Vicious Circle

Ugh, Monday morning. I slept really well again last night–woke up before the alarm, in fact–and feel relatively well rested, if not completely mentally awake yet. I am sort of feeling like myself again; like my batteries have finally recharged, even if it meant putting some things off for a few days and just allowing myself to relax completely. The Lost Apartment is all pulled back together again; I’ve made some terrific progress with my writing, and my creativity is firing on almost all of its cylinders again, which is more than I ever thought would happen for me again. I finished reading The Russia House yesterday–it’s quite good, if unexciting; the writing itself is so marvelous the coldness of the story itself doesn’t matter, really–and we started watching season two of Very Scary People, getting through the Son of Sam and Night Stalker cases, and then part one of the Coed Killer (honest takeaway from this series: California sure has a lot of mass murderers and serial killers/rapists) before retiring for the evening. I also started reading Jack Olsen’s The Man with the Candy: The Story of the Houston Mass Murders (interesting title, because the term “serial killer” hadn’t really been coined yet), which is extremely well written, and also paints an interesting picture of Houston; coupled with Thomas Thompson’s Blood and Money–I’ve always wanted to write about Houston. I lived there for two years, and then six months again a few years later, and it’s an interesting, complicated city that no crime writer, at least that I am aware of, has set a crime series in, or written a crime novel set there….which is something I find interesting. I think it’s also true of Dallas.

Interesting trivia Greg fact: the Chanse series was originally set in Houston, and the first book was called The Body in the Bayou. I later, when I started writing it seriously (and got beyond two chapters) I moved the series to New Orleans and the story evolved into Murder in the Rue Dauphine, which is the real reason why Chanse was from Texas: he was originally supposed to have lived in Houston, playing for the (at the time) Oilers after attending Texas A&M before getting injured and becoming a private eye. (In the published series, Chanse went to LSU instead of A&M, and was injured in his final college game, which kept him from playing in the pros.)

I still think someone should write a cop or private eye series set in Houston. As wild and crazy as these true crime books set there make Houston seem, I doubt very seriously that the city isn’t wild and crazy still. I remember going to see the stage version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) there, the very first time it was publicly performed (little known Greg fact), and the audience was interesting….I loved the guys in their formal jackets, ties, Wranglers and boots escorting women in evening gowns and furs and dripping with diamonds ( needless to say, I was wearing a nice pair of slacks and a dress shirt, but I spent the intermissions and the pre-performance time in the lobby literally just staring at the fascinating fashion choices for Houston’s moneyed class).

Oddly enough, there were not many children there; considering it was the stage production of a Disney animated film, you’d think there would be more kids there…but it was a world premiere, and more about Houston’s higher class showing off jewels, furs, and gowns more than anything else.

I also had fun brainstorming the background work for Chlorine over the weekend; naming characters and loosely sketching out bios for them, as well as trying to figure out how to pull off the plot and how to make it work. This is the really fun part of a book–figuring out everything–before the drudgery of actually writing it starts. I am very excited about writing this book, though, and it’s been a hot minute since I was excited about writing a book–in fact, so long that I can’t remember the last time I was actually excited to write a book–it may have been Lake Thirteen, all those years ago–which is different than being happy to write a book. I also have to be careful not to worry about expectations of other people, too–Chlorine began its life as just a vague idea I had one morning while writing my blog, which somehow caught on with some of my friends on Twitter who started tweeting at me (some of them still, periodically, will bring up Chlorine on social media, wondering where it is and when I am going to write it), excited about the idea.

I also spent some time yesterday coming up with a to-do list, which I always enjoy doing when I’m not stressed and worn out. When I am stressed and worn out (hello, first three months of this year), to-do lists simply make things worse more than anything else; emphasizing how far behind I am and how much I have to get done and sometimes–not always, just sometimes–the to-do list defeats me once it’s written. Just looking at it causes me stress. I’m not sure how long I am going to be able to hold off stress at the moment–it’s always just lurking there, in my peripheral vision, waiting to pounce on my like a tiger and hold me down–but I am hoping that having the apartment back together and having the two deadlines in my rearview mirror will help stave off it’s inevitable return for a little while, at least.

Tonight I am planning–we’ll see how that goes–to return to the gym for the first time in a couple of weeks, which means basically starting over with one set of everything, which means I won’t be there for terribly long, which for a Monday night is a good thing, most likely. Here’s hoping this will also help me fall asleep tonight; insomnia so frequently derails me. The office is also on track to going back to full staffing and regular open hours, possibly as early as May; I am curious to see how that winds up going. I’ve gotten used to the tumbleweeds blowing through our mostly empty department, and it will seem weird having other people around when they actually starts to happen.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Monday, all, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Your Silent Face

Hello, Thursday, how’s it hangin’?

Yesterday was kind of strange, really. In the morning I had issues with my espresso machine–no worries, I ordered a new one–but since the problem was the water was turning to steam rather than coming through the ground beans, I think the smaller amount of actual coffee produced had a much higher octane than I am used to having in the morning. Since the second cup–which is usually the cappuccino I sip off the rest of the morning at work–was also somewhat smaller than usual, I made a small cup of regular coffee with the Keurig to add to it so I would have enough for the morning.

It was about nine, I think, when I realized I had made a horrible mistake with the caffeine dosages and was essentially bouncing off the walls, over-caffeinated, with the whole eyes burning thing that usually means I am really tired and have had too much caffeine to compensate, and yeah. I was too jittery to do much of anything, and I was talking a mile-a-minute with my clients All. Damned. Day. And of course, on my way home, I had the inevitable caffeine crash…I had intended to go to the gym, but it was also supposed to rain. When I got home, I decided to do a load of laundry, and while that was going, I’d work on some emails, possibly the book, and if it hadn’t started raining by six when I switched the laundry from washer to dryer, I would then head to the gym. As I sat here, being constantly pestered by Scooter (and frankly, being annoyed) I heard water running–loudly; so loud it couldn’t be the washer, so I thought, ah, it’s raining, so the gym is out. But it kept get louder, and finally I looked out the window and realized, to my horror, that it was not, in fact, raining….so I spun around in may chair and saw that not only was the laundry room floor under water, it was spreading into the rugs into the kitchen. I immediately ran (splashed) into the laundry room, lifted the lid to the washer….and there was no water in it, and the sound of running water, naturally, stopped when I lifted the lid. I dragged the sopping wet rugs outside and draped them over the fence to dry, and then gathered up all the towels from inside the washer–oh yes, I was doing a load of towels–and they weren’t enough. I had to get all the towels from the linen closet upstairs to mop up and dry the floor. (Dragging the sopping wet rugs outside had also resulted in pools of water being formed wherever the rugs had passed–so the living room floor, the steps outside–and so I had to keep mopping.)

And of course, not being the most emotionally stable person at the moment–the stress of the deadline, any number of other things, the sense that I am just treading water in the deep end of the pool and getting very very tired–led to an almost amazing storm of emotions, swinging back and forth from a horrific depression (why does everything always have to be so fucking hard? What’s the point of staying positive when life just keeps shoveling shit on top of you?) to almost out of control hysterics (how are we going to afford a new washer? What are we going to do without a washing machine? So from now on every week I’m going to have to drag everything to a laundromat? Because I have nothing else to do? Something else stealing my time away from me?). Yeah, it wasn’t pretty, and when finally the pendulum stopped swinging–I was wringing out the soaking towels in the bathroom sink before putting them in the dryer–an eerie calm had descended over me, and I just didn’t care about anything anymore. This was even more disquieting than the swinging pendulum, frankly–I was worried something in my brain had snapped and the not caring thing was kind of, well, scary. When Paul got home, completely exhausted–he’d stayed up all night Tuesday working on a grant and working on a special project–he was also in that “mind has kind of broken” place, and we commiserated about everything and came up with a workable plan. We’re going to see if we can get a washing machine from Costco–figuring it can’t be more expensive there than it would be anywhere else–and we needed, ironically, to buy new towels anyway (I’ve just been putting it off, worrying about spending money), so we are going to also get some new towels while we are there. The carriage house is still unrented, and I think there’s a washer/dryer in there, so we are going to ask our landlady if we can use the washing machine in there until our new one comes–or else I’ll just have to go spend some time at a laundromat-and yes, it will eat up some time in my day, but at the same time, I can do all the laundry all at once, and I can read The Russia House while I sit and wait.

The book isn’t quite finished yet, either, so I am going to tell them I am taking the weekend to finish and polish and will send it in on Monday. Writing this book, I realized, as well as the one before it, has also taken a deep emotional toll on me (part of the reason last night’s meltdown was so intense, frankly), as did the one I wrote right before it. Writing back to back books that came from deep inside personal experience as well as facing up to those personal experiences has been emotionally exhausting and draining, to say the least.

I slept very well–I did wake up a few times during the night–but feel rested, if drained, this morning. One of the reasons I always try to stave off the meltdowns and the pendulum swings is precisely because it’s exhausting, and today I have a kind of hangover from it. The apartment is still a mess–it was a HUGE mess before the flooding; after the calm descended last night I told myself you know, the only thing you can actually control is how messy this fucking apartment is, and so I set to work on getting everything put away and organized and under control again. I didn’t finish–after Paul and I talked and he went to bed, I went into the living room and sat down, flipped on the DVR and went to my happy place–watching LSU game highlights, like the last five minutes of last season’s Florida and Mississippi games, with those amazing comeback wins pulled off in the closing minutes of each game–before finally retiring to bed.

Today is insane and all over the map. We have to take Scooter into the vet this morning for a follow-up on his diabetes as well as his “senior cat” blood panels, and then I am going to run uptown and get the mail, drop off a library book, and at some point we’re going to swing by Costco. I have six hours of data entry to squeeze in today around all of that, and I also need to do some writing (obviously); so it’s going to be a bit of a hectic day with lots of running around and utter madness. The towels hadn’t dried completely in the dryer, so I am running them through another full cycle–they’re dirty, too, since I mopped up the floor with them; but I also didn’t want to have to carry a load of sopping wet towels anywhere, whether it’s to a laundromat or to the carriage house. I’ve checked the rugs–they are dry, so they can be brought in and put back into place–it’s going to be sunny all day, so I am also liking the idea of them being aired out, and while they are draped over the fence I want to beat them with the broom (makeshift rug beater), and I like the idea of them outside air drying and getting whatever smells may be in them swept away by the sun and the wind and so forth.

And on that note, let me get another cup of coffee and brace myself for the rest of the day and whatever fresh hells it has in store for me. I will let you know tomorrow how it all goes, Constant Reader.

Temptation

A very cold Monday morning in New Orleans, and the sun has yet to peek its head out from under the blankets this morning. I slept deeply and well last night also, which made the getting up even more difficult this morning. My space heater is going on HIGH right now, and my cappuccino feels wonderful to my incredibly cold hands. This morning’s shower is going to be quite the challenge, though. But I do feel rested this morning, which is lovely, and while dealing with today’s cold temperatures will indeed suck, I feel like I am somehow up for the challenge.

Walking to the gym tonight after work will be a considerably different tale, I fear.

We started watching Bridgerton last night (that’s us, always on the cusp and cutting edge of what’s new and exciting) and as I watched, I found the word charming popping up in my head when thinking about the show, which is a word that has fallen out of favor and use as a descriptor for fictions, but I think needs to come back. (Ted Lasso, for example, is also a charming show.) As I watched, I began to understand the pull of romance novels again. It’s been quite some time since I’ve read a romance, and I think this has been a grave disservice, not just to the romance genre in general but to me as a critical thinker and writer. I loved romances when I was younger, with a particular appeal for those novels and authors who carried the label romantic suspense–because those combined my two favorite genres, romance and mystery. I also read an awful lot of historical romances–mostly ones based on true history; romance of queens and empresses and princesses and royal mistresses (one of my all time favorites is Anya Seton’s Katherine, which told of the great love story of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and son of Edward III, and his commoner mistress, Katherine Swynford; whom he had an entire brood of children with and married after the death of his second wife, raising her to be the highest ranking women in England, second only to the Queen herself), and as I watched the show last night, I thought to myself in an alternate universe you would have been a romance writer. The Regency period has never interested me much in England–although the clothes were quite marvelous, and any number of women today would benefit from the Empire style high-waisted dress–primarily because it wasn’t, to me, a particularly interesting period, what with the mad King and his awful sons, who created a succession crisis as they refused royal marriages while living with their commoner mistresses and having hordes of bastard children by them. The show is sumptuous and the attention to details of the period exact; it has the look and feel of care and money, and we were, as I said, quite charmed by it–and we certainly weren’t expecting that.

There is an interesting essay about how Americans enjoy watching rich people suffer as entertainment formulating in my brain as I type this–going back to the 1980’s prime time soaps and mini-series.

I tried working on my short story yesterday, and I did manage to get the 1600 words I’d originally written revised and polished and in better working order, but I did not write into the second act of the story, which is the part I always struggle with on everything, from short stories to essays to novels to novellas. The story is due on Thursday, so I think I am going to have to buckle down, avoid Twitter (yes, I continued trolling right wing politicians and Trump administration appointees yesterday. It’s so endlessly satisfying calling Sarah Huckabee Sanders a fake Christian, a liar, and a traitor to her face…or asking trash like Tomi Lahren why she hates the Constitution, reminding Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio they are cucks and traitors…but effective today I am banning myself from anything other than bantering with friends on there anymore–I have too much to do to bother with stating the obvious to treasonous traitor trash.)

The sun is now rising over the West Bank, and the light is very gray. The sky is covered with clouds–it may even rain today, if I am not mistaken–and this cold spell is supposed to last most of the week, dipping into the low forties after sundown.

I also read a marvelous short story yesterday called “The Fixer”, a collaborative work by Edgar winners Laura Lippman and Alison Gaylin, which was in the Mystery Writers of America anthology Deadly Anniversaries, edited by Grand Masters Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller–released in the midst of the lockdown last spring, so it didn’t get the attention it truly deserved. The story is quite marvelous–you can never go wrong in the hands of either Lippman or Gaylin, let alone when they collaborate–and I greatly enjoyed it. It’s kind of a “#metoo” story in some ways; it tells the story of a faded child star who appeared in a science fiction television series who now makes most of her living selling signed photos of herself at Comic Cons, who in the present day runs into someone who was her ‘handler’ some years earlier when she was making a movie that eventually was shut done and never finished–ending her career with it–and what happened back then. It’s quite chilling, and a very hard look at how women’s bodies, regardless of age, are seen as property by men in the industry–property those same men have a right to use and abuse how they see fit. There have long been rumors about pedophilia in Hollywood–both Michael Nava and John Morgan Wilson wrote mystery novels around that very subject, which were two of their best books, I might add–and I highly recommend this story, and this anthology; every story in it was written by an Edgar winner, and I will be posting more about the stories as I read them.

The Saints also won yesterday, beating the Bears 21-10 (hey Bears fans, finished what Katrina started yet? Yeah. I have a looooooong ass memory) in an underwhelming game I had on while I cleaned the kitchen and made dinner. Next up are the Buccaneers, whom we’ve already beaten twice; will the third time be the charm for Tom Brady and his new team? Tonight is the Alabama-Ohio State game for the national title in college football, and I don’t find myself caring too terribly about that, to be honest. I might have it on? We’ll probably watch Bridgerton instead, and I’ll see who won when I get up tomorrow morning.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me.

Ours

And here we are on the second day of the new year. I didn’t not finish polishing the book yesterday; I am doing it old school–editing on paper–because of course there are endless issues with my MacBook Air still; the very problem I tried to get resolved the other day has returned, which means I am going to have to go to the fucking Apple Store in Metairie (because, you know, I have nothing but fucking free time) to get this piece of shit’s problems resolved once and for all. It’s a fucking iCloud issue (of course, the worst and stupidest fucking thing Apple ever came up with–hey, you don’t need any storage in your computer! You can just save everything in the Cloud! Oh, but if you do, it’s going to also somehow eat up the miniscule amount of storage we gave you in a laptop that cost WELL over a thousand dollars.

I will probably be arrested when I do go to the Apple Store.

So I was kicking it old school yesterday–sitting in my easy chair and going through it, line by line, page by page, catching discrepancies and contradictions and mistakes and repetitions. I only have about 100 pages left to go, so I am hoping I can get that done quickly and then start pulling the entire manuscript together so I can get it sent in. I had originally planned on writing a short story for 1/15 deadline this weekend and getting caught up on everything else I am doing (and am woefully behind on) but around eight o’clock last night my eyes started blurring and crossing and I knew better than to keep going with this. The work would just shoddy and sloppy–and the whole point of this polish was to get rid of the shoddy and sloppy writing (of which there is a ridiculous amount). But I should get it finished and turned in this weekend, and then I can move on to the next thing–the short story, and the manuscript due on 3/1.

After I finished last night I also had a bit of a crisis in conscience and confidence about the book–I’m not really sure why, to be honest. I am writing about race in the south, but I am also writing it from the perspective of a gay white college student whose been unexpectedly thrust into the midst of it by spending the summer in Alabama, and his dysfunctional family’s many dark secrets from the past start having an impact on the future. So, of course, last night as I sat in my chair watching the final episode of A Teacher (horrible right to the end; leaving us to question what the entire point of the show was in the first place) and the latest episode of The Stand (also not very good, but as a huge fan of the book I will watch to the bitter end), my mind started racing: am I depicting the people of color in the book properly and inoffensively? Should I be writing about Southern racism while centering a white character? Is the story itself offensive? Is this going to be another one of those “well he meant well but” things? I approached the whole thing respectfully, I think, and while having a main character who was raised not to be racist having to confront the racist past of his own family might come across as preachy–another fear–I think about all the young people I’ve worked with over the years and how open-minded they are; and they give me hope for the future–and that is what I drew from for this character and this book.

And ultimately, if I wind up getting called out for insensitivity, well, all I can do is apologize and try to do better.

But–sloppy and shoddy parts aside–as I read to revise I kept thinking this is actually much better and more cohesive than I thought it was, and things I was thinking I needed to add–about the family history, etc .–I already had, which was kind of lovely; I just need to make sure what’s in the early part of the book matches what’s in the later, and of course, hopefully whatever I may miss will be caught by my editor.

SO, it’s Alabama and Ohio State for the national championship. I watched the games–well, had them on in the background as I edited and read–occasionally looking up and being startled by the scores. They didn’t just win; they pummeled Notre Dame and Clemson, respectively. After the ACC championship game, I kept saying it didn’t make sense nor was it fair to put both Notre Dame and Clemson in the play-offs, giving them a chance to possibly play for the third fucking time, while shutting USC, Oklahoma, Cincinnati, and Texas A&M out of the play-offs entirely. (Well, Cincinnati lost to Georgia in a nail-biter–I also had that one on in the background, and watched the closing two minutes or so as Georgia rallied to win) But I think it is safe to say, yet again, that the four-team play-off just doesn’t work, and it’s maybe time to again look at and consider going to a six or eight team play-off.

I am skipping the gym again today because my shoulder is still sore from the inoculation Thursday.

And on that note, it is back to the spice mines for me. Y’all have a great day, okay?

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.

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

And here we are, the Monday morning of Christmas week, and I am looking forward to getting hrough this week so I can get back to vacation time. Woo-hoo! I also only have to work a half-day on Christmas Eve Eve (the 23rd) which is even more lovely, huzzah!

I’ve come across yet another call for submissions that sounds interesting, and I may even have something on hand that works for it with a revision and a tweak. Needless to say, I always find these things terribly exciting–at least in the moment–and I’ve really been doing quite well with short stories lately, or at least in the last few years, so why the hell not? I was already planning on revising this story for my next short story collection, so the worst thing that could happen is it gets turned down and I put it in the collection anyway. Huzzah!

Apparently, it is an impossibility for the Saints and LSU to win on the same weekend during this insane 2020 football season; the Saints lost by three to the Chiefs yesterday–and pretty much played like shit for most of the game, in all honesty. That doesn’t say much for the one-loss Chiefs, honestly, and it was terribly sad to see Clyde Edwards-Hilaire, from last year’s LSU championship team, get injured during the game. (It was, as I had said before, terribly conflicting for me to watch former LSU stars playing against the Saints) Can the Saints rebound from two consecutive losses? Perhaps, but I find myself not terribly vested in this football season, and now that LSU’ s is over, I couldn’t care less about the college football play-offs or the national championship this year, and doubt that I will even watch the games, other than Alabama-Notre Dame–hoping it will be another colossal blowout. ROLL TIDE!

I am now revising the final act of Bury Me in Shadows, and its going to require an awful lot of work, methinks and fears. But that’s okay; some of these chapters can be pared down and combined into one–which is going to be the case with chapters 19 and 20, quite frankly–which is a good thing because I need to add a new chapter at the end of the book anyway, which would have made it overlong unless I start cutting. This revision is going to wind up at 100, methinks, which gives me some leeway for trimming down at least up to 20, if necessary. I don’t think it will be necessary, quite frankly, but stranger things have happened–and I have a tendency to forget I’ve already written something and will put the same thing in a later chapter. I reread Chapter 19 last night, and that is exactly the case with this book–there’s a lengthy section in Chapter 19 that was already written about in Chapter 16 or 17; but I know I’ve already written this scene and I also know that I’ve already written it better than it appears in this particular chapter. So, this could be the proper place for a lot of cutting and pasting and rewriting–and I think I know how to do it already, so tonight after the gym I will tear into it with a relish.

We continue watching The Hardy Boys, and will probably get to the season finale tonight. We are greatly enjoying the show, haters be damned, and it is so much better than the cheesy 1970’s adaptation with Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy it’s not even funny. For one thing, this cast–even the younger kids–are much better actors, and it’s much better written, whether the purists want to think so or not. All the changes that were made from the original book series work perfectly in the show, and they also manage to capture the spirit of the books much better than any direct adaptation that was slavishly devoted to the books could possibly be–not to mention how dated that would make the series. The finale is tonight, and I might give the CW reinterpretation of Nancy Drew next.

It certainly can’t be any worse than The Flight Attendant.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me…also, is it just me, or does today’s Christmas hunk bear a striking resemblance to Pete Buttigieg? Okay, maybe it’s slight, but I see it.

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.

White Christmas

Well good morning, Constant Reader, and I hope your Saturday is off to a lovely start. I actually missed blogging yesterday–I had started the entry, but wasn’t able to finish before I had to start my work-at-home start time, and by the time I was finished for the day, it was time for the gym, and somehow I never got back here to finish. Deepest apologies, Constant Reader.

It’s chilly this morning in the Lost Apartment, but the sun is bright and shining and it looks absolutely beautiful outside this morning, which is kind of cool. I don’t have to leave the house all weekend other than the gym tomorrow, which is lovely, and I’m hoping to get some good work on the book done today. The last two days I was low energy and unable to think about getting much done, let alone do anything, so today I really need to press my nose to the grindstone and push myself to get back on track. Chapter Eighteen is proving a very tough nut to crack, but I am very pleased with the book (for a change) and am looking very forward to getting back into the groove with it.

LSU’s final game of the football season is today, against Mississippi (I refuse to call them ole miss anymore) and this can go either one of two ways: the Tigers can show up ready to play, for each other, Coach O, and the fanbase; or they can be cocky and overconfident after the Florida win, and get punched in the mouth. I’ll be watching, laptop in my lap, under my electric blanket (honestly, last night I honestly felt that human evolution, progress and civilization all culminated in the invention of the electric blanket), and hoping for the best. It’s a rivalry game called the Magnolia Bowl, and Mississippi hasn’t beaten LSU since 2015, so you know they’re hungry under their new coach, Lane Kiffin. LSU loses and they have their first losing season since 1999; win and they finish 5-5 in a crazy season.

But whatever happens, nothing can take away that win over Florida and ruining their season last weekend, which I am just petty enough to really enjoy.

We finished watching The Flight Attendant Thursday night, and the final episode was perhaps the best one of the entire run; as I have mentioned before, Kaley Cuoco is quite charismatic and likable, like Jennifer Aniston, and even though her character is primarily not very likable, she always is, and that’s an important quality for an actress…although I am rather curious about their flight schedules, because unless things have changed, I don’t think flight crews would work Rome flights as well as Bangkok. There was also a really convoluted secondary subplot that apparently only existed as a reason for one of the other flight attendants to have a gun which he needed to have, in the season finale (it was an incredible length to go to avoid the appearance of contrivance, actually; one almost has to respect the authorial commitment to it), but all the main story was properly wrapped up by the end of the finale, and there was even an opening left for a continuation of the show–also not probable, but it was kind of a nice bow tied up on the final package.

And of course, last night was the conclusion of The Mandalorian. No spoilers, but it was a pretty epic way to end the series, and I am really looking forward to The Book of Boba Fett. I think the series is now officially over–they certainly tied everything up neatly and concluded the story of the Child and Mando–and that pleases me if it is the case; the show was absolutely perfect, and as someone said on Twitter last night, “The best Star Wars movie is The Mandalorian” and I cannot disagree with that sentiment.

It’s hard to believe Christmas, frankly is next week; but this entire year has been a weird one, time has seemed to drag more than any other time, while at the same time it’s almost a relief to have made it this far. 2020 was a deeply unpleasant year, but there were some bright spots. I see everyone doing their “best of 2020” lists and I frankly can’t remember what I’ve watched and what I’ve read, other than I enjoyed almost every bit of it. I had long dry spells where I didn’t write anything, and long spells where all I wrote was the first 500 to 1000 or so words of short story before being stopped dead in my tracks. I still need to get this book revision finished so I can finish my story for the MWA anthology submissions deadline. This final part of the book is the hard part, so I suppose it’s not a surprise that it’s kind of kicking my ass.

This week was a double-feature for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, beginning with The French Connection, an Oscar winning film (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor for Gene Hackman) which doesn’t, I’m afraid, play well through a modern lens. I can see why the film was so impactful and impressive back in 1971, but now it plays like a lesser episode of NYPD Blue or Hill Street Blues. It was a gritty, dirty, almost documentary-like movie about a drug investigation, based on a book about a real drug bust–with the cops’ names changed to protect them. Gene Hackman is terrific as Popeye Doyle; Roy Schieder is equally good as his partner..but all I could think as I watched was, “well, that’s a violation of their civil rights” or “ah, nothing like glorifying police brutality” or “well, that entire scene was a fairly accurate depiction of racial profiling.” Popeye is an unashamed racist; the n-word pops up every now and then, and of course ethnic slurs abound–Little Italy is referred to as “Dagotown”, there’s some anti-Semitism, and of course, the French are referred to as “frogs”–but it does also have some great moments: the chase scene involving Popeye trying to catch a fugitive on an elevated train was pretty impressively shot and edited. Hackman is terrific in the role, even if Popeye is the kind of cop who would think nothing of killing a suspect in his custody….The French Connection ultimately is a pro-police violence film that tries to justify the behavior of cops who violate civil rights and are violent and abusive as necessary, and that, to me, is problematic. As far as awards go, among the films it beat out for the Oscar are The Last Picture Show (which is one of my favorite movies of all time), Fiddler on the Roof (the kind of big-budget, lavish musical that would have won the Oscar a few years earlier), Nicholas and Alexandra (another big budget extravaganza I started watching but quickly got bored with–and would have been a shoe-in for Best Picture in the 1980’s) and of course, Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

Second up was the 1974 film version of Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die, which was the eighth Bond film and the second novel in the series. It’s also one of the few Bond films I ever saw in the theater, and was my first Bond film. It was Roger Moore’s first outing as Bond, and it was also when the tone and tenor of the Bond films switched, IMHO–I’d have go back and watch the Connery ones again to be certain. But while Connery occasional got off the clever quip or one-liner, the films were very serious and almost grim; Moore had more of a comic sense of the character and with him in the role, the character became more cartoonish and the films more outlandish (Moonraker was completely absurd) and there are many moments in Live and Let Die where, if you think about them too long, don’t make sense: how did he know to bring a deck of tarot cards with him in which all the cards were “The Lovers,” and where did he get that deck in the first fucking place? (And this doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that he basically manipulated Solitaire’s belief in the cards to get her into bed–which is rape because she was deceived into giving consent, PROBLEMATIC) There are any number of these contrivances in the plot of the film; but at the same time Live and Let Die also gave cinema it’s first Black Bond Girl, Rosie Carver (played by Gloria Hendry) and Bond’s first interracial romance, as well as the series’ first Black villains. The movie isn’t nearly as racist as the book–but it’s not exactly an achievement the Bond series should be proud of, either. But it gave the under-appreciated Yaphet Kotto a good role as Prime Minister Kananga, and introduced Jane Seymour to the world. I think I may need to read the book again–I should revisit the original Bond series, really–but one thing about Live and Let Die I do appreciate is that parts of it were filmed in New Orleans and along Bayou Des Allemandes; Louisiana looks beautiful, as does the Quarter–and this is one of those early influences on my youthful mind where I first felt the pull of New Orleans and Louisiana.

But it also boasts one of the best Bond theme songs, by Paul McCartney (or rather, Wings); it was the first time a pop band was selected to do the theme song, and it was the first Bond theme to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Song.

Yesterday I got my copy of The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson by Robert Hofler in the mail yesterday, which is the final piece (or one of the final pieces) of Chlorine background research I need to get started on the outline/plotting. My main character is a pretty boy with not much discernible talent who has a Henry Willson-like agent, whom he shares with the murder victim; I have to say the entire story of Willson, his pretty boy clients and their sexuality, endlessly fascinates me, and I am really excited to be writing a period piece gay Hollywood noir–well, eventually, at any rate. I started dipping into the book some last night and am enjoying it thoroughly. I also got a copy of Lawrence Block’s anthology From Sea to Shining Sea, which is crime stories inspired by ‘great American paintings’, and am really looking forward to digging into that. I also got a copy of Night Terrors: The Ghost Stories of E. F. Benson, because you can never have enough ghost stories around to read.

And on that note, I have some laundry to fold, a dishwasher to unload, and writing to do–so if you will excuse me for a moment, Constant Reader, I am going to head back into the spice mines.

Silver Bells

Still aglow from the big LSU win Saturday night.

Sadly, the Tigers clearly used up all of Louisiana’s football juju, because the Saints played terribly against the Eagles and lost yesterday afternoon. It did occur to me that one of the reasons I dislike the NFL–at least in comparison to college–is because players I rooted against can wind up on the Saints, and LSU players are drafted to other teams and play against the Saints. It’s hard for me to root against LSU players. And while Jalen Hurts wasn’t a Tiger–he played against us several times and I rooted for him to lose each time–I was a fan of his; I could recognize ability and talent on the field, and I also thought how he handled the whole Tua situation at Alabama was pretty damned classy. So, while I wanted the Eagles to lose, I also wanted to see him play well, and he did, and then I felt like a traitor and I do not have these kinds of conflicts watching college football damn it.

Well, at least not so much anymore. The LSU-Auburn game was a tough one for me until Katrina. After that, I was all in for LSU.

It’s back in the fifties today, and we are in a “high wind alert”–gusts up to 35 miles per hour until around seven, which is fortunately around when I have to get in the shower before heading to the office. It doesn’t feel all that cold this morning in the Lost Apartment, which is interesting; usually when it’s that cold outside it’s even more cold inside, but while I did have to put a ski cap on this morning because my head was cold, other than that it’s not so bad this morning. I slept pretty well (obviously, didn’t want to get out of bed at any point once the alarm started going off) and so feel pretty good this morning. I wound up not going to the gym yesterday, which means having to go this evening (which is fine; I’ll be reluctant and tired, undoubtedly, when I do go) but that’s all right, I can deal.

Yesterday I fully intended to work on Chapter 18, but realized that it probably needs to be mostly tossed and completely rewritten from the start, which is something I was really afraid of having to do–and tossing and starting over means I have to redo the ending of Chapter 17–which I actually realized on Saturday night, while I was thinking about it during the LSU game; the ending of that chapter doesn’t make sense, rendering the eighteenth chapter was completely off the rails, which is going to delay my completion of the revision more than just a little bit. I spent most of yesterday trying to figure out how to redo the chapter, and I think I have it down now–we shall see when I get home from the gym this evening, won’t we?

John Le Carre died yesterday–or rather, his death was made public, at any rate–which came as a surprise to me because I had figured he had already died. It was strange that he died around the time I finally got to read The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, but deepest sympathies for his family, friends, and professional colleagues. Truly a great writer, the book won an Edgar for Best Novel and Le Carre himself was named a Grand Master in 1984; deservedly so. He was nominated three other times–The Little Drummer Girl was nominated for Best Novel; he was nominated for Best Short Story for “Dare I Weep? Dare I Mourn?” in The Saturday Evening Post in 1968; and for Best TV Feature or Miniseries for A Murder of Quality. I am really looking forward to exploring more of his work in the years to come; I am still reeling a bit from the brilliance of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold–and have been assured by others whose opinions I respect that the other novels are just as brilliant and well written. I’m only sorry it took me this long to get to his canon.

And so another week dawns; another week of seeing clients and getting writing done and going to the gym and hoping against hope that I will stay rested and motivated and fresh all week to get everything done.

Have a happy Monday, Constant Reader.

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.

GEAUX TIGERS!

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.