by just how sloppily written those two chapters were. Especially since they were around the seventh or so drafts of those chapters–I have been working on this book, off and on, since the summer of 2015–but I never really had quite grasped how to write the book in any of those earlier drafts, nor did I know what the plot and story were missing; which I do now. I got up rather early yesterday, feeling refreshed and well-rested (which was quite lovely) and spent the morning cleaning the kitchen and doing some more organizing. I also spent some time in the morning getting further into Alyssa Cole’s marvelous Edgar finalist, When No One Is Watching, which I went back to and finished after getting my own work done. I absolutely loved this book, and it will definitely be getting its own entry at some point. I cannot recommend it enough Anyway, around finishing reading this book I managed to get a couple of chapters revised and rewritten, and hope to get a few more done this evening after work. The deadline looms, of course–and now I am going to have to buckle down and focus for the month of February in order to get it finished. I also worked a little bit on my short story “The Sound of Snow Falling”– also handwriting the story in my journal rather than typing on the computer. I think it’s going to be a good story; here’s hoping at any rate.

We also got caught up on the The Stand last night–we were two weeks behind, and somehow one or both of us always manages to forget we are watching it–and…I am enjoying it, and it is telling the story Stephen King wrote forty years ago, and I do admire the changes in how the story is being told…but I am also emotionally resistant to those changes at the same time, simply because I am so devoted to the book. The original mini-series from the early 1990’s followed the book’s narrative pretty closely; this new version chose to skip over a lot of the end of the world and everyone’s journey to Boulder. I do think that cutting all that backstory was perhaps a mistake; without it, we don’t really understand why everyone is so devoted to Mother Abagail, or the relationship between Larry and Harold, which I also thought was an integral key to the story. So I am enjoying it at the same time I am a little disappointed by it? I am not dismissing it straight out of hand, like some King purists, but I am not overly thrilled by the choices they are making as show-runners and writers. But it’s different, and whether that difference is good or bad remains to be seen. I suspect there is only one episode left, perhaps two–I will be curious to see how it all ends and what differences there are between the original story and the finished product of this adaptation.

It’s cold this morning in New Orleans, and even with the sun rising in the east over the West Bank (that will never cease to amuse me, really) it’s very cold and gray looking outside. I can see one of the few remaining trees next door moving in the wind, and the sky is covered with a layer of gray-looking clouds. It’s less than fifty degrees out there right now, which is a bit chilly, and I would imagine, from the looks of the cloud cover, that it’s likely to rain for most of the day, or at least the morning. I have my space heater going–the warm air blowing against my sweat-panted legs feels quite lovely–and I am drinking my first cappuccino of two for the morning. I don’t feel tired this morning, but rather well-rested, which is nice…not to mention I only have about another week or so before my vaccine kicks into gear. My left shoulder is still a bit sore this morning–now it just feels like a bruise–so I am going to most likely sip the gym one more time and go tomorrow evening. (I’ll see how the shoulder feels tonight when I get home from the office, to be honest–but I also don’t want to get out of the routine again. I’ve been doing so well, and as I have noted, my boy’s shape and size is shifting, which is quite nice)

I also have a lot of work to get done this week. Oh, so much work to get done this week! But there’s naught to do but to get it done–it’s not going away, and the longer before I get to it, the harder it will be to go ahead and do it.

And on that note, as the gray light becomes steadily a little gray outside my windows (but remains, nevertheless, gray) I am going to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader–and if you’re in the path of the massive blizzard up north, stay inside and stay warm and safe!

Every Little Counts

Sunday funday, and how are you, Constant Reader?

Yesterday was lovely because the fatigue was gone, which was so lovely you really have no idea, Constant Reader. My arm was still sore so I didn’t go to the gym (going today), but feeling alert and not being bone tired exhausted, to the point that climbing the stairs to the second floor was an actual ordeal? It was actually quite marvelous. I got up in the morning and had my coffee, and then started working. I cleaned and organized the laundry room and the bookshelves in there; cleaned up the kitchen and did a shit ton of filing; reorganized even more books; put some things up in the storage space over the laundry room; and then started going through my old journals. There were a couple of reasons for this, actually–first off, to remove the sticky notes marking the pages where ideas and thoughts and so forth for Bury Me in Shadows had been scribbled, and secondly, to mark the places where I’d scribbled thoughts and notes for the Kansas book. Revisiting the journals is always an interesting experience for me, to be honest. It’s always interesting (at least to me) to see evidence of how my mind works and how I follow the path my creativity lays out for me, from step to step to step. It was fun seeing how I worked out issues with Bury Me in Shadows–Royal Street Reveillon as well, since the journals bridged the last few years and the course of writing several books and numerous short stories. It was fun seeing the notes I took while watching a movie for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, or on books I was reading. And the short story ideas! During the filing, I came across numerous folders for short stories I couldn’t remember anything about; yet there was the genesis for many of them, in my big looping scrawl on the pages of my journal (and yes, the original, older posts called it Bury Me in Satin still). I was also pleased to see some valuable notes and insights into the Kansas book, the characters, and the plot.

I really should revisit my journals with a greater degree of regularity.

I also spent some time with Alyssa Cole’s marvelous When No One Is Watching–although I have to confess I made an enormous mistake in assumption that made me go back and recheck something from earlier. It was actually rather funny, but I will not humiliate myself further by telling you exactly what that mistaken assumption was–I have some pride; not much, but some. But it’s really a terrific book, and I am savoring it slowly, to make it last. (I am probably going to spend some more time with it this morning.)

Overall, I am very pleased with myself for all the work I got one yesterday; I am ready to start diving into the book. I went through the entire thing yesterday, catching a lot of things that will either need to be deleted and reworked,–there’s a lot to be added as well–and also made a cast list, to determine what names need to be changed and so forth. This was productive and am very glad that I did it to be completely honest. I feel like I know my characters and my story and my setting again, which is great, and I also worked for a while on a short story last night–“The Sound of Snow Falling”–which, of course, isn’t one of the stories I am considering sending out for submission anywhere, but for some reason the story was in my head last night and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I started scribbling in my journal.

We started watching season two of Servant last night, which is extraordinary. It’s very weird, very creepy, and the acting is so fucking stellar it’s hard to believe the show hasn’t caught more buzz. Lauren Ambrose is killing it, as is Rupert Grint in as huge a departure from Ron Weasley as you can get. It’s about tragedy, handling tragedy, and dealing with the fallout from a horrific tragedy. No one on the show is truly mentally well-balanced, and they are making all kinds of really bad decisions…but I can’t wait to see where it goes, because I have no clue where it’s going or what’s going to happen. We also finished off season two of Bonding, which wasn’t nearly as much fun or as witty as the first season, but it looks like season two is going to be the end of it. It’s an interesting look into the world of Dom/subs, though; particularly when it comes to consent. I do recommend it, despite the second season not being as interesting and well done as the first. But definitely check out Servant–it’s worth it for the performances alone.

My arm still is a bit sore this morning, so I am going to skip the gym again today; perhaps I will try to go tomorrow night after work, or will wait til Tuesday; not really sure and will probably play it by ear. But I slept very well again last night–even slept in a bit this morning–so at least my sleep is back under control for now. It really does make an enormous difference in my energy levels and in getting things done. The area around my desk still looks pretty messy and sloppy and cluttered, so I am going to work on that for a bit this morning as well.

Recently there was one of those things on Twitter–the kind that gets people a bit up in arms. Some author of whom I had never heard before tweeted something along the lines of “harsh truths”, claiming that for writers, other writers are not our friends but rather our competition, which made me rear back from my computer screen (it may have been my phone’s screen, I don’t honestly remember)…but my initial reaction was that is really way off base followed by what other writers do you know, dude to finally feeling kind of bad for the guy if that was his experience. Sure, writing can be considered a competitive thing; agents can only have so many clients, publishers so many slots for books, award nominations are limited, and so are reviews–no reviewer, after all, can cover every book published even under the best of circumstances–so yes, that is sort of true in a very very base, simplistic way of looking at the publishing industry. I have long made the point that writers should always be supportive of other writers, and that any success enjoyed by any writer is generally a win for all writers. How can that be, you may well ask, Constant Reader, so let me explain it a little further.

People love to take swipes at writers who have become so successful they actually are brands–James Patterson is a really good example of this–but the truth about Mr, Patterson is this: he gives back in many ways to the community. He has grants to support bookstores. He hires co-writers to do books with him and pays them extremely well–which also leads his vast legions of readers to check out that author’s solo works, and moves copies of those as well. His enormous success also gives his publisher a cushion to work with authors whose works might not be as hugely successful as Patterson’s, and this gives them a safety net–“this book is really creative and interesting and deserves to be published even though it might not have a big market, but we’re going to make a shit ton of money from this Patterson book in the same catalogue so we can take that risk.” This is one of the many reasons I never trash other writers here or on panels; no matter whether I enjoy their work or not, I have to respect the effort that went into creating the book (which is never easy, no matter what anyone may think).

I do, however, reserve the right to be snarky about the Twilight series.

But one of the things I’ve loved most about being a writer is that most writers are terrific people and a lot of fun to spend time with. I have a lot of friends who are also writers, but I don’t see any of them as “competition”, which is absurd on its face. How can I possible consider Harlan Coben or Laura Lippman or Michael Connelly as competition? Megan Abbott? Jeff Abbott? Michael Nava? We have completely different writing styles, we don’t write about the same characters, we don’t write the same stories. Sure we are all crime writers, but the notion of any of those people, all of whom I admire greatly, being competitors? If that is truly the case, I would have to give up. Period. I also don’t resent the success of other writers, either–I think any writer achieving success is a win for all writers, because it’s rare and hard to do. I personally love seeing an author break out–particularly if it’s someone who has been slogging along for a while with some small success. Sure, I would much prefer that I be the one to have that success, but that author’s success wouldn’t have been mine had they not come along with whatever book it was that broke them out..and resenting someone else’s success has always felt like bad energy to put into the universe to me.

The original tweet blew up, of course, and was eventually deleted due to backlash–I don’t think that was the kind of success the guy had in mind when he tweeted it–but one of the reasons I enjoy going to conferences so much isn’t speaking on panels or doing signings or readings…sure, I enjoy interacting with readers who’ve enjoyed my books or want to check them out, but for me, it’s about hanging around other writers…we inevitably have a great time, and it’s fun to be around other people who love books and writing and–no matter what their level of success may be–understand exactly how hard the process of writing and creating actually is for everyone who does it. And it is hard…but would it be worth doing if it wasn’t a challenge?

And on that note, tis back to Alyssa Cole and then the spice mines.

Morning Night and Day

Inoculation Day, Part II.

I am glad to be getting it, don’t get me wrong, but reports of reactions to the second shot–feeling flu-like symptoms, light fever, and chills–has me a bit concerned. However I am planning on taking a personal day tomorrow anyway, so I can get caught up on personal things. I also am picking up my new air fryer at the post office today; I am very excited. I’ve never had an air fryer before, and am really interested to see how it works (after the last attempt at deep frying things resulted in a grease fire, I am loathe to try that again); I’ll make nuggets in it tonight and will let you know how that went, okay?

The first morning of the week when I don’t have to get up at six is always a lovely morning. I feel more rested than I have all week, which feels great, and am hopeful that the end result of the inoculation won’t be me feeling sick for a day or two. I started to say I dislike being sick, but then realized it’s kind of a stupid thing to say because who likes being sick? No one, that’s who. Alas, last evening Paul was was still working, so as I relaxed alone in the living room, I rewatched some episodes of Schitt’s Creek and Ted Lasso that I enjoyed. It was lovely, really; both shows really hit the same chords in some ways despite being so vastly different; in the first, it’s the charm and kindness of the town that fixes the broken Rose family and helps them develop into the best version of themselves; whereas in the latter it’s Ted himself who fixes the broken culture at the Richmond soccer team by helping everyone there become the best version of themselves. Seriously–if you’ve not watched either show, you need to.

I am hoping to spend some time this evening after work with Alyssa Cole’s When No One is Watching; if I do get sick from today’s shot, I can curl up in my easy chair under some blankets and read, if nothing else, right? I think the next book on deck will be a reread of Jacqueline Susann’s The Love Machine, which I read once (back when I was making my way through the Susann ouevre) and never again; it never really connected with me the way Valley of the Dolls did, but I kind of want to give it another read. A friend posted an excerpt from it on Twitter a few weeks ago (recently, at any rate) and seeing that made me giggle a bit; the excerpt was funny, and evidence that the so-called “love machine” of the title, a television executive named Robin Stone, was actually lousy in bed. I didn’t care much for the book at the time I read it–there was something very strange about its structure that didn’t sit right with me when I was a teenager; I do remember what that was but I don’t want to think about it too much before I get into the reread–just as I didn’t care much for Once Is Not Enough, reading each book only once and never revisiting (unlike Valley of the Dolls, which I revisit periodically) and am curious if my original perceptions of those two books will still hold accurate the second time around.

It’s cold in New Orleans this morning–forty-four degrees, which was a precipitous drop from yesterday’s low seventies/high sixties and rainy (on the way home from work yesterday I had to turn the air on in the car). But it’s a lovely bright day–the sun has blessedly finally moved so that it is blocked by the house next door so it’s no longer shining directly into my face (I am going to need to get curtains for my windows, which I really hate; fucking neighbor cutting down the damned trees!)–and I do feel rested this morning, which is absolutely lovely. I have a long day of data entry to stare down; as well as the trip into the office for the shot. I have some things–odds and ends–to also do in the office once I get there; filing and so forth, so I’ll be there for an hour or so as well.

Pretty exciting life I am leading here, huh?

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

Hypnosis

Tuesday after the Edgar nominations were released–which is always one of my favorite days of the year. I love seeing how excited everyone–especially those who make the short-lists–always is. It’s also three weeks until Mardi Gras; which is going to be weird and kind of sad. It’s a bit of a shame, since last year’s was so cursed with bad energy almost from the very beginning. I’m glad I don’t have to plan my life around the parade schedule this year–that is quite nice–but it’s still kind of sad.

Insomnia returned last night, and this morning I am already feeling tired and worn out. The cappuccino is waking me up, but I feel very tired and drained and my eyes are all messed up; burning and watering from lack of sleep. It is most unpleasant, actually, particularly since I was planning on going to the gym after work tonight. I have a sneaking suspicion that may not happen; we’ll have to see how I feel when I get off work today and get home. Although I will say the shower really helped, and I think the caffeine is starting to take effect in my system as well. I have about a gazillion emails to answer today–yikes–and I really need to start working on the book at some point now that time is running out on the deadline.

Nothing like a deadline to kick your ass into gear.

We finished watching Flack last night and it is truly amazing. Anna Paquin is riveting as a spin doctor, who has an almost frightening ability to rationalize anything and excuse everything and come up with some absolutely insane ideas to protect her clients’ careers and reputations–with little to no care about how it impacts other people or the others in her clients’ lives. The primary problem is she has adapted what works for her in her day job into her private life–spinning merrily away and damaging her romantic relationship as well as those with the people she is close to–and most especially, her sister. It’s an exceptional performance–everyone in the cast is excellent, and all the roles are well written. But it’s Sophie Okenodo as the woman who runs the firm that steals the show–her ruthlessly ambitious executive has the best lines, and Okenodo plays it to the hilt. There’s a scene between her and a lowly intern in the season finale that alone should get Okenodo an Emmy; but since it’s on Prime who knows? Tonight we are starting the second season of Servant, M. Night Shyamalan’s fever dream of a nightmare series for Apple Plus; Lauren Ambrose is amazing–again, the entire cast is great–and it’s very cleverly written and creepy as all get out. I hope the second season is as good as the first.

I also am looking forward to reading more of Alyssa Cole’s When No One is Watching–which is an Edgar finalist for Best Paperback Original. I can certainly see why; the first few chapters I’ve read already are extremely well-written with a strong voice for the main character. There are a lot of terrific books on the Edgar shortlists; more books I may never get around to reading, alas.

Ah, I see what kind of day this is going to be–ebb and flow with energy. I just had a bit of a low, but now I am wired again. So bizarre, really. But I am just going to have to power through the low energy cognitive function and see what I can do about getting everything caught up. It would be amazing to get caught up on a day when I am not functioning at anything remotely close to 100%, wouldn’t it? But I keep looking at my emails and not having the energy or courage to even open one to read, let alone answer. But they won’t go away and the longer I go without answering some of these the worse off I will be in the long run, and let’s not forget–more will just keep coming in, like Sisyphus pushing the boulder.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I did notice yesterday that my body is changing–the regular working out is reshaping my body again, and while I doubt I am ever going to fit into size 29 pants again (I doubt i will ever go lower than 31, and even that would be miracle) it is nice to see that the workouts I am doing are having an effect–even if I think most of the time that my workouts are pretty wimpy; I have a really good base of muscle underneath the layers of fat, and even the little bit of exercise I am doing is having an effect. My posture is improving and my chest/shoulders/upper back are looking nice and bigger, which is having the desired effect of making my waist look smaller. I was in the bathroom yesterday washing my hands and happened to glance up into the mirror and was like, hey, when did that change occur? It was a most pleasant surprise, and I was quite delighted to see it. Probably at the end of February I am going to change from a full-body workout to a targeted body part program; it will mean the return of the much-loathed Leg Day, but that’s the most effective kind of program…I am hoping my body can handle it by the beginning of March.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Blue Monday

And Monday again; the work week is reborn and refreshed and ready to go again. Whether one Gregalicious can say the same about himself remains to be seen, but it is early yet and this is still my first cup of coffee, so the rest remains fairly unclear. I have high hopes for today and this week; I am hoping that I will have the energy, drive and will to finally get caught up on everything.

Then again, this week could also bitch-slap me back into place at any particular moment, so there’s that as well.

It turned out to be stunningly beautiful yesterday–mostly cloudy, but still managed to get up into the lower seventies. As I walked to and from the gym, I marveled at how lovely the weather was for late January…but stopped myself from the false hope the fake early spring we always seem to get in late January inevitably gives rise to; there’s always another cold front that seems to roll in, with rain and damp and cold winds, before March returns with the first hints of real spring. The workout was also nice; I always love that post-workout tired feeling, when your muscles are fatigued.

I also had a great morning reading yesterday. I read the opening chapter of Faulkner’s Sanctuary; three short stories (“Miss Bianca” by Sara Paretsky, originally published in MWA’s Ice Cold and reprinted in Paretsky’s own collection, Love and Other Crimes; “The Lady’s Maid’s Bell” by Edith Wharton, from The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton–also my first time reading Ms. Wharton; and “Mermaids on the Golf Course” by Patricia Highsmith, from The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith. The Paretsky was my favorite of the three, but I do feel there will inevitably be a blog post about older ghost stories vs. modern); and then dove headfirst into Alyssa Cole’s When No One is Watching, which is particularly quite marvelous, and a solid entry into a new subgenre I hope we’ll see more of–gentrification noir. I had thought about doing a Scotty book about New Orleans gentrification–Bywater Bohemia Bougie–and I still might–it’s an awesome title, after all, but I am not sure of what the actual story would be; an unscrupulous developer is kind of a no-brainer, wouldn’t you say, though?

We only have one episode left of Flack, and I must say we are really enjoying it. I hate to see it end, but season 2 of Apple Plus’ chilling Servant has also dropped, so we have something interesting and disturbing to move onto.

Yesterday was kind of lovely; I felt rested, did a lot of reading and cleaning, and eventually did some more brainstorming on the book, which I am almost ready to start revising. Always a plus.

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

Everything’s Gone Green

My memory has truly become amazingly awful and limited as I grow older. Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me just how bad it’s become–and how rarely I follow through on plans I make.

I started writing about Kansas when I was a teenager living in Kansas, and I wrote a long, messy manuscript by hand that was essentially a kind of Peyton Place tip-off, with tons of characters and plots and subplots that meandered about and never really had one cohesive central story. Over the years since that handwritten, almost a thousand page first draft was finished, I came to the realization that as a single novel itself I would need to cut out a minimum of fifty percent of the characters and even more of the subplots while tightening it into one cohesive story. The name of the town changed multiple times, as did the names of the some of the characters, while others remained the same from beginning to end. I had no idea at the time of how to write a novel, or how to structure one…but since it already existed, I began mining it for other novels and short stories, pilfering names and subplots and so forth (the murder story in Murder in the Garden District, and the Sheehan family in the book, were directly lifted from this old manuscript; I changed the family name from Craddock to Sheehan). My young adult novel, Sara, also had a lot of story lifted from this same old manuscript–even characters’ names–so when I started building this iteration of what I’ve taken to calling “the Kansas book” over the years, I knew it was possible I was repeating names from the old original, and at some point I would have to check Sara at some point to get the character names from it, to not repeat them. The Kansas book was also intended to be set in the same world as Sara–Sara being primarily set in the county and the small grouping of three small towns consolidated into one high school; with this book set in the county seat, the small city/large town I called Kahola. Kahola never really sat well with me for the town name; it’s perfectly fine for the name of the county as well as the lake (there actually is a Lake Kahola; it’s where we went when I lived there and “went to the lake”), so I decided to change it to Liberty Center (which I got from Philip Roth’s When She Was Good, so it’s also an homage) and Sara geography be damned. So, yesterday while the Saints played terribly and ended their season (and possibly Drew Brees’ career), I was scanning though the ebook of Sara and pulling out character names–even minor ones– as well as place names and so forth.

I am very pleased to report that there is only one character name that traveled from the original manuscript to Sara and finally into this new iteration of the Kansas book, and obviously that needs to be changed. I am not willing to change the name of the county seat back to Kahola; it never really seemed to fit, and Liberty Center works much better on every level, but I can change the name of the character in #shedeservedit to avoid confusion…not that there would be much, since Sara is my lowest selling book for some reason I certainly don’t get, but it would unsettle me, so it cannot be. As I was pulling names out of the ebook, and place names and places of interest, I also began remembering other things.

I had originally intended for all of my young adult novels to be connected in some way, kind of how R. L. Stine had done his Fear Street series, where all of the books take place in the same town and high school, and a minor character in one would become the hero of another. I was reminded of this because Laura Pryce is mentioned by name in Sara; she was the protagonist of Sorceress, and she was from the same rural part of Kahola County and went to the same consolidated high school. Sorceress tells the story of how Laura goes to live with her aunt in a huge house outside the California mountain town of Woodbridge; Woodbridge is also the setting for Sleeping Angel, and characters overlapped from Sorceress to Sleeping Angel. The Chicago suburb in Sara where Glenn is from is the same suburb that the main character in Lake Thirteen was from; it is the same suburb where Jake’s father, stepmother, and half-siblings live in Bury Me in Shadows; and of course, this latter is set in Corinth County, Alabama–which is where my main character in Dark Tide was also from. As I was picking out the character and place names from Sara, I was also reminded of other books I’d wanted to write, and I had introduced some of these characters in this book intending to revisit them again at another time in another book or story–books and stories I have since forgotten about completely, and yet there are the characters, crying out to me from my Kindle app for me to write about them.

Having triggered my brain into the creative mode yesterday by doing this chore during the Saints game (I started during the men’s finals at the US Figure Skating Championships; congratulations to our world team o Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou, and Jason Brown) I also began remembering other things I was working on–like “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and “To Sacrifice a Pawn,” two stories I started for a submissions call I didn’t manage to make; or some of my pandemic story ideas (inspired by the pandemic or during it) like “The Flagellants”, “The Arrow in the Cardinal’s Cap”, and “The Pestilence Maiden”; amongst so many, many others. This is why I despair of ever writing everything I want to write during the limited time I have on this earth; I could spend the rest of my life trying to write every story and novel idea I already have and would never be able to finish them all.–and I have new ideas, all of the time; it’s almost ridiculous.

I already know I am most likely going to revisit Corinth County in Alabama again–it’s basically where my already-in-progress novellas “Fireflies” and “A Holler Full of Kudzu” are set, amongst many other ideas for short stories, novellas, and novels. I will undoubtedly return to Liberty Center at some point as well; I have ideas for other Kansas books and stories, too; I’ve revisited Kahola County, Kansas in my short stories numerous times already as well. I’ve also got my own parish in Louisiana–Redemption Parish, which I wrote about in Murder in the Arts District, The Orion Mask, and some other short stories. I’ve also already invented a fictional town on the north shore–similar to Hammond–that showed up in Baton Rouge Bingo and will undoubtedly turn up again in my work, although perhaps not under my own name.

I spent some more time with Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and am thoroughly enjoying the ride. King’s authorial voice is so strong (and reminiscent of the late great Elizabeth Peters) that I cannot wait to read more of the Mary Russell series–it’s so different from her Kate Martinelli series, which I also love–and intend to spend some more time with it this morning with my coffee as well; I see a new tradition for non-working days developing; reading with my coffee in the mornings, which is simply wonderful. I recently acquired Alyssa Cole’s thriller When No One Is Watching, which I am also looking forward to, and I have added both Stephen King’s The Stand and Faulkner’s Sanctuary to the reread pile…and I’d also like to get back to the Short Story Project at some point….and of course there are all those ebooks piled up in my Kindle as well.

We also spent last evening after the Saints’ loss getting caught up on The Stand, which I am enjoying, although it’s made some choices I find questionable. I’m okay with everything having to do with the plague and the characters making their way to either Boulder or Las Vegas being done entirely in flashback, but the focus on the character of Harold Lauder–whom, while important to the story, was at best a supporting character in the novel and the original mini-series–is an interesting choice. They’ve certainly spent more time with him than they have with any of the people who were the novel’s protagonists–Stu, Larry, Glen, Frannie–so the focus of the mini-series seems a bit off to me….but props to them for casting the delightful Alexander Skarsgard as Flagg; his beauty and charisma–so evident as Eric on True Blood–playing perfectly into the role of the dark leader of the other side. Over all, the series is well done and well cast (Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abagail doesn’t quite work for me; in the book she was old and frail and Whoopi is many things but frail is not one of them; I’d have gone with Cicely Tyson or any of the other gifted Black actresses who are older now) and I am a bit more forgiving than most when it comes to adaptations, I think–especially since the key part of the word is adapt. (I saw some more Hardy Boys enthusiasts bitching about the Hulu series somewhere again yesterday; honestly–I really have to center a book and a mystery around a kids’ series’ overly enthusiastic fans) We still have the rest of the first season of Bridgerton to watch, and season two of Servant has dropped on Apple Plus–do NOT sleep on this creepy-as-fuck show; you will not regret it–and I am also anticipating the release of Apple Plus’ adaptation of Foundation, starring Jared Harris, and we’ve also got a second season of The Terror somewhere to watch, and the second season of Mr. Mercedes on Peacock as well…so we seem to be set for things to watch for a good while.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Today is going to be mostly spent reading Laurie King this morning, and then the rest of the day spent with my manuscript as I try to work out the kinks and figure out what else needs to go into it. Have a happy holiday Monday, and do try to remember Dr. King’s message of equality, unity, and freedom for all.