House 'til you puke

So, the jungle's completely cleared, and the yard's rough-graded, by the look of things. They'll do more grading later this week, then fill w/ topsoil, then hydro-seed.

Jim came up with a quote on the screen porch—we're talking roughly $15k for a 2400 sq ft structure, w/ fir tongue-in-groove flooring, bead-board ceiling and interior finish, and probably cedar back wall. Replacing the kitchen/pantry windows and moving the electric service will be separate expenses, as will replacing the kitchen door with one that opens out. A quote for the front entry-way is really the last big thing for this go-round; Jim gave us a basic design, but I suggested tweaking it so the entry door is centered under the upstairs window. That simple change will improve the look of the front of the house a lot, I think.

The furnace/boiler/AC install is almost done, they tell me. It's all Cadillac, high-efficiency Lennox equipment which should work great for years and years.

Concerns: Dan is doing beautiful work but moving excruciatingly slowly. May have to look into additional painters, though I hate to.

Little stuff: we've all-but settled on tile for the FP, thank God—I'm actually the one having second thoughts this time.



My fine agent Maria says that we should know something about the sale(s) of foreign rights for HIGH SEASON in the next few weeks (the good reviews will definitely help, she says). One thing I've learned about this business is that the big lump sums are hard to come by, and it's silly to get your hopes up. But would a smallish number similar to the U.S. advance be too much to ponder? And can I ask to be paid in Euros? Even failing the latter, it would be great to make enough to help pay for, say, fixing up the entry-way. Or maybe rehabbing the garage, even.

Explanatory note: It's worth mentioning that time operates on a different set of principles in the publishing world. When someone tells you that something is likely to happen "in the next few weeks," what they really mean is "sometime in the next six months to a year."


Holy Grail. Ish.

The latest addition to the pedalboard: a Hermida Mosferatu, little sister of the legendary (and hellaciously hard to come-by) Zendrive (scroll down a bit on the above link). The Mosferatu is a great little overdrive with just the right kind of hair and plenty of blues/rock nasty on tap. Dr. Tao wondered if I'd still take delivery of the Zendrive I have on order (they're backordered something like a year, and selling in the $360-400 range on eBay). Hell yes, I said. I didn't tell him I also have an Analogman King of Tone on order, which will arrive shortly after judgment day.

Etta James is in the hospital.

Blues singer Etta James hospitalized in LA

Wed Jul 25, 10:21 PM ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Blues singer Etta James is in stable condition in a Los Angeles hospital, suffering from complications following abdominal surgery, her manager said on Wednesday.

The 69-year-old rock 'n' roll pioneer was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, following the mid-June surgery, Lupe De Leon wrote in an email to Reuters.

James hopes to be well enough by the end of August to join blues icon B.B. King and soul veteran Al Green on a tour that began in Florida on Tuesday.

"If it had been left solely up to her, she would have checked herself out of the hospital and started the tour regardless of her delicate health," De Leon said. "However, her doctor advised that were she to do so, it would put her at very great risk."

She's one of the greats. I hope she's doing okay.


House again

Furnace/AC install tomorrow; landscapers also tomorrow (delayed a day because of heavy rains forecast for tonight). Dan painting away. The lovely A_______ has made some bold color choices for the fireplace room. I'm going with something bland and basically invisible for the 3rd fl. Fireplace tile probably a solid color, since the color-matching and size requirements turn out to be a bit daunting. We'll have plenty to look at w/ our gorgeous antique oak mantel installed.

God, even I'm getting tired of these posts.

Update: About 60% of the yard's been cleared; it's pretty amazing. One thing that's revealed as a result is the east side of the garage, which is sorely in need of repair/paint. We'll get Judy's husband Don going on that, I hope. In the meantime, grading, filling w/ topsoil and seeding are just around the corner.

Dan's finishing up (finally) the two back bedrooms—says he'll be done next week. Then on to the master bedroom and fireplace/sitting room. A_______ promises she'll come to the tile store with me on Monday to pick something out for the fp surround. Oh, happy day. I'll be very glad when the 2nd fl is done. Then up, I think.


Red guitar update

Dave says it should be in this week sometime. Wa. Hoo.

Further update: false alarm. Not 'til mid-August. Thanks, Dave.

More house

The furnace guys came today to install the new boiler. A good thing. They'll do the rest—forced air and AC—next week, I think.

Tomorrow, believe it or not, landscapers! A freakin' miracle. I'm looking forward to a dramatic change in the backyard, which is busy trying to revert to prairie. I'm a little sad that we're taking out a lot of flowers and disrupting the habitats of small woodland creatures in order to plant a non-edible mono-species. But only a little.

Meanwhile, Jim and Joe are putting 1/4" sheetrock on the upstairs bathroom. We'll have to figure out how to vent that sucker at some point. But not now. As I said to Jim today, we're now developing a list of tasks not to do. That's one of them.


Crack house ahoy

So, Jim's finishing up the inside work—just a few details left like taping the dr ceiling and putting up crown molding (Joe's going to skim-coat the whole thing, too, to get rid of the god-awful texturing that's spread like a fungus through the whole interior of the house), ordering new windows for the kitchen, dry-walling the 3rd fl bathroom (500 clams--can you believe it?), replacing the basement door, etc. We're ready for tile on the upstairs fireplace (the gas insert has been framed in and dura-rocked by Sam), and a couple of small electrical jobs are still in the works. All little stuff. After spending a few days on another job, Jim's coming back to build our big screen porch on the back; then we'll get a number from him on the entry-way in the front, then, except for paint and the back yard, we're pretty much done for this year. The lovely A________ and I have a few small jobs left to do, too—picking tile and paint colors (ack! Harder than you'd think), picking and ordering stuff like light fixtures, getting in touch with Excel Energy to have the electric service moved from the back of the house, staying after the freaking landscapers, etc. I also need to call the furnace guys and add a couple of small items to the already massive furnace/boiler replacement job. But that's really about it. Except for the kitchen. Oy.

A note about landscapers:

They appear to be curiously hard to pin down on matters of cost and time-line. They also have an inexplicable reluctance to return the phone calls of people who are anxious to pay them a lot of money. You wouldn't think it would be harder to get a landscaper than, say, a guy who's a genius with drywall and interior trim--but it is. Go figure.

This has been a note about landscapers.


Crack house mania redux

Stopped by in time today to talk to Sam (Jim's cousin?) who's working on framing in the upstairs fireplace. He and Jim stopped by Dell's earlier in the a.m. and got the mantel—it's going to look spectacular. Just need to prod the lovely A________ into making a decision or two about tile, and we'll be all set. It'll be one of the nicest rooms in the house when it's all done. Sam's also working on the two ceiling fixtures on the 3rd fl (they don't work at the moment—apparently it's a bit mysterious), and has advised us to put a sconce or two in the upper stairway, which sounds good to me. Jim's working up the numbers on the screen porch, which will be giant--around 220 sq. feet when it's done. We're also looking at rehabbing the front porch; we'll change the design a bit by bringing the east wall back to the end of the foundation (it currently extends three or four feet past the foundation, and rests on a short pier which has subsided a good bit and appears to be failing), but we'll keep the spirit of the thing with tall windows around two sides, etc. Nice tile floor, padded window-seat and a big coat/boot closet and we'll have a great little mud-room/entry that doubles as a small sun-room, probably for less than $15k. After that (and everything after that would be a project for next year, or the year after) we turn our attention to the exterior front: a nice stone stoop, siding, walkways, front garden, and my pet project--awnings for the big downstairs windows.

On a side note: everthing we've done so far has cost WAY less than we'd anticipated, back in May. There are some big expenses coming up—furnace/boiler, yard (if the freaking landscapers ever send us an official estimate), kitchen—but everything we've done with the Seymours has been a stone cold bargain. They're amazing—top-notch work at incredibly reasonable rates. We couldn't be happier.


And another. Booklist:

[STARRED] High Season.
Loomis, Jon (Author)
Sep 2007. 320 p. St. Martin's/Minotaur, hardcover, $23.95. (0312367694).

Loomis’ debut novel, starring Frank Coffin, the only somewhat-willing sheriff of the resort town of Provincetown, Massachusetts, displays the sureness of pace, dead-on atmosphere, and effortless wit of a veteran pro like Robert B. Parker. Coffin fits into the Melville tradition of someone trying and failing to escape the pull of the sea and of fate: the Coffin family jinx goes back through generations of whaling accidents and extends to Coffin’s brother, killed on a Swift boat in Vietnam. Inevitably, Coffin, after being landlocked as a Baltimore cop for nine years, is pulled back to the Cape and to an inner circle of hell, a tiny office in the town hall basement, right next to the boiler room. Coffin’s dream of coasting by on tiny, tourist-time infractions is burst when a TV evangelist, of virulently antigay persuasion, is found strangled on a gay beach, dressed in drag. Coffin’s investigation puts him and his girlfriend in ever-escalating peril. So many things are rendered perfectly in this novel: the depiction of police politics (Coffin was moved from a harborview office to the basement when his uncle, former chief of police, was ousted after bribery and extortion charges); the love-hate tensions of a Cape Cod tourist town; the sharp but not artificially bright dialogue; and Coffin’s own rueful self-reflections. Very funny and very tense. A great read.

The sheriff thing that will not die (oy). But hey, if they're going to compare me (favorably) with Robert Parker, they can call Frank the Lord High Inquisitor for all I care. The Melville thing ain't bad, either.


HIGH SEASON review from Publishers Weekly

Poet Loomis (Vanitas Motel) makes an auspicious fiction debut with this mystery starring an aging Baltimore cop who becomes sheriff of his native Provincetown, Mass. Frank Coffin has to deal with a new boss intent on running the tourist town with an iron fist, a younger girlfriend uninterested in marriage but intent on having a child, a car that’s about to fall apart and memories of a multiple murder so horrific it drove him from his old job. Then, the strangled body of a vacationing TV evangelist, clad in an unflattering dress, turns up on the beach. Though the state police take over the case, various town worthies, including his boss, pressure Coffin into tracking developments. When he does, he discovers a powerful group has designs on the community and is willing to do anything to bring its plans to completion. Full of entertaining twists and sly observations, this is a perfect book for late summer reading. (Sept.)

Again with the sheriff thing, but what the hell. The fabulous K says it's a rave; who am I to contradict her?


More house

So, the 3rd fl is moving along in great shape, although we found that the forced-air returns in at least two of the rooms are stuffed with what appear to be bits of gnawed carpet—did I mention the house used to be home to a large-ish colony of, um, rats? Yeah. Rats. Dan has disappeared for the moment, apparently taking advantage of this week's nice weather to finish an exterior job. The fireplace guys finished their end of the installation, and the unit looks great. It appears we'll be able to use the mantel we found at Dell's, as long as the projecting shelf is high enough (too low and there's a risk of fire). More tile to pick out—maybe we'll go with these. The lovely A_______ has selected the above tile mural for the kitchen backsplash: quite nice, I think (I'm especially fond of the lion eating the oryx, or whatever it is), though I would have argued for something delft-y from the solartile website (she is smarter and has better taste than me).

We meet with Barb the kitchen designer tomorrow for a final look at the plan, and some quotes on cabinets and counter—so we'll see if we can really afford the cherry/cambria combo we're thinking about, etc.

My big goals for next week: the two back bedrooms finished, cabinets ordered, upstairs fireplace fully installed with dura-rock and ready for tile. Also we should have some of the new windows in by then. And maybe the dining room ceiling taped-off, and the walls skim-coated. I think A_________ and I are both feeling the weight of some big fix-up expenses coming just down the road (furnace/boiler, screen porch, kitchen), which makes us a bit anxious to get things done and start winding down/moving in. Probably not quite by September 1st, I'm guessing.

Update: the meeting with Barb went fine—the numbers on the cabinets actually came in slightly below my educated guess, which is a great thing. We made decisions about materials and style and range size (36"); now we're down to countertop, other appliances, sink, lighting and wall color. Just that.

Dan's back (it rained this a.m.), working away. All good.


Crack house mania

A few developments:

We have a kitchen design, looks like: it involves a corner stove and a not-quite island (more of a peninsula) that extends into the space from the k/dr wall with seating for four. We're getting close on materials, too, so we should be ready to order cabinets, etc., early next week. Some open questions about who does the installation work and what kind of prep we need to do in advance (floors first, I assume--but what do I know?).

Bids on clearing/grading/seeding the backyard are in, and considerably higher than I expected at $4100 to $5000. Perhaps the geothermal thing would have made sense after all. What can you do? Got to have a backyard.

The windows for the 3rd fl, dr and stairwell have arrived; Jim will start installing them next week.

Work on the 3rd fl wall repair is moving fast; I'm particularly excited about reclaiming that space from the entropy gods. It's going to be quite nice when we get it all done.

The gas fireplace guys come tomorrow to finish the installation. We're happy with them so far--they seem serious and efficient and glad to have our business. Once it's in we can order tile and buy a nice antique mantel from Dell's.

Several neighbors have expressed an interest in the kitchen things we're getting rid of. The cabinets and fridge are spoken for, but we'll also be selling the stove and the dishwasher. First offer takes them.

Dan's working steadily at painting the two 2nd fl back bedrooms. On to the master br from there, then 3rd fl, then dr, I think.

The screen porch is still just a wacky dream at this point—we're hoping to get Jim going on the design in the next week or so. And that, with any luck, will be the last thing on this go-round.


The murder thing

I'm getting pretty interested in this weird denial phenomenon among some of my fellow writers of "crime fiction." Some of us want to pretend that we don't really have a greater than passing interest in murder-as-entertainment. Never mind that we spend great whopping chunks of our lives thinking about, planning and describing murders, learning the grisly details of the various means and methods (for the first book I had to research arson, asphyxiation, crucifixion, exit wounds, gaff hooks and lobster boats, among other murder-related topics), not mention reading up on autopsies and everything that's new and cool in the forensic world. But no, what we're really fascinated by are the great universal truths and a certain amount of deep emotion. It's just that the murder mystery (sorry—"crime novel") is the best possible vehicle for character development and the expression of human drama. Oy. If you catch me writing a genre novel about meaning, truth and a reason to go on living, please just shoot me.

I'm mystified, sort of, but I think there are two likely sources: first, there's a very strong desire among a lot of crime writers not to be dismissed as mere purveyors of gore. No one (except me, I guess) wants to be thought of as a callous exploiter of sensational crime—even if it's entirely imaginary. Second, there's a great reluctance among some of my crimespace buddies to examine the darker bits of their own psyches—they can write the most blood-curdling things but really, they're just fine thank you very much (dark side? What dark side?). To each his/her own, of course. But I don't think I could do this unless I was comfortable with what it says about me: yes, I hope to exploit my readers' fascination with sensational crime (turns out that I'm kind of fascinated by it, too). And yes, there are some dark, cobwebby things scurrying around in my psyche, and every now and then I like to let them come out and play.

Crack house update

A few developments, still (weirdly) all positive, touch (funky, warped) wood. We meet with Barb the kitchen designer tomorrow--the only one out of the three we've consulted who's actually been in the house. Somehow the other two didn't quite seem to get it. We're hoping Barb will. She seems very nice, in any case. We've resolved not to let her go tomorrow until we've got a design we all agree on, and have ordered cabinets. There's a screenplay in there somewhere.

The gas fireplace guys are coming to install the gas line to the 2nd floor bedroom tomorrow, which seems like a good thing. That way when the insert, etc., comes in they'll have a much quicker installation. This makes me feel that they're on top of things, and that's encouraging. The gas insert thing turned out to be a bit tricky--the old coal-burner inserts were taller than they were wide, and most conventional gas inserts are wider than they are tall--which makes installing them in a fireplace like ours kind of complicated (they have to cut brick, etc). Fortunately I was able to find a fireplace/insert manufacturer who makes a "portrait" style retrofit for coal burners. The first guys we got an estimate from claimed that no such thing existed. They wouldn't lie about something like that, would they?

Dan the painter should start tomorrow (fingers crossed) on the two smaller 2nd floor bedrooms. He seems like a very able and hard-working guy, so we have high hopes. So much depends upon a guy with a caulking gun and a can of latex paint.

We should have quotes from the two landscapers anytime. It's been over a week now. Hello?

The floor guys are done for the time being--they sanded and put two coats of poly on the stairs up to the 3rd floor, and also did the entire 3rd floor floor, if that makes any sense. They're doing a good job, I think. They'll come back when all the wall repair and paint is done and do a final screen and coat.

Joe the wayward drywall finisher is scheduled to return this week, so work on the 3rd floor wall repair should begin in earnest. Jim's already up there, trimming out doors. It's going to be a great space. New windows are due to arrive this week or next, which will also make a huge difference.

The furnace/AC guys should also be calling relatively soon (a couple of weeks) to set up a day to come in and do the furnace/boiler/AC install. Do we want a humidifier? Yes, said the lovely A________. Yes we do. Bartender, put it on my tab.

We've tracked down some cool period repro tile and lighting fixtures online. It's kind of nice that my mad internet shopping skills are good for something other than acquiring more guitar gear.

Full novel jacket

Here's the full book cover, officially complete. I'm happy with it, in general--a couple of spots in the flap copy that still seem a bit awkward, my hair's doing something weird in the author photo, and what, no credit for helping with the jacket design? (Kidding on that last one). Still, it's a good-looking book, I think. If that matters. And apparently it does.

Up to page 118 on the new one, as of today. How in the hell people write a book a year is the real mystery, if you ask me.

Update: Okay, it's not quite final. They forgot to insert the money quote from Kirkus; that's still going in, apparently.


A note about romance novels and their place in the literary/artistic hierarchy:

Somewhere between lap-dancing and oompah music, I'm pretty sure.

(Post in reference to a crimespace thread I started, here.)

Update/apology: it's been brought to my attention that I've insulted a lot of strippers and tuba players with this post. Not my intention at all. Sorry.