The Edge of Heaven

The end of the year is nigh.

I have a lot to do (of course, as always) over the next few days. I am already tired, just thinking about it, of course, but hey–such is life. I have to work late tonight again, and really should have made a grocery run this morning but I overslept, so there’s that. There is, of course, still time, if I get my act together and get moving, but right now that doesn’t sound particularly appealing. Heavy sigh.

But–probably better to get it done today than to try over the weekend. Nothing will be open on Sunday because of the holiday, and I can’t imagine that Saturday morning before out lunch at Commander’s Palace would be any better. Possible to do, but still most likely a madhouse.

Although Monday is a paid holiday for me, and apparently Costco will be open. Hmmmm. If I can do the grocery store this morning, and Costco on Monday…

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men.

Anyway, I feel confident I can get the errands run I need to this weekend around writing and football games….although to be honest, I don’t really care about the bowl games other than LSU’s this year; I may watch some to kill some time or while reading, but other than that–meh.

I am going to read George Pelaconos’ The Way Home next, and then I am going to start trying to get caught up on series I have fallen behind on–I’m looking at you, Ranger series by Ace Atkins, in particular–and of course, January’s goal is to read and write about a short story every day, so I am gathering my short story collections and anthologies close. I don’t want to write about a story I’ve already read and written about (alas, “Don’t Look Now” by Daphne du Maurier will have to be excluded from this as I’ve talked about it ad nauseum; but a reread of “A Rose for Emily” is definitely in order), so the idea is to read stories that are new to me, and then write about them.

And now, I need to get ready for work and mine some spice.

Here’s today’s hunk:

When I See You Again

Christmas was a lovely day, relaxing and everything. I got some work done in the early afternoon, and then retired to the reclining chair to watch television. We started watching a couple of movies but tired of them quickly, but we did watch Spotlight, which we enjoyed, and got caught up on a couple of TV shows we watch as well. I started reading Dennis Lehane’s Edgar Award winning Live by Night, which I was reminded of last night when seeing a preview for the film version coming out in January, and it was yet another one of those books in the TBR pile forever that I thought oh, I’ll get around to this at some point. I’d forgotten it was set in Ybor City and Tampa, both of which I am more than a little familiar with from living there in the early 1990’s.

Tampa is vastly different now than it was when I lived there; when I went to GCLS conference in Orlando (I started to write a couple of years ago before realizing it was more like eight or nine years ago; yikes!) I drove over to Tampa to have dinner with a friend, and in the ten years or so at that time since I’d moved away the city was completely different. I only had dinner, and then drove back to Orlando, but I remember driving in and being completely surprised by how different it was. (I used to drive back and forth between Orlando and Tampa a lot; my friends and I had tired of the Tampa gay bars and on the weekends we couldn’t make it to Miami–or I wasn’t going somewhere, thanks to my airline job–we often would drive over to Orlando to go to clubs there)

I wasn’t happy when I lived in Tampa, but Tampa was where I grew up, for wont of a better phrase. It was while I was living there that my life came together, where I decided that I wanted to be more than just an airline employee, and made the changes needed in my life and my mentality that made it possible for me to have the life I have now. I also kind of liked Tampa; I always thought there was something about the town that would make it a good setting for crime novels. I’ve used Tampa in some of my books, but fictionalized it as “Bay City.” I have an idea for a noir that would use “Bay City” as its setting; it’s one of the books I want to write in 2017.

And, of course, Bouchercon is in St. Petersburg in 2018. Maybe I’ll take a week and explore first. There’s a big cat sanctuary just north of Tampa I’d like to visit, because I also have a book idea actually set in a big cat sanctuary; I’ve been meaning to come over to explore and investigate that for quite some time now.

I could also take a long weekend and let Paul sit on the beach while I explore and research, too. We also spent that long weekend at Saddlebrook, the tennis resort, just north of Tampa as well. (It was what actually gave me the idea for the big cat book; of course there’s also a book in the tennis resort as well.)

But I need to get the one I am writing now written, and so on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.

Here’s a post-Christmas hunk for you, Constant Reader:

Caroline

It is grim and dreary and windy outside this morning; gray and kind of nasty–the kind of day where you are grateful to stay inside and not ever leave (as of right now, my plan for the day is to stay inside and only go outside to take out the trash if I have to). I got all of my Christmas shopping done Friday and mailed the gifts that needed to go yesterday after I saw (drum roll please) Rogue One.

I. LOVED. It.

I woke up feeling crappy yesterday; congested and mildly feverish. In fact, had I not already bought the ticket on-line I would have probably changed my mind and stayed home. But I needed to mail my presents and stop at the grocery store, and had already paid for the ticket…so I went. (It did occur to me that if I was contagious, I could possibly Typhoid Mary the entire theater; but I wasn’t coughing or sneezing, and I didn’t have to turn over money or make physical contact with anyone. It wasn’t crowded, either–it was a ten a.m. show; so I made sure I sat by myself where no one else was sitting. So there.)

I will admit I was incredibly disappointed at the beginning when the big STAR WARS logo didn’t appear nor did they play the theme music; and I will readily admit I was a bit pouty about it. It kind of, for me, got off to a bit of a slow start which was necessary in order to provide back story, but once it got going, it was great fun. I’ll see it again, undoubtedly (Paul is seeing it with his mother this weekend, so I didn’t go see it without him; his mom suggested it last week when he talked to her, and so that was when I bought my ticket.)

Although after running my errands, I felt much worse than I did when I woke up. I tried to write but couldn’t, and finally abandoned the effort, retiring to my easy chair and my book. I finished reading it, then watched the last few episodes of Medici: Masters of Florence, another couple of episodes of The Man in the High Castle (season two started out kind of slowly but has definitely picked up steam), and another show I’ve been watching on-line: Yuri On Ice.

Yuri On Ice is a Japanese anime television series about Yuri Katsuki, a Japanese male figure skater. The show opens with him finishing last at the Grand Prix final, and questioning whether he should just retire. He is considered to be Japan’s best male skater, but he also is shy and introverted, with very little self-confidence, and also suffers from crushing self-doubt and anxiety, which is why he performs poorly. After graduating from college in Detroit, he returns home to his small home town in Japan, and while visiting the ice rink, is recorded perfectly mimicking a routine by five time world champion Viktor Nikiforov. The video goes viral, and Viktor, also questioning his own future in the sport, comes to Japan to be Yuri’s coach–Yuri has always idolized Viktor, and decides to give the sport one more year.

I’m really enjoying the show, quite frankly. I’ve never watched Anime before, so I don’t know if the weird lapses into over-the-top emotion from the characters is normal for Anime, but it’s the only thing that bothers me about the show. The character of Yuri is so incredibly well developed; and the skating sequences are absolutely amazing. As a long time figure skating fan, it’s only natural that I would enjoy the show, I suppose. I’ve long been wanting to write a noir about figure skating, and watching this show has really intensified that desire–plus, I’m writing something else, which always makes me want to write other things.

I started reading Exit, Pursued by A Bear by E. K. Johnston last night, and am enjoying it thus far.

All right, I need to make up for lost time today, so it’s off to the spice mines I go.

Walk a Thin Line

Yesterday morning it was cold for here; it was only forty degrees out when I got out of bed and lumbered downstairs. It was even colder inside that it was outside–the joy of old New Orleans homes, built to be cooler inside than out–and sat here shivering at my desk trying to get some work done. It wasn’t easy and I was so cold, so cold that I decided when out running errands to buy gloves in order to cut off their fingers so I could type with them on so it wouldn’t be an issue. It wasn’t, of course, until later that I remembered I had a space heater in the closet upstairs, which I brought downstairs and set up. It’s not as cold this morning as it was yesterday, but I do have it on and I am relatively comfortable in here. This is a good sign. I didn’t get as much writing done yesterday as I’d intended; I have to write at least two chapters and revise two short stories this weekend–so of course, I started writing an entirely different short story yesterday, and one I don’t have a market for.

Heavy heaving sigh. Isn’t that always the way?

Ah, well. It’s an idea I had actually a really long time ago, and something I saw on Facebook reminded me of it, and so I actually started writing it. I’d forgotten the idea, quite frankly, hadn’t made any notes or anything, and it is a good idea, so I thought it better not to forget about it a second time so I took some action and wrote the opening. I also don’t know how to end it, either, so I am not going to try to write any more of it; rather, I’ll just print what I had and write out some notes and create a folder for it so it’s there when I want to get back to it. Which is what I usually do. Which is why I have a million folders everywhere.

We are still watching Ray Donovan, but I also discovered a new series on Netflix last night, Medici: Masters of Florence, which I of course wanted to start watching. Paul’s not into it as much as I am, of course, but he’s also going to visit his mother this coming weekend so I will have plenty of time to watch it while he’s gone. It’s focused on Cosimo de Medici (I love me some Medicis), and the building of Il Duomo. It’s lavishly and expensively shot–they’ve spared little to no expense–and the lead actor is the guy who played Robb Stark on Game of Thrones, Richard Madden, who is quite lovely to look at.

Those eyes!

The story flashes back and forth between the time when Cosimo is a young man with aspirations of being an artist, and forced into the world of banking and power by his father, Giovanni (played by Dustin Hoffman)–who dies of poison at the opening of the first episode. The present day is 1429, so the ‘past’ is 1409. Giovanni is the one who started the bank and founded the dynasty; Cosimo took it much higher–Cosimo’s grandson laid the groundwork for two Medici popes and, in time, two Medici queens of France. (The Medici eventually reached noble status, and eventually royal. Not bad for a family of bankers.) The Medici are fascinating, of course, and watching the episodes we did see made me, of course, long for Italy. (Next year’s Bouchercon anthology is themed Passport to Murder; I have some ideas for stories set in Italy, which is kind of exciting for me. And of course, there’s an Italian novel I want to write–not in Italian, set in Italy, of course.)

I am also still reading and enjoying Nick Mamatas’ I Am Providence, which is really hitting its stride nicely. I am not sure what I intend to read when I finish it; there are some lovely horror novels in my TBR pile, but then again, every book on my TBR pile looks lovely.

Heavy heaving sigh.

Brown Eyes

It has rained all night, and in the dawn’s early light outside my windows everything looks wet and soggy. It was still raining this morning when my alarm went off, but as I sip my cappuccino and prepare my lunch before sitting back down to my computer, the rain has ceased, or at least there’s now a temporary respite. These are the days when I would rather curl up under a blanket and read a book, but alas–that is not to be.

I started reading Nick Mamatas’ I Am Providence last night and am enjoying it so far, although I’m only a few chapters in. I’ve not read him before, and this is a crime novel set at the Summer Tentacular, a conference/festival in Rhode Island celebrating Lovecraft. (I’ve also not read Lovecraft, which is another reason, one would suppose, why I am terrible at writing horror; Lovecraft apparently is de rigeur for writing horror or fantasy. I tried reading him when I was a teenager and didn’t get very far; I would try again but my TBR has basically already taken over my living room.) I love books about writers, and I love books about writing conferences–two of my absolute favorite books are Isaac Azimov’s Murder at the ABA (long overdue for a reread), which is set at what was once called the ABA (American Booksellers Association) and now called BEA (Book Expo America), and Elizabeth Peters’ hilarious Die for Love, set at a romance fan festival in New York (also long overdue for a reread).

I recently realized I’ve been writing stories about writers a lot lately–a couple of unpublished short stories, and of course, Jerry Channing appeared in both The Orion Mask and Garden District Gothic; I’m even thinking about an entire book with Jerry as the main character–and it’s always been something I’ve resisted–writing about writers, even though it’s something I know intimately and always enjoy reading. I even said this to one of my co-workers at the office lately, a quote that’s always in the back of my head: there is nothing more narcissistic and masturbatory than writing fiction about writers. That thought has always been in the back of my mind, and whenever I start creating a character who is a writer or have an idea for a story about one, I always pull back, remembering that. Saying it to my co-worker recently got me thinking about it–where did I read it? Who told me that? Stephen King has, for example, always written about writers–both ‘salem’s Lot (Ben Mears, moderately successful novelist) and The Shining (failed novelist Jack Torrance) have writers as main characters; and I can think of any number of other authors who’ve also done it, quite successfully. Elizabeth Peters’ series character Jacqueline Kirby starts out as a librarian, and eventually becomes an international bestselling romance novelist, for another example.

And then, last night as I revised a short story about a writer, and then curled up with the Mamatas novel, I heard the words clearly in my head again, and knew exactly where they came from.

That wretched writing professor who told me in 1979 I would never get anything published.

I might have known.

So, tonight as I continue to revise that story and work on the new book, I am giving you once again, Asshole Writing Professor, the finger.

And now back to the spice mines.

Here’s a hunk for today:

Not That Funny

I am awake but groggy. I slept late, am guzzling coffee, and am thinking that I may put off going to Costco until tomorrow. Today might be a stay at home, laze around, get some stuff done when and if I feel like it day. I have a bit of the ‘just turned in the book’ malaise, that bizarre funk where I just feel a bit dazed for a couple of days. Which is fine, of course, although I need to really get to work on the next. I see reading A Head Full of Ghosts in my future. I also have a Christmas party to attend this evening.

Yesterday I managed to find that Twilight Zone episode I was talking about, “Paladin of the Lost Hour,” based on the Harlan Ellison short story that is definitely one of my favorites of all time. It’s on Youtube, and if you have about thirty-two minutes to spare, it’s definitely worth watching.

Click here.

Sure, watching it now you can tell it was filmed in the 1980’s–the little bit of special effects used were especially cheesy–but the greatness of the story still comes through; it’s speculative fiction, sure, but the real strength and greatness of the story is in its human elements. And Danny Kaye is fantastic.

I found it because I was googling the story to find out which collection it’s in–it’s not in The Essential Ellison, sadly–and I wanted to read it again, only to discover you can actually read it on-line as a pdf here.

And yes, the story as written is so much more powerful than the actual teleplay–which I believe was also written by Ellison.

The story opens with two men in a small cemetery; one is quite old and visiting the grave of his beloved wife, lost to him for twenty years. He is set upon by a couple of young hoodlums determined to rob him; they are fought off and driven away by another man in the cemetery who sees it happening and comes to the old man’s rescue. The two men develop a bond, although the rescuer is a little stand-offish and the older man has to earn his trust. The old man’s name is Gaspar, and he is quite charming and a bit opinionated. The younger man, Billy, who is haunted still by something that happened to him in Vietnam.

THIS WAS AN OLD MAN. Not an incredibly old man; obsolete, spavined; not as worn as the sway-backed stone steps ascending the Pyramid of the Sun to an ancient temple; not yet a relic. But even so, a very old man, this old man perched on an antique shooting stick, its handles open to form a seat, its spike thrust at an angle into the soft ground and trimmed grass of the cemetery. Gray, thin rain misted down at almost the same, angle as that at which the spike pierced the ground. The winter-barren trees lay flat and black against an aluminum sky, unmoving in the chill wind. An old man sitting at the foot of a grave mound whose headstone had tilted slightly when the earth had settled; sitting in the rain and speaking to someone below.

“They tore it down, Minna.

“I tell you, they must have bought off a councilman.

“Came in with bulldozers at six o’clock in the morning, and you know that’s not legal. There’s a Municipal Code. Supposed to hold off till at least seven on weekdays, eight on the weekend; but there they were at six, even before six, barely light for godsakes. Thought they’d sneak in and do it before the neighborhood got wind of it and call the landmarks committee. Sneaks: they come on holidays, can you imagine!

“But I was out there waiting for them, and I told them, ‘You can’t do it, that’s Code number 91.03002, subsection E,’ and they lied and said they had special permission, so I said to the big muckymuck in charge, ‘Let’s see your waiver permit,’and he said the Code didn’t apply in this case because it was supposed to be only for grading, and since they were demolishing and not grading, they could start whenever they felt like it. So I told him I’d call the police, then, because it came under the heading of Disturbing the Peace, and he said . . . well, I know you hate that kind of language, old girl, so I won’t tell you what he said, but you can imagine.

“So I called the police, and gave them my name, and of course they didn’t get there till almost quarter after seven (which is what makes me think they bought off a councilman), and by then those ‘dozers had leveled most of it. Doesn’t take long, you know that.

“And I don’t suppose it’s as great a loss as, maybe, say, the Great Library of Alexandria, but it was the last of the authentic Deco design drive-ins, and the carhops still served you on roller skates, and it was a landmark, and just about the only place left in the city where you could still get a decent grilled cheese sandwich pressed very flat on the grill by one of those weights they used to use, made with real cheese and not that rancid plastic they cut into squares and call it ‘cheese food.’

“Gone, old dear, gone and mourned. And I understand they plan to put up another one of those mini-malls on the site, just ten blocks away from one that’s already there, and you know what’s going to happen: this new one will drain off the traffic from the older one, and then that one will fall the way they all do when the next one gets built, you’d think they’d see some history in it; but no, they never learn, And you should have seen the crowd by seven-thirty. All ages, even some of those kids painted like aborigines, with torn leather clothing. Even they came to protest. Terrible language, but at least they were concerned. And nothing could stop it. They just whammed it, and down it went.

“I do so miss you today, Minna. No more good grilled cheese.” Said the very old man to the ground. And now he was crying softly, and now the wind rose, and the mist rain stippled his overcoat.

Nearby, yet at a distance, Billy Kinetta stared down at another grave. He could see the old man over there off to his left, but he took no further notice. The wind whipped the vent of his trenchcoat. His collar was up but rain trickled down his neck. This was a younger man, not yet thirty-five. Unlike the old man, Billy Kinetta neither cried nor spoke to memories of someone who had once listened. He might have been a geomancer, so silently did he stand, eyes toward the ground.

One of these men was black; the other was white.

THAT is great writing. The story, which I read again last night, moved me to tears again; just as the cheesy 1980’s production of the beautifully written teleplay did as I watched it again. All of Ellison’s stories are engaging, superbly written; he writes about enormous themes and yet his characters, his situations, are incredibly real and relatable. He writes about the human condition, and humanity; and often he writes of humanity’s loss of humanity, if that makes sense. Ellison was the person who introduced the all-encompassing term speculative fiction as the tent that contains science fiction, fantasy, and horror; he is a master of all of them.

I’m really looking forward to rereading the stories I’ve already read; and I am also looking forward to reading stories of his I’ve not read. I encourage you, if you’re not read Ellison but are a fan of great writing, to click on the previous link and read “Paladin of the Lost Hour”; I would be very surprised if you didn’t want to read more. His website is at Ellison Webderland; you can find information there about the project (and possibly donate) to digitize all of his writing so it won’t be lost.

And on that note, back to the spice mines.

Here’s another French farmer.

Storms

Ah, Thursday. And it’s December already. MADNESS.

Tonight is my late night, and so I have the day relatively free before I literally am testing all night (it’s also World AIDS Day–know your status, people!) so am debating on just which errands need to be run today and which ones can wait until the weekend. There are a few things I need to pick up and I may as well swing past the post office since it’s sort of near my CVS where I need to get my prescriptions…sigh. I also have some serious writing to do today. Busy day for one Gregalicious. I also have gotten some lovely news this week that I can’t share as of yet, either.

But I am chair dancing.

And I’m almost finished with the book. I hope to have it done today. Huzzah!

And then a free weekend and then it’s on to the next one.

I am currently reading Paul Tremblay’s Stoker Award winning A Head Full of Ghosts, which I started reading another time and had to put it aside for some reason; I don’t remember why, but when I finished reading Elizabeth Little’s superb Dear Daughter, and was looking for the next book to read I ran across it in the TBR bookcase (yes, I have a TBR bookcase, don’t judge me) and thought, I never finished this and picked it up again. It is riveting; I started from the beginning and now I can’t wait to get back to it again.

I also started writing another book yesterday; one that isn’t contracted anywhere, one that I don’t even know if anyone would want to publish–but it’s one that’s been dancing around in my head lately, and it’s actually the combination of several ideas I’ve had over the past few years that have come together cohesively and meshed into one book idea. The opening hit me the other day when I was finished working on the current work-in-progress, and so I wrote three paragraphs. It’s very different from anything I’ve ever done before–so is the current work-in-progress–which makes it very exciting for me; of course I have a multitude of other projects to work on and finish, but maybe it’s something I can work on around the others. I also have another couple of ideas I am toying with as well….I am never so creative as when I am on a deadline; but it’s never with the project ON deadline.

Heavy sigh.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Here’s a hunk for the day:

Think About Me

My vacation is over, and while I do regret that–a stay-at-home vacation gives you a taste of how my life could be; just doing errands and chores around the house and of course, writing without interruption, without an eye on the clock knowing I only have so much time to get so much done; the leisure to take my time on projects and not feel rushed, to not feel like I’m not doing the best I can because the clock is ticking and there are other things I have to do…

It’s kind of nice, although it makes me kind of sad to have to go back to the clock-watching and time-scheduling,

I did finish reading Elizabeth Little’s superb Dear Daughter last night.

As soon as they processed my release, Noah and I hit the ground running. A change of clothes. A wig. An inconspicuous sedan. We doubled back once, twice, then drove south when we were headed east. In San Francisco we had a girl who looked like me board a plane to Hawaii.

Oh, I thought I was so clever.

But you probably already know that I’m not.

I mean, come on, you didn’t really think I was just going to disappear, did you? That I would skulk off and live in the shadows? That maybe I would find a distant land, a plastic surgeon, a ceramic half mask and a Punjab lasso? Get real.

But I never meant for it to come to this. There’s attention and then there’s attention, and sure, the latter gets you fame and money and free designer shoes, but I’m not Lindsay Lohan. I understand the concept of declining marginal returns. It was the not knowing–that’s what I couldn’t stand. That’s why I’m here.

It’s hard, really, to believe that Dear Daughter is a debut novel; Little writes with the punch and skill of a much more experienced writer. The main character’s voice is exceptional, strong, and even though she can read as vastly unsympathetic, she is always compelling.

A technicality has overturned Jane Jenkins’ murder conviction; when she was seventeen she was tried as an adult for murdering her socialite mother, with whom she had a rather combative relationship. Jane herself was what is called a ‘celebutante’, like Paris Hilton and others before her, famous really for being famous. (Imagine the circus a Paris Hilton murder trial would have been…) Now that she’s free, Jane wants to prove her innocence (she really doesn’t remember if she actually killer her mother or not) so, with the help of a trusted attorney, she takes on a false identity and disappears; even lying to the lawyer about where she is going. The night of her mother’s murder she heard her mother arguing with a man, and the only words she caught were ‘Tessa’ and ‘Adeline’; she has found a remote town in South Dakota named Adeline, and that’s where she is heading.

The twists and turns and surprises come fast in this novel, and once it kicks into high gear there’s no stopping. Jane herself is a strong, full-fledged character; smart yet vulnerable, lonely, yet the loneliness makes her stronger. She tries to sort out the complicated relationship she had with her mother while trying to find out the truth, not only about her mother’s murder but her mother’s past, as well as her own…very compelling reading.

And the writing itself is quite extraordinary, as well.

I highly recommend this! And can’t wait for her next novel.

And now back to the spice mines.

You Make Loving Fun

Another good night’s sleep. There must be something to this stay-at-home vacation thing, don’t you think?

I didn’t get as much writing/editing done yesterday as I wanted to, but I also had to run errands and bouncing back into a creative mode after dealing with the General Public is never easy; I find that always to be all too frequently true. But as I waited for Paul to come home last night, I watched the season finale of Versailles (which I am going to miss) and the Netflix documentary Audrie and Daisy, which made me smolder with rage, and made me realize my rape culture novel, sitting collecting dust now for over a year, really needs to get out there for people to read.

Will it make a difference? I doubt it, but change is water wearing away at a rock, and maybe at some point our culture and society will finally recognize that men do not have a right to women’s bodies.

I also read a few more chapters of Falling Angel last night. It’s the Edgar Award nominated novel the film Angel Heart was based on, and while I haven’t seen the film in decades, I remember liking it a lot (it was another one of those films that heightened the connection I felt with New Orleans before I moved here); once I read the book I am going to watch the movie again, see how it holds up. The book is quite good; as I read it I remember the film more and more; the book’s quality lies in that hardboiled noir voice I mentioned the other day having trouble capturing in my own work. I think part of the problem I have with that, frankly, is the straight male machismo aspect of it. One of the reasons I stopped reading crime fiction in the late 1970s (having exhausted Christie, Queen, and Gardner) was because the current stuff was pretty much the straight male gaze and that macho bullshit. (Not everything, of course, and that was, I realize now, an over-generalization; but that was how it seemed to me.) I eventually returned to crime fiction, primarily thanks to Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky; their work led me to a greater appreciation of the genre and enabled me to read and appreciate John D. Macdonald and eventually get back into the genre over-all, and is partly why, in my own work, I tried to develop my own version and style; the gay male gaze. Whether I succeeded or not is for future generations to decide–whether I am remembered at all or not.

Probably not, is the most likely.

And I’m fine with that, really.

Yesterday I did manage to get the kitchen cleaned (not quite organized as I would have liked, but small victories), and today around editing and writing I intend to do the same with the living room and start working on the kitchen cabinets and drawers. It is truly sad how these things give me pleasure, but on the other hand, I like cleaning up my house and feel truly satisfied when it is cleaned and organized and sparkling. (If it remains sunny but chilly, I am going to do the windows in the kitchen as well.)

And that is, really, the genesis of my story “Housecleaning”, in the wonderful anthology Sunshine Noir.

The smell of bleach always reminded him of his mother.

It was, he thought as he filled the blue plastic bucket with hot water from the kitchen tap, probably one of the reasons he rarely used it. His mother had used it for practically everything. Everywhere she’d lived had always smelled slightly like bleach. She was always cleaning. He had so many memories of his mother cleaning something; steam rising from hot water pouring from the sink spigot, the sound of brush bristles as she scrubbed the floor (‘mops only move the dirt around, good in a pinch but not for real cleaning’), folding laundry scented by Downy, washing the dishes by hand before running them through the dishwasher (‘it doesn’t wash the dishes clean enough, it’s only good for sterilization’), running the vacuum cleaner over carpets and underneath the cushions on the couch. In her world, dirt and germs were everywhere and constant vigilance was the only solution. She judged other people for how slovenly they looked or how messy their yards were or how filthy their houses were. He remembered one time—when they were living in the apartment in Wichita—watching her struggle at a neighbor’s to not say anything as they sat in a living room that hadn’t been cleaned or straightened in a while, the way her fingers absently wiped away dust on the side table as she smiled and made conversation, the nerve in her cheek jumping, the veins and chords in her neck trying to burst through her olive skin, her voice strained but still polite.

When the tea was finished and the cookies just crumbs on a dirty plate with what looked like egg yolk dried onto its side, she couldn’t get the two of them out of there fast enough. Once back in the sterile safety of their own apartment, she’d taken a long, hot shower—and made him do the same. They’d never gone back there, the neighbor woman’s future friendliness rebuffed politely yet firmly, until they’d finally moved away again.

“People who keep slovenly homes are lazy and cannot be trusted,” she’d told him after refusing the woman’s invitation a second time, “a sloppy house means a sloppy soul.”

Crazy as she seemed to him at times, he had to admit she’d been right about that. In school after school, kids who didn’t keep their desks or lockers neat had never proven trustworthy or likable. It had been hard to keep his revulsion hidden behind the polite mask as he walked to his next class and someone inevitably opened a locker to a cascade of their belongings. He’d just walked faster to get away from the laughter of other kids and the comic fumbling of the sloppy student as he tried to gather the crumpled papers and broken pencils and textbooks scattered on the shiny linoleum floor.

As I said, I like to clean, and I often joke that my own mother makes Joan Crawford look like a slob. One morning, when I was filling up my blue bucket with water and bleach, the smell of bleach reminded me of my mother and voila! A story was born. I actually stopped cleaning to sit down and write the entire first draft.

Sigh. I love when that happens.

And now back to the spice mines.

The Chain

Vacation all I ever wanted…interestingly enough, I’ve been sleeping extremely well since Friday; maybe it’s the cold (for us) snap, but I’ve been getting at least nine hours of divinely deep sleep every night since Friday. Which is lovely, really–the whole point of this stay-at-home vacation was to not only get a lot of work done but to get rested and relaxed. So, I have to say that’s all working out quite well so far, which is lovely. Yesterday I worked and we got caught up on watching some of our shows (Eyewitness, Gotham, Supernatural, The Exorcist, with Arrow and The Flash and Secrets and Lies on deck), and I read some of Falling Angel, which has a great noir voice.

I love me some noir. I think one of the problems I have with writing noir–or when I’m trying to write it–is I can’t ever get that noir voice right. I’m going to try to write a noir novel in 2017; it’s been dancing around in the back of my head for a really long time, and I think the time is ripe for me to try to write it at long last.

Woo-hoo!

The kitchen is a mess this morning, and I do have a couple of errands to run today, in addition to the work I want to get done. One of the purposes of said vacation was to get a good deep cleaning on the Lost Apartment done, and I plan on working on the kitchen today around the work I have to do. It’s funny how you can let things slide for so long…actually, no, it’s not, but I also have to cut myself a break. I work full time, write full time, and edit part time. Something has to give in that scenario, and two of the things that have are my workouts and my cleaning schedule around the house. I need to stop beating myself up over these things; there are only so many hours in a day, and I am fifty-five and need down time sometimes.

I think maybe one of my goals in 2017 will be to cut myself a break every now and again, and accept that I don’t have to try to be Superman anymore.

Wow, just typing that felt freeing.

We’ll see how that goes.

But I feel up to the challenge. In 2017 I am going to write another Scotty book, a noir, and another y/a. I also want to get some of these short stories revised and redone and submitted out and out there. (I also need to update calendar reminders for deadlines re: some anthologies I want to submit to.) I also need to step up my reading, and spend less time on social media.

All right, I need to dive into the spice mines or I’ll start goofing off and get nothing done.

Here’s today’s hunk: