Of Thee I Sing

This is a weird 4th of July for me.

It’s always been a strange holiday for me, having grown up as an outsider drenched in Americana and taught American mythology rather than US history. (The more I use the word American to describe things that really only involve the US the less comfortable I am with it, particularly as I grow older. It’s simply a shorthand, obviously, for the much more awkward “US citizens,” but its use erases the fact that Canadians, Mexicans, and those from Central and South America are also Americans, and others them to US citizens. USAmericans also is an awkward construction. And can people of non-indigenous descent have a right to call themselves Americans in the first place? Once you start parsing, it’s a bottomless well.) It isn’t really our nation’s birthday, either–it’s Independence Day; the anniversary of the day the Declaration of Independence was ratified. Our actual national birthday is the date the Constitution was ratified and we actually became the United States from the thirteen colonies–and after the British defeat at Yorktown and the Peace of Paris, we actually were thirteen independent states in a loose alliance with each other for self-protection, and it was entirely possible those states might not have ever unified into a single nation. That was the real miracle of our nation’s founding–that, and the fact that thirteen disunited colonies who agreed on very little somehow took on the largest and most powerful global empire the world have ever seen and managed to defeat them–without checking I cannot be entirely sure, but it might be the only war the British Empire lost before it’s post-World War II collapse.

So, this year’s celebration is a bit muted. We are losing our freedoms and our rights–losing them to a bizarre political coalition that claims they are the real Americans, what they believe is the only way to believe and/or think about politics and the country, who scream and whine and protest about their freedoms and their liberties as cover for the fact they want to steal the freedoms and liberties–and citizenship–of people who do not agree with them. We have a “supreme court” that uses the Constitution, and almost 250 years of precedent and decided law, to wipe their asses with because it doesn’t really fit their vision of a theocratic nation ruled by a minority that forces the majority to put up with their bullshit because they have gerrymandered, legislated, and ruled in such a way as to entrench their power. This has happened before, of course–it always has happened before (which is why our lack of interest and education about our short national history is so deliberately encouraged; so we won’t learn from the mistakes of the past)–and I feel like we are living in a situation very similar to that in which the country was in between 1850 and 1861: an extremely loud and belligerent minority had been controlling and running the country since almost the beginning, in defense of a completely indefensible belief that it was okay for white Americans to either own people with differently hued skin, or to kill them with impunity. The slavery supporters had packed the Supreme Court with their supporters, and the compromises over the admissions of MIssouri and Kansas to the union were fraught because the slave states saw they were in danger of being outnumbered and thus losing their hold on the government.

And now this illegitimate body currently sitting on our highest court–deciding law for a majority even though most of them were appointed by presidents who didn’t win the popular vote–has started legislating from the bench under the guiding conservative principle that “it’s for each state to decide”–abortion rights, same sex marriage, racial equality, etc.

Because that worked so well with slavery?

The entire point of a federal, centralized government is to have the final say on law and rights; the Constitution also makes it very clear that the laws of one state should be honored by the others. But the framers of the Constitution also knew that there would be times when one state’s laws would come into conflict with another’s, and the federal government would have to decide which law was Constitutional–as they both might or might not be; but the idea was the law that restricted or prohibited rights more would be the one thrown out. This balancing act, naturally, was already in trouble because of slavery; a free state could not be forced to recognize the property rights laws of a slave state, and a slave state would never recognize the laws of a free state that outlawed slavery outright. The conflict and battle between states’ rights and the Federal government was baked into the document from the beginning, because the Southern states refused to give up their right to own people in a nation that was predicated on freedom and equality of all men.

The notion that a state like Texas could criminalize abortion (or anything) to the extent they have, and that they expect pro-choice states to not only comply with their laws but turn over documents and accused violators of said law is just the Fugitive Slave Act all over again: conservative states are all about federalism when it comes to enforcing their own laws…but will scream “States’ rights!” to protect their own.

The cognitive dissonance it must require to be a conservative astounds me sometimes.

I’ve spent most of my life with my sex life making me a criminal in almost every state in which I lived. Lawrence v. Texas guaranteed that the government had no right to tell me who I could sleep with and what I could do in my bedroom with that consenting adult. I remember the day that decision came down; it was something I never thought I would see in my own lifetime. One of the things I was trying to recapture (am trying to recapture, really) in “Never Kiss a Stranger” is that sense of criminality; of how it felt to be a sexual outlaw; how every time you went into a gay bar you knew there was a chance the place would be raided by the police–or that every time you left a gay bar you were in danger from the police until you made it safely home. It wasn’t something conscious you’d think about back in those days, but it was always there in the back of your mind. Gay bars inevitably (with the exception of the French Quarter in New Orleans, the Castro on San Francisco, West Hollywood, and the village, among others) were in a sketchy part of town, and often they were own by the Mob for money-laundering purposes. The marriage between the gay bars and the Mob was an uneasy one, of course–a marriage of convenience. The Mob needed to launder their money, bars are an excellent way to do so, and the Mob could also pay off the cops to prevent raids–a corruption-go-round, if you will. (Gay bar raids inevitably wound up being extortion for corrupt cops to get more bribe money from the mob…this weird marriage between criminals–gay men and the Mob–is something I want to explore in fiction more. And the police, for the record, have never been friends or allies to my community; quite the obverse, in fact.)

I should make a note to reread this next year on the 4th of July. Will things be better or worse? My money’s on worse.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines.

If Anyone Falls

I absolutely loved the tag line for the marvelous television adaptation of Megan Abbott’s equally brilliant novel Dare Me: “There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenaged girls.” It’s also incredibly accurate; our teen years often impact and influence who we become and can color the rest of our lives. I loved Dare Me; it was lyrically, hauntingly written, and the story it told, while actually pretty simple, showed how the intricacies of relationships between young girls and authority figures who aren’t much older than they are, can become so complicated and complex; layers of love intermingling with hate and jealousy, the power dynamic shifting and changing as the characters themselves shift, change, and grow from their experiences.

I write, sometimes, books where the main characters are young–teenagers, either in high school or college or having just completed college–and those books are often labeled and marketed as “young adult” fiction, even though I generally just consider them novels about young people. I mean, technically novels about young people are young adult novels, and yet while I am resigned to this marketing label I am never certain if my books truly qualify or not. Perhaps that’s some kind of internalized arrogance and a sense of subconscious superiority to what I consider something lesser; it’s definitely something I should unpack at some point. But I think it is also an interesting starting point for one of my endless essay ideas, and perhaps someday–when I am less scattered, less all-over-the-place mentally and creatively–I’ll be able to sit down and write all those essays I want to write.

Which brings me to John Copenhaver’s second novel, The Savage Kind, which I just finished reading yesterday.

If I tell you the truth about Judy and Philippa, I’m going to lie. Not because I want to, but because to tell the story right, I have to. As girls, they were avid documentarians, each armed with journals and buckets of pens, convinced that future generations would pour over their words. Everything they did was a performance. Everything they wrote assumed an audience. After all, autobiographers are self-serving, aggrandizing. Memoirists embellish. It’s unavoidable. To write down your memories is an act of invention, to arrange them in the best, most compelling order, a bold gesture. Some of the diary entries that follow are verbatim, lifted directly from the source, but others are enhanced and reshaped. I reserve my right to shade in the empty spaces, to color between the lines, to lie.

You may balk, dear reader, but I don’t care. I need to get this right.

I could take different approaches. I could contrast the teenage girls: the black hat and the white, the harpy and the angel, the cunning vamp and the doe-eyed boob. Or I could draw them together, a single unit: Lucy and Ethel, Antony and Cleopatra, Gertrude and Alice, Holmes and Watson, or even, I dare say, Leopold and Loeb. But neither of those angles would work. The complicated facts are inescapable. These girls are both separate and together, but many times, they followed their own paths and even crossed one another. Things are never that simple, never that black and white, that good or evil, or that true or false. I’m not writing this to assign blame, or to ask forgiveness, or to tie it up in a bow for posterity. It’s not that kind of book.After all, an act of violence committed by one may have originated in the heart of the other. That’s to say, this is a story about sisters, and like many of those dusty and gruesome stories from ancient literature, here sisterhood is sealed in blood.

I should know. I was one of them.

Great opening, right?

John’s debut Dodging and Burning won the Macavity Award*, and was quite the impressive debut. II was completely blown away by the book myself–it showed a maturity and sophistication in theme, writing, and characters that one rarely sees in a debut novel. One of the things I thought was very interesting about the book was that while it did focus on a gay story, the main voices in the book were young straight women; I thought that was a risky thing to try to pull off, but he did a really excellent job.

As good as Dodging and Burning was, I wasn’t prepared for how good The Savage Kind would be.

The heart of the book is the friendship/relationship between two damaged young women in the post-war afterglow of the late 1940’s in Washington DC. (Both of John’s novels are set in the post-war period, when the world was trying to go ‘back to normal’ after the massive paradigm alteration of a global war that left most of Europe and significant parts of Asia in ruins; tens of millions dead, billions in property damage, and the world needed to rebuild from the rubble–and normal was also being redefined; the paradigm shift caused by the war made going back to “the way things used to be” practically impossible–which makes it a very interesting time to write about.) Philippa’s mother died giving birth to her and she has a slightly adversarial relationship with her stepmother, Bonnie. Judy was raised in an orphanage and adopted by a wealthy couple who had lost a daughter in a particularly brutal way–Judy was adopted to replaced their raped and murdered daughter, but her adoptive parents are still too scarred and damaged from the lost of their own child to raise and love another, and this history also colors Judy’s personality and who she is. The two girls find each other and become very close friends; so close that their love for each other might go even deeper than the Platonic ideal of friendship–their teenaged hormones raging out of control, are romantic/sexual feelings also developing between the two of them?

They are also playing girl detectives, trying to get to the bottom of a mystery that they don’t know has anything to do with them beyond the idle curiosity (and their dangerous boredom) but as they look further into the mystery revolving around a classmate, a favorite teacher, and that classmate’s family–as well as their own–they become more and more deeply enmeshed in danger and cling even tighter to each other.

As if that juggling act isn’t tough enough, Copenhaver makes all of these characters realized, fully developed and realistic in their emotions, their feelings, and their reactions. He also tells the story in alternating points of view between the two girls while they are experiencing the events, as well as a narrator voice from the future, telling the story in retrospect as well as talking directly to the reader. This is hard to pull off, particularly the omniscient future narrator–the last time I saw this used so effectvely and memorably was in Thomas Tryon’s The Other (at least, this is the book that popped into my head as I was reading, and it’s a favorite of mine).

The Savage Kind was nominated for a Lefty Award, and it very deservedly won the Lambda for Best Mystery recently. I highly recommend it!

*I may be wrong here, but I think he might be the first openly gay author of a book with gay characters and themes to win the Macavity Award; I know I was nominated once for a short story–but my characters and themes weren’t queer.

I Can’t Wait

Sunday morning and I slept late again, and again, it felt marvelous. I feel much more rested than I did yesterday morning–and I also don’t have to make an errands run today, either; lugging groceries from the car to the Lost Apartment on top of dealing with a grocery store on a Saturday of a holiday weekend wasn’t exactly an energy-enhancing experience either (my God, it was so humid yesterday; little wonder it rained off and on all day). But I did get things done–sort of. I finished reading The Savage Kind by John Copenhaver, which I really enjoyed from start to finish (more on that later); I got some chores done around the Lost Apartment, and I worked on getting better organized (always an in-process on-going thing). We binged a show on Amazon Prime last night–The Lake–which we both really enjoyed (and stayed up too late to finish watching) before retiring to bed for the evening, and now here I am this morning with a cup of coffee and slightly bleary, unfocused eyes as I write this. It’s a little cloudy and dim outside–not the blinding brightness of a cloudless morning, for sure. I don’t have to go outside for anything the next few days other than taking out the trash and using the grill–I’m probably going to cook out burgers either today or tomorrow, I can’t decide which–and then I am going to write and edit for most of the day, always a pleasure and joy. The next thing I am going to read isn’t something I can talk about, as it’s a manuscript in progress for a friend (who is also a really great writer), but I think the next book I read is indeed going to be Rob Osler’s The Devil’s Chewtoy, which is a great title and I’ve heard any number of good things about the author, who earlier this year won the Robert Fish Award from Mystery Writers of America for best debut short story–an impressive achievement, to be sure.

The Lake has an interesting premise, and it was much funnier than I thought it would be. Sixteen years ago, the main character–a gay male, Justin–had sex with his best friend (Teesa) on prom night (they were both drunk, and the only time he’s ever slept with a woman) and she became pregnant. They gave the child up for adoption–one of those “open” adoptions, so the child always knows who their adoptive and birth parents are, and has a relationship with their birth parents–which caused an even deeper rift between the main character and his father (already there because of his sexuality). After the adoption, Justin left Canada with his partner for Australia. That relationship has ended (the partner was “fucking half of Bondi Beach”), and he has returned to Canada. He brings his daughter Billie to the lake where he spent all of his summers as a child, and8 his family used to have a cottage to try to develop a relationship with her; only to discover that their old lake house was never sold–instead, his father left it to his stepsister and nemesis, Maisy, played brilliantly by Julia Stiles in an epic villain turn. The rest of the series details his schemes for getting back his lake house and feuding with Maisy; while developing a relationship with a local handyman named Riley, while his daughter ironically finds herself falling for Maisy’s son. Justin is played by Jordan Gavaris, who is terrific in the part; Constant Reader may remember Gavaris for his star turn in Orphan Black as Felix, the openly gay artist who is a foster brother to Sarah and her grounding point–seeing him in this reminded me of how terrific he was in Orphan Black, and how disappointing it is that he hasn’t broken out into a bigger star. But The Lake is terrific and funny and surprisingly twisted; I highly recommend it, and can we please have more good parts for Jordan Gavaris, please?

I still haven’t figured out what I am going to read on Thursday, either. Heavy heaving sigh. I seriously need to put some thought into that either today or tomorrow or both; I go back and forth during those brief moments when I do think about it. Should I read from Bury Me in Shadows, #shedeservedit, or one of my short stories? It would probably make more sense to read from something that might intrigue listeners to go buy the book, and even more sense to read a novel than a story, since I won’t earn anything from a sale of a copy of the anthology, really, if my reading was to move people into parting with hard-earned money to buy something of mine. Yes, the more I think about it, the more likely I am to read from #shedeservedit…or maybe “This Town.” I’ve always wanted to read that story aloud…hmmm. I just wish I had started thinking about this sooner–this is why I always end up doing things at the last minute, which always makes me feel like I’ve not prepared adequately.

But I do feel very good this morning, which is always lovely. I get paid on Wednesday this week, so I can go ahead and get the bills paid before I leave for the weekend (I cannot believe I have to get up at five a.m. for my flight; what the actual fuck was I thinking? Clearly I wasn’t. Of course, it was the only non-stop, which is what I actually was thinking. But…I’ll be tired. Very tired that evening. And probably hungry and crabby and tired and…oy. No sense freaking out about any of that right now. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

And on that note, I am going to shave my head and jump in the shower and get my day’s work started. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader–I will check in with you again later.

Rooms on Fire

Saturday morning and I slept late, and it was indeed marvelous. I have to make groceries and gas up the car (will probably need a bank loan for that), but my primary focus today is going to be reading and writing. I will also probably start going over the edits for one of the two manuscripts sitting in my inbox right now, but that’s also going to depend pretty heavily on how nasty it is outside. It rained off and on most of yesterday–I do love the New Orleans rain, especially if I don’t have to go out into it, of course–but it’s very bright and sunny outside my windows this morning. My morning coffee feels marvelous and tastes even better, and as I glance around the workspace and the rest of the kitchen I see some odds and ends that need straightening and putting away. There’s also some dirty dishes in the sink that need being taken care of at some point. The rugs needs to be straightened, and the entire downstairs needs vacuuming. I would also like to get a box of books down from the attic and start cleaning that out a little bit this weekend as well. An ambitious program to be sure, but one that isn’t impossible…if i stay focused.

Which is always the big if, isn’t it?

We did get caught up on The Boys last night–this third season is the best so far, and there was a great twist in last night’s episode, which doesn’t bode well for the future but I also can’t wait to see how it plays out (although that will probably come in season four). I wasn’t tired when I got home from the office yesterday the way I usually and ordinarily am, but there were things to do, and I immediately set out to get them done once I had reached the safety and respite of the Lost Apartment. But it all got done for the most part, and Scooter got his lap for a goodly portion of the evening while I doom-scrolled social media waiting for Paul to get finished with his work (he worked at home yesterday) so we could watch The Boys. I even fell asleep in my chair a few times while waiting–Scooter’s super-power is the ability to get both of us to fall asleep when he cuddles with us. I did spend a lot of the evening thinking about writing and things I want to write–there’s never enough time for me to write as much as I want to, really, even though I have to force myself to do it.

I also realized last night that I need to get ready for Sleuthfest. I am doing a reading on THursday night and haven’t picked out something to actually, um, you know, read, let alone rehearse. It’s my first-ever Noir at the Bar, and will be in the hotel bar. I’ve published so much stuff that I’ve never gotten the chance to read from, you know? Should I read from one of my recent books? Should I read a short story? Should I perhaps read something in progress–Chlorine, for example? I also am on a panel about MWA’s How to Write a Mystery, in which the other panelists and I are going to talk about our essays…and I really don’t remember much about mine other than it’s about dialogue, so perhaps I should go ahead and reread it at some point before the panel so I don’t sound like an utter blithering idiot.

Then again, maybe people enjoy me being a blithering idiot. I don’t know.

I can’t help but think that is not the case, though. I prefer to believe audiences laugh with me and not at me, but one can never be entirely sure.

Ah, well, there’s plenty of time to get petrified with fear about standing up in front of an audience. But I do have to decide what I am going to read on Thursday. Heavy heaving sigh. I was thinking “Moist Money,” from the Down Yonder anthology–mainly because it’s shorter, but it’s also one of the nastier things I’ve ever written; my short stories tend to be nastier than my actual books (by “nastier” I mean darker, not pornographic, FYI) but there are so many choices…and I need to make up my mind because I am going to need to rehearse before I get there…I can’t just get up and read the way I used to, completely unprepared and stumbling over words and…heavy sigh. There I go again, working myself up into a lather of anxiety about something happening in five days, which will end up being fine in the long run.

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee and head to my easy chair to read some more of The Savage Kind, which I hope to finish today. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

One More Big Time Rock and Roll Star

And now it’s Friday, Three Day Weekend Eve.

It rained again yesterday, so it wasn’t terribly awful while running my errands after work last night. I came home, put away dishes and did some laundry, provided a lap for Scooter–who stayed there all night, and even when I would get up he would just jump back into my chair and go back to sleep (Paul didn’t get home from work until after I’d gone to bed, so he was feeling abandoned the way he always does when there’s only one of us at home), and did some more brainstorming and plotting for the stuff I am working on. I feel good and rested again this morning (I did get a bit tired yesterday afternoon), and hope springs eternal for another productive long weekend at home. The theme for the weekend is clearly editing, since i have copy edits for two manuscripts to start working through, and two short stories to edit–I also need to go through my “call for submissions” folder and see what is possible and what is not ( as well as tossing the ones that have already passed).

It seems weird to be celebrating Independence Day this year, since the radical, highly politicized “supreme” court continues to demolish every right and protection anyone non-white and not male have fought for and earned since the second World War–even going back as far as JOHN FUCKING MARSHALL to overturn decisions–as they work to establish a Fascist state once and for all. I was thinking about this last night while watching Real Housewives Ultimate Girls’ Trip 2 and remembering why I didn’t miss seeing Jill Zarin on my television, and I was also thinking about memoirs and memories and writing about my life. One of the primary reasons I’ve always backed away from it (and yes, I am aware that I am talking about being reluctant to write personal essays about my past and life in MY FUCKING BLOG) is not only because I know my memory to be faulty, but also because I know that–like most other people–I also have a tendency to rewrite my memories to make me look better or to justify bad behavior on my own part, and that isn’t fair to the other people in said memories who don’t have a platform (no matter how small) to tell their side of the story (which has also been undoubtedly rewritten in their own minds to make themselves look better). No two people ever see the same situation exactly the same; our interpretations and reactions to things are often predicated and formed by our life experience, our education, our opinions, and our beliefs and values that have also developed over a lifetime. An event that may have seemed completely throwaway and inconsequential to one person can be life-changing to another.

I’ve also begun recognizing and finding holes in my memory. For some reason I had always believed we’d moved, for example, from the south side of Chicago to the suburbs in the winter of 1969. That was firmly cemented in my brain as fact…until a year or so ago when I realized I was ten when we moved to the suburbs, which means we didn’t move out there until the winter of 1971. That’s a significant difference, which has skewed the order of memories in my head.

Some friends have been encouraging me to write personal essays, but I’m not really sure I should or not. For a long time I shut the door on my past as much as I could; it was painful to remember and it was simply easier for me to shove everything into a corner of my brain and lock the door behind them. When I started rebooting my life at age thirty-three, I still looked back a lot with sadness and heartbreak and bitterness–but I also began trying to put it all behind me at the same time because it was sad and heartbreaking and I didn’t want to be trapped into that quagmire of negativity. After Paul and I had met and we’d moved to New Orleans and my new life was beginning to take shape–the life I’d always wanted and had dreamed of for years; those dreams sustaining me through even the darkest of times–I decided to put it all behind me once and for all, deciding that I loved my life and was very happy with it, which meant that everything that had happened–no matter how terrible–was necessary to put my feet firmly on the path that led to my happiness and so therefore I should have no regrets about anything. It was helpful to distance myself from my past and never look back, so I tried never to do so. But now that I’ve reached sixty–I’ve started reflecting about the past a lot more over these past few years, plus writing my last two books (Bury Me in Shadows and #shedeservedit, respectively) required me to start digging around in those inner rings of the giant redwood of my life, as did watching It’s a Sin, which, despite being set in London, took me back to the 1980’s and brought a lot of painful memories back. It made me realize that while that coping mechanism of “no regret, not looking back” was necessary for my growth into who I am now, and for me to build a writing career, it wasn’t long-term healthy because a lot of unprocessed pain, anger and grief (and joy and laugher, as well) had never been recognized, processed, dealt with, and moved on from. I think part of the reason I decided to finish those two in-progress-for-years books was precisely so i could start processing and dealing with my past…and sometimes that means revisiting painful memories. It’s also part of the reason I moved “Never Kiss a Stranger” up on the lengthy list of things I want to write and finish and get out there; I want to remember the mentality of what it was like to be a gay man in New Orleans in 1994, just really coming to terms with your sexuality after being closeted at least most of the time for most of your life, and beginning to explore what it means to be gay while the specter of AIDS hung over your head like a death sentence just waiting to be pronounced. As prevention and treatment options continue to lower the risk of infection as well as the threat of death over the last decade or so, people are slowly beginning to forget what it was like back then–and the literature of the period is going out of print and disappearing. I now have clients who don’t remember what it was like because they weren’t alive then, and while it is so wonderful and lovely that they didn’t come out and experience life with that shadow hanging over their heads, periodically I feel a bit of pang remembering all those wonderful bright lights that were extinguished so cruelly, and the old embers of white-hot anger at the societal and governmental neglect, often deliberate and intentionally cruel, that allowed them all to die returns.

Which is why unveiling a commemorative stamp honoring Grendel’s mother, aka Nancy Reagan, during Pride Month was tone-deaf as well as a slap in the face to those of us who survived in spite of that miserable bitch and the raw sewage she married.

I also think this most recent pandemic and the memories it stirred up, timed with watching It’s a Sin and some other things, is why I am so exhausted all the time (well, that plus being sixty); it’s a sign of depression from all of the unprocessed emotions and feelings from locking away my past and turning away from it. It may have been necessary in 1995 to move forward, but it wasn’t healthy, and the longer I kept those memories locked away without dealing with them the worse it became. So I am going to set a goal of trying to write an essay every two weeks about something from my past, unlocking a memory and trying to find the meaning in it, how it impacted and affected my life–and not with regret, but with the cold, unflinching eye of the non-fiction writer. I also feel like something snapped inside my head this past week–I know how weird that sounds–but Wednesday I was really down. Memories flashing through my head, triggered by the reversal of Roe (I remember a pre-Roe United States, and also remember when the decision came down) and what that meant for other decisions revolving around personal privacy/freedom and government overreach. The four or five days following the Dobbs decision were dark ones for me (I cannot imagine what they were like for women), and yet, somehow, in writing something Wednesday afternoon something snapped in my head and I got past it all–and I realized I’d been dealing with a lot more anxiety and depression than I thought I was (and I thought I was dealing with a lot as it was). I have felt much better since getting over that hump on Wednesday, but I am also not foolish enough to think I am past it all, either–it will come back.

If I learned anything from Hurricane Katrina, it’s that trauma and depression come in waves. There will be good days, and there will be bad days. I usually deal with darkness by writing–not writing makes the darkness even darker–which is something I also need to remember: writing always makes things better for me.

And on that introspective note, I am heading into the spice mines.

Blue Denim

Thursday morning and i had insomnia last night. I am not going to complain about it–it’s been a while since that’s happened, so I should just kind of suck it up and go from there. I was tired when I got home from work yesterday–it was a bit of a draining day; we were busy at the clinic and I was dealing with some things in between that essentially took up the rest of whatever little free time I had yesterday, so by the time I got home I was exhausted, so no reading again last night. I did have something to do when I got home–of course–that was due yesterday, so I did sit down and spend about an hour and a half getting that finished and sent off, before giving into Scooter’s demands that I provide a comfy lap for him to sleep in. I watched this week’s Superman and Lois season finale–most excellent–and then The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which has me entertained enough to keep watching, despite the potential criminality of one of the cast members, and then Paul came home and it was time for bed. I didn’t sleep well–I woke up numerous times during the night and don’t think I ever went into a fully deep sleep at any time during the night, which means I will undoubtedly be very tired this evening when I get home also–yay? Maybe it will help me sleep.

But I have even more work to do now on this coming holiday weekend–yes, that’s right, copy edits have landed in my inbox for both A Streetcar Named Murder and Land of 10000 Crimes, so there’s my holiday weekend taken up–and I hope to finish reading my book this weekend as well. I am writing again, albeit slowly; I’ve got two chapters of a project I am working on just for fun and to see where it goes done, and I’ve started the new Scotty (cover art coming soon!), and of course, I’d like to do some work on “Never Kiss a Stranger.” Yes, I am juggling probably too many things at the same time, but you know, it happens. (I also peeked inside and the copy editor’s first note was to let me know how much she enjoyed reading it, which is also very cool!)

So yes, I will be spending most of my weekend going over copy edits, which is actually kind of a nice way to pass time on a long, lazy holiday weekend. I would like to get some more cleaning done–specifically, getting things down from the storage attic and start emptying it out–I can rebox copies of my own books that I have stored in a kitchen cabinet and move those up there, which frees up more space for me to use in the kitchen (having my work station in the kitchen’s bay window–while a lovely idea and I do love my windows–does cut back on available kitchen space and sometimes makes it seem cluttered in the kitchen, which drives me insane because I run out of counter space). I also need to edit a couple of short stories–one may need a significant rewrite, but I think I can handle it and can get it done this weekend–and I also need to sort through other submission calls. Despite the insomnia last night, I feel very energetic today so I am hoping I can ride this wave through the rest of the day. One can hope, at any rate.

And of course there are errands to be run on the way home tonight–there are always errands to be run on the way home–but despite my exhaustion every night when I get home from work I have managed to sort of keep up with the laundry and the kitchen stuff so I don’t have to spend an entire weekend day getting that shit caught up, thank you baby Jesus, so that’s a plus. Which kind of gives me hope for making progress of a sort.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

Bella Donna

Here we are on another Wednesday morning. I managed to make it through the day yesterday somehow, and last evening we started watching the new season of Only Murders in the Building, which is clever and funny–although I’m not entirely sure what the point of having Amy Schumer in it is. I was curious about how they’d do a second season–and was worried about it, to be honest; so many shows that were great in their first season tend to lose their way in the second–but the core cast is still terrific and the writing is just as sharp as in the first.

I’ve gotten so used to bingeing shows that it feels weird when you start watching a show that is dropping weekly rather than all at once. Weird how our viewing habits have changed so dramatically over the past few years. If someone would have told me twenty years ago that we wouldn’t have cable service and would be “streaming” shows and movies to the television wirelessly, I not only would have thought them crazy but wouldn’t have understood what they were talking about. The changes in technology we’ve seen in this century have been dramatic and fast.

I didn’t read yesterday when I got home from work–there were still chores to be done around the Lost Apartment, and I got home a little later than I usually do. It’s enormously frustrating, of course, but I have to be more focused and pay more attention to things like time and how much I am wasting doing things that have little to no value and simply waste my time. Easier said than done, of course–I am a master of wasting time– but I just get so damned tired all the time from getting up so early every day. I really hope to go back to my old work schedule at some point, even though I think my body has sort of adjusted to getting up so early so often every week. I don’t drag the way I used to in the mornings (other than before the first cup of coffee) but get super tired in the afternoons–and then coming home and/or running errands during our ridiculous summer heat, which is more intense this year and harder to adjust to for some reason (perhaps my advancing age?). But there’s a three day weekend coming up this weekend, and I am heading to Fort Lauderdale next week for Sleuthfest….so there should be time for me to get some reading done over the next two weekends. There’s nothing like an airport and a flight for reading.

But I’d like to finish The Savage Kind before I leave for Florida. Mayhap I can carve out some time this weekend–like Sunday morning with my coffee–to finish reading it. Trust me, Constant Reader, the length of time it’s taking me to read this has everything to do with me and the mania that is my life and nothing to do with the quality of the book, which is exceptionally well written and the characters are so well drawn that it is incredibly easy to get immersed in the book. Heavy heaving sigh. But definitely can put some time aside this weekend to finish it. I have a lot of other stuff to get done before I leave for Florida, but if I don’t allow myself to get sidetracked or defeated by running errands, etc–it would actually make sense to read and run errands on the same day, wouldn’t it?–I should be able to power through everything.

Yesterday I got my first blurb for A Streetcar Named Murder, and it was a very good one, which was really nice because it was from someone whose opinion really matters to me. (Evil little imposter syndrome voice in my head: like she would tell you your book sucked–she’s a lovely person and very kind and you know that which is part of the reason you asked her in the first place…God how I hate that fucking voice.) But seriously, I really need to sit down and really map out everything I need to get done over the next week or so because I know deadlines are looming (I also have something due today that I need to write when I get home–sorry, Scooter! No lap for awhile once I get home). And I only have to get up super-early one more day this week. Huzzah? Huzzah.

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

Street Angel

Ugh, another toxic Tuesday.

I mean, if Monday is manic, Tuesday can be toxic; Wednesday can be woeful; and Thursday can be…something. Regardless, I am awake at the usual Tuesday morning godawful toxic time, swilling coffee and getting ready to head into the office. Huzzah.

I didn’t feel well this morning when I got up, but I took my weekly return-to-work COVID test and it was negative. I am not really sure why or how I ‘ve managed to go this entire pandemic without getting infected (particularly when you take into consideration how many possible exposures I have had with my job since this all began), but I also managed to get through the entire (and ongoing) HIV/AIDS pandemic without getting infected, either. Just one of the lucky ones, I guess? But as my coffee sinks in and courses through my veins–and the Claritin-D kicks in–I am feeling a lot better. Still a bit tired, but can definitely make it through the day, which was questionable when I first got up this morning. I’m not sure what that was about, but am glad it is passing (or is past).

I have so much to do it’s a bit overwhelming, but when I got up this morning I didn’t have the strength and/or energy to even face up to everything that I have to do, but I am starting to get that necessary second wind and maybe–just maybe–the strength and brain focus necessary to start plowing through this massive to-do list, which also needs to be updated. SO much to do this week, but I also have a three day weekend looming so maybe I’ll be able to actually get some things done this weekend rather than trying to recover from an exhausting week? My energy levels is something that I’ve been very concerned about for quite some time; by the time I generally get home from work the day–from getting up early to being out in the heat to running errands–I am so tired that I have trouble working on my writing and my to-do list, and giving into Scooter’s demands that I sit in my easy chair and provide a lap for him in which to sleep while I watch documentaries or go down Youtube wormholes is way too easy and tempting to avoid–and once I am in that chair, it’s game over for the night.

Paul didn’t get home until late last evening so I watched some documentaries, including Scream Queen, about Mark Patton, the closeted gay lead of what is considered the gayest horror movie of all time–A Nightmare on Elm Street II: Freddy’s Revenge. I remember seeing it and not liking it when it first was available to rent–I rented a lot of movies back in the day–but primarily because the connecting thread from the first movie wasn’t there other than Elm Street and Freddy. Now that I’m hearing about all the gay subtext–some of which was apparently overt–I kind of want to see it again; I’ve never wanted to watch it again because I didn’t enjoy it when I was in my twenties (a foul, horrible decade and probably one of the worst of the seven–yes, seven, this is my seventh decade on the planet–decades of my life. I do have fond memories of the 1980’s, but I also have a lot of horrific memories of that same decade) but now I am thinking I’d kind of like to see it one more time, looking at it with a fresher perspective than I had in my twenties.

And I really need to finish reading John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind. I’ve agreed to read a friend’s manuscript with a gay character in it, but I can’t read two new-to-me pieces of fiction at the same time. (This is not true for non-fiction; I am reading both Robert Caro’s The Power Broker and The Great Betrayal now, and I am trying not to start reading Paul Monette’s Becoming a Man) I need to work some more on all my various writing projects; there are some short stories coming due, deadline-wise, relatively soon that I’d like to write something for, and so I can’t just not be writing in the evenings consistently the way I have not been doing since the summer weather arrived.

Heavy heaving sigh. And on that note, tis off to the spice mines I go. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Edge of Seventeen

Just like the white winged dove….

Sing it, Stevie!

So I managed to get some writing done yesterday–not only did I get some writing done yesterday but it actually flowed; it wasn’t nearly as painful or forced as it has been when I’ve been writing lately, which is lovely. I also read for a little while yesterday; I am moving into the final act of The Savage Kind and am really enjoying it; I hated put it aside yesterday when my allotted reading time had finally run out. I slept very well last night–didn’t want to get up this morning, or more precisely, didn’t want to get out of bed which felt unusually comfortable to me this morning–but I do feel well rested. I am working at home today, which is nice–I really don’t want to go out into the heat–but things change. We watched the first few episodes of Condor last night–it’s not bad, a more modern-day version of Three Days of the Condor, which was one of my Cynical 70’s Film Festival movies during the pandemic–and I do feel relaxed this morning….probably because I am still in denial about everything I have to do and get done.It just keeps building….

My anger has finally cooled over the so-called “supreme court” rulings of last week; but I still have a lot of righteous indignation and outrage left that can easily be fanned into red-hot flames. Louisiana, of course, had just passed its very own trigger law, which our piece-of-shit governor signed. Of course, my own rights will soon be overturned by this joke of a court; as I tweeted on Friday, “Somewhere in hell Roger Taney is smiling because his supreme court may no longer be the worst in our history.” I mean, when you are passing out rulings that are about on the same level as Dred Scott, you really should sit back and reflect on your life choices. It’s bad enough we have four perjurers on the court along with a sexual harasser, a probable rapist, and a woman whose religion has brainwashed her into a Stepford wife–someone on Twitter said yesterday “if the founding fathers could see us now they’d say ‘You let Catholics on the court?'” I love to point out that despite all evangelical claims that this is a Christian country, they never specify which brand of Christianity they mean. Pentecostal? Quaker? Lutheran? Catholic? Missouri Synod? Latter Day Saints? No two sects of Christianity agree on anything; it was precisely this division of belief within the same theoretical faith that led to centuries of war and oppression in Europe, and the very American standard of the separation of church and state. You also have to remember that originally nearly every colony since the Europeans decided they were taking over this continent from its natives followed a different sect: Maryland was Catholic; Massachusetts Puritan; Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams upon the very principle of religious freedom and became a haven for persecuted religious minorities; Virginia was Episcopal; and so on. Christianity isn’t a monolith where everyone believes the same thing–they can’t even agree on the basic principles of their religion or how to pray or who can preach or teach.

Although they do all have the symbolic cannibalism ritual–but again, all different versions.

But the “supreme court” has a long and tragic history of incredibly bad and damaging rulings–see Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Citizens United, etc.

There’s another Alabama story brewing inside my head–you know, that non-stop creative ADHD thing I have going–about a small town in Corinth County trapped and controlled by it’s radical fundamentalist religion. I know I had the idea for the town years ago–it’s called Star of Bethlehem–but this idea for using that town is vastly different than the original one I had (in which the town’s water supply was deliberately tampered with as a corporate experiment in which the townspeople began developing strange abilities; I can still make that work into this–imagine a small remote town in the grips of a maniacal controlling religious sect where this happens; are these miraculous abilities a gift from God or the work of the devil? Which, really, was kind of the point of the superb mini-series Midnight Mass) but it keeps nagging at me as I sit down to work on other things. I scribbled some notes in my journal last night while watching Condor–again, it’s an interesting modern take on the original story–and so we’ll see how it goes.

I also started writing Mississippi River Mischief yesterday. I was going back and forth, wondering how to open the book, and finally just decided to say fuck it and start writing it. I wrote 173 words on it, which while not much is certainly something. Hopefully after work today I can work on it some more. I’ve started figuring it out a bit more–I already know who the victim is, I already know what’s going to be going on in Scotty’s life during the course of this book–but there’s all kinds of things left for me to get figured out. But–as with every Scotty book–I usually tend to just jump into it headfirst and see what happens.

So, all in all, a relatively productive weekend and very few regrets. I still have a ridiculous amount of work to do, but…progress is all that matters and I refuse to allow myself to get stressed out.

And on that note, it’s Data Entry time. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader. Hope we all have a better week this time around.

I Sing for the Things

Sunday morning and it looks a bit overcast out there. I have a lot to do today–writing, reading, cleaning–and I slept deeply and well–so much so that I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, it felt soooo comfortable under the covers. Scooter’s anguished demands for breakfast finally got me out of that marvelous cocoon of sheets and blankets, and now I am enjoying a cup of coffee and wondering how bad the weather will be today. We had lots of thunderstorms rolling through last evening, and overall, it wasn’t a terribly bad day yesterday, if not as productive.

I did spend some time with John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind (which I also hope to do today), and then headed out to Metairie for my eye appointment. I go to the Target in Clearview Mall, just off the corner of Clearview Parkway and Veterans Boulevard. After my new glasses were ordered, I shopped a bit–found some aromatherapy oils I needed, got a new Brita water-filter pitcher, and a few other things, including a copy of Casey McQuiston’s Red White and Royal Blue.On my way home I hit the drive-thru at Atomic Burger (expensive, but I do love their burgers), and came home to do some more things around the house. I finished watching The IPCRESS File, which was very twisty and surprising and incredibly well done (I’ve never read the Len Deighton novel on which it was based, but the original film of this, which starred Michael Caine, was clearly the basis for the Austin Powers movies, only played for real); I thought one of its primary strengths was showing that even allies spy on each other and steal talent, as well as how beautifully yet casually it indicted the British class system as well as its ingrained misogyny. I also watched the Fall River documentary (didn’t finish, Paul came home and I was on the final episode) about the supposed “Satanic cult ritual murders” that took place there in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s; my primary takeaway and memory of living through those peculiar “Satanic panics” that seemed to be everywhere in that decade was people really think Satan is real and exists? I thought we were more rational a nation than that….which was one of the first steps on my journey to seeing my country, society and culture as it actually was rather than the mythology I was taught in elementary school and other levels of public education as a child.

Even when I was a child being taught the Bible was literal history I knew better than to believe it was literally true. It was quite an eye-opening shock and jolt that people not only believed the Bible was literal truth, but they also believed in Satan (Elaine Pagels’ The Origin of Satan should seriously be taught in high school) as an actual being working to undermine humanity and lure us into sin. It was quite a shock, and only the first of many to come as I began reeducating myself on everything.

And yes, I am bitter that I was miseducated, and that I had to waste so much of my adulthood reeducating myself.

But I do love to learn; it’s one of the many reasons I love to read so much. I am always reading something non-fiction at the same time as I am reading fiction (although the non-fiction often takes longer for me to get through). I have been reading Robert Caro’s massive The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York for over a year now; it’s long and I am finally past the half-way point–but it’s an absolutely terrifying look at how power can be amassed and how it corrupts even those who go into public service with the purest and brightest of motives; and how that accumulation of power turns personality flaws in individuals into horrific public policy that causes more damage than good in the long run. I think after I finally finish this epic biography and study of public works in New York for most of the previous century, I may dive into some true crime to cleanse my palate and prepare me for another non-fiction tome. I of course read The Borgias while I was in Kentucky on my last trip, and I also have The Medicis to read as well as other history, but I think I want to read about true crimes for a bit once the palate has been cleansed. I have Sarah Weinman’s marvelous collection of true crime reporting on hand, as well as her recent Scoundrel, which cries to me from the TBR pile; there are several other true crime books I have on hand as well that are always fun to read for insight into my fellow (depraved) citizens and why they do the things they do (part of the reason I really was enjoying Fall River was due to getting some insight into why people turn out the way they do when they go bad), and there’s some other interesting histories I have on hand that i would like to read, too.

Someday I will have enough time to read as I would like.

My to-do list for today and this week is quite ambitious. The heat and humidity have been serious drawbacks to my energy levels and my ability to get things done (I just got the power bill and recoiled in horror), but I need to adapt and adapt quickly else the entire summer will have passed and suddenly it’s fall and I have only a few months to work on the Scotty book. (I did work on it a bit yesterday; I had some really good ideas to jot down, and I do think I am beginning to get a grasp on the story and what it’s going to be.) I want to work on the secret project I wanted to have finished by the end of the month (so not happening) and I also have to work on some short stories I want to submit and get out there. I’ve been feeling defeated lately, primarily I think by the heat (since my sleep has been really good for the most part since I got back from Kentucky, fingers crossed this will continue), and I need to get beyond that. Yes, the world is a dumpster fire raging out of control, but all I can control is me and how I react and I can feel the need for control building inside my head….so I imagine at some point relatively soon I am going to stop watching the fire blazing and work on the things I can control, while still being aware of the fire and doing whatever small things I can to pitch in to keep the blaze as under control as I am capable.

It’s getting gloomier as I type, so I am going to bring this to a close, make another cup of coffee, and retire to my easy chair for some more The Savage Kind. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.