Out of the Woods

Yesterday was annoying and frustrating on several levels, and if you guessed that almost all of them were computer-related, you would be absolutely correct. But I did manage to get through the hump of Chapter 11, which was delightful, and now I can move on to Chapter 12, so progress was made. I also finished and posted my blog entry about being a shitty friend; so that was something else accomplished, and if I wasn’t really able to get through all those emails, oh well. I can try this week. And who knows? Maybe tomorrow morning my desktop computer will be functioning properly.

One can dream, at any rate.

I am just so tired of 2020 being, you know, 2020.

Heavy sigh.

I also had an almost-major kitchen catastrophe last night, too. Don’t ask, but suffice it to say it was very 2020; you know, shitty day, get it together, decide to just laugh it all off, and then BOOM! Grease fire! Although, in all fairness, I was just thinking the other day how long it had been since we’d had a fire of some sort in the kitchen, and I guess it was one of those Candyman things. So now I need to deep clean the stove at some point (hello, EZ Off and toxic fumes and chemicals!) and gradually get to real work on the deep cleaning of the kitchen that, in all fairness, has been overdue for quite some time. And at least I had dinner finished before the grease fire broke out.

Grease is the word, have you heard?

But, annoyances and frustrations aside, I did get some things finished this weekend, which was enormously lovely. As I mentioned earlier, Chapter 11 is finished (for now) and I started reading again; Release by Patrick Ness is quite good, and I also read one of Laura Lippman’s essays from My Life as a Villainess (and yes, it was actually a reread of her essay about being a bad friend that inspired me to write my blog post about being a bad friend in the first place, several years ago; I decided to reread it to make sure I wasn’t plagiarizing it, and found that her essay had very little in common with mine, so I went for it). It is lovely to be both reading and writing again, and I also managed to find the germs of an essay that I now have to write this week, and quickly; I knew the germs were there somewhere, but couldn’t find the file; having to mess around with both my work laptop and my MacBook Air yesterday actually helped me find said germs–I would have never found them because of what they were named; I would have never remembered that in a million years. So, overall, it wound up being a pretty decent weekend, LSU and the Saints losing (in almost identical games, which was quite odd) and grease fires and computer issues aside.

And at least I felt somewhat rested and relaxed yesterday morning before it all turned into a shitstorm. Despite this, I am hopeful this will turn out to be a highly productive week and I am able to keep the creative work going. I am hoping that all the bad karma worked itself out over the weekend, and I am facing this week with a good attitude and feeling relatively well rested this morning; not groggy at all, which is nice. I’ve got a cappuccino in hand, it’s pitch black outside, and I am giving my life a control-alt-delete reboot.

We also watched the new episode of The Vow last night–and it feels now like they are dragging it out to eight episodes when six would have been plenty. But it’s still entertaining enough–although scary to think had former Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg gotten involved because of her daughter, they could still be plying their merry cultish ways.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines and hope I have a terrific day–and the same to you, Constant Reader.

New Romantics

Despite my enormous sense of cynicism, at the same time I’m kind of a hopeless romantic. I want to believe that people are mostly good, that kindness is the way to change the world, and that selfishness is much rarer than we think it is, or despite all the evidence to the contrary. While deliberate cruelty no longer surprises me, it will always disappoint me.

And I will go to my grave, bitter to the very end, about the bill of goods I was sold as a child, about everything.

Yesterday was nice and relaxing, despite the LSU loss. Having the winning streak snapped– as well as being the first defending national champion to lose their season opener in almost forty years–was disappointing. Not to write the team off, either–there were some flashes of brilliance yesterday, and definitely, there’s potential there–but historically, LSU has followed up championship seasons with disappointing ones. LSU has also lost games early in the season they maybe shouldn’t have, only to pull it together and have a pretty decent season the rest of the way. I just feel bad for the players and the coaches; yesterday had to be horribly sobering, and the loss of the glow of being one of the best teams of all time last year to losing the opener to Mississippi State was a wake-up call. However, who knows? It’s early in the season, and maybe the Bulldogs are going to have a year. (I did watch, and enjoy, the end of the Kansas State upset of Oklahoma. What a terrific comeback! Go State!)

After that disappointment, however, we queued up Enola Holmes on Netflix, and what a delight it turned out to be. The previews I’d seen looked marvelous, and what a delightful cast as well. (I mean, you can never go wrong with Helena Bonham Carter, and Henry Cavill is a delight to look at, even if he never takes off his shirt.) It was also rather delightfully cleverly written, well produced, and Millie Bobby Brown has certainly proved herself to be more than just the girl from Stranger Things; even with the stellar cast, this is her show. She carries the movie from start to finish, and without being charismatic, charming, and giving a great performance as well, the movie would have sunk like a stone. And Henry Cavill makes a marvelous Sherlock; maybe not Benedict Cumberbatch-worthy, but it’s a terrific role for him and he did pretty well in it. I now want to read the entire Enola Holmes series–so the film served as an excellent marketing device for the novels, and watching it reminded me, yet again, how much fun I had writing that Sherlock pastiche earlier this year, and started thinking about perhaps doing another. The 1910’s and 1920’s are such a rich period in New Orleans history to draw from, for one thing, and as I watched I realized I didn’t include either Inspector Lestrade (the name works for a New Orleans police investigator, doesn’t it?) or Mycroft; and it was a fun world to inhabit for a while. I am not at the point where I feel like a true Sherlockian or anything; but it would be fun to revisit my Sherlock Holmes 1916 New Orleans again. Perhaps “A Scandal in Baton Rouge”? “Murder in Milneburg”? The possibilities are, as they say, endless.

Scooter is adapting to the new wet food, as well as slowly getting used to the idea that treats are no longer forthcoming. He still goes to the coffee table, stands where he used to when I would give them to him, and whines; but instead I put the wet food in his bowl and he goes and eats it. I managed to surprise him with his morning insulin shot while he was eating–he’s still not fond of being stuck, but he’s getting better about it. And with each successive shot, I felt better about giving it to him, and it becomes less of a big deal. The one thing that does bother me about it is the disposal of the syringes; if I didn’t work somewhere that did syringe access and return, I would probably just throw the damned things in the garbage, and while they aren’t really a huge risk of any kind to anyone–I also recap them–if a garbage man was to get stuck accidentally with one of them, they wouldn’t know it was an insulin syringe, and of course they would then have the stress of worrying about Hepatitis C or HIV infection, and rounds of testing.

And that’s not something I’d want to put anyone through, you know?

I also decided to set aside The Heavenly Table for now. It’s quite good, and so exceptionally well written; I will definitely come back to it, but it’s just so unrelentingly dark, and I don’t think I can handle anything like that right now. I just found myself reaching for it yesterday before pulling my hand back like I’d been burned, and realized that part of the reason I’d not been reading it on weeknights was because I was already in a dark place and reading something so dark wasn’t going to help matters any. When I finally finished that entry from yesterday about writing young adult fiction, and queer desire in it, I had to go reread the links I posted in it–and was reminded of a book called Release, by Patrick Ness, which I thought I remembered purchasing in support because of the criticism it was receiving at the time (I have a tendency to do that–buy books in support when controversy envelopes them–but feel it important to note that it depends on the controversy. I shall never, for example, buy American Dirt), and I started reading it, immediately becoming entranced by the writing style, which I liked very much, and also found myself liking the point of view character very much as well. So, I think I will most likely spend some more time with it today.

I also need to spend some time with Bury Me in Shadows–there’s really no excuse other than laziness for my reluctance thus far to tackle the revision of Chapter 11. Yes, it’s a poorly written mess that will require blood, sweat, and tears to repair and revise and make readable, but it is also not likely to rewrite itself, and the longer I put off working on it and making the all-too-necessary repairs, the longer it is going to take me to finish the book and turn it in–and that is simply not an option. I also want to work on a short story today, and I have to start writing an essay I promised to do with very little turnaround time.

I did manage to get come cleaning and organizing done yesterday, which was lovely.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you either later today (should I finish one of the drafts in the post draft folder) or tomorrow morning when I have to get up insanely early in order to go to the office.

I Don’t Wanna Live Forever

This week’s unnecessary blow (fuck you, 2020, seriously) is that Scooter has developed feline diabetes. And while it has turned out to not be that big of a deal–it’s apparently fairly common, and easily treatable–it was nevertheless 24 hours of stress and distress I didn’t need; I really didn’t want to think about the possibility of losing our cat so close to the ten year anniversary of the loss of our first cat, frankly, and being told that I need to give my cat insulin injections at least once a day (Paul will do evenings, I will do mornings), given how I feel about needles–yeah, that was a stress/depression ride I didn’t really need this week. But I’ve been shown how to do it, it doesn’t seem that terrible, and the biggest issue is going to be transitioning him from his old food to his new low carb food–and it’s also going from dry to wet. He seems okay with the new, wet food–but denying him kitty treats is the primary outrage he is experiencing now. He doesn’t seem to give two shits about the shot, and at least I work somewhere I can safely dispose of the used needles.

Still. There was no need to scare me to death on Thursday.

I did manage to get both my flu shot and the second shingles vaccine this week, and both shoulders still fucking hurt. I took Thursday off because certain activities that I can do at home required using my arms in ways that made me aware that my shoulders ached, and well–that’s what my sick time is for, isn’t it? (Plus, see above: cat and vet.)I really feel like I’ve turned into such a ridiculously delicate flower somehow as I’ve aged; going from a crabgrass to an orchid, as it were, for some reason. I mean, I played football. I was a gymnast. I was a wrestler. I played tennis for years (never well). I used to teach twelve aerobics classes and lift weights a minimum of three times every week. I used to have abrasions and bruises and scrapes and callouses from working my body, blisters and bumps and lumps and muscle pulls and strains and God only knows what I did to my right shoulder–but at least it has stopped making that strange clicking sound whenever I rotate my arm. My right index finger hasn’t bent properly since it got caught in the treads of a trampoline as I practiced back handsprings when I was nineteen. I am used to aches and pains and soreness and tired muscle. And yet, somehow, now whenever I get my blood drawn, I develop this enormous and hideous looking bruise on the arm it was drawn from; it never hurts and it doesn’t bother me–I can even watch now–and yet–the bruise. I always used to think I got that bruise because my veins rolled and they had to dig for it; but now the needle goes right in every time and there’s no pain. But I still get the bruise.

And shots? I never liked them, ever, under even the best of circumstances. But now they don’t bother me at all and I don’t think they hurt at all. I don’t wince or flinch or even turn my head anymore. But whereas before–when I suffered through a shot–within moments it was like I’d never had one in the first place. But now that they no longer bother me, my shoulders are sore for days.

I don’t get it, nor do I understand it, nor do I like it.

But it’s also my new reality, so I get to live with it, like it or not.

So I get to look forward to training my cat–who is really the sweetest thing ever, even the vet is amazed at how good-natured and sweet he is–to eat wet food instead of dry, and give him a shot every morning. Hopefully around this I can also get some work done–I really need to get moving on the book, which has stalled this week yet again–but it’s also to do with dealing with depression; I always forget that when I am in a depressive state, there will be some days where I feel like a million dollars and can conquer the world, before slipping back into a lethargic, low-energy place where I get nothing done and my life continues to burn to the ground all around me. (An exaggeration. I am very well aware that I am very privileged and luckier than a shit ton of the American population…)

I mean, usually I would be excited about the start of LSU’s football season today, and all excited about the game. Now…I am not so sure. I don’t know how I feel about the athletes playing, or whether having fans in the stadium (25% of capacity) is smart or not, and I just have this horrible, nagging feeling that it’s really a bad idea and watching the games and rooting them on and everything that goes along with fandom is encouraging this if it’s a bad decision. But then this system has always exploited the athletes and I always turned a blind eye to that before…which kind of means I’m a bit of a shit person, doesn’t it?

Constantly reevaluating everything these days, and I never come out of the reevaluations looking good, I might add. Never.

I also got a lovely rejection letter for a market that my work isn’t really right for, but I also didn’t think I stuck the landing on that story and need to rewrite it anyway. But like I always say, it was worth a try; sometimes you have to shoot for the stars even if you only have a bow-and-arrow.

This actually started out as yesterday’s blog entry, but I never got around to finishing and posting it–indicative of my state of mind these last few days–but also makes writing a blog entry this morning a bit easier. After I got home from the office yesterday, I tried to read yet couldn’t focus, and so went to comfort television–I rewatched a couple of Ted Lasso episodes from earlier in the season, preparatory to the new episode dropping last night; and also went back and rewatched a favorite episode of Elite–and then of course we watched this week’s Ted Lasso and Archer–which sadly isn’t as funny in its final season as it could have been. I went to bed relatively early, slept like a stone all night, and am still kind of groggy this morning–and it’s my turn to give Scooter his morning insulin injection. Yikes. He seems to be adapting to the wet food okay, but he’s really not happy about not getting treats anymore. He wasn’t too thrilled to get his injection last night either–but I think, like with his flea treatments and so forth, he’ll eventually get to the point where he doesn’t care anymore and it’s not a big deal to him.

My plan for today is to try to have as normal an LSU game day as possible, and, horrible as it is, to try to get as much joy from the game as I can. Joy these days is not in plentiful supply, and even typing that made me feel sort of like a terrible person because of the risks to the athletes and the fans in the stands. I am also going to try to get some writing done today, some cleaning and organizing once my coffee kicks in–as I mentioned earlier, the worst part of the depressive state is the exhaustion, and this morning I am feeling it in my muscles. My mind is getting probably caffeinated and is waking up–and maybe I should do some stretching to warm up my muscles and get them doing something rather than just stagnating the way they have been ever since St. Charles Athletic Club closed down.

But emotionally I feel fine–at least in my conscious brain, at any rate–and since I am an entry behind because I never finished nor posted this yesterday, maybe I’ll go back and finish one of those “not a daily update on Gregalicious” message posts I’ve started and never finished; which are, as mentioned before, kind of abstracts for essays I want to write.

Anyway, enough whining and complaining and off to the spice mines with me.

GEAUX TIGERS!

Blank Space

Well, I am most pleased to let you know, Constant Reader, that I did manage to get those three chapters revised of Bury Me in Shadows yesterday, and yes, it felt fucking amazing to get back to work on my writing again, after that rather lengthy dry spell. Now, I need to go through the next fifteen chapters and change the tense, which will help me reread them as I go, which will be nice. I think I may even just do the corrections on the hard copies I have, before going and inputting them in the new files; I am most pleased with the work I’ve done on those first ten chapters, and think the book works much better now than it did–and it’s only going to get better as I continue to work on it. If I can manage a chapter a day I can actually have it ready for one final run through by the middle of October, which would be incredibly lovely–after which I can take some time off to recollect myself before diving back into the Kansas book, which I am also hoping to have finished and ready to go by the end of the year.

If I don’t get sidetracked and/or depressed again, that is. Heavy heaving sigh.

Which is, sadly, always a possibility.

But at least this week is off to an excellent start for me, and I couldn’t be more delighted. This past weekend I felt more like my actual self than I have in weeks; let’s hope that continues through these next two days of waking up early and seeing clients; we’ll also have to see what Tropical Storm Beta has in store for us this week, and where it’s going to come ashore. We had some rain over the weekend from Beta’s bands, and from yesterday’s weather, apparently we’re going to get a lot of rain, along with its evil twin, potential flash flooding, over these next couple of days. I certainly hope this isn’t going to result in any changes to my work schedule; I’d kind of like to get back going with my usual and somewhat normal routine again–as much normality as I can muster would be greatly appreciated.

But I am also starting this week with a relatively clean and organized downstairs, including the inevitably insanely cluttered workspace/office I have here in the kitchen. I did manage to get a lot of the filing done that needed to be done, and while there are still some loose odds and ends floating around, it’s not nearly as bad as it usually is when I am starting a week, so that’s already lovely. And if I can stay focused and not get tired/depressed/into a bad headspace again, I can keep it that way all week and not have to spend any time on the weekend doing a “make it not look derelict” lick-and-a-promise, but do some of the deep cleaning and organizing it so desperately needs.

We’ll see how that goes. I make no promises.

It was raining when I first dragged myself out of bed this morning; one cappuccino in and I’m not entirely certain that it is still raining; I’m not looking forward to negotiating a drive to work in the rain, or dealing with potential street flooding today. But I slept relatively well last night–dragging myself out of bed was not easy this morning–but I am hoping to be well awake and raring to go by the time I leave the house this morning. We’re almost finished with Ratched–one episode left–and we also caught this week’s episode of The Vow, which continues to get creepier and creepier with each episode; I’m assuming there’s only one week left in it. We tuned into the Emmys for a little while, but I’ve gotten so unused to the normal network commercial break that it quickly became tedious, and after Schitt’s Creek won everything in sight we switched back to Netflix and stayed there until The Vow was loaded into HBO MAX last night. A quick check of the weather shows we are expected to experience heavy rain through Wednesday, which is when the flash flood warning expires.

Heavy rains will probably mean more no-shows than usual at the office today and tomorrow; I certainly hope not–if everyone shows the day goes by a lot faster–but the caffeine is also starting to kick in some, so that’s a plus. I’m hoping to stay on track with the writing every day–there’s about a gazillion emails that need to either be answered or generated today as well–and I’d also like to stay on track with my goal of revising or finishing a short story every week. But the depressive state seems to have finally broken, and we can always hope that means that I’ll be able to be productive.

It’s also only in the 60s this morning, which is going to be quite a shock to the system when I leave the house. The rest of the week appears to be more normal–80’s during the day, 70’s at night–but it looks as though the heat has finally broken and we are finally reaching fall weather here in New Orleans–which would be summer most everywhere else.

LSU football also returns this weekend, so that will be interesting. I’m not really sure how I feel about this pandemic football season, to be honest; the Saints are playing tonight, and it already feels weird, off, not normal; not your usual football season, for sure. I’m not particularly hyped for it, either. Sure, I’ll watch every LSU game, and it’ll be weird to not go to any games this year (first time since 2010 we didn’t attend at least one game in Tiger Stadium), but it just doesn’t seem….right, somehow.

And on that note, it’s time to get ready to head into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader–I certainly intend to.

Daylight

Well, here we are again, back to something resembling normality, whatever that may be, for this awful year of 2020. The stress hangover has finally, seemingly, passed; and now I have to try to remember what I was working on and what is in progress and what is finished and what I need to do. Lord. It also seems weird to be talking about my stress hangover while western Louisiana still is in ruins, with Mobile and Pensacola and everything in between joining them after this latest natural disaster. (And California is still burning.) But, as I always say, suffering isn’t an Olympic sport, and admitting to being in a weird place emotionally doesn’t demean or diminish those who are losing, or have lost, everything.

Ah, well. That which doesn’t kill us, or whatever.

This week is very off, as so many this year have been. I have trouble remembering that today is Thursday, frankly; I’ve had to stop and think about it several times this morning already and occasionally there’s even a thought o oh wow it’s Thursday already isn’t it? Yeesh.

I feel rested and rather emotionally stable this morning–always a plus, and becoming more of a rarity it seems these days–and so I am hoping that today will be an enormously productive day as well. The sun is shining outside, there’s no haze and I can see white clouds and blue sky; so overall that’s a very pleasant way to go into the day. I think one of the primary issues I’ve been having lately is related to the lack of a football season thus far–I know games have been played, but the SEC season hasn’t started, and for me, that (mostly LSU) is how I gauge the season, and so for me at least, I won’t think of it as having started until LSU plays a game. It’s also going to be weird that the entire conference is having a conference-only schedule. I suppose this season will have an asterisk beside it for all eternity? I don’t know–but I feel like people should be aware in the future that 2020 wasn’t a normal year on any level.

I’ve not really been able to do much reading or writing this week; hell, keeping up with my emails has been an utter failure all week and I may even have to give up on the clearly impossible dream of ever being completely on top of my emails. I tried picking up Babylon Berlin again last night while I waited for Paul to come home, but couldn’t even open to the page where I left off, and even my current nonfiction read, The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, held no interest for me last night. I will say, though, that I am leaning more and more towards writing a stand-alone Colin adventure–a historical one–and that is becoming more and more appealing to me the more I think about it, particularly since I can go back in time and write an entire series of Colin books going back to the late 1990’s without having to deal with writing about anything in the present or current day, which I will admit is more than a little cowardly on my part. I need to get Bury Me in Shadows finished and then the Kansas book so I can write Chlorine and then do a Scotty book, or perhaps the novellas I’ve been working on. Time slips through my fingers so quickly that it’s really upsetting and frightening on some levels to know that the there will be at the very least a two–if not three–year gap between the last Scotty and the next now; and there’s also a little voice in my head telling me not to write another Scotty and let the series end, or at least write another to end the series once and for all. I don’t know what to do.

I rewatched Don’t Look Now yesterday, even though it doesn’t really fit into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, yet it is a film of that decade and while it may not be a cynical film per se, it certainly has its moments. It’s naturally based on one of my favorite short story/novellas of all time, the superb Daphne du Maurier tale “Don’t Look Now,” and while the film has differences from the story (I much prefer the opening of the story, frankly), it has to be, because things that are told in the story to set it up, the backstory, cannot really be done properly on film, so the tale of John and Laura Baxter and their agonizing grief spools out on film by taking us to the moment they lost their daughter, Christine, by opening with her death by drowning in a pond while wearing her bright red slicker. In the story, they’ve come to Venice for a holiday to get away from home and its haunting memories; the pain is still too fresh and Christine is still too raw. In the film, they are living in Venice now while John works restoring an old church; time has passed since Christine’s death, but Laura is still not completely recovered from it; the pain is still there, a lingering grief that still throbs like an aching tooth you’ve gotten used to. The film does an excellent job of building the tension and suspense in much the same way du Maurier did in her story–God, if you’ve not read it, you really must, Constant Reader–and the imagery director Nicholas Roeg uses–those reds!–really amplifies it. Julie Christie is stunningly beautiful as she underplays the role of the grieving mother; Donald Sutherland is also at his young handsome best (those eyes! that mop of curls!) as skeptical John–at a lunch, they encounter two sisters, one of whom is blind and psychic, who tells Laura that she sees Christine and she’s happy and laughing, but that John is in danger in Venice and must leave. John doesn’t believe in any of that–afterlife, psychics, ghosts, etc.–and so he thinks they are after something from his wife–even though he does keep having close calls with accidents and possibly death…and he also keeps seeing a small figure running around Venice, wearing a red slicker like the one Christine died wearing….

Christ, what a great film and story.

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

I Know Places

This has really been a most unsettling year.

Remember as 2019 was coming to a close and we were all looking forward to that hellish year ending and a brand new start in 2020? Yeah, that’s why I am pointedly not looking forward to this year ending and a different year beginning for 2021. I’ve certainly learned my lesson.

And at least in 2019 we had the greatest LSU football season of all time to enjoy from September through January. (And yes, I still go back sometimes, when I am feeling down, blue, or depressed, and rewatch games from that wonderful season. And I won’t feel bad about it, no matter how much you try to shame me, primarily because I’m not ashamed of it.)

Today is a strange day, in which I am either working at home or taking a personal day of some sort; I haven’t really yet decided what I am actually going to do today; I have condom packing supplies and as long as I have Internet access I can do work-related things. I wasn’t quite sure what precisely I was going to wake up to this morning; the dreaded Cone of Uncertainty kept shifting gradually more and more to the east as yesterday progressed, until when I checked before going to bed New Orleans, and in fact all of southeastern Louisiana, was no longer in that dread Cone anymore. That bullseye was squarely on the panhandles of Mississippi and Alabama, and the storm had also slowed; landfall moved from the wee hours of tonight/tomorrow morning to tomorrow evening, possibly Wednesday morning. My heart breaks for that stretch of the Gulf Coast, and my friends in harm’s way–and of course, we still don’t know what to expect here. Ah, the lovely, unbearably bearable stress and suspense of hurricane season–and there’re even more systems out there in the Atlantic basin.

Hurray!

But now that I’ve checked, I see that we are going to be missed; it continues to creep forward with now landfall projected to be sometime tomorrow night, and we’re back down to merely a tropical storm warning. It’s a relief, of course, but horrible for where it’s coming ashore, as I mentioned earlier. The weather here is weird and hazy, yet still sunny; the sun is behind some haze, making it seem grayish-yellow outside my windows this morning, but there you have it.

We started watching a most delightful Mexican dramedy last night on Netflix: The House of Flowers, or La Casa de las Flores, and it is absolutely wonderful. We probably would have stayed up all night watching; fortunately, Paul had the strength and fortitude to stop the binge in its tracks.

As I was making condom packs yesterday afternoon, I continued with the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, watching American Graffiti and Marathon Man. That might seem like an odd pairing, and one might not think American Graffiti actually fits into the Festival, but I remembered the one time I saw the film, decades ago, and remembered it being rather a dark film. It’s debut brought on a wave of nostalgia for the 1950’s in the 1970’s–the music, the clothes, the things the teens did in the movie–but the movie was actually set in 1962, not the 1950’s, but most of the music was from the 1950’s. American Graffiti‘s success led to another revival, for example, of the Beach Boys; eventually led to the series Happy Days (which also starred Ron Howard–although in the movie he was billed as Ronnie Howard, a holdover from The Andy Griffith Show); and sparked that 50’s nostalgia trend I mentioned earlier. The movie really doesn’t have much of a plot, other than it’s the last night in town for Steve and Curt, who are leaving the next morning for college in the east somewhere. Steve is dating Curt’s sister Laurie, who is head cheerleader and will be a senior when school starts, Curt is having second thoughts about leaving for college; Steve cannot wait to get away from the unnamed town, which was director/writer George Lucas’ hometown of Modesto. These three are played by Thomas, a very young Richard Dreyfuss, and Cindy Williams. Basically, the movie follows them and a few of their friends throughout this last night, as Steve and Curt decide about their futures. It’s really about growing up and making decisions about who you are and what your life is going to be, and while rather light-hearted in tone for the most part, there are dark elements to the movie as well–and the end, with Curt flying east, and as the plane is silhouetted against the clouds, a scroll lets us know what happens to the four male characters: Steve is an insurance salesman, Curt is a writer living in Canada, Terry is missing in action in Vietnam, and John was killed by a drunk driver. There’s a definitely 50’s feel to the movie, even though it’s set in 1962–some say the 50’s didn’t really end until the JFK assassination–but it’s not as “feel-good” as one might think. There’s sadness and poignancy in the movie, as well. And of course, it’s the film that launched numerous careers, including Lucas’; the afore-mentioned stars, Mackenzie Phillips, Suzanne Somers, Harrison Ford, and Kathleen Quinlan, among others. It wasn’t as heavy drama as The Last Picture Show, which was another dark film about teenagers in the 1950’s, but it’s still darker than most people think of it.

Marathon Man definitely belongs in the Cynical 70’s Film Festival. William Goldman adapted his novel for the screen–I read the book, never saw the movie (although the sadistic dentist scene is legendary; it was much worse in the book)–and now that I’ve seen the film, there’s no question about it. The film opens with an old man going to a ban and checking his safe deposit box; his car stalls, which starts a road rage incident with another old man, with the two men swearing at each other in German and the second man realizing the first man is anti-Semitic, if not an actual Nazi, and so begins a car duel between the two that ends with both of them crashing into a fuel truck and being killed. The film then cuts to Dustin Hoffman, who is training to run a marathon. He is also working on his PhD in history, trying to clear his father’s name–his father was smeared during McCarthyism in the 1950’s and ruined, finally killing himself. Because his brother, played by Roy Scheider, works for a mysterious secret agency for the government (doing the things in that gray area between the FBI and CIA), is somehow involved with actual Nazis who escaped from Germany at the end of the war (we never really learn why our government helped those Nazis escape–although that’s actually true; in most cases it was scientists we set to work on the space program), Hoffman actually becomes involved peripherally with this case through no fault of his own, and people are now trying to not only kill him but torture him as well, trying to find out “if it’s safe”, and he has no idea what they are talking about. This is the ultimate paranoia/conspiracy movie: an innocent person being stalked and his life threatened and he has no idea why, and all he can do is try to stay alive and figure it all out (this is also the underlying story of some of Hitchcock’s best films, and many Robert Ludlum novels), and there is quite literally no one he can trust: not the woman he is seeing, not his brother’s fellow agent, and certainly not any of the Nazi henchmen. It’s a good thriller, but I don’t think it would make it today because of the pacing and the slow developing plot, but once it starts rolling it really goes quickly.

It also reminded me that another element of the 1970’s was actual Nazis; Israelis were still hunting down and exterminating war criminals, and the war and the Holocaust were still in recent enough memory that it was still very much in the public consciousness. War novels still proliferated (this was the decade Herman Wouk published both The Winds of War and War and Remembrance), it also brought forth William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice and Ira Levin’s brilliant The Boys from Brazil. Ludlum’s career also got rolling in the 1970’s, and one of his first novels dealt with Nazis–as I always say, you can never go wrong with Nazis as villains, with the Vatican a close second; one of my favorite Ludlums, The Gemini Contenders, used both.

And now back to the spice mines.

Invisible String

Labor Day morning, and I feel rested. I’ve not felt this good in quite some time, frankly–I am sure ignoring my emails and staying away from social media over the course of the long weekend has something to do with that, indubitably–and now I am having my morning coffee and slowly coming alive. May as well enjoy it while I can, since tomorrow I have to get up unbearably early, but we only have one clinic day this week and it’s also a four-day work week, so maybe it won’t be so bad on my physically.

I worked on the book for a little while yesterday; not very much, not nearly as much writing as needed to be done over the long weekend–which is inevitably always the lament, is it not? But getting rest–both physical and mental–is also inevitably necessary and a necessity. I did manage to not only finish reading Little Fires Everywhere over the course of the weekend, but I also finished The Coyotes of Carthage (which will be getting its own entry eventually) and started reading Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World, which is not only extraordinary but nothing like I was expecting–and I was also going in blind, knowing nothing about the book other than I had read his earlier novel A Head Full of Ghosts and really enjoyed it. It features and centers, for example, a happily married gay couple and their adopted child; didn’t see or expect that coming. I’m about halfway through the book, and while I certainly don’t want to give anything away, I am already planning on spending some more time with it today. Reading is such an escape (always has been) and a pleasure for me my entire life; I never really understand what it’s like for people who don’t read, or who don’t like to read–its so outside of my own experience I’m not sure I could ever understand choosing not to read.

The work I did on the book yesterday, while not a lot, was also quite good work, and I am certain that the rising quality of this novel I am writing has everything to do with the high quality of what I am reading these days. I mean, between Matt Ruff, Celeste Ng, Steven Wright, and Paul Tremblay, one really cannot go wrong, can one? I’ve also come to understand that my deadlines–while arbitrarily set–are also set up to maximize time, and are also predicated on the idea that I can actually have the energy–both physical and creative–to do good work every day. I’m not sure that I can anymore–not sure that I ever could–but the mindset is the key, and I know after seeing clients for eight hours, I really don’t have the bandwidth to write anymore the way I used to; which inevitably, I am sure, has something to do with the malaise this current world in which we live has created. Malaise is probably not the right word; depression is probably closer to what I really mean–there’s this weird depressive thing going on in my subconscious that makes macro issues I would ordinarily blow off or ignore or brush off much more micro and much more draining on me.

So, what is a writer to do in these days? Self-care, as I have noted before, is more important than ever. I am going to use the massage roller this morning, and possibly do some stretching exercises as I get ready to face this day–I intend to write today; it’s been lovely dipping my toe into it most of the weekend but I really need to dive into the pool today–and I’d also like to get some more cleaning done at some point. There are electronic files to sort as well, and filing to be done; floors to be cleaned and laundry to fold; all the endless minutiae I always intend to keep up with as I go but inevitably push the back of the priority list and do nothing about until they reach a point like the one they are at now: a literal mess that requires more focused work than ordinarily they would. And while my energies are frequently scattered…I have found that the binge reading I’ve been doing has done a lot to create a sort of inner peace that I’ve been missing lately. I also think I’ve sort of been in mourning about the loss of football season–yes, I know they are going to try to have a season, but it’s not a real season and thus not the same thing; this will be the first year since 2010 that Paul and I have not gone to at least one game in Tiger Stadium–but at the same time, that has also freed up my weekends. My goal for this week is to read a short story a day, as well as a chapter or two per day of whatever book I am currently reading–I suspect I may finish the Tremblay today, it’s that good and that unputdownable–as well as to do some stretches every morning after I get up and before I take my shower. I think regimenting my days into a sort of routine–since I clearly love routines when I can manage to stick to them–is perhaps the smartest way to go.

We watched the new episode of The Vow last night, and it’s getting more and more chilling the deeper into the series we go; I’m glad it’s currently not binge-able, because watching one episode per week makes it more easily digestible. They are doing a most excellent job as well of showing how attractive NXIVM was; a lot of the things they talk about, when it comes to taking responsibility for yourself and changing your mentality and behavior to become more successful, sounds like practical advice you can apply to improve your life–but there’s certainly a dark side to the whole thing. Last night’s episode, which brought up the branding and master/slave “sorority” within the organization, was positively chilling.

We also started watching the new Ridley Scott series for HBO MAX, Raised by Wolves, which is extraordinary. We watched all three episodes that were made available immediately, and it’s quite an accomplishment; it looks very expensive, with no expense spared on production design and special effects. The story itself is also interesting, if a bit hard to understand to begin with; it’s set in 2145, and Earth has been ravaged to the point of becoming unlivable because of a religious war, between Mithraic religion (worship of the sun) and atheists. Since Earth was becoming uninhabitable, both sides launched space ships to another Earth-like planet to save humanity; and it gets a lot more complicated from there. It’s a very high-concept show, and I am curious to see how it all plays out going forward. If you’re a science fiction fan, I’d recommend it; I don’t know if people who generally don’t watch sci-fi would like it as much–I could be wrong. I would have never guessed, for example, that Game of Thrones would have become the cultural phenomenon that it was.

And I still haven’t decided what short stories to focus on writing, although I am leaning towards “After the Party”, “The Flagellants”, “Waking the Saints”, “Please Die Soon,” and “He Didn’t Kill Her.”

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

Shopping

I woke up to a marvelous thunderstorm this morning–probably something to do with Hurricane Hannah, undoubtedly–and while last night’s sleep was also sporadic, with waking up regularly and not falling back asleep right away, I feel somewhat rested this morning.

I did reread Bury Me in Shadows yesterday, and it’s actually not bad at all. It needs tweaking, of course, and there were some paragraphs/sentences/dialogue that made me wince a bit as I read, but overall it’s a fairly solid story with some really good writing already done. I have to throw out the entire first chapter and start over with it–now that the character isn’t a too-smart-for-his-age gay teenager and I’ve aged him to college student, the opening and the tone are all different, which is also going to require some changes here and there in the overall manuscript,and I think the opening of the story is much, much stronger with the new first chapter I started writing yesterday. I like the way the first chapter is going, and I like this new direction for the story, which makes it even stronger. It’s always lovely when you are pleased with your work, I think.

And I really need to not be so hard on myself about my writing. I’m pretty good at it, actually, and need to stop being so self-deprecating/down on myself.

Yesterday was, overall, quite lovely and relaxing. I ran my errands around noon to get them over and done with, which was lovely, and then I curled up in my easy chair with Scooter and started rereading the manuscript. That took me a few hours, along with the occasional break to do some chore–the house still really needs to be thoroughly cleaned–and then I wrote about 900 words of the new first chapter. Paul went and got us shrimp dinners from the Please U–a usual Saturday ritual–and then we finished watching Control Z, a really marvelous Mexican Netflix high school drama which is very intense and very well done. It’s amazing to me how different high school dramas are from other countries as opposed to the saccharine sweetness (and complete unreality) of American shows. Control Z had bullying, homophobia, transphobia, sex, drugs, alcohol, suicide, attempted murder, violence and our main character, Sofia, was emotionally vulnerable and damaged, which led to her cutting herself (her arms are decorated with scars) and a mental breakdown that sends her to a mental hospital for about a month. This was high school in all its ugliness and cruelty, and there were a few times it was hard to watch. The story focuses on Sofia, who is mentally fragile and everyone knows about her breakdown; they avoid her and think she’s a freak. But because no one talks to her and she has no friends, she observes everyone and notices things about them–very Sherlock Holmes–and then she is paired with the really cure new boy, Javier, for a science project. Javier’s father is a major soccer star, and Javier played for the national junior team–but he refuses to play soccer at his new school. That first day, during an assembly, the prettiest girl in school, Isabela, is outed as transgender when someone hacks into the computer system and plays a video stitched together from information in her phone and laptop computer. Her boyfriend knows–he’s the school’s resident hot guy–but part of the video also reveals that he is cheating on her with someone only known as Honey Bunny, and the nude videos he’s sent to Honey Bunny are a part of this video. Isabela is played by Carmen Carrera, a transgender actress who originally came to broader notice on RuPaul’s Drag Race and later came out as a transwoman; she’s terrific in the role, and it’s lovely to see such progressive subjects handled and a television show take the long overdue step of casting a trans actress in a trans role. She is also depicted sympathetically, and the cruelty of her ignorant classmates over the course of the season is heart-breaking and real; you really can’t come away from the show and still not be affected by what transfolk have to go through in their lives. (I’ve never understood why “difference” is most often met with hostility and sometimes violence, rather than with empathy and kindness) The following day more secrets are revealed with videos with other students’ secrets sent to everyone’s phones. Raul, whose father is a politician (and corrupt), and whose video exposes his father and destroys his political career, asks Sofia to find out who the hacker is. As she investigates, she and Javier become closer and soon it becomes apparent Raul is interested in her as well….but Sofia also has a damaging secret of her own. Paul and I were very impressed with this show and how well written and plotted it is; and it ended with a magnificent cliffhanger. We certainly hope there’s a season two.

I did not, however, get around to working on “A Holler Full of Kudzu,” because, as I suspected, my plans for the day turned out to be more ambitious than I had the energy or the will to complete. It was nice, though, to be relaxing, and I feel a lot less fried this morning than I have in quite a while. I also love that it’s raining. I don’t know how I lived in California with it’s lack of rain for eight years, but now I don’t think I could ever live in a dry climate ever again. (There’s a lot of rain in Bury Me in Shadows; in fact, I write a lot about rain and thunderstorms, now that I think about it.)

The plan for today is to get some more work done on Bury Me in Shadows, do some more cleaning, grill out at some point (another Sunday tradition around here; in the fall we do it on Saturdays as a makeshift LSU tail-gate), and keep on relaxing so I can get a lot done this coming week as well. I can’t believe it’s almost August already–but then again this year seems to have already lasted for-fucking-ever.

Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

The End of the World

FRIDAY!

And while I am always happy to see the work week come to an end, I am more than a little daunted by what is facing me this weekend: a lot of fucking work. I have some writing to do for a website; the Secret Project; another project; and I want to finish writing the first draft of “Falling Bullets” and “Condos for Sale and Rent.” That’s a lot of fucking writing, Constant Reader, and that doesn’t take into consideration how much filing and organizing and cleaning I also have to do. Heavy heaving sigh. I also need to run errands, and am debating whether to wait until Saturday to do them, or do it tonight on the way home from work. That would probably be easiest, and let’s be honest: if I go straight home from work tonight, am I going to actually do any work? I tend not to; and there are always 2019 LSU football games to play in the background while I either clean or read. No matter how much I think all day about how much work I’m going to get done after I get home from work, every Friday I wind up doing not a damned thing because I’m so glad it’s Friday and I don’t have to work the next morning.

Yeah, I should probably go to the grocery store when I get off work and be done with it. They are open till eight and I get off work at five, so I might as well just get it over with.

And that, Constant Reader, is how the decisions get made around here.

I was tired most of yesterday; I never went into a deep sleep on Wednesday night and so didn’t feel rested. I’m trying to wean myself off the prescription medication that helps me sleep at night–I’m truly terrified of becoming addicted or dependent on anything; I can’t afford to go to rehab–and so periodically I like to stop taking it and try to sleep without it. I was actually functional yesterday, if tired, and so that has to count as a win, right? I always tend to the extremes–I’m rarely in the middle, which would be lovely; rather, I am always swinging from one extreme to the other without a stop–so there’s that, I suppose. I did get some work done on “Falling Bullets” yesterday; it’s weird, though. I’ve several ideas for stories centering Venus Casanova–the police homicide detective who is in both the Chanse and Scotty series–and as she is a woman of color, it’s a bit outside my comfort zone. I do love the character; always have, ever since I first thought her up way back in 1997, when I started writing Murder in the Rue Dauphine, and have even considered giving her a book all to herself (the idea is still simmering in my brain, Stations of the Cross; but if I ever do write it, that one probably won’t be a Venus story), and I have a really great idea for a case for her to solve without Chanse or Scotty around (her partner, Blaine, is gay, and that way I can still shoehorn in a gay character), but she also appeared in my first story to ever sell to Ellery Queen, “Acts of Contrition,” and I have two other short story ideas for Venus–this one, and “A Little More Jazz for the Axeman.” I wonder if I should be writing stories about a black female cop–after all, I am neither black nor female, and I do worry that I won’t get things about her right; not to mention the fact that if I sell the story, I might be taking a slot away from an author of color, male or female.

It’s not enough to just say I want to write about a black woman and I’m a writer and no one can tell me what I can or can’t write about. It’s not enough to say “well, sure, I’m not black or a woman, but I’ve written about vampires and ghosts and supernatural creatures, so why can’t I write a black female character?” (That defense against “own voices” is the one that pushes my blood pressure into the danger zone; there’s nothing like denying someone’s humanity to excuse writing about that person–and make no mistake, comparing writing any marginalized character to writing about creatures that don’t exist? You’re a bigot, period–making that statement disqualifies you automatically from any defense)

It’s something to think about, anyway. The other funny thing is how, this morning, reviewing what I wrote last night–I originally wrote about five hundred words, and wrote another fifteen hundred last night–doesn’t match the original paragraphs because I didn’t reread what I’d already written, just dove right in, and I’ll have to go back and fix that before I move forward with the story any further.

And last night, thanks to the magic of the Interwebs, I did a live reading for Tubby and Coo’s Bookshop; the first time I’ve done such a thing, and it was, indeed, a thing. It was remarkably easy and I went through no anxiety at any point in the proceedings, which was absolutely lovely–readings and panels and so forth always make me incredibly anxious and stressed; and that’s not gotten any easier since I first started doing them. But this was absolutely lovely; stress free other than the occasional stumble over words as I read them, and I honestly think, going forward from the pandemic, that this methodology of meeting readers is going to continue and tours are slowly but surely going to go away, unless you’re an enormous name.

And I slept well last night. I did wake up a few times during the night, but was always able to go back to sleep and I feel definitely rested this morning.

Huzzah!

And now, back to the spice mines. Happy Friday!

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Beautiful People

UP at the crack of dawn, literally, to go to work this morning. I’m covering for someone on the morning screening shift–something I literally said I would never do again after getting sick–and yet here we are because I cannot say no to anything asked of me nicely.

I hate being such a pushover, but then again, I’ve always been easy.

Yesterday was my first day of really working from home for an entire day; it was strange, and I kept feeling guilty all day, like I was getting away with something? Everyone else, I suppose, has already adjusted to this entire working from home thing, but for me, this was my first “all eight hours at home” thing, and man, was it weird. I suppose it’s going to be equally weird once this is all over, when everyone is back in the office every day–which again, is going to take some getting used to; being around people after being in strict isolation for a lengthy period of time isn’t going to be like flipping a switch or something.

Paul and I continue to enjoy the Australian crime show My Life is Murder (or is it Murder is My Life?) on Acorn, starring the perfectly cast and always underrated Lucy Lawless. Naturally, I had to retire early last evening in order to get up early this morning–I suspect I’ll be tired tonight; one thing that has changed since I got over being sick is that I no longer go into a deep, restful sleep every night; now I wake up several times during the night (just like old times!) and don’t really rest as well as I should. I suppose the return of some sort of normalcy should make me happy, but it doesn’t–that’s not the normalcy I actually wanted back, frankly–but there you have it.

I tried to write for a bit last night after I finished working, but I was mostly doing data entry and my eyes were bleary, so I retired to the easy chair after being entreated by Scooter, who wanted my warm lap to sleep in (it was oddly cold yesterday; it was 52 degrees when I woke up in the morning), and so I picked out a short true crime thing on my Kindle to read–Little Slaughterhouse on the Prairie, which is about the Bloody Benders, a family of serial killers who lived in Labette County, Kansas, in the early 1870’s and definitely killed at least eleven men, if not more. Whether there was a financial motive or they just enjoyed killing people. no one is sure–not much is really known about the Benders, and what little information there is, is often contradictory. I heard the stories about the Benders when I lived in Kansas, and I’ve always wanted to write about them, but just reading this thing yesterday–outside of the killings, they just weren’t very interesting. I had hoped reading this might give me the background necessary to come up with an idea, but no such luck.

But I am confident I’ll be able to get a first draft of the Sherlock story finished this weekend, and I am going to work on revising the other two stories I wanted to get finished and turned in and are all due by the end of the month.

Bouchercon Sacramento was cancelled yesterday, which is a shame–not entirely unexpected, as the time continues to roll out and this doesn’t seem to be abating as quickly as everyone might have hoped at some point. It’s not looking good for football season, either–how weird would it be to watch football being played in empty stadiums? I cannot stand the thought of not having football season–talk about weird–but we’ve already seen college basketball and the NBA and NHL and MLB all cancel. Losing Sacramento Bouchercon was doubly sad for me because I was ill and had to cancel out of Dallas Bouchercon–so by the time it rolls around in New Orleans next year, it will have been two years since I’ve been to Bouchercon. But at least it’s in New Orleans next year, and maybe the people who were considering skipping because of the swampy heat of Labor Day weekend will reconsider, since there was no Bouchercon to be had this year. But my deepest sympathies to the Sacramento Bouchercon planning team, what a shame that all your work was for naught.

There’s a scary thought in the back of my mind that this pandemic is going to be killing off events like this–that they won’t come back, especially if they are required to go two years without happening.

These are indeed strange times.

I also don’t see New Orleans adhering to the “shelter-at-home” thing for much longer–it won’t be official, naturally, that order will stay in place, but New Orleanians are too social and love to be around other people far too much; I am sure many are chafing already to throw a party or something, because that’s kind of what we do here to get through rough times: have fun. But having fun runs the risk of killing people now, so…there’s that.

And apparently the entire world decided to email me after I walked away from my computer yesterday. Great.

And now, back to the spice mines. It’s Thursday, Constant Reader, in case you can’t remember what day it is from your own shelter-at-home situation.

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