Mardi Gras

This will be our first year living in the Quarter during Mardi Gras, and I’m easing into the season. It’s almost as if the city knows the big weekend is a loud, crazy, wild ride and everyone needs to have a little build up so it doesn’t come as a complete shock to the system. Last night was Chewbacchus, which some would argue is the real beginning of the parades. Joan of Arc is really the beginning, but that was weeks ago. I didn’t go to Chewbacchus this year, but I did enjoy watching the people on the street. As a nerdy science fiction themed parade we had nerdy people in the Quarter, which is just friggin fantastic. The parade was just a little farther away than I really felt like walking.

Like a storm that’s slowly creeping in, next week’s Krewe Du Viex parade rolls much closer to our condo. I’ve been to it in the past and love its irreverent nature. I would normally try for that one, but we’re going to Fleetwood Mac that night. I’m really excited about seeing the band I’ve loved since I was in high school. And as an added bonus the venue is walking distance. Next weekend is kind of the last relatively peaceful weekend of carnival season. From there the parades become hard to ignore.

Our favorite, without a doubt, is Barkus. It’s a dog parade. We will definitely get out to see that one. Then we have the big event. Many of the really big parades will roll two blocks from our balcony. I love them. I just hope I’m sufficiently warmed up.

Might be time to pick up that first king cake.


I actively look for things that positively engage my mind. There’s a lot of stuff that spins me up these days, and though I agree with taking on the challenges to make the world a better place, all too often that mental involvement results in me being angry and depressed.

As a result, I’ve added groups that post old cars and trucks to my Facebook feed. I no longer lust for owning vehicles like I did when I was younger, but I do still love the aesthetic and history of old cars. There are also a couple of music feeds that post classic rock and jazz that get my heart pumping. And, of course, the dog sites. Nothing quite puts a smile on my face like a Shih Tzu puppy video.

It’s escapism. I realize and embrace that fact. But then, so is my writing. So what positive feeds do you enjoy?

Life in the Quarter Part 1

I’m sure there will be a number of posts about our new situation. We’re coming up on nine months of living in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It’s still surreal to me that we actually live here. It’s more like we’ve moved to a foreign country than another part of the city.

One of the big changes is we don’t drive. Most of the time when we do need the car we have to refer to a note pad on where we left it. Then, when it’s actually still there, it’s something of a relief. One day I fully expect it to be gone. We’ve gone over a month at a time without needing it.

The biggest question was how would we get food without needing the car. For the heavy items we have food delivered. This Instacart thing is working very well. But that’s not the fun part. Every three or four days we walk down to a nice upscale grocery store, buy fresh food and meat, a bottle of wine (for me) and other tempting items. The bread and cheese sections are very dangerous.

On the walk home we pass our favorite florist. Every week or two we get a fresh bouquet for the table. In nine months I don’t think the vase has ever been empty. Our lady knows us and even if she’s closed she opens up when she sees us on the street. One time when all the lights were off and I was headed home dejected she came running out of the parking garage saying she was just waiting for her car and would be happy to whip something up. I love that we have our people. It was one of the things we heard from everyone we knew here before we moved. Anything that we needed, they had a person. Now I get it. I’ve got my people too.

So we’re that couple. The ones carrying our canvas shopping bag full of groceries and bouquet of flowers through the streets of the French Quarter. I love being “that couple.”

Blacked out and Gold Parade

So I wandered down to watch the anti-Super Bowl parade a couple of days ago. It helps that the route was only a block away. My first impression was that it was more of a disorganized drunken bar crawl than parade, but that’s not unusual for a second line. There were so many spectators in the street trying to get pictures of the oncoming parade that the marchers ended up weaving between the crowd. Telling who was a spectator and who a parade member became impossible, which is part of the fun. Second lines are often a the-more-the-merrier situation. Each time I hear one approaching our balcony I have to go out and dance along with the brass band.

There’s an overall feeling of pride in New Orleans right now that we can object to something in a positive way. There have been no reports of violence or vandalism, just people out in the streets doing what we do best: having a good time. In the span of two weeks at least three parades were organized and an outdoor concert that ran most of the day with a bunch of musicians. It was sold out. The crowds were remarkable. It is Mardi Gras season, but even so the ability of people to organize and stage an event with such little notice is impressive in a city known for its challenges to get things done.

Oh, and I don’t watch football. (don’t tell my neighbors)

The Blog that Returned

I’m bringing the blog back!

Sorry to say, I got a little burned out last time trying to come up with something new each day that related to my writing. This time I’m going to be a little less structured. Sometimes it’ll be about what I’m working on, what it’s like to life in the French Quarter of New Orleans, or just what’s on my mind. It will not be about politics or anything overly controversial. That’s the plan. I’m also not going to promise a daily update. Please feel free to drop me a note on what you think about what I have to say or some topic you think you might like me to cover. Again, no promises, but if it sparks my creativity I just might answer in the blog!

Thanks for hanging with me through this adventure!

The Day’s Dilemma

My new editor just sent me the first go-round for book 3. It’s still nerve wracking as hell for me when I first see that email. I scan all the documents looking for any indication of something seriously wrong or words of encouragement. This editor is more technical than the one I usually get to work with. It’s all good, but I can already tell this is going to be a very different experience than I’m used to.

As I get further into writing I’m becoming more annoyed with my high school English classes. I remember hating with a passion the free-writing we had to do at the beginning of class. No one bothered explaining that spelling, grammar, plot, none of it mattered. Rough drafts should be just that—rough. Spending time figuring out the correct spelling of a particular word takes the writer out of the story. Had I run that class I’d have deducted for crossed out and corrected words, but I didn’t have a say. My inner critic worried about every word I stumbled over. The plots embarrassed me. How was I supposed to come up with something interesting to say and express it in fifteen minutes? This isn’t the first time I’ve found my education had gotten in the way of my passion. I used to say I did have a degree in art, but I hoped I was becoming a reasonable artist anyway. It’s been forty years and high school still bugs me.

Today I start off with a dilemma. I’m on the downhill run with my current story, but I’m at a section that’s taking a lot of thought. Then there’s the manuscript with red marks all over every page. Both projects are calling to me, though for very different reasons. One will require a lot of brainstorming, which over the last few days it already has, and the other will have me back doing technical cleanup. With clear skies today hopefully we’ll finally get a walk in so I can clear my head and decide which way the day will take me.

A Responsibility to my Characters


I have a love-hate relationship with reality. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt like I was on the outside of life looking in. One morning I’ll wake up to find it wasn’t real and was all just a learning experience. I think that’s what draws me to the idea that we all exist in a virtual simulation. It just makes sense to me, though that might be my way of coping with where I see our species headed.

I don’t really believe we are in the mind of a computer but not for the reason that it sounds fantastical. A lot of stuff science-fiction authors come up with later becomes reality. I hate to say it, but I find reality boring. I know life is what I make it. I’m not blaming anyone. But life never holds my attention for long. Given the opportunity, I slip away into one of my fantasies. Reality pokes me for attention: get the computer fixed, the roof is leaking, clean up after the dogs. And I do love my walks with D and playing with the pups. But in any given day I doubt I spend more than a handful of hours focused on the here and now. And typically those hours are rather frustrating. I suppose that’s why I’m drawn so forcefully to writing. I try to give my characters interesting things to do, mysteries to solve, and people to get to know and love. Experiences I probably shy away from all too often. I try to take playing god to my imaginary people seriously.

Technological Future and the Loss of the Problem Solver


I’m a big believer that, if we can survive the present, a technology-based utopia is possible. Between 3-D printing, drone delivery systems, driverless cars, and the already big on-line ordering system I see people no longer having to do mundane tasks. Add in a Universal Basic Income and we might finally reach that time when people get to do what they want instead of what they have to.

But there’s a problem

As I mentioned yesterday, my computer needs to go in for service. It turns out there’s only one Apple store for the greater New Orleans area. One. And it has crappy reviews. So I’ll be driving an hour plus to a cute little college town on the Northshore as that’s the closet place that would take appointments.

It’s not the inconvenience that bugs me. I expect brick-and-mortar stores are on their way out and I could mail in my computer for it’s repair. Most of the time sales people bug me. But it’s the unseen person in the back that I’ll miss. The one who magically makes it all better. I used to be one of those guys. As computers end up running robots to build and fix everything we lose the problem solvers. It would be easy to say those people are just very knowledgeable about the product, but that’s not entirely true. Think of Edgar Hansen on Deadliest Catch or MacGyver. It’s not just a matter of knowing the item on the workbench. There’s a creativity unique to fixing things with whatever is handy. I fear we as a species are losing that ability.

It’s Good to Have a Backup


I first tried to do some serious writing thirty years ago. Pen and paper were not my friends. My hand would smear the ink. My penmanship is illegible, sometimes even for me. I can’t spell to save my life. And editing made the page look like some kind of expressionist art piece based on frustration. It didn’t take long before I put the endeavor aside.

I did go through the typewriter era. While I was in school my parents had an old Brothers manual. Hitting the keys took just the right about of pressure to hit the paper. Type too fast and the arms would jam, very old school. My only personal typewriter was a Smith-Corona Selectric. I hated it. With every letter it sounded like a gun going off. I may be among the last generation to suffer with typewriters. Even now they seem like antiques.

We have something like eight to ten computers in the house at this point. Most of them are units we’ve outgrown for one reason or another. I remember when we only had one. When it broke down life became a major stress. I steered clear of it to avoid D’s wrath should I damage our only form of doing business on the internet.

It took years for D to convince me to move from PC to Mac. It’s been a year now, and apparently I’ve become reliant on my nice little, lightweight, Apple. The fan is making an ominous noise so it needs to go in for service. For all those years working on a PC I thought the skills would come back a little easier. I’m not a technological person, but I sure have become dependent on these devices. All I keep thinking is how it could be worse.