Dark Shadows (Josette’s Theme)

I always forget this when I am asked about major influences on my life, writing, and career–but probably the biggest influence on me was the television soap Dark Shadows.

“My name is Victoria Winters…”

So began the first episode, with young heroine Victoria speaking over some rather spooky music, usually with a background scene of a light in the window at the great house of Collinwood in the fog, or waves crashing against the beach, or the family cemetery, or even the Old House.

Dark Shadows is probably the root or seed from which Bury Me in Shadows was grown from, now that I think about it more. A haunted old house, an even older house in ruins nearby in the woods that was the original family home, ghosts and secrets from the past–oh yes, the framework is absolutely there, and it never even occurred to me.

When my sister and I were kids, we moved to Chicago from Alabama. I was about two years old, give or take; I don’t remember moving up there nor do I remember ever living in Alabama; my sister was two years older. My parents both got jobs–the point of the move was for climbing the economic ladder; they both got really good jobs in factories while my dad finished his degree. But because they both worked (our friends and neighbors all felt sorry for us because our mom had to work; their moms all were housewives), we needed to be watched while they weren’t home. Our landlady recommended a woman down the street–a mother of six whose two youngest were in their last years of high school–and so we started spending our days with Mrs. Harris, who fed us breakfast and lunch, and Mom would pick us up on her way home from the bus stop. When we started school, we went there for breakfast and lunch but came home after school; school let out at 3:15 and Mom was usually home by 3:30. But it was Mrs. Harris–and my grandmother, who worked a night shift–who got me started watching soaps in the first place. One Life to Life and General Hospital sort of held my attention, but it was Dark Shadows I couldn’t wait for. I used to run home from school to try to catch the last five or ten minutes during school; it wasn’t a problem during the summer.

I loved Dark Shadows.

I was crushed when it was canceled.

I mean, look at that house!!!!

The show wasn’t canceled, although the ratings were starting to slide a bit in the later years. The truism that Dark Shadows‘ producers and writers discovered is one that practically every other continuing series having to deal with the supernatural and supernatural creatures has had to deal with: how do you keep topping yourself and raising the stakes? True Blood, Supernatural, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and countless others have all run headfirst into that wall. Once you’ve done time travel and vampires and witches and werewolves and Frankenstein and other dimensions, what is left to do? I admire them for pulling the plug rather than getting more and more desperate to get the ratings up and eventually damaging the legacy of the show.

The show was a phenomenon the likes of which had never really been seen before in daytime–and the lesson learned from its success (go for the young audience!) would soon lead to the creation of youth-oriented shows like All My Children and The Young and the Restless–and of course in the mid-1970’s soaps would be forever changed when General Hospital introduced the character of teenager Laura Webber, played by an actual teenager, Genie Francis–and daytime was never the same. But Dark Shadows managed something that other soaps hadn’t–they created teen idols. Jonathan Frid as Barnabas, David Selby as Quentin, and even David Hennessey as David Collins were often on the covers of teen magazines like Tiger Beat and 16. The show even licensed FAN FICTION–a series of books based on the characters from the show, but thanks to all the fun stuff with time travel and parallel dimensions, Dark Shadows was perfect for spin-off books that took place in other Dark Shadows universe; one could even say Dark Shadows was one of the first shows to make use of a multi-verse.

The books were cheap–as you can see in the picture above (a copy sent to me by a friend with whom I bonded over our mutual love of the show) they ran between fifty cents and seventy-five cents a copy; they all had that same gold bordered cover with an oval image of characters from the show, and they were all written by “Marilyn Ross”, which was a pen name for a very prolific Canadian author named  William Edward Daniel Ross; he wrote over three hundred novels during his career, and Marilyn Ross was the name he used for Gothics–and the Dark Shadows books. (He also wrote as Clarissa Ross, and I read some of those novels as well, including The Spectral Mist.) They also weren’t particularly well written, and while they did take place outside the show’s continuity, there were also moments in some of them that didn’t make sense; in one of them, in which Barnabas shows up at Collinwood in the 1910’s, the only son of the family dies in a tragic accident…but if he was the only son, where did the present day Collinses come from? (The earlier books were told from the perspective of Victoria Winters, and in some cases the gimmick was some member of the family was telling Victoria a story about the family history.)

That’s the kind of shit that drives me insane.

But I remember when one of the off-brand television channels in Chicago (not affiliated with a major network) started running repeats of Dark Shadows from the very beginning when we lived in the suburbs in the evenings while the networks ran the evening news–guess what I was watching instead? Yup, Dark Shadows. (I always found it interesting, too, that the young actress who played Victoria Winters originally–Alexandra von Moltke–eventually became infamous as Klaus von Bulow’s mistress Alexandra Isles, who was, in the prosecutor’s theory, the reason Klaus injected Sunny with enough insulin to induce the coma from which she never woke up. But I digress.

I always wanted to write a vampire story similar to that of Barnabas Collins; I have an entire idea for a rural Louisiana version called Bayou Shadows that I’ve tinkered with off and on since the early 1990’s…but then Charlaine Harris started the Sookie Stackhouse series, which was essentially the same thing. I still might write about Bayou Shadows–the town called that has popped up from time to time in my books about New Orleans and Louisiana; most recently in A Streetcar Named Murder, actually–and if people think I’m ripping off Charlaine, so be it.

I’ll know that I’m really ripping off Dark Shadows.

The show also spawned two feature films, Night of Dark Shadows and House of Dark Shadows, each featuring one of the show’s leading men, Jonathan Frid and David Selby, respectively; the first did far better than the second. The show was revived in prime time for a single season in the late 1980’s; I watched it and loved it, of course–even got Paul to watch when it became available on DVD and I rewatched. I wish that show had been given more of a chance, because it was really quite good, and I was curious to see where the story went from that first season. It also had an excellent cast, including Hammer Film star Barbara Steele as Dr. Julia Hoffman. I did watch the Tim Burton film from this century, which had some clever moments but wasn’t quite as good; it went for the silly parody thing The Brady Bunch movies of the 1990’s did, but it didn’t land. The actress who played villainess Angelique in the original series, Lara Parker, has also written some Dark Shadows novels (I have copies but haven’t read them; I really should). Kathryn Leigh Scott, who played the original Maggie Evans on the soap (and in the first film) also has written novels; she was at Long Beach Bouchercon, where I met her and got a signed copy of her book Down and Out in Beverly Heels. She was lovely and couldn’t have been nicer; I really should read that book someday.

I’ve had Dark Shadows on my mind lately because I bonded with Carol Goodman at Bouchercon over our mutual love of Dark Shadows, and the Scotty book still in draft form takes place mostly in a rural parish outside of New Orleans; not the same parish where Bayou Shadows is located, but the next one over.

Sometimes I think it would be fun to reboot the show again, retelling the original story, or picking up from where the television series ended, or even doing a new generation, some forty years later, with David Collins as an adult with children and so forth…Carol and I have joked about coming up with a concept and trying to sell it and be the showrunners…which would be a dream.

Get Off Of My Cloud

And Christmas is over.

I managed to make my quota yesterday; I didn’t make up the quota from the day before but it’s okay; I don’t really mind. I am going to have to work like a dog this week to get this into something reasonably not embarrassing before turning it in. But I am writing, and I am writing in the proper amount of word count bursts; I just wish I could do more than the daily quota. I can get the quota usually done in about two hours or so, which is pretty fast methinks for the amount of output. I used to be able to do more when necessary, though, and I keep hoping I’ll hit one of those days again. You never know. It may even been today; stranger things have happened.

I finally remembered the last movie we watched on Christmas Eve: Enola Holmes 2. I can’t imagine why I couldn’t remember it yesterday morning. I enjoyed it, and both Millie Bobbie Brown and Henry Cavill are favorites of mine. Last night we watched Black Adam with Dwayne Johnson, which we also enjoyed. I’d seen some snarky hate directed at the movie on Twitter since its release, but I like the Rock and I like DC, so go figure, we liked it. Were there holes in the plot? Of course, it’s a superhero movie so there are always going to be holes in the plot and things that don’t make sense. It’s a fucking super hero movie. I’ve already accepted that mythological gods have given him the “shazam” power, and that he’s been alive in a sort of suspended animation for thousands of years, what precisely is a bridge too far here? I also thought it was interesting to see a superhero who belongs to another country other than ours–all superhero stories inevitably make them American because of course only we would have superheroes.

I also read quite a bit more of Dashing Through the Snowbirds, which I will hopefully finish this morning over coffee–reading while having coffee in the mornings has been really lovely over this long holiday weekend. Perhaps in the new year it can become a tradition for me on the weekends; reading while having my morning coffee. I would like to read more in the new year–my reading isn’t nearly as regular or frequent as it should be at this point, but I am also looking forward to getting my shit back together in 2023 and being more on top of things than I have been in quite some time. I think that’s been the worst thing of these last few years; having a lot to do all the time while not feeling like you have an organizational grip on everything has been absolute hell for me, and I am hopeful come the new year will see that horrific feeling come to an end. I’m always going to be busy, let’s be honest; but I always used to feel like I always had a handle on it before. Maybe that’s changed because I am older and don’t have the desire or drive or energy that I used to have, but I do think it’s really a combination of everything. Come the new year, I am hoping to get better organized from the start and try to get everything planned ahead of time.

I slept really well again last night, which was great. One thing for sure is I got rested over this long weekend, if nothing else. I wanted to get up early this morning to try to start the adjustment to the hellish earliness of six a.m. alarms that are coming the rest of the week, but the bed was so comfortable this morning and warm, and I was so relaxed, I stayed in bed until after eight, making me a lag-a-bed surely this morning. I do have to leave the house–I reordered the groceries I was originally supposed to pick up on Christmas Eve for today–but not for long. The temperature is in the thirties out there right now–but should be up into the seventies by the end of the week again. Ah, bipolar New Orleans winter weather never changes from year to year, does it?

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. I want to read a bit this morning, and I have a load of laundry to finish as well as a load of dishes to put away, and of course there’s minor cleaning and picking up to do this morning. I think this evening we will get caught up on Three Pines and maybe start something else new.

Have a wonderful Boxing Day for those who celebrate, and for everyone else, have a lovely Monday off from work. I certainly intend to do so!

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Oh, seriously, sometimes I wonder how I manage to still have a career. I did a list of great New Orleans crime novels–a place to get started, because there are a lot of them–for Crime Reads; you can click here to read it. It wasn’t easy narrowing it down to the few I selected, but I also wanted to be certain that the ones I chose were ones I absolutely, positively loved. (The one exception is Dinner at Antoine’s; I read that one as a teenager when I went through a Frances Parkinson Keyes phase–I the King is my absolute favorite) and of course, I didn’t mention James Lee Burke because really, does anyone really need to mention him when it comes to New Orleans and Louisiana crime novels? He’s the uncrowned king of Louisiana crime fiction, plus not picking him relieved me of the duty to figure out which book to choose. (Although I would have undoubtedly gone with The Tin Roof Blowdown, his post Katrina novel, which made me cry several times.)

After making groceries yesterday morning–yes, it’s always smart to go to the Rouses in the CBD on a Saints home-game day, seriously–I came home and relaxed a bit before digging back into the book. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I would have preferred; yesterday was one of those pulling hen’s teeth days. But the Saints managed to hang on to sweep Atlanta for the season, which is the highlight of their terrible season thus far (but we never lost to the Falcons this season), and then we finished watching Smiley (which is absolutely delightful) and then started Wednesday, which I’d been nervous about starting. I watched the original television version of The Addams Family, and Addams Family Values is one of my top three comedy movies of all time. I am still annoyed that Christina Ricci wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for either film; I’ve been a fan ever since and Wednesday, who didn’t really have much of a role on the original show, became my favorite character. I’d been putting it off, despite the great reviews, because I was worried I’d be disappointed. Constant Reader, I was not. Wednesday is terrific, and Jenna Ortega really nails the part. Catherine Zeta-Jones is fine as Morticia, but it’s hard to replace Anjelica Huston, who was sublime. We wound up bingeing almost the entire first season. Absolutely loving it.

It’s hard to believe this is it, the final countdown to Christmas. It’s this coming weekend, and while we still don’t have a refrigerator–out Christmas gift to ourselves this year–maybe we can get a great deal on one after Christmas. The ones with the freezer on the bottom are apparently all about an inch or two too tall to fit into the cubby where ours goes; it’s the damned unusable cabinets about it that are the problem. I don’t know if the cabinet needs to be torn out or if it can be raised a few inches and remounted on the wall; probably the easiest thing to do is just get the freezer-on-top size that fits and be done with it. It certainly would be the easiest thing to do, really. I just had my heart set on one with the freezer on the bottom–another disappointment I’ll need to learn to live with, apparently.

It’s cold again this morning, still sub-fifty degrees. The new heating system in the Lost Apartment works incredibly well–the only reason I even had the slightest clue that the it was cold outside was how cold the downstairs floor is beneath my socks. It’s supposed to freeze this weekend with a slight potential of snow–SNOW IN NEW ORLEANS (which I really need to write about sometime; the way the city reacts to snow always amuses me in a mean sort of way. Most people down here have no idea how to drive in snow or deal with it in any way, and why would they? It doesn’t snow enough for them to ever get used to driving in it. I don’t think it’s snowed here since before 2010? I don’t remember the last time it snowed here, but I remember the only really big snow we ever had; I just don’t remember what year it was. 2007? 2008? Something like that. But my goal for the holiday weekend is to get everything done that I need to get done on the way home from work on Thursday, so I don’t have to go outside for another four days in the cold. I’ll probably spend a lot of time working feverishly on finishing the book, of course, but will take Christmas day as a holiday from everything.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Y’all have a great Monday, okay? I’ll be back in the dark tomorrow morning.

Over My Head

I can’t get The Sandman series on Netflix out of my head…and isn’t that what great art is supposed to do? Lodge itself into your head until you can’t help but think about it all the more? So, I decided to revisit the comic series, and was delighted that the two volumes I had on hand were actually the first two, and those are the ones that were adapted into the television series. (I’ll have to order the rest.)

Netflix also dropped another episode of the show after its initial ten episode run, which was built around two of the stand alone issues of the original series run–“Dream of a Thousand Cats” and “Calliope”, the first of which was animated and takes the reader inside the mind of cats; as a cat person, I absolutely loved it, despite its brutality, which at times made me very upset because, well, I am a cat person. I love cats, as does Paul–something we came to very late in life, with our adoption of Skittle way back in 2002 or 2003 or whenever it was we got that mouse, which led to our becoming converts to cat people–and we will probably always have cats; if we ever end up in a larger space we’ll probably wind up having more than one cat–we’ve come close to getting a second numerous times, which is part of the reason we feed and take care of the outdoor herd that has taken up residence on our block and under the house (everyone on the property–with the exception of Michael in front–are cat people, so the lucky herd generally gets fed multiple times per day; the others also take them to the vet for regular check-ups and so forth, so we get to just enjoy their company; we are down to Buddy–orange and white–and old standby Tiger, a tortoise shell who’s been around since the days of the original outdoor kitty, Bubba, now.

I digress.

I discovered The Sandman when I moved to Houston in 1989 and started reading comics again thanks to my nephew; it was during this time that several of my favorite comics runs took place–the Five Years Later run of the Legion of Super-Heroes; the reboot of The Question; the Will Payton as Starman run; and of course, Neil Gaiman’s stunning run of The Sandman. Over the years, I’d forgotten a lot about the series–I remembered there were seven Endless siblings, that Morpheus was also known as Dream of the Endless and his kingdom was the Dreaming; and I remembered “The Doll’s House,” which was superlative. I went back and bought all the back issues of The Sandman (as I did with Starman; I was lucky with Legion of Super-heroes because the “Five Years Later” reboot began almost at the same time I started reading the books again) because the book was so extraordinary, so literate and beautifully imagined and written and drawn. Seeing the live action series and being so entranced by it sent me back to the original source material; I don’t remember why I bought these two volumes (my comics collection was yet another victim of a move) or when, butI was very glad to have them on hand so I could revisit them.

And they are just as marvelous and enchanting as they were the first time.

I think even people who aren’t fans of comics would enjoy these; they are stunning achievements, and I think you would enjoy them Constant Reader, as much as I did.

I am now going to have to collect the entire run again, heavy sigh.

24 Karat Gold

Sixty-one and a day. It feels no different that sixty-one, of sixty and three hundred sixty-four days, or that matter. I had a lovely day yesterday–I must carve out some time today to thank people for all the lovely birthday wishes all over social media yesterday, which is always nice. I spent most of the day off-line, as I intended; I wanted to actually have a complete day off from everything, and it was lovely. I finished (finally) my book yesterday morning, and started Gabino Iglesias’ latest The Devil Takes You Home, which is superb. Gabino manages, somehow, to find terrible beauty in despair, and the first chapter is like a sucker-punch to the soul. I finished watching a documentary about post-war British cinema, Reel Brittania (it’s really good) and then we watched a whole lot of other things the rest of the day–the eleventh episode of The Sandman, which adapted two stand-alone stories from the comics run (“Dream of a Thousand Cats” was my favorite of the two, but “Calliope” was also incredible; seriously, The Sandman comic was one of a kind)–and watched some other things, gradually making our way to season two of Outlaws, which I don’t think is as good as the first season but it’s still fun to watch.

I am, however, looking forward to House of the Dragon dropping tonight, though.

It rained yesterday most of the day-some lovely thunderstorms added into the all-day rain for variety–which made it even more lovelier to stay home in my easy chair with a blanket tucked carefully in around me while I read my books and watched the television. It was really relaxing, which is what I wanted more than anything else in all honesty–a day where I could simply just completely unplug and let every part of me rest. It’s generally not a bad idea for me to do this with one day of every weekend–inevitably it falls on Saturday so I can spend the entire day watching college football (GEAUX TIGERS!)–but I am also going to need to take some time to go exploring around the outer edges of New Orleans; I was thinking the other day that I’d like to drive up the River Road, along the levee–the map can’t really give me the answer I need–and I also need to go explore the river and bayou parishes, to get a better idea of what they are like and what they look like and so on and so forth for this Scotty book.

I am probably going to spend today cleaning, revising and reading. I had thought I couldn’t actually spend the entire day sedentary yesterday and would inevitably get up to do some cleaning–because it bugs me, for one thing, when the house isn’t as tidy as it could and should be–but surprise! I guess having COVID did teach me one thing: that I don’t always have to be doing something and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing nothing, if that’s what I want to do. Usually, when I spend an entire day doing as little as I did yesterday I inevitably feel guilty the following day about the loss of time (that whole you’re not getting any younger, Greg thing that constantly runs through my head) but maybe I am starting to mature enough as I realize gradually that I will never be able to write everything that I want to write, or read everything that I want to read. I don’t always have to be working, and relaxation and rest is essential for my mental health, particularly as I get older (the inside of my head is a very intense and scary place, trust me on this, Constant Reader).

But…I am now sixty-one, and that much closer to retiring from the day job. I am trying not to think about retirement with a lot of hope and longing; sixty-five will get here soon enough, and I would like to make some good use of the four years between now and then. So, I am going to bring this to a close, Constant Reader, and start the process of cleaning and organizing so I can start the editing/writing process for the day.

And I will talk to you soon, Constant Reader. May you have a lovely Sunday.

Cheaper Than Free

Friday and my last day as a sixty year old.

I am working at home today, which is kind of nice. I do have an errand to run this morning–or rather, on my lunch break–but have lots of data to enter and so forth, so I will be ensconced in the home workspace for most of the day. I am also laundering the bed linens–an every Friday chore–and have some odds and ends to clean up around here. I am going to try to get the chores done today so I don’t have to do a damned thing tomorrow; I think I’m allowed on my birthday to take an entire day off–not wash a dish or do any laundry or run any errands or do anything I don’t want to do. I want to spend all day tomorrow reading and relaxing and just chilling out; that’s my favorite kind of birthday. Paul is going to get us Chinese food for a birthday dinner treat, which we haven’t had in an extremely long time..one of my favorite things to do whenever I go to New York is to get good Chinese food. (I know it’s Americanized, don’t @ me.)

I was tired yesterday, the usual Thursday “I’ve gotten up at six a.m. four mornings in a row” thing more than anything else. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I would have hoped, but as I said, I felt tired all day–both body and brain fatigue–so when I got home from work yesterday I just kind of allowed myself the evening off. I finished rereading the first two Sandman graphic novels–Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House–which the first season of the show covered, and they were just as marvelous and well-done as I remembered. Hopefully, this weekend I will be able to get back into reading–which is my entire plan for my birthday; I want to finish reading the book I started two weeks (!!!) ago, and move on to the next book on my list. Sunday I will write and edit; and then of course Monday is another work-at-home day as August slowly but surely slides back into September. Whew. At some point–Sunday, most likely–I will need to run some errands, but I’m not going to worry about that today…although I do need to update ye Olde To-Do List.

Last night we couldn’t decide what to watch. I started watching a documentary series about British cinema while I was waiting for Paul to finish working, and when he came downstairs we just started chatting while the documentary continued streaming–and when it got to the part about James Bond, Paul remembered seeing something about the young woman who played Rosie Carver, the first Black Bond girl (who also turned out to be a double agent) and as we chatted, we both confessed that we had a special soft spot for that Bond film (Live and Let Die), which led to me remembering that watching that movie (the first Bond I saw in the theater, and why Roger Moore was always my favorite Bond–although I’ve really come to appreciate Connery’s a lot more and of course, DANIEL CRAIG) and I said, “I bet that movie doesn’t hold up anymore–I watched it a couple of years ago while making condom packs and I was a little surprised at how racist it actually was; why don’t we watch it again and see what we think?” I had also read the book when I was a teenager–very very little in common with the film, I might add–and had reread it sometime in the last decade and, like rewatching the film, more than a little taken aback about how racist it was. (Live and Let Die will probably be an essay I’ll write at some point, both book and movie.) There are some funny moments in the movie–Moore had a much lighter take on Bond than Connery, and the switch in actors resulted in a dramatic switch in tone for the films–and it’s highly entertaining…but yes, it definitely traffics in the worst 70’s stereotypes of Black people and the voodoo aspects of the story on the fictional island of San Monique are pretty bad, as well. Live and Let Die was also filmed and released during the “blaxploitation” period of film, which saw movies like Superfly, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Cleopatra Jones, Shaft, and Coffy being made and released–the time when the incredibly marvelous Pam Grier’s career took off. Was it an attempt to be relevant and possibly try to reach the audience for blaxploitation movies? Probably, but one of the few things that carried over from the book to the movie was that the villains were Black.

And yes, when we finished watching we agreed that the depiction of Black characters were, at the very least, problematic. The movie does have one of the best theme songs of the entire series of films, though (probably the best song Paul McCartney and Wings ever recorded, for that matter).

I had always kind of envisioned Colin from the Scotty books as a kind of cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones–one of the reasons I originally decided to never really talk about what Colin was doing when he wasn’t in New Orleans is yes, even back then I was thinking about spinning Colin off into his own action/adventure series before realizing can you write an action/adventure novel, Greg? I still would like to try–part of the reason my career is so strange and all-over-the-place is me trying new things to see if I could actually, you know, do it–but action has always been difficult for me to write (and now that little voice in my head is saying which is precisely why you should try to write one, jackass) and of course, an international intrigue plot would require a lot more planning than what I am used to doing. I might still do it, you never know–I have a plot in mind that involves the 4th Crusade and the sack of Constantinople; one that’s been in my mind now for several decades–but there are so many things I want to write, and time is running out…

Which, of course, is why I think I’m lazy and am taken aback when people say I’m prolific. My novels and short stories published are maybe about a fifth (if that much) of all the ideas I’ve had or things that are in some sort of progress; that’s what I think about when someone calls me prolific–the files and files of incomplete stories and ideas and characters and scenes languishing on the back burner and collecting dust.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Greg’s Birthday Eve, everyone!

Cathouse Blues

Monday morning and I am off to the office to cover for a co-worker rather than work at home. This works because my work-at-home day this week will be Friday, and then the next week it will be Monday again, so I’ll have four days of not going into the office around my birthday, which is kind of nice. I didn’t have any trouble getting up this morning–I woke up actually at 5:58 and stayed in bed through another two snooze cycles starting at 6, as usual–and now I sit, swilling coffee and feeling awake, as the clock inevitably makes its way to the time when I have to start getting ready to leave for work.

Costco was delivered yesterday, and it really is a remarkable convenience. I still need to run past their actual store one night after work this week–some things can’t be delivered, or they don’t offer them for delivery; it’s also entirely possible they do have the stuff in stock just don’t deliver it and that’s why I want to run by just to make sure. It’ll be an easy in-and-out, and after work one day should do the trick, I would think.

It’s weird going in on Monday morning and getting up so early an extra morning this week–I don’t have to stay the entire shift today, so will most likely leave earlier than I usually do on my day shifts in the office. I suspect we’re going to go back to our old way of doing things in September at last, and I am hoping that means I can swing back around to evening shifts once again–which would be super lovely. An adjustment again, to be sure, but one that should be much easier than adjusting to getting up early every morning, which goes against every grain and fiber of my being.

Heavy sigh.

I didn’t get a lot of writing done this past weekend–not really a surprise, to be honest–but I was pretty worn down by the time the weekend rolled around again, and so I am not terribly surprised I didn’t get a lot of work done this weekend. By the time I got home on Friday I was feeling fatigued already, and of course, I didn’t have much energy the entire weekend, either. Which is fine–I was able to do things that didn’t require much thinking, like cleaning and so forth–and while my mind couldn’t really wrap around reading over the weekend, I did start rereading my Sandman graphic novels, which help make the show even more enjoyable, to be honest; seeing how well the books were adapted into the show–well, I may need to watch the show again because I can’t stop thinking about it and the concepts it explored. It really is an exceptional television experience. We also got caught up on Five Days at Memorial, which I didn’t realize was still airing, so we are caught up on everything available, and we also caught up on American Horror Stories–the last two episodes were vastly superior to the first two, but still, not the greatest–and I also watched The Manchurian Candidate (the original, with Sinatra and Angela Lansbury) for the first time; it was a bit dated, and I also couldn’t help but think how much better it would have been if someone like Montgomery Clift or Paul Newman had played the male lead rather than Sinatra (I’ve never been much of a fan of his acting, really). It was interesting, and of course Paul didn’t see the big twist coming–the Angela Lansbury thing–and she was fantastic. It was also very much of its time–Communist scare, evil Soviet and Chinese Communists, brainwashing–but I’d also like to go back and read the novel on which it was based at some point.

I have an errand to run today after work–picking up a prescription–which is why I am wondering if it would be smart to swing by Costco on my way home; I can catch I-10 right here outside the office and be there in like five minutes, give or take, plus it’s much easier to get uptown from Costco. Decisions, decisions–but why not get it all over with tonight, then go home and shave my head and face for the week? It does make the most sense. Ah, well, no need to decide now.

And on that note, this is my birthday week–I will be sixty-one on Saturday, ee-yikes!–which only bears mentioning (it’s not something I care about excessively, to be honest) because all of my social media will announce it eventually this week at any rate. So I am heading in to the spice mines; y’all have a marvelous Monday!

All The Beautiful Worlds

I would not describe myself as a big comics fan. I love them, still have a strong attachment to them and their characters, but I am hardly an expert–not even close.

I started reading comic books when I was very young–I remember all the iterations of Archie, Millie the Model, Little Dot, Little Lotta, Sugar ‘n’ Spice, etc.–and eventually moved into the world of super-hero comics (while still greatly enjoy the horror/suspense/mystery comics as well–The Witching Hour, House of Secrets, House of Mystery, Chilling Tales, etc.). I stopped reading them regularly when we moved out to the suburbs–they were harder to find in our little developing suburb when we moved there–and it wasn’t until we moved to Kansas several years later than I got back into comics again. I was always a DC kid; and the few years I’d been away saw some dramatic changes made to the DC Universe–trying to modernize and update them; the 70’s were a very weird time for Wonder Woman–and then, again, when I moved to California I stopped reading them again. A friend in college brought me around to them again, this time also introducing me to Marvel. When I moved to Houston, my nephew was really into comics, and so I started reading them again with him, and continued buying them for several years. This was post-Crisis and the first massive reboot of DC, so as I was going through the racks at a comics shop in Houston one day I saw The Sandman.

The post-Crisis reboot of DC had changed some of the comics, and the heroes (this was always my favorite version of Starman, Will Peyton) changed as well. But…I wasn’t prepared for The Sandman.

I’d never heard of Neil Gaiman before, but it was this comic book series that turned me into a fan. The incredible imagination involved in creating this bizarre mythology, of the Endless siblings who epitomized some aspect of the human experience–Dream, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, Destruction, Destiny–and of course, the main character of the book was Dream of the Endless, master of the Dreaming, where all humans go when we sleep, and he controls our dreams, creating both Dreams and Nightmares. The story line of “The Doll’s House” especially was fantastic and enchanting; it was one of the few comics (along with the Will Peyton run as Starman) where I went back and bought the back issues because I wanted to read them all. (I’ve also gotten some of the all-in-one collections of the stories, including “The Doll’s House.”)

I’ve always loved this comic run. and have always regretted never finishing it; I stopped buying comics before the series ended. The prospect of a film version never interested me much because I didn’t see how it could be done, plus it would inevitably be a disappointment; the comics were visually stunning, the characters and stories so layered and complex I didn’t see how any of them could be condensed into a two-hour film, and the expense of recreating the brilliant and beautiful images contained within the books seemed insurmountable. The announcement of a Netflix series didn’t inspire confidence; I didn’t care for, or finish, the adaptations of two Gaiman novels I loved, American Gods and Good Omens, which to me was an omen that The Sandman would be disappointing as well. I also wasn’t sure if Paul would like it, or that it would be so difficult to follow without knowing the source material he’d pester me with so many questions I wouldn’t be able to follow it myself.

Constant Reader, I couldn’t have been more wrong about anything as I was about The Sandman adaptation.

First of all, it’s very closely adapted to the comics, at least as how I remember them. My memory isn’t what it used to be, of course, and so I couldn’t really remember much about it other than he was Dream, aka Morpheus, and he was lord of the Dreaming and had six siblings. It was also kind of an anthology series, with stand alone issues as Morpheus visited human dreams or was forced to sometimes interfere with them. (I also always thought he looked like Robert Smith, the lead singer of the Cure) So as each episode unfurled before me, I would start remembering things. I remembered that out of all the Endless, Death was actually the kindest and most compassionate, who saw her job as necessary and thus wanted to appear as a kind friend and companion to the dead to ease them through the transition (I have always thought that was brilliant). I remembered the story of him being captured and trapped by humans, and that the Dreaming had been damaged and decayed by his absence and he needed to rebuilt his world as well as capture his creations who’d escaped into the Waking World…and of course, the appearance of the dream vortex which could have destroyed everything, and how that played out.

It is such an excellent adaptation that some of the scenes in the show are perfect recreations of panels in the books themselves; I found myself smiling in recognition, visually the scene in print as well as on the television screen before me. The show is also beautifully written and perfectly cast, from Tom Sturridge as Dream himself (I don’t know how he did the voice, but its other-worldly yet beautiful at the same time; one of the things I loved the most about The Sandman is how Gaiman made everything, no matter how terrifying or scary or steeped in fear, beautiful; beauty can also be terrifying and The Sandman expresses this better than anything I’ve ever seen or read before) to Gwendoline Christie’s chilling turn as Lucifer to Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine (a gender switch from the comics) to my personal favorite, Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne. It’s a terrific cast, including an Emmy-worthy supporting turn by John Cameron Mitchell and of course, break out star Boyd Holbrook as the Corinthian.

I highly recommend it; its smart and funny and clever and intelligent and beautiful, the set and art design and costumes are first rate–and the cinematography is breathtaking.

I absolutely loved it, and so did Paul–who watched in utter spellbound silence and didn’t ask a single question.

I cannot wait for season two.

(Oh, and the show is queer and gender-bending AF, for the record.)

Annabel Lee

Saturday in the Lost Apartment and all seems to be well. I slept late as I had planned–maybe a bit too late, but I also stayed up late to finish doing the laundry (it’s such an exciting and always oh-so-glamorous life I live here in the Lost Apartment. I have to run some errands a little later on–mail, make groceries, prescriptions, library–and some things to do around here to touch up and clean a bit. I want to do some writing and reading today as well as just relax and enjoy the day a bit. We finished watching The Sandman this week, which was incredible–I think everyone can enjoy it, frankly, and it’s so creative and smart and visually breathtaking; a sweep of technical Emmys would be incredibly well-deserved; but it’s also a fantasy show built upon a mythology that originated in the DC Comics super-hero world, so it probably won’t be taken as seriously by the Emmy voters as it should…but then again they were also all about Watchmen (which was, frankly, superb), so you never know. Game of Thrones didn’t do too badly with the Emmys, either. Regardless, The Sandman is brilliant and I highly recommend it.

We also started watching the new show on Apple+ by Dennis Lehane, Black Bird, starring Taron Edgerton, which is also really good and Edgerton really is enjoying the role he plays. (Paul and I decided that he and Tom Holland need to make a movie together where they play brothers; Edgerton is what Holland would look like were he not so baby-faced boyish looking…or they could easily pass for brothers.) Edgerton, who is very handsome and has an amazing body, also looks like he’s been buffing up his body, too. (I think we first noticed him in Kingsman…I also think he’d make a terrific Nightwing if they ever make a Nightwing movie, which they really need to–I was distressed to see the latest HBO MAX news that Titans will probably be cancelled, which means DIck and Kori need to get together this final season soon to be airing.) We blew through the first three episodes quickly; I am also thinking we need to watch Five Days At Memorial–it’s getting to be Katrina anniversary time, woo-hoo–which will undoubtedly be difficult to watch (that period is a very dark time, obviously, and reliving it, even through the guise of entertainment, is always difficult) but probably necessary.

Since watching It’s a Sin last year (or whenever it was it was released) opened a floodgate of sorts in my mind. I know I’ve mentioned here before that I had always, since about age thirty-three, chosen to focus on the present and the future and never look back. It always seemed counter-productive, and I had finally come around to the acceptance point of realizing that everything that has happened in my life–whether macro or micro–inevitably set me on the path that led me to where I am today, and as long as I am happy, did the past really matter? What was the point to having regrets, to wishing I had something differently? Doing anything differently would have changed my path, and direction, with absolutely no guarantee that I would either be happy–or have survived this long. I am sure there are many many alternative timelines for me that had me dying in the 1980’s or 1990’s, which is always a sobering reflection and one I always have to keep in mind. I am alive because of every decision I’ve made and every heartbreak and crisis and problem and bad thing that has ever happened to me, and I kind of like my life and who I am. I am aware of my flaws (probably not as aware as I could be) and I know what my strengths and weaknesses are as a general rule; my biggest worry is that I delude myself periodically about anything or everything or something, and I really don’t like the possibility that I have blinders on when it comes to anything to do with me, my life or my career, while knowing it’s a strong one. I also know sometimes I probably take on blame for wrong that isn’t my fault (another reason Charlie in Heartstopper resonated so strongly with me was him constantly thinking everything was his fault and always saying “sorry”; I could absolutely relate to that as I’ve done the same most of my life and it is generally always my default on everything).

But as I have said, watching It’s a Sin, and being reminded so viscerally and realistically of what that period of my life was like–oh, they were so heartbreakingly young–did make me start looking back, remembering and reevaluating and, while perhaps not actually having regret, actually mourning everyone and the world and the life perhaps we all could have had if the homophobes hadn’t been in charge of everything back then. By not looking back I don’t think I ever allowed myself to heal, even though so much time has passed it’s all scar tissue now. But scar tissue is generally tighter than the skin it repairs; one is never quite as flexible as one used to be before the wounds became scabs and finally scars. Writing, as always, has been an enormously helpful tool for me to process experiences and feelings without tearing the webbing of the scar tissue again. That’s why I think writing “Never Kiss a Stranger” is important to me, and why the story haunts me so. Both Bury Me in Shadows and #shedeservedit both were enormously helpful to me, forcing me to deconstruct and evaluate and look at harsh bitter truths I’ve tried to avoid most of my life. So I think it may be helpful to watch Five Days at Memorial, because perhaps enough time has passed for me to look back without the full range of painful emotion the memories brought before.

Hilariously, after all that bitching yesterday morning about the health fair, it turned out much differently than I was expecting. For one thing, their scale clearly was wrong; it clocked me at 196 pounds. If that was accurate, then I have lost sixteen pounds since I last visited my doctor–two weeks ago (I weighed 212 at his office). As that is most likely not possible–especially since I’d moaned in disbelief when putting on my pants yesterday morning only to find them snugger than they were the last time I’d put them, so the notion I’ve lost that much weight in such a short period of time without trying is utterly ludicrous on its face, preposterous. But it did kind of make me smile a little bit and shake my head.

And on that note, I think I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and hope it’s everything you hoped it will be.

Everybody Loves You

Monday morning, and the shopping days left till my birthday are slowly but surely getting crossed off my calendar. Yesterday was a lovely relaxing day at home; I did some on-line shopping (ordered a new pair of glasses from Zenni; we’ll see how they work out once they arrive; I may order a few other pairs to be more color-conscious; and yes, I know how weird that is for me–I didn’t get the fashion gene that most gay men seem to be born with, and so I’ve never really cared much about clothes other than their function–especially glasses

) and then spent some time doing the fun part of writing: thinking about the book(s).

I love that part. I actually realized yesterday that I was flying without a navigator (as usual), which is probably a mistake. I hadn’t spent any time really thinking about the story of Mississippi River Mischief and how it would impact the characters and how they interact with each other, etc. I had some basics down; I knew how I was going to start the story and open the book, and what I was going to include in it–I also recognized that another subplot is too big a story to be included in this book, and so I had to put it to the side for now, for use at a later date in a different book. But beyond that I hadn’t really thought much about it, and that was problematic for me and would inevitably cause problems for me down the line as I struggled to write a strong first draft. I also realized that a lot of what I was writing was going to take place outside of New Orleans, and yes, I know it’s anal of me, but my fictional Louisiana was far too amorphous. My work has always centered New Orleans and I’ve always been a stickler about getting that correct–I know I’ve made mistakes, I got Orleans and St. Louis Streets reversed in one book, or example– but over the course of forty-odd books, inevitably parts of some of them had to take place outside New Orleans. (I had, oddly enough, no qualms about completely fictionalizing the entire state of Louisiana for the most part outside of the metro area.) And being anal, I realized I had no real “map” or idea of what fictional parish or city or plantation was where and what names I’d used where and so on and so forth. And yes, I know it probably doesn’t matter–no reader would ever take the time to go through all of my books and try to piece Greg’s fictional Louisiana together and point out contradictions and errors, but it would bother me knowing that it was a mess outside Orleans and Jefferson parishes.

Something clearly had to be done.

So, I spent yesterday afternoon doing Scotty research–namely, checking every book I’ve ever written with scenes that take place outside of the metro area and try to assemble all of those places into a coherent and cogent “world” of Louisiana, strictly of my own making. I did allow myself to get sidetracked a few times with research into other projects, current or upcoming (the Great Hurricane of 1915, and the legend of Julia White were Internet wormholes I happily went down yesterday; I think a story I am going to write for an anthology call will be based in these two events), which is always a delight; Louisiana and New Orleans history are literal treasure troves for thoughts and ideas and so forth (another wormhole: the German Coast of the Mississippi River) and also humbling at the same time, because these wormholes always remind me how little I actually do know and understand about New Orleans and Louisiana.

Revisiting old books–especially Scotty ones–inevitably bring back memories of the time period in which the book was written, where the idea for it came from, what I was trying to do with it, and so on and so forth…not to mention how the character himself has changed and grown along with my writing styles and skills. It also reminds me of other things, too–plans I used to write the books, ideas and thought processes for the characters and their futures, and so on; things I had forgotten over the passage of time. I also sent the pdf of Jackson Square Jazz to my iPad; so I can slowly start copy-editing it so I can put up the ebook on Kindle at long last–there was also a part of that novel, part of Scotty’s long-forgotten past that only appears in this particular book that I want to circle around back to for this one. There are, I suspect, any number of sub-plots and character arcs that have been left hanging within the series over the years, and I don’t think it’s such a bad idea to reread the entire series again from start to finish since I am writing another book in the series. Obviously, I love Scotty and he is a part of me, and I don’t have a hard time slipping into his voice again (one of the things, I think, that makes writing a series a bit easier than writing a stand-alone–or starting a new series–is that ease of finding the character’s voice again. I’ve written eight Scotty books now, it should be easy to find his voice again), but there are a lot of other things I need to revisit and remember from the previous books in the series, so as to avoid continuity issues and things like that which plague me constantly.

For the record, the books I had to consult to map out my fictional Louisiana included not only Scotty books, but Murder in the Arts District (Chanse), The Orion Mask, a pseudonymous book or two, and some short stories. If A Streetcar Named Murder indeed becomes the launch of a new series for me, I’ll need that fictional map of Louisiana for that series as well–I’d already brought up one of my fictional parishes in the text of Streetcar, so…

I also reread the first four chapters of something else that is currently in progress to also kind of sort of make sense of it as well (and a good thing, too–I had two completely different sleazy gay dive hustler bars in the same neighborhood in two different chapters; easy enough to fix of course, and another continuity issue). This is going to sound weird–what else is new with one Gregalicious–but I am writing another book at the same time as this Scotty; I am sending a chapter a week to a friend, kind of like a serial novel, but I had not gone back and reread what I had already written on it (hence the two sleazy gay hustler bars in the same area of the fictional city) and so it went off the rails slightly (I suspected it was doing so and even remarked on it when I sent the email with the most recent chapter attached), and I am going to have to go back and clean that all up before proceeding–because it’s too big of a mistake to leave in the draft for correcting in another, later draft (plus, it will bother me to no end knowing those big mistakes are there), so I think I am going to have to make those fixes before I write Chapter 5–which is a good thing, because I am not really sure how to write chapter 5 or what to do in it; revisiting and fixing the first four chapters is always a good idea in these situations.

The problem with not outlining is because sometimes you get stuck.

We also binged a lot of The Sandman last night. What an extraordinary show–the visuals are absolutely stunning (I keep thinking how visually breathtaking it would be on the big screen), and the costumes, the art and set design, everything is just stunningly perfect, and the stories themselves (as well as the over-arcing storyline) are depicted and acted and written beautifully. This is the adaptation of the series I always wanted to see but never dared dream we would get; Paul and I are both just completely blown away by its brilliance (I also loved that Cain and Abel, from the old comics House of Mystery and House of Secrets, are a part of this universe; I loved those comics back when I was a kid–note to DC: make an anthology series of both of those comics, please.) We only have three episodes left, but by the time we finish this show–probably Wednesday, given how our weekday evenings seem to go–there should be some other amazing shows dropped for us to watch–I am particularly looking forward to The Serpent Queen; I’ve been asking for a Catherine de Medici series for years and now we are getting one that seems to embrace and encompass her manipulation and dedication to the acquisition of power, and of course House of the Dragon looks like it could be very fun, and other shows will be returning soon as well with new episodes.

So, overall it was a great weekend; I cannot complain. It was productive–perhaps not as productive as I would have liked, but I do feel like some seriously good work was done this weekend, and that’s all that matters. I have some work-at-home duties today–trying to decide whether to run errands today or on the way home from work tomorrow (on the way home is currently winning the debate in my head), and about the only real disappointment in the weekend was not being able to make time to read.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later or tomorrow; depends on when I finish writing these other blog posts that are more essay-driven than the norm.