Recoil

And now it’s Ash Wednesday, concluding the Carnival that wasn’t.

My God, yesterday was cold.

Gregalicious does not like the cold.

Yesterday’s high was 36; most of the day was in the 20’s, and without heat in the Lost Apartment, it was pretty miserable here. I spent the entire day in layers of clothing, under blankets, and with my space heater blowing directly on me. It’s in the thirties right now as I type this–shivering, with my gloves forgotten upstairs–but at least today’s high will be in the fifties. (And yes, well aware that ordinarily I would complain about the cold with it in the fifties, so yes, the irony doesn’t escape me at all. Last night, as I got into bed with all my layers still on, I said to Paul, “as much as I am dreading getting up at six tomorrow morning, I am looking forward to the drive to work because I know the heat in my car works.“) At least this morning I can feel the heat from the space heater–yesterday for most of the day I couldn’t, unless I got close to it, that’s how fucking cold it was in here…I could see my breath last night as I gulped down hot soup. Needless to say, I got absolutely nothing done yesterday, but I watched a lot of videos about history–I found a great American history channel, with a history teacher going over important points from our history–the compromises of 1820 and 1850 that just kicked the slavery question down the road a bit; the Kansas-Nebraska Act; the Dred Scott decision; and every other point in our history where the government tried to appease slaveholders in order to keep the peace.

Appeasement is never a solution; all it does it buy some time before the inevitable conflict comes.

I also just had a horrid thought–I do hope the heat is on at the office…although if it’s not, I doubt they will keep us there very long.

And I do think I’ve learned my lesson about getting out of bed. If it’s cold like this tomorrow, I am just going to grab my laptop and anything and everything else I have to work on tomorrow, and I am going to do it from under the blankets upstairs. And move my space heater up there as well. I can’t afford to lose another day of work because it’s cold–and the weather it going to remain cold over the next few days before finally returning to normal New Orleans winter weather temperatures on Sunday.

I found myself thinking yesterday, as I shivered and tried to start warm (my iPad was cold to the touch so I didn’t even want to hold it for significant periods of time) I found myself thinking, not only about the Kansas book which needs to be worked on, but about another Scotty book–or what will probably be the next Scotty book, Twelfth Night Knavery, which has a very basic plot already in place, so writing the book will just be putting meat and muscle on top of the skeleton I’ve already got in place. I think the next Scotty will take place a few weeks after the previous one, the one after that will take place during the Carnival of 2020, and then we’ll jump ahead to 2021’s Carnival for the next. I’m not sure if this is workable, in all honesty; three Scotty books over such a short time period will spread the writing out over three years, really, so this third one I am thinking about would wind up being a 2024 release….and that’s if no other writing projects/jobs come along in the meantime to kick the Scotty can down the road a while….this is an awful lot of pre-thinking and pre-planning for Scotty; certainly more than I’ve ever put into these books before….so it feels a little bit weird.

We’ve nearly finished the second season of Mr. Mercedes, which we are enjoying a lot after it’s slow start, and I was also very pleased to see that Season Three is going to drop (or start airing) on March 4th, so we don’t have to go too long between seasons. I also rewatched Scream yesterday, which, despite the advances in telephone technology, surprisingly still holds up after all this time–and despite having seen it any number of times, I still enjoy watching it. It really is one of the best slasher movies ever made–particularly in how it mocks the genre, subverting it while embracing it at the same time.

And on that note, I am off to the office, and to perhaps feel warm again for the first time in days.

Everyone Everywhere

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!

Yesterday was simply a dreadful day, weather-wise; I imagine today isn’t going to be very much better, in all honesty. It’s 26 degrees in New Orleans right now, give or take. I am sitting at my desk in layers, the space heater going full blast, water is dripping out of every faucet to protect the pipes, and I’m about to go look for my fingerless gloves. FOUND THEM! I am glad Carnival has essentially be canceled for the most part–it’s too fucking cold, seriously. The high for today is predicted to be 36…which would usually be some kind of record low. But looking outside the windows I don’t see snow anywhere—at least we don’t have that to deal with. I am kind of dreading getting up at six tomorrow morning to go to the office. It’s going to be incredibly miserable, but at least then I have two work-at-home days. This cold snap is only supposed to last through the weekend, but during the ays it will get up to the 50’s and finally, by Sunday we’ll be back to the normal winter weather for New Orleans. It won’t be easy, but we’ll make it through somehow.

Our heat doesn’t work, by the way, so if it’s 26 outside it’s about that inside, give or take a few degrees. If I didn’t have to do a ZOOM thing later this morning I’d repair back to the bed with iPad and laptop and a book to read; I still may do that after the class ZOOM thing is finished.

My goal for yesterday was to get caught up some on my emails–I managed to get that accomplished, although even more have shown up this morning–and to print out the manuscript preparatory for the big edit/revise. This last one, while I may have called it the last draft, is actually a part of preparing the final draft; I wanted to get through the entire thing changing it from past tense to present tense, while also reading and getting an idea of what all needs to be added or deleted. This next pass through the printed pages will be where I make the notes to revise the language used, and then figure out where the new pieces I need to write need to go. The last and final pass will be a line edit, basically, where I try to catch all the mistakes and things that got missed when I changed things before. I am on track to be finished by the end of the month, or at least by the end of the first weekend of March, with any luck.

We got deeper into season two of Mr. Mercedes last night, and are still enjoying it; we only intended to watch one episode, and wound up getting through four, with only four left, which at some point today–it’s Fat Tuesday, after all–we will most likely finish the show off. After a slow start the season has really picked up; I didn’t really want to stop watching last night, but it was already past eleven and I needed to get to bed–getting up at six tomorrow is going to be hard enough, given the cold, and sleeping in really late today would not have helped that situation in the least–but it’s nice to know that it’s there waiting for us when we finally are ready today. I’m not sure if Paul is going to work today–well, he’s not going to the office for sure, but whether he is going to make phone calls or send emails remains to be seen. It’s so weird to be up at this hour on Fat Tuesday and not hear a crowd at the corner or the drums of the marching bands. I really do miss the high school marching bands; especially the public school ones and the Marching 100 of St. Augustine’s; “St. Aug’s”, as we call them down here.

While I was printing out the manuscript yesterday morning I did a deep dive into the Internet about the Three Investigators, which, in my humble opinion, is one of the best (if not the best) of the kids’ mystery series. One of the other things I was doing yesterday involved contracts for MWA’s upcoming mystery writing handbook, How to Write a Mystery, edited by the amazing Lee Child and Laurie R. King; so as I was reading an interview with the ghost writer for several of the Three Investigators books–including several of my favorites–and the name seemed familiar, as did that of his wife–so I made notes on the notepad that always sits next to my mouse to look them up and see why the names seemed familiar. Imagine my surprise when someone responded to the emailed contracts with an issue, and it turned out to be the ghost writer’s wife! That was why the name was familiar; I had seen it very recently. One of those weird, synchronistic elements of my life, I suppose, but it was still kind of cool to be corresponding with the wife of a Three Investigators ghost writer. The original author of the series, who created it and wrote ten of the first eleven volumes, Robert Arthur, also deeply interests me.

I also realized that, in some ways, I had mimicked The Three Investigators with the Scotty series: while the series is written in the first person, there are three of them; Scotty, Frank, and Colin. My original plans when I was a child for my own series initially began with a single character to hang the series on; it eventually evolved into three friends solving mysteries–and yes, the concept of there being three was not unique to, or originated by, the Three Investigators–the Hardy Boys and their pal, Chet; Nancy Drew with Bess and George; Judy Bolton and two separate groups of three (either with Irene and Honey, or with Lorraine and Lois); etc. (I’ve also always wondered, in the back of my mind, if having three precluded any notions of homoeroticism; it certainly existed in the Ken Holt series with his best bud Sandy, or in the Rick Brant with his buddy Scotty–which has also made me wonder lately if that’s where the name for my Scotty came from… since having three meant including a chaperone).

So, I intend to spend the rest of the morning straightening up the kitchen to serve as the backdrop for my ZOOM session, swilling coffee and trying to stay warm. So, on that note I am heading back into the spice mines, and will catch you on Ash Wednesday. Have a great day, Constant Reader, as always.

Hey Now What You Doing

Huzzah for a paid vacation day! No getting up at six am this freezing morning, thank you very much–although the real horror is going to come tonight when it gets into the twenties–there’s a chance we’ll have snow for Fat Tuesday.

Madness.

Although it is frightfully cold for a Lundi Gras–forty degrees this morning, and of course our heat isn’t working, and will be getting gradually colder throughout the day until it gets into the twenties later this evening, with a chance of snow on Fat Tuesday for the first time since 1899. Needless to say, I am wearing layers today and have the space heater going–and it will be following me around whenever I move around the house–the easy chair, even up to the bedroom tonight when we go to bed, although the layers of blankets, Paul and Scooter all combined to keep me nice and warm last night. I slept like a dream, too. I stayed in bed a full hour after I woke up this morning, too, luxuriating in the warm comfort of the bed, and I feel no shame in that at all…why shouldn’t I relax and be comfortable, despite all the work that I have to get done?

I managed to finish going through the manuscript last night, changing it all into the present tense. I caught a lot of things that need to be fixed–changes in story and plot and so forth that weren’t eliminated through the various drafts the book has gone through. Today I am going to print it all out and start going through the hard copy, making notes and cuts and noting where new material has to go to fill in the gaps. I have approximately two weeks to get this all finished before it’s due, and I actually think I am going to be able to get it all done in time. I have a new framing device for the story that I have to write, and there’s a final chapter that needs to be written, and of course the cuts….I am always amazed at how often I repeat myself, and how passive the early draft voice I write in inevitably turns out to be. Today I am going to curl up, most likely in bed, with my laptop, my lap desk, and my notebooks, and start marking up the manuscript. Tomorrow, as it is Fat Tuesday, I am most likely going to take the day off and read and/or watch movies–the Short Story Project is definitely in need of some catching up on, and of course I’ve started a new project of rereading various books in the kids’ series I loved as a child (I am currently reading a Dana Girls volume, The Clue in the Cobweb, that I’ve never read before), and I would love to spend some more time with Jess Lourey’s Unspeakable Things–I really hate that my reading attention span comes and goes the way it does.

Needless to say, I am most pleased to have gotten through the manuscript yesterday. I am really looking forward to spending March mostly working on short stories as well as pre-planning both Chlorine and Twelfth Night Knavery–I even know how to open the story–and that will eventually lead into the tenth Scotty, French Quarter Flambeaux, which will lead into the eleventh, Quarter Quarantine Quadrille. I also want to try to get some of these novellas finished between working on books, too. Ash Wednesday I have to go into the office, and then it’s two more work-at-home days before I have yet another weekend…so things are looking up somewhat as far as my writing schedule is going. I certainly am getting a lot more finished this year than I did last year, and here’s hoping that I will stay motivated and continue getting things done.

We started watching the second season of Mr. Mercedes last night, which got off to a slow start but is picking up well now. WHat’s interesting is that the show is not following the Bill Hodges trilogy as written by King; they’ve skipped the second book of the series, Finders Keepers, and gone straight on to the third, End of Watch. From a television story-telling perspective it makes sense; the villain of the first book returns in the third, while the middle book is an entirely different story and case for Bill and the gang at Finders Keepers–the detective agency they open after the first book–and while that one may be my favorite of the series, the show’s been renewed for a third season, and I suspect that they will use the plot of the second book as the framework for the third season. There are some other shows dropping this week we want to watch as well–It’s a Sin on HBO and The Luminaries on either Starz or Showtime, it has Eva Green in it and I try not to ever miss anything with Eva Green.

And now it’s raining. We are either going to get rain tomorrow, or snow, or sleet; none of which are appealing, and quite frankly, I am happy for both krewes (Rex and Zulu) that aren’t going to have to deal with parading in such horrendous weather. (I wonder if Zulu is going to come down the river to the Quarter to meet Rex at five today?) I’m supposed to go to the gym at some point today–but there’s no way I am walking five blocks in cold and rain. Is it wimpy of me to take the car? I always used to drive to the gym until we joined one that’s literally right around the corner; our new gym is a longer walk, of course. I would walk to St. Charles Athletic Club in this weather; but Franco’s on Magazine is a bit too far for this kind of nasty weather.

I also have retrieved my blanket from the easy chair; I am actually feeling quite toasty warm here at my desk this morning–between the space heater, double layers, the blanket and my coffee….I could retrieve my fingerless gloves and then the only remaining part of me feeling the cold–my hands–would be taken care of as well. I hate that Paul is going to go out in this weather to go to his office–I’m actually hoping that once he gets up and sees how nasty it is outside, he’ll just work from home…all he needs is a computer and a phone and he can seriously do his job anywhere, but there is something about going into an office–the discipline or mentality that comes with being in your office…plus the guilt factor. I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but I know when I am at my office I feel guilty for not doing work-related things…it’s raining even harder now. Just truly nasty weather out there….

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader–or as lovely a day as you can given the horrible weather everyone appears to be having.

Spooky

I’ve decided to launch a new reading project for this year: one in which I tackle rereading middle-grade mysteries. I am not going to limit myself to merely the series books I loved (although they will play a big role in the project), but will also include other mysteries I have, either in one of my reading apps or an actual hard copy, that do not belong to the series. My childhood memories aren’t as clear as I would perhaps like; then again, that period of my life was around fifty years ago, so it would be more of a miracle if I did have stronger memories.

The first two series books I ever read were not from either the Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys series; they were from the Trixie Belden series (The Red Trailer Mystery) and The Three Investigators (The Mystery of the Moaning Cave). Both series wound up being favorites of mine once I eventually got back to them and remembered them; I remember buying five Trixie Belden books at a store at the Ford City mall in Chicago, and I got my first five Three Investigators books from a Toys R Us, I think in the Chicago suburb of Berwin? The two series weren’t as ubiquitous or available as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys; which made finding more of them a kind of triumph for me. I’ve already blogged about The Secret of Terror Castle, which was the first Three Investigators book in the series, so I won’t cover that one again. But recently I sat down and reread the second book in the series, The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot, and remembered again why I love this series so much.

“Help!” The voice that called out was strangely shrill and muffled. “Help! Help!”

Each time a cry from within the mouldering old house pierced the silence, a new chill crawled down Pete Crenshaw’s spine. Then the cries for help ended in a strange, dying gurgle and that was even worse.

The tall, brown-haired boy knelt behind the thick trunk of a barrel palm and peered up the winding gravel path at the house. He and his partner, Jupiter Jones, had been approaching it when the first cry had sent them diving into the shrubbery for cover.

Across the path, Jupiter, stocky and sturdily built, crouched behind a bush, also peering toward the house. They waited for further sounds. But now the old, Spanish-style house, set back in the neglected garden that had grown up like a small tropical jungle, was silent.

“Jupe!” Pete whispered. “Was that a man or a woman?”

Jupiter shook his head. “I don’t know,” he whispered. “Maybe it was neither.

The Three Investigators cases often began this way; with two of them (sometimes all of them) landing smack dab in the middle of something mysterious; whether it was the sight of a weird ghost as they walk past an abandoned house being demolished (The Mystery of the Green Ghost) or biking past an enclosed estate (The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow) or simply riding in the gold=played Rolls Royce limousine and almost getting into an accident (The Mystery of the Silver Spider). Many of their other cases begin with them being hired to find a lost pet, which turns into something more complicated and complex: The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon and The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy fall into this category….while the majority of their cases come by way of referrals from Alfred Hitchcock himself (and why has no one ever done a book about the licensing of the Hitchcoc name, and all the products the great director attached his name to? It’s far overdue.). The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot combines all three: the boys were referred by Hitchcock to a friend whose recently purchased parrot has either been stolen or gotten free; they are on their way to visit Professor Fentriss to talk to him about the missing parrot–which stuttered–when they hear the cries for help coming from within the house. They are confronted outside by a man with a revolver (he is described here, and throughout the book, as a fat man–even by Jupiter, who hates being called fat), who claims to be Mr. Fentriss and that the bird has returned; he also claims that Hitchcock had called him to say the boys were on their way over. As they are leaving they realize that the house had no telephone wires (which used to actually be a thing, before cell phones), so they go back. Indeed, the man they met was an imposter and Mr. Fentriss is also tied up in his home. They rescue him, discover that he bought the missing parrot from a sickly Hispanic man selling the birds (there were others) out of his donkey cart, and that his friend Irma Waggoner sent the peddler to them. (Note: the man is described, and referred to, over and over as a Mexican; he actually is Mexican, so it’s not necessarily problematic–other than the fact that no one knew he was Mexican at first; referring to all Latinx/Hispanic people as Mexican when they may not actually be Mexican is problematic. In an update they would undoubtedly change it to Hispanic–as he did speak Spanish as a first language and his English isn’t good–which we see when the boys find him later in the book.) Miss Waggoner’s parrot has also disappeared; it also spoke, as did Mr. Fentriss’. (I kept thinking as I read it for the first time but parrots don’t stutter; he would have to be taught to do that. Very early on Jupiter also mentions this; I always feel inordinately proud of myself every time I read Jupiter saying this) Eventually, it turns out that the man who taught the birds special speeches had a masterpiece painting in his possession, and each parrot speaks a clue to the location of where he hid it when he realized he was dying–so the boys not only have to find all the parrots to get all the messages, they also have to decipher the clues and find the painting. Eventually they do–while also trying to avoid a flamboyant international art thief and his thugs–in a spooky, abandoned graveyard in the fog. A little bit of luck, and the boys solve the mystery–but despite that piece of luck, the entire case is actually solved by deductions based on the evidence presented thus far, with Jupiter revising his theories whenever new evidence is presented.

I love this series, and the books still make for compelling reading today. Some of the story is dated of course–no cell phones, no computers for research (Bob does all their research at the library, where he works part time), the casual racism of the time–but many of the books still hold up. Hitchcock’s death obviously impacted the series, but I’ve never understood why The Three Investigators never became as popular as–if not more so–than Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. The three boys have distinct personalities–you know Pete will never want to investigate anything complicated, but will inevitably prove how courageous he actually is; Bob is studious and not as easily excitable as Pete, and he’s the one who usually follows Jupiter’s train of thought while Pete always gets confused; and Jupiter himself is a young Sherlock Holmes. Robert Arthur, who wrote the original series up through number 11, The Mystery of the Talking Skull (someone else wrote number 10, The Mystery of the Moaning Cave, which also ironically is the first of the series I actually read). Arthur won two Edgars from Mystery Writers of America for his radio plays; he also ghost edited some of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents anthologies I remember from my childhood. The Three Investigators are no longer in print, because of legal disputes between the Arthur estate and Random House about who owns the characters and so forth; it’s a shame. The books are still in print in many different languages–and are especially popular in Germany–where two of the books were actually filmed.

Most of my series books are in storage, but there are some still in the Lost Apartment–and I think when I am too tired to read something new, I may just get down a series book as an homage to my childhood and revisit some of these kids’ series.

Are You Ready for This?

Ugh, Valentine’s Day.

The epitome of what I call the “Hallmark holiday”–a holiday primarily invented to sell products and cards, all under the guise of love and romance–I’ve never really understood the point of this “holiday”, really; shouldn’t we be showing the people we love that we love them every day without the necessity of a “holiday” forcing us to do so? And if I can recall correctly, the actually story of St. Valentine is actually creepy and sad; more like a John Carpenter version of a holiday than what billions of dollars of advertising over the past six or seven decades have embedded into American culture. I know, I know–I’m a spoilsport and perhaps a touch too cynical about these sorts of things, but seriously.

I mean….

It’s a frigid forty degrees in New Orleans today, with a deep freeze in the forecast for tomorrow night and the possibility of snow on Fat Tuesday. Ironically, the cancellation of the parades and the partying ban/restrictions in the French Quarter–which essentially cancelled Carnival’s bacchanal–while being an enormous economic blow to the city for this year, may have saved us of next year. Cold weather Carnivals are inevitably miserable and not as fun; and the following years see a dip in numbers and attendance before it starts building back up again. Not having hordes descend upon us for what may be record-setting cold for Carnival may be a blessing in disguise. It’s certainly too cold to go stand around on the corner for hours today for the four parades that would be rolling–but I am missing my corn dogs and mango daiquiris and funnel cakes this year. I have tights on this morning beneath my sweatpants, and may end up putting on a T-shirt underneath my sweatshirt. I have a stocking cap on, fingerless gloves, and the space heater is going on full blast. The sun is hiding behind cloud cover so it seems gray out there…I am dreading the inevitable rain that will come as well. But I intend to spend most of my day in my easy chair (huzzah for laptop computers!) under a blanket while music plays–I am going to be a Festival widow again today–and work on my book some more. I managed four chapters yesterday; don’t be impressed, as they were flashback chapters so the tenses isn’t need to be shifted, but I also saw places that need actual revisions, and made note of them for the big final push. I am hoping to actually get through this entire manuscript by Ash Wednesday, and then next weekend I’ll be able to start inputting the serious changes it needs, as well as some additions. There also needs to be one more, final chapter written. This will clock the book in at about a hundred thousand words, twenty-two chapters, and of course the inserts between each chapter I also need to write. I do think I should be able to get all of this finished by March 1 deadline; we’ll have to see. I am trying not to get into the mindset of well, I don’t have another deadline right behind this one, so I can be late without damaging the writing schedule for the year too badly–which is a thing for me, really; it’s never ceased to amaze me how easily I can talk myself out of doing the work.

Last night after Paul got home we watched the Australian Open; particularly the Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams matches, which were both quite entertaining and saw some amazing tennis being played, particularly Serena’s match. I spent most of the day working around the house. I ran errands early (mail, returned a library book, made groceries) and then came home and cleaned through the cold. Finally around two o’clock I adjourned to the easy chair and started revising and rewriting, and making notes. I also rewatched a beefcake movie about teenaged male witches called The Covenant, which objectifies its beautiful young male stars–their characters are conveniently on the swim team, so there are plenty of scenes in the water and in the locker room–and starred Chace Crawford, Sebastian Stan, Taylor Kitsch and Toby Hemingway in their youthful beauty; but the lead was played by Steven Strait, who was gorgeous and is now starring in The Expanse. It’s not a great movie by any means–a trifle, an entertainment–but the young beefcake was quite lovely to look at. Is there a term for young beefcake? There should be.

I also reread an old kids’ series book that I greatly enjoyed as a child; The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot, which is a Three Investigators mystery and going to get–as it deserves–its own entry. When I was a kid, I loved the kids’ series books, collected them (continuing to do so as an adult because I am a completist and if I have any of the series I must have ALL of the series), and often reread favorites multiple times. I always used books as a child to escape from the reality of my world, in which I was an outsider and strange and may as well have been from another planet or dimension. Books were my source of comfort–I could always escape whatever was going on by slipping into a book. I have reread The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot any number of times–but this is the first time I’ve gone back to it in years. I am considering writing middle grade mysteries–not because I think I will get rich and famous that way (which I have long since learned in this business is a fool’s fantasy) but rather because I have always wanted to, and want to see if I can actually pull it off. I came up with the concept for a kids’ mystery series when I was a kid, patterned if not plagiarized from the ones I was reading, and believe it or not, I still have the list of titles and synopses of some of the books I’d intended to write in the series. Why not give it a shot? As the clock slowly runs out on my life–like sands through the hourglass–I am becoming very aware of how limited the time I have left in which I want to write everything I want to write (with new ideas popping up all over the place, all of the time) and so I am beginning to need to focus to get the ones that truly matter to me finished.

And yes, I am fully aware how morbid that sounds.

But it’s also reality. I suppose examining one’s mortality as the sixtieth birthday looms (seven months) is a cliché; sue me. I’ve never really thought about my age a whole lot before–other than being pleased that I don’t look my age–but I do find myself in quiet moments thinking about the past and wondering how much time I have left and when am I going to find the time to write everything I want to get written before Papa Legba comes to claim my soul. (Also, only this week did I learn how to make special characters on my computer…)

And on that note, I need to make another cup of coffee and do some things around here before settling in for today’s manuscript work. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader; I hope to get my blog entry on The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot finished today as well.

Player in the League

And suddenly it’s Saturday.

This is the Saturday of the year where I’d ordinarily be putting Bailey’s in my coffee while a bottle of Prosecco chills in the fridge for my mixed drink of the day, which I would start indulging in around eleven: the Iris. Yes, today would ordinarily be the Iris parade followed by Tucks; Saturday afternoon parades being my favorite, absolutely favorite, since my first time at Mardi Gras back in 1995. I love the ladies of Iris, who are generous with their throws and bury me in beads; I love them so much that the only parade scene I’ve ever written in a novel–Mardi Gras Mambo–is the Iris parade. I have already decided that I am undoubtedly going to write at least two more Scotty books during Mardi Gras–last year’s benighted one, French Quarter Flambeaux, and of course this year’s no parades one, Quarter Quarantine Quadrille. I have ideas for at least two other Scotty books, so be happy, Scotty fans: there will be at least four more Scotty books…the series may even continue in some form or another, but suffice it to say there are plans for four more. Who knows, I may never write another–and the faster time passes, the less likely it seems–but you never know and let’s be honest….I thought the series had ended with Mardi Gras Mambo.

And Bourbon Street Blues was only supposed to be a one-off to begin with.

Man plans, and God laughs, indeed.

It’s forty-two degrees this morning in New Orleans (another blessing, really, that Iris was cancelled); the space heater is on and blowing very warm air on me and it feels quite marvelous. The bed was warm and comfy; I certainly didn’t want to get out from under the cocoon of my many blankets. It’s gray again this morning outside my windows. I have to run some errands and go to the gym later this morning–neither of which I am looking forward to (as Constant Reader knows, I hate nothing more than being outside when it’s cold) but the hope is that I won’t have to go outside again, other than going to the gym, for the next few days. I definitely need to get a lot of work on the book done; may even delve into one of the (ridiculously) many short stories I have in some sort of progress and of course, there’s a lot of cleaning that needs to be done.

We watched the LSU-Florida gymnastics meet last night–the top two ranked teams in the country–and LSU lost by only one-tenth of a point, while not competing at their full strength and an uncharacteristic fall on floor exercise cost them the win. It was very exciting to watch, and I am curious to see how LSU does in the post-season this year. (Last year’s post-season was cancelled, but LSU–after a bad start to their season–were making great strides towards peaking in the post-season.) We also watched this week’s episode of Servant, which just continues to get more and more bizarre as the second season progresses, managing to get even creepier with every episode.

I decided to continue my education in horror films while making condom packs and wound up selecting two terrible movies; the second so bad I couldn’t finish and had to find something else to watch. I am still puzzling over how I managed to sit through the completely laughable Final Exam, with it’s flat stereotyped characters and plot that made no sense–if you’re in finals week, fraternities and sororities no longer have pledges because they are initiated several weeks before finals; the dialogue was laughably bad; and as the movie went on–it seemed much longer than it’s ninety minute run time–the dialogue continued to get worse and worse and the story–such as it was–made even less sense. Given how amateurish the writing, directing, and acting all was–I’ve seen more convincing performances in high school plays–it’s no surprise that everyone in the cast didn’t have much of a career afterwards. I then moved on to Body Count–an Italian production that was somehow even worse than Final Exam, and the racism (it was built around the “oh no turns out the camp was built on an Indian burial ground!” trope; of course it’s the spirit of a shaman killing everyone, and I just couldn’t take it after thirty minutes or so) was so bad I couldn’t take it. Instead, I switched to the 2005 remake of The Fog. I had recently seen the John Carpenter original (speaking of Carpenter, the soundtrack for both Final Exam and Body Count were clearly plagiarized from the Halloween score Carpenter wrote; take my word for it and don’t watch to compare the scores, I beg of you) and thought it would be interesting to see the differences between the original and the remake. Kudos to the remake for casting Smallville’s Superman, the incredibly handsome and well-built Tom Welling, as the lead. It was actually better made than the original….the original was clearly made on a very low budget, and the remake had the advantage of all the advances in visual effects in the decades since. But….Selma Blair, whom I like, just wasn’t as good or compelling as Adrienne Barbeau (who really is irreplaceable), the absence of Jamie Lee Curtis left a void in the center of the film, and the revisions to the plot and story (moving it from California to Oregon; giving more of the back story of the history and why the dead are coming back for vengeance on Antonio Bay) were improvements on the original, as were the visual effects. But it was missing that John Carpenter core somehow, despite Carpenter being a producer; I found myself not necessarily caring about the characters and whether they survived or not. There was also a reincarnation story tacked on for good measure–and while I do love a good reincarnation story (see Lake Thirteen), it just didn’t really seem to work. If you’re a completist and a fan of John Carpenter, it’s worth a look to see how it was done with a bigger budget and more modern technology, but if you’re simply a fan of horror films, it’s probably best for you to just skip it.

I must say, one of the better side effects, though, of this pandemic and having to work at home is this long-neglected education in American film that I’m getting.

I also hope to find some time to spend with Jess Lourey’s Edgar nominated Unspeakable Things over this long weekend, as well as Alabama Noir–which I’d forgotten I had a copy of–and trying to get back into what I call The Short Story Project, in which I read more short stories to improve my education in–and hopefully, my skill at writing–short stories. I was idly paging through some of my Tennessee Williams volumes (yes, I have several volumes of his collected plays) and found several lines (his writing is so poetic) that could work as titles for short stories (I also generally use Williams quotes to open the Scotty books, just as the opening of the prologues is always a parody of a more famous work’s opening), which was kind of fun–I’ve been coming up with rather pulpy titles lately (I came up with one earlier in the week called “I Woke Up in Blood This Morning”–thanks to the Partridge Family wormhole I went down on Youtube recently, and the idle paging through Williams got me another: “I Married a Whore”, which could also be a lot of fun….I was this close to rewatching American Gigolo yesterday, and for the record, there’s a movie that deserves a remake, without the homophobia and with a tighter script; there are any number of beautiful young actors in Hollywood now who could play the part perfectly–Ryan Philippe ten years ago would have been perfect–but Kyle Allen or the guy from Bridgerton…I think Tom Hiddleston is still young enough to play it as well. I just feel that American Gigolo could have been a much better film–and given how excellent it’s production values were (not to mention that AMAZING soundtrack) it’s a shame that it didn’t have a tighter script that focused more on the noir (or Neo-noir, I should say) aspects of the story; especially it’s political aspects and the murder. I enjoyed it when I watched it a few years back, but couldn’t help but see all the unexplored potential that was wasted.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. May your Saturday be all that you deserve, Constant Reader, and I will check in again with you later.

Close Range

And suddenly it’s Friday.

Our weather is taking a turn–not quite as horrific as all y’all up north with your ice storms and blizzards and below zero temperatures, yet it still a turn nonetheless. There was a quite nasty and wet thunderstorm that passed through here yesterday afternoon, and the temperature began to drop precipitously and noticeably. The governor made an announcement of some sort yesterday–severe weather alert or something of that sort–and it’s probably something I should research a bit more, I am slowly realizing as my first cup of coffee kicks in. If we’re in a severe weather alert of some sort, I should probably know more about it than this vague recollection of something I saw in passing somewhere on social media yesterday. And if that is indeed the case, well, it’s just as well the parades were cancelled ahead of time anyway.

Parades aren’t as much fun when it’s cold and raining.

Not, of course, that cold or rain would stop us from going out to the corner.

Okay, so I looked and I don’t see anything; I’m not sure what the governor’s message or whatever it was I saw somewhere was about, but at least for today there is no threat of severe weather in New Orleans. It’s forty-eight degrees–it doesn’t feel cold in the Lost Apartment, but one never knows; the interior temperature is not always an indicator of the exterior–but it is gray and grim outside. It rained most of the night too–a thunderstorm woke me up in the middle of the night (never fear, I was able to return to sleep quite easily) and so everything outside looks wet. I don’t think I am going to go outside much today–I will go to the gym tomorrow–as I have to work at home today and once today’s work-at-home duties are over I have to dive headfirst back into my book–and so shortly will have to head back into the spice mines. I haven’t decided what film to watch during my condom-packing duties, but I am starting to lean toward the teen movies of the 1980’s. I had thought Risky Business was free to stream somewhere, but I couldn’t find it anywhere yesterday…but Prime suggested Taps to me, and since the idea was to view early Tom Cruise films performances (at least the ones before Top Gun), and he was in Taps–in fact, I think it was Taps that first got him a lot of attention–and I had never seen Taps, I thought, why not? So I clicked play.

I wsa vaguely aware of the film at the time of its release, and knew vaguely what it was about–military school being closed, cadets seize control of it–but had never seen it. I also knew that it was Timothy Hutton’s first star vehicle after he won an Oscar for Ordinary People, and that it–like many other teen movies of the early 1980’s, had a bunch of early-in-their-career stars in it who made good impressions on critics and audiences–Tom Cruise in particular. I’d forgotten that Sean Penn was also in it (if I ever knew; I think this preceded his breakout role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High; I seem to recall his follow-up to that was Bad Boys, which was set in juvie, and after that he was on the fast track to stardom), and I don’t think I’d ever known that Giancarlo Esposito was in it as a beautiful young man. There were any number of other faces I recognized–one of the younger kids I’ve seen in other things, but I couldn’t place him or his name while I watched and I still am not completely sure who he was (a quick google search turns up the name John P. Navin Jr., who played one of the cousins in National Lampoon’s Vacation)–and another was Evan Handler, young and with hair, years before he joined the cast of Sex and the City.

I’m really not sure why I never saw Taps, either in the theater or on cable, to be honest. I’ve always liked Hutton, and (surprise!) I’ve always been drawn to stories about all-male environments for teenaged boys or young men. I loved Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline (the book is a favorite; I’ve never seen the movie) and also Lucian Truscott IV’s Dress Gray (again, the book and never watched the film); I’ve always enjoyed seeing the group dynamics play out in those environments. But watching the film, I couldn’t help but reflect how dark the movie was in tone–it’s very anti-military, really–and is actually very attuned to our present day world, which the film can be extrapolated to expose and perhaps even be seen as a warning. The devotion that the headmaster, General Rache, (played by George C. Scott) and the school inspires in the young boys under his watch is very disturbing–particularly given what we know about cults and how they operate nowadays. The boys’ rebellion to save their school is misguided from the very beginning; a decision is made that they do not agree with and decide they are not going to abide by it, even if it means violence and seizing control of the school. They are obviously breaking the law–and as the movie went on, I couldn’t help but think yeah, this movie isn’t going to end well–a lot of these boys are going to wind up dead…

But then I remembered they were majority white, and breathed a little easier…because of course the National Guard and the police would never use violence against privileged white boys. The tragic denouement of the film is in perfect accord with the darkness of the plot and its warnings about how easily people can be indoctrinated and what mass delusion can look like and how dangerous that can be certainly are timely in our present day America. It’s definitely an anti-war film–more specifically, an anti-military film, and in that regard is more of a Cynical 1970’s Movie than it is an 80’s teen movie; and again, it’s a lot deeper than my original impression before watching it led me to believe. Timothy Hutton is fantastic in the lead role–all of the boys are terrific–and there’s this wonderful moment with George C. Scott, when he’s talking about how military leaders are often considered “mad” because of the decisions they have to make, knowing that the men under their command could die or be permanently maimed or injured but having to make those decisions….how can it not drive you mad? It was also interesting seeing Scott play the scene, considering he won an Oscar for playing Patton…and thought, they cast him specifically for this speech, didn’t they?

And of course, now it has me thinking about a long dormant crime novel idea I had set at an all-boys military school.

And yeah, on that note I need to head back into the spice mines.

Waiting for the Sirens’ Call

Well, it’s now Thursday and let’s see how the rest of this week goes. I don’t have to go back to the office until Ash Wednesday–working at home today and tomorrow–and then over the weekend (all four days of it) I can leisurely clean and write and get things done, which is always a plus. Paul hasn’t been getting home from the office until almost ten every night this week–making me a Festival widow, as I always am every year at this time; the primary difference being Paul would come home for the parades and then work on things at his desk until all hours of the night while I went to bed. Last night’s Youtube wormholes included Kings and Generals videos about the Ottoman Wars; short documentaries about Henry VIII’s sisters, Margaret and Mary (who don’t get near as much attention as their famous brother– had Henry’s matrimonial efforts been a bit more in line with those of a normal king, Margaret and Mary would have most likely gone down in history for their own notoriety and scandalous lives…as it is, they are most forgotten footnotes to Tudor history. But all the British monarchy after Elizabeth I is actually descended from Margaret Tudor rather than Henry VIII); another couple about another favorite sixteenth century royal woman Marguerite de Valois (immortalized as Queen Margot in the Dumas novel); famous courtesans of history; and the decline and fall of the Byzantine Empire. (I really have always wanted to write about palace intrigue in Constantinople–there’s a reason why “byzantine” has come to mean interconnected elaborate conspiracies with twists and turns and surprises)

I was also very tired yesterday, after my third “get up at six and go to the office” day in a row. I am acutely becoming more and more aware of my age and the increasing fragility of my body; nothing terribly original or insightful, really. The decay of our bodies is something we can generally spend a good portion of our lives not thinking about, and of course, we consistently always push aside thinking about our own mortality because–well, because no good can come of it, really, other than paralyzing depression and panic about the shortening of the life string held by the Three Fates. I have become very used to the idea that I am not going to be able to write all the things that I want to write in the limited time I have left to me (see what I mean about paralyzing depression? Just typing those words made my entire body shudder), particularly with all the new ideas I get on an almost daily basis.

And the more research I do about New Orleans and Louisiana history, the more fascinated I become. I was actually thinking the other day, as I idly went down a research wormhole about Alice Heine (the first American born princess of Monaco was NOT Grace Kelly, but Alice Heine–born and raised in the 900 block of the French Quarter in New Orleans), I couldn’t help but think man, I should have started studying all this New Orleans/Louisiana history YEARS ago–at least when we first moved here. There is so much rich, vibrant material in New Orleans’ checkered history; and when you expand it out to Louisiana as a whole, it becomes even more interesting. I had, in fact, primarily always assumed the prevalence of Spanish names in the state and region came from when the Spanish owned Louisiana….which in a way it kind of did; but it was because to populate their new lands and territories as a protective measure against both the British and the Americans, the Spanish governors encouraged immigration from the Canary Islands–their descendants are called los isleños; I knew about the isleños, but I never really knew when they came here and to what part of Louisiana they came. (There was also a Filipino settlement at a place called St Málo; outside the levees, that settlement was completely destroyed by a hurricane in the early twentieth century…which just goes to show precisely how much of a cultural and ethnic melting pot New Orleans is and always has been.) It’s all so goddamned interesting…the main problem is the older books about the state and city’s history aren’t necessarily reliable–Lyle Saxon, Harnett Kane, and Robert Tallant, in particular; their works weren’t always based in fact but in rumor and legend, and all too often in upholding white supremacy–but the stories are highly entertaining, if inaccurate, biased, and with perhaps too high a degree of fictionality built into them. But the stories themselves are interesting and could make for good stories–in particular Tallant’s book Ready to Hang: Seven Famous New Orleans Murders, (one can never go wrong with historical true crime, even if Tallant’s sources were faulty and included rumor and speculation)…the title tale is, in and of itself, one I’ve been interested in fictionalizing since I first became aware of it–I can’t recall the murderer’s name, but a very good-looking young man, he used to lure men in to rob and kill; and while he always had a girlfriend–sometimes accomplices–and Tallant never comes right out and says so, my takeaway from the story is that the guy basically preyed on older men with either gay or bisexual tendencies, which puts it right into my wheelhouse, really.

And of course, so many of these stories would work in my Sherlockian world of New Orleans in the first decades of the twentieth century.

And this, you see, is why I will never be able to write everything I want to write. Heavy sigh.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. May your day be as splendid as you are, Constant Reader, and I’ll catch you again tomorrow morning.

Ruined in a Day

Here we are on Wednesday. It’s going to be 76 degrees in New Orleans today–allegedly–but it’s cool in the apartment at the moment. (I think the air might be on? Paul turned it on last night when he got home from work I believe–but it was late and I was about to go to bed so I don’t really recall for certain) I could have easily slept later this morning, but I am awake and am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. (And how sad that eight is sleeping in now? Granted, for years I got up at seven every morning, but those days are far in the past–those were also the days when I could go to bed, fall into a deep sleep, and wake up completely refreshed at seven every morning…I rather miss those days.

I did manage to somehow get quite a bit done yesterday–which was lovely–but as always there’s another mountain of things to get done today, which is not only fine but rather livable. I went to the gym last night, and was correct in my prediction–I wound up skipping a couple of exercises as it started to get more full the longer I was there, and I figured a lighter, lesser workout is better than no workout at all–but these next two are going to have to be a lot more intense and I have to do the full thing. It does feel good to have the muscle exhaustion–the muscles are still a bit tired this morning–and I was very pleased when I got home and was able to relax with my protein shake. I was a bit too fried to do much of anything other than social media scrolling and Youtube history videos–none of which I can remember this morning, so I clearly wasn’t paying nearly enough attention–but it was a nice relaxing evening at home which I rather enjoyed. After work today, I am working at home for the next two days and then have a lovely four day weekend; I took off Lundi Gras, and of course Mardi Gras is a paid holiday. I hope to make significant progress on the book over that four-day weekend–wish me luck–and I am also hoping to get some serious cleaning done around the Lost Apartment.

I also keep forgetting Valentine’s Day is this Sunday. I think the last few years I was sharing safer sex messaging as well as information about STI’s (It’s VD, after all) which earned some laughter from some and annoyed others so I am not sure that I will be doing that again this year, but it did make me laugh when I did it before. Valentine’s is one of those holidays that I consider to be commercial; the entire point of the day is to get people to spend money on cards, candy, gifts, dinner, wine and so forth. And like other, similar holidays, I’ve never really gotten the point. Then again, I am this weird combination of highly sentimental and completely unsentimental–movies and TV shows can make me cry (and sometimes books, too); yet things in my day-to-day life that move other people to tears inevitably leave me cold. Go figure. Paul will inevitably get me a card and some candy and maybe some little, inexpensive thoughtful gift; I inevitably forget and get him nothing…which kind of sums up our relationship in a nutshell, methinks.

Heartless. That’s me.

I’ve learned to live with it.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Y’all have a great Wednesday, ya hear?

Such a Good Thing

And here’s Tuesday, rolling in like a thunderstorm across the plains.

Sorry, I am clearly thinking too much about Kansas these days. I’m a bit more tired this morning than I was yesterday morning–not quite as awake and lively as I was yesterday morning, but that’s okay. I do feel somewhat rested, and hopefully the cappuccino will make up for the rest. I wasn’t tired when I got home from work yesterday, so I actually cleaned up some of the weekend mess I hadn’t gotten to–including the floors–so when I got up this morning I came down to a clean apartment and an organized kitchen, which was actually quite lovely. Tonight after work I am going to the gym–it will inevitably be a half-assed workout, as the Tuesday night one generally is; tired from the day and too many people at the gym, I inevitably get impatient waiting for people to finish their lackadaisical “I fuck around with my phone for five minutes between sets” bullshit and wind up skipping an exercise. I’ve never understood this mentality, quite frankly; I try to keep the rest between sets (and different machines) to a minimum in order to keep my heart rate up and help burn fat more efficiently with each exercise. I prefer to spend no more than half an hour working out–including the warm-up stretches–because the longer you are there doesn’t mean you actually are working harder or more efficiently or effectively. And yet there are so many people who think they need to spend an hour there or it’s not a good workout….but if you are allowing you’re heart rate to slow and your muscles to get cold between sets or exercises, you’re not working out as effectively as you may think. All exercise works, of course–even if you’re not doing it properly, you will get some results from exercise–but as my first trainer explained to me nearly thirty years ago–why not be as efficient as possible, and get the most from your workout you can?

I am, after all, all about the efficiency.

I managed to get a lot done yesterday, which was also lovely and efficient. I got a lot of my emails under control–well, let’s not get too crazy, but I was able to get a lot of it answered–and I came up with another idea for a short story (I know, I know, it’s a never-ending thing here; idea after idea after idea) but its more pulpy; I’ve never really written pulpy stuff–although I love it–and when the idea came to me I was like, very cool, I’ve always wanted to write something like this (which begs the question, “why have you never had a pulpy idea before?” I don’t know. But I’d like to write something that rawly emotional, morally bankrupt, and hard-boiled…the title I came up with is certainly Cornell Woolrich worthy) and of course I started scribbling in my latest journal (I am so glad I decided to keep a journal again; I rarely write daily entries about my life the way I used to years ago–the blog serves that purpose, I suppose–but it’s nice to have something to write ideas down into again, doodle and scribble while trying to unlock a puzzle in something I am currently writing, notes about movies I’m watching, etc. It’s a real treasure trove for me). Once Paul got home from the gym we watched another episode of Resident Alien, which is really quite fun–even though it takes a seriously dark turn here and there–but even with the dark turns, it’s always interesting. It can go from seriously funny in one scene to remarkably dark in the next, which is a curious choice. we’re all caught up on the episodes that have already aired, so tonight we’ll probably move along to season two of Mr. Mercedes, streaming on Peacock now. Then that new Eva Green show should be dropping around Valentine’s Day, which is this weekend (!).

I’ve not commented on the pandemic Carnival much, primarily because thinking about it makes me sad. As frustrating and exhausting as Carnival can be–I am not missing the ‘need to plan my work schedule around the parade schedule’ dilemma I usually have to deal with every year–I do miss the parades; I miss heading down to the corner to hang out with neighbors and watch the bands and walking krewes and flambeaux carriers and catching things flung from passing floats. No matter how tired I am, I always get a rush of adrenaline when parades are going past and love being out there on the street. It’s also a lovely time of year in which the community seems to come together. We’re not having that camaraderie refresher this year, which is a pity; I feel like we all could use, as a nation, some kind of camaraderie building “we’re all in this together” kind of thing, and I’ve always felt bad for the rest of the country that they don’t get to have the bonding experience Carnival is for New Orleans residents. I went uptown yesterday after work to get the mail and saw some marvelous house-float decorations; I really need to go out for a drive one evening and take pictures of all the amazingly decorated houses. New Orleans, after all, loves nothing more than decorating for holidays…I wonder what the skeleton house on St. Charles is doing for Yardi Gras?

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