World Turning

It’s interesting how stories come to fruition; everything I write has an origin story, and my story in Chesapeake Crimes: Magic is Murder is no exception.

Ironically, “The Snow Globe” began as a Halloween story, believe it or not, rather than the Christmas story it actually turned out to be. The inspiration came to me on a Halloween night–actual Halloween, not gay Halloween–I think in either 2003 or 2004. I was out in the French Quarter by myself for some reason–that reason is lost in the mists of time, but it must have been 2004; Paul wasn’t quite comfortable yet being out and about in crowds just yet, so I wound up spending Decadence and Halloween and pretty much any time I went out back then by myself, meeting up with friends (the real life inspiration for Scotty’s friend David, for you Scotty readers out there). Anyway, this particular Halloween I wore a wrestler’s singlet that I’d borrowed from my friend Not-David. He was smaller than me but back then I was also pretty small; I weighed somewhere between 170 and 180 and wore 30 waist pants; everything I wore was a small (my shirts were mediums) but I’d forgotten how tight singlets actually are; a small male singlet fit me like second skin, and of course, I wasn’t wearing anything underneath (I got a lot of attention that night in the bars). Anyway, I was waiting for my friends and was standing on the balcony of the Pub/Parade, nursing a bottle of Bud Lite and watching the street–seriously, actual Halloween is primarily for locals, everyone wears a costume, and it’s a lot of fun–when someone walked out the door of Oz, across the street, wearing a devil costume.

He had on a mask, had the horns and tail–but all he was wearing was a skimpy red bikini and a lot of red body paints. He was wearing stiletto boots that looked like hooves (except for the stiletto part) and his body was amazing, and I literally thought, Satan has a great six-pack. This made me laugh, and I thought, that’s a great opening for a Halloween story.

I did make a note of the line in a journal, and never forgot it.

Flash forward a decade or so and HWA was doing a Halloween-themed horror anthology, and I thought my Satan has a great six-pack story would work perfectly for it. I worked on it–was also writing a book at the same time–and sadly, never finished it. Flash forward another two years and there was a hilarious thread on Facebook–I do not recall what it was about or how it started, but it eventually devolved into someone suggesting an anthology called War on Christmas in which every story took a kind of Hallmark Christmas movie trope and tweaked into something dark. Someone mentioned a magical snow globe in one of the films, I replied “Oh I want to do the story about Satan’s snow globe!”

And I realized that just changing one letter in Satan turned it into Santa, and I could use that opening sentence yet again. I love when that happens.

Santa, Dylan thought, certainly has a great six-pack.

He smiled as he leaned against the bar, watching the so-called Santa with a slight smile. He definitely wasn’t your average department store Santa, that was for sure.

The guy’s body was thickly–almost impossibly– muscled and perfectly proportioned. His biceps and shoulders were thick, every muscle cord and fiber etched and carved beneath his smooth, tanned skin. The cleavage between his big chest was deep, his nipples like purplish quarters. It didn’t seem possible for his waist to be so small, and the crevices between his abdominal muscles were deep enough for a finger to fit between up to the first knuckle.  His legs were powerful and strong, ropy bulging veins pushing against the silky skin.

Like a traditional Santa his face was hidden behind the obligatory long white wig and the thick white beard and mustache—but that was his only bow to tradition. Rather than a red suit with white trim and a big black belt, he simply wore a very small bikini of crushed red velvet with glittery red sequins trimmed around the waist and legs with green faux fur.  Large brass rings exposing pale skin connected the front to the back. His red boots sparkled with red sequins and glitter, trimmed at the top with green velvet. Slung over his right shoulder was a red velvet bag, also trimmed with green faux fur.  Every movement he made as he talked to a group of young twinks with poufy hair and obscenely slim hips caused muscles to bulge and flex somewhere.

He knew he was staring but didn’t care.

Dylan wasn’t drunk. Well, maybe just a wee bit tipsy.  He was nursing his third beer since getting to the party a little after eight, but  about an hour ago the bartenders had poured free shots of some sort of tequila about an hour earlier. It had burned and made his eyes water—definitely not the best tequila.

The idea of a cursed snow globe really appealed to me, and since I’d only gotten about two paragraphs into the Halloween story, changing it to Christmas was easy; it actually even made more sense as a Christmas story as opposed to a Halloween story (and, truth be told, I had always hated the title I was using for it as a Halloween story; “The Snow Globe” is a much better title). The War on Christmas anthology chose to not use the story, but the editor gave me incredible feedback–primarily, I had played down the magic/voodoo aspects of the story, which were actually it’s strongest and most interesting point–in all honesty, I was hesitant to use voodoo as a dark force in the story; it’s clichéd, at the very least, and the last thing I wanted to do was add to the confusion of what voodoo actually is–but the ‘curse’ in the story is about vengeance, and every religion has both a light or “good” side and a dark or “bad” side.

Plus, I had always wanted to write about Baron Samedi, and here was a chance.

So, when I got the call for submissions for Magic is Murder, I thought, hey, here’s a place you send “The Snow Globe” too after you revise it per the editor’s notes! Needless to say, I was enormously flattered and pleased when the story was chosen.

I do like the story a lot; it’s always fun to write about snow in New Orleans (yes, it starts snowing in the story) and it was also kind of fun to write about an older gay man for a change; a single guy in his fifties who has started feeling his age and is. well, lonely.

And really, can you ever go wrong with a stripper Santa?

You can order the book here if you like, or you can order it from your local independent (always your best choice, really).

If You Were My Love

Wednesday, and Pay the Bills Day has rolled around yet again. Huzzah?

Yesterday actually turned out to be rather pleasant, or at least not terrible, you know? The workday went well; some things are changing around at the day job–to be expected, as we’ve transitioned to a new department director and some other management staffing changes have occurred–but it’s not nearly as intrusive or annoying as I had feared it could be (the curse of a highly overactive imagination strikes again) and while that’s not to say there haven’t been some bumps, it hasn’t been as rough as I had worried it would be. I think I am starting to adjust at long last to this sleep schedule–I actually forgot to set the alarm last night but woke up at the right time–which is good, I suppose; I still don’t like going to bed early or getting up this early, but it’s become less and less painful the longer it goes on.

I was also highly productive when I got home from the office. I did the dishes and got laundry started (I’ll have to finish it tonight), and then I sat down and wrote around two thousand (incredibly shitty but nonetheless actual) words on the new Scotty. I am really enjoying writing this new book, even if the writing is thus far pretty horrible; the first drafts of Scottys are usually pretty fucking horrendous (I suspect I’ve never really made any moves about storing my papers anywhere is because I don’t want anyone to ever see how shitty my first drafts actually are, or to put my incredibly self-absorbed journals into circulation of any kind, even if it is ‘by request.’) but it feels good to be working on him again. Even as bad as the draft is, for some reason I never experience Imposter Syndrome when I work on the Scotty books, and maybe that’s yet another reason why I never let him go….writing him feels so natural, and there’s an easy comfort to entrenching myself in his world again.

It’s also lovely to get up to a relatively clean kitchen, too. There’s still some more cleaning to do in here–I’d like to spend some time every evening getting the apartment under control so I don’t have to spend much time on my weekends doing that sort of thing. As always, I am going to be trying to write a book during football season, which is always a nightmare for me. But let’s face the facts, shall we? There’s always something else going on that will distract me from the book–in the spring it’s the festivals and the Edgars, in the summer it’s the heat, in the fall it’s football season, and in the winter it’s Christmas and Carnival, so when IS a good time for me to write a book?

I’d also like to get some reading done this weekend. I am behind as always on my reading, but the focus reading properly requires hasn’t been there for a few weeks; I suspect it’s because my head is filled with Scotty–it really is–and so I can’t really make room for anything else at the moment. I am hoping once I get a few more chapters into the story I’ll be able to get back to my reading, as the great reads continue to pile up all around my TBR stacks in the living room. Heavy heaving sigh. But while I may have had a bit of mental fatigue around reading lately, it was really nice to not be super tired when I got home from the office for a change. I have to stop at the store on the way home tonight, so here’s hoping I’ll still have the same kind of “off-work now I’m home” energy I had yesterday so I can finish the cleaning–my birthday is Saturday, so I’d kind of like to not have to do much of anything that day other than relax and chill…and maybe spend the day reading.

Once Paul came home, we watched Only Murders in the Building and a new documentary series on Netflix; a true crime in Baton Rouge! And a recent one at that, 2019–and this is the first I’m hearing of it. It’s not too surprising, I guess–I really don’t pay much attention to the Baton Rouge news a whole lot, other than when they had that serial killer a couple of decades ago–but if it’s a weird enough case to get a documentary series, you’d think I would have heard of it, wouldn’t you? Called I Just Killed My Dad, it’s about a seventeen-year-old who shoots and kills his father, calls 9-1-1, admits it…and then it starts getting more complicated. It’s a very interesting case, and I am kind of looking forward to watching the rest of it.

And on that note, I have some bills to pay before I head into the spice mines for today. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

You May Be The One

Tuesday and the week seems to be settling into a sort of groove that I can not only handle but isn’t too horrific, to be perfectly honest. The week has started off pretty okay, really; I was notified that Mystery Scene magazine had given an anthology I have a story in a glowing review which included a lovely shout out to my story, “The Snow Globe,” which is absolutely lovely. And I quote: “The Snow Globe,” by Greg Herren, is a dark and humorous Christmas tale–“Santa, Dylan thought, certainly has a great six-pack”–about loneliness, voodoo, and reconnecting with family.

Isn’t that lovely? Usually anthologies I am in get reviewed and my story doesn’t get mentioned; there was a review of one anthology in particular I recall where every single story was individually reviewed…except for mine, which wasn’t even mentioned. Since my story had gay content and characters, I can’t help but think that was due to the reviewer’s homophobia; why would you namecheck every story in the book with a few sentences about each and then not even mention mine, even to dog it? I know, I know, it’s not always homophobia, but one always has to wonder–especially when you have the only gay tale in the book and it is the ONE story that doesn’t even get mentioned. So how lovely was this?

I don’t even mind that the story was called “dark and humorous” even though it wasn’t supposed to be funny (this has happened so many times in my career….)

But, you see, this is yet another one of the problems of being a queer writer of queer work. When things happen like the aforementioned review (where my story was the only one unworthy of review or commentary), as a queer writer of queer work you always have to wonder: was my story that bad, or is this just your average, garden variety homophobia at work? This is always an issue for queer writers; is this a place that will publish a story about a gay man or will they just reject it out of hand? I wonder about this, particularly with the bigger markets for crime short fiction that are out there. I know I’ve sold a gay tale or two to some of the paying markets for crime short fiction; I also know there are some that have rejected every story with a gay character but have taken the ones that centered a straight character. I shouldn’t have to even wonder about this, to be perfectly honest; I should never hesitate about sending a story somewhere as long as it meets their guidelines. And yet, every time I submit something, anything, somewhere anywhere, I always wonder.

I ran my errands after work yesterday, came home and Paul and I relaxed in front of the television, watching the last episode of The Anarchists (weird and sad), and then got ourselves caught up on Becoming Elizabeth, which is quite well done for a Starz English royalty dramatization (earlier series, based on the Philippa Gregory books, were also well done, but not necessarily always historically accurate. Becoming Elizabeth follows the period between the death of Henry VIII and Elizabeth being crowned queen–the eleven year period of the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I, which were quite turbulent and Elizabeth often found herself imprisoned, if not her life in jeopardy. It was in navigating those times that her character was formed, and she learned–often the hard way–how to play both sides as well as how to never ever cross the line into treason.

I slept decently, not great, last night, and this morning I am not feeling either tired or groggy, but that doesn’t mean I won’t hit the wall this afternoon, either. I have so much to do it’s not even funny, and I suppose, as always, that the key to getting everything done is to just go down the list and check things off once and for all. I did get some work done on the new Scotty yesterday–not much but any progress at this point is progress–but I was mostly tired when I got home last night, to be honest. I am hoping for a better day today than yesterday was–not that it was a bad day, but it was a very low energy, low motivation day (which probably had a lot to do with me going in on a Monday, which isn’t the usual and at some point I am going to have to get used to again, which I kind of don’t want to do, frankly) so hopefully today won’t be like that. They set up a work station in my testing room yesterday, which means I don’t have to commute back and forth from my desk all day anymore, so today will be me trying to get used to that and trying to figure out how best to utilize the space in the my room and how to make it easier for me to do my job with the new set-up; I don’t know how I am going to get it set up to be functional quite yet, which means work arounds in the meantime until I can get it all figured out.

If it isn’t one thing, it certainly is another.

I also had ordered a new pair of glasses from Zenni.com that arrived yesterday, and I really do like them–I especially like that they were about one fifth the cost of my last pair, which I bought from the optometrist. (I may order another pair or two today; I didn’t want to go crazy until I got the first pair and could see that they worked just fine, which they do.) I had never thought of glasses as being fashionable; they were too expensive, for one thing, to think about in terms of oh I should get different pairs in different styles to coordinate with outfits; which of course meant that, as with everything, I saw glasses as utilitarian rather than fashionable–function over form, if you will. But this pair of glasses was inexpensive enough that I can actually start thinking of my glasses as form and function, rather than as one. So, maybe on my lunch hour I will look around on their website and see if I can find some others that work for my round face and slight wattle.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader! And I will see you tomorrow!

Cathouse Blues

Monday morning and I am off to the office to cover for a co-worker rather than work at home. This works because my work-at-home day this week will be Friday, and then the next week it will be Monday again, so I’ll have four days of not going into the office around my birthday, which is kind of nice. I didn’t have any trouble getting up this morning–I woke up actually at 5:58 and stayed in bed through another two snooze cycles starting at 6, as usual–and now I sit, swilling coffee and feeling awake, as the clock inevitably makes its way to the time when I have to start getting ready to leave for work.

Costco was delivered yesterday, and it really is a remarkable convenience. I still need to run past their actual store one night after work this week–some things can’t be delivered, or they don’t offer them for delivery; it’s also entirely possible they do have the stuff in stock just don’t deliver it and that’s why I want to run by just to make sure. It’ll be an easy in-and-out, and after work one day should do the trick, I would think.

It’s weird going in on Monday morning and getting up so early an extra morning this week–I don’t have to stay the entire shift today, so will most likely leave earlier than I usually do on my day shifts in the office. I suspect we’re going to go back to our old way of doing things in September at last, and I am hoping that means I can swing back around to evening shifts once again–which would be super lovely. An adjustment again, to be sure, but one that should be much easier than adjusting to getting up early every morning, which goes against every grain and fiber of my being.

Heavy sigh.

I didn’t get a lot of writing done this past weekend–not really a surprise, to be honest–but I was pretty worn down by the time the weekend rolled around again, and so I am not terribly surprised I didn’t get a lot of work done this weekend. By the time I got home on Friday I was feeling fatigued already, and of course, I didn’t have much energy the entire weekend, either. Which is fine–I was able to do things that didn’t require much thinking, like cleaning and so forth–and while my mind couldn’t really wrap around reading over the weekend, I did start rereading my Sandman graphic novels, which help make the show even more enjoyable, to be honest; seeing how well the books were adapted into the show–well, I may need to watch the show again because I can’t stop thinking about it and the concepts it explored. It really is an exceptional television experience. We also got caught up on Five Days at Memorial, which I didn’t realize was still airing, so we are caught up on everything available, and we also caught up on American Horror Stories–the last two episodes were vastly superior to the first two, but still, not the greatest–and I also watched The Manchurian Candidate (the original, with Sinatra and Angela Lansbury) for the first time; it was a bit dated, and I also couldn’t help but think how much better it would have been if someone like Montgomery Clift or Paul Newman had played the male lead rather than Sinatra (I’ve never been much of a fan of his acting, really). It was interesting, and of course Paul didn’t see the big twist coming–the Angela Lansbury thing–and she was fantastic. It was also very much of its time–Communist scare, evil Soviet and Chinese Communists, brainwashing–but I’d also like to go back and read the novel on which it was based at some point.

I have an errand to run today after work–picking up a prescription–which is why I am wondering if it would be smart to swing by Costco on my way home; I can catch I-10 right here outside the office and be there in like five minutes, give or take, plus it’s much easier to get uptown from Costco. Decisions, decisions–but why not get it all over with tonight, then go home and shave my head and face for the week? It does make the most sense. Ah, well, no need to decide now.

And on that note, this is my birthday week–I will be sixty-one on Saturday, ee-yikes!–which only bears mentioning (it’s not something I care about excessively, to be honest) because all of my social media will announce it eventually this week at any rate. So I am heading in to the spice mines; y’all have a marvelous Monday!

The Dealer

Sunday morning in the Lost Apartment and I am feeling a bit bleary-eyed this morning. I slept magnificently last night; I didn’t want to arise from the nest of blankets in my comfortable bed this morning in the least. But arise I did, because there are things I must get done today and staying in the bed for a longer time than usual would not help accomplish anything except, you know, more pleasure of sleep.

We did finish watching Black Bird last night, which was an interesting show based on a true story and executive-produced by Dennis Lehane; in which a cop’s son turned bad gets a chance to get his sentence commuted if he goes into a prison for the criminally insane and gets a serial killer–whose appeal might earn his release–to confess to him. It was quite entertaining and more than a little intense, but I do recommend it. I don’t think it needed to be six episodes–I think it felt a little padded here and there to get to six episodes, which seems to be the American minimum/sweet spot for mini-series. We also started watching Five Days at Memorial, which is…interesting. It’s a dramatization based on a book and the true-life experiences of those who were trapped there after Katrina and the flooding; one thing that was absolutely spot-on was how everyone kept lapsing and calling the hospital “Baptist” instead of “Memorial”–the hospital had been bought out by Tenet Health and renamed in the years before the storm; it was a New Orleans thing as to how long it would take for the new name to catch on; I was still calling it “Baptist” to the point that even the title of the series took me aback; I actually did wonder before we started watching, was the name of the hospital Baptist Memorial and we all just called it Baptist? Mystery solved.

I did run my errands yesterday–it didn’t feel quite as miserable outside as I thought it would–and actually made dinner last night…meatballs in the slow cooker, but I also made them differently than I usually make slow-cooker meatballs, the recipe I donated to the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook; I added sour cream to the recipe, for one thing, as well as some other spices and vegetables in the sauce. They turned out really well–quite tasty, actually–and as I sliced bell peppers, celery and onions yesterday while the roux bubbled and browned, I remembered oh yes, I love to cook; I just never get the opportunity to do so anymore. Our work and sleep schedules are now completely out of sync, and the only time I ever cook anything is on the weekends. Today I do need to make things to take for lunch this week–the meatballs will only stretch so far, and I am starting the week in the office on Monday instead of Tuesday this week. I am also having Costco delivered this afternoon as well. I also need to get to work on my second-pass page proofs for a Streetcar today; they are due on my birthday, ironically, but I’d rather get them out of the way today. I also want to get some writing in today, if I am lucky and motivated; I need to start getting more focused and less concerned about other things and issues as well as getting distracted, which is getting easier and easier all the damned time. I know there’s medication for ADHD, but unfortunately it can also act like speed–and the last thing in the world I need is to take something that will make it harder for me to fall asleep.

Yeah, definitely don’t need something to keep me awake longer. (Although every night before I go to bed now I start drifting off to sleep in my easy chair, which is so fucking lovely you have no idea.)

I’ve been reading some non-fiction lately; my mind hasn’t been clear or steady enough to continue reading fiction–a malaise that has come and gone since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020–so I’ve been focusing more on non-fiction when I am reading lately. I’ve got a really interesting book called Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang, which is absolutely fascinating. I loved the Charlie Chan movies when I was a kid (neither knowing nor comprehending how racist they were, not to mention their “yellowface” aspects)–again, the influence of my grandmother–and I read some of the Earl Derr Biggers novels when I was a teenager. I am really interested in getting into the meat of this book, since the character was beloved but is problematic in our more enlightened time; can the stories and the character be reclaimed from the morass of stereotyping and cultural colonialism the books and films were steeped in so deeply? Reading the introduction to the book yesterday did again make me feel like gosh, I wish I was educated enough in criticism and the writing of non-fiction to produce this type of work; there are any number of books and writers and characters I would love to explore and dissect and deconstruct. But alas, I do not have that background or education, nor do I have the necessary egotism/self-confidence in my own intellect to believe that I could come up with anything interesting or constructive or scintillatingly brilliant to say that hasn’t already been side (although I have an interesting take on Rebecca I would love to write about someday). I’d love to write about the heyday of romantic suspense and the women who hit the bestseller lists throughout the 50’s-80’s writing those books (Whitney, Stewart, Holt being the holy trinity); deconstructing the themes and tropes and tracing their evolution as the role of women in society began to change during the decades they wrote their novels.

I also bought an ebook about the children of Nazis, which is something that has always fascinated me; how did and have Germany and Germans dealt with, and continue to deal with, their horrific and genocidal past?

Obviously, as a Southerner, I am curious to see how one deals with a horrific history.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Y’all have a lovely Sunday, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

All The Beautiful Worlds

I would not describe myself as a big comics fan. I love them, still have a strong attachment to them and their characters, but I am hardly an expert–not even close.

I started reading comic books when I was very young–I remember all the iterations of Archie, Millie the Model, Little Dot, Little Lotta, Sugar ‘n’ Spice, etc.–and eventually moved into the world of super-hero comics (while still greatly enjoy the horror/suspense/mystery comics as well–The Witching Hour, House of Secrets, House of Mystery, Chilling Tales, etc.). I stopped reading them regularly when we moved out to the suburbs–they were harder to find in our little developing suburb when we moved there–and it wasn’t until we moved to Kansas several years later than I got back into comics again. I was always a DC kid; and the few years I’d been away saw some dramatic changes made to the DC Universe–trying to modernize and update them; the 70’s were a very weird time for Wonder Woman–and then, again, when I moved to California I stopped reading them again. A friend in college brought me around to them again, this time also introducing me to Marvel. When I moved to Houston, my nephew was really into comics, and so I started reading them again with him, and continued buying them for several years. This was post-Crisis and the first massive reboot of DC, so as I was going through the racks at a comics shop in Houston one day I saw The Sandman.

The post-Crisis reboot of DC had changed some of the comics, and the heroes (this was always my favorite version of Starman, Will Peyton) changed as well. But…I wasn’t prepared for The Sandman.

I’d never heard of Neil Gaiman before, but it was this comic book series that turned me into a fan. The incredible imagination involved in creating this bizarre mythology, of the Endless siblings who epitomized some aspect of the human experience–Dream, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, Destruction, Destiny–and of course, the main character of the book was Dream of the Endless, master of the Dreaming, where all humans go when we sleep, and he controls our dreams, creating both Dreams and Nightmares. The story line of “The Doll’s House” especially was fantastic and enchanting; it was one of the few comics (along with the Will Peyton run as Starman) where I went back and bought the back issues because I wanted to read them all. (I’ve also gotten some of the all-in-one collections of the stories, including “The Doll’s House.”)

I’ve always loved this comic run. and have always regretted never finishing it; I stopped buying comics before the series ended. The prospect of a film version never interested me much because I didn’t see how it could be done, plus it would inevitably be a disappointment; the comics were visually stunning, the characters and stories so layered and complex I didn’t see how any of them could be condensed into a two-hour film, and the expense of recreating the brilliant and beautiful images contained within the books seemed insurmountable. The announcement of a Netflix series didn’t inspire confidence; I didn’t care for, or finish, the adaptations of two Gaiman novels I loved, American Gods and Good Omens, which to me was an omen that The Sandman would be disappointing as well. I also wasn’t sure if Paul would like it, or that it would be so difficult to follow without knowing the source material he’d pester me with so many questions I wouldn’t be able to follow it myself.

Constant Reader, I couldn’t have been more wrong about anything as I was about The Sandman adaptation.

First of all, it’s very closely adapted to the comics, at least as how I remember them. My memory isn’t what it used to be, of course, and so I couldn’t really remember much about it other than he was Dream, aka Morpheus, and he was lord of the Dreaming and had six siblings. It was also kind of an anthology series, with stand alone issues as Morpheus visited human dreams or was forced to sometimes interfere with them. (I also always thought he looked like Robert Smith, the lead singer of the Cure) So as each episode unfurled before me, I would start remembering things. I remembered that out of all the Endless, Death was actually the kindest and most compassionate, who saw her job as necessary and thus wanted to appear as a kind friend and companion to the dead to ease them through the transition (I have always thought that was brilliant). I remembered the story of him being captured and trapped by humans, and that the Dreaming had been damaged and decayed by his absence and he needed to rebuilt his world as well as capture his creations who’d escaped into the Waking World…and of course, the appearance of the dream vortex which could have destroyed everything, and how that played out.

It is such an excellent adaptation that some of the scenes in the show are perfect recreations of panels in the books themselves; I found myself smiling in recognition, visually the scene in print as well as on the television screen before me. The show is also beautifully written and perfectly cast, from Tom Sturridge as Dream himself (I don’t know how he did the voice, but its other-worldly yet beautiful at the same time; one of the things I loved the most about The Sandman is how Gaiman made everything, no matter how terrifying or scary or steeped in fear, beautiful; beauty can also be terrifying and The Sandman expresses this better than anything I’ve ever seen or read before) to Gwendoline Christie’s chilling turn as Lucifer to Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine (a gender switch from the comics) to my personal favorite, Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne. It’s a terrific cast, including an Emmy-worthy supporting turn by John Cameron Mitchell and of course, break out star Boyd Holbrook as the Corinthian.

I highly recommend it; its smart and funny and clever and intelligent and beautiful, the set and art design and costumes are first rate–and the cinematography is breathtaking.

I absolutely loved it, and so did Paul–who watched in utter spellbound silence and didn’t ask a single question.

I cannot wait for season two.

(Oh, and the show is queer and gender-bending AF, for the record.)

Annabel Lee

Saturday in the Lost Apartment and all seems to be well. I slept late as I had planned–maybe a bit too late, but I also stayed up late to finish doing the laundry (it’s such an exciting and always oh-so-glamorous life I live here in the Lost Apartment. I have to run some errands a little later on–mail, make groceries, prescriptions, library–and some things to do around here to touch up and clean a bit. I want to do some writing and reading today as well as just relax and enjoy the day a bit. We finished watching The Sandman this week, which was incredible–I think everyone can enjoy it, frankly, and it’s so creative and smart and visually breathtaking; a sweep of technical Emmys would be incredibly well-deserved; but it’s also a fantasy show built upon a mythology that originated in the DC Comics super-hero world, so it probably won’t be taken as seriously by the Emmy voters as it should…but then again they were also all about Watchmen (which was, frankly, superb), so you never know. Game of Thrones didn’t do too badly with the Emmys, either. Regardless, The Sandman is brilliant and I highly recommend it.

We also started watching the new show on Apple+ by Dennis Lehane, Black Bird, starring Taron Edgerton, which is also really good and Edgerton really is enjoying the role he plays. (Paul and I decided that he and Tom Holland need to make a movie together where they play brothers; Edgerton is what Holland would look like were he not so baby-faced boyish looking…or they could easily pass for brothers.) Edgerton, who is very handsome and has an amazing body, also looks like he’s been buffing up his body, too. (I think we first noticed him in Kingsman…I also think he’d make a terrific Nightwing if they ever make a Nightwing movie, which they really need to–I was distressed to see the latest HBO MAX news that Titans will probably be cancelled, which means DIck and Kori need to get together this final season soon to be airing.) We blew through the first three episodes quickly; I am also thinking we need to watch Five Days At Memorial–it’s getting to be Katrina anniversary time, woo-hoo–which will undoubtedly be difficult to watch (that period is a very dark time, obviously, and reliving it, even through the guise of entertainment, is always difficult) but probably necessary.

Since watching It’s a Sin last year (or whenever it was it was released) opened a floodgate of sorts in my mind. I know I’ve mentioned here before that I had always, since about age thirty-three, chosen to focus on the present and the future and never look back. It always seemed counter-productive, and I had finally come around to the acceptance point of realizing that everything that has happened in my life–whether macro or micro–inevitably set me on the path that led me to where I am today, and as long as I am happy, did the past really matter? What was the point to having regrets, to wishing I had something differently? Doing anything differently would have changed my path, and direction, with absolutely no guarantee that I would either be happy–or have survived this long. I am sure there are many many alternative timelines for me that had me dying in the 1980’s or 1990’s, which is always a sobering reflection and one I always have to keep in mind. I am alive because of every decision I’ve made and every heartbreak and crisis and problem and bad thing that has ever happened to me, and I kind of like my life and who I am. I am aware of my flaws (probably not as aware as I could be) and I know what my strengths and weaknesses are as a general rule; my biggest worry is that I delude myself periodically about anything or everything or something, and I really don’t like the possibility that I have blinders on when it comes to anything to do with me, my life or my career, while knowing it’s a strong one. I also know sometimes I probably take on blame for wrong that isn’t my fault (another reason Charlie in Heartstopper resonated so strongly with me was him constantly thinking everything was his fault and always saying “sorry”; I could absolutely relate to that as I’ve done the same most of my life and it is generally always my default on everything).

But as I have said, watching It’s a Sin, and being reminded so viscerally and realistically of what that period of my life was like–oh, they were so heartbreakingly young–did make me start looking back, remembering and reevaluating and, while perhaps not actually having regret, actually mourning everyone and the world and the life perhaps we all could have had if the homophobes hadn’t been in charge of everything back then. By not looking back I don’t think I ever allowed myself to heal, even though so much time has passed it’s all scar tissue now. But scar tissue is generally tighter than the skin it repairs; one is never quite as flexible as one used to be before the wounds became scabs and finally scars. Writing, as always, has been an enormously helpful tool for me to process experiences and feelings without tearing the webbing of the scar tissue again. That’s why I think writing “Never Kiss a Stranger” is important to me, and why the story haunts me so. Both Bury Me in Shadows and #shedeservedit both were enormously helpful to me, forcing me to deconstruct and evaluate and look at harsh bitter truths I’ve tried to avoid most of my life. So I think it may be helpful to watch Five Days at Memorial, because perhaps enough time has passed for me to look back without the full range of painful emotion the memories brought before.

Hilariously, after all that bitching yesterday morning about the health fair, it turned out much differently than I was expecting. For one thing, their scale clearly was wrong; it clocked me at 196 pounds. If that was accurate, then I have lost sixteen pounds since I last visited my doctor–two weeks ago (I weighed 212 at his office). As that is most likely not possible–especially since I’d moaned in disbelief when putting on my pants yesterday morning only to find them snugger than they were the last time I’d put them, so the notion I’ve lost that much weight in such a short period of time without trying is utterly ludicrous on its face, preposterous. But it did kind of make me smile a little bit and shake my head.

And on that note, I think I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and hope it’s everything you hoped it will be.

Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)

And here we are at Friday again. I have my office day without testing today, but we are having a health fair this morning for this bizarre points system we have with our health insurance–it’s the easiest way to get the points I need to get a discount on my health insurance–and I absolutely hate this. They always use the BMI charts to determine whether we are at a “healthy weight”, and anyone who has ever lifted weights for a decent period of time will tell you how that fucks up your BMI. Muscle is more compact tissue; someone who weighs for example, 180 pounds and is primarily muscle should have a lower BMI than someone who weighs the same and has never exercised a day in their life; but if they are the same height their BMI will be the same. So, for example, when I first started going to these health fairs I weighed 190 pounds and was wearing a size 31 waist in jeans.

They told me I was obese and needed to lose thirty pounds. I literally stood up, gestured up and down my body, and said, “From where?”

Now, of course I am twenty-two pounds heavier than I was–and yes, now they tell me I am morbidly obese. (My doctor tells me I am fine–“maybe ten pounds, but it’s not that big of a deal”–I choose to go with his assessment.) Sigh. Can’t wait to hear those words again this morning. It’s not that I object to being advised that I need to lose some weight–well aware that I do, thank you very much–its just that I don’t like being told that when its predicated on an outmoded system that was originally created merely to find what the average size is–not intended to diagnose or recommend weight loss. BMI doesn’t measure how much of your weight is fat tissue, muscle tissue, or bone; and those percentages are the ones that matter. And yes, I am fully aware that if my body-fat was being measured I would be told I need to lose some weight. I would just prefer that the measurement be something that is quantifiable rather than based on what I weigh and how tall I am.

Heavy heaving sigh. Okay, I’ll get down from my soapbox. But BMI measurements are often incorrect by a very long shot, and people who don’t have a background in personal training and fitness and don’t know that it’s a drastically inaccurate way of determining whether or not one needs to lose weight can be damaged by such an assertion–how does one react to being told their morbidly obese? It’s generally not something that makes your day better…

It’s interesting how perception of time and sleep is so weird and off. Today I don’t have to be at the office until nine, so instead of getting up at six, I get up at seven. Instead of going to bed between nine-thirty and ten, I go to bed at eleven–so I am actually getting the same amount of sleep, if not actually less, and yet every Friday morning I get up and feel so much more rested and less tired/sleepy; which really doesn’t make any sense but there it is. I feel very rested and relaxed and calm this morning, which means it was indeed a lovely night’s sleep. And of course tomorrow I can sleep till whenever I feel like bestirring myself from my bed. I do have errands and things to run this weekend, of course; I have to make groceries and at some point I either need to go to Costco or have it delivered (I am leaning toward a delivery, of course)–but I don’t mind going to Costco, really. Maybe I can wait and go when I get off work on Monday? I also have a lot to do this weekend. I have to go over the page proofs for A Streetcar Named Murder again; I need to do some serious writing; and I also want to spend some time reading. My birthday is next weekend, so I am timing my work-at-home days for the weeks around it so I work at home on both that Friday and Monday (part of the reason I am going in early on Monday; I am covering a clinic shift for someone). I am trying to decide what I want to gift myself for my sixty-first birthday, too. I don’t really need anything much, actually; although maybe a keyboard for my iPad might be just the thing I want and need. Hmmm. Something to think about, at any rate.

But overall it’s been a good week. Perhaps not as productive as I might have preferred, but it is what it is, and it’s Friday morning and I feel good and at peace. I am not feeling any major stress of any kind and am feel pretty good about everything right now. Sure, I am behind on almost everything I am working on, but a good productive weekend should have me soon feeling a lot better about everything and try not to get even more stressed about anything. Stress is the mindkiller, after all, not fear–Frank Herbert got that wrong in Dune, I’m afraid–and I am hoping I can have a nice relaxing, productive weekend. I am not going to get annoyed with myself if I don’t get everything finished that I need to get finished this weekend–it is what it is, after all–and the key is for me to ensure that I get rest and relaxation on the weekends, too. As long as I get to rest up, I can hang with the next week. I don’t ever want to get as fatigued as I was before I got COVID (which, in retrospect, was a bit of a blessing in disguise, really), and I need to take better care of myself. Bouchercon is in just a few weeks, and once that trip has passed, I am going to focus on a regular gym routine and trying to eat healthier and try to trim off some of this morbid obesity.

And at least the kitchen isn’t the enormous mess it usually is on Friday mornings, either. So it won’t take me long to get it back under control.

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee and head into the spice mines. Happy Friday, everyone, and will check in with you again tomorrow.

Wide Sargasso Sea

Thursday! Somehow we have managed to make it to Thursday, Constant Reader, which is definitely something to cheer about. Huzzah! This week has been a bit challenging, but I feel pretty good today (yesterday was one of those I slept well but never seemed to completely wake up days, which are getting harder and harder to deal with); I slept decently and I feel like I’m awake this morning, which is better than yesterday at any rate. I ran some errands on my way home from work last night, and then was tired. Paul was working on a grant so I just sat in my easy chair with my journal, trying to outline some projects that are currently in progress and get a stronger idea on where to go with the stories.

I’m not going to try to write that story whose deadline is the end of this month. As deep a wormhole as I’ve gotten into for the lost town of Freniere in the Manchac Swamp and Julia Brown the witch–which I am definitely going to write about at some time–I still don’t have an idea for a story, and I have another anthology I want to write something for by the end of the year that’s going to need some serious thought and consideration. The other contributors are very impressive names–it’s going to be another one of those one of these things is not like the other or why am I up here with these people? I was thinking about this same thing last night as I was telling Paul about my Bouchercon panels–in almost every case, I was thinking, what am I doing on these panels with these incredibly smart and talented people? Oh, well, the audience will be there for the other people and I’ll just be sitting up there, afraid to say anything for fear of proving that I don’t belong up there.

Ah, Imposter Syndrome. Such a delight at all times. Woo-hoo!

But as this month continues to slip through my fingers and everything I have to do continues to pile up with more and more things for me that I need to do–triage triage triage–and I am making a to-do list to try to make sure nothing gets overlooked or slips through the cracks. That’s always my fear; not that I won’t get everything done in a timely manner, but that I’ll forget something if I don’t write it down. That terrifies me. But I am pretty happy that I got a rough start to the Scotty book, have gotten some other things done, and am really hopeful that I’ll get to finish reading my book this weekend.

I continue to be endlessly fascinated by the Great Hurricane of 1915–in no small part because I wrote a New Orleans story set in 1916 (“The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy”) that makes no mention of it at all. This is one of the pitfalls of writing historical fiction–I am not an expert on New Orleans history and it never occurred to me to check to see what the hurricane situation in the preceding years was. On the other hand, I have read some New Orleans history for that period and NO ONE mentions the Great Hurricane of 1915. NO ONE. And considering it wiped some towns off the map (Ruddock and Freniere, in the Manchac Swamp), you’d think it would have merited a mention in some of these Storyville/French Quarter histories? It was a Category 3 or 4, so it had to have done some serious damage in New Orleans, and in the fall of 1916 the city would have still been rebuilding, one would think. Anyway, I picked a book on the hurricane from the library yesterday which I will also peruse this weekend to try to figure out how I want to write my story “When We Die” (yes, I already have a title for the story, I just don’t know how it’s going to go or what it’s going to be about or if it will even ever turn into anything…but now I also want to write a Sherlock Holmes story involving a hurricane….this is why, in case you were wondering, it’s so hard for me to get shit done because other ideas are always crowding their way into the front of my brain which is really annoying….)

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Friday Eve, Constant Reader!

A Soldier’s Angel

Wednesday and the middle of the week, such as it is.

I managed to get all my errands run yesterday in a relatively short period of time, and then once I got home managed to finish Chapter One of Mississippi River Mischief, which was a delightful turn of events. It always feels good once the first chapter is finished, and for some reason, this was one was harder than most to get started and finished. I’m not sure if the chapter will stand as written, either–I may want to reshuffle some things around and maybe this isn’t the best place to start the book–but it’s a start that I am glad to have made, at any rate. It never feels real until that first chapter–messy and sloppy and choppy as it is in its pacing–is written. Now I can say I’ve actually started writing the book–even though I’ve been working on it inside my head for quite some time now.

I slept very well last night–I don’t think I even woke up once in the middle of the night, or my sleep was so deep and restful that I don’t remember waking up in the middle of the night, and I’ll take either one, quite frankly. I feel very well rested this morning in general–physically and mentally and spiritually–which is always a nice way to start the day; yesterday I was crabby and irritated from having to get up so early, so while I really didn’t want to get up this morning either, at least I’m feeling mellow about having to get up and go to work this morning. I have a lot to do today as always; I can’t imagine what it will feel like to get up in the morning and not have a lot of things to do, frankly. On the one hand it sounds lovely, but on the other it would make me wonder why I would have so little or nothing to do; does that mean my writing career is over, for example? I can see it either way, to be honest. I think it would be a relief to not have to make a to-do list or spend the day trying to squeeze in everything that needs to be done…I am just going to come home right after work today–the errands (mail, grocery store, etc.) can wait until tomorrow, quite frankly–although I will be out of blackberries for tomorrow morning, but should I go ahead and stop on the way home tonight or put it off until tomorrow or what? I’ll probably decide at the end of my shift today…see how I feel as the time on my workday runs out.

It’s going to be another wet Wednesday in New Orleans; thunderstorms all day with a possibility of flash flooding–which, let’s face it, will play a part in my decision as to whether to just run straight home or potentially stop somewhere for blackberries and a few other things; I don’t like running errands when streets are filled with water. It’s supposed to be like this mostly for the next five days, really; and there’s a tropical system forming out there in the east Atlantic. Ah, August, how much fun are you always in New Orleans?

I’m also curious as to what is going to happen with Southern Decadence this year, given the new COVID variants and the rise of the monkey pox. We aren’t doing condom distribution this year, which feels very strange and weird, but we have had lube on back order for well over a year now so we don’t have everything we need to make condom packs anymore, either. Who knew that lube would be one of the things we’d have supply chain issues with during a pandemic? I’ve also been thinking about Decadence a lot, obviously, because I am writing another Scotty and am trying to slowly revisit the entire series to get reacquainted with his world and community. I also have been thinking about this story I want to write about Julia Brown and the Manchac Swamp–which is also tied into the new Scotty book–and while I was in the shower this morning I started thinking about a potential story for an anthology I’d like to submit to, but probably won’t have the time to write anything for–stories based on Alice Cooper songs, and I have one in mind already; nothing that’s already been started and can just be renamed, of course but rather something that has to start from scratch and I’m not sure if I have the bandwidth to write anything else at the moment.

Right? I say that…

But then of course it will bother me, like a loose tooth I can’t stop worrying with my tongue, and then I will break down and write the damned thing. Well I just looked up the submission call and the stories have to be turned in by August 31, so I most likely will not be writing anything for it, but it’s horror, not crime, which means the dark and twisted idea that I had could potentially work after all. Hmmm. A conundrum, to be sure. I was thinking some dark and nasty and suburban…yes, maybe I can play with the idea a bit today between clients and see what is actually possible here. What can it hurt?

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely middle of the week Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.