Wildest Dreams

It’s Thursday, a work-at-home day before the holiday weekend. I know, it’s weird to take a vacation and then work a day before another holiday weekend, but there you have it. It’s also the last day of 2020, I am getting my COVID-19 vaccine (part one) today, and my book is due tomorrow. Heavy heaving sigh. I only have two chapters left to do and a final polish, so after I am done with day job duties, I should be able to power through those last two chapters this evening, and then I have all day tomorrow to reread, revise, and polish before turning it in.

It’s also New Year’s Eve, a holiday I’ve never quite understood but am more than happy to enjoy–I am always happy to get an extra day off with pay, any time anyone wants to provide me with one–but I’ve never really understood the point of celebrating the end of a calendar year and the beginning of another. I mean, it’s an excuse for a holiday and for people to get wasted, I suppose, but other than being a party for symbolism, I don’t understand it. I suppose it’s seen as a demarcation point, but it’s really not a new beginning; I’ve also never been one for resolutions, either. I prefer to set goals for the year, and then see how well I did after twelve months have passed. One of the major things of this past year for me has been memory loss–I can’t remember anything anymore–so I don’t remember the goals I set for myself at the beginning of 2020. I do remember that 2019 was a shitshow of a year, and I was very happy to see it end, as was most everyone, only to discover that 2020 would be so awful that I cannot remember precisely why 2019 was so dreadful, just that it was.

I am getting the COVID-19 vaccine because of my day job, which a lot of people don’t know much about because it’s not something I talk about publicly very much. I am always very careful to compartmentalize my life, keeping my writing career and public life very separated from my day job and my private life. I work at a public health clinic here in New Orleans that used to be the NO/AIDS Task Force, which evolved into Crescent Care Health sometime (my memory is completely shot) over the course of the last decade. I work at the Elysian Fields campus, and basically, what I do is test clients, by appointment, for HIV, syphilis and Hepatitis C; do all the necessary paperwork required by our funders; and basically interview and assess my clients for risk reduction messaging and what other services we provide that they might require. Once that is finished, I take them to a nurse who will draw blood for their PrEP labs (if they are taking PrEP) as well as testing them for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Over the course of the pandemic our services were initially shut down, and then we became a testing site for COVID-19. For several months I worked in the garage of our building, screening people for COVID symptoms before we let them into the building (we were on very limited services; some blood draws were still being done, the food pantry was still open, and so was the pharmacy on the second floor) or sending people who needed to be tested over to the COVID testing area. So, yes, I am in a public contact job that is health care related, and see clients three days a week, putting myself at risk of exposure. I follow our safety protocols stringently–which includes mask wearing, regular hand-washing or sanitizing, and cleaning the room where I see clients with virucidal wipes–their chair, the side of the table they sit at, the pen they handle, and their side of the plexiglass screen they stick their hand through in order for me to stick their finger and draw enough blood to run the tests I run. The clients also have to wear a mask the entire time they are in our building. So, that’s why I am getting the vaccination so early; I’d posted about it on social media and got some weird comments, like so lucky and so forth…which I understand; sure, I’m lucky to get it early, but at the same time I’ve been at a high daily risk of infection since late spring–and while I don’t think the age thing matters as much as they thought it did at the beginning of the pandemic, I am not that young–my next birthday will be my sixtieth.

So, that’s why I am getting the vaccine earlier than many. I am a front-line employee of a public health clinic–and while I may not be a doctor or a nurse, I provide essential health services–or serve as a gateway to accessing those services….and the Office of Public Health provided enough vaccines to our clinic so that all of our employees can be get one, so that our clinic can get back up and be fully operational (rather than on a limited basis) sooner rather than later.

And that’s probably the last time I will ever talk about my day job and what I do there publicly.

Yesterday was a very good work day–I am still behind, of course; I’d hoped to be finished with the entire thing on Tuesday so it could sit for a day or two before the final polish. Bury Me in Shadows has had an interesting journey to completion. It began as a short story I wrote sometime in the 1980’s called “Ruins”–and when I finished writing the story, I knew it wasn’t a short story but a novel. I filed the story away, dragging out the folder and rereading it occasionally over the last thirty or so years (it’s really difficult for me to grasp that 1980–and soon 1981–was forty years ago), and I’m not sure when exactly I decided to turn it into a novel or when I started working on it. The original title, once I started pulling the book together as a novel, was Bury Me in Satin, which is a line from the song “If I Die Young” by the Band Perry; I love the song, and when I heard that lyric the first time, I immediately thought, ah, that’s the title for the book built on “Ruins”, but at some point during the writing I changed it to the more Gothic Bury Me in Shadows. I had always, since the 1980’s, wanted to write about my fictional Corinth County, Alabama–which is where this book is set–and over the decades since have done some serious world-building. I have any number of short stories written, in some form or another, that are set there…and tried to weave some of those story strands into this book. I’ve already published one book with a character from Corinth County, even if the book wasn’t set there: Dark Tide. The book has also evolved in other ways from the original story; the main character was thirteen in the original story, and then evolved into a sixteen year old when I started writing the book. At some point in the process, I recognized that the character’s age didn’t work, and so I aged him into a college student, which actually works much better. This required completely overhauling and reworking the opening two chapters; but I do think the new versions are better than the originals, and I think the book works better this way.

I suppose I will always think of this book as my pandemic book, since that’s when it was written. Ironically, once this one is turned in I have to start working immediately on the next, which is due on March 1. The next has already been through a ridiculous amount of drafts–I started writing it in 2015, and have worked on it off and on since then (I wrote the entire first draft in July 2015; a chapter a day, basically), and so I guess this is all about finishing projects that have been lingering around for a while. (Even this Kansas book began being formulated when I was in high school, and has followed an interesting–to me–evolutionary pattern since then.)

Perhaps 2021 will be the year where I clear out all the projects that have been hanging around my office for years–decades, in some cases–so I can move on.

It would be so lovely if I could write a first draft of Chlorine in a month…

And on that note, I’m heading for the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

Shake It Off

Believe it or not, we have finally reached the last Monday of 2020.

As always, I have a lot of work to do, but I slept exceptionally well for a change and the bed was comfortable and felt so lovely I stayed in bed for another hour after I woke up initially; sue me. I have a gazillion things to do today, including going to the bank and making groceries as well as going to the gym at some point; I also have to work on the book today. The work went very well yesterday and I was enormously pleased with what I managed to get done yesterday. I have a mere five chapters left to revise and a final chapter yet to be written; all of which needs to be done by Friday, and I do feel like it can be done–especially since I don’t even need to leave the house on either Tuesday or Thursday. I am not certain if the gym is going to be open on Friday–I guess I can ask when I go there today; I do find it strange that they don’t post their holiday hours anywhere around the front desk or on the front door, but it’s also not “my” gym, so I guess they can run it however they please. I also have a gazillion emails to answer, which doesn’t sound in the least bit fun or interesting, but it has to be done.

I did, as I mentioned earlier, manage to get a lot done yesterday–and not just on the book. More cleaning and organizing was required–still have some more to do today at some point–as well as making new folders, both physical and virtual, and of course, this meant more filing. While it was busywork, it needed to be done, and I actually did the floors in the kitchen–well, the rugs anyway–which always makes the kitchen look ever-so-much better. I am going to do the rugs in the living room today at some point, and then over the rest of the week do the actual floors themselves–and yes, I am going to do the windows as well.

I intended to start reading the new Alison Gaylin–I am lucky to have a very advance copy of The Colleciive, available from your local independents and on-line this coming summer of 2021–but I got caught up in Czity of Nets, which is, of course, Chlorine research, and after reading through it (I went ahead and bought the ebook; I do believe I must have donated the hardcover after I finished reading it, as Chlorine had yet to occur to me at the time I read it) I thought about it some more and was like, dude, you’re going to be writing the Kansas book next–maybe you should do some more background on it…because truth be told, most of it is being written based on almost forty year old memories of Kansas, and that really won’t do, will it? So, I went into a Kansas internet wormhole for quite some time and actually got pretty far afield from what I was originally looking up–you know how one thing inevitably leads to another on-line–and soon I was looking up rivers and lakes and the small rural towns scattered around the nucleus of Emporia, which was the county seat of where I lived as a teenager–towns with names like Admire and Allen, Bushong and Cottonwood Falls, Council Grove and Neosho Rapids, Olpe and Hamilton and Reading and Hartford. I’ll probably also take another read of In Cold Blood while I work on this revision as well; few writers have captured Kansas quite the way Capote did in that book. I also started looking at history as well–the history of Bleeding Kansas and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, both of which were preludes to the Civil War. And as much as I am basing my fictional city of “Liberty Center” (shout out to Philip Roth and his When She Was Good) on Emporia, I also have to remember–just as how Bury Me in Shadows is a fictionalized version of the part of Alabama I come from–that I am fictionalizing the town; so I can make changes as needed and the fictionalization doesn’t have to be exact.

It’s so wild that the Kansas book is going to finally be finished and published–and all the different iterations it’s gone through over the course of my life. I actually started writing this book originally in high school–which is when I came up with the character names and places–and it was actually the very first manuscript I completed, by hand, in 1983 after writing it for about four years, continuing the stories I started writing about these characters in high school. This book will bear very little resemblance to any of those earlier iterations; over the years I’ve used the character names in other works, primarily my only other Kansas book, Sara–which I really need to reread to make sure I don’t re-use names I’ve already used. I think the ones I’ve used since high school were used in Sara, which I thought would be my one book about Kansas, so I threw all the character names and place names into it. I had wanted to connect this book in a way to Sara as well; since they are about the same part of Kansas, and I try to connect all of my work in some way, but I’ve never ever liked the name I came up with for the county seat, and now I’ve settled on Liberty Center….but I also tell myself that the two differently named counties can actually be next door neighbors, Liberty County can be right next to Kahola County, and thus Kahola High can be Liberty Center’s arch rival.

Looking into those small towns, some of them considered to be ghost towns now, also piqued my interest. I have several ideas about writing about Kansas–the Bloody Benders, of course, and I have a great title for a prairie noir called Kansas Lonesome I really want to write–and as I said, this book has been through many iterations. The great irony of finally publishing this–and finishing it, let’s be honest–still doesn’t mean I am writing the Kansas book I’ve always wanted to write; this book does focus on the murder of a high school football player, as the Kansas book I’ve been wanting to write since around 2002 did; but this is a vastly different story from what I originally wanted to write–and I still may write that book, centered around Kahola rather than Liberty Center; I’m not sure–and there’s also the cult college thing–the Way International and their Way College of Emporia, which isn’t there anymore; they closed the campus and sold the property to Emporia State University–and the Way has declined over the decades since they were large and wealthy enough to buy a bankrupt Presbyterian college in a small city in Kansas–but that’s a whole other story. There’s also the megachurch story I want to write about Kansas….which is also sort of tied into my original story of the quarterback’s murder. Who knew Kansas could be so inspirational?

But you see how I wind up wasting days….

And on that note, tis time to return to the spice mines. Those emails will not answer themselves, after all, and I’ve got a lot to get done today before the sun sets. Have a happy final Monday of 2020, Constant Reader!

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

And now it is Christmas Eve Eve, my half-day before vacation, and all is right in the world. It’s also payday, aka Pay the Bills Day, so I will be forced to spend a small, but no less significant, part of my day paying the bills and figuring out the grocery budget for the next two weeks. Huzzah? But I am endlessly grateful to still be employed in these troubling times, and I think people are reading more these days–I have certainly seen a lovely uptick in my last two royalty statements.

Yesterday was actually kind of pleasant. The mood roller-coaster known as one Gregalicious has been on the upswing this week, which has been very lovely. I’ve actually been getting positive reaffirmation about my writing and my work, and believe you me, that is rare enough that it makes me very happy when it does happen. (I also have a tendency to brush it off or disbelieve it, and that is something I intend to change going forward. I may be almost sixty, but I can still change my spots!) So, I’ve been on a bit of an emotional high this week, and it’s been absolutely lovely. I didn’t sleep great last night and am thus groggy Greggy this morning, but am hopeful that cappuccinos will kick me into gear. And…it’s only half-a-day. I am going to swing by the post office and possibly get some groceries as well on my way home from the office….and I intend to get to the gym today as well.

We finished off season one of The Hardy Boys last night and yes, it held up through the end, even if the finale went a bit off the rails there at the end. The primary appeal of the show is the kids, and the majority of the show hangs entirely on the young actors playing Frank and Joe, and fortunately, both have the talent and charisma to pull it off. They are both likable, respectably talented, and the cast playing their ‘gang’–Callie, Biff, Chet, and Phil–are also equally charismatic. I think Aunt Trudy might be having a lesbian affair with Jesse, Biff’s cop mom, but it was more implied than anything else, and they could wind up just being very good friends. I feel like the show really captured the spirit of the books, despite the changes made structurally to the foundation of the series, and it is far far better than the late 1970’s Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Mystery Hour. The characters have inevitably always been portrayed on screen as very two-dimensional–as they come across in the revised texts of the books–and in this, they are more fully rounded and developed. They’re still good kids, but in this they seem much more realistic–and they don’t mind bending the rules to get the results they need for their investigation. It appears as though dad Fenton will be taking over as chief of police in the second season, which is an interesting twist on the “our dad is a famous private eye” take of the books, and I’m looking forward to a second season.

We also watched the second to last episode of Hulu’s A Teacher, and it remains a hate-watch, as the student, now in college, and the teacher he had an affair with deal with the damage wrought by their affair, not only on themselves but on everyone they care about. It was almost painful to watch–clearly, both need a lot of therapy–but we’ve come along this far, so I guess we’ll hang on to the bitter end, which will be the season/series finale.

Okay, I didn’t finish this before work this morning–I was a groggy Greggy, as I said–and now I am home. I picked up the mail, picked up my library book, and swung by the grocery store. I am now home and on vacation, and it’s quite lovely, isn’t it? I am fluffing the laundry in the dryer, and once it’s finished, folded, and carried upstairs, I am going to head to the gym, after which I will come home, do some odds and ends around here, and then sit in my easy chair and work on the book. I am on chapter nineteen of twenty-five right now (twenty five actually needs to be written) after which I will let it sit for a few days and then go over one last time before turning it in. I need to get my story for the MWA anthology finished, too–that deadline is January 15th–and I have any number of other odds and ends that need tidying up and tying off during this lovely vacation time. Despite all the time off, I am going to desperately try not to take a lazy day–where I do nothing, not even read–more than once (probably Christmas Day) because I really need to get this book finished. But college football is over; LSU isn’t going to a bowl game and as far as I am concerned, I couldn’t care less about the championship play-offs or anything; I’m pulling for Alabama, of course, but not sure that I care enough to watch.

And the dryer just clicked off, and so I am off to fold the clothes. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader.

O Come All Ye Faithful

As Constant Reader may or may not know, the Lost Apartment–hell, the entire house–is a haven for stray cats. We feed them and take care of them, so does our landlady, and so does our neighbor on the first floor on the other side of the house—and Jeremy in the carriage house does too. I think the largest the herd has ever been is five cats, but I could be wrong. We’ve been down to two–Simba and Tiger (who has the most seniority)–for quite a while now, and there’s a tuxedo cat that pokes around sometimes, but runs whenever you try to get close to her, but this past week a new cat has shown up, and has taken up residence beneath the house: a a tiny black kitten we’ve not really named yet, but have taken to calling the Dark Lord, because he’s completely invisible once the sun goes down. He doesn’t let us get close–he’ll come out to look at us, but scampers away whenever we try to pet him or get him to come near. We’ve started feeding him, as we feed the others, and Paul will eventually make sure that he becomes friendly, so we can catch him and get him to the vet. I don’t think he’s old enough to be fixed now, anyway. He can’t be more than a month or two old.

I always wonder where these strays come from, you know? Tiger was clearly always feral, but Simba is much too friendly to not have been someone’s cat. And a kitten? Where did the kitten come from?

Ah, the mysteries of being the Crazy Cat Couple of the Lower Garden District.

LSU defeated Mississippi yesterday 53-48 in what wound up being a completely insane game in Tiger Stadium; one in which they managed to go up early in the third quarter 37-21, only to fall behind 48-40 with about eight minutes left in the game. True freshman quarterback Max Johnson (who is 2-0 as a starter) managed to connect up with true freshman Kayshon Boutte (you cannot get a more Louisiana name than that, seriously) on two impressive scoring drives, sandwiched around an impressive defensive stand, to pull ahead with less than two minutes left in the game to go up 53-48; the defense held again, forcing a fumble to end the game with less than a minute to go to escape having the first losing season since 1999 and give Tiger fans–so beleaguered this season–a lot of hope for the future. That team that finished strong after the pasting by Alabama was mostly freshmen and sophomores….and in these last two games there were guys playing I’d never heard of before. Our back-ups pulled off an upset of Florida (which gave Alabama all they could handle in the SEC title game) and then Mississippi (the LSU-Mississippi games are always exciting; for some reason Ole Miss–it is an old rivalry game–always seems to play their best against LSU and the Tigers inevitably have to rally to win the game in the end. Paul’s and my first game ever in Tiger Stadium was the Mississippi game in 2010, which the Tigers needed a last minute score in to win); so pardon us for thinking perhaps next year will be a good one and the year after that a great one–which is the LSU way, really. It was very exciting, and I’ll be honest, I thought we were done for when the Rebels went up 48-40 and our defense looked very tired–very very tired–but in a downpour the Tigers pulled it off and thus made my day.

I also managed to unlock the puzzle of Chapter Eighteen and got it finished, and by doing so I realized I perfectly set up the final act of the book–which will make these other chapters more challenging, but that’s okay because I still have plenty of time to get this all finished and ready to go on schedule, which is very exciting.

I also read very far into The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson, and I have to say, gay Hollywood history is very interesting, and that particular period, post-war into the 1950’s, is also extremely interesting. I actually kind of wish I was more knowledgeable about the period, or had studied it in greater detail. I’ve already written a short story based in that dangerous era for gay men, “The Weight of a Feather”, which is included in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, and of course, Chlorine is set in that time period. I actually have several historical gay noirs planned–Obscenity, Indecency, and Muscles–that will take place during different periods of twentieth century gay history–the 1970’s, the 1990’s, and the early aughts–which will reflect the changing moods and dangers of being gay during various decades, and how different life was for gay men in each decade. It’s an interesting concept, and one I hope readers will embrace.

Plus, the research will be endlessly fascinating.

The Saints play the Chiefs today, and apparently Drew Brees will be playing again. This presents a dilemma for me, clearly; I love the Saints, but the Chiefs have several of my favorite former LSU players on their roster (Tyrann Mathieu and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, to name two) and it’s hard for me not to want to see them do well. Perhaps the best way to handle this is to not watch at all. I don’t know. I have to write Chapter Nineteen today, and am trying to decide if I should go to the gym today, or wait until tomorrow. I overslept this morning–an hour, didn’t get up till nine–and I also only have to get through the next three days at the office before the holidays AND my brief between Christmas and New Year’s vacation–I hope to not only get this book finished by then but have the time to work on my MWA anthology submission and reread and plan the final version of #shedeservedit.

Then again, I’ll also probably be horrifically lazy a lot during that time–it happens.

And on that note, more coffee for me before the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Santa Baby

A gazillion years ago I edited a queer Christmas anthology, Upon A Midnight Clear. Back when I was new to the business and wanted to change the world (oh, how I miss that youthful naivete and optimism–even though I was in my early forties), one of the things I had noticed–in my limited experience and knowledge of all things publishing, including the queer side of things–that there weren’t many Christmas stories from a queer perspective or with a gay man as the center of the story. (A major exception to this was Jim Grimsley’s beautiful novel Comfort and Joy, which is still one of my favorite gay novels; he also published a short story excerpted from the book that was published in one of the Men on Men anthologies–the story was also called “Comfort and Joy”. When I signed the contract for the Christmas anthology, you can best be sure I immediately emailed Jim and asked for reprint rights, which he very graciously granted.) So I decided to combat this by doing a Christmas-themed anthology for gay men, by and about and for gay men. I later found out that there had been a previous one (edited by Lawrence Schimel, if I am remembering correctly), and there have been some books and stories and novellas since then.

As is my wont, I tend to forget about Upon a Midnight Clear–it was, after all, pre-Katrina and pre-Incident–but every once in a while I remember it and think about it….and it’s usually because I opened the introduction by quoting Bette Davis as Margo in All About Eve: “I detest cheap sentimentality”–it’s a favorite quote of mine, and it pops into my head all the time, and I used it in this instance to express how annoyingly sappy most fiction–be it short stories, novels, television shows, or films–can be when it centers Christmas. It was a labor of love in some ways–for me especially, trying to reinvent my own feelings about the season–and it might be time for me (or preferably, someone else) to take another run at another gay Christmas anthology; Upon a Midnight Clear has been out of print since 2007, and while i know there have been others in the years since, I kind of would love to do another one…or perhaps one of Christmas noir.

Ooooh, I really like the sound of that.

I made some good progress on Chapter 18 yesterday, and fully intend to finally wrap that chapter up tonight and perhaps begin Chapter 19. It’s very cold again this morning in the Lost Apartment, but I have solved that issue–someone suggested to me on Facebook (I believe it was Carolyn Haines) that I buy electric blankets, and it was literally one of those moments when you think duh, how fucking stupid am I, really? In my own defense, I’ve never owned an electric blanket and we never had any when i was growing up, so I have no experience with them and it probably would have never occurred to me to get one. I ordered two from Macy’s, they arrived last week, and Paul and I broke them out last night while we were watching The Hardy Boys (which I am really enjoying much more than I ever thought I would), and yes, game changer. I am sitting at my desk right now wearing sweats, a ski cap (purple and gold LSU of course) and my electric blanket is covering my lap and it is MARVELOUS, just as it was last night.

And Scooter was absolutely in heaven last night with the electric blankets.

Today I am working from home and slept amazingly well last night; I also stayed up longer than I had intended to, which also had something to do with it. I had some writing to complete for a website–due yesterday-but the materials I needed to write about never arrived so yesterday I spent some time coming up with a work around, which I think wound up working splendidly. The writing I did yesterday also went swimmingly well; I believe my main character is really taking shape and so is the story, and I am very excited about getting this book out there for everyone to read. I am nervous about it, of course, just like always; but I am taking some risks with this book and I am pushing myself creatively. The more I work on this book, though, the further away another Scotty book seems. I had an interesting conversation on Twitter the other day (other week? who the hell knows? Time literally has no meaning anymore) about private eye novels, and I expressed that while there are certainly still good ones being written, the subgenre feels a little on the stale side to me these days; and I also confessed that this could have everything to do with my already having written fifteen of them. The stand alones I started writing and publishing in 2009 (or 2010; see earlier comment about time having no meaning) gave me enough of a break from writing the private eye novels so that I always came back to them feeling fresh and invigorated, much as how alternating between Chanse (serious) and Scotty (more silly) used to help me stay fresh with both series. I feel like Royal Street Reveillon was probably the best Scotty I’ve written in a long time; I was very pleased with how the book turned out, and from time to time I think well, that one turned out so well that might be a good place to stop–and then I remember I left Scotty’s personal story on a cliffhanger, and I probably need to get that wrapped up at some point. But once I finish these two contracted novels, I want to work on Chlorine, and there’s another paranormal New Orleans novel bouncing around in my head–Voices in an Empty Room–but I might be able to put that aside to work on another Scotty–although I have to admit there’s also a Colin stand alone bouncing around inside my head as well.

But then maybe my brain is just overloaded at the moment.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

Song of the South

Chapter One

              “Was this an accident, or did you do it on purpose?”

              I opened my eyes to see my mother standing at the foot of my hospital bed, her heart-shaped face unreadable as always. The strap of her Louis Vuitton limited edition purse was hooked into the crook of her left arm. Her right hand was fidgeting, meaning she was craving one of the rare cigarettes she allowed herself from time to time. Her dove gray skirt suit, complete with matching jacket over a coral silk blouse, looked more rumpled than usual. Her shoulder length bob, recently touched up as there were no discernible gray roots in her rigid part, was also a bit disheveled. She wasn’t tall, just a few inches over five feet, and always wore low heels, because she preferred being underestimated. Regular yoga and Pilates classes kept her figure slim. She never wore a lot of make-up, just highlights here and there to make her cheekbones seem more prominent or to make her eyes pop. Looking at her, one who didn’t know better would never guess she was one of the top criminal attorneys in the country or that her criminal law classes at the University of Chicago were in high demand.

              I could tell she was unnerved because she’d allowed her Alabama accent to creep slightly back into her speech. She’d worked long and hard to rid herself of that accent when she was in law school, because she said no one took her seriously when she spoke or else thought she was stupid once they’d heard it. The only times she used it now was when she wanted someone to feel superior to her, or she’d been drinking, or she was upset.

              It worked like a charm getting her out of speeding tickets.

              I hadn’t been asleep, nor had I been awake either, hovering in that weird in-between state where it seemed like I’d been living for the last three or four days.

              “It wasn’t on purpose.” I managed to croak the words out. My throat was still raw and sore from having my stomach pumped. My lips were dry and chapped, and my eyes still burned from the aftermath of the insane drug-and-alcohol binge I’d gone on in the aftermath of the break-up with fucking Tradd Chisholm. “It was an accident.” I shifted in the hospital bed, trying to sit up more, the IV swinging wildly. The memory of that last and final fight with Tradd flashed through my head.

              Why are you so fucking needy? He’d screamed at me. I can’t fucking breathe!

              Fucking Tradd, anyway. Why did I let him get under my skin the way I had?

              Why had I let him isolate me from my friends?

              Why, why, why.

              He wasn’t worth this, that’s for sure.

              She moved to the chair beside my bed, her heels clacking on the linoleum floor. She sat down smoothly—she always moved fluidly, which led one of her ex-husbands to spit at her on his way out the door, “Maybe if you take that baseball bat you’ve got shoved up your ass you can be a wife to the next poor bastard who marries you.”

              She peered at me with her big, emotionless gray eyes. “Given your history, you understand why I had to insist they put you on a seventy-two-hour hold, once they called me?”

              I closed my eyes.

              My history.

              I’d slit my wrists at fifteen, tired of the non-stop bullying at St. Sebastian’s, the elite prep school that she said would set me up for the rest of my life. The therapist she sent me to afterwards claimed it was more of a cry for attention than anything else, and I’d had to agree with that assessment. After all, I hadn’t gone up the arm following the vein with the Exacto knife, after all, but had cut across instead—which meant the wounds would clot long before death. I’d taken a couple of her Xanax, thinking it would make the razor slicing my skin hurt less.

              That was why I passed out in the bath water, not from loss of blood.

              My therapist had also made me understand why she couldn’t forget or let it go.

              “Put yourself in her shoes, Jake,” Dr. Mendelssohn said, making sure she was earning her two hundred and fifty dollars per hour. “Imagine coming home from a long day in court, exhausted, and finding your only child unconscious in a bathtub full of bloody water, a razor blade on the bath mat. That’s an image she’s not likely to ever forget. No parent would.”

              “Yes, Mom, I understand.” I replied mechanically, keeping my eyes closed. My throat ached still, and I had a headache. The doctor said it would take a day or so before I started feeling physically better. It had already been twenty-four hours. Forty-eight more to go before I could go home to my cute little apartment on Napoleon Street.

              Not that I wanted to go back there.

               The memories of the fight and Tradd storming out were still too fresh, the place would seem empty without him there. Had we ever been happy together? I wasn’t sure. We must have been at some point. There must be good memories, too— I just couldn’t remember them at the moment.

              “I’m not responsible for your feelings!” he’d screamed at me. “You’re too possessive! You won’t let me breathe! I can’t take it anymore!” And finally, the finishing touch: “You’re just not worth all this drama.”

              The door slammed behind him.

              I’d stood there, shaking, grabbed my phone before remembering there wasn’t anyone for me to call. Tradd hadn’t liked my friends and I’d chosen him over them. Our friends were his friends.

              Without him, I was alone.

              So, I’d gone into my little kitchenette, my hands shaking as I reached for the bottle of Grey Goose in the cabinet over the stove. I poured myself a glass, added some ice and started drinking. I don’t remember heading to the Quarter, whether I took a Lyft or the streetcar or called a cab or how I got there. All that mattered was that I did get there.

              I do remember deciding after a couple of glasses that the easiest way to feel better was a lot of drugs and a lot of sex with strangers. Most of those days between Thursday night and Sunday morning were a blur.

              At some point I must have run into a dealer I knew and started snorting.

              So. Many. Blanks.

              The last thing I remembered was being on the dance floor at Oz, my shirt off and my heart racing and the sweat pouring out of my body, the little packet of crystal meth I’d just scored from someone—the last of I don’t know how many—clutched in my hand as I moved to the endless thump of the music, some total stranger dancing close behind me, grinding on me, dry-humping me on the dance floor. I remember dipping my apartment key into the baggie and inhaling up both nostrils.

              According to the doctor who’d spoken to me when I came to in the emergency room, I’d collapsed on the dance floor around five in the morning on Sunday. The ambulance arrived at Oz around five thirty and brought me to University Medical Center. They’d pumped my stomach, given me something to counteract the meth, stuck an IV in my arm, and called my mother.

              And once she told them about the suicide attempt when I was fifteen, they agreed I should be watched for seventy-two hours.

              And now, here she was.

              “I won’t ask why you didn’t call me.” She said, sounding tired. She probably was—she was consulting on a case in Los Angeles and so she must have taken a red-eye flight in. “I know I’ve not been the best mother, Jake, and maybe it’s my fault you’re so messed up. Maybe I  shouldn’t have been a mother. God knows I can’t make a marriage last. Which reminds me, I’ve kicked Brock out and asked for a divorce—” Brock was only ten years older than me and a tennis instructor. I hadn’t thought it would last, but he was gorgeous and had a great body and was nice enough, if not particularly smart.  I didn’t blame her for marrying someone for great sex after three failed marriages. “—but I’ve done my best, the best I knew how to do.” Her right hand was twitching again. I was tempted to tell her to just go have the damned cigarette. “And I know I’ve not been around much because of my career but…” She shook her head. “Your father says you don’t talk to him either.”

              My parents divorced when I was so young, I couldn’t remember them being married. He’d remarried, lived out in the Chicago suburbs with his second wife and their three kids. Very 50’s family sitcom existence. Cecily, my stepmother, tried to always make me feel welcome and a part of their family, which only made it all the more obvious I was out of place in the suburbs.

              “So, I guess we failed you as parents. Maybe you shut me out because you think I’m not there for you, have never been there for you. But I am your mother and I wish you’d call me when you’re in trouble.” Her voice shook on the last words, the accent softening the r’s and drawing out the vowels in a slight drawl, but she took a moment to compose herself and I watched her turn back into the high-powered, highly sought after criminal defense attorney that rarely lost a case and eager young students wanted to learn from. “I took the liberty of stopping by your apartment on the way here.” She hesitated. “You tore up all the pictures of Tradd and burned in them in the sink. And since he’s not here, I guess it’s safe to assume that’s what this was all about.”

              “I don’t—I don’t want to talk about Tradd.” I closed my eyes. I just felt numb but was afraid if I talked about him, thought about it, the pain would come back.

              “All right.” She leaned forward in the chair. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to—I’m not going to make you.” She got up out of the chair and walked over to the window, looking out through the blinds at the traffic on Tulane Avenue. “I’ve already talked to the dean, and they’ve agreed to withdraw you from this semester, even though it’s so late, given the circumstances. I think you need to get out of New Orleans for a while.”


              “Don’t argue with me, Jake.” She began tapping her foot. “I’ve also spoken to your landlord and have paid the rent through September, so you can keep the place and come back here to go to school again this fall. But you need to get away from New Orleans for awhile. I don’t think this is the healthiest environment for you to be in while—while you’re this fragile.”

              After the suicide attempt, she’d threatened to put me into a psychiatric facility. We compromised on Dr. Mendelssohn. “I’m not going to a treatment center.”

              “Dr. Benoit said you were inhaling the drugs, so while it’s still possible that you’re addicted, at least you aren’t injecting.”

              Thank heaven for small miracles, right?

              “I’m not addicted to anything, Mom.”

              “I’ll take your word for it.” She hesitated. “But admitting you have a problem is the first step—”

              I cut her off. “What I did was stupid, but it was also out of character.” I sat up further in the bed, wincing as my head throbbed. “I smoke a little weed here and there, and yeah, I get drunk sometimes, and every once in a great while maybe I’ll do something else—” Honesty, but not total honesty, was called for, if it would keep me out of rehab.

              Always tell the truth, just not the whole truth.

              “—but I don’t need to do anything. Even the thought of drinking again makes me nauseous.”

              “That’ll pass.” She was still looking out the window. She turned back to look at me, her arms crossed. “You can’t come home to Chicago because I’m consulting on a case in Los Angeles and will be gone most of the summer. I don’t imagine you want to stay with your father—”


              “—and there really are few other options.” She cracked a smile. “I never thought I would say this, but I know the perfect solution, and it actually solves two problems. You remember when I called you about your grandmother’s stroke?”

              I gaped at her.

              She couldn’t be serious.

              Her mother, who refused to answer to anything but Miss Sarah or Mrs. Donelson, had suffered a massive stroke back during Carnival. She hadn’t been expected to live, but somehow had grimly held onto life in a hospital in Birmingham. Mom had stopped taking me with her on the annual duty trips down to Alabama to visit her mother when I was about eight, so I barely remembered Miss Sarah. Mom always refused to talk about her mother—or any of her childhood out in the rural countryside, really—and her younger brother, Dewey, who lived in Birmingham with his wife and kids, never did, either. He and his family sometimes visited us in Chicago, and he seemed like a good guy, his wife nice. Their kids were a little spoiled—he was an investment banker—but no more so than my half-siblings out in their Mayberry-like suburb.

              “You’re going to send me to Alabama?” I stared at her. “For the summer?”

              “She’s getting out of the hospital,” she replied calmly. “She wants to die at home, and Dewey and I are arranging for nurses to come in—one during the day and one at night, twelve-hour shifts. But those nurses are going to need to take breaks sometimes, and we can’t trust that Donovan kid to spell them.”

              “What Donovan kid?”

              “I’ve told you about Kelly Donovan.” She furrowed her brow.

              I racked my brain. “No, you haven’t.”

              “Of course I did, you just weren’t paying attention.” The like always was implied. She let out an exasperated breath. “His mother was a distant cousin, I’m not sure how we’re related, to be honest, nor do I care, but his mother died last summer and Miss Sarah took him in. He’s some big deal athlete, has a scholarship to play football at Troy this fall. But he isn’t close family, and while I certainly couldn’t stop her from taking him in, I don’t trust him alone in the house with her and the nurses.” She waved a hand. “It’s bad enough he’s had the run of the place since she went into the hospital, but Dewey—” Her face twisted, and she sighed. “He’s been there the whole time, and Dewey thinks we can’t very well kick him out—I really didn’t like him staying there alone in the house while she was in the hospital—because he has nowhere to go, and Dewey certainly can’t move there to stay while we wait for her to…” she stopped herself, and had the decency to blush a little.

              “Wait for her to die?”

              “Well, yes.” She blew out another breath. “I don’t know why it’s always so hard to talk honestly about family things. Yes, while we wait for her to die. The doctors don’t know how much longer she’ll last. She could last for months, weeks, years—or she could die tomorrow. I know I’d feel better if you were there in the house. Not just because of this—” she gestured around the room, and I could feel my own face turning red, “—but to know a family member is there in the house with her. She can’t really get out of bed—you don’t have to worry about any of that personal hygiene things, that’s what we’re paying the nurses for—and she’s able to talk very little. And you won’t have to spend much time with her, except to give the nurses a break to have dinner or a cigarette or to stretch their legs or something.” She sat back down in the chair. “And don’t say you’ll be bored. There’s a satellite dish, so there’s wifi and a big screen television Dewey bought her, and—” Her eyes gleamed. “—and since she’s dying, we might as well get a jump on things that’ll need to be done once she’s gone. You start clearing out the place. No one has ever thrown a damned thing away. The attic…the attic looks like something from one of those awful shows about hoarders. Lord, that place is a mess, filled with old furniture and boxes of things. Maybe some of that garbage is worth something, can be sold or donated somewhere it can do some good.”

              “That sounds like a lot of fun.”

              “At least you haven’t lost what you think is your sense of humor.” She tilted her head and her eyes narrowed. “But if you’d rather spend the summer at a facility—”

              “No, no, of course not.” My heart was sinking. A summer in rural Alabama, awful as it sounded, was still better than a summer being watched in a rehab center and group therapy and all the rest—made all the worse by knowing you don’t belong there in the first place. Sure, I’d done something incredibly stupid but the only person I’d harmed was myself.

              And getting away—even to Alabama—didn’t sound like such a bad idea. Maybe by the time I came back in August I’d be over for Tradd for good.

              The numbness was fading. Thinking about him caused a pang.

              “And of course, I’ll pay you for the work,” she went on. “You’ll have your credit cards, of course, and I’ll up the weekly deposit into your bank account from five hundred to a thousand. Does that sound fair?”

              I nodded.

              “And you can also keep an eye on those archaeologists.”

              “Archaeologists?” I stared at her. “What are you talking about?”

              “You really don’t listen to me when I talk, do you?” She shook her head. “Some archaeologist from the University of Alabama—Dr. Brady, I think—has been after us for years to allow him to excavate the ruins. Miss Sarah of course would have none of it, but after she had the stroke Dewey gave him permission. You probably won’t ever encounter them—they’re using the old road to the ruins, they’ve cleared it all out—but Miss Sarah doesn’t know they’re there and you aren’t going to tell her. Kelly has been warned about telling her—I am not as squeamish as Dewey about throwing him out. If she gets upset or angry—” She cleared her throat. “There’s no need to tell her anything that’s going to finish her off. And she’s just mean enough to live on and cause trouble for both me and Dewey.”

              “But if she’s bedridden—”

              “I know my mother.” Her voice became cold and steely. “She may be bedridden, but there’s all kinds of things—damage—she can still cause trouble as long as she’s still breathing. I think Dewey should have told them to clear out once she decided to come home to die, frankly, but he’s the son and he has the power of attorney and so what I think doesn’t matter.” Her voice was bitter. “I’m just the daughter.

              “What are they looking for at the ruins? The lost boys?”

              Mom may not talk much about her childhood, but she had told me stories about the family history over the years. The Blackwoods had been among the original settlers of Corinth County when Alabama was still a territory and not a state. The legend of the lost boys was one of the stories she’d told me, while also letting me know that it was most likely an apocryphal story, a romantic fairy tale that was actually fairly common throughout the old Confederate states. Before the Civil War, the Blackwood plantation had apparently been one of the largest plantations in that area of the state, and the Blackwoods had also been one of the largest slave-owning families in Alabama. When the war broke out, the patriarch and his two oldest sons had set off to fight in the war in Virginia, leaving his wife and the two younger sons behind. The father had died at Gettysburg, the oldest son at another one of those late-war battles in Virginia that led to the surrender at Appomattox. When the second son returned to the plantation, he found only the ruins of a burned house. The slaves, his mother, and two younger brothers were all gone. “The story was that a Yankee soldier—maybe a deserter—had robbed the place, killed the family, and burned the house down.” She had shrugged. “But that story—you hear it everywhere. It’s not even original. Hell, even Margaret Mitchell used it in Gone with the Wind.

              No trace of the missing Mrs. Blackwood or her two younger sons had ever been found. The surviving son married one of the county girls and lost most of the property; but the family fortune was slowly built back up by one of his sons, who built a huge Victorian house closer to the county road than the old plantation house. But the later descendants weren’t so good with managing the money and so the big house had slowly started falling into ruin and Miss Sarah’s father had been a simple farmer. The woods had grown back up, and the ruins were about a twenty-minute walk from the newer house, hidden from sight by the towering pines.

              One of my few memories of visiting Alabama as a child included a trip back to the ruins of the old house. I can still remember the columns on the porch and the chimneys at either end covered with moss—but not enough to hide where the fire had burned them black.

              Mom had been very careful to always remind me not to take pride in the fact my ancestors owned slaves. “Slavery was disgusting, Jake, and the root of every racial problem we still have in this country was built on that foundation of slavery. We shouldn’t forget the history, but we also shouldn’t take pride in the fact our ancestors owned people they treated like cattle and were traitors. The heritage is hate, never forget that.”

              I never had.

              “I should hope not, since he has an excellent reputation as a scholar.” she said with a look of distaste. “Apparently, he told Dewey the ruins of Blackwood Hall are one of the few antebellum plantation sites in the state that haven’t been excavated, so this Dr. Brady—don’t worry, I did a thorough background check on him once Dewey told me about all of this—is more interested in finding how they lived and documenting the history than in any of the romantic family legends.” A faint smile crossed her lips, and she arched one of her perfectly sculpted eyebrows. “Believe it or not, the Blackwoods of Corinth County haven’t exactly been the subject of a lot of historical research. But Corinth County is just a backwater and I seriously doubt he’ll find anything of major significance there.” She reached out and covered my hand with hers. “Is there anything you need that I haven’t already taken care of?”

              I closed my eyes. “No, Mom, as always—you’ve thought of everything.”

Jingle Bells

Look everyone! We made it to Wednesday and Christmas is next week!


I’m groggy this morning (as well as being Greggy) and am hoping the cappuccino will kick up the energy soon. It’s my last day at the office this week, and while I slept fairly well, I didn’t want to get up when the alarm went off–and am looking forward to sleeping a little later tomorrow. I have to get through this day at the office so I can head for the gym this evening, and then collapse into my easy chair where I will write for a while until it’s time to either watch something on television or read.

Revising Chapter Eighteen is much harder than I had anticipated; most of what I had written is unusable, and so I am basically starting from scratch with it. I made some progress yesterday, but still have a ways to go, and am worried that the rest of the book will also need so much work–but that’s me being paranoid as the deadline date approaches steadily. But I am very pleased with the cover–which I shared yesterday–and the final polish will go a long way toward getting the manuscript to match the mood of the cover, which actually does precisely capture the mood I am going for–spooky, Gothic, rural–and I’ve been worried (my primary worry) has been that I am not capturing the mood I was going for.

Then again, I always am worried about what I am writing.

So, the high today is 58; it’s currently 53 and there’s also rain in the forecast for today. Hurray. The entire sky is gray right now–the sun is coming up, but the sky is covered in frothy clouds–so there’s this whole weird spooky element to the morning already. It doesn’t exactly make me want to jump in the shower and go outside this morning, you know? But it is what it is, and at some point you just have to get it together and go, you know? But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. As you probably already know unless you’re new here, I am not a fan of cold weather–and by that I mean anytime the mercury drops below sixty degrees. I like sweater weather; I do not like jacket weather. But at least the cold weather days are few here–much fewer than in most parts of the country–but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. Rather, I just endure.

We watched the new episode of A Teacher last night, and you may very well ask why we are continuing to watch a show we so clearly don’t like. Primarily, it’s because the episodes are short, and when we have a few minutes in the evening to watch something, well, a show that’s less than thirty minutes per episode fits the bill. I’m not even sure what the entire point of this show is, to be honest. The older woman/teacher last night was let out of jail on probation (I’m not sure why she even went to jail in the first place, as they made it clear from the beginning he was over eighteen–and while it’s morally questionable and she certainly should have been fired, I don’t really see how their affair was actually a crime), and she clearly learned nothing–she’s bitter and resentful that her life has been ruined, and has been ruined for the foreseeable future–so again, I am not sure what the point is here? The show runs trigger warnings both before and after every episode, about grooming and seeking help if you feel you’re being groomed–but that isn’t what they are depicting in the show, which is very confusing to us as we watch…you keep making these statements that grooming is bad and teens get groomed by predators…but then what you’re showing is supposedly a little more nuanced than that, so I don’t get it. It’s like the producers and writers are like, “we want to show the complications of such a relationship, and how there’s so much gray involved when the adult is in her early twenties and the student is eighteen, but we don’t want to be criticized so we are going to try to defuse it by stating before and after every episode that what we are showing is actually bad and if you need help, here’s where to find it.”

It’s just…odd–or at least it seems odd to me. Your mileage might vary.

Basically, I neither understand the teacher nor the student or their motivations or why they are behaving the way they are, so it’s hard for me to understand them or have empathy for either of them. Again, others might feel differently, but the show just isn’t working for me. So why do we keep watching? Because the episodes are short, and everything else we are watching is about an hour per….and sometimes it’s fun to watch something you don’t really like; we watched many many seasons of Pretty Little Liars before we finally gave up on the show. (Interestingly enough, Pretty Little Liars also featured a romance between a high school student and a teacher, with the genders reversed; they became one of the primary “super-couples” of the show and there were no trigger warnings given.) And in fairness, we often were rooting for A.

And on that note, it’s time to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader, and may your holidays be filled with cheer.

Christmas Must Be Something More

Christmas came a little early last night for LSU fans and Louisiana.

23 point underdogs. Only 54 scholarship athletes–one more than required to field a team–and then lost four more players in the first half to injury. Starting true freshmen all over the place on both sides of the ball, including a quarterback starting his first time ever. Playing the team ranked sixth in the country , arguing they deserve a spot in the play-offs, and scheduled to play Alabama next week in the SEC title game. An LSU team that had just lost to Alabama 55-17 last week, and has had offensive records broken against it all year long. Probably the worst LSU team in twenty years, a possible losing season for the first time since 1999, and all of this coming one year after having one of the best teams and seasons in college football. No one, including me and Paul, gave LSU a chance last night.

And in true LSU fashion, they somehow managed to pull off one of the biggest upsets in LSU football history, one of the biggest ones of the season nationwide, and destroyed any hopes Florida had of backing their way into the play-offs. You’re very welcome, Ohio State. It was one of the craziest, wackiest, most insane games I’ve ever seen–and as an LSU fan, I’ve seen some pretty fucking wacky, insane games over the years.


The game started looking like it would be the same as every other game all season, and while I held out desperate, long-time fan hope that LSU would somehow rise to the occasion–I couldn’t believe my delighted eyes as I watched the game unfold. LSU’s defense–beleaguered all season, beaten up and bloodied–somehow managed a goal line stand to open the game. Exciting, but probably not going to happen again, I thought. Sure enough, LSU had to punt and Florida marched right back down the field to go up 7-0. Then–LSU’s true freshman quarterback Max Johnson took the Tigers right down the field to tie it up, 7-7….and on Florida’s next possession, an LSU true freshmen defensive back managed a Pick 6 to put the Tigers up 14-7. Another completely insane interception on the next Florida possession–and thanks to another defensive stand, Florida was later held to a field goal, 14-10. The Gators scored next to make it 17-14–and then more insanity. LSU scored to take the lead back 21-14, forced a fumble in the closing seconds of the first half and kicked another field goal, LSU 24-14. LSU got the ball first in the second half; another field goal: 27-14. And then Florida took control…three possessions, three scores: 31-27. LSU scored another touchdown, and Florida kicked another field goal: 34-34, with time running out. LSU’s drive stalled on third down–and I thought, ah, well, we gave it a good shot, they’ll get a field goal for sure…but wait. In a moment of complete insanity that will go down in college football history, the LSU tight end’s shoe came off, and a Florida player (I won’t name him, since his name will go down in infamy and this moment will be replayed, over and over and over again, for years to come) threw that shoe twenty five yards down the field….for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. 15 yards and an automatic first down. Some questionable play calling put the game on the foot of kicker Cade York: 57 yards, longest of his career and an LSU record. He nailed it, 37-34. Florida tried desperately to get their own in the closing seconds–but missed a 51 yarder and LSU escaped the Swamp with a major upset.

In the fog.

And stunned an entire nation of college football fans.

And when it was all over, all I could do was shake my head. This is why I love LSU football so much; even in mediocre seasons, they will always manage to pull off a signature win and a major upset (10-7 over number 4 Mississippi in 2014; 26-21 over top ten Auburn in 2017 after losing to Troy, the 28-21 upset of Number One Florida in 1997, and there are so many others), and not only knocked Florida out of any shot at the play-offs, but also probably cost Kyle Trask his shot at a Heisman trophy–and going into the game, I thought it was for sure between either him or Mac Jones at Alabama.

As someone said on Twitter last night, “Florida just lost to a the worst LSU team in twenty years’ BACK-UPS.”

LSU still has to play Mississippi this coming weekend; Florida is off to the SEC title game to face the Alabama juggernaut–which could go one of two ways: Alabama will either blow them out, or Florida–playing with nothing to lose–could rise up and smite the Tide. The East has only won the SEC once since 2008 (!), so who knows? I didn’t have much interest in watching the game, frankly, but I might now.

So, yes, it was a lovely Saturday in the Lost Apartment. I finished reading The Spy Who Came in From the Cold–loved it–and also wrote; I didn’t do a lot of cleaning or anything else, but I got some work done on the book which was lovely, finished reading a book, and got to watch LSU beat Florida. The Saints play today–I think at three?–which will give me some time this morning to get some emails answered, some work on the book done, and even a trip to the gym out of the way.

And I slept deeply and well, which was also quite marvelous.

And on that note, tis time to go back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.


Sunday morning and a lot to get done today. I was horribly lazy yesterday; I wound up doing very little other than reading–I finished The Bad Seed and then moved on to The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (I’ve never read John LeCarre, and am trying to get better read in my. genre’s classics, both titles and authors) and got some chores done, but other than that–not a goddamned thing. So today I I have to play catch up as well as go to the gym and somehow pay some attention to the Saints game, which is at noon. (I’ll most likely do some things around here, go to the gym around elevenish, and then come home and do things while the game is on.) The LSU game went about the way I expected it to last night–55-17 final score–so congratulations to Alabama’s players and coaching staff; I can’t imagine there’s a better team in the country this season, so it’ll be fun watching y’all go all the way again. LSU has to play Florida next weekend, which will most likely be another horror show like yesterday’s, but at least at that point the season will be over.

This football season is yet another gift the year 2020 has given me. Thanks, 2020, thank you.

It feels cold again this morning in the Lost Apartment–I have my space heater on and a cap on my bald scalp–but it doesn’t look so bad outside, really. Lots of clouds hiding the sky and the sun, but this week is supposed to be warmer than last, so I think I’ll be able to hang this week after last week’s cold spell.

Once I finish this I am going to make a to-do list for this week–I really need to make a point of doing that every Sunday, so I have a roadmap for my week–and also so that things won’t slip through the cracks and be forgotten. This has been a really bad year for me to try to remember everything I have to get done–I keep forgetting things, which isn’t good–so I am trying to be ever so much better about this. The whole year I’ve felt like I’ve been in this weird state of limbo, just drifting and trying to get by, keep dog-paddling and keeping my head above water, and it’s not been easy. (It’s not really been an easy year for most people, I suspect.)

Last night as we binged Big Mouth after the LSU game, I was trying to remember the highlights of the year–the good things that happened that I am grateful for, and realized that, sadly, most of the things I was thinking of was television or movies I’d watched, or books I’d read and greatly enjoyed. I had a pretty good year at the beginning of the year in selling short stories–I sold quite a few this year, continuing a trend from last year, to the point where I keep forgetting story sales I made, which is so weird–but also means that in 2021 I am going to have some stories appear in anthologies or publications, which is terribly cool. I know I stretched myself as a writer–hell, I wrote a Sherlock Holmes story this year, and created a Sherlockian world in 1916 New Orleans–and while there were anthologies and things I tried (and failed) to submit to, I have some terrific stories now that are in some state of writing that could turn out to be something interesting. I am looking forward to spending some more time with both “The Sound of Snow Falling” and “The Rosary of Broken Promises”–and there are any number of others I’d love to dive back into. The problem being, of course, that I have limited writing time, and for the rest of this month I have to focus on finishing the one book and then the first two months of 2021 finishing the other. I’m not really sure what I want to spend the rest of 2021 doing; I know I am co-editing the Minneapolis Bouchercon anthology and that’s going to take a chunk of time to read all those submissions and make decisions and then edit them all, but let’s face it, it’s also not my first time at the anthology rodeo. I want to try to write another Scotty at some point in 2021, and I know I also have Chlorine to work on, but…I guess we’ll just have to see how the year pans out.

I know I want to pull another short story collection together, too, and of course there’s the novellas…

I also polished off a journal last night, so I get to start a new one this morning, which is kind of fun. I’ve been blasting through journals at a pretty good pace since I started using them again, and while I cannot say that they’ve been enormously helpful in keeping my act together and keeping me on track with any of the writing I’ve been doing, they’ve been wonderful for me to jot notes and ideas in, and I’ve been doing much better about going back into them and rereading them and getting the unpolished jewels out of them. I have a really nice one that has a magnetic clasp that I got at Garden District Books, and then got a pack of three the last time I went to Costco, so I am certainly set for journals for the year.

I’ve also got to get the copy edits on my essay finished.

I also spent some time yesterday slowly but surely pruning the books. I’ve done a great job of pruning them already, so much so that there’s slim pickings for getting rid of things I will most likely never read–I always stop myself and have to think, long and hard, about whether I should get rid of an unread book–but I also need to keep making room for more–because at some point I’ll start buying books again. Not sure when that will be financially feasible–right now, books are filed in the “luxury item” column, especially when I already have so many on hand that I’ve not read–but I have quite a list of books that I want to get when I can.

There are never enough books, frankly.

And on that note, I need some more coffee as well as fold some laundry. Have a great Sunday, Constant Reader!


Saturday morning and it’s rather chilly in the Lost Apartment . The sun is shining and there aren’t many clouds in the sky–I see plenty of blue up there at the moment–and I haven’t checked the weather yet. All right, I just looked and it’s currently forty-nine, with a high of fifty-three predicted for the day. Sounds like the kind of day when one just wants to stay indoors all day and under a blanket, does it not? I have a lot to get done this morning–the sink is full of dirty dishes; more than will fit in the dishwasher, so I am going to have to do two loads–and of course, there’s filing to do and organizing to be done; notes to be read on the work-in-progress as well as chapters to be revised; and I’d like to be able to read some more of The Bad Seed, if not finish reading it today. LSU is playing Alabama tonight, and it’s not going to be pretty, but at least it won’t be disappointing. It’s very weird, there’s always a minor hope, even in bad years, that we might beat them, but not this one. I love my Tigers and I’ll tune in–but I am under no illusions that they’ll pull off a major upset here. Our only hope is a sustained three and a half hour miracle, really; but this entire football season has been such a wash anyway–I really think it should have been skipped, which is what I’ve thought all along–yet here we are.

I do occasionally think that LSU having one of the greatest football teams and seasons of all time last year somehow broke the world, and if LSU having a shitty season is what it takes to reset everything, I can live with that sacrifice.

Yesterday was a good day. I had to swing by the office because I had run out of lube for the condom packs–I brought home flavored–so I had to swing by there to pick up regular lube tubes–and then after returning home, I made condom packs while watching Logan’s Run, yesterday’s entry into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival. I had never before seen it; I, of course, remember what it’s plot was–a world where everyone dies at thirty; the title character is about to turn thirty and he runs. Well, turns out that was a vast over-simplification; Logan, played by a stunningly beautiful young Michael York (I’ve waxed euphoric over his beauty before; I had a major crush on him throughout the 1970’s; have continued to appreciate his work as I got older; and he came to the Williams Festival one year, so I not only got to meet him but was delighted to find he was very charming), is a “sandman”–in the future, after over–population and depletion of resources and so forth, society collapsed and a utopian human city was built under a dome, and all humans devote themselves merely to pleasure, and when they turn thirty, they are renewed; in a ritual, everyone gathers to watch them sacrifice themselves, to be reborn–someone has to die in order for someone to be reborn. The “sandmen” are those who hunt down the ones who decide they want to live and run for their lives. When caught, they are killed and are dead forever–no chance of being reborn. Logan actually has about four years left before he turns thirty, but he is given the job to search for Sanctuary–a place all the runners try to get to safely–and the controlling computer also speeds up his life, turning the life clock in his hand all the way up to almost time for him to die. Jenny Agutter plays the love interest who can help him get to Sanctuary; they run, and it becomes very weird once they escape. The special effects are pretty bad–the movie was pre-Star Wars–and so are the sets and costume designs. It does, I decided, fit into the film festival because the film itself is kind of cynical; it basically took American youth obsession and created a world based entirely in youth; and it’s interesting they chose thirty as the end point of life–after all, the youth movement of the 1960’s always said “never trust anyone over thirty.” As I watched, I couldn’t help but think of all the possibilities they couldn’t explore in a two hour film–and thought, you know, this show could easily rebooted as a mini-series that could go into all of those explorations–the collapse of society, who built and created this new world, who actually is in power in this utopian paradise, how did they get the initial buy-in necessary–and so on and so forth. And with our country growing evermore obsessed with youth and beauty–yeah, this could be really good. Logan would be a good role for someone like Nick Jonas or Alexander Dreymon or any number of beautiful young actors in the business today.

The lovely thing about HBO MAX is they are continually adding more and more films to their TCM app–you can only imagine my delight to see the delightful Peter O’Toole film The Stunt Man was recently added; The Ruling Class is already there. I am a huge Peter O’Toole fan–the fact the man never won a competitive Oscar despite giving career-defining performance in those two films, along with My Favorite Year, The Lion in Winter, Becket, and Lawrence of Arabia never ceases to amaze me. Both The Stunt Man and The Ruling Class certainly fit into my Cynical 70’s Film Festival–they have also added the original The Omega Man and Soylent Green, both of which I intend to watch despite the fact both star Charlton Heston, the king of over-acting. But…both definitely belong in the Festival, and I really wish they would add Serpico.

I also would like to watch Cruising again–to see it from a present day perspective.

The Mandalorian continues to delight as well, and our favorite raunchy junior high puberty comedy, Big Mouth, also came back yesterday.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.