Don’t Dream It’s Over

Saturday, and LSU is taking on Vanderbilt at eleven a.m. on the SEC Network. GEAUX TIGERS!

I feel pretty good this morning. The massive volunteer project is now over but for the shouting, and I feel pretty damned good about it. I’ve been sleeping well, and starting to feel more rested–the emotional and creative hangover I’ve been experiencing has been absolutely horrific–so hopefully this weekend I can focus and get more work done. I am soooo far behind where I need to be with everything right now; but that also seems to be where I am at all the time, regardless of what else I am doing. I tend to always fall behind.

ALWAYS.

But I am taking today as a day of rest from everything–don’t worry, I’ll still be cleaning during the football games today (LSU-Vanderbilt, Georgia-Notre Dame, Florida-Tennessee) and maybe get some reading done; I also will have my journal perched on my end table so whenever an idea or thought comes to mind, I will be able to jot down notes whenever ideas come to me–and they almost always do, without fail. It really is a good idea, for the record, to write stuff down. I often go back through my journals and find jewels I’d completely forgotten about secreted in there.

And I have a veritable plethora of choices for my next book to read. The TBR pile around here has been out of control for quite some time, and I’ve got to start reading some of these books. I have some more reading to do to prepare for Bouchercon–I’m moderating two panels–and of course, there’s the Diversity Project, but I think I am going to read Lisa Lutz’ The Swallows next. I’ve also got to start preparing for those panels, thinking up good questions that will stimulate a healthy, vibrant discussion. Moderating panels is a lot of work, but I always try to think of them in terms of being like talk shows; like as moderator I’m Oprah and they are my panel of guests to talk about books. Loving books and authors as much as I do, it’s not much of a reach for me, and I am moderating some panels with some pretty smart, amazing, and talented people.

I seriously know some of the most amazing people. I have the most fantastic friends. I am so lucky.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines–LSU kicks off in half an hour.

GEAUX TIGERS!

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Also Sprach Zarathustra

Yesterday was a day.

Never mind why–it is simply too tedious for me to get into any detail and trust me, you’d be bored to tears–but the one nice thing about it was once it was finally over and donw with and I was safely inside the Lost Apartment and in my LSU sweats, with a purring kitty sleeping in my lap, I was able to rate rested and relaxed and now, hopefully I’ll be able to get my life back under some kind of control. That would be so lovely.I work a longer day now on Fridays–five hours instead of four–but shifting to coming in later in the day was an extremely smart move.

But the good news is that I was able to finally finish reading Rob Hart’s wonderful novel, The Warehouse.

the warehouse

Well, I’m dying!

A lot of men make it to the end of their life and they don’t know they’ve reached it. Just the lights go off one day. Here I am with a deadline.

I don’t have time to write a book about my life, like everyone has been telling me I should, so this’ll have to do. A blog seems pretty fitting, doesn’t it? I haven’t been sleeping much lately, so this gives me something to keep myself occupied at night.

Anyway, sleep is for people who lack ambition.

The rise in popularity  in dystopian fiction since the turn of the century isn’t really that difficult to understand; the world is kind of on fire and each day we seem to be inching our way to the inevitable collapse of civilization as we now know it. I do recognize how pessimistic that thought is, but it’s one I’ve been finding myself having more and more as the years have passed since the century dawned with so much promise back in 1/1/00. Remember how exciting the new century seemed back then, when it was fresh and new and full of promises? Yeah, well. Who knew? I wonder if people felt the same way in 1919…but given they’d just gotten through the first world war and the Spanish flu pandemic that killed millions, probably.

Early in the 1990’s, as queer equality issues began to become more and more mainstream–with the inevitable holier-than-thou nasty religious pushback–I wrote down many pages of thoughts and ideas I had about a dystopian future world, one in which queer people finally obtained equality only for there to be a horrific and horrendous pushback, similar to the one depicted in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale that pushed back against feminism and women’s equality. I saw an America where evangelical Christianity was encoded into our law; where people of color and other undesirables began to disappear as they were blamed from everything wrong with modern society and the economy; and where those unaffected by those prejudices and legalized bigotry turned a blind eye to the suffering of fellow Americans as long as they could pay their bills and buy nice things for their family. Since that original idea–which was easy to scoff at by friends I talked about it with, as they weren’t queer or marginalized–I’ve come back to that idea, time and again, as the idea sometimes seems to be taking root in reality. I tend to avoid dystopian fiction, as a general rule; I’ve read Brave New World, 1984, The Stand, Alas Babylon, The Handmaid’s Tale and many others; I’ve watched the Mad Max films. I generally try to avoid it, to be honest; I find our the dystopia evident in our reality far more frightening and oppressive than anything I might find in fiction.

But I couldn’t get into The Hunger Games  or any of the others published in the twenty-first century to great sales and acclaim; just had zero to no interest. I got into the zombie apocalypse stuff for a while, with The Walking Dead, but even it eventually devolved into misery/torture porn and I lost interest.

But Rob Hart’s The Warehouse…I don’t know; for some reason as soon as I heard the concept behind it, months before its publication date, I knew I wanted to read it. Part of the exhausting frustration I’ve felt over the last few weeks as I slogged away at the volunteer project has partly been due to my inability to spend more than twenty minutes or so at a time with the book; the one good thing, as I said already, about today’s errands was the ability to sit in a waiting room for long stretches of time with nothing to do other than read–and occasionally delete emails from my phone.

What a wonderful, frightening, and all too realistic book Rob Hart has gifted the world with!

The Warehouse is set in a world in the not-too-distant future where almost everything has collapsed. This collapse of functionality of the general society isn’t explained; but it has to do with climate change and economic shifts and rising seas. One company, Cloud, which allows everyone to buy everything they need on-line and have it delivered quickly via drones, with MotherClouds scattered all over the United States, has pretty much monopolized means of production and delivery; their employees are given free housing and so forth and live in climate controlled dorms that are all connected with the warehouses and entertainment complexes; enclosed cities, where your every move and your every purchase is monitored. There’s health care and communal bathrooms and showers and you need your Cloud wristband to get anywhere or do anything.

Sound all too frighteningly familiar?

The story is told from three different points of view; the book opens with with a blog entry from Gibson, the man who thought up and founded Cloud and became worth billions as he essentially took over the United States; Paxton, a small business owner who invented a thing called Perfect Egg, so that you could make a perfect hardboiled egg in the microwave and peel it perfectly every time, a business that flourished until Cloud’s demands for deeper and deeper discounts eventually forced him out of business and has now landed a job there; and Zinnia, a young woman we don’t know much about who is also starting work there, but she has an ulterior motive. Zinnia and Paxton eventually cross paths, become friends, and as he works security, she begins manipulating him for information as she also starts to develop feelings for him.

It’s a terrific story, very well told, with very smart things to say about capitalism, consumerism, and how easy it is to compromise your principles in exchange for security. Bright and intelligent and well-written, you can’t help rooting for both Paxton and Zinnia to somehow make it through everything and somehow come out on top.

Most dystopian tales deal with the aftermath of nuclear war, or Big Government taking over, or some kind of religious fascism, but rarely, if ever, has the dystopia arisen out of capitalism and consumerism, and Rob Hart hits the bull’s eye squarely with this one. (Well, also Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, but Ayn Rand deserves many posts all by herself, and she wishes she had one tenth of Rob Hart’s story-telling skill)

This is destined to be a classic, and I do hope Ron Howard does the story justice on film.

In closing this, I’d like to thank Rob–and other writers like him, like Ben Winters and Adam Sternbergh–for pushing the envelope of the crime genre, melding crime and speculative fiction in clever, innovative stories that broaden our genre and enable them to tell bigger stories than we customarily see in crime fiction. I loved this book from start to finish, and it’s so layered and clever–the development of Gibson, through his blog entries, his justifications for his egotism and so forth, was chillingly genius.

Read this book. It’s amazing.

Always

Would you look at that–somehow it’s Friday again. How did that happen? Where did this week go?

I literally have no idea. It seems like just yesterday I woke up on Monday morning, tired, and dreading facing the week. And yet, like everything, it has come to its inevitable end and here I am on Friday morning, awake  yet still sleepy and hoping to have enough coffee to get my ready for the day. Yesterday’s errands, which consumed my entire day like Pac-man eating his way through the maze, have to be concluded this morning, which means another drive out to Harahan and then back to Uptown before I can (hurray?) head into the office for a shorter day than usual. My Fridays recently got another hour added to them, but that’s fine. I don’t mind Fridays–primarily because it is, after all, Friday–and then this afternoon when I’m finished for the day I can come home to my comfortable easy chair and watch mindless television for the rest of the night if I so desire, or read, or clean, or whatever it is I need to get done today. I have some other errands I’ll probably run on Sunday, and other than that I am going to try to spend the weekend resting and recuperating and trying to get a firm grip on everything that I’ve let slide over the last month or so–and there’s quite a bit.

And yes, I am not in the least bit excited about it. It’s daunting, and terrifying, and scary, but I have to get caught up. I don’t have a choice. I have to.

While daunting–waking up, for example, to over a hundred new emails in my inbox–I refuse steadfastly to be daunted. I am inevitably always behind on most things, and somehow manage to always get everything done without having a breakdown of sorts–mini-ones, yes, but not major ones–and I know it’s more about me getting physically rested and allowing my brain to roam free. I was so tired last night after all of yesterday’s running around I wasn’t able to do much of anything other than finish Rob Hart’s superb The Warehouse and watch a movie on Amazon Prime last night before retiring to bed. (There will be more on The Warehouse later, as well as on the film–Giant Little Ones, which was very well-done and well-acted and interesting; I am sure there are people who will take issue with the plot and what happens during the course of the film, but at the same time its exploration of male teenage sexuality, homophobia, and the fall-out from teenage sexuality was highly original and nothing I’ve ever seen before; which isn’t easy to do with a film.) I also slept really well last night but was untimely ripped from bed by the alarm, as we have to drive out, as I said, to Harahan in a few moments and then I’ll be running around all morning before going to the office, which means today will probably be another one of those ‘too tired to function’ evenings to look forward to. The kitchen is a mess–I made pho on Wednesday night, which always results in a mess–and yesterday I just didn’t have the energy or wherewithall to do anything about it.

Of course, all the running around this morning means I’ll probably be back up to over one hundred emails by the time I am able to check them again, but there it is, you know?

I also continue to read Lords of Misrule, and just finished the “Who Killa Da Chief?” chapter, about the murder of the police chief, the scapegoating of Sicilian immigrants for the murder, their trial and acquittal, and of course the lynch mob that followed. The darkness of New Orleans never ceases to amaze and interest me. This crime was explored also in Empire of Sin, but it’s always nice to get other perspectives, and I think there’s a story somewhere buried inside this loathsome piece of the city’s history. It’s also strange to ever think of the French Quarter being called “Little Italy” and being filled with Italian immigrants loathed by the rest of the city; there are some Italian restaurants still there, of course, and there’s probably some truth to the legend that the gay bars and bath houses were originally owned by the local Mafia. (There’s a story in there as well; the Mafia generally did own gay bars in major cities, back in the day, and those bars were probably used for money-laundering.) Lou Berney’s brilliant November Road briefly touched on the mob history of New Orleans; I have a memoir somewhere written by a purported New Orleans mob figure that I can’t wait to read.

And on that note, looks like Paul is ready to head out, so I am going to bring this to a close. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and talk to you soon.

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With or Without You

Well, today is going to be one of those days.

I had to take the day off from work to take care of some dental issues for Paul, which means driving uptown this morning and then out to Harahan. The good news about all of this is I can read Rob Hart’s The Warehouse while I sit around waiting most of the day–there’s nothing I loathe more than sitting around and waiting all day–but the book should make an enormous difference. It’s starting to pick up steam, as I knew it would, and I can already see why Rob Hart is getting all the starred reviews and a movie option deal with Ron Howard; this book is cleverly written and the premise is absolutely genius, dystopian and all-too-realistic.

Clearly, there’s more upside than down to today, am I right?

We started watching American Horror Story: 1984, but for some reason Hulu cut out on the last five minutes or so, and I couldn’t get the show to reload on the television app again so we could see the end. That was disappointing and more than a little irritating, but hopefully whatever the issue was will clear up today so we can find out how the episode ended. As many others have noted, this season is playing with 80’s slasher movie tropes; the way it is filmed is clearly an homage to the heyday of the slasher horror film, with references and character archetypes and of course, the ever-popular trope of the summer camp. (I’ve thought about taking on that trope myself; while Lake Thirteen was kind of like that it wasn’t a slasher novel  but rather a ghost story. I really want to take the trope of a group of people going off somewhere remote and secluded to party and have a good time and then encounter something horrifying; I still might do it sometime) I never really got into slasher movies at the time they were popular; I assumed they were bloody and gory and yes, I was right about that. I think I started watching the Nightmare on Elm Street movies on videotape rental, and enjoyed them thoroughly, but eventually abandoned the series after maybe the third or fourth. Paul is a huge fan of the Halloween movies, so he got me to watch the original two, and many of the reboots/sequels of the last twenty years or so. And of course, I loved the Scream movies. I only recently watched the original Friday the 13th recently on Prime–Prime has a lot of the movies of the golden age of the slasher film available to stream, if you’re interested. I do have high hopes for this season–I love that there’s a trans actress in the cast, and Gus Kenworthy might not be talented–he hasn’t really had much of a chance to do anything other than look really hot and sexy so far, and he can actually do that quite well–but he is, as I said, great eye candy.

I’m not sure when I’m going to get home from all this running around today, but I hope to get home early enough to get some writing done, and to get the house cleaned. I made pho yesterday, which of course always creates an enormous mess, and I have to get that cleaned up at some point today. I’m still a little disoriented and emotionally hung over from the energy it took to complete the volunteer project, but I’m going to have to power through that because I just can’t keep letting things slide. I have deadlines, I have responsibilities, I have things that have to get done. And seriously, so much has slid over the last few weeks–my email inbox is a complete and utter nightmare–that I literally cannot have another slide day.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

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Everybody Have Fun Tonight

Well, we made it to Wednesday and survived, did we not? It’s payday, aka pay-the-bills day (yay) and I also only have to work a half-day, which is lovely.

I didn’t want to get up this morning; the big project I was working on was officially finished yesterday and turned in; and I was amazed at how much it had taken out of me. I was exhausted when I went to bed last night; emotionally and physically. Today I get to start digging out from under; my email inbox is completely out of control, and I’ve been trying to keep up with it as much as I can lately, but also haven’t really wanted to face some of them while I was so vested in something else, frankly. Today I have my half-day, and tomorrow I have the day off because I have to deal with some personal issues that will involve me driving all over New Orleans and Metairie–and no, none of it is anything that will resolve any issues I’ve been having with other things; I still need to figure out when to get to the dentist and to the Apple Store with my laptop and get the oil changed in my car. But as most of tomorrow will be spent driving somewhere and then waiting, I can hopefully get a lot closer to finished with Rob Hart’s wonderful The Warehouse, which I am greatly enjoying but have been too tired to read.

The goal for the rest of this week is to get some good work on writing done, get the email inbox cleaned out from top to bottom, and figure out what I can get done the rest of this month before I have to work on another project. I started some prep work for the Kansas book yesterday, which is basically being completely overhauled, just brainstorming name changes as I realized I used many of these character names in Sara (which is also a Kansas book), and therefore really can’t use them a second time. There’s definitely a couple of short stories that need to be finished, and of course, the Lost Apartment really needs to be cleaned thoroughly from ceiling fans down to the floor.

Something to do while college football games are on Saturday, I guess. LSU is playing Vanderbilt, but I don’t know if it’s a day or evening game–haven’t had the time to look it up, but definitely will, obviously, before Saturday–and other than that, I don’t know what other games are on tap for this weekend. But it’s lovely to know that I can have my usual Saturday again–writing in the morning before errands, then cleaning while watching football games the rest of the day, and reading as well–after several weeks of not having normal weekends.

I do rather think that once my brain has rested, it’s going to probably explode into another episode of mass creativity; which is daunting to think about, quite frankly, but always winds up being fun of some sort, and who knows what creative efforts might come forth. I’m still so discombobulated from all this work that I don’t know whether I’m coming or going to be honest; it’s kind of like that time after the Great Data Disaster of 2018, when I was literally on fire with creativity and balancing multiple projects and having a great time with everything…until the betrayal of my electronics.

I am now up to the lynching massacre of Italians in New Orleans that took place after the chief of police was murdered in the 1890’s in Lords of Misrule; another disgraceful period of history but at least one that wasn’t memorialized like the Battle of Liberty Place. I’ve read about this mob violence against Italians before, in Gary Krist’s Empire of Sin (which I highly recommend), and I know there’s a story in there somewhere for Monsters of New Orleans, but I can’t quite figure out what it is.  But I will get there someday.

And oop–there it is. I just figured it out. See what I mean? This is how my mind works. It’s seriously crazy. But it also solved a problem for me with one of the short stories I have in development; ah, if I just tweak this and add this bit, now the story works much better and maybe I can now sell it. How cool is that?

Pretty fucking cool, methinks.

Okay, time to get to the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, everyone.

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Looking for a New Love

Hey there, Tuesday! How you doin’?

I’m a bit on the sleepy side; I finally got a good night’s sleep for the first time in a few days, and as such I’m still  a big groggy and loopy this morning. Yesterday was an oddly out of sorts kind of day, during which I didn’t get a lot done but did manage to get some work done on the short story I have due by the end of the month. Kickstarting my writing really needs to become a priority as we wind up this seemingly endless volunteer project–but the end is so nigh it’s almost palpable, as thought I can actually taste the end as it draws near. I feel like this project has sort of sucked the life out of me and the marrow out of my bones, but it’s almost finished and perhaps now everything can sort of go back to some semblance of normalcy around here.

Like that ever happens.

We got caught up on The Righteous Gemstones last night, and I have to say, this show–which is also kind of weird and almost creepy in many ways–is quite enjoyable to watch. I’m not really sure where it’s going, which makes it even more fun, but it’s funny and sad and crazy all at the same time. John Goodman as the family patriarch and head preacher Eli Gemstone is perfect in the role, and pretty much everyone else in the cast is also perfect for their role. I am a little surprised there hasn’t been any nastiness from the evangelical community, but then again, how many  of them watch HBO?

I think tonight we’re going to start Succession, which comes highly recommended by any number of our friends, and one of the previews I saw last night made it look fantastic.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I continue to read Lords of Misrule, and the dark bloody history of this city continues to amaze and enthrall me. I’m shaking my head at myself–my ignorance of New Orleans history certainly gives the lie to the oft-stated notion that I am some sort of expert on New Orleans; I am anything but an expert on this city, particularly of its history. But I am learning, and studying, and I have to tell you, the more I read of New Orleans history the more inspired I am to write about the city.

I will say that I have been invited to contribute a story to an anthology, being done by a publisher in a foreign (yet English speaking) country. I am always excited to be invited to write for an anthology, and usually I see these tasks as challenges–there’s simply nothing more guaranteed to stretch and push your writing as writing to a theme. This one in particular is a strange one for me; it’s a collection of pastiches, where one is to take a particularly famous fictional character and make him a native of another place. You can make any changes to the character–gender, sexuality, age, time period, etc.–as long as, in this case, he isn’t British and the story isn’t set there. I have chosen to make him a New Orleanian during the time around World War I, and the crime he’s to become involved in solving has to do with the secrets of Storyville. I never considered myself to be anything more than a casual fan of this character, and had never considered doing pastiches about him, despite their increasing popularity. SO, I have the idea and I’ve already written the opening paragraph, and I am really looking forward to this challenge.

And I am very well aware that the Short Story Project has primarily taken a backseat to the Diversity Project, which I am taking a respite from in order to read Rob Hart’s novel, before getting back to it.

I do really want to get these other two short story collections finished at some point. But I also need to get some work done on the Kansas book; September is slipping through my fingers and there’s another all consuming project lying in wait for me for October and November–which means December will be spent on the Kansas book, with a goal to turning it into my publisher on January 1.

But we’ll see how that goes, won’t we?

And now back to the spice mines.

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I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)

Blue Monday….

I managed to get some things done yesterday; some work on the short story I needed to work on, and I finished the essay I needed to turn in yesterday. So, that’s a good start to the week, methinks; we’ll see if the momentum keeps going through this week. The month of September is definitely beginning to wind down–we’ve only got a couple of weeks left, and of course, I have another project that’s going to take all of my time for the next two months so getting things done this month is crucial for me going forward. I am sleeping and groggy this morning, which isn’t good, but hopefully as the coffee continues to enter my system I’ll start waking up and getting it together here.

We started watching The Righteous Gemstones last night on HBO, and I have to say, it’s highly entertaining and more than a little bit insane. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it, but what turned up was even crazier than I was expecting. The Gemstones are a family of evangelicals with a megachurch, and of course, raging hypocrites with borderline criminal credentials and behavior. Over the course of the first few episodes, the eldest son is being blackmailed over a video of him partying with cocaine and hookers; this craziness begins the wild spiral of this truly original show. I kept thinking about John D. MacDonald’s One More Sunday, which tackled the same subject only in a deeply serious and noirish way; I’ve considered doing something similar myself–one of the many iterations of the Kansas book revolved around a megachurch that arose out of the sins of the past. (You have literally no idea how many iterations the Kansas book has been through, Constant Reader, no idea.)

One of the goals of this week is to get through all the emails in my inbox and clean it out once and for all; I’d like to be down to zero emails to answer by the end of this week, if at all possible. It may not be possible–answering emails inevitably leads to more emails to answer, as always–but that’s the goal of the week, and I will have to work my ass off this coming weekend as the deadline for this short story looms ahead of me.

I read some more of Rob Hart’s The Warehouse this weekend, and really am hoping to have the time to get further along into the story. It’s beginning to pick up steam, and the world it depicts is all too realistic, frankly; realistic and horrifying at the same time. It isn’t very hard to see this world as our future, and that is frankly a terrifying prospect. But it’s a credit to how good a writer Hart is that this book is so thought-provoking and real; this is my first time with one of Rob’s books and it certainly is encouraging me to make a run through his entire backlist.

And can anyone really expect anything more from a book that it’s so good that you want to tear through the author’s entire canon? I think not.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

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