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.

Me!

Hey there, Saturday! It’s gray and raining here in New Orleans, which explains why I slept so deeply and well last night–there’s really nothing like the sound of rain to put me to sleep. (I wish it would rain every night, quite frankly.)

I didn’t write at all yesterday. After I finished work I went to the gym and did my workout, then came home and was quite tired, both physically and mentally. I repaired to the easy chair with a bottle of Sunkist (I’m trying to reduce my caffeine by not drinking as much Coke, but I also like sugary fizzy drinks, so non-caffeinated Sunkist works just fine as a substitute; I am also considering 7-Up) and switched on the television, going into a loop of Ted Lasso reviews, clips, etc. Everyone is already starting to prepare their Best of the Year lists, and I wish that I could do the same, but trying to remember 2020 isn’t particularly easy. I know I didn’t read as much as I usually do, and most of what I did read I’ve forgotten already–even forgotten that I read them, to be completely honest. I also really can’t remember much of what I watched on television or what films I watched or what short stories or documentaries or movies. But Ted Lasso continues to stand out for any number of reasons–it also helps that I regularly recommend it to people who then wind up loving it as much as Paul and I did. I know a book I read early in the year–Elizabeth Little’s Pretty as a Picture–is making a lot of Best of lists; I read that before the pandemic shut down when the world changed, and literally, it seems like it was a million years ago when I read it.

Then again, I also don’t limit myself to things that came out during the calendar year when I make a best-of list; my list is the best things I read or watched during the calendar year, regardless of when they were actually released. My list, my rules. So, at some point I guess I will go through my blog entries and find the things I enjoyed enough to talk about on here, and will thus pull together a list of what I enjoyed most in 2020. (I know that television is going to be a three way tie between The Mandalorian, Schitt’s Creek, and Ted Lasso–and I am also going to have to come up with a foreign-language television so I can mention Dark and Elite and Toy Boy.)

Today I plan to write all day–or most of it–around doing household chores and so forth. There’s literally no need to turn on the television and watch football–although as a diehard LSU fan I’ll have to tune in to the horror that will be the Florida game tonight–and so I might as well take as much advantage of a free-from-football day to write and get caught up on the book. Two chapters a day this weekend will take me to Chapter 21, with only five left in this draft, which will–again, as I have reiterated over and over–give me some down time to let it rest before going over it one last time before turning it in. I am also very excited about the prospect of getting back to work on the Kansas book one last time before turning it in and calling it a day on it as well.

I also want to spend some time reading The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. John LeCarre is widely considered one of the greats when it came to spy novels–or whatever the genre is called–and while it has been quite some time since I read Ian Fleming, Helen MacInnes, Robert Ludlum, and Alistair MacLean, I am very interested in reading LeCarre. The first few chapters of this book haven’t exactly grabbed me, but I do appreciate the writing. One of the things I love the most about the mystery genre is there are so many fascinating and interesting subgenres–the broad spectrum of what is routinely considered mystery fiction is quite vast; everything from traditional mysteries to romantic suspense to police procedurals to international intrigue. (I also want to finish it so I can move on to the new Alison Gaylin, and I also have the new Lisa Unger–and I think I have the new Ivy Pochoda as well) Spending the rainy morning reading really sounds like a lovely way to spend the morning, does it not?

Yesterday I watched The Ruling Class while I was making condom packs for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival. The film hangs entirely on yet another award-worthy performance by Peter O’Toole as the fourteenth Earl of Gurney, who is completely insane–and yet because of the terms of his father’s will (his father was into auto-asphyxiation, which finally went terribly wrong and he hung himself while wearing a military jacket and a tutu) the entire estate is his–and any attempt to break the will means everything will go to a charity. So his vile family cooks up a scheme to get him married and produce an heir, after which they will promptly have him committed. It’s a satire, and occasionally the cast will suddenly break into song-and-dance; which was disconcerting the first time it happened, but after that I went with it. Coral Browne–most famous for playing Vera Charles to perfection in Auntie Mame–is also a standout here as his grasping aunt-in-law; she really should have had a bigger career. When we first meet the new earl he thinks he’s God and insists on being called “J.C.”–and as the family continues to try to either cure him or have him committed, O’Toole could easily have started chewing the scenery and gone over the top; yet he is remarkably restrained and completely believable in the part. He was nominated for an Oscar (losing to Marlon Brando in The Godfather), and deservedly so; his great misfortune as an Oscar contender was to always be nominated against performances that became legendary. The film is quite a send up of the British class system and how it rotted and how it really didn’t make sense from the very beginning–noblesse oblige, indeed, and yes, cynical. It would be interesting to see how a remake/reboot could work, with one of our fine British actors of the present day in the role–but I also can’t see how anyone could ever outdo O’Toole.

And now, I am going to repair to my easy chair with John LeCarre, get under my blankets and hope that Scooter joins me for some kitty cuddling–if he hasn’t gone back upstairs to bed with Paul. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

Invisible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are never enough books, frankly.

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