Chick-a-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes’ Love It)

I love football.

I know, it catches people off-guard that a sixty year old gay man is a massive football fan, but I’ve never subscribed to stereotypes. I love football, with an especial love for the college game (I used to only watch the Saints in the NFL, but have started rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals because, well, Joe fucking Burrow); I think everyone knows I am a massive LSU fan. (GEAUX TIGERS!)

There really isn’t anything else in the world like a Saturday night in Death Valley. I will remember the 2019 night game against Florida probably for the rest of my life. God, what a great game, and it was so much fun. I am aware that I am digressing.

Anyway, I grew up in a Southern football family (even if we didn’t live in the South, we were from the South and that’s all that matters), so it was inevitable that I should become both a football fan and a football player. I played all four years in high school, all of my cousins also played, and I have close relatives who played at both the college and professional levels (and I don’t mean some small college in the middle of nowhere; I mean in the SEC–Auburn and Alabama, and there may be even more that I don’t know about). I have relatives who were successful coaches. Every fall Saturday the television was tuned into whatever college game was playing–even if we weren’t fans of either team; it’s hard to imagine now with the 24/7 college football coverage, but when I was growing up ABC had a monopoly on all NCAA football games. They would usually play one game of national significance, and then the second game was regional–important to that region. As we did not live in the South, we rarely got to see SEC games other than Alabama–Alabama was almost inevitably the only Southern team of “national interest” throughout the 1970’s (I really don’t remember the 1960’s much, but we lived in Chicago so I imagine we saw a lot of Big Ten and Notre Dame games; I don’t really remember a lot of my life before the suburbs, really–some things, yes, but most things not so much)

I’ve never really read a lot of fiction about football, though; it inevitably winds up being something cliched and tired. I loved North Dallas Forty by Peter Gent; hated Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins; but do remember enjoying End Zone by Don DeLillo (I was going to reread this recently; but there’s so much to read. I did try to to reread Semi-Tough–but when I opened the book there were racial slurs and other mess on page one, so I threw it in the trash; no thanks). And I’ve also enjoyed other books with football involved, even if it wasn’t necessarily what the book was about. (The Hardy Boys were on the Bayport High football team in The Crisscross Shadow–the only time football is mentioned in the series.) There’s also a tendency, in books about high school and football to make the football players and cheerleaders the villains of the story, which has never really sat right with me. I was never bullied by anyone on the football team, and maybe the cheerleaders weren’t bitches to me because I was on the team and my sister was a cheerleader, but that wasn’t my experience (one thing I truly appreciated about Stephen King’s Christine was the horrible bullies at Libertyville High weren’t the football players but the hard-case kids–which was also my experience; which is probably yet another reason the book is one of my favorites of the King canon, methinks).

But…I can also see why it’s so attractive to make the jocks and cheerleaders the villains of high school dramas. And I sort of did something similar in #shedeservedit, didn’t I? Those boys on the Marysville and Steubenville high school teams certainly fit the bill of villainy.

So, when people started recommending Eli Cranor’s debut Dont Know Tough to me, I wasn’t so sure. I just published a book of my own about high school football and the toxicity it can engender in a small town (#shedeservedit), and revisiting my memories of high school and football was harder than I had thought it would be; I thought I could be dispassionate about it all while writing about it (I often write about things to try to distance myself from them and gain some perspective) but I was wrong. It was hard to write that book, much harder than I thought it would be–and it took years (first draft was written in 2015; published in 2022).

But enough people whose opinions I respect were raving about the book, so I got a copy and once I started reading it, there was no way I could stop.

Still feel the burn on my neck. Told Coach it was a ringworm this morning when he pick me up, but it ain’t. It a cigarette, or at least what a lit cigarette do when it stuck in your neck. Just stared at Him when He did it. No way I’s gonna let Him see me hurt. No way. bit a hole through the side of my cheek, swallowed blood, and just stared at Him. Tasted blood all day.

Tasted it while I saw in Ms. Miller’s class. Woke up in Algebra tasting it. Drank milk from a cardboard box at lunch and still, I tasted it. But now it eighth period football. Coach already got the boys lined up on either side of the fifty, a crease in between, a small space for running and tackling, for pain.

This my favorite drill.

I just been standing back here, watching the other boys go at it. The sound of pads popping like sheet metal flapping in a storm.

“Who want next?” holler Bull. Bull ain’t the head coach. Bull coach the defense. He as mean as they come.

One of my favorite books of all time about small towns is Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show (I also love the film, which is extraordinary and one of, in my opinion, the best films made during the 1970’s). I did try to reread it recently–I was interested in refreshing my memory of its gay subplots and the mental breakdown of poor Joe Bob Blanton, but I’d also forgotten the part about the bored teenaged boys decided to fuck some calves, so when I got to that part I put the book down in distaste. But now that I’ve finished Don’t Know Tough, I kind of want to go back and reread The Last Picture Show again (I can skip that distasteful part…weird that I didn’t remember it).

Don’t Know Tough is yet another incredibly impressive debut, further confirming the truth of what I said at the Lefty Award banquet–the last few years have seen so many amazing and diverse and extraordinary debuts that the future of our genre is in very good hands. I won’t lie–when I started reading the book, I wasn’t sure I could keep reading it; I was worried that the entire book would be written in that grammatically garbled first-person voice but as I kept reading that first chapter I got into the rhythm of the language and started seeing the beauty and fluidity of the style choice–which is no small feat to pull off, and pull off consistently, throughout the entire book…to the point I was also a little disappointed that the entire book wasn’t done in that same style. Billy Lowe is the character whose voice this is; and the story of the novel revolves around him and the horrific Shakespearean tragedy that his life actually is. His mother is an alcoholic, and lives with an abusive piece of shit who obviously directs violence at Billy. He has a younger half-brother who was fathered by this POS; he also has an older brother who lives elsewhere. Billy’s situation has turned him into a wild beast of rage with an exceptional gift for channeling that rage into playing football. He’s not big enough in size to go major college, but his coach feels like there’s a chance he could get a football scholarship to a smaller college, and break the cycle of poverty he is trapped in at the moment. Billy is exceptionally compelling–it’s hard to read his first person point of view and not have your heart break for this kid; and hope that it’s all going to work out for him in the end, despite the disturbing pattern of violence in both his life and behavior.

Denton High has made the Arkansas state play-offs, but without Billy in the backfield their chances of advancing are practically nil. It’s important for Denton to do well in the post season because their coach’s job depends on it. Trent Powers is a born-again Christian, whose last coaching job in California crapped out–winning only three games in his final three seasons before being fired. This job is another chance for him, even though his wife and daughters hate relocating to a small town in Arkansas from California (much is made throughout the book of Coach Powers’ Prius, seen by the locals are weird and strange and almost otherworldly and unmanly). Coach Powers also has a very soft spot for his star player, and not just because he’s a star player–he actually feels compassion for the horror the young player’s life has been up to that point, and he wants to help–even if Billy doesn’t want any help from anyone. Billy’s future, to Billy at any rate, is already set, and he’s not going to end up going anywhere or doing anything or having a good life and decent future. He doesn’t see himself being worthy of anything or of doing better than his assigned lot in life.

The Powers family is a direct contrast to Billy’s; loving and nurturing couple, raising two daughters and trying to do right by them. How far is too far to go when helping someone in Billy’s situation, is the question. Coach’s wife–the daughter of a successful football coach who took Trent in when he was a kid from a similar background as Billy’s…and yes, he slept with his coach’s daughter and got her pregnant. So both Coach and his wife have the fear that the same thing will happen to their daughter and Billy–especially when the daughter starts opening up to Billy.

But one night Billy’s abuser is murdered. No one would blame Billy for killing the abusive bastard–well, the law would. But the story of what happened that night is far more complicated, and far more surprising, than the reader can imagine.

The pacing is also exceptional, and I love the contrasts between the third person point of view we see much of the novel in, with the Billy point of view chapters mixed in. The language choices and imagery are spare and tight yet full and rich and immersive–reminding me not only of Megan Abbott and her brilliant Dare Me, but also with a healthy dash of Daniel Woodrell, Tom Franklin, S. A. Cosby, and Kelly J. Ford (all masters of Southern Gothic) mixed in. The little touches of how claustrophobic small Southern towns can be, the class disparities between the haves and the have nots, and what teenagers in those types of environments was simply masterful.

I was completely blown away by this amazing work, and suspect that you will be as well. Highly recommended. I cannot wait to see what Eli Cranor does next.

You Keep Me Hangin’ On

Set me free, why don’t you, babe?

I cannot get used to having the house at a moderate temperature. It’s so weird to get up and not freeze as I come downstairs and make my first cup of coffee, while I get ready for work, anything. I also had insomnia last night, alas–but again, first time in a very long time that’s happened, so I guess I can live with it, really. I had a very good and productive day yesterday–I got caught up some on the book (still behind, but nothing that can’t be defeated by some good work getting done every day) and I also made progress on my emails. I doubt I will get the inbox emptied today, but stranger things have happened before, and could even happen again.

We finished Ozark last night, and now have to wait until the second half of the season drops before finding out what happens to the members of the cast. I can’t imagine this having a happy ending–they just keep going from bad situations to worse ones, and I can’t help but feel that Marty and Wendy are not going to have a happy ending where they escape from the criminal world and go back to having some semblance of a normal family life again; unless they get into witness protection or something like that. Julia Garner also continues to kill it as Ruth Langmore–I see another Emmy in her future–and overall, it’s really been a terrific show from the beginning. We also got caught up on Peacemaker, and started the new season of Servant, which is even weirder than the first two seasons–which is actually saying a great deal.

Apparently the NFL had some great play-off games this weekend; as I’ve noted before, outside of the Saints I generally don’t follow (and don’t care) very much about pro football; now that so many LSU players are in the NFL I pay a little more attention to them because–well, LSU players; and how could I not pay attention to the professional success of the kids from that great 2019 season, especially Joe Burrow, who still wears an LSU wrist band in every game he plays for the Bengals? I can’t root against Tyrann Mathieu or Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Kansas City Chiefs) or Justin Jefferson (Vikings), or whenever I hear a former LSU player’s name called in a game it becomes very difficult for me to root against them (unless, of course, they play for the Falcons, in which case all bets are off). It’s weird–it’s been a while since the post-season continued without the Saints, so I could stop paying attention to football on the weekends and get things done.

The weekend was good, over all. I did manage to get what I planned to get done with the book–didn’t quite finish the filing, organizing and cleaning, though–and I did brainstorm for a bit about two stories I am writing and are due soon (yikes) while I was waiting for Paul to finish whatever it was he was doing (work no doubt) and come downstairs to watch television last evening. It’s very strange how bipolar being a writer can make one; Saturday I was struggling with the work, which was why I only did one chapter instead of the planned two. I was certain Saturday that the book was garbage, unfixable, and was going to be the end of my career. Yesterday I zipped through three chapters, thinking this isn’t bad at all, really and occasionally this is actually working and I am enjoying myself. Seriously, it’s a wonder I haven’t had a complete mental breakdown multiple times since I started working in this literally insane industry.

But fortunately I do enjoy writing. I do enjoy doing the work–even when I hate doing the work, which is usually when it just won’t come for whatever reason and I am forcing it–and I actually enjoy editing and revising because you are making it better, which is always a pleasant feeling. And that’s how I was feeling with it yesterday–I am making this better–and why I had so much fun with it. Hopefully that same sense of joy will resurface tonight–although every once in a while I will get to a part that has to be completely redone because I changed something earlier in the book and then I sob internally before I start screaming internally.

But it’s always up and down, and if anything, my mood swings and chemical imbalances make me perfect for being a writer; because it has proven to be a rollercoaster ride of its own (kind of like the chemical imbalances) and if anything, I’ve gotten used to my life feeling like a rollercoaster; slow climbs to heights, speedy descents into lows, and the ever popular stomach-churning loop-de-loops. But I write because I love to write, and after learning how to edit and revise, I love the process of making the work better than it originally was–much as I would love to believe I can write a perfect first draft I no longer make myself crazy trying to get it all right the first time. And there are times I have stories that I don’t know how to fix (usually short stories; I still have many from college writing classes that have potential but have to actually be revised or edited in some way to make them publishable; I did finally figure out how to make “Whim of the Wind” work–after almost forty years–and that’s one of the stories I plan to revisit when I am finished with this manuscript. I do enjoy writing, even if the business of writing makes me crazy; I also like writing what I want to write. Sure, every now and then I think to myself “hey this is a really great commercial idea”–but usually it’s more along the lines of “I think this is an interesting story and I want to take a shot at writing it.”

And sometimes…sometimes the final book doesn’t feel as complete and finished as I would like, even if it sells and gets nice reviews and award recognition; in which case I will always revisit the base idea but with different characters, different location, and different styles of writing. I know I have a tendency to always use the same type of structure with my short stories–which I need to stop doing, because when you do a collection it becomes rather obvious, which I noticed (even if no one else did) with Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories…

Heavy sigh.

And on that note, I am off to the spice mines on a chilly morning. Have a great Monday, Constant Reader.

Ask Any Girl

Sunday morning and I wish I was coming down.

But a cold spell has descended upon New Orleans overnight, and its chilly in the Lost Apartment this morning. I overslept–much later than ever–and didn’t rise until ten this morning; obviously, all that “outgoing energy” I spent on the MWA ZOOM board orientation drained my batteries completely. That, and the cold, I suspect, combined to make me not want to get out of bed this morning–in fact, I could just as easily go straight back to bed and probably could fall asleep for a while. I am sure that has more to do with the cold than anything else; all I really want to do is get underneath a blanket and stay warm–so when I finish this I am going to go sit in my easy chair under a blanket and read some more of the new Alafair Burke novel before diving into this morning’s writing. I am going to do my best to pretend my email inbox doesn’t exist today and solely focus on resting, reading, and writing.

We finished watching Murders at Starved Rock last night, which was actually kind of annoying; the entire premise of the documentary is the man who served over forty years for the murders might be innocent, and yet they finished filming before the DNA tests came back (due in 2022)? I mean, sure, they can always do one more episode later, but come on–you left the audience hanging? Why put the documentary together and release it now? Paul and I found this to be terribly irritating and annoying. We then moved on to Season 2 of Cheer–I had wondered if they would do another season, given how incredibly popular the original was back in those early days of the pandemic; I actually think it may have come out before the pandemic–it’s so hard to remember these things now. I had wondered how they would do the second season–given how successful the first was–and I have to say, the decision to focus on how the sudden fame has affected everyone there at Navarro College and the town, while still trying to get prepared for the next Nationals–and taking a look at their arch-rival from Trinity Valley as well–was a very wise choice. The Trinity Valley coach also makes a good villain, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. So far so good; will keep you posted as we get further into the season.

We haven’t even gotten to the part where one of the breakout stars is arrested for inappropriate behavior with an underaged boy yet–although I am not sure I am all that keen on watching how that plays out, really, other than in a “can’t look away from the train wreck” kind of way. And isn’t that really the allure of reality television in the first place? The opportunity to be voyeurs without judgment? (Hmmm, that would be an excellent jumping off point for an essay, wouldn’t it? Hmmm.)

But I need to write today; reshaping and revising my manuscript so that it’s ready to go to the editor, and everything else I have to do is going onto the back-burner to simmer for a little while longer. I have been thinking also a lot about a couple of stories I need to get finished, “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and “Solace in a Dying Hour,” and I need to go over “The Sound of Snow Falling” one more time. I was also very pleased to see the Cincinnati Bengals won their play-off game yesterday (I don’t really care about the NFL outside of the Saints, but I, as an LSU fan, am also a huge fan of both Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, who are now killing it at the professional level so I follow the Bengals a bit; I also pay attention to the Chiefs more than I ordinarily would because two favorite LSU players are also on their roster.)

And on that note, I am getting another cup of coffee and retiring to my chair to read some more of Alafair’s new book before diving back into mine.

Have a happy Sunday, Constant Reader!

Come See About Me

Tuesday morning and all is well in the Lost Apartment, if a little tired/tiring.

Georgia won the national championship last night! I had to go to bed at the start of the fourth quarter, when the score was 13-12 (Alabama had first and goal inside the five, and had to kick a field goal to pull within one) and I thought to myself, Georgia might actually win this–something I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to, quite frankly–Alabama being, well, Alabama–but I can only imagine how wonderful it felt last night for the Dawg fans to finally beat Alabama and win a title–of any kind (and yes, I can completely relate–I still savor memories of LSU’s win over the Tide in 2019 for the first time in eight long years). This is the third time in the last decade an SEC team has won the national title without winning the conference (Alabama has done it twice already); the third straight year a different SEC team has won the national championship (LSU, Alabama, Georgia); and the first time a team from the SEC East has won a national title since 2008 (Florida)–as well as Georgia’s first since 1980 (!). FIVE SEC teams have won national titles since the turn of the century (LSU, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, and now Georgia)–which should definitely bring the SEC haters out of the woodwork for sure.

And for the record, haters, only Alabama has won more national titles this century than LSU.

I was tired last night by the time the game actually started–I had the time wrong, and tuned in at the end of the first quarter, just before Georgia tied it 3-3–because I’d been doing the Bold Strokes Book-a-thon promotional reading with four other writers with new books out this month, which was a lot of fun…but coming as it did after an hour-and-a-half television interview that came on top of rushing home from work to get there in time for the call…yeah, by the time I settled into the easy chair and opened up Hulu I was worn out. I managed to revise/edit a short story yesterday during my lunch break and while the other authors were reading–I am nothing if not a multi-tasker–and also finished another blog post for the Bold Strokes website. I also managed to get most of my email answered yesterday; there’s no telling what’s in there this morning as I haven’t really had the heart to look, to be frank. (I just did–nothing really other than spam, huzzah! At least for now.) It’s also only 41 degrees this morning–small wonder I didn’t want to get out of bed, really–so that means a sweatshirt under my T-shirt for work this morning and a lot of bitterness on my part. But at least I am on vacation starting tomorrow (this would have been my travel day to New York) which means I don’t have to get up tomorrow and I can dive into the final revision of the book. It’s technically due on Saturday and Monday is a holiday, so I’ll be checking with them to make sure it’s okay if I send it in on Monday (probably really late that night), but I am assuming it will be since most publishers don’t work on weekends or holidays).

Fingers crossed!

I am kind of looking forward to this staycation, despite the enormous disappointment in not going to New York. I have a lot to do–as long as I stay focused–and I am hopeful I will be able to get most of it taken care of since I have been so productive lately. Last night’s interview went well, as did the ZOOM reading, even if that much extroversion exhausted me. I want to get back to reading again–I stalled out on the last book I was reading, and have decided to alas cast it aside and choose another; returning that one to the TBR pile for another shot later…sometimes a book just doesn’t click with me when i try to read it, so I always try to give said book a second chance later. If it doesn’t take on the second try…that’s when it goes into the donate pile. I probably shouldn’t give books a second chance–given the status of the tottering stacks of books in the living room–but there have been any number of books that really grabbed me the second time I tried (The Stand is actually one of these, and there was another one in the pandemic times that I picked up and tried again with the end result that I absolutely LOVED it; I wish I could remember which one it was…) and so I am hesitant to deny myself even the possibility of missing out on a chance to read something fantastic.

But I also need to do something about the books. I also need to stop buying more until and unless I actually get rid of some that I have on hand–or at least until I can clear out some space in the storage attic to move some of these to…but that again shows the hoarder mentality–I will never go digging through boxes in the attic to find a book that’s stored up there; I would just buy another copy. So…maybe just clear them out and if I want to read them at some point in the future just suck it up and buy another copy, or get it from the library?

I don’t know.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and congratulations again, Georgia fans!

Let Me Go The Right Way

A question I’ve been hearing a lot lately, when it comes to my new book. is why do you question whether you are the right person to tell this story?

It may entirely be a side effect of the long psychological disorder (one of many!) I possess that is more commonly known as Imposter Syndrome; but over the last decade or so there have been so many questions about who can tell what story that I don’t really think it’s so surprising that I would be concerned about my right to the tell the story of #shedeservedit that I chose to tell. It’s a book about toxic masculinity in a small town that manifests itself in a rape culture that devalues women, especially the girls, at the local high school; that toxic masculinity culture was created by the town’s worshipful devotion of the high school football team. Fans derives from fanatics, after all, and living in the South (and being Southern) has exposed me to the ‘football fan mob mentality’ that I was trying to recreate in my story. I’ve seen, for example, LSU fans rise up in righteous fury and indignation at the questioning of whether it’s animal cruelty for them to have a live tiger mascot with an amazing habitat on the campus; I’ve seen them rise up in defense of the administration and the players when players have been credibly accused of any number of crimes (not the least of which sexual harassment/assault of female students); and there are any other number of examples here I could cite–and that’s just LSU.

But in a story about toxic masculinity in a small town, I also centered a teenaged boy in the story; we see it all through his eyes, not that of any of the girls. That’s really the primary concern I had about how this book would be received: how could you put a boy at the center of a story about rape culture?

And I guess my response should be why wouldn’t I?

Because, as I read the articles and books that served as background research (there’s a chilling amount of research out there for anyone who is interested), all I could keep thinking was what is wrong with these boys? And from there I began to extrapolate further in my never-ending mental gymnastics. What do the kids who are not football players think about the privilege the players enjoy? High school is, after all, wanting/trying to fit in, not wanting to attract bad attention from people, not standing out from the crowd with an unpopular view or opinion. As I continued to read and research–and in the beginning, you have to remember, I started looking into all of this to begin with not because I wanted to write about it, but because the Steubenville/Marysville cases stoked my curiosity.

It was actually during the reading on Marysville that it hit me right between the eyes: the Marysville victim, Daisy Coleman, had not only been a cheerleader but her older brother was on the football team; the guys that got her drunk and assaulted her were not only guys she knew but felt safe with but were her brother’s teammates and friends.

And that was when I realized, you need to change the Kansas book to be about this, and write about the brother of a past victim when there is a new victim.

And then the other day, in an irony of ironies, I got my copy of Laura Lippman’s new collection, Seasonal Work, in the mail–and there it was, in the table of contents; her own story inspired by the Marysville incident, “Five Fires”; which I read when it was initially published; a story Laura and I had, in one of our infrequent but marvelous alcohol-fueled conversations, talked about (I’d forgotten what an integral part of shaping my own story that conversation with Laura all those years ago played).

“Five Fires” is quite marvelous.

“There was another fire last night.” That’s the first woman. Tennis skirt, Lacoste polo, gold chain with a diamond on it, like a drop of water.

The other woman–I don’t know either of them, you can’t, even in a town as small as ours, know everybody–says: “That makes three this month, doesn’t it?”

“Two. The one at the vacant–you know that place. And now behind Langley’s.”

And the playhouse, I want to say. The first one was that playhouse. But I don’t say it, because, again, I don’t know them. But three is right. There have been three since August 1, and it’s only August 10.

Whereas my story is told from the point of view of a victim’s brother–who is also on the football team–Laura’s story was inspired (if I remember correctly) by a newspaper article on Marysville, when the victim’s house was burned to the ground in a nasty work of arson–as if the family hadn’t been through enough already–and I don’t remember whether it was a photograph or a video she’d seen, of a vigil supporting the accused; there was a young woman in the picture that caught her attention and made her think, now why would that girl not support another young woman in a horrible situation? Why is it so easy for her to not believe the victim? And she thus wrote the story, to try to get into the mindset of a young teenaged girl who found it easy to believe an accused rapist and blame the victim.

It’s really quite an extraordinary story, and rereading it now, after all these years, I am even more impressed with how well done–touching, sad, and poignant–it is. It would be easy to make a villain of this girl, but Lippman approaches her with a strong sense of empathy, and while the character’s views and behavior can be quite repellant, the fact that Lippman gets so deep into her head and point of view makes character all the more compelling, and heartbreakingly sad at the same time–all the while never ever losing sight of who the real victim in the story is. It’s a terrific story, incredibly well done, and I strongly recommend getting this collection of stories; it’s worth it for “Five Fires” alone.

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

Run, Run, Run

Wednesday morning and it’s not as cold as it has been, but it’s still (of course) cold in the Lost Apartment, same as it ever was when it is cold outside. I didn’t want to get out of my warm bed this morning yet again, but there’s no choice, obviously, as I have to leave for the office shortly. It’s my last day in the office of the week; I had actually taken tomorrow off because we were going to have our new year’s lunch at Commander’s tomorrow, but with the recent uptick of cases and changes in safety protocols and so forth, we all decided it was probably for the best to cancel it. This gives me another day off at home to work on the book and do some cleaning; not the worst possible outcome, but I would rather be having lunch at Commander’s if I have to be honest about it. Friday will thus be another work-at-home day for me, and then I will have the weekend to work some more on the book.

Not the best, but certainly not the worst potential outcome here.

I did tape “The Reading Life” with the always delightful Susan Larson for WWNO yesterday, which is always a pleasure. I also am going to be interviewed for a newspaper over the phone on Friday; it’s been a while since I’ve done one of those, and so it should be interesting. I am also not feeling quite as tired or sleepy this morning as I did yesterday; perhaps it’s the coffee, perhaps it’s a better night’s sleep, I am not sure which is true, frankly, I just know this morning I feel more awake than I did yesterday (not as awake and energetic as Monday, to be sure, but still, this is better than yesterday when I felt like something Scooter had dragged in). We watched the LSU bowl game for a while before finally, regretfully, giving up on the game and watching another episode of Yellowjackets, which continues to enthrall; I am really looking forward to getting back to it again tonight, to be honest. It’s so very well done, well written and acted, and such a spectacular cast, too! I do recommend it, even though it’s early in the season and things can still easily go off the rails.

It’s also Pay-the-Bills Day (huzzah?), so I will be spending some of my lunch hour doing exactly that, and determining if a Costco run this weekend is in order. I don’t know, to be honest; there’s only a few things that I actually need from there, and there’s a very real sense that I can probably do without those things for another week or so, right? It always ends up costing so much to go there…because I can always find more things I “need” than are on my grocery list–defeating the purpose of the list entirely.

My mind is all over the place this morning, which is to be expected, I suppose. It’s really a wonder my ADHD-addled brain allows me to get anything finished or accomplished at all. I have managed to get coping mechanisms in place to help me with my fevered all-over-the-place brain; the one good thing about having an ADHD-addled mind is that when you are able to focus it, you can focus it with laser-like precision. I am having some trouble focusing my brain this morning, but I am hoping that the causes of that will fade as the morning progresses and I’ll be able to get focused the later in the day it gets. I need to do some writing today and I need to empty out my email inbox once and for all. I need to make a list of things I need to get done this week. I need to clean the house and stop to make a little groceries on the way home from the office tonight.

I also need to stop being overwhelmed by how much I have to get done and just start fucking doing it.

And so, on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. I am going to be productive today if it kills me. Have a lovely Wednesday!

Where Did Our Love Go?

It is cold again this morning–37 degrees to be exact–and while I was prepared for it yesterday, I was not this morning. I was under the impression that yesterday morning’s frigid clime was an aberration; a cold spell that was going to be experienced overnight and then it would be over, with the lows for the rest of this week hovering in the low fifties. That was incorrect, and it clearly changed at some point since I checked it yesterday morning. It is bitterly cold this morning; and not only am I cold, I am bitter.

I got another chapter of the book finished yesterday–huzzah!–and now have three to go plus the revisions, which are going to be difficult but not impossible; definitely wearying. I ran some errands on the way home last night, and then we watched the first two episodes of Yellowjackets on Showtime, and are completely all-in on the show. It’s incredibly well done, and you can never go wrong with Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci–ever.

Today of course I have a lot to do as always; I need to get another chapter written tonight, some more emails cleaned out of the inbox, and work on that article–which I should have finished yesterday. It’s hard because I am trying to make sure I get the intro to the list of books (Kansas crime) absolutely correct; I am trying to talk about the strange dichotomy of how we always are taught this myth that rural, small town life is the American ideal, the ‘true America’–yet that myth completely ignores the level and degree of true crime and nastiness that is there once you pull back the patriotic “real America” sheen we paint that lifestyle with…yet I also have to be careful not to offend anyone, which isn’t easy to do. Yet that dichotomy remains, and is as true today as it ever has been: urban areas don’t have a monopoly on crime, sin, or scandal. (Ever notice how the majority of soap operas back in the day were actually set in small towns?) I hope I can be as motivated today as I was yesterday, when I managed to get a lot finished during the course of the evening while I waited for Paul to get home from the gym so we could start watching Yellowjackets. The kitchen is still a mess, alas, and there are dishes still in the dishwasher to put away, but I have to admit that the cold doesn’t exactly motivate me to do much besides sit under a blanket and read/edit/write, you know? But I at least managed to get the throw rugs put back in place and ran the vacuum cleaner over them–no small feat, especially when it’s cold.

This morning, obviously, I didn’t want to leave the warm comfort of the bed and the covers to venture out into the cold of the Lost Apartment, but I did. The coffee hit the spot this morning, and I remembered there was a load of laundry in the washer (a small one) that I put into the dryer this morning. I am still a bit cold, but the coffee is warming me from the inside and that’s always a good thing, really. On my lunch break today I get to drive out to UNO to record Susan Larson’s “The Reading Life” radio show, which is kind of exciting, and I’ve also been asked for another phone interview for this Friday, which I can do while I make condom packs since it’s on the phone, obviously. I’d like to make a Costco run at some point this weekend, but we’ll have to see. I’m supposed to go to New York next week, but the jury’s still out on whether travel should be something I consider. If it weren’t for my day job, I’d say I’ll take the risk but…the day job. It’s really not a good idea to take those kinds of risks when it’s entirely possible I could become an asymptomatic carrier, and that’s really not a good look for a public health worker in a public health clinic. Decisions, decisions…

But I am hoping that this weekend will be a nice one, with lovely warm sunshine and a slight chill in the air. I have yet to return to the gym–my shoulder is starting to feel normal again, so I think maybe this weekend a walk over to the gym might be in order both days, really–and it’s time to get used to no football on the weekends again, which will be nice and will allow me to get more things done on Saturdays than I have been used to getting done lately, or since the hurricane. I always try to remember what Saturdays are like when it isn’t football season and it’s always hard for me to remember what those Saturdays are like the rest of the year. Do I spend them cleaning, or do I waste them, do I write or edit or do any number of things? I honestly can never recall from one year to the next. I suppose I will watch part of the LSU game tonight until it’s time for me to go to bed (the game has a ridiculously late start time, and there’s no way it will be over before it’s time for me to go to bed, and I am not going to stay up to watch so I can be exhausted and sleepy all day tomorrow, no thanks). Plus the team is depleted with opt-outs, transfers, and who knows what all. I don’t even think they have a scholarship quarterback on the roster, so there won’t be much of a passing game, that’s for sure. (May not even be able to watch an entire quarter, now that I think about it.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Who’s Lovin’ You

Monday morning and winter has arrived in New Orleans. It’s currently 37 degrees, with the high looking to be around 49 for the day; obviously, this is horrible and I am not sure how to manage getting through the day, as it is obviously going to require layers–but I am also not sure how the heat situation will be at the office, either. I didn’t want to escape the warmth of the bed this morning–I never want to get up to begin with; having it be nice and toasty under the covers while it is very cold outside of that makes it even worse.

God, how I hate cold weather.

I didn’t get nearly as much done over the weekend as I had needed to; so I am still somewhat behind and trying not to get overly stressed out about it. Stress is the mindkiller, to paraphrase Frank Herbert, and stress will paralyze me and not help me get everything done that needs to be done this week. The deadlines are all real, the deadlines all loom, the deadlines must be met, even if it means a lot of work, some mental exhaustion, and having to laser focus on getting everything done. There’s also a lot to get done, which means multi-tasking on top of everything else as well, which isn’t exactly one of my strongest skillsets these days–neither, for that matter, is focus–and I am going to have to muddle through it all on top of the weather being cold.

Huzzah?

I did check the weather and it’s going to get warmer later in the week; tomorrow won’t be nearly as harsh as today, thank you, Lord. That doesn’t make today any easier, of course, but still a vast improvement. My coffee is hitting me perfectly this morning; obviously I slept really well last night since I feel awake and rested this morning (if cold), and as the coffee warms and wakes me up, I am starting to feel better about getting things done. I can do it–distractions and everything–as long as I have the energy to do so. And as long as I am not too busy freezing to death to deal with anything and everything. I also have a bit of ‘holiday hangover’–in which I am now used to having extra time off every weekend and have to adjust to reality again in which I do not have extra time off every week. Heavy heaving sigh. But it’s all about adaptability, which is becoming harder and harder the older I get; I don’t want to have to keep adapting. It’s bad enough I have to relearn how to use my electronics every time there’s an operating system update.

Yesterday I was very tired most of the day; again, not sure what that was about but there seem to have been a lot more low-energy recovery days necessary than there used to be. I could be incorrect; my memory is nothing if it not spotty these days, and I am finding more and more that things I would have been willing to testify to under oath are not, in fact, actually what happened. The Saints did win, in a thriller, keeping play-off hopes alive–but this entire football season has been relatively disappointing for all of us football fans here in southeastern Louisiana, so I don’t have a lot of high hopes for the Saints the rest of this season, nor for the LSU game against Kansas State tomorrow night. We finished watching the second season of Control Z, which is a quite fun Mexican high school crime drama–which now, of course, means we have to find something else to watch tonight. I am sure there’s something, and Paul will undoubtedly be off to the gym this evening, so I’ll have some time to look for something after I get today’s allotment of writing taken care of, I hope.

And launch day also looms. Heavy sigh. I am having to take a long lunch from work tomorrow so I can go be interviewed on the radio by the the divine Susan Larson for her “The Reading Life” show on WWOZ, so that will be fun–I love Susan–and I should probably finish writing this promotional piece on Kansas crime fiction I am writing–should already be finished writing, in actuality; but you know how that goes around here. January 2022 is already off to a bang of overlapping deadlines and exhaustion and stress, so I am thinking it’s not going to be a whole lot different than 2021, from the looks of things. But once I get this book finished and turned in, and these other stories done…pretty much off the hook for deadlines. I just need to make sure I’m not forgetting any others….never an easy chore.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Monday, everyone, and may your 2022 ease in much easier than mine is thus far.

Your Heart Belongs to Me

Sunday morning and reality again looms on the horizon. No more long weekends, no more extra days off from work for a while, and back to the regular grind of living this life, which is–you know, fine, as a general rule, but don’t mind me if I whine a bit about it, you know?

I mean, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t whine, would I?

I got some work done on the book yesterday, and I plan to do even more today. I also need to spend some time reading what’s already written and trying to figure out how to fix the mess that the manuscript has become–it’s really all over the place, but everything I want the book to say and do it does; it’s just going to need some serious editing. The deadline looms to get it all fixed and decent and publishable; which means I am going to be revising and editing my ass off next weekend. Which is fine, and do-able, just an enormous pain in the ass, but as long as I am sleeping well and getting rested, that’s really all that matters, isn’t it?

I spent yesterday afternoon writing my book, and then spent some time doing what I usually do; puttering around and trying to get organized, which will also encapsulate most of today as well. I also have an article to write, and a short story to revise/edit…it’s really endless, isn’t it? And of course this week is a work week, and I have other things on the agenda to get done as well. We also watched Landscapers on HBO MAX last night, which was interesting. Olivia Colman and her co-stars are amazing, as always, but at the same time the producers/directors made some interesting artistic choices that didn’t always, at least in my mind, pay off completely. We then moved on to the second season of Control Z, a Spanish language show whose first season we greatly enjoyed, and this second season is also pretty interesting, once you get the hang of what’s going on again; the problem with bingeing so many shows over the course of time is that it’s impossible to remember the plots and subplots when the show comes back around for another season….supporting actor Andres Baida is also incredibly good looking. But finishing Gossip Girl means needing to find new things to watch regularly, and this is quite the pain in the ass now…maybe we need to find another show from that same period that ran for years so there’s plenty for us to watch without having to think too hard or make a false start with watching something else. (I do want to watch the new John Cena super-hero show, if and when it finally premieres; also, there’s all those Marvel shows over on Disney to watch; we’ve never seen WandaVision, for one, and of course there are others now, too; I greatly enjoyed Loki, despite its slow start, and I think there are other shows coming back that we enjoyed as well.)

I also watched bits and pieces of some of the college football games that were on yesterday, many of which were highly entertaining.

Right now, of course, I feel a bit groggy from the sleep hangover; I slept late again this morning and so am a bit behind on the waking up thing. The coffee, as always, is helping enormously, which is a good thing–as a general rule–and as my brain slowly but certainly comes back to life again, and into consciousness, I am beginning to think I am going to be able to get a lot done today as long as I stay focused. I’ve been mostly ignoring my emails since this long weekend began; deleting spam and junk, of course, and noting bill reminders on my calendar. I am also kind of excited because Paul bought me a datebook–the first one I’ve had in an eternity–because using the digital calendar–while it works perfectly for paying the bills, it’s not so great for to-do lists and deadlines. (note to self: make notes on everything you’ve agreed to write and revise and put it in the date book for now) I know I have some stories to get done, and I’ve got to get this book done, and yes, I need to stop saying yes to things.

But the new book is dropping next week too–yeesh, how quickly this seems to happen!–and I’ve not been doing any Blatant Self-Promotion, have I? Seriously, it’s a wonder how I still manage to have a career; imagine were I to focus my inconsiderable energies directly on my career–then again I could do that and have it turn out to make not the slightest bit of difference whatsoever. That is this kind of life, where it is so incredibly easy to feel defeated and give up without trying very hard. I’ve been thinking about retirement–still five years into the future–and yes, well aware that I am late getting started on retirement planning (when a sprightly young girl, fresh out of college and doing one of those benefits fairs at the office said “well, you’ve certainly waited much too long to start this!”–and yes, I know it’s awful, and yes, I should NOT have said it–but I really couldn’t resist replying, “I didn’t think I’d live to see my retirement”) but I think writing was always intended to be a part of my retirement; I’ll keep writing as long as someone will keep publishing me, and as long as my brain continues to function properly in order for me to do so. My career has always been, from the very first, about writing the kind of books I want to write with no thought as to whether it would become a huge seller or not; I’ve always felt that’s kind of a fool’s game. No one really knows what will sell, no one knows what makes a book climb the bestseller lists or capture lightning in a bottle otherwise everyone would be doing it, you know? Who knows what will capture the imagination of the public? I’m always amazed when another writer will say something like, “So I looked at what was selling and decided, ‘okay I’ll write this’.” I like to think I’m not cantankerous when it comes to writing, but I know when I agree to write something for money, I always struggle more writing that than something I came up with on my own, that I wanted to write about.

#shdeservedit was written because I wanted to take a stand against societal misogyny and the notion that boys’ lives are of more value to society than girls’. Sexual assault and sexual harassment, while hand in glove with each other, aren’t the same thing–but they do accomplish the same thing; the devaluing of female lives, making women feel like they are less than; that they don’t enjoy the same rights and privileges that males do in our culture and our society. I’ve spent most of my writing career writing about homophobia–no real surprise, as it directly impacts me and my life on a daily basis and has for most of my life–but now that I am getting older, I am wanting to expand my writing out to address societal issues that may not directly affect me (although the argument can be made that toxic masculinity is the common denominator in all oppression in this country) but injustice for one is injustice for all, which is something I firmly believe.

And on that note, I have a kitchen to clean, floors to vacuum and some filing to do before I get to work on the short story, the chapter I need to write, and that pesky article I need to get written.

Have a lovely first Sunday of 2022, Constant Reader!

Tears of Sorrow

And just like that, it is now 2022.

We’ve been having a more than abnormal heat wave lately; Thursday when I went to run my errands it was over eighty degrees, according to the car’s temperature gauge, and yes, since you asked so nicely, I was in fact running the air conditioner. The air conditioner in the house has also kicked on and off several times over the past few days. I prefer it to be warm than cold, without question, it just seems a bit weird.

I did give in to my curiosity a bit and watched some of the College Football Play-off games yesterday; in which Alabama spanked Cincinnati and Georgia dominated Michigan to set up yet another championship game between the two. This will be the first time they’ve played twice in the same season though; the question is whether or not Georgia will at long last get the Alabama monkey off their back and finally get a title win. I won’t get involved in the “Did Cincinnati/Michigan belong in the play-offs” conversation because they earned their way in and I don’t think there was anyone else (sorry, Ohio State/Notre Dame/Baylor fans) who might have done any better than they did against this year’s two juggernauts; this is like how in 2011 LSU and Alabama were so much better than anyone else they were the only teams capable of beating each other. Paul said earlier in the season, “It’s really just Georgia and Alabama, and then everyone else” and he was right. People are already bored with the notion of two SEC teams playing for the national championship again for the third time in just over a decade; I am curious to see if this development will result in another reshuffling/change to the system.

We also finished watching Gossip Girl the OG last night, and while it’s nice to finally be finished with the show, I feel like the last season was a bit hurried, and the final outcomes of the cast mates’ lives–who they wound up with for their HEA’s–wasn’t necessarily the best outcome or the one I wanted to see, but life sometimes just works out that way. The identity of the actual “gossip girl” was never really, to me, a big mystery of the show–whenever I did think about it, the big reveal at the end was the only outcome that could possibly make sense over all, even if they did cheat a bit from time to time to throw the viewers off the scent, but at the same time–I was more interested in the melodrama playing out on screen between the characters than actually caring about the mystery at the heart of the show, or finding out who it actually was. I still think–without watching the rest–that the OG is vastly superior to the new edition, but I may go back and finish watching the sequel series simply because I am, if nothing else, a completist.

I need to work this weekend; I need to write and revise and edit and work on my email inbox, among other things, and at some point I need to make a grocery run (something I am really not looking forward to, but there are definitely worse things at this point that going to the store), and of course, there’s always housework that needs to be done. I was very tired these last two days–not sure what that was about, some combination of physical, mental, and intellectual exhaustion, no doubt–so waking up feeling good and rested and not sluggish was a lovely feeling; an excellent portent for the new year. I’ve also decided to set my goals for 2022 in a different entry for clarity’s sake.

Reflecting back on 2021, as I’ve been doing these past few days, hasn’t been easy–in no small part because the last two years have sort of blended together in my head as “the pandemic year” even though we are about ready to go into Year Fucking Three of it, which was completely and utterly unnecessary–but one great reading pleasure I forgot to mention in my round-up of what I enjoyed this last year was Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series, which has brought me no small amount of pleasure in this pandemic time. I still have a long way to go in the series before I can even consider myself close to the point of running out of books to read within it; but I would also like to revisit King’s Kate Martinelli series and some of her other work as well. She really is particularly gifted as a writer, and she’s made me fall in love a bit with Sherlock Holmes, and Conan Doyle didn’t even manage that particular feat. (I also kind of want to revisit the Nicholas Meyer iterations of Holmes; there’s a brand new one out now that involves Egypt, so naturally I want to dig into that one.)

I also need to figure out what I need to revise and write that I’ve agreed to do thus far…yikes! I will be the first to admit I’ve been sluggish these last couple of weeks–the holidays always do that for me–but I feel rested and alert and capable this morning, which is more than I can say for any other morning lately. So I am going to finish this off, do my 2022 goals entry, and then get my day going. I don’t know if I am going to watch any of the bowl games today–I don’t find myself caring very much about any of the games being played today, and I might put them on for background noise while I do other things. (I spent a lot of time yesterday while doing things listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and then some of the earlier session versions of the songs that come along with the “deluxe bonus” version of the album on Spotify; one of the earlier session recordings of “Gold Dust Woman” is spectacular–That Bitch Ford made sure I listened to it–and I might spend some time listening to other Fleetwood Mac albums today as well.)

So, today I need to spend some time with the book; spend some time with a promotional article I need to write for #shedeservedit, and need to do one last final edit/revision on “The Sound of Snow Falling.” I feel like that’s an ambitious enough program for the first day of the new year, and should I finish these things as planned, I can reward myself with some reading time.

I seriously cannot wait to be finished with writing this book, frankly.

And on that note, I am going to move on to writing up my goals email. Have a lovely New Year, Constant Reader–and I will check in with you again later with the goals and then again tomorrow morning.